Machu Picchu, Peru

The trek of a lifetime

Trip Cost ($ – $$$): $$

Time to Hit the Highlights: 8-9 Days

Must See:  Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Ollantaytambo, Moray

Time of the Year to Visit: Fall-Spring (we visited at the beginning of March)

Audience: Everyone (train), Adventurers (trek)

MP - Cusco
Cusco, Peru

About Peru and Machu Picchu

Peru is located on the western coast of South America.  There are only 30 million people throughout the country, and you can find ⅓ of them in the country’s capital, Lima.  Lima is the business and industrial center of the country as it is right on the coast, but a lot of Peru’s visitors find themselves in Cusco.  Cusco is popular as it is the gateway to Machu Picchu, a modern wonder of the world, and is picturesque with its obvious spanish influence.

It is an amazing journey to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, but it is not for everyone.  Those interested in a day trip can take the train from Cusco, and for the most adventurous there are 4-day, 3-day and 2-day treks!

For more info check out the Peru website at http://www.peru.travel/en-us/

Getting There

  • Flying into Lima is the best way to arrive from international locations.  From there it is easy to take a taxi into the city or take a flight to Cusco.
    • There are several airlines that will take you throughout Peru, including Peruvian Airlines and Avianca.
    • Really important to note that the airlines often do not make announcements about boarding or gate changes, as well as notify you of delays and flight changes.
  • We did not rent a car, but rather used taxi services to get around.
  • If you are hiking the Inca Trail, you will need to register through a local company that does guided hikes.  They will arrange your transportation to and from Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Staying There

  • We flew straight through to Cusco and stayed in a town outside of the city called Urubamba. You can easily find B&Bs and houses for rent throughout the area, as well as many hostels in the city of Cusco.
  • We chose to stay in Urubamba to experience the rural areas of Peru, as well as stay at an elevation similar to that of the Inca trail in order to adjust to the elevation
  • If you are not used to higher elevations, be sure to allow a few days to adjust, as well as speak to a travel doctor about medications.  You can also purchase medicine in country at local pharmacies.
  • Once you are on the trail, the company you have chosen to guide you will be in charge of setting up your tents and taking them down. Full service!

Being There

Ollantaytambo

  • This spot in the Sacred Valley may be the most spectacular, and not just because you get to climb around.
  • It is believed that this was an administrative center for the Incas, although some believe they were building a temple that was never finished.
  • These ruins have beautiful views and are part of a quaint little town where you can grab lunch.

Moray

Moray - MP

  • Moray is a beautiful Incan agricultural site with circular rows that will make you gasp and say “how did they do this and why?”.
  • A great way to see this site is to work with a tour group that will take you to several Inca sites in the Sacred Valley

Machu Picchu & the Inca Trail

Inca Trail Trek – Day 1

MP Day 1

  • The first day was an early one with a bus ride from Cusco to a small town past Ollantaytambo. Here we hit the first checkpoint of our trek on the Inca Trail.
  • The first part of the trail was slightly foreshadowing as it took us over the roaring Sacred River.
  • 10 miles and a few Incan ruins later we arrived at our first camping site.
  • In four days we would see the grand prize, Machu Picchu.

Inca Trail Trek – Day 2

MP Day 2

  • By far the hardest part of the trek.
  • The first part of the day was an uphill climb to Dead Woman’s Pass at 13,779 ft. We couldn’t help but feel accomplished when we made it to the cloud covered top and looked down the trail we’d conquered.
  • And then we remembered we had another 13,000 ft mountain to climb after lunch….But we hiked on and survived the strenuous 7.5 mile day.
  • FYI – Some companies do not do both Dead Woman’s Pass and the next mountain in the same day.  Although it is tough, it is nice to get them out of the way on day 2.

Inca Trail Trek – Day 3

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0320.

  • Walking through the cloud forest of the Andes Mountains was so enjoyable that we almost forgot our legs were killing us…almost.
  • But then we emerged from the forest and found ourselves amongst the beautiful ruins of Intipata that stare out into a breathtaking valley. The Incas definitely understood real estate.

Inca Trail Trek – Day 4

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0413.

  • We woke up at 3am and hiked down to the last trail checkpoint in the rain. There we crammed under a small shelter and waited for the checkpoint to open. We were wet. We were tired. We were cold. It was not ideal….but it was awesome. Because we were the first trekkers to hike the Inca Trail right into Machu Picchu that season. The grand prize, what we had been working for the past 3 days, was only a couple miles away.
  • And when we saw it, it was worth it. We had already seen 8 other Incan sites, each better than the last, and Machu Picchu did not disappoint.
  • 26.5 mountainous miles from our start we gazed out on the beautiful remnants of a civilization that only lasted 90 years and only ended almost 500 years ago. Amazing.

Eating There

  • There are so many places to eat in Cusco.  You can go local, or find chains in the large squares.
  • Our favorite area to find a bite to eat in Lima was Miraflores and the neighborhood in between there and downtown Lima.
  • Once you’re on the trail all your food is provided for you. Oh, and it’s delicious.
  • If you tend to be hungry all the time you can carry your own snacks, but the guides should provide you with them every morning.

More Info

  • The exchange rate in Peru will likely work in your favor. It is not expensive to get around and eat once you are in country
  • The company we used for our Inca Trail trek was Llama Path.  They are incredible and have set the standard for service as well as treatment of their employees. Check them out here: http://www.llamapath.com/
  • Make sure you have cash for tips to give your guides, porters and cooks!
  • Great hiking shoes will make or break you. Break them in before getting on the trail.
  • Don’t like hiking poles? You’ll love them by the end of the trek.  You don’t necessarily need two. We tend to favor just having one!
  • If you do the Sacred Valley tour yourself or with a company, make sure you bring money to buy a pass for the ruins. There is one that will get you into several of the sites throughout the region.
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