Christmas In Peru
Fly United Airlines from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Lima, Peru with layover in Houston.
We arrived in Lima at midnight and stayed at the Wyndham Costa del Sol (attached to the airport). The next morning we walked straight from the 2nd floor of the hotel right into the airport. (Use this if you are not checking bags.) Altitude RX is available in the airport.
Fly from Lima to Cusco. This is NOT an organized boarding process so go with the flow! It almost seemed that many Peruvians think of the airport as a place to hang out.
Our hotel, El Albergue Ollantaytambo, met us at Cusco baggage claim and drove us to the hotel. This incredibly scenic drive took about two hours with views of everything from majestic mountains to farmland to food stalls in the city. We saw lots of unrefrigerated open air food ranging from large slabs of beef to vegetables.
We spent a few hours hiking the terraces and storehouses of Ollantaytambo. When you reach the top, there are beautiful views of the Sacred Valley and ruins that we thought would rival Macchu Picchu (until we saw Macchu Picchu.) We stayed at Hotel El Albergue. We really enjoyed this hotel. The room was clean and comfortable with unlimited filtered water in the room. It is best to drink bottled water while traveling to Cuzco as with anywhere through South America to prevent contracting any harmful parasites or water-borne illnesses. There is a restaurant which served fresh food straight from their farm adjacent to the hotel. The hotel grounds are lush and short walk to the town of Ollantaytambo. Hotel employees were delightful and the entire place was very welcoming.
Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu town
After lunch we took the 1 hour 40 minute Vistadome train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. The train departs directly in front of the hotel.
We arrived in the town of Aquas Calientes which is the closest town to Machu Picchu. Our hotel, Terra Viva Cusco Machu Picchu, met us at the train station and walked us to the bus ticket office to purchase tickets for the next morning. Don’t forget your passport or they will not sell you a ticket. Also remember to bring your passport up the hill to Machu Picchu or you will not be allowed to enter. The bus ticket office accepts credit cards, Sols, and dollars. This is very unusual in Peru; many places only accept Sols.
Today is the day! Machu Picchu…we are so excited!!!!!! We were in the morning group so we had access from 6am-noon. If you want to see the sunrise at Machu Picchu take the first bus departing at 5:30am. Lines for the bus are long so we got there early. Our tickets for Machu Picchu were pre-purchased online. You can buy train tickets online at www.perurail.com or www.incarail.com. The bus ride is a bumpy 25 minutes.
After the most incredible morning of walking through the ruins, we took the bus back to Tierra Viva for lunch. We chose this hotel because of its location and were so glad we did. We found it clean and comfortable with outstanding staff. While in a hurry that morning we left some money in the safe. They met us at the train station that afternoon to return it to us. WOW! This was not the first or last time the Peruvian people stole our hearts with their act of kindness.
Bathrooms near Machu Picchu cost $1 and toilet paper is provided. There are no bathrooms inside the ruins but you may exit and reenter up to three times.
The hotel stored our luggage for free while hiking Machu Picchu. After lunch we took the 3:45pm train back to Ollantaytambo and the El Albergue hotel.
Ollantaytambo to Cusco with half day of sightseeing. We booked this with our hotel.
This was a great way to see sites in the Sacred Valley and is en route between El Albergue and El Balcon (Cusco) hotels.
The half day tour is five hours long with a private driver. Some popular places that you can visit between Cusco and Ollantaytambo include Pisaq, Chinchero, Moray, Salineras, and the new Sacred Valley Brewery. Pisaq has their artisanal market on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and Chinchero also has a Sunday market. The Brewery has its tasting room open Wednesday through Sunday from 12-8pm.
Views of the salt flats were amazing.
El Balcón Cusco, sister hotel to El Albergue hotel. Breakfast buffet, airport transportation, yoga, and three hilly blocks from the square. This hotel was only ok. The room had twin beds, it was cold, and very noisy (barking dogs & lovers arguing) at night. Next time we will stay at the Marriott. One funny little note was that most places have coca leaves with your coffee/tea servings to help fight altitude sickness.
Our day in Cusco stay at El Balcon
The food in Cusco was all fantastic but the Inka Grill was our favorite! We did not experience any altitude sickness. Our plan to acclimatize before Cusco worked. Fly into Cusco (altitude 11,100), head straight to the Sacred Valley (9,900 feet), then Machu Picchu (7,800 feet) and return to enjoy Cusco.
We flew from Cusco back to Lima on Latam Airlines and stayed at the Hilton Lima in Miraflores. This hotel is modern. We had a beautiful room with a huge balcony overlooking the city. We took long showers, brushed our teeth with running water, generally groomed ourselves, and could finally flush our toilet paper!! The Sacred Valley area of Peru is somewhat primitive.
In Lima we took a stroll along the beach and surrounding neighborhoods. The view reminded us of Southern California. The beach was not sandy but had smooth stones upon which people did spread towels and sun themselves. It looked pretty uncomfortable as you might expect.
Based on recommendations from the Hilton concierge we took a Lima town bus tour and dinner. The bus tour took us to many of the historical sights in Lima in the most crazy traffic! I can’t believe we were not in an accident. Today’s highlight was a late dinner at Huaca Pucllana in Miraflores area. The Huaca Pucllana is a ceremonial center built between 600-700 A.D. This monument can be visited with a guided tour but we just wandered around.
After dinner we took a taxi back to the Hilton to get our luggage and then with tears in our eyes we taxied to the airport for a 1am flight.