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Summary of family trip to Cusco, Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu

Summary of family trip to Cusco, Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu

Aug 11th, 2009, 12:00 PM
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Summary of family trip to Cusco, Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu

My family and I recently arrived back from an excellent 2 ½-week trip to Peru. For the first week I was volunteering, and my wife and seven-year-old daughter arrived subsequently. Here I share a trip summary with you and I would be happy to answer any planning questions you might have about this region or my experiences.

Itinerary
Day 1: Overnight flight from Miami to Lima on LAN after domestic flight. Quick overnight in Lima, then LAN flight from Lima to Cusco.
Days 2-7: Volunteering
Day 8: I finished volunteering, and my family arrived in Cusco following my schedule of a week earlier.
Day 9: Pisac
Day 10: Ollantaytambo, and train to Aguas Calientes
Day 11: Machu Picchu
Day 12: Train to Ollantaytambo; visit Yucay
Day 13: Moras, Moray, and return to volunteer village
Days 14-15: Cusco
Day 16: LAN flight to Lima; day tour of Lima, then overnight flight on LAN to Miami and onward.

Travel organization
Our trip was arranged through Ancient Summit, a Florida-based company that I found on this forum. Nina Fogelman is the owner of this small company oriented on personalized travel in Peru. I would highly recommend this organization. Nina and her partners in Cusco worked with us to determine our interests and timing, resulting in a well-organized trip with high-quality private tours (in our case, an archaeologist as our primary guide) highlighted by numerous personal touches, visits and calls, and suggestions throughout. Their passion for Peru and care for us as travelers were evident throughout the trip.

Lodging
During our one night in Lima, we each stayed at the Ramada Airport Costa del Sol, which served our purpose. We stayed four nights in Cusco at Rumi Punku, a charming family-fun hotel in the San Blas area that we enjoyed. We took taxis back to the hotel after dark for 3 soles per trip. We stayed three nights in Urubamba at Illarimuy, my favorite hotel on the trip. It was friendly, helpful, and comfortable, in a beautiful location and with great breakfasts. It is a few minutes outside of town, but taxis are easily available for 5 soles per trip. In Aguas Calientes we stayed two nights at Presidente. The hotel was attractive with a good location near the station overlooking the river, and breakfasts were good, but there were a few problems as well, resulting in only a partial recommendation.

Dining
In Cusco, I recommend the following: Pachipapa, an attractive San Blas restaurant; a pollo a la brasa restaurant near Plaza de Armas on Avenida del Sol; Pucara, a Japanese-Peruvian restaurant just off of Plaza de Armas; and Juanitos, a tasty sandwich shop in San Blas. Also be sure to try the ice cream shop across from Qorikancha. In Urubamba, we ate two nights at Tres Kerros, which is regarded as one of the best restaurants in the valley and did not disappoint. Try the lomo saltado here. We also had good local pizza at Pizza Wasi. In Aguas Calientes we liked El Toldo and Inka Wasi, the latter of which featured local entertainment. In Lima we loved the well-regarded ceviche at La Mar, open only for lunch, and do not miss the derrumbado for dessert. Dinner was at La Rosa Nautica, in Miraflores wonderfully set on an ocean pier, on our last evening.

Sights
On route to Urubamba we visited Awanakancha, an alpaca and llama farm open to tourists. It was an enjoyable short stop on my family’s first day. The Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Moray ruins were excellent, as was the Moras salt flat. We visited the Pisac market on a Monday and enjoyed it, although I preferred the more authentic Chinchero market on Sunday. Machu Picchu was the trip’s highlight. Be sure to arrive early and also to catch the changing light closer to sunset. My family enjoyed the uphill hike to the sun gate. The train ride is beautiful, with the best views on route to Aguas Calientes generally on the left along the river. Watch luggage limits on the train, as we had to pay a fee for the one suitcase we brought on the train when it weighed in over 10 kg. While in Aguas Calientes we spent some time at the hot springs, which were adequate. Other Sacred Valley activities that Nina arranged for us were lunch at her friend’s house, a visit to Yucay to have lunch with the local children and to observe and participate in a children’s traditional dance demonstration, and a visit back to the village where I volunteered so that my family could meet my host family, have lunch, and learn about the traditional weaving that occurs there.

In Cusco we enjoyed the ruins of Q’Enqo, Saqsaywamán, and Qorikancha. We also toured La Catedral, the Inka Museum, the Igelias de la Compaña de Jesus, Igelias de San Blas, and the impressive Pre-Columbian Museum. We went to a show called Paucartanpu at the Kusikay theater, which was a very entertaining Peruvian-style Cirque du Soleil-type show, and watched the local parade on Sunday morning. And, there was plenty of time for shopping and just walking about.

In Lima we visited the Larco Herrara Museum, which I highly recommend, and then toured the city, square, and churches of colonial Lima, visited Miraflores briefly, and left for our international departure.

Flights
LAN had good service on both my domestic and international flights. However, our international outbound flights were canceled two months before the trip and rebooked on overnight flights. LAN did not even inform us of the change; I stumbled upon it when I tried to make seat reservations.

Traveling with a young child
I was not sure how my daughter would like Peru, but she loved it right away. Some of this was due to our guide, who gave her lots of attention and was sure to teach her on her own level. Peruvians are very friendly and open. We never felt unsafe, although we naturally applied street smarts in the cities after dark. The pace was rather casual and not hectic, which is important when traveling with a child. She had no problems with altitude or stomach, although we all used prescription medications from home for altitude and took the first day to acclimatize. We also made time for activities such as a playground in Urubamba, where she quickly made friends.

Volunteering
Ancient Summit arranged my volunteer week in a traditional Quechua village in the Sacred Valley that is generally not a tourist stop. The company sponsors the children’s center and hopes to send more volunteers over time, but is not set up for large scale volunteering at this time. I recommend to anyone to spend some time volunteering if you can, as it is extremely rewarding and the needs are great. Spanish is spoken in the village but no English, and so my 20 weeks of Spanish instruction earlier this year were important. Otherwise, English is fairly common in the rest of this region.

Peru is a beautiful country and we loved our time there. If you are thinking about going, I hope you will go, and if you now planning, you have a lot to look forward to!
mlhullmn is offline  
Aug 11th, 2009, 01:58 PM
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excellent report thanks for posting most informative.
qwovadis is offline  
Aug 11th, 2009, 02:08 PM
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What was your village?
mlgb is offline  
Aug 12th, 2009, 06:17 AM
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I was in Umasbamba, which is about 30 minutes from Cusco and just beyond Chinchero at an elevation of 3780 meters. I stayed with a host family and worked with them in the mornings, and then at the children's center in the afternoons. Umasbamba is a traditional agricultural village, with several women practicing traditional weaving skills and selling these items locally. It was an incredibly interesting and rewarding experience.
mlhullmn is offline  
Aug 12th, 2009, 01:16 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 18,063
Thanks, I was talking to one of the weavers from Chawaytiri in the Pisac market and wondered if it was the same village.

Sounds like a great trip.
mlgb is offline  
Dec 15th, 2009, 05:01 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 26
Thanks for sharing!
IndyTraveler is offline  
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