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Please help with Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley and Cuzco itinerary

Please help with Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley and Cuzco itinerary

Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 06:55 AM
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Please help with Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley and Cuzco itinerary

Hello. My wife, step-daughter and I are going to be heading to Peru in July and I believe I have our entire itinerary set with the exception of our time in Cuzco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. We have six days and five nights in that area in total, however the first and last days are slightly more than half days due to when we arrive and leave Cuzco.

I'm pretty sure that we know what we want do do during our time there but I am looking for help on some logistics - mainly where to stay and whether or not it is advisable to drive.

Right now I am planning on spending two nights in Cuzco, two nights in Ollantaytambo and one night in Augas Calientes, just so we can get to Machu Picchu early the day we want to go there. My main goal is to make sure that we are centrally located to see the things we want to see. Does that sound like a good plan?

Right now I have a car rental reserved when we arrive in Cuzco. I am planning on driving the whole time we are in the area. Is that a good idea? I have driven in places like Costa Rica, Mexico City and South Africa, and I do speak Spanish so I'm not intimidated by driving in a foreign country, but I'm just wondering if the driving conditions are really that hazardous or if it is just better (any maybe even cheaper) to take buses and taxis instead of renting a car. If I do go with the car rental, do I need to get something like an SUV due to dirt roads or will any kind of car suffice?

As I mentioned above, I would like to spend one night in Aguas Calientes, but from looking at the one map I have of the area (and granted, it is not a good one), it doesn't seem like there is a road to Aguas Calientes and the only way to get there is by train. Is that the case?

Finally, I know Cuzco is about 11000 feet elevation and the rest of the Sacred Valley seems to be around the 8500-9000 feet range. My plan is to stay in Cuzco last, in order to try and acclimate better to the climate. Is there really a difference between 9000 and 11000 feet? Does it matter how I arrange the stays?

Thanks in advance for any assistance that can be provided.
sharkman1991 is offline  
Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 10:56 AM
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My two cents ...

You are right ... no roads to AC; have to take the train to MP. We usually do rentals, but in this instance we opted for a guide and driver ... the information our guide gave us added immensely to our understanding of the area, culture, etc. and having a driver left us free to focus on the sights rather than the road.

Many people do go to the SV first to acclimate. We did not do that - primarily to cut down on the back and forth since we had specific dates when we wanted to visit MP. Had no problems with acclimating to the altitude ... just took it easy in Cusco the first day, and then we were on the go to different sites each day ... granted, at a slightly slower pace than usual, but that didn't stop us from hiking from Puca Pucara to Q'enko on the second day of our stay in Cusco. (Admittedly, we were lucky and had no altitude issues.)

Given your time limitations, unless you're planning to do some hikes in the Ollantaytambo area, I'd do 3 nights Cusco (more to see and do in the vicinity and you could easily do Pisac from there as well), 1 in Ollantaytambo, 1 in AC. You can do the sites in the SV (Chincheros, Moray, Salineras) on your way to Ollantaytambo, stay one night, do the Ollanta ruins the next day, and take the late train from Ollanta to Aguas Calientes to stay one night there. (We stayed two nights, but we had the luxury of more time and used Ollanta to relax after 5 busy days in Cusco.)

If you have not already planned your time in Puno, and plan to visit Taquile, recommend the Allways Travel excursion that takes you to the far side of Taquile ... longer hike, but steady elevation gain, rather than climbing up 500+ steep steps.

Have a terrific trip to Peru. It is a wonderful place to visit.
eenusa is offline  
Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 01:15 PM
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I'd forget about the car completely. Not only can you not drive to AC/MP, it's a real headache to drive in Cusco. Traffic is congested, parking is difficult, many of the streets are one-lane, and many other streets are staircases for pedestrians only.

It IS fun to drive on the open roads of the Sacred Valley, but if you rent a car for that whole block of days, there'd be so much time you'd have to park it somewhere and realistically couldn't use it. I think you wouldn't get your money's worth.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2009, 05:51 PM
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eenusa - you mentioned hiring a car and driver to go to Oll. from Cuzco. I would like to do that, stopping at ruins along the way. How do you find a driver and how much does it cost? Also, we are trying to economize and wanted to do an overnight stay at Lake Titicaca. Which allways tour do you recommend? Thanks!
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 02:32 AM
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We did something different for this trip -- we worked with a local guide in Cusco who was with us for most of the trip. He would pick us up each day with a vehicle appropriate for the day (for example, he arranged for a van with bigger windows for when we were traveling through the SV so that we would not miss out on the expansive views). We preferred to do this over making individual arrangements as we wanted the continuity of same driver/guide. I can't speak to the individual cost of driver/vehicle as Vidal helped us with all of our arrangements, including hotels, domestic airfare and such, and the daily trips with vehicle/driver/guide were included in the total pricing.

There are many reports on this site and TripAdvisor where people hired a driver/guide on the fly or had arrangements made via the hotel they were staying at. Perhaps someone will pop in to give you some pricing.

As for Lake T. We did not do an overnight stay on one of the islands, but stayed at the Casa Andina on the shores of the Lake and did a day-trip to Uros/Taquile. Here's the website for Allways Travel: http://www.titicacaperu.com/. I'd just make sure that you go to the side that has the steady climb and not the steps for your starting point on Taquile ... wouldn't want to try and hike up the steps at that altitude. If you want to do an island stay, I believe it is available on Taquile (on a limited basis), but most of the home stays seem to be on Amantani Island (look for a trip report by Julie and Karen for more details on this type of a visit to Lake T).
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 05:37 AM
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I would not cut down on your time in Ollantaytambo. It is a charming village, at least when the day trippers are gone. There is more to do in the Sacred Valley, ruins and shopping at Pisac, ruins at Ollantaytambo, horse back riding and white water rafting in Urubamba.

Beware of scams in Cusco, in the central square traditionally dressed women and children ask you to take their picture and then ask for money. The mothers will claim that the children aren't theirs so you have to pay both.
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 08:08 AM
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I agree with RBCal, Ollantaytambo is charming and I would rather acclimate there than in Cusco.

If you start your stay in Ollantaytambo, your hotel can probably arrange a driver to pick you up at the airport. You can arrange a car and driver for touring through hotels as well. I stayed at El Albergue and they have this serice, it's posted on their website.

Your plan is pretty good, I think.
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Old May 1st, 2009, 11:22 AM
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everybody's comments are great but I still try to figure out this: We will be going to the Cusco MP area in mid May and we arrive early in the morning Sunday so we have 3 full days and 2/3 of the last one when we fly out of Cusco. I am still uncertain of what our itinerary should be and where we stay the 3 nights. No major hiking but definitely Matchu Pitchu and Sacsayhuaman and the rest in the sacred valley. how does this look? a) 1st night Cusco, 2nd Ollan 3rd night Aquas calientes
b) tour of sacred valley and stay at Ollan 1st night, train to MP 2nd day and back to Ollan or Aguas Calintes 2nd night and back to Sacred Valley and Cusco 3rd night or Ollan 3rd night?
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Old May 1st, 2009, 11:32 AM
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You can do a day trip from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, if you can get the early train out and late train back, there is plenty of time.

I would not spend the first night in Cusco because of the altitude. Plan b is better. Stay in Cusco the 3rd night.
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Old May 1st, 2009, 11:27 PM
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We spen quite a bit of time in Olly and loved it! You could easily spend a couple of days there and not get bored as there is plenty to see round and about. Aguas Calientes is IMHO a dump and should be avoided at all costs as an overnight place to stay. We did stay there in order to see MC at dawn but although we left at around 5.30 and got one of the first buses we did not actually get to the ruins until after sunrise but it is a lot quiter at that time.


Here is a link to our blog - entries 56-59 cover this area

http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog...tml#ENTRY_LIST
Logistics wise a first night in Cuzco would be best but as mlgb rightly points out for altitude sickness reasons, Olly first would be better. It affects people differently and, unfortunately, it affected me rather badly and it took me a few days to get acclimatised (chewing coca leaves really helps but the oxygen in the hotel was the best treatment).
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Old May 3rd, 2009, 12:45 PM
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Your blog is great! We will be coming from Titicaca so I hope altitude will not be such an issue. It looks like we will stay in Ollan for the 3 nights and try to combine touring the Sacred Valley and transportation to Ollan from the airport in one shot the first day. Then one full day in Ollan, one full day in Matchu Pitchu and the last day Cusco until we get our flight to Lima around 5PM
All this info is so helpful, its as if already know what to expect and how to do it best!
Thanks to all and I will try to write my actual trip log when I get back.
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Old May 7th, 2009, 09:02 AM
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WE just returned from 9 day trip to Peru. We spent 2 days in Cusco to acclimate. You can see all in Cusco in 2 days. I would recommend staying one night in Pisac. Hotel Pisac is a charming colorful place and relaxing after full days in Cusco. Great ruins & market. We spent a full day doing ruins & scenery from Pisac to Olly. You must take the train from Olly to Aguas Calientes. We stayed at Hotel Inkaterra in Aguas Calientes, spectacular. The cost was great but included many tours, meals, etc. Returned and stayed last night in Olly. You could easily build 3 nights in Sacred Valley just to enjoy the culture and scenery. Especially since you are driving.
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Old May 9th, 2009, 07:36 AM
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Thank you so much for the replies. It has helped tremendously. I've finalized this portion of our trip and we now have exactly one week in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. This is how I have my trip planned:

Wed. - Arrive in Cuzco at 7am. Get rental car. Drive to Sacred Valley and stay in Ollantaytambo

Thurs. - Sacred Valley. Stay in Ollantaytambo

Fri. - Sacred Valley. Take last train to Aguas Calientes. Spend the night there

Sat. - Take first morning bus to Machu Picchu. Spend day there. Take train back to Ollantaytambo and stay there. If we get back early enough, we could drive over to Pisac and stay there because...

Sun. - Drive to Pisac. See ruins there and visit market. Drive back to Cuzco. Return rental car. Stay in Cuzco

Mon. and Tues. - Cuzco

Wed. - Leave Cuzco at 8am

Please let me know if that itinerary makes sense. My biggest concern is that we are short-changing Cuzco by only having two full days there, but I read on one of the comments here that two days is enough. I realize that everyone has a different definition of "enough" but considering that we have only a week in total, that may have to do.

My other concern is the day in Pisac. Is it possible to visit the market and ruins in the same day and then get back to Cuzco at night? I hope so.

Again, thanks for the assistance.
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Old May 9th, 2009, 08:11 AM
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It is perfectly possible to visit the market and and the ruins in Pisac in one day (the drive itself is also very enjoyable). I realise I am probably in a minority but I actually preferred the ruins in Pisac to MP.

One thing you do need to consider is that it is normal to follow a set route around the ruins - it took us a couple of hours. If you have a driver he will usually drop you off at the higher of the two carparks and pick you up from the lower. If you are driving yourself I am not sure how you will do this without a long walk back up to teh higer car park. Just a thought but it may be worth parking in th town and getting a taxi
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Old May 9th, 2009, 12:57 PM
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Yes, take a taxi to the top of the Pisac ruins and walk back down into town...fantastic walk especially if you aren't doing the Inka Trail. One day is fine for Pisac even if you don't spend the night and I think 2 days are good for Cusco.
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