My trip to Peru was one of the top five best trips of my life! I went in June 2016 for my 25th birthday, and this country definitely lived up to the hype. Our first stop when we arrived was the astounding Machu Picchu. Here’s how to get there if you decide not to do a multi-day trek (I would have loved to do one but, due to time restraints, we didn’t).
First stop – Cusco! We flew into Lima from the U.S. and then immediately flew into Cusco. I highly recommend flying from Lima to Cusco as it would take a long time to do that trip by bus and inter-Peru flights are very cheap. We flew with LC Peru, but there are a few other Peruvian airlines that have multiple flights a day doing this route. (Spending a few days in Cusco is an absolute must! I will discuss this amazing city in a future post 🙂 )
Passed out in the Lima airport waiting for my flight to Cusco after an overnight flight from the U.S. Sometimes you’ve just got to get some shut-eye in whenever you can!
Second stop – Ollantaytambo! (You can also take a train from Cusco straight to Aguas Calientes, but it’s more expensive – around USD$90 each way). From Cusco, you take a bus or a taxi to the small ancient town of Ollantaytambo. We took a taxi and it cost approximately USD$23. My friend and I had fun pronouncing this town’s name in a variation of ways (try it – I promise you won’t stop laughing!). If you have time, I highly recommend spending a day exploring the ruins in this beautiful historic town!
The beautiful Ollantaytambo ruins!
Third stop – Aguas Calientes! From Ollantaytambo, you must take the train to Aguas Calientes. This is likely going to be the most expensive part of the journey (unless you somehow got gypped on your flight to Cusco). IncaRail and PeruRail have a monopoly over this route, so they know they can make it expensive and people will obviously still pay for it. We paid USD$65 for an individual ticket, each way. I will say, though, that it’s a gorgeous train ride! The views will enchant you. Be sure to book this ticket online as far in advance as possible, especially if you are traveling during the busy season.
The town of Aguas Calientes itself is really nothing to write home about. The sole purpose for which people visit there is to go to Machu Picchu. A couple of cool things we did in the actual town included eating guinea pig (called cuy – it’s a delicacy!) and going to the hot springs (we made friends with some really awesome Peruvians there!). After a long day of hiking at Machu Picchu, the hot springs felt like a godsend! Also, be sure to drink lots of pisco sours, a delicious traditional Peruvian cocktail 🙂
Enjoying some cuy (guinea pig) and a pisco sour on my first night in Aguas Calientes!
My good friend and Peru travel partner, Ben, and me with new friends at the hot springs in Aguas Calientes!
As soon as you arrive in Aguas Calientes, go to the bus station and buy a ticket to Machu Picchu. You cannot buy these online, and they sell out quickly depending on the time of year you arrive, so you want to get them as soon as possible. The bus ticket is relatively pricey, but it’s worth it if you don’t have the time to do a Machu Picchu trek. The bus will take you right up to the entrance of Machu Picchu.
Fourth stop – Machu Picchu! This place is, as to be expected, one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen. It’s hard to find words to describe it. Pictures are the best I can do to show how amazing it was.
Machu Picchu!!! (As if you need me to caption this one!)
Book your entry ticket IN ADVANCE. I cannot stress this enough! They only allow a certain number of people to enter Machu Picchu each day, so tickets sell out quickly. As soon as you know the day you want to go there, buy your ticket online at http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/. Use this link as a guide for how to purchase the ticket, especially if you don’t speak Spanish (the ticket website is in Spanish) – http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g294318-c165226/Machu-Picchu:Peru:Getting.Tickets.html.
Once we were inside Machu Picchu, we hiked to the peak of a mountain called Huayna Picchu. It was absolutely incredible and I HIGHLY recommend doing this, particularly if you are traveling without kids (I think it would be tough for a child to do that hike). If you want to do this, you MUST buy your ticket very far in advance. An even smaller number of people are allowed into Huayna Picchu per day (only a couple hundred or so) than Machu Picchu, so it gets full months ahead of time. We bought our entry ticket five months in advance. We didn’t want to risk missing out on this!
Showing off the “gun show” at the peak of Huayna Picchu!
Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world for good reason. I absolutely demand (literally demand, not recommend!) that you put it on your bucket list. Not only is Peru a great country for budget travelers, but it’s also safe (in most areas – obviously practice caution, as you should in any foreign country), extremely beautiful, and full of friendly, helpful people. My next post will focus on my three-day Amazon trek in Peru, so stay tuned! And, as always, please feel free to leave a comment if you have any suggestions, thoughts, or questions!