In preparation for our trip I have been researching topics such as potential accommodations, activities, landmarks, and transportation methods for each destination. I figure this will give us a better idea of the daily cost, and therefore help determine how long we will want to stay in each country. It will be interesting to see the difference between the ideas I have researched and what we actually do when we are on the road!
Click the small arrow button on the top left of the map header (left of where it says “Potential Destination”) to expand out additional details about many of the locations and activities described below.
U.S. Visa/Travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/peru.html
I have to say, after researching Peru I am very excited about the possibility of traveling here. With much more then just Machu Picchu, Peru has many amazing things to do and see, plus it is super affordable. Sounds like a win-win to me!
Helpful Web Sites
Other than when sleeping (or at least trying to sleep) during overnight bus trips, we will most likely be staying in hostels the majority of the time. Hostels in Peru can cost anywhere from $8-14 for a 4-6 bed mixed dorm and as low as $20 for a private double, including breakfast. The other possibility is to stay at a hospedajes, which are small family owned hotels, which can be found on sites like booking.com or kayak.com.
Private/tourist bus or public bus, that is the question! As in many areas of the world, taking the public bus is often the cheaper option, but comes with the risk of questionable drivers and decreased safety/security (especially during overnight trips). It sounds like city buses are decent in some of the major cities like Lima or Cusco, but other then that I am a little concerned and think a private/tourist based bus may be a better option. Peru Hop (https://www.peruhop.com) sounds like a great option, which is basically a hop-on hop-off type deal. There are various routes/itineraries to choose from, which includes the most popular destinations along the way (discussed further below). With this being a hop-on hop-off system, Pete and I will have the flexibility to stay in a place as long as we want. I love this because until you get to a place you really don’t know whether you love it or hate it and how long you want to stay there.
When traveling to visit Machu Picchu we have the option of taking the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the small town that lies in the gorge below the ruins, and then hook up with a guided tour from there. Or we can take the train via Perurail (https://www.perurail.com) the entire way from Cusco to Machu Picchu. There are several different levels of train service to chose from, all the way from ones with panoramic windows to more budget friendly options like the Expedition.
Our plan right now is to fly to Cusco when we first arrive to South America, thinking we will want to get to Machu Picchu in early to mid-May to beat the crowds. Researching all the various ways to get to Machu Picchu has been time consuming and exhausting, not to mention a bit overwhelming! We have already decided we are not going to hike the Inca Trail after hearing about the lovely gastrointestinal issues that a large number of hikers are lucky enough to get along the way. Plus, we will have ample opportunities for other beautiful hikes during our trip. We are either going to take the train and do the visit on our own or do an organized tour.
Here is where it gets confusing.
There are handfuls of different tours available, but make sure to read the fine print! Several times I thought to myself, “I finally found the perfect one”, but then I looked at the fine print and discovered that it does not include the entrance to the ruins, or the bus/train, etc, etc. Also, the prices vary tremendously from $115 to as much as over $400! I do think it will be important to have a guide to fully appreciate what we are looking at. The most budget friendly but inclusive tour I have found so far is this one through Viator (https://www.viator.com/tours/Sacred-Valley/Machu-Picchu-Private-Guided-Tour/d4928-5243P102) which runs around $290 for the both of us and includes the entrance fee to Machu Picchu and a guide. I am still trying to figure out how to purchase the separate ticket needed to hike up Huayna mountain, which will get us to the viewpoint where all the beautiful panoramic photos of Machu Picchu are taken. If anyone knows the best way to get this, please comment below!
Another possible day trip from Cusco is to Rainbow Mountain (https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductDetail-g294314-d11990051-Rainbow_Mountain_Full_Day_Tour_from_Cusco-Cusco_Cusco_Region.html), which includes a five and a half mile guided hike. Literally a mountain with striped of red, yellow, green, and other colors running down it, Rainbow Mountain is certainly not something you see everyday.
If we do in fact use Peru Hop for our transportation, the route/itineray that sounds the most likely is the “Cusco to Lima without Colca Canyon” (https://www.peruhop.com/passes/lima-without-canyon). The excursions to Colca Canyon sound pretty cool, but I would rather skip that and spend the money on adding a homestay to the Lake Titicaca tour. Although it sounds a bit overrun by tourism, the floating islands of the Uros on Lake Titicaca sounds very interesting. Basically the indigenous Uros people (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uru_people) use totora reeds that grow in the area to build floating islands, the houses that sit on them, and the boats they use to travel on the lake. As I mentioned, there are opportunities to do a homestay experience while visiting the Uros people and get a more in depth view of their way of life (https://www.findlocaltrips.com/tour-details/titicaca-uros-floating-islands-overnight-kollasuyo-travel), costing around $37 per person extra.
As we continue on our way to Lima, the next stop will be the Nazca Lines which are 2000-plus year old geoglyphs covering almost 80km of land. I’m not sure if there will be much to view from the ground, so if we are feeling adventurous and willing to spend the money, there is an option to take a short 30 minute flight to see them from above. The cost per person is $80, which is a bit steep but may be worth it. This stop also includes a tour of 40 Puquios, which are aqueducts that supply the near by town with water.
Sandboarding & Sandskiing
Pete and I have done our fair share of snowboarding or skiing since we grew up in areas with lots of snowy winters, but I can definitely say we have never done either on sand. In Huacachina we will get our chance after a dune buggy ride to the largest sand dunes in the area. I can’t wait! There are multiple companies offering this excursion, and it sounds like it is worth it to spend extra here to get better equipment to use and a better experience, with a difference of $15 per person to around $45 per person. Several reviews have highly recommended Sand Peru (http://international.sandperu.com/english).
The Poor Man’s Galapagos
The last stop before Lima will be the Ballestas Islands located a little ways out from the town of Paracas. These rocky islands have earned the nickname “The Poor Man´s Galapagos” and require a boat trip to get to. A two hour tour costs around $15 per person. These islands are home to various birds, sea lions, dolphins, and the endangered Humboldt penguin.
Any thoughts about our ideas above, or suggestions of “must see” activities/landmarks? Please include those below!