We organized a 10-day trip to Peru in late August, just before the Labor Day weekend. August is supposed to be a good month as it is during the dry season.
We have been in more than seventy countries, but a trip to Machu Picchu takes a little bit more to organize…plane, train, automobile…and buses.
We flew on a Saturday late afternoon from Ft. Lauderdale to Lima with Jetblue. The flight almost lasts six hours. We booked a room at the Holiday Inn airport hotel in Lima.
On Sunday morning we took a flight with Avianca airline from Lima to Cusco. It only takes one hour and fifteen minutes, but the landing is a lot of fun. The pilot has to move the plane in all directions in order to get to the landing strip in Cusco.
Lima is on the coast and has an altitude of only a few feet. So, in one hour and fifteen minutes you basically go from zero to 11,000 feet! Your body takes a shot. At the beginning you feel very tired and it is harder to breathe. Our doctor gave us some prescription medicine. They worked for my wife, but not as well for me. Every night I felt like my brain was coming out of my head…the Malbec wine did not help.
We spent two nights in Cusco at the Palacio del Inka, a Marriott Luxury Collection Hotel. It’s a wonderful property in the center of the city. In the sixteenth century, during the Spanish conquest, the palace was taken by Gonzalo Pizarro, brother of the conqueror of Peru. The only drawback is that it is considered an historic monument, so there is no AC in the rooms. If you need AC, the JW Marriott El Convento is just a few steps away. The Sunday afternoon was spent visiting the center of Cusco.
On Monday we hired a driver who took us to Pisac and Chinchero. The drive from Cusco to Pisac is lovely. We stopped the car many times to take photos of the valleys. Of course, we also stopped for photo opportunities with lamas and alpacas. Pisac is a village in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is situated on the Vilcanota River and is known for its Incan ruins and large market. The driver dropped you at the base of the ruins and you have to climb up to see the ruins and the agricultural terraces. We visited for a couple of hours and then drove to the village of Chinchero. It is located between Cusco and Urubamba. Chinchero is home to the famous Peruvian weaving. We stopped at one typical complex that had merchants and people dressed in their traditional costume. It’s a great place to buy local products and interact with the artists. After that we went up to the main square of the old city, which is located in front of the colonial church. That day was a special holiday. They had a lot of processions and religious festivities around the church. Kids were out of school and flying kites. We loved the city and its people.
On Tuesday morning we left by train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, a small town at the base of Machu Picchu. We had reserved seats on the Perurail. The breathtaking trip takes a little bit more than three hours going through the Sacred Valley. We spent the night at the Sumaq hotel in Aguas Calientes. It’s a wonderful property a few steps to the bus stop taking you to Machu Picchu. We had dinner that night at the hotel. The food was wonderful. I did not try the guinea pig, but the alpaca filet was excellent.
On Wednesday, we woke up early in order to take the bus up to Machu Picchu. You can get your tickets in advance, but you still have to line up and wait for a bus with hundreds of people. A lot of people wake up very early in order to be at Machu Picchu for sunrise. We took the bus at around 7:00am. The wait was not too bad. We hired a local guide at the entrance of the site. He took us around for a couple of hours. The weather was splendid. Not one cloud in the sky, which is very rare. It was crowded, but not overwhelming. You walk a lot, so you need good shoes. The site and views are breathtaking. Definitely a must do. We had lunch at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, located at the entrance of the archeological site. After lunch we decided to walk back down to Aguas Calientes. It took us a couple of hours. We checked out at our hotel and took the train to Urubamba. We stayed at the Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Resort in the Sacred Valley. The hotel has the advantage of having its own train station. That night we had a wonderful dinner at the hotel’s Hawa restaurant.
On Thursday, we hired a driver to take us around the Sacred Valley. We visited the salt mines of Maras, dating back to Incan times. Then we went to Moray, an Inca archaeological site on a high plateau featuring a series of concentric terraces. Afterwards, the driver took us back down to the Sacred Valley on a scary unpaved road, which took us to the city of Ollantaytambo and back to our hotel. In late afternoon we enjoyed the hotel swimming pool and the wonderful view of the river.
We left Friday morning for Lima. A taxi took us back to Cusco, where we flew Avianca airline. We spent the next two days in Lima. We stayed at the JW Marriott, which is conveniently located in the Miraflores area. We visited the Plaza de Armas, the Larco museum, the Basilic and the Convent of San Francisco. We also wandered in the Barranco district, home and working place of many of Peru's leading artists, musicians, designers and photographers. We took the red-eye flight back to Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday evening. That was a great vacation for us and we saw a lot in a few days. We definitely would like to go back to see more of this beautiful country.