16 DAY TRIP TO PERU & MACHU PICCHU: DAILY HIGHLIGHTS
Below you will find highlights from my 16 day trip Peru / Machu Picchu trip – one day at a time.
Trip Report Chapters:
• Peru 16 day trip: Itinerary, Points & Miles
• Daily Highlights ⌫ (you are reading this)
• Hotel: Sheraton Lima
• Urubamba / Sacred Valley
• Hotel: Tambo del Inka, Resort & Spa (Urubamba)
• Aguas Calientes / Putucusi Mountain
• How to Book Machu Picchu Tickets Online (without pulling your hair out!)
• Machu Picchu & Wayna Picchu (Huayna Picchu)
• Hotel: La Pequeña Casita (Aguas Calientes)
• Amazon Jungle (Puerto Maldonado)
• Hotel: Amazon Planet (Puerto Maldonado)
• Hotel: Palacio del Inka (Cusco)
• Puno / Lake Titicaca
• Hotel: Tierra Viva Puno Plaza (Puno)
• Colca Valley
• Hotel: Killawase Lodge (Yanque, Colca Valley)
• Hotel: Los Tambos (Arequipa)
• Sandboarding in Huacachina
Day 1 – Lima
Our flight from NYC was scheduled to arrive in Lima just after midnight. There were some delays and they announced that we must arrive before about 12:30am otherwise the airport will close (and then what? we turn around and go home?). We arrived past this ‘deadline' and everything was fine. Many people decide to wait overnight a few hours in the airport (which would have been fine) and take the first flight out to Cusco but we decided play it safe and spend two nights in Lima. We checked in to the hotel and got some sleep.
Day 2 – Lima
We spent the day exploring Lima's historical sites which are just a short walk away. Check out the Plaza de Armas — which seems to be in every south American country. The hotel offers a free shuttle to Miraflores, so we took it in the evening for dinner and to enjoy the views of the coast. Make sure the driver shows you exactly where the pickup spot is – there is more than 1 Starbucks in the area! Wait at the wrong one and you will need to find a taxi back like we did.
Day 3 – Urubamba
In the morning, we flew to Cusco, which will be your jumping off location for many parts of the trip. We took an airport taxi to our hotel in Urubamba. I hadn't met him yet, but I wish used our guide, Oscar Guevara (firstname.lastname@example.org), to transfer to the hotel. We chose Tambo del Inka as base to explore the Sacred Valley. It was an AMAZING place to relax before heading to Machu Picchu. The hotel is overlooking the mountains and is right next to the river. Stay here a minimum of 2-3 nights! The altitude sickness set in and we fell asleep from 6pm until 8am.
Day 4 – Exploring the Sacred Valley
We hired a private guide named Oscar Guevara (email@example.com) through the hotel and spent the day touring 3 archeological sites: Moray, Salineras/Maras (salt mine), and Ollantaytambo (mini-Machu Picchu). We skipped the 4th site, Pisac (a market). Don't worry, you will have a vendor selling your favorite made in China goods at almost every stop and everywhere you look, even in remote places in the mountains.
Day 5 – Aguas Calientes / Putucusi Mountain
In the early morning, we took the train from Urubamba to Machu Picchu. The train station is right next to the hotel – just a few minutes walk. Book your train tickets as early as possible and you might be as lucky as we were to get the first two seats (which are automatically assigned) – the panoramic views are amazing! Bring some food, the provided breakfast is terrible. After arriving, we checked into the hotel, bought bus tickets (right next to the hotel which was right across from the train station) and then hiked Putucusi Mountain (“Phutuq K'usi”). It gets crazy steep at the top! In the afternoon, we tried to visit the hot springs but they were closed. Instead we got dinner and massages (cheap).
Day 6 – Machu Picchu & Wayna Picchu (Huayna Picchu)
Wake up very early to get the first bus to Machu Picchu. There were many people waiting so we had to take the second bus. When we arrived at Machu Picchu, the main entrance wasn't open yet. Get closer to the entrance as people mill around and you can be one of the first people in Machu Picchu – it's awesome when no one is there! We didn't see the maps (available at the entrance) but we kept to the right side until we reached Wayna Picchu at about 6:30am. After they opened the gate at 7:00am, we hiked up Wayna Picchu – INCREDIBLE views overlooking Machu Picchu (especially without many people there). Later, we hiked Machu Picchu including the looong hike to the sun gate. There's not much left to do in town so we took the train that afternoon to Poroy (Cusco) at around 4pm and rested at the hotel before the flight the next morning.
Day 7 – Into the jungle (Puerto Maldonado)
We took a morning flight from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado. The guide from Amazon Planet Lodge met us at the airport with a taxi. After a quick visit to a local cafe to sample local drinks and foods, we headed to the port and boarded a long boat for the two hour transfer to our hotel. We were greeted with a big storm came soon after we left and it rained hard and sideways right into the boat – completely soaking us (the bags were covered). After arriving, they fed us then took us on a night jungle tour (mosquitoes!!). Soon after we went to sleep in our bungalow, listening to beautiful jungle sounds (monkeys, birds, crickets and who knows what else).
Day 8 – More jungle tours
After breakfast, we walked a trail through the jungle and climbed up to the highest tree canopy platform in South America. Along the way, the guide showed us the local plants and trees. The guide took us to Taricaya, the animal rescue center, and the Butterfly House. After lunch, we went back to Taricaya to see the Mahogany reforestation project, and the turtle project. Next was some alone time. They gave us a raft and we floated back to the lodge (well… way past it because the current was too strong so I had to yell for help!). After dinner, they took us out on the river to search for Caimans and were able to see quite a few!
Day 9 – Zip line & back to Cusco
In the morning, we were able to squeeze in time for a small zip line – my first one ever. Back onto the boat, it took two hours to get back to town. We made a pit stop at the local market then headed to the airport. Our flight back to Cusco arrived in the evening leaving us only enough time buy bus tickets to Puno (Lake Titicaca) for the next day and dinner.
Day 10 – Bus to Puno (Lake Titicaca)
Another early morning. We hop on the tourist bus from Cusco to Lake Titicaca. It wasn't easy – 2 cab rides and some Spanish/English translations to actually find the bus stop. TIP – Make sure the taxi driver knows where to drop you off – not all the buses leave from the bus terminal! Our bus left a few blocks from the terminal. The bus ride was better than expected. It's a tourist bus that makes a few stops at many archaeological sites and also a good buffet lunch with sweeping views of the countryside and local musicians. A young peruvian boy waited outside playing with baby alpaca and posing for pictures. We arrived in Puno in the late afternoon – tired from the long ride and ready to sleep. After buying tour tickets for Lake Titicaca for the following day and a quick dinner in the square near the hotel, we walked through a parade back to the hotel and hit the hay.
Day 11 – Puno (Lake Titicaca)
A van picked us up in the morning for a full day tour of Lake Titicaca. If you get sea sick and book the “slow boat” bring some pills – the Mrs. got sick while on the boat. It's hours slow and the lake can get rocky. The bathroom didn't work…only #1 allowed (bring your own tp). The tour brings you to the floating islands which are very unusual and interesting. However, I'm glad I didn't book an overnight stay on the floating islands with a “native family” (many of whom live on the mainland and commute to work on the islands). Stop #2 is Taquile Island, a secluded and beautiful island with a long uphill walk to wear you out. A delicious lunch was served outdoors at the peak followed by a few hours taking in the spectacular views from every part of the island. After a very long boat ride back to Puno we grabbed dinner and went to bed. Perhaps the “fast boat” is worth the extra $.
Day 12 – To Colca Valley / Yanque
Day 13 – Colca Valley / Arequipa
Our Colca Valley tour bus picked us up at 8am. This was a full day tour with many stops on the way with the highlight being a visit to see the Andean condors. We did see two condors briefly, but traveling all day was not worth it. In the evening, the bus dropped us off at our hotel in Arequipa leaving us some time to go out for dinner. We made our way to a small restaurant famous for their love of potatoes – and we loved every bite of every dish we ordered! Full and happy, we strolled around the small streets looking for some gifts for our families, taking the evening slow and relaxing.
Day 14 – Arequipa
Day 15 – Lima
A day with nothing planned. We roamed the city and took it easy.
Day 16 – Lima / Sandboarding
This was really fun! We took a tourist bus in the morning to Ica to go sandboarding. Until then, I had only seen sandboarding online and was very excited to try it. A guide picked us up at the bus station in Ica and drove us to Huacachina. We had lunch and then a break to digest. Soon enough we were in a private dune buggy for a 2 hour trip (the usual is 1 hour and probably with a group) driving crazily in the sand dunes. The ride was exhilarating and at times, scary (skidding at the peak of a dune making it look like we were going to fly!). We tried sandboarding standing up…unsuccessfully. It's much harder than it looks so the guide showed us how to go down head first laying on the board. Afterwards, back to Lima by bus. Our flight took off around midnight so we washed up at the hotel (thank you late checkout!) then headed to Miraflores again. We hoped to eat at one of two famous restaurants. Unfortunately, both of them only opened in the late evening so we had to eat at the mall (ugh) then to the airport.
These photos were taken using a Canon S100 Digital Camera, which has now been replaced by the S110 and S120. We used the waterproof/dustproof/shockproof Sony DSC-TX20 in the desert, which has been replaced by the DSC-TX30.
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