Visiting Machu Picchu has always been high on the bucket list of both me and wife.
The best view of MP is from the high mountain in the back called Huayna Picchu. Only 400 people are allowed per day in 2 batches of 200 each and they sell out very quickly. So one tip would be that if you are booking this tour – you need to book well in advance. For Aug 16 I booked this on April 6 and only 62 slots were left for the morning 7-8 tour. So I booked this trip as a birthday gift for my wife. Each year we go some place for her birthday and we wanted to continue the tradition by going big this year. I booked a 10 day trip - with all the planning done by myself.
We got into Lima at 10 30 PM and just stayed at an airport hotel – a decision I regretted later as it was in a very shady area. But I consoled myself as it was only for 1 night – my flight to Cusco the next day was at 8 AM. Initially the plan was to spend 3 nights in Lima at the FP Miraflores hotel and do the Nazca lines tour and Ballestas Islands tour (also known as the Poor Man’s Galapagos) but due to some poor planning initially I realized it will be too much and too expensive to do it in one day. 2 Days before leaving I rescheduled my flights and cancelled my activities – I am so glad I did this.
My flight to Cusco was booked though LC Peru and one advise would be to avoid this airline. I think it’s a LCC similar to Spirit – though it included checked bags. My flight was delayed for more than 3 hours and by the time we got to Cusco we were exhausted.
I had booked a taxi to drop us off at the Palacio del Inka – Luxury Collection Hotel which was booked through Taxidatum.com. This is a very good and reliable service and I would recommend using this for travel anywhere in Peru.
We just had lunch and dinner at the hotel and slept early as we had to leave the next day at 3 30 for the Laguna Humantay tour.
We had booked a private tour through Marriott Moments for Laguna Humantay for about $125 PP. I am happy that I booked a private tour and would recommend the extra surcharge – normally it was about $67 PP.
The tour guide picked us at at 3 30 AM in a car and we set off for the tour. We stopped at Mollepata for breakfast which was delicious and headed for the Lagoon. We started the trek from Sorayampa where we could also see the camp grounds set up for the MP trek which lasts 5 days.
Sorayampa is located at 3900 metres above sea level so within a few minutes I was out of breath. After every 2-3 minutes of hike I had to stop for about 5 minutes to rest. This was not a tough hike by any standards but the high altitude made a lot of difference. For people who cannot hike but need to see the Lagoon there are horses which you could rent for a nominal fee of about 18 soles which is about $5 – though I could be wrong about the price.
This is where the private tour guide came in handy – they carried our backpacks which had water and snacks and allowed to climb at our own pace.
The trek even though exhausting was well worth it as the view from the top was absolutely breath taking. Photos just doesn’t do justice. This is one place I would recommend everyone visit if they go to Peru.
Getting down was a lot more easier and after lunch at the same place where we had breakfast we were dropped off at the hotel at around 6 30 PM. My wife being a vegetarian had a hard time finding options and the chef prepared a special quinoa soup for her.
We were so exhausted by the time we got back that we just ordered room service and slept.
Just before the hike:
Breakfast – The healthiest options for breakfast I have ever seen at a hotel. Of-course it also had all the croissants, bagels, breads and all that.
After this we just headed out for a little sight-seeing and shopping. One of our insiders had recommended buying paintings by a local painter called Valentino who we found just outside the hotel and bought 1 painting from him. After that we headed to the Artisanal Culture Centre at Sol Ave – where we got some souvenirs.
Then we headed to the Tambo del Inka Luxury Collection Resort by a taxi. We just had lunch and dinner at the resort main restaurant Hawa.
After another healthy breakfast – they remembered that my wife was a vegetarian and got her sautéed vegetables and avocado we headed for a full day sacred valley tour. This included trips to the Chincheros, Moray terraces, Maras salt mines. We did Ollantaytambo ruins instead of the Pisac ruins and the market for lack of time.
This was another private tour and cost us $85 total and was booked though taxidatum.com
After the tour we just had dinner at the resort and slept.
Moray Salt mines:
After breakfast we headed out to explore the city a little bit – Urubamba is a small town with not much to see. After checking out and leaving luggage at the hotel we took a cab to the Ollantaytambo station to catch a train to MP. There is a private station at the resort from which you can take a direct train but the earliest arrives at Aguas Calientes at 9 24 AM which was late for us. We took the Vistadome train going on and expedition coming out. If I would ever go again I would take the Vistadome both ways it’s worth the $10 upcharge.
MP has only 1 hotel – the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge and the rates start from $1200 per night before taxes. The entry level room is a whopping 185 square foot big. Even then finding a room is not easy as it’s a very small hotel and is sold out many months in advance.
The only other option is to stay at the Aguas Calientes town which is about 6 miles away and either walk or get a bus to go to MP.
We stayed at a small hotel named Hanaqpacha Inn which is a few minutes’ walk from the station.
The buses to MP start at 5 30 AM and we were in the line by 4 AM only to find about 200 people already there. It was raining heavily as well. One good thing is that the buses are quite frequent and we were in front of the line by 6 and in MP by 6 30 AM.
Our timeslot for entry to the mountain was from 7 to 8 AM and we got near the entrance at around 7 45 AM. It was drizzling and cloudy and we were pretty bummed that the one day we were there the weather was threatening to play spoil sport. We had planned this whole thing around seeing the sunrise as we had heard it’s a beautiful sight. Luckily the rain stopped and the clouds cleared when we started the hike. The view from the top is out of the world.
We got down and explored the lost city. It was a nice experience. At the exit there is a small hut where you can put a stamp on your passport to mark your visit.
I planned to walk back to the hotel but my wife was too tired – it was her birthday after all so we just waited for another hour in the line and took the bus back.
For lunch we stopped by a Spanish / Peruvian fusion place where I tried the Guinea pigs – I don’t think it was cooked right as I did not like it. I did not want to try this dish till we had finished MP as I did not want to fall sick.
I had booked the hotel for 2 nights so that we could shower and take some rest before heading back to Tambo del Inka resort.
We just had dinner at the restaurant and slept.
We decided to try the spa at the resort and booked a couple’s massage. We had never tried spa treatments before and we loved it. For dinner we tried a local restaurant called Kampu.
The dishes came with a side of the chef’s sarcasm which my wife did not like but the food was good.
After breakfast and lunch at the resort we took a taxi back to Cusco airport for the flight back home.