I can’t believe I let a whole month go by without documenting this trip! After 24 hours of traveling from San Francisco –> Miami –> Lima –> Cuzco, we finally commenced our 8 day tour in Peru’s Sacred Valley on a sunny May afternoon. I fell in love with the sights and cultures, and particularly nerded out because I had written a couple Geography papers on the country in college. Prior to the trip I was really hoping we could see the country on our own terms without the aid of a travel company, but the organized schedule and knowledge of our guides really proved worthwhile. We were able to cover so much in just 8 days. Here are my main takeaways from the trip:
CUZCO. I love this city! So full of history and culture. It was more tourist-filled than I expected, but the great thing about the town is that it’s completely safe. We stayed at the San Augustin Hotel, which I highly recommend. While you’re there:
- Food. Eat all the food.
- Walk everywhere. Stay in the downtown area by the Plaza de Armas and you’re good to go. Surrounding this historic square are architecturally impressive churches, markets, and restaurants of various flavors.
- The ruins. If you do have access to transportation, definitely check out the Incan ruins. We visited: Saksaywaman (pronounced “sexy woman”), Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Q’enco, and Tambomachay.
MACHU PICCHU. It really is as awe-inducing as people say. We were told there will only be about 2 years left until they close it off from the public for good so definitely make your way over if you can! Tip: leave from your accommodations early to get there, as the site closes at 4PM.
SACRED VALLEY. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of tourist-filled towns, this is your place. Quiet, serene, picturesque. We stayed at the Inkallpa Valle Sagrado Hotel, which was garden embellished and equipped with spacious, modern rooms. The grounds housed two very friendly alpacas as well!
THE FOOD. Two of their standout meat dishes are alpaca and guinea pig, which I never got used to. The latter is a dish reserved for special occasions and the wealthy, which I found quite interesting. At fancier restaurants they bring cooked guinea pig out before cutting it so you can take pictures. After witnessing this, I realized this must be how people feel when they see traditional Chinese dishes that I’m used to! For most of the trip I opted for their seafood, which was very tasty.
COCKTAIL. Pisco sour – this South American drink is a must try. Comprises of lemon juice, egg whites, pisco (brandy), and syrup.
LIMA. There were some coastal scenic views that proved worthwhile, but overall this city is not a must-see. However, we only had 24 hours in the capital so it is very possible we weren’t introduced to the better sights.
GATE 1. This was the company we traveled with in a group of about 50, which was split up in 2 buses. Our tour guide, Alvaro, was just phenomenal. He’s been in the tourism industry for over 20 years and it absolutely showed. I really appreciate a guide who has the ability to answer every single question you throw at him. He knew everything.
ELEVATION. At 11,000ft above sea level, it is no surprise we had trouble breathing (and hiking) in the area. I was fortunate I didn’t get migraines or nausea like some of my fellow travelers, but I definitely felt short of breath during my stay. From a general survey of our group, it didn’t seem like the altitude sickness pills really helped anyone.
The trip in picture form…
Inkallpa Hotel in the Sacred Valley
A market in the Sacred Valley (get souvenirs here- much cheaper than in the cities)
A pic of the Ollantaytambo ruins, which doesn’t do it justice
Machu Picchu Pueblo – the settlement far below the ruins
The streets of Cuzco
We had the honor of visiting and interacting with children at a local kindergarten. They were the sweetest kids.
Inside the Q’enco ruins
The Saksaywaman ruins
El Beso (the kiss) statue in Miraflores, Lima