Updated: Jun 19
Who said pisco Sours and trekking can't go hand to hand?
After finishing a rather stormy relationship and looking for a job change for a good time without any success, I decided to plan my first "solo trip" to Peru.
Since I went to Rio and met the Christ the Redeemer, I set out to know the 7 wonders of the world, so Peru with its imposing Machupicchu was not a bad idea, and more to overcome the “tusa”.
Thanks to Pinterest and the ideas of a couple of friends who recently traveled to Peru, it was not difficult for me to set up my travel itinerary, which I will tell you next, obviously without damaging the magic for when you go. That is the idea, right?
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Day 1: Bogotá - Ollantaytambo
I traveled early from Bogotá on a 3-hour and 20-minute flight to Cusco, where migration surprised me, because despite being an international airport, the bus terminals are more orderly.
I took an Uber to the hostel (Wild Rover Cusco) to leave my travel bag and only go to the Sacred Valley with a smaller one, because on the trains to Aguas Calientes you can´t carry large suitcases. (Tips and tricks Peru)
The bus trip takes almost 3 hours. Upon arrival, I went to my hostel to leave my bag (Casa Inka B&B), and headed to the ruins in the town. There you can buy the tourist ticket of Cusco to the different sites of the Sacred Valley (I recommend the 2-day one to do any of the 3 circuits there are or the general ticket if you will also have a couple of days knowing Cuzco´s ruins)
Day 2: Sacred Valley of the Inkas and Aguascalientes
Of the 3 circuits that there are for the Sacred Valley, I decided to do the one of Moray, Chichero and the Salineras of Maras (the last one not included in the ticket, but it costs only 10 soles the entrance).
The tour takes about 4 hours with a private guide, and since my train to Aguas Calientes was in the afternoon, I was able to make a pretty calmed tour of the Valley and enjoy. If you have more time and do not mind the crowdedness, a tour hired the day before is a good option. In any case, the good thing about a private guide is that you go at your own pace and you don't have to wait for the other 20 people on the tour to finish taking photos to go to the next place.
My guide picked me up at the hostel and we started the tour in Maras and its Salineras. Normally the circuit starts by Chinchero so my guide did it the other way around to avoid so many people (and with that he earned the tip).
The town of Maras is not a big deal, but the Salineras are impressive. They say it started with the Incas and nowadays the work still continue by local families, occupying almost the entire valley between the 2 mountains that surround it.
Moray was our second stop. A construction so perfectly made and so large that it is still a mystery how it was made. There are several theories about its use, but the one that convinced me the most was the "experimental place" with small microclimates and where the Incas learned the best cultivation techniques.
Finally we went to Chinchero, a well-preserved town where it is recommended to do the shopping of souvenirs (do not do it! It is cheaper in Cusco, especially on the ones that are recommend by the free walking tours, but it is up to you). There is also ruins on the town and it is one of the starting points for the Inca Trail.
Back on Oyantaytambo, I had lunch at one of the restaurants in the central square, picked up my bag and took the train to Aguas Calientes.
The trip to Machupicchu can be done in 1 day from Cuzco, however, I have heard and read several times that trains have problems and not everyone gets there. That is why I decided that I had to arrive in Aguas Calientes the night before, because I did not wanted to miss my visit to this wonder and luckily I did, because indeed my train trip, which was supposed to last an hour and a half, lasted two hours and a half!. I also recommend (although it is a bit more expensive) to travel by Peru Rail. I traveled by Inca Rail and it was not the best experience because they are unpunctual with the schedules and the trains make many “technical stops”. Several of my new friends traveled by Peru Rail and it didn't go bad, and they had a typical Peruvian dance and music show which can be considered a plus.
I ended up arriving in Aguas Calientes at about 7 p.m., I eat something and went sleep. If you are going to spend the night in Aguascalientes, I warn you that most of the Hotels and Hostels are on the train line and every time a train arrives or leaves, everything trembles, so be prepared not to sleep so comfortably.
Day 3: Machupicchu
For reasons of preservation of the place, only a certain number of people can enter daily, as well as climb the mountains that surround it (Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu), for this, I recommend you buy your tickets or book the tour as soon as possible ( especially if you are going to climb Huayna Picchu).
To get to this wonder of the world yes or yes you start from Aguascalientes and there are 2 ways to get to this archaeological site (BTW, do not say ruins because some local people get offended): walking or by bus. This last option is expensive, but if you are going to climb any of the mountains, it is worth it.
TIP: If you go by bus, try to arrive at least half an hour before the time you plan to take the bus, because of the number of people, you´ll end up arriving after the time of entry and will have less time to enjoy the place.
I will not harm the magic, but prepare for a humid climate, so, or wear “Dry-fit” clothes or take an extra shirt with you, especially if you are going to do any of the mountains, or your photos will show the cardio of the day (I wish someone had warned me this) as my next not so glamorous picture.
Entrances to Machupicchu are divided into morning and afternoon tickets and unless you climb one of the mountains, if you leave, even if it is to the bathroom, you cannot re-enter (have some change always with you because entering the bathroom costs 1 or 2 soles). If you plan to make the visit in the morning, you can book the train back in the afternoon, as there is not much to do in Aguascalientes unless you decide to go to some thermal baths.
As I did not know this, I booked the last train to Cusco (BAD IDEA). The wait was eternal but well, that was not the worst. The bad thing was that supposedly my train would arrive in Cuzco at 11 PM, but we ended up arriving at 1 AM.
Day 4: Cuzco
I stayed 3 nights at the Wild Rover. As I arrived late, I did not get up early and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the hostel. This day I dedicated to walking through the main square and its surroundings and in the afternoon I did the “free” walking tour offered by the hostel (it is not totally free, but it is a good option because they give you tips on restaurants and places to buy souvenirs and also if it is the tour of the hostel, when you return, they give a free pisco sour;))
We toured the main square (obviously), a bank that is half a museum on Avenida Sol and the San Blas neighborhood that has a small viewpoint. If you have more time, go to the ruins that are in the city and if you bought the general ticket of Cuzco previously, entrance are included.
Day 5: Rainbow Mountain
Something that I would have reaaally appreciated someone told me before traveling to Peru was “the tours are cheaper and there are more offers than there is online” but this never happened and I booked almost everything from Colombia before traveling. The only thing that saved this was the Rainbow Mountain tour guide and his attitude. The tour started at 4 am (I was the first one picked up) and at 7 we were having breakfast in the middle of the road way to the mountain. This is offered by almost all tours as well as lunch when returning from the mountain. It was not my favorite food, especially breakfast but at least you try typical food.
The trek took me about 1 hour. As I am from Bogotá and I live 2,630 meters closer to the stars, the height does not affect me, but my walking companions, a couple from Mexico and a French family didn't do it that well and 2 had bad height sickness.
The road is kind of flat almost to the end, when it is time to climb or climb the mountain (if you rent a horse, it is the only piece you have to walk) and you will find a couple of stops with rustic bathrooms “managed” by local people every hundred times.
It was one of my favorite places of the trip and the colors and snowy mountains that surround the place leave you breathless. If you do well with the Rainbow Mountain, they you should, on the way back, turn a little and stop in the imposing red valley for a couple more soles, but I assure you it will be worth it.
This mountain a couple of years ago has taken great strength in tourism and many people had not heard of it before because it was discovered thanks to global warming, because before it was snowy and the snow covered the wonderful colors. Despite not having snow, because of the height (5,200 m) it is cold and if you go in rainy season, frozen rain or snow may fall, so wear a good jacket, good gloves and a hat or you will be thinking about the cold and not enjoy the energy of the place.
Day 6 and 7: Huacachina
Without sleeping for the craziness the previous night at the hostel (glow party organized in the hostel) I traveled by plane to Lima and then took a bus to Ica and from there a taxi to Huacachina. On the internet there is not much information about Peru Hop (something that I would have liked to try) but it is a tourism company, focused for backpackers who want to know Peru by bus if you want to try it. They have a route from Lima to Huacachina directly, which would have made my trip a little more comfortable, but hey, it was a whole experience to ride one of the mototaxi to the oasis.
The oasis, being in a desert, regardless of the time of the year is hot, at least during the day, so you can get ready to spend a pleasant time in the pools of the hostels ( I stayed at Wild Rover Huacachina) and store your jacket and baby alpaca socks in the bag for a while. It is one of the destinations in Peru to relax, stop waking up early and recharge (although the party is not missed).
Give me more chilcanos !!
Some of the things to do in Huacachina are walking through the oasis and dunes nearby and in the afternoon take a buggy tour over the dunes and experience sandboarding. If you like adrenaline and you don't mind finishing with sand even in your pockets for a couple of days, take a chance and slide down the dunes.
Day 8 and 9: Lima and Huaraz
These two days were most of the time on a bus. I traveled from Huacachina (Ica) to Lima, eat at Panchita (gastronomic orgasm!!) and spent the night in Selina (recommended for families with a tight budget or not so adventurous backpackers). The next day I took an eternal bus to Huaráz and stayed again in Selina. This hostel for me was one of the most beautiful ones of the trip, so if you have time, schedule one more day just to enjoy the facilities.
Day 10: Lake 69
If you arrived with tight time, it´s good to have the tour to Lake 69 scheduled beforehand. However, as I told you before, it is better to book everything directly on site. In any case, if you book it online, confirm the pick-up time. They told me that they would pick me up between 4 and 4:30 and at 3:30 they were looking for me, so I had to go out like a crazy woman and finishing getting ready on the bus. The tour itself was not my favorite, super impersonal, and if the guide does not know about you, there is a possibility that they will leave you in the park of Ancash adrift.
Anyway, this was one of my favorite days. The walk is a bit long, it took me about 2 hours, but the scenery is incredible (even the wild cows), and the last 30 minutes is a hard climb, but when you arrived everything was worth it. It is a magical place, so try to get there as soon as possible to take advantage of it and not run the way back. Of course, get ready for a good sustained squat because here, compared to the rainbow mountain, there are no toilets along the way.
Like the rainbow mountain, wear a good jacket, gloves and hat, but also a raincoat or windbreaker because if it rains you don´t want to be soaked 2 hours while getting to the hostel.
Day 11, 12 and 13: Lima
I spent the last 3 days of the trip in Lima (I stayed at Pariwana to have a little more party than in Selina), went swimming with sea lions (this can also be done in Paracas, a town near Ica), did the Barranco neighborhood tour, the “hipster” area of the city, went to the lights show in the water park, walked along the green coast, once again enjoyed the exquisite Peruvian food such as the ceviches at Punto Azul and more chilcanos and pisco sours in one of the most exclusive bars in Lima, Bizarro.
After these 13 wonderful days in Peru, I returned home full of good energy, cleared mind and got a new job soon (thanks Pacha Mama!).
I hope you enjoyed this itinerary and are encouraged to go and enjoy the multiple adventures that this country offers, because either you are going to check a place in the bucket list or to clear your mind, Peru will always be a great option.