Machu Pichu, a picturesque place that are on many bucket lists around the world. This Inca site is all over Instagram, Pinterest and almost every travel blog I have seen. There are many different types of routes and treks to get there from the famous 4 day Inca Trail to just a day trip on the train depending on your budget and timeline you can find the person route for you. I opted for something not so expensive that was a 3-day, 2-night tour for $95 USD by a small van. There are 100’s of tour agencies all over Cusco and that is why I highly recommend to not book any trek or tour in advance. The only one if you want to book in advance would be the Inca Trail other than that most tours and treks you can book just two-three days in advance. If you book when you get to Cusco you have room to barter with the salesperson and the prices will always be cheaper. The tour I chose was a package deal that included transportation to Hydro Electric, 2 free breakfasts, 1 free lunch and 1 free dinner and the entrance fee to Machu Pichu with a two-hour guided tour. There are so many tour agencies around Cusco that all offer the same packages just at different costs. Don’t feel like what agency you chose matters because when you get in the tour bus everyone else in the bus will have bought tickets from different agencies. The meals included were very average and bland but the experience itself was truly incredible. My boyfriend Matt did the 5-day Salkentay trip for $180 USD (that included an extra night to also spend the full day with me at Machu Pichu). He had an incredible time and only booked that trek two days in advance and was able to barter it down. We met a girl at one of the hostels that prebooked the same trek matt did and spent $400 on it. So I repeat DO NOT BOOK IN ADVANCE!
Our three day tour started very early in the morning and it was a 6 hour drive to Hydro Electric with a quick stop for lunch along the way. Once you get to Hydro Electric it is a two-hour walk to Aqua Caliente, which is the town that is the entrance point to Machu Pichu. You will get quite confused once you start the walk the two hour walk because it is along a train track the entire time. The train is something people prebook in advance if they are too tired or lazy to do the walk but it is extremely easy, flat and quite beautiful so it should not be missed. Once you get to Aqua Caliente you will see it is a tourist town full of restaurants that sell pizza, beer and zero Peruvian food. Make sure to head to the small fruit market in the middle of the town the day you arrive to stock up on fruit and veggies and snacks for the full day ahead at Machu Pichu. There are loads of places in Aqua Caliente that have “happy hour drinks” but be prepared that every restaurant has a “sit down fee” and you won’t be notified ahead of time. (Usually is 10% more on top of your bill).
The next morning at 4am we woke up to start our hour and a half trek up all stairs to the entrance of Machu Pichu. It is pitch black outside to make sure to bring a flashlight and get ready for a great leg workout. It was raining on the morning walk up but once we got to the entrance the rain subsided for the rest of the day! Just a note when you are at Machu Pichu you are only allowed to leave the Inca site three times during your visit. The bathroom is outside and you will have to pay 1 sole every time you go so don’t drink too much water while there! Get ready for all of the tourists trying to take the perfect picture just be patient and enjoy it mentally as well. When you get to the top of Machu Pichu you will see a huge lawn of grass that overlooks the entire place. Bring a blanket or use your poncho as one and just spend a few hours relaxing with your friends taking in the glorious place that you worked so hard to get to. We were there for a total of 8 hours and I highly recommend everybody to spend at least two nights in Aqua Caliente so you can spend loads of time at Machu Pichu. Many people just do one night and have to rush back down to take the bus back to Cusco at 5pm! Don’t do that. Spend the extra night in Aqua Caliente. I can’t even tell you how incredible it was in words. I recommend just checking out the video above to see it all played out. Hope everyone visits this 7th Wonder of the World as it is a place you will remember forever.
Interested in seeing what happens in Arequipa? Check the two videos down below!
After 12 hours on the overnight sleeper bus from Ica to Arequipa (for around 115 soles each - $35 USD) we arrived around 8am. I booked a hostel online for us on HostelWorld and we took a cab for around 15 soles total to get there ($5USD). We stayed at a hostel called Hostal Sol de Oro for three nights and it was a small hostel that had an unused pool/karaoke/bar area and a great terrace. The second morning there after staying in a 6 person dorm I realized I was sleeping underneath black mold. AH. So we switched to another dorm room across the hall that was another decent size for 6 beds. This town is very European style with the architecture and loads of restaurants, bars, shops and places to explore. One of the first nights there Matt read our lonely planet book and found a bar called Chelawasi Public House so of course since we are from Seattle we had to check out the craft beers. All three of us tried different beers and they make just brew one of there own and the rest are imported from different breweries around Peru. I recommend visiting just know they will be US prices of around $5 a beer.
The best coffee in Peru I believe is found here! This amazing place is called Cafe Valenzuela that is near the main Plaza De Armas and they serve a long list of different types of coffee creations. It is a small shop and when I say small it is the smallest funkiest shop I have ever been into. (Watch my Youtube video above to see the inside and the menu). They serve the coffee upstairs and sell beans on the bottom floor so when you take the spiral staircase up it might throw you off but the huge taste will make you want to come back. I had ice cream drizzled in espresso and chocolate. Incredible. Two street down from our hostel was a street that had a row of restaurants open for lunch that were serving Menu Del Dias (menus of the day exclusively for lunch time) so we made sure to eat at a bunch of different restaurants on this street to save some money. We would usually split two meals between three of us and the total would be around $6. Not to bad for a $2 each lunch either.
The big tour we did in Arequipa was The Colca Canyon Trek for two days and it cost 95 soles each ($30 USD). We booked this tour through one of the many tour agencies near Plaza De Armas and just picked the agency that we liked the sales person the most. Everyone sells the exact same tour so don't book online and don't be scared to barter. This was an early morning tour waking up at 3am to get picked up at our hostel and it was a long drive to many different sights before the trek actually began. The first stop was to get breakfast (jam, bread, butter, tea and coffee the norm in Peru) and the one after a few hours of driving and paying for our fee to enter the national park (70 soles) there was a view point that overlooked an incredible view into the canyon with Condor birds flying right above us. From there we drove a bit farther and that is where our trekking began. It is a total of 11.86 miles in two days of trekking. Now our tour agency said that I could do this trek no problem with my back and my knee problems then I realized they care more about a sale then the persons experience.
So the first day was pretty brutal for me. For four hours you start at the beginning of the trek going down the entire way to get to the bottom of the canyon. I had a horrible time even with trekking poles but that is only because I have had three knee surgeries in the past. Everybody else said their knees got a bit sore but every single person made it. I was definitely the last one down that canyon. From the bottom you cross a bridge over a river and work your way up the canyon (not too far) before having an easy second half of your trek mostly flat. You stop half way through the day for lunch where it was traditional rice, meat and soup and a nice time to relax before setting out trekking again. We finally got to our location 7 hours later at a hostel called The Oasis in the middle of the Canyon. We had about an hour before the sun went down so we all tipped our feet in the huge pool in the center of the hostel and Matt even went swimming in it. Our room had no electricity but it didn’t matter we had headlamps. That night, dinner was included as well and it was plain spaghetti but since we were so hungry it felt like a 5 star meal. They also sell beer there for around 10 Soles so it is a nice treat to end the day. (If you are going make sure to bring snacks!)
We went to bed early that night maybe around 9pm to get ready for the next day ahead that started at 5am for the trekkers and 5:30am for the people that wanted to ride a mule to the top. After yesterdays trek I knew a mule was the best call for my health and I did it for around 60 soles additional. The trek is straight uphill and will take you 2-3 hours on feet or 1 and half hours up on mule. Paula and Matt met me at the top after trekking and it was still only 9am. The mule ride was completely incredible it was just me and one other girl and one of the workers with their dog that stayed behind us to make sure our mule kept going. My mule (who I named The Fonz) loved eating the grass over the side of the ledges. With no protective gear on it can be a bit scary but I loved every minute of it.
So after everyone got to the top of the canyon it was off to breakfast for more bread and jam! From there the tour continued and we went to a shopping area on the side of the road before heading to natural hot springs to relax our muscles. It was an incredible man made hot springs that cost no more than a few dollars to enter and there are multiple pools. The bigger sizes of the pools the cooler it would be so the tiny pools I couldn’t even get my foot in since the medium sized ones was almost too hot for me! After the hot springs it was off to two more viewing areas of the landscape before heading back into town around 7pm and checking back into our old hostel where we left our big bags the night before (we only brought our day packs for the trek).
Make sure to spend at least four nights in Arequipa. From the food to the tours to the drinks you will find yourself having a hard time pulling away. From Arequipa it was time for an 11 hour over night bus ride to Cusco! We bought the bus ticket the same place as we bought the tour ticket for around 80 Soles for a semi-cama seat. (Goes down 140 degrees). The ride was a bit scary waking up to the bus stuck in snow and the downstairs of the bus where we laid was dark and scary. But we arrived in Cusco and it was on my favorite place in all of Peru, Cusco.
Leaving Paracas we took a one hour bus ride that only cost a few dollars to Ica that our hostel in Paracas helped arrange for us! Ica is not a well known town to travelers and it really shouldn't be since the town is very...very boring. The good thing about Ica though is that it is 15 minutes from the Oasis they call Huacachina! Since I saw that Ica had a really chill and inexpensive hostel compared to the ones in Huacahina we booked 3 nights there. We would have just needed 2 nights but Matt and I unfortunately got food poisoning in Paracas (luckily Paula didn’t which was surprising since we all ate the same fried fish for lunch before leaving) so we needed to stay another night to revive ourselves. We stayed at a hostel in Ica called Icaadventures 2 and the hostel was awesome! You have an AC in your 10-person dorm room, good wifi and when you go upstairs on the roof it is an incredible lounge area to meet and chat with other travelers. This was also a good place to lie for 8 hours as we were suffering our full day food poisoning attack.
So after one night hanging at the hostel the next morning we took a taxi that the hostel called for us to Huacahina for around 10 soles. ($3USD) We got dropped off to the little town and met a guy on the street selling sand buggy/sandboarding tours with all day access to a hotel pool. We got him down to 35 soles each and the actual sandbuggy ride began at 4 to be able to sandboard at sunset. We got there around noon so we spent the next few hours chilling by a pool and then going out to eat at one of the few restaurants in Huacahina. This place is an oasis in a desert. A huge beautiful lake with palm trees and you can see the views of the sandy mountains everywhere you look. There are hostels and hotels here too but no markets and pricier food options. You can’t unfortunately, swim in the oasis to conserve it but sitting there and taking in the beauty makes up for it. At 4pm our tour started with around 12 of us in one buggy and had an incredible ride around. You go on all levels of heights and width of sand dunes and screaming because of the fun the entire time. Make sure to bring proper shoes and something to cover your mouth with so you can scream and not get any sand in there. Also make sure to have sunscreen and sunglasses; you’re in a desert after all.
About 45 minutes after driving around in the dunes in the buggy we stopped and got out to take pictures and walked around the desert before embarking on the 6 hills that were ahead to sandboard on. The first three were pretty small and I fell 2-3 times. You can lie on your stomach, which is what I mostly did, or you can sit on your butt or ride it like a ghetto self-made snowboard. Most people that rode it like a snowboard fell over so just be aware. Once you have finished the first four hills the last two are incredibly steep. On the 5th one every single person besides one couple laid on there stomach. The couple was on their honeymoon shared one board and sat on it because the man was blind so he needed his wife to be there with him. So adorable.
The shoes will come in handy here when you need to dig your feet into the sand to slow yourself down. My dear friend Paula did not have shoes and crashed hard at the bottom of the 5th hill breaking her arm. So please please wear shoes! After Paula broke her arm she immediately got taken to the hospital as my group was stranded for a bit at the desert waiting for the buggy to come back and get us! We never went down the 6th hill (Which I was fine with) but saw the sunset on the drive back to the oasis.
If you are wondering the Ica Public Hospital was not the best or cleanest hospital out there. For Paulas broken arm she had to pay for everything they used on her before they would do anything with her arm. The hospital didn’t sell arm slings so we had to go to the pharmacy across the street to buy one. They injected her with numbing medicine and pulled her bones so they were touching and would heal properly by itself in a cast. (Total cost around 170 soles). Two hours after this happened we took a 12-hour bus ride to Arequipa. Through Paula’s insurance they appointed her to a private hospital in Arequipa where she found out the doctors in Ica did not put her arm in the right position so she had to get it pulled back in place again and a better cast. She's a tough one.
Sandboarding is something I would recommend to every single person that has an adventurous side to them. I mean you come to Peru for thrills and stories to remember and this place will create that just for you!
After the short and easy four hour bus ride for $20 USD from Lima we arrived to the Paracas bus station with nowhere booked to spend the night. A predicament that isn't the worst when you are traveling during the off season in a small town that's main source of income is tourism. We made the 15 minute walk into the town and checked out a few different hostels before deciding on Paracas Backpackers House which was 75 soles ($23) a night split between us three. We had a private three-person room that was pretty nice and an incredible hostel with a spacious kitchen you can use and hammocks to relax in with an rooftop view of the town you could look at for hours. A lady on the street that reeled us into this hostel also helped us book the famous tour to do in this town called “The Poor Man Galapagos” which takes you on an hour and a half boat ride to Islas Ballestas. Since the town is very VERY small with not much else to do besides the tour we decided to also book the afternoon tour with her as well. Total cost was around 45 soles for both tours which is around $14!
It was a pretty great early morning boat ride that included seeing a few islands, a bird species called boobies (not kidding!) and sea lions. We were supposed to see penguins as well but we just saw two little guys standing on one of the rocks far away. It was pretty underwhelming but always with a good attitude anything can turn out great… especially when you get to say you saw a bunch of boobies flying around. After the boat ride we went back for one hour to relax and eat at our hostel before heading out the second tour of the day. We went to meet the bus for our second tour and the first stop was a museum. It wasn't the highlight of the tour but you know got to learn some history of the places you see. Afterwards we went to a few different viewpoints that were majestic if i say so myself and then we got dropped off for an hour at Playa La Mena which was one of the nicest beaches I have been to in quite some time. We played in the water, sunbathed on the beach and wished we were able to spend more time there before going to our last destination by the water that had 5 or 6 small restaurants all serving fresh fish. Of course we ordered a huge plate of ceviche and fries to share between us 3 and it was delicious and completely worth it. After we ate it was off back to town!
That night we went to one of the two mini grocery stores there to buy produce to make dinner but unfortunately all of the produce had cockroaches and bugs all over them and look spoiled. So it was a good ol' college edition spaghetti and pasta sauce with beer for dinner. This city is a place that you would want to spend two days max just to get the day full of tours in. I would say if you are on a tight schedule or budget that this town would be alright to miss but if you have some time make your way here. We sure are glad we did. Interested in watching our adventures here? Click the youtube video above to check it out!
Interested in watching what happened in Lima? Check my Youtube videos or read about it down below!
When reading other blogs about the city of Lima I always hear you don’t need to stay for more than a few days. We spent 6 days there and it should have been longer. I booked our first two close to the airport in an area called San Miguel (wouldn't recommend) called Safe House Bed and Breakfast that I found off booking.com. The main reasons why I chose this place was because it was a 3 person private room and I thought after 22 hours of traveling from Seattle to here it would be a great way to catch up with Paula whom met us at the airport to travel for a month with us! They had airport pick up for 50 Soles and since I was a newb to the country I thought it would be nice to have to not worry about anything after landing at 11pm.
We woke up and were greated with our first Peruvian breakfast that we would soon get very used to having! It was juice, instant coffee, tea, bread, jam, butter and eggs. On the first day we walked all the way to Miraflores along the beach where we enjoyed the rocky beach and sunshine (after our Seattle winter it was so magical) and made our way to the center of the district. This place is known for the incredible ceviche and seafood so we made sure everyday we would eat it! We spent hours just walking around (with our backpack in front since I was a bit nervous of getting pick-pocketed) and found our way to two different restaurants. The first for Ceviche was called Barra Mar and it was absolutely delicious and highly recommend it! We noticed a lot of locals eating there which is always a good sign. Then Paula heard about this incredible sandwich restaurant called La Lucha close to the main park called Belmond Miraflores Park. So yummy a bit overpriced compared to other places in Lima but well worth it. That evening we just hung out at the park and Paula (whom is from Argentina and spoke perfect Spanish) got us into a party backpackers hostel across the park from the restaurant where we drank, danced salsa and played in a ping pong tournament. Pretty good first full day in Lima.
After talking to a few other people and doing research online we decided that we would move to a new district the following day. We woke up and first went to the area of Central Lima where it was all of these historic buildings and muesums and we had our big set menu (Menu Del Dia) which is very popular all over Peru. It is a set menu of an appetizer (usually soup) and then a few choices of what the main course would be. These set menus vary from 6 soles to 15 soles depending on the restaurant and location. After lunch we went to a few free muesums and took in the scenary of what was around us. It was about an hour bus ride from San Miguel to get there and the bus system is a bit tricky to understand! Basically all different size buses stop at a bus stop and one guy will jump out or yell out the window where the bus is going and if you want to go in or not. It usually costs 1-2 soles and if you are confused just remember how to say “Will this take me to (insert location you want to go here)” and they will say yes or no. If they say yes you can kindly ask them in Spanish to please let you know when you need to get off.
After our adventure there we headed towards a Barranco district where we would spend the next three nights! I would completely recommend anybody that loves street art, live music, bars and breweries and beach life to stay here for the duration of your stay in Lima. We stayed our first two nights at a hostel called Barranco's Backpackers Inn and it was a 6 person bunk room. A bit stuffy but you get used to ignoring the little annoyances of sharing a space with others. We spent our time watching the sunsets on the sandy beach (the sandy beach is very small but if you ask people or your hostel where it is they can direct you) and drinking beers at a brewery called Barranco Beer Company. One night we decided to go to a jazz club called La Noche since I love that type of music. It was around 15 soles to get in and man it was a great show! It was a Wednesday night as well and I think they have bands come in almost everyday. After two nights at a hostel we moved to a 3 person private just down the street at a homestay called Casita Liberated Homestay. We like to mix it up between hostels and privates so we can last our year of traveling without going crazy. The lady that was running the place was amazing and the place was just incredible to stay at with the best breakfast.
As we were walking around the neighborhood one night we heard music coming from behind this wall. It was a film and music festival! It was one guy standing outside the door that led us inside to this incredible little festival with cheap beer, good vibes and great music. I couldn’t believe we stumpled here. We danced the night away and talked to one of the bands after they were done. It was so nice to be the only tourists at this little festival. The next day because of all of the flooding that happened in the north of Peru all of the water was shut off in Lima! That was our cue to move on from this city. We had our homestay call us a taxi to the bus station of Cruz Del Sur and we paid 60 Soles that included lunch for our four-hour trip to Paracas! There are much cheaper buses then Crus Del Sur but it is the nicest bus company in Peru and we were running low on options since most buses weren’t going anywhere!
5) Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Sacred Valley
6) Machu Pichu
1) Copacabana and Isla Del Sol
2) La Paz
1) San Pedro De Atacama
4) La Serena
5) Puerto Iquazu
6) Buenos Aires