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cjacob Apr 27th, 2011 10:05 AM

Peru Itinerary Help
Hi All,

My husband and I are planning our 1st Anniversary trip to Peru and have some questions! I have been busy reading all of the different threads about Peru, specifically regarding Cusco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, but am still confused on some things.

1. Is it imperative to spend the night in Agua Calientes during a visit to Machu Picchu?

We are either planning on just doing a day trip from the Sacred Valley- arriving by 9am, leaving at 5pm (I know, must book tickets!), or, arriving in the afternoon on Day 1, staying overnight in Agua Calientes and exploring MP on Day 2. We don't plan on getting one of the 500 passes to climb the higher part of Machu Picchu, so I didn't think necessary to stay overnight, but if we are travelling all this way, we are willing to spend the money to stay close to the ruins and experience it the "right" way.

2. Is Lima worth 1 day or 2 days?

We are booking flights with miles and have two options. Either we can have 6 full days to explore or 7 full days. Vacation days and budget is a little tight so that is why we would go with the shorter trip (oh, and we can fly first class on the way to Lima with less miles if we go on the shorter trip, but wouldn't go shorter just because of that). These are the two different itineraries we've come up with:

Day 1: Arrive Cusco 8:30am, sleep Cusco
Day 2: explore Cusco, sleep Cusco
Day 3: Sacred Valley, sleep Sacred Valley
Day 4: Sacred Valley (will be a Sunday so Pisac Market), either afternoon train to MP and stay overnight or stay in SV (Inkaterra is already not available on this night, so would most likely stay at Sumaq)
Day 5: Machu Picchu, sleep SV
Day 6: early flight to Lima, sleep Lima
Day 7: explore Lima, flight home at 10:30pm


Day 1: Arrive Cusco 8:30am, sleep Cusco
Day 3: Cusco, sleep Cusco
Day 3: Sacred Valley (will be a Sunday so Pisac Market), sleep Sacred Valley
Day 4: Machu Picchu day trip
Day 5: Sacred Valley, sleep Sacred Valley
Day 6: arrive Lima at 10:30am, tour Lima, fly home at 10:30pm

They are pretty much the same thing, all we would lose is 1 day in Lima. I know flights are not that reliable from Cusco to Lima, so wasn't sure if were going to have problem with option 2.

3. Is this a trip we can plan by ourselves or do you recommend using a service provider? Is it easy to get a guide for Machu Picchu when we arrive there or should we plan this in advance? Peru Rail offers a "special service" train that includes Buffet Breakfast at Sanctuary Lodge and a tour, should we do that? Is it easy to arrange day trips with tour guides before we arrive or something we can do when we arrive?

I look forward to hearing your replies. We're looking to book this trip by Sunday, May 1, so any input would be helpful!

Thanks so much!

mlgb Apr 27th, 2011 12:45 PM

1) Unless you want to get up really early to potentially see the sunrise, Aguas Calientes doesn't have all that much to warrant an overnight stay. You can stay in Ollantaytambo and book the first train of the day, and still pretty much have a few peaceful hours, same at the end, take the last bus and a late train back and you will enjoy a few less populated hours at the end. The AYCE lunch at the Sanctuary hotel is fairly expensive but I enjoyed it, and it includes nonalcoholic beverages. Staying at the El Albergue worked out fine for me, I didn't regret not spending the night in AC. Others will have a different opinion.

2) I enjoy Lima, but I like big cities. Lima has great food and museums but can be noisy and chaotic. I found Barranco to be a bit quieter and with good access to restaurants (and the great little Pedro de Osma museum). Staying in Second Home Peru is like sleeping in a museum.

3) Yes it's easy to plan and book yourself.

On your itinerary it's much better on a short trip to immediately go to the Sacred Valley. I am surprised if you did research that you are starting in Cusco. On itinerary 1, you can sleep a few nights in SV, then on Day 3, do your MP trip and return to spend that night in the SV or Cusco.

Pisac is just as easy to reach from Cusco as the SV btw. It's in a slightly different direction.

A look at this website should help

I don't know what the breakfast on the train is like, but most hotels in the area offer a fairly decent breakfast inclusive with the rates. If they don't, I'd look elsewhere.

cjacob Apr 27th, 2011 01:46 PM

Thanks for the reply, mlgb, very helpful. I think the reason I did Cusco first was because there were no trains left from Cusco to Machu Picchu on the days we were looking to go.

Why is it better to go to SV before Cusco? From looking at previous posters itineraries, I thought I had seen a lot of people is Cusco first but I could be mistaken.

mlgb Apr 27th, 2011 03:15 PM

Cjacob, Cusco is at an elevation of about 11,000 feet. That is an elevation where a lot of people start to feel unwell, ie headaches, tiredness and nausea. If you start in Urubamba or Ollantaytambo, you'll still probably feel a bit out of breath when walking uphill, but less likely to have the headaches etc or more serious effects of altitude.

You can catch the train from Ollantaytambo, many many more options there. Another reason to stay there is that there are ruins and the old Inca Town sector. You can either book a hotel there and ask them to send a driver, or just take an official taxi from the airport. (They are better at regulating taxis in Cusco). Be sure to arrange the price ahead of time.

A lot of the package tours put people up in Cusco, but that is for the convenience of the tour companies.

If you look at the trip reports there, you'll see several local guides mentioned, Yure Chavez and David Choque are two, you can also arrange your trip thru them even if you don't need them everyday.

ncounty Apr 27th, 2011 03:34 PM

I agree with mlgb and would recommend staying in Olly first. btw, I personally greatly preferred Olly to Cusco.

I would just add that it would be a no brainer for me to choose the first class flights and have one day less, in Lima.

for your one day in Lima, I would highly recommend lunch at Astrid y Gaston and do the ten course 3 hour tasting menu, $50.

qwovadis Apr 28th, 2011 04:39 AM

The highlight of most trips is the sunrise HP climb at MP

so you need to be overnite in AC if you want to do that.

Presidente Hotel nice budget for me

when there last.

Sleeping in Cusco 11000 ft first not wise due to altitude

illness risk better to gl to first

then back up to Cusco after you have adjusted.

Lima worth 2 days for me at least.


qwovadis Apr 28th, 2011 04:42 AM

Usually fly down from FLL

first class for the cost of coach on the majors. Nina Mike

excellint planners can save you a tonne

over a lot of others might shop around a bit.

cjacob Apr 28th, 2011 07:53 AM

Thanks for the suggestions. I am very frustrated as the trains are selling out very quickly and I need to make some decisions asap. These are the new itineraries I have reworking Sacred Valley into the first part of our trip.

Day 1: SV
Day 2: SV
Day 3: SV
Day 4: Pisac Market (Sunday), could take afternoon train to MP, sleep MP, or could stay in SV and do a day trip next day
Day 5: MP, early evening train back to Olly - do we sleep SV or Cusco? No trains left to Cusco
Day 6: Cusco, sleep Cusco
Day 7: Fly to Lima, 12 hours Lima, fly home

If we do the 6 day itinerary, we would simply lose Day 1.

This only gives us 1 day in Cusco, is that enough? We can take a day trip there from the SV in the beginning.

What do you think of this plan? There are no trains left to Poroy station on most days, so we have to leave and come back to Olly. I'm worried we're going to feel like we are back tracking by going to SV first, but I want to do the trip right.

Any recommendations are very helpful. Thanks again.

mlgb Apr 28th, 2011 09:05 AM

Forget Poroy. It's just as fast to taxi to Ollantaytambo and take the train from there.

Day 5 I would take the taxi back to Cusco. With the three days in the SV you will have enough time to see everything.

It's only about an hour to an hour and a half to traverse the SV from Cusco, so there is no need to plan everything to avoid backtracking. Taxis are very reasonable, shouldn't be more than about $25 or $30 to tranfer the whole way without stopping.

cjacob Apr 28th, 2011 09:24 AM

Great, thank you!

I had a mini freakout and just bought the tickets to Machu Picchu. We decided to make it a long day on Day 5, leave at 7:05am to Machu Picchu and take a 6:10pm train back to Olly with breakfast at Sanctuary Lodge (promotion on Peru Rail). Now that we have that, I feel more relaxed and we can figure out the rest of the trip.

Just need to decide on the plane tickets now, but I think we will go for 7 days.

mlgb Apr 28th, 2011 10:12 AM

The more days the better, you won't regret it. Peru is wonderful, great people, food, archaeology and culture.

cjacob May 4th, 2011 09:15 AM

This trip is proving to be quite overwhelming to plan. This is the new itinerary I have come up with based on the flights that we have:

Day 1 Arrive Cusco early AM, transfer to Sacred Valley
Day 2 tour Sacred Valley
Day 3 Pisac Market, sleep Sacred Valley
Day 4 long day trip to Machu Picchu from Olly train station, sleep Sacred Valley or Cusco?? (cannot be changed, already have train tickets)
Day 5 Cusco
Day 6 Cusco
Day 7 early flight to Lima, 12 hours in Lima, overnight flight home

I am having a hard time deciding if we should sleep in SV or Cusco after the day in MP. Our train gets back to Olly at 8pm, so to me it makes sense to sleep in SV that night and leave in the morning to get to Cusco and explore. It also makes sense to me to go straight to Cusco so we wake up on Day 5 in Cusco. Does it make a difference? I am thinking it is easier in terms of luggage to stay overnight in SV. I am definitely over thinking this.

In terms of touring, do we need private tour guides each day in Sacred Valley and Cusco? Is it easy to get around on our own with a taxi? What is the general cost of a private tour guide for a day?

Do you think we should take an afternoon flight back to Lima on Day 6 so we have 1 night there?

Thanks so much for all of your help!

mlgb May 4th, 2011 12:01 PM

I prefer to return to Lima the day before the international flight, there is enough to see there to occupy you for a day, and you won't have to worry about missing the international flight.

You can hire guides at the ruins, Ollantaytambo and MP always have guides available outside. It is easy to hire taxis, but if you don't have any Spanish ability at all you may want to hire a guide for a day to explain what you're seeing and lead you around. I didn't find it necessary.

If you are leaving MP very late, it might be nicer to spend the night in Olly again, and leave after breakfast, so you can see the drive in daylight. It's easy to visit Moray and the Salineras on this trip back if you haven't yet seen them.

mlgb May 4th, 2011 12:03 PM

Another recommended guide for the area in this trip report, if you didn't see it.

cjacob May 17th, 2011 08:43 AM

Hi Everyone,

We are well underway for our trip to Peru - have all flights booked along with our train to MP! Some questions have come up though in our planning and I would appreciate some advice.

We have a total of 6 full days/6 nights in the Sacred Valley/Cusco/Machu Picchu area. We are going to MP on Day 4 leaving from/going back to Olly, not staying overnight. These are our thoughts on how to structure the trip:

Day 1: Arrive at 10:00am in Cusco, transfer to Urumbamba hotel and spend the day relaxing

Day 2: Visit Maras-Moray & Salinaras; Potential visit to Awanacancha (though I think I may want to switch this to Chincheros)

Day 3: This is a Sunday- Chinchero Market in the morning; Pisac Ruins; Pisac Market; Ollayantambo Ruins; sleep in Ollayantambo

Day 4: Day trip to MP, sleep Olly

Day 5: Transfer to Cusco- Cusco City Tour, sleep Cusco

Day 6: Cusco, sleep Cusco

Our one major question- do you think we should switch hotels from Urumbamba to Olly or stay in the Urumbamba hotel for 4 nights? My husband isn't as adventurous as me and is a little worried about the quality of hotel in Olly. On the other hand, I don't feel the need to pay for the "fancier" hotel in Urumbamba on Day 3 & 4 when we will barely be at the hotel. I also like the convenience of staying right near the train station since we have a 7am train and don't arrive back until 8pm.

We're thinking of either using David Choque or Percy Salas for private tours on Day 2, 3, 5. I've been in touch with both of them and was surprised to find out they were both available.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. We booked our hotel in Cusco and are looking to book the other 1 or 2 hotels in the next few days. Also want to confirm David or Percy for certain days of our trip so they can make other arrangements too.

Thanks so much!

mlgb May 17th, 2011 09:42 AM

Suggest you read the TA reviews/photos of Hotel Pakaritampu in Olly and decide if that will suffice.

cjacob May 17th, 2011 09:56 AM

I did read all of those reviews, the website doesn't work though- keeps giving me a malware notice when I go to it.

We were thinking o El Albergue. The main question was whether or not we should switch hotels from Urumbamba to Olly or if that was unnecessary.

mlgb May 17th, 2011 10:40 AM

That's odd about the website. I think it's a lot nicer to stay in Olly around the day trip to MP, but it isn't essential. I found it really convenient to stay at El Albergue and just step out onto the platform 5 minutes before the train departs. It just makes for an easier day. Even without that, Ollantaytambo has plenty of character and interest, something you really can't say about Urubamba. I figure you can stay in a luxury resort anywhere in the world, but I haven't found as many villages as interesting and scenic as Olly.

cjacob Jun 28th, 2011 09:26 AM

Thanks to everyone's help on the forum, we now have our trip to Peru finalized! We are heading out in about 3 weeks and I think have a great trip planned. We are working with David Choque thanks to the great reviews on this forum.

We're spending 2 nights in Urumbamba, 2 nights in Olly where we will take a day trip to MP, and 2 nights in Cusco, and 12 hours in Lima where we will be feasting at Astrid Y Garcon :)

Now the question is, what to pack?! I read that its in the 60's during the day and 30's at night. Any suggestions on the best clothes to pack? I assume things are pretty casual? How warm of a jacket do you suggest, I really don't want to be bringing a heavy winter jacket!

Thanks in advance.

mlgb Jun 28th, 2011 11:11 AM

Congrats! Ollantaytambo is especially nice after the tourist crowds are gone.

I like to bring polyfleece and a lightweight waterproof layer (it is winter now so high altitude is chilly at night). Hats are fun to buy when you arrive. You can also buy cheap sweaters, but they don't hold up too well long term. The real alpaca ones are $$$ but another option.

A nice gesture is to bring an old winter jacket (waterproof if you have) and leave it behind, more room for purchases. Hearts Cafe and Awamaki are two excellent nonprofits in Ollantaytambo, you may want to look for other things to donate, such as school supplies, vitamins and leftover medications that you didn't use in Peru. Your guide probably has other ways of distributing donations as well. (worth a stop for some quinoa soup) (They have a donations list on their website, their fair-trade weaving store is off the Ollantaytambo town square)

ncounty Jun 28th, 2011 10:27 PM

So excited for you!

one suggestion: if you have time, agua caliente is a great place to get a massage. You can get a one hour massage for $15 to 20. Same in Cusco but I particularly enjoyed it in AC.

You might want to make reservations for Astrid y Gaston just to play it safe. Maybe check out their website?

cjacob Jun 29th, 2011 06:20 AM

Already made a reservation at Astrid! That was one of the first things I did, especially after just reading it's the 44th best restaurant in the world!

Thanks for the advice and suggestions. We will definitely be packing some things to donate, great idea.

ncounty Jun 29th, 2011 07:35 AM

that thought had occurred to me during my travels in Peru. I saw so many poor women and wondered what else they had to wear. I came up with a plan next time to pack half my bag with clothes I could give away and that would leave room for me to buy more clothes there and thereby help their economy as well. there is so much to buy there. Do not pack any hats or belts, you will want to buy what they have instead. :)

mlgb Jun 29th, 2011 08:52 AM

Clothing for babies and small children is always needed. If you want to do this, might correspond with one of the two nonprofits for specific needs.

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