Tips on how to go to Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu in 5 days.
For so long as we will keep in mind, now we have needed to go to Machu Picchu. We’re clearly not alone on this. By way of ‘bucket checklist’ locations, Machu Picchu might be close to the highest of locations to go to for many travellers.
After spending a lot of the yr in Argentina, Chile and Brazil, we lastly crossed into Peru and couldn’t be extra excited – we had been nearly at one of many 7 Wonders of the World.
Being the journey lovers that we’re, we needed to trek to the traditional Incan metropolis. Choices vary from the well-known 4-day Inca Path to the 9-day Choquequirao Trek, and we had been eager to do one.
Sadly because of some thrilling upcoming journey plans to the Galapagos Islands, our time in Peru was fairly restricted. We solely had just a few days round Cusco, and had been caught with a troublesome choice to make – Will we spend our complete time trekking, or spend as a lot time studying concerning the Incan society and visiting some completely different websites as properly?
After a lot debate, we determined to benefit from our brief time in Cusco and join a tour to go to just a few of the key websites. We will all the time return and do a protracted trek, however for now we needed our historical past and tradition repair. Plus with so many work tasks on the go, we additionally didn’t have a lot time or vitality to plan this ourselves.
We determined to hitch a 5-night trip with the tour company Say Hueque, referred to as the “Dawn of the Inca Civilisation” tour, which might enable us to discover the preferred websites round Cusco and the Sacred Valley, whereas spending two days moderately than one in Machu Picchu.
With our transport, native guides, permits and lodging taken care of, we may arrive in Cusco with out squandering precious days attempting to organise all of this ourselves.
Take a look at this text if you’d like extra details about backpacking in Peru.
One Day In Cusco
On our first day we arrived to our resort, the Jose Antonio, at 11am and checked straight in to our comfy room. The employees had been nice, and shortly after dropping our baggage off a member from the tour firm who was taking care of us met up within the foyer.
The information had introduced all of our tickets for the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Cusco and the prepare, in addition to some further details about our plans for the following few days. When every part was sorted we bought prepared to begin our Cusco metropolis tour.
Quickly a minibus confirmed as much as the resort to select us up and we had been pushed to the Church of Santo Domingo to start the tour.
A licensed, English-speaking information was ready for us on the entrance, and our small group had been handed audio units so we may discover the town’s busy points of interest and nonetheless hear each bit of data we got.
To begin with we walked round Coricancha, the place we learnt all about how the as soon as gold-covered Temple of the Solar was the centre of the Incan empire, and was largely destroyed by the Spanish conquerors within the 16th century.
As a substitute the Church of Santo Domingo was constructed, however among the Incan stonework survived. As we speak it’s a common vacationer attraction, and the grounds are fairly nice to stroll round.
Then it was to the Plaza de Armas, the beating coronary heart of Cusco, and its well-known Cathedral. Some of the beautiful Catholic church buildings now we have ever visited, the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral is adorned in intricate decorations and engaging work with curious Incan affect. No footage are allowed inside, however belief us – it’s value a go to, particularly with a information.
Excessive above the town of Cusco is the ruins of Saksaywaman, an Incan citadel first constructed within the 11th. This was our subsequent vacation spot, and for slightly below an hour we walked across the sprawling complicated, admiring the big stones and marvelling at how the traditional civilisation moved them into place.
With the solar rapidly dropping behind the encompassing mountains we visited two extra websites – Tambomachay and Qenko, simply additional outdoors of city. To finish the day we completed at an alpaca clothes centre, after which dropped off again at our resort.
Having an area information accompany us to all these websites was sensational, and we felt like we waked away with Cusco with a superb introduction to the Incan empire. Good, as we had been about to go into the Sacred Valley…
Two Days In The Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley is a fertile stretch of land used for farming within the days of the Incans. Stretching for 60km from simply outdoors Cusco in the direction of Aguas Calientes, it’s residence to among the greatest preserved Incan structure in Peru.
With only some days being spent within the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, plus there being a baggage restrict on the prepare, we left our massive backpacks within the resort’s safe baggage storage.
We left the Jose Antonio Resort early within the morning in a switch in the direction of Moray and Maras, our locations for the day. Our English-speaking information (completely different to the day earlier than) was extremely pleasant, and we chatted your complete method to the Sacred Valley. We had been meant to be with another travellers, however they supposedly had suffered from altitude illness and couldn’t attend. This meant we had a non-public journey, which we had been fairly stoked with.
It took simply over an hour to succeed in the primary vacation spot, Moray. This enormous, round website is a superb to see, and the aim of its design has been debated on for years.
The widespread concept now’s that it was used for experimental agricultural work by the Incas. The terraces drop down as much as 30m, and remarkably the best way the stones are aligned means there’s a enormous temperature distinction from the highest to the underside, generally as much as 15°C.
As we speak it’s believed that this design allowed the Incas to check what situations allowed sure kinds of fruit and veggies to flourish, and to genetically combine completely different species to outlive droughts.
Being on a non-public tour meant we arrived fairly early, which resulted in us having your complete website to ourselves. Strolling round Moray with out anybody else there was unbelievable.
Afterwards we jumped again within the van and drove to the Maras salt mines. One other one of many distinctive websites within the Sacred Valley, these swimming pools have been in fixed use since earlier than the Incas.
The mineral-encrusted ponds go away a glistening, white area sandwiched between a barren gorge. A stream is funnelled into the terraces, and through the use of evaporation strategies staff can extract the salt for private and industrial use.
What makes these salt mines distinctive (apart from the beautiful format) is that it’s really open to any member of the Maras neighborhood. You will note households wandering the swimming pools, scraping up the salt and amassing it for their very own use or enterprise. By coming into the mines you might be welcome to stroll round and watch them work.
It was now simply after lunch time, and our driver dropped us off at our new residence for the following two nights – the completely divine Hacienda del Valle within the Sacred Valley.
Stunning manicured gardens, monumental, embellished villas and wonderful views made certain our afternoon was spent stress-free with a chilly beer in hand.
The following morning we wakened and met our driver after breakfast. We had been transferred to a viewpoint excessive above the Sacred Valley, the place we met our information and group from Cusco in one other minivan.
We drove again all the way down to the village of Pisac and visited their well-known markets. After spending a lot time in Argentina, Chile and Brazil, it was wonderful to go to a market as culturally wealthy and vibrant because the one in Pisac.
After strolling round for an hour, sampling among the native snacks and attempting our greatest to not purchase each handicraft on the market, we jumped again within the van and headed in the direction of Ollaytantambo, with a fast cease at a guinea pig barbecue joint (for pictures, to not eat), then at a big restaurant for a high-end, buffet lunch.
Ollaytantambo is a picturesque, previous village on the finish of the Sacred Valley, but it’s best recognized for its historic fortress carved into the aspect of a steep hill.
Throughout the 15th century Pachacuti, the Incan emperor, conquered the city of Ollaytantambo and set about constructing housing and terraces to farm the land for his individuals.
Later when the Spanish arrived, Ollaytantambo was fortified, and have become one of many final Incan strongholds to fend off the invaders. Regardless of victories in lots of battles, the chief Manco Inca deserted Ollaytantambo and moved to Vilcabamba.
The constructions at Ollaytantambo survived the centuries, and as we speak its marvellous building attracts hundreds of vacationers yearly.
We got a one-hour guided tour of the architectural website, with ample time to take footage as properly. Then it was again to the van for the return to Hacienda del Valle.
Our time within the Sacred Valley was up, and we had managed to go to a very powerful and common websites in a really environment friendly method. Nonetheless it was the following cease that may convey the second each traveller to Peru anticipates.
2 Days In Machu Picchu
The solar had but to rise once we headed to the resort’s reception and met our driver and information, who would switch us to the Ollaytantambo station for our prepare to Machu PIcchu.
On the station the information helped us verify in, and waved us off as we boarded the prepare at 7:15am. The journey by prepare takes slightly below 2 hours from Ollaytantambo to Aguas Calientes, the city on the backside of the Machu Picchu ruins.
We love prepare journeys, and have been fortunate sufficient to expertise every part from luxury trains in Australia to the roughest rides conceivable in China. We’re happy to say that this one in Peru is magical.
Even on the lowest class, the service is impeccable, and the carriages have enormous home windows to permit views to the spectacular mountains and glaciers above.
The seats are comfy, and the employees do every part they will to make your journey easy. We got snacks and sizzling drinks, and the two hours handed moderately rapidly.
Upon arriving to Aguas Calientes, a information from our tour firm was ready outdoors the prepare station with an indication bearing our names. He took us the brief stroll to the Lima Excursions workplace (who had been managing our on-the-ground logistics), proper subsequent to the bus station, and launched us to our group of Eight individuals who can be taking a guided go to to the traditional Incan citadel, Machu Picchu.
We got headsets, the identical as we utilized in Cusco, and led by our information to the bus station. The 30-minute journey to the ruins climbs a collection of steep switchbacks, and shortly sufficient we had been piling out with dozens of individuals simply earlier than 10am.
The Peruvian authorities has simply introduced in some new rules for visiting Machu Picchu (carried out in July 2017), which state guests are given two completely different instances to enter the town: Between 06:00 and 12:00 within the morning, and from 12:00 to 17:00 within the afternoon.
Guests in concept have to be accompanied by a licensed tour information, though on the time of our go to in September 2017 this was not being enforced.
There are additionally strict legal guidelines about photography and videography inside Machu Picchu, and something deemed to be industrial tools should have particular permits. We had heard tales of individuals not being allowed inside with skilled cameras, so we had been a bit nervous about coming into the town and having our gear confiscated.
We did our greatest to make it appear to be we had much less gear than we did – Leaving our massive digicam bag on the workplace, placing completely different lenses in pockets, hiding a GorillaPod tripod in a jacket, and so on – However this proved to be useless, because the safety guards didn’t verify us. Nonetheless we had been grateful we took the precautions.
Welcome To Machu Picchu
There’s few issues fairly as overwhelming as lastly seeing a spot that you’ve needed to go to on your complete life. Once we walked up the steep stairs, handed the watch tower, and eventually arrived on the terraces that give the long-lasting view of Machu Picchu that everyone is aware of, we had been surprised.
It was simply as stunning as we imagined it might be. The peerlessly-placed partitions stretching alongside a slim stretch of land, positioned impossibly between two steep mountains actually does take your breath away…Even with the tons of of vacationers wandering round.
Nobody is aware of what the true objective of Machu Picchu was, or why it was in-built such an unbelievable and troublesome location. Nonetheless most archaeologists consider it was a housing property constructed by the emperor Pachacuti within the 15th century.
Our tour information gave her talks concerning the historical past of Machu Picchu, however to be fully trustworthy her enthusiasm was missing and we discovered ourselves tuning out quite a bit whereas she was chatting.
We had additionally been paired with just a few individuals with mobility points, which in a spot like Machu Picchu isn’t excellent. Most of our 2-hour tour was spent ready for individuals to climb stairs or take relaxation breaks, which means we barely visited 1 / 4 of the positioning throughout our tour.
Ultimately half the group determined to depart, and the information walked them out, asking us to attend for her. After 20 minutes of sitting on a rock she lastly returned, and we merely mentioned we had had sufficient and would proceed with out her.
We weren’t overly impressed with the information’s service or by being put in a bunch with individuals who couldn’t actually stroll (not that that is these individuals’s fault, and we applaud their efforts in visiting Machu Picchu regardless of apparent handicaps, however Lima Excursions ought to have paired the teams higher again on the workplace or cut up our group up). We felt a lot better persevering with on our personal.
Our Tip For Machu Picchu – Pay further for a non-public information. The extra price is minimal, and your expertise can be a lot better.
Being with out a information for the remainder of the afternoon meant we clearly couldn’t ask questions or study something concerning the explicit rooms we had been seeing or the historical past of the town, but it surely did imply we may discover on our personal time and take much more footage.
We visited the entire decrease elements of the town, discovered some llamas and took a couple of minutes to easily sit down and take within the epic views.
One factor that few individuals realise concerning the new regulation for Machu Picchu is that regardless of the tickets being formally marked with instances (6am to 12pm for instance), as soon as you might be within the metropolis you possibly can keep till closing, in addition to have one re-entry. Word – that is solely when you’ve got a morning ticket.
The entire trails by Machu Picchu are actually one-way, which is nice for foot visitors, however means if you wish to revisit a bit it’s essential to really go away the town and are available again in.
At about 2pm we determined to go to the Inca Bridge, and took the exit out of Machu Picchu and re-entered on the identical ticket. This time we climbed to the highest watch tower and headed on the small stroll to the bottom of the town.
The hike to the Inca Bridge solely takes 30 minutes on a return journey, however entry closes at 4pm, so it’s vital to get there earlier than then. We wandered out, took our footage, and returned to the primary gate to take the bus again to Aguas Calientes.
As soon as again on the town we collected our bag from the Lima Excursions workplace and had been taken to our resort for the night time, which additionally occurred to be one of many nicest accommodations in Aguas Caliente, Casa del Sol Machupicchu.
It was good timing, because the second we checked in it began to rain closely. We relaxed in our room for just a few hours, going by all of our pictures from the day.
As a part of our keep at Casa del Sol we additionally had a scrumptious 3-course meal included for dinner. It was delectable, and we handed out fairly early, prepared for the following day’s ultimate journey.
Climbing Machu Picchu Mountain
What actually stood out for us when becoming a member of the tour with Say Hueque was the prospect to spend a second day in Machu Picchu. This is likely one of the most outstanding architectural websites in historical past, and it felt a disgrace to hurry by it in just a few hours.
For our second day in Machu Picchu, Say Hueque had managed to safe two permits for us to climb Machu Picchu Mountain. These must be booked properly upfront, and might solely be accomplished on the time of shopping for your tickets to Machu Picchu. Huayna Picchu had been bought out for our date months forward, so this was our solely choice to get a hen’s-eye view of the traditional metropolis.
At 4:30am we jumped away from bed and headed straight to the bus station, aiming to be one of many first individuals within the metropolis for dawn. Sadly about 300 different individuals had had the identical thought, and clearly set their alarms a lot sooner than us, as the road stretched up the road and across the nook. We stopped by the Lima Excursions workplace to place our backpack with laptops and garments right into a secured locker.
We jumped in line, and took turns going again to the resort for breakfast, which opened at 5am, so we wouldn’t lose our locations. With stomachs full and stocked up on espresso, we waited within the queue till 6am, when the buses lastly began driving individuals up the mountain.
Fortunately the road moved pretty rapidly, and we managed to leap on a bus at about 06:20, getting us to the gate simply earlier than 7.
We mainly sprinted by the gate and ran up previous the watch tower, the place Alesha had scouted a place the day earlier than that she thought may be good for dawn.
The solar had already peaked above the mountains, however some skinny clouds gave off unbelievable mild. Like the professional that she is, she managed to seize a shocking shot of the town.
Our tickets to climb Machu Picchu Mountain had been allotted for between 8-9am (there’s a second time from 9-10am as properly), and with solely 400 permits a day we knew it might be a lot quieter than the ruins under.
We had our tickets checked by the guard and began climbing the steep, rocky steps in the direction of the height. The summit sits about 600m above Machu Picchu metropolis, but it surely solely took us simply over an hour to succeed in the highest.
The views your complete manner up had been sensational, however being on the peak was a beautiful expertise. Far under us was the ruins of Machu Picchu, and we had been surrounded by the snow caps of the Andes Mountains. We had an early lunch (sandwiches that we had purchased at a bakery the day earlier than in Aguas Calientes), and admired the view.
After snapping our pictures we seen some black clouds beginning to roll in off the mountains, and headed again all the way down to the town. We wandered by as soon as extra, stopping to take footage of llamas as we went, then trekked to the gate and bussed it to city.
As a part of our tour Say Hueque included a lunch for us to get pleasure from, and we headed to one of many nicest eating places on the town to eat. We feasted on Peruvian dishes, downed with boutique beer, then collected our bag for the journey again to Cusco.
At 4pm we jumped on the prepare to Ollaytantambo, then transferred into a non-public automotive for the final 2 hours to Cusco. We checked again in to the Jose Antonio, grabbed our massive backpacks and handed out completely exhausted after the earlier days’ excursions.
It was a troublesome choice opting to do a tour moderately than trekking to Machu Picchu, however general we’re joyful that we did. We’re certain we’ll return to Peru sooner or later, and might all the time trek then, however simply in case we don’t we managed to go to a very powerful Incan websites and learnt quite a bit about their historical past and tradition.
Reserving with Say Hueque additionally labored out completely, as we had been on a decent schedule and didn’t wish to waste an excessive amount of time attempting to plan these items ourselves. By leaving all of it as much as them we knew our journey was in good fingers. Lodging, transfers, permits, tickets, guides – every part was organised for us, which means we may deal with the vacation spot.
We’d undoubtedly suggest reserving a visit to Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu with them if making probably the most out of restricted time in Peru is vital to you.
For now our dream of visiting Machu Picchu was full, llama footage and all. With the Galapagos Islands on the horizon we had quite a bit to stay up for, however our time spent across the Sacred Valley is one thing we received’t neglect.
Our journey by Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu was made potential by our partnership with Say Hueque. All ideas, opinions and selfies with llamas are, as all the time, our personal.
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