Trip Report: Lima/Sacred Valley/Cusco/Lima

Old Jun 21st, 2009, 03:15 PM
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Trip Report: Lima/Sacred Valley/Cusco/Lima

Greetings!

Just returned from a fantastic trip to Peru! If you are searching here, debating on whether to pull the trigger to visit Peru, Machu Picchu, and the Sacred Valley... well one word for you: "GO!".

We were two married couples from the States and a local friend from Lima - all around 40 years old. We traveled Saturday, June 6 through Saturday, June 13.

Day one: Travel to Lima
Our 10:50pm arrival into Lima was delayed by 30 minutes. Even so, we made it through immigration, baggage, customs very quickly. We had elected to pay the extra $$ to stay at the Ramada at the airport. This was a good decision for us - we got about 4 hours of sleep that night before getting up for our flight to Cusco.

Day two: Cusco/travel to Urubamba/Moray
We arrived in Cusco with no problems (sit on the left hand side of the plane to get some amazing views of mountains). We had arranged a driver, who picked us up. It was Sunday so we stopped at the market at Pisac. Great market - lots of locals (and some tourists). We enjoyed the drive to Urubamba - even stopped at a place right before Pisac that had llama area, then showed how the different crafts are made. We checked into our hotel, San Agustin Spa - I would recommend this hotel for people that want to stay in Urubamba - that is, those that are staying several days in the Sacred Valley. Urubamba is a good launching point for other parts of the Sacred Valley, though it doesn't have a lot going on in the town itself. (You can check out my rating of all the hotels we stayed in on TripAdvisor - same username, "travelbecks".) We had just enough time to do something quick before it was dark. We left the hotel around 4:30, grabbed a local cab (Victor drives a cab and owns the small market across the street) and arranged a trip to Moray. Moray is interesting - if you have an hour I would recommend it. We were able to watch a spectacular moon-rise as we drove back to the hotel. Dinner in the hotel - good food. No problems with the altitude - recommend heading straight into the Sacred Valley, it's a lower altitude, then catching Cusco at the end of the trip, once you're somewhat adjusted. This worked very well for us.

Day 3: Ollantaytambo, Valley, Pisac
Started around 9:00am, arranging for Victor to take us to Ollanta, Valley ?, and Pisac. Ollantaytambo was great! About 30 minute cab ride from Urubamba. Great character in the town. The ruins were spectacular. We had a guide book, so didn't hire a guide for this ruin. Ate a late lunch, then grabbed some fruit at the local market. Next, we drove up into the Valley ? - spectacular views - what a beautiful place. We stopped along the way and gave out fruit to the Quechuan children that were heading down the road from school. Beautiful place, beautiful people! The road was rough - we had a flat at the top of the road, changed the tire, then headed back down toward Ollanta. We then took the ~one hour ride to Pisac to view the ruins. The views from the top are amazing! We did a hike that took us about an hour - from the top parking lot downhill to the bottom parking lot - where Victor picked us up. There is a small cave, and some narrow paths - it was fun. And, downhill! Pisac is pretty high up, so it was nice to walk downhill. Victor drove us back to our hotel where we ate a late dinner and then crashed.

Day 4: Machu Picchu
We bought tickets online (www.perurail.com) for the train before we left the States and printed out the tickets. We had heard a rumor that we had to reconfirm our tickets when we got to Cusco, but the tickets we had worked great - no need to check in. We wanted to get an early start on the day to hike Huana Picchu, hearing that if we got there before late-morning, we wouldn't have any issues. We left our hotel at 5:15 in Urubamba to be sure to make our 6:10 train. Plenty of time. There is a coffee place right there on the platform - bliss! the train ride took about 1.5 hours. We arrived in Aguas Caliente, quickly got our passes to MP and our bus tickets. We arrived at MP around 9:00am. We then found out... all the passes (limit 400) to Huana Picchu were taken. (We had heard that there were gone by 7am.) I had really been looking forward to that hike - for months - and I tell you guys, I know it sounds silly, but I had to psych myself up for my day. On a side note - It took 30 minutes to check our packs at the gate. They will not allow you to take even a standard-sized backpack in. We decided to hire a guide since we had all day now (our train back was at 5:30pm). We found Sonia - amazing!!!! She spoke only Spanish, and our friend interpreted. We had a great tour - MP is the most incredible place - not just the ruins, but the whole scenery is absolutely spectacular - indescribable. About noon, we mentioned to Sonia that we had hoped to go up Huana Picchu, but we were too late to get a pass. She asked us to wait, hurried off to the trail entrance and returned saying, "es posible". We found out that if you do not use your pass by 1:00pm, the park officials will let those in line at the Huana Picchu entrance, up to 400 people max. Many of the people that had passes were actually on the Inca Trail the night before and, on our day, some decided to pass on the last slog up. We were numbers 385-390! We did it! Huana Picchu was absolutely the highlight of the day. I highly recommend it. We packed protien bars, trail mix, and water so we snacked at the top. We took in the view and rested for a while, then headed back down. We walked slowly through the ruins on our way out, then grabbed the bus to Aguas Calientes. We had a late late lunch in Aguas Calientes - pizza and beer. We had about 45 minutes in the market there and then grabbed our 5:30 train home. We prearranged our cab to pick us up at the Ollanta train station and headed back to the hotel. Crashed.

Day 5: heading to Cusco, Cusco
We left the hotel around 9:00 to head back to Cusco. Our first stop was a cute town called Chinchero - great town, good shopping. We were fortunate to be there on a day that had 3 weddings. We were asked to observe. What a treat! We stopped at many ruins on the way from Chinchero to Cusco, but would only recommend Sacsayhuaman where we had a guide. Don't miss going through the tunnel that used to carry water from the now-defunct reservoir. Be forewarned: It was a bit claustrophobic. Our guide said it was only 18 meters long, but it seemed a lot longer. We rambled into Cusco around 3:00pm and checked into our hotel, Casa San Blas - which I highly recommend. We took quick showers, and headed down to the main square of Cusco, Plaza de Armas. We were fortunate that we were there for Saints Day. Each of the main cathederals in Cusco paraded there patron saint down the streets to the main cathedral in the Plaza de Armas. The carrying to the cathedral was done by the time we got to the Plaza and everyone was partying. We had dinner off the square and then had a coffee and dessert overlooking the square. It was getting late, so we huffed up the three blocks to our hotel where we heard bands playing at the Plaza San Blas. We checked out the very bohemian scene for a while. Crashed.

Day 6: Cusco
We had anticipating spending most of this day in museums, but the Saints Day turned into a holiday. Instead, we got to be a part of an amazing cultural day - we visited a locals market in the morning - really cool and interesting - then parked ourselves on a terrace overlooking the main square and watched the parade and festivities. It was a great day. Be sure to check out the inside of the main cathedral - it's beautiful. Lunch was amazing - Pachapapa on the Plaza San Blas.

Day 7: Cusco, fly to Lima
We took the morning to tour Qoricancha - highly recommend. We hired a guide and it really opened us up to history of the place. This took about 2 hours. Meanwhile, there was a soft strike going on... so we watched a public demonstration parade. Again, really capturing the essence of the people of Peru. We had just enough time to grab lunch at a fantastic Italian place right off the Plaza de Armas, scoot back to our hotel, grab a coffee, then a cab for the airport. Our travel back to Lima was uneventful. We made our way to our hotel, Hotel Antigua Miraflores. (This hotel is highly regarded on Trip Advisor and Fodors, but I didn't see the hype. Just okay. The common spaces are amazing, spectacular, but our rooms were very tired. We had room #13 and it was noisy.) We had dinner at a restaurant in the shopping center on the ocean, Lacomar. A great way to end a busy day.

Day 8: Lima, fly home
We started this day early. I had done some work in Lima two years ago with a group of poor children and wanted to revisit the area. We visited the now feeding program that's going well, then turned back toward Central Lima. We did the San Francisco tour with the catacombs. Really good tour - very interesting architecture. We had a long, mid-day meal at a beautiful restaurant on the ocean, Rosa Nautica. Since we had a late check-out with the hotel, we went back and showered, then headed to the airport to catch our red-eyes back home.

Peru is exceptional! I travel a lot for work and Peru remains someplace close to my heart. I can't wait to go back!
travelbecks is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2009, 07:42 PM
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I was a fellow traveler on this same trip. (Hi Travelbecks!) And I have to add a few things. The local village up the valley from Ollantaytambo is called Huilloc. The children just walking down the mountain from school had beautiful smiles and were very outgoing. They wore typical Peruvian clothing- and this brings me to another topic. Before this trip, I was cynical that local Peruvians dressed in the colorful clothing that were depicted in the color photos of our travel books. But, honestly they do! Especially in the more rural areas of the Sacred Valley- the locals were dressed in handwovens, with the women in tophat-style hats. There were baby after baby slung in blanket slings on the backs of mothers. In Cusco there was some posing of locals in typical clothing with llamas, but in the more agricultural countryside (Moray for example) we saw farmers and sheepherders wearing historically Peruvian clothing. We passed burro after burro loaded with straw and maize carrying crops from the fields- no tractors that we saw and a lot of hand tools, and wooden ones at that.
We were all very happy to be able to climb Huanu Picchu (Wayna Picchu, as it's also called.) But the cut off time for climbing is 11:00am not 1:00, and if the 400 people who have been given climbing tickets have not used them by 11am, then the gate keepers will begin to allow people from the "stand-by line" through until 400 people have signed in for the hike. There were quite a few elbows being thrown and jockeying in that stand-by line, so I would suggest to show up at 10:30 and be sure to tell others who don't have the seperate Huanu Picchu ticket that the line starts behind you!
I did manage to get by the main gate with a small backpack, but others didn't and had to check theirs. It helped to have emptied the backpack as much as possible, stuffing energybars/cameras in pockets, carrying bottle of water, and tying fleece around waist to limit its bulk. They were not letting tourists bring in walking sticks either. The hike up Huana Picchu was a bit tricky-- no way I would bring a kid up there, hopefully that is not allowed. Maybe a responsible 13 year old, but even that is iffy because there are several places where you have to trust that the other hikers on the climb won't bump you or will give you room to pass. This climb wouldn't really be dangerous if you were climbing with a small group and didn't have to worry about running into 395 other people who might not be as fit or nimble as you are.
It seemed that most of the 400 tickets were taken by people who had stayed overnight at AC or who had hiked in on the Inca Trail and were first in the gate. I wouldn't count on a ticket being available unless you are in one of these 2 categories. We were on the 6:10 train from Ollantay and went straight up on the bus from AC, and missed getting tickets by at least 1/2 hour.
Also, the Sacred Valley Tourist Ticket gives you access to a folkloric dance presentation at a theater in Cusco- every night I think at 6:45- enjoyable, I would recommend as a different experience than the other items on the ticket- museums and Incan ruins.
Overall, we had such a great time and would recommend Peru to anyone. We've done extensive travel through Europe, but this was our first S.American trip and it was fairly easy to navigate. The Peruvian people were very friendly and welcoming! They have a lot to be proud of.
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Old Jul 11th, 2009, 12:06 PM
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Thanks so much guys for your comments. I do appreciate you had a nice stay in Peru, specially in the South Andes. I have to clear up that the "local peruvians" are dressed up in different: People from the Coast or Litoral, People from the Andes and People from the Jungle. Mostly, the people wear as in western civilization but in the Andes and Jungle our people maintain their traditions.

Our travel agency works more than 20 years in the Peruvian market and we are offering nice tours besides the traditional and conventional tours: Cusco, Macchu Pichu, Arequipa, Puno Iquitos, and Nasca. We are offering Ayacucho, Huanuco, Tumbes, Piura, Chiclayo, Chachapoyas, Kuelap,etc and more more and diverse tours. We can customise your trip according to your preferences and availability. Our prices are affordable. If you have any doubt please contact me at [email protected] or visit our website: www.andeanorigins.com.

Gracias and I will be waiting for you!!

ES EL TURNO PARA SER EL AVENTURERO!!
SoutAmericaTours is offline  
Old Sep 1st, 2009, 08:42 PM
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Topping for the person who thought there were few trip reports about Peru.
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