Peru Trip Report

Old Nov 22, 14, 5:25 pm
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Peru Trip Report

Peru was my 51st country and one of the most beautiful I've seen in a long time. I didn't expect to see snow covered mountains in the Sacred Valley but they were there in all their glory. It goes down as one of my favorites.

Day 1 - Landed at Lima and stayed at an Airbnb place in Callao

Day 2 - Had a little time to see the neighborhood, then a LAN flight to Cusco and taxi Ollantaytambo. Had just enough time to see the ruins and walk around the town a bit
Day 3 - Went to Salineras and Moray then walked around Urubamba a bit. Then by collectivo to Chinchero to see the ruins and walk around the town.
Day 4 - 6:10 AM train to Aguas Calientes. Arrived at Machu Picchu around 8:15. Zigzagged around the crowds for a while then climbed up to the Sun Gate. Had lunch back in the town then did the three hour walk to the Cataratas de Mandor and back. Took the 6:10 PM train back to Ollantaytambo.
Day 5 - Hiked up to the Inca Granaries, then did part of another hike but eventually the trail was blocked by a large cow so I turned back. Took a very slow collectivo to Pisac in the PM and walked around for a couple of hours.
Day 6 - Taxi to Cusco. Climbed up the 552 steps from San Blas to the top of the city. Saw a couple of churches, then taxi to Sacsayhuaman, then walked back.
Day 7 - Saw a couple of small museums, spent a while sitting in the Plaza de Armas, enjoyed the Museo de Coca then walked up to the Cristo Blanco. At night, climbed the 552 steps up again for a night view.
Day 8 - LAN flight back to Lima. Saw the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral and Plaza San Francisco. Walked around Magdalena and saw the sunset over the ocean.
Day 9 - Wandered the market in Magdalena, walked around Barranco and Miraflores. Late night flight home.

Accommodations:
Three Airbnb places - one night in a place in Callao that smelled like a cat litter box, though there was no cat. Another in Cusco that was quite a nice place in a residential neighborhood but a quick taxi ride from the center. And the last one was a huge apartment in Magdalena. Stayed at the Tunupac Lodge for 4 nights in Ollanta, a clean, family run place that is about as quiet as you can get in Peru.

Train to MP - Took the Expedition going and the Vistadome returning. The extra money for the Vistadome is not worth it. The Expedition is much better since it has regular rows of seats, rather than the two facing two with little legroom on the Vistadome. The only difference is the Vistadome serves drinks in real glasses instead of plastic.

Weather - On my trip to Asia last spring I had 10 consecutive days of cloudy, rainy weather. Peru was the opposite - bright and sunny every day. The rainy season began in Cusco the day after I left. In Lima, the garua gave way to two beautiful sunny days.

Altitude - Had trouble sleeping the at first in Ollanta though it got better with each day. Walked around Moray and Chinchero at 12,000 feet for a few hours on my second day with no trouble at all. I felt it a little on my first night in Cusco, but just a little.

Language - I don't know how much English the locals speak since I mainly used Spanish. It's surprising how few visitors even try to speak Spanish. In the US at least, the majority of us have either studied it in school or learned a bit from Sesame Street.

Safety - I felt much more relaxed in Lima and Cusco then in Bogota or Quito. I climbed up toward Sacsayhuaman both early in the morning and at night with no trouble.

People - Everyone was quite nice and service was always good. Everyone was honest and didn't encounter and cheating or scams.

What I liked:
Moray - The ruins are really stunning.

Chinchero - Both the town and ruins. There were few tourists when I was there and while the ruins themselves are ok, the views of the mountains cannot be beat. I felt like I was in The Sound of Music.

Pisac - Didn't have as much time as I'd have liked, but it's a nice place to walk around for a few hours. And even for those of us who hate shopping, the market is fun.

The Sun Gate - The crowds at MP were too much, even early in the morning, but the climb up to the Sun Gate and the crowds thin out and the views cannot be beat.

Aguas Calientes - It is not nearly as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Yes, it is touristy and people will try to sell you things, but there are many places in the world that are much worse. And the waterfalls make for a good, less visited afternoon.

Cusco Plaza de Armas - Clean, sunny, peaceful and a pretty site both day and night.

Lima Plaza de Armas - Hard not to wowed the first time you see it.

Magdalena del Mar - A nice residential area with a good market and great sunsets over the ocean. Reasonably close to all the tourist areas.

Lima Airport - Surprisingly modern and efficient. Immigration, checkin and security are a breeze. Makes you wonder why we can't do that here in the US.

The Food - The best food of any place I've been in a long time. The Hearts Cafe in Ollanta has vegetarian sausage which is to die for. Quinoa, a non-descript place in the main plaza, has great rocoto relleno. Granja Heidi, Korma Sutra and Tacomania (right next to Korma Sutra) are all highly recommended. I also had a great aji de gallina at a place in a residential neighborhood in Cusco whose name I cannot remember but which has one of those lunch specials for US $2.

The ease of getting away from the tourists - Even in this most touristed of destinations, it is remarkably easy to get away from the busloads. Just walk a few blocks from the main plaza in Ollanta or Pisac or even Aguas Calientes. Visit Chinchero. Stay in a residential neighborhood in Cusco or Lima.

What I didn't like:
Ollanta and Sacsayhuaman ruins - I suppose if you are an archeology buff, they will be exciting. Otherwise, both are afternoons of zigzagging around picture takers and tour groups. Entry fees are way too high. As an alternative, you can get perfect - and free - views of the Ollanta ruins from the parking lot below or from the Inca Granaries on the other side of town. The views of Cusco from the Cristo Blanco are just as good as from the ruins but are free

Stray dogs - It is always tough for dog lovers to see though at least the dogs in Peru look healthier and better fed than those in Central America and Mexico.

Lima drivers and traffic - You are putting your life in your hands every time you get in a taxi. And don't expect to get anywhere quickly.

Next trip - 5 days on the beach in Costa Rica
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Old Nov 23, 14, 2:35 am
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Nice report. Sounds like you did it up good!
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Old Nov 23, 14, 1:07 pm
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I'm not sure how you bought your site admission tickets but for what you went to visit, the Cusco area ticket would have suited you and would have covered at least 5 sites that you visited. Expensive but if you manage to fit in what it does include, it isn't bad value (and not much - only half as expensive - for Peruvians).

FWIW, crowds at MP seem to thin out at or after lunch time (before the 2nd wave hits).
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Old Nov 24, 14, 11:02 am
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Nice report! You saw the sun in Lima?!? I've never seen anything but clouds there.

Thanks for listing the restaurants in Ollanta. I keep thinking a master thread of restaurant reviews for Peru would be nice. I have my favorites for everywhere I go, but it would be nice to hear others' suggestions.
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Old Nov 24, 14, 4:55 pm
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The rail fares seem to be expected demand-based.

Bought Vistadome tickets within an hour of departure at Ollantaytambo and it costs USD 60 a person (price hadn't changed). Train wasn't full.

The Expedition coming back, bought a month in advance, was USD 70 a person and was sold out day after we purchased.

Originally Posted by FrogProf View Post
Nice report! You saw the sun in Lima?!? I've never seen anything but clouds there.
Not sure when OP was there but it was sunny on 12 November. The 9-month spell of gloom is ending for the austral summer.

Last edited by YVR Cockroach; Nov 24, 14 at 7:29 pm
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Old Nov 27, 14, 8:30 am
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Thanks for the report this trip is on agenda for 2015, trying to tack it on business trip from Paraguway
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Old Nov 30, 14, 10:00 am
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Luggage question

Rollaboard or backpack & duffel bag? My (adult) daughter and I will be taking a trip next week to Machu Picchu, and not sure how to pack. The norm would be a rollaboard and mid-sized backpack/camera bag, but I'd read elsewhere someone recommending to not use a hard suitcase. We won't be traveling any distances by bus, just flights into Lima, another to Cusco, train to Machu Picchu, tour of Sacred Valley etc.

Speaking of cameras, also wonder if Machu Picchu would favor a really wide angle lens but I'll ask that over in the photographer forum. Thanks!
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Old Dec 1, 14, 1:34 pm
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Luggage on the trains depends on which one you take. Vistadome has not much room for bags while Expeditions have more.

Don't think you need a really WA lense for MP.
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Old Dec 1, 14, 4:58 pm
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Cusco-Machu Picchu itin?

Arriving Cusco on a Monday, 11am.
Leaving Cusco on Thursday, 1pm.

Have hotel in Cusco for that time (Sonesta).

Machu Picchu is the big thing. Sacred Valley important but secondary. A bit confused about getting t Machu Picchu; it appears the only way to make it there early is to take the train up the day before and spend the night in Aguas Calientes? Doing so would appear to remove time from exploring anything in the Sacred Valley. What am I missing? Aside from the realization that an early trek up Huayna Picchu adds a day?

Thanks-
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Old Dec 2, 14, 7:49 pm
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To be there at sunrise, you would need to stay in Aguas Calientes the night before. If you stay in Ollantaytambo, you can get an early train and still be at MP by around 7. I got there around 8:15 - 8:30 and that was fine.
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Old Dec 5, 14, 10:21 am
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Originally Posted by Mike Jacoubowsky View Post
Arriving Cusco on a Monday, 11am.
Leaving Cusco on Thursday, 1pm.

Have hotel in Cusco for that time (Sonesta).

Machu Picchu is the big thing. Sacred Valley important but secondary. A bit confused about getting t Machu Picchu; it appears the only way to make it there early is to take the train up the day before and spend the night in Aguas Calientes? Doing so would appear to remove time from exploring anything in the Sacred Valley. What am I missing? Aside from the realization that an early trek up Huayna Picchu adds a day?

Thanks-
You can take the last train of the day up to Aguas Calientes. Yes, it is where you want to stay if you want to get an early start to MP. I think we lined up around 5:30 for the bus and there were already a lot of people in line in front of us.

We did the 10:00 HP and were completely done around 1:00.
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Old Dec 7, 14, 8:22 pm
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Originally Posted by SuperDudley View Post
You can take the last train of the day up to Aguas Calientes. Yes, it is where you want to stay if you want to get an early start to MP. I think we lined up around 5:30 for the bus and there were already a lot of people in line in front of us.

We did the 10:00 HP and were completely done around 1:00.
The final plan sees us touring sites tomorrow in the Sacred Valley between our airport pickup in Cusco and Ollantaytambo, see more on Tuesday morning, take the 4:30 train to Aguas Calientes, tour Machu Picchu on Wednesday and head back to Ollantaytambo on the 7pm train Wednesday evening. Thursday morning we head back to Cusco, possibly revisit a market to pick up something to bring home. Thursday night in Lima, Friday morning fly back home.

Only thing I'd do differently (aside from better weather) would be to avoid the UA-COPA connection in Mexico City. Ohmygosh is that nasty. As I mentioned in another thread, it's not the seamless *A experience I've come to expect!
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