Hey friends!! I am finally getting around to posting this— always takes forever to write these things.
Also, it took me like 3 weeks just to get back into the groove of life after returning from this trip! Traveling internationally is a lot of work! ESPECIALLY while trying to juggle a business back home.
Anyways, I wanted to tell y’all all about our trip and how AMAZING it was!! We have been planning to go to Peru for several years, so we were super excited it worked out for this year’s “Spring Break” trip. Most of you all know already that John is a school counselor, so we go by his schedule for traveling and early april is always their Spring Break week off. We thought that would be a perfect time to head down to South America again. (Last year we did Colombia— you can read about it HERE.)
We bought flights back in November and had a tough time finding a good route. Anything out of Cincinnati had us flying for over 20 hours and going up to Canada and then back down to Peru— no bueno.
We ended up finding a direct flight on Delta from Atlanta to Lima for $750 each— and it was only a 6 hour direct flight. We bought that and flew out on a Sunday and came back on a Sunday. My little brother, Mitch, lives in ATL, so we thought it would be a perfect excuse to go down and visit him for the weekend before leaving!
We left at 5:55pm from ATL and arrived to Lima at 11:30pm on Sunday. The airport was bustling because most flights from the states arrive late at night for some reason. I had arranged for our hotel to send a taxi which was SO NICE— they had a sign with my name and we immediately found our guy and were on our way.
Lima is a HUGE CITY with TONS of PEOPLE— over 8 million to be exact. And the traffic is HORRIBLE. The distance isn’t far, but it still takes 30- 45 minutes to get anywhere because of the bottleneck of cars. It took us about 30 minutes without traffic (it was late) to get to the Miraflores district in Lima. We stayed at the Best Western and it was wonderful! It was right in the middle of the Miraflores area which is fun and vibrant little part of town. The room was also very nice and super clean!
Our first day in Peru we hit the ground running, ((per usual)) exploring all parts of the city. We walked the Malecon along the sea, we wandered around the fancy shops, stopped for a beer, strolled though the parks, shopped in the little souvenir shops, and ate our hearts out! It is definitely true that Lima is a very foggy place, but the weather was a perfect 75 degrees! After exploring the Miraflores area for a while, we grabbed an uber to the Historic District and explored there for several hours! The scenery was beautiful and the buildings and architecture made me feel like I was back in Spain! The uber took about 45 minutes to get there during high traffic time, but we were glad we went!
We spent a total of 1 day here and it seemed like plenty to do everything and see what we wanted to!
THINGS TO DO:
Walk the Malecon
Eat all the food
Try a Pisco Sour (beware of the raw egg— might have made me sick, but still glad I tried it!)
Explore the Historic District
Saint Francis Monastery
Miraflores Central Park
Basilica and Convent of Santo Domingo
Cerro San Cristobal
Getting to Cusco was super easy and relatively cheap. There are flights every hour all day long back and forth between Lima and Cusco. We decided to do an early one to get us there with plenty of time to adjust to the altitude and still be able to explore as much as we could.
Our flight left at 7:30am and we arrived at 8:50am in Cusco. It cost us $250 total for us to both fly there round trip on LATAM. Upon arriving to Cusco, we could definitely feel the altitude immediately. I had been super apprehensive about it, and had taken some advil the previous day (said it would help with the symptoms). Breathing at first was definitely more difficult and it felt like I had to keep taking deep breathes to actually get any air! CRAZY!
For this leg of the trip, I had found a company called Apurimic Adventures to help us plan and guide us around Cusco and Machu Picchu. You can find their information here. Juan was my contact and he was super helpful in booking all of our tickets and tours. It was nice to not have to worry with it all! ((Although, as the savvy traveler that I am— I checked and added up all the prices that each ticket would cost to make sure we weren’t being over charged by too much and that it would be worth it—TOTALLY WORTH IT!))
He picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel. We stayed at the Abittrre Hotel found HERE and we loved it! The room was small, but it was a great location and price with free breakfast and very friendly service.
We rested for several hours and napped to try and adjust to the altitude. Our hotel also gave us coca tea which helped with the symptoms as well.
NOTE: we had no idea but coca tea and coca leaves are actually illegal in the USA! John loved the tea and wanted to bring some back— but after googling it I found that bringing some back would have been a very bad idea!! LOL
After several hours of just hanging in the hotel we were ready to explore! We drank tons of water and felt perfectly fine with no signs of altitude sickness.
Juan met us and introduced us to our guide, Habrahan, and our driver. We started by touring the Coricancha, (which happened to be directly across the street from our hotel!) where he told us some incredible history about the city. The particular church we were in was one of the most sacred buildings in the Incan capital, so when the Spanish took over they destroyed all of the Incan temples and built churches on top of them. Much of the Incan stonework forms the foundation of the Santo Domingo church and convent. An earthquake in the mid 1900s caused the Incan ruins to be revealed! Pretty cool stuff!
After this, we hopped in the car with our guides and went all over the outskirts of Cusco touring the different Incan territories, an alpaca textile shop, and so much more! It was so nice having a driver because we were able to see more of Cusco than we would have been able to on our own.
We stopped at Saqsaywaman, which is another Incan ruin area— and stumbled upon a ton of alpacas. I of course had to get some photos! I took so many with one alpaca that he spit on me… pictures below. lol! It looks like he’s kissing me— definitely spitting on me instead! haha
Our first full day in Cusco was amazing! We had a delicious meal and walked around a little more after our guide dropped us off. We went in the beginning of April which is still technically the end of rainy season— so our first day was pretty wet and a tad bit chilly. The rest of our time there we had beautiful sunny and warm weather and only needed a light jacket!
We had a second full day in Cusco at the end of our trip and we spent the day hanging out in Plaza de Armas. My favorite part was enjoying a morning coffee at one of the second floor cafes, which can be found on three sides of the square. The balconies are very small, but it is a perfect spot to sightsee and watch the world of traditional and tourist Cusco strolling along.
That day we also walked to the San Pedro Market, which is a bustling market down the road from the Plaza De Armas. It was such a neat place to visit and see both tourists and locals mingling, shopping and eating!
For this night we stayed at the Estancia San Blas which was very nice. Our room was basically a closet, but we still really liked the hotel (we aren’t super hard to please)! It was a little further from the city center and up a hill, so keep that in mind if you don’t like hills or walking! haha!
We had a total of 2 full days in Cusco. That was plenty of time, but I could have stayed a lot longer! :)
THINGS TO DO:
Alpaca factory - La Vicuñita Factory
Explore the Plaza de Armas
San Pedro Market
Eat Aji de Gallina
Paddy’s Irish Pub for late night drinks
Grab a coffee at a second floor cafe above Plaza De Armas and people watch
We woke up early to head out to Sacred Valley for the day. We planned to stay in Ollantaytambo for the night and then would catch an early train to Machu Picchu. It was so nice having a guide because they picked us and all of our luggage up and we were on our way. That was one of the most confusing parts for me when trying to plan this without a guide, was how we would get our luggage from place to place and where we would store it. Habrahan took care of all of this for us!
Along the way to Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo, there are tons of amazing things to see, so we decided to take their extended sacred valley tour. We would be seeing Pisaq, the Pisaq market, Chincero, Moray, Maras salt mines and Ollantaytambo. This tour can be booked through here and we did it in combination with the 3 day Cusco and Machu Picchu tour— here. They customized everything for us— which was so nice!
The drive was GORGEOUS and we loved seeing everything along the way. Our guides were so helpful, explaining things as we drove and stopping wherever we wanted along the way. As we were driving we passed through several small towns where the ladies stand on the street and wave plastic bags at you as you drive by. That means they have fresh food/bread and want you to stop. Our driver pulled over and we bought a huge loaf of bread— it was so sweet and delicious!! We also drove through the area that our guide told us has the best guinea pig— the ladies have them on sticks and wave their bags to get you to stop…. we did not stop for one of these though LOL!!
THINGS TO SEE:
Maras Salt Mines
We opted to stay in Ollantaytambo after exploring Sacred Valley all day. We knew we wanted to see Machu Picchu in the afternoon to avoid the crazy crowds in the morning... so we had Juan and Habrahan book us a room in Ollantaytambo for the night and then we had them get us an early train ride to MP in the morning.
The train ride to Machu Picchu was one of my favorite things. On the way there (we left at 7am) the train wasn’t crowded and we got a whole 4 seater row to ourselves. They served us breakfast, coca tea and coffee on the way there.
The train travels along the river and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. It was such a relaxing and fun morning.
Machu Picchu / Aguas Calientes
Once arriving in Aguas Calientes, we explored a while and waited for our bus ride up to Machu Picchu. Since we had limited time in Peru, we did not hike the trail or even hike the trail up to MP. I was very thankful of this after watching others climbing up while on the bus ride— definitely not for the faint of heart.
I was not thankful for the fact that the dirt road on the way up was basically one way (with two way traffic) no railings and a seemingly distracted bus driver. I had a small panic attack just because of the height of the road and the straight down incline off the edge. It was pretty TERRIFYING. And naturally, I had already googled all of the bus crashes in Peru earlier in the week, so that really helped with my anxiety.
We made it to the top… and let me tell you…. it was INCREDIBLE. Totally worth the crazy bus ride up. The mountains alone surrounding Machu Picchu are gorgeous and it is seriously majestic up there.
It was like nothing I had ever seen before…. and the pictures really don’t do it justice… like AT ALL.
It wasn't as crowded as I expected which was nice, but there were definitely a lot of people around trying to get that perfect selfie!
We walked around, took tons of pictures, and Habrahan gave us the best tour with so much information. I was completely awe-struck by how amazing the Incans were.
This trip was not a super expensive one, mostly because we were only there for a week. Like I said earlier, our flights were $750 each, so $1500 total. And then we spent $250 on flights to Cusco and back. Food was pretty cheap and the conversion rate was very good! We spent about an average of $50 a day on food and alcohol for both of us— totaling to around $350-$400.
Hotels were on the cheap side also… we stayed in 3 and 4 star hotels for $50-$85 per night, totaling around $400 for the week. We use hotels.com so we got a free night during this trip because we have stayed 10 nights using their website.
Our tours and activities added about $1350 for both of us. That covered all of our trains, tours, MP tickets, one night accommodation through Juan’s company and all of our transportation. We tipped our guides an extra $200.
For the entire trip we spent around $4,000 for the two of us to spend a week in Peru.
Overall, our week long trip to Peru was incredible! I cannot get over how insane Machu Picchu was! I also did not expect for Cusco to be one of my favorite cities— but it is up there on the top of my list. It was such a quaint, lively, beautiful little town. I do wish we would have had time to hit rainbow mountain, but our itinerary just didn’t allow for that.
One thing to keep in mind that was unfortunate, was that I did get a little sick at the end of the trip— so always be vigilant when eating adventurously. My husband ate everything in sight including a guinea pig, and didn’t get sick— so I don’t really know why it always happens to me! We both take these travelan pills which kill the bacteria in your stomach so that you don’t get sick— but towards the end of the trip I got a little more lax. So my advice is to take those diligently if you are planning on going and just be weary!~ Maybe my stomach just doesn’t agree with South America!!
Please let me know if you have any questions about our travels! Peru is so amazing!