So, I decided it was time to take a trip. I sorted out all the details, like the kind of trip I felt like taking and that’s when it dawned on me: Peru! Specifically: Machu Picchu. I’ve always been curious about it. After all, how did the Incas manage to build all that so long ago?
That’s what I went after. The trip lasted five days (I’d spend five more in Santiago, Chile). Because of that, I had to go into details about what I wanted to do the most there.
The itinerary was done. The tickets, bought. So we set off. We flew from São Paulo straight to Lima, where we made a stopover on our way to Cusco. Once we set foot there, which is the main spot if you’re visiting Machu Picchu, I have to admit I didn’t find it beautiful at all(but then again, most city entrances aren’t beautiful, right?).
Cultural and Historical Center
Right at the airport, we decided to get tickets to Vale Sagrado and hire a taxi to the hotel. The price was quite reasonable: 50 soles (their currency is called Novo Sol). As we got to the historical center of Cusco (where you’ll find all hotels, in general), we felt we were in a totally different city. Nice architecture and foreigners coming and going.
We stayed at a hotel called Rojas. Simple, but very clean. Oh! And their breakfast was great. It’s really worth it. It’s well situated as well. But let’s talk about the city. The streets are made of cobblestones (not setts) and a central square, called Plaza das Armas. There, you can find lots of restaurants, clubs, bars and stores.
We got there on a Saturday and the altitude wasn’t an issue. Of course I felt my breath was a bit short (climbing the hotel stairs with my cases was a bit harsh) but we didn’t feel any kind of nausea or headache.
In case you feel any of that, you can find coca leaves everywhere. You can chew them or prepare a tea with them. But, when you’re a precautious man like myself, you can get a medicine called Sototipil at their local pharmacies. It reduces the altitude symptoms.
Gastronomy in Cusco
At night, the city was bustling with tourists and locals. Everyone infected by the same feeling of happiness (some spending the weekend, others on vacation). Each little street of Cusco is worth the visit. There are many historical monuments and impressive architecture.
When it comes to meals, forget about fast food places: there’s no better way of getting to know the city better than through gastronomy. That’s why we went to a restaurant called Don Marcelo. Yes, my dear reader, most restaurants in Cusco take Italian names (and serve pizza and pasta).
I chose something more typical (beef) with rice and potatoes (also typical in Cusco). It was perfect! And it feeds you well too. For 35 soles.
When we left the restaurant, it was pretty cold. Yes! In September the winds are still cold, but they usually come early in the morning and during the night. On top of that we got to visit a church (where there was a wedding going to take place) and several typical stores.
And speaking of wedding, most weddings happen in Plaza de Armas. There are so many (beautiful) pictures there that I can’t get tired of complimenting them.
We went to bed early as we’d take the bus to Vale Sagrado the next morning. In this itinerary we visit three archaeological sites built by the Incas, mainly for agriculture.
We’ve been to two of them, as we’d rather stay close to Machu Picchu so we could get faster to the city which, by the way, is considered to be a world heritage. First stop: Pisaq.
The place is famous for its arts and crafts market. It was there, by the way, where I found the nicest well made souvenirs (and most expensive too, of course). They take credit card too, in case you don’t want to pay cash. (I, personally, recommend paying cash all trip long because, in these little Inca cities the credit card machines don’t work very well).
But let’s go back to the Inca ruins in Pisaq: It’s located on the top of a mountain and, therefore, you’ll need a lot of breath and strong legs to climb up there. In the kind of stairs built in the mountains, the Incas were able to make the soil absorb all the heat during the day and, at night, no matter how cold it could get, the soil kept the temperature, which contributed to their cereal and tuber crops.
Plus, in some parts of the archaeological site you can see uncovered tombs. Some people say skeletons can still be found there. I could not see any, but it’s common knowledge that the Incas were buried there, and that just goes to show the dimension and huge number of people that existed there.
Lunch and Ollantaytambo
Before going to the next archaeological site, we stopped to eat. In Urubamba you can find many typical restaurants and each tourism agency will pick a place (or you can go by yourself).
Most restaurants are quite similar: self-service. They serve typical food (some of which I couldn’t identify and preferred to stay on the safe side by not trying). Still, everything I placed on my plate was fantastic and tasty. And to drink: cerveza cusceña (it’s their typical local brand. That’s what everyone drinks).
After lunch we got on the bus to continue the trip. In Ollantaytambo there’s a small village and archaeological site. The place is even nicer and shows everything the Incas got in terms of engineering.
There you can also get to see a trio of llamas (which wouldn’t stop eating). Each one was a different color. They’re so beautiful and uninterested in the bunch of tourists insisting on taking selfies with them (me being one of them).
Staying over in Ollantaytambo
Before the trip we agreed to not come back to Cusco and take the train to Machu Picchu at the Ollantaytambo station. So the group resumed their trip to the third archaeological site as we stayed there.
As soon as we got to hotel Rojas, we were warmly welcomed by the staff and got a huge room. Right during check in they asked us the time we’d take the train. As we had decided to take the fist one (6am), the hotel prepares some breakfast items for us to bring along and eat on the train or while waiting for it.
It couldn’t have been better, as I was precisely worried about getting hungry and having to walk a long way to Machu Picchu on top of that. So, our meal was settled. We walked around the city to see around Ollantaytambo.
With the looks of a country city (which hasn’t changed along time), there’s no traffic lights, and the cars must be directed by a guard staying at one point of the main street where only one car can pass at a time (and it’s two ways). We had dinner at a typical restaurant and headed back to the hotel. After all, the next day, we’d be up at 5 to take the train at 6.
Next stop: Machu Picchu
Less than 10 minutes on foot from the hotel to the train station. And there are lots of tourists doing the same thing, so you can’t miss it. To go to Machu Picchu we took an Inca Rail train. It’s a bit simpler (no windows on the top), but you can still enjoy the view, which is fabulous.
The final stop is in Águas Calientes. From there to Machu Picchu you must take a bus (or a van). There are two stands where you can get your tickets (that’s what we did). You can use dollars or soles.
As soon as we got to Machu Picchu, lots of guides tried to sell us a tour. This is how they work: If you want to take an individual tour (only you or your friends) you’ll pay 50 soles each. Now, if you tour with other tourists, you’ll pay 30 soles.
I suggest you haggle a little and take their price. I mean, if you decide to do it alone, you won’t understand anything about the history of this beautiful stimulating city. Plus, by taking the group tour, every time someone asks something interesting, you’ll get to know more about the place.
Well, what can I say about Machu Picchu? Its structure and the intelligence of the Incas is really impressive. And its location really had me awestruck. I mean, how did they get there? No one was able to answer that.
The thing is that, because it’s located so high and hidden, the city wasn’t found (and destroyed) by the Spanish exploring the Peruvian lands. When we were there, the sun was scorching, so, don’t forget to bring a bottle of water, sunglasses and sunblock. If you can, bring a cereal bar as well. You never know when you can get hungry.
It was worthwhile going around each corner of the city. If you feel up to it, after the guided tour – which lasts 2 hours – you can walk to some areas which were not covered by the guide. I did not do that, though, because the tour ended at 12 and the sun was really hot.
We headed to the exit of the city and went to have lunch. From there, we decided to go down to Águas Calientes and take a walk there. We stopped by a nice bar (where the waiter spoke Portuguese and that’s how he got us) and had a pisco sour (a typical Peruvian drink). At the end of the day, we took the train Vistadome, of PeruRail, back to Cusco.
On this train, dinner is served as well as other attractions that are presented, like songs, dances and men’s and women’s fashion parades. You can buy the pieces, if you want to. It’s very nice.
Last visit: Lima
My trip in Peru was coming to an end, but Lima was still on the list. We stayed in Miraflores, where you can find the best hotels and restaurants. The name of the hotel was Casa Suyay. Its entrance looks like your granny’s little house, and the receptionists are always willing to help (in English or Spanish).
Well, we walked quite a lot around the city. We’ve been everywhere in the district, we’ve seen the coast (the Pacific) and we went up to Pescado Capitales to eat the real ceviche. I admit that I was a bit worried the portion would be too tiny. But I was quite surprised.
The portion was perfect. And it also comes with a portion or Peruvian corn (it’s a bit bigger and less yellow compared to the ones we usually have). Everything just perfect. Really mouth watering.
Finally, at night, we visited Parque das Águas. It’s a huge place filled with water fountains that dance according to the music it’s playing. It’s gorgeous! After that, we walked a bit more around Miraflores and came across little streets with typical restaurants and districts. It was a great way to say goodbye to Peru.
Conclusion about the itinerary
The trip was incredible. I guess we could have stayed one more night in Cusco and one or two more nights in Lima (this way, we’d have gone everywhere). But it was worth all the sweating and heat. In the end, we got to understand the Inca culture.