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Seeking Help With Planning A Visit to Machu Picchu
I wish to visit Machu Picchu and wish to request help with planning and suggesting an itinerary. Thereís a lot of info on visiting Machu Picchu and surrounding destinations, but I am just starting my research and find the info a bit overwhelming.
I understand there are two seasons, dry and wet. Prefer to visit during the dry, which I understand to be between April and October. I understand crowds might be busiest during July, and August, and will avoid traveling these months. Iíd prefer to travel sooner rather than later, so I am thinking maybe mid-may, or early June. Which would be recommended for dry weather, and fewer crowds? Or, would you suggest some other period?
As for the number of days I am interested in traveling, I would say a max of 10 nights/11 days. However, this includes a day of travel to Peru, and a day for return travel home. I also wish to visit Lima, Cusco, Sacred Valley, as well as any other suggested destination you might recommend, in addition to Machu Picchu. Given this, what itinerary would you suggest/recommend?
In addition, I see that there are an overwhelming number of tours. I also see that some people do their own independent travel. We are interested in taking day tours, guides, but hoping to save money by doing our own independent travel as opposed to booking a package. I do have frequent flier miles that I hope to use for booking flights to Lima/Cusco on either American or Lan, and I have hotel points with Hilton and Starwood hotels, that might help save me money for a hotel in Lima. As for Cusco, Iíd probably have to make my own hotel reservation, but in Sacred Valley, it appears I could save money by using my Starwood hotel points to stay at the Tambo del Inka Resort, which appears to be in the Sacred Valley area. So, what I was hoping, was to find tours or guides to show us Lima, Cusco, Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu, but hoping to find such tours or guides for showing us these destinations, but not book a hotel included package so we can take advantage of using our hotel points for discounted stays in Lima and Sacred Valley.
As for visiting Machu Picchu, we want to see everything there is to see and do there, how much time would we need? Should we overnight at Machu Picchu, or return to a hotel elsewhere, such as the Tambo del Inka Resort in Sacred Valley? Which train is recommended, and what time should we arrive?
Given the information Iíve provided above, Iíd appreciate a suggested itinerary, what to see, when, and can I book lodgings on my own, yet find tours to show us around the various destinations and sights, without a packaged tour?
Appreciate any help and information, thank you so much.
Last summer my colleague and I spent 10 days visiting the sites you are considering and arranged the visit through Gap Adventures. We were very pleased with the trip and I highly recommend their services.
Quick answer : For 10/11 days, including 2 days to travel to/from Peru, you can easily visit Cusco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.
I would suggest first thing is to identify whether you prefer to "visit Machu Picchu" or "hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu". The former is a day-trip, overnight at best from the Tambo Del Inka you identified. The latter is a 3 or 4 night affair but IMHO, provides a unparalleled experience to the culture and history.
Also factor in 1-3 days in the beginning to just take things easy. Not sure where you are coming from but the altitude does take a little getting adjusted to. There are all sorts of pills and drugs you can take to help, but time and taking things slow work best.
MP is easily to be done as a 1-day excursion. Trains leave from Ollantaytambo in the sacred valley. Take an early morning train (really early) and come back late afternoon. Buy your train and MP entry tickets well in advance as there is a daily quota of entry tickets sold. As to your point that you want to see everyting in MP, be aware that you will probably not be able to get up the sacred hill, as there is a quota within the quota for this hike and when I was there the last time, the quota was reached at about 07:00 in the morning. But everything else is no problem.
I would recommend to start your stay in altitude in the sacred valley as it is lower than Cuzco itself (MP is even lower) and helps to acclimatize yourself and avoid the soroche (headache). Any good hotel in the area will probably provide day tours to any of the important sites, you don't need a guide in Cuzco until you want to get information about the sites you don't find in a tour book. Cuzco is easily walkable and for the sites just outside the center, just take a taxi.
You could also consider to add 1 or 2 days in Puno/Lake Titicaca as once you are acclimatized to the altitude of Cuzco, you won't have any problems to go even higher, but if you go there another time directly from Lima, your head will explode. As to Lima, be aware that between May and October, you will rarely see the sun, so not the best time to visit the city. I'd stay there at the end of the trip for maybe 2 days, which serve you also as a cushion if your flight from Cuzco should have any problems.
Since I like hiking, I really did NOT want to do MP as a day trip. Being there overnight and being one of the first in line to get a ticket to hike up Huana Picchu was high on my list. It really depends on what you want to do and what your interests are.