Wednesday, March 20, 2019

How to Visit Peru in 10 Days

Los Adventureros! What an adventure Peru is! From delicious food to stunning ancient ruins, Peru has something interesting up its sleeve at every turn. There is so much to see and do so 10 days will only give you a taste, but what a taste it will be.

We traveled in March 2016. Since then we have heard that some changes have been made to how your tour Machu Picchu. Find current info on official websites.

Advice here is evergreen and can be used no matter what the changes are.

Brush up on some history. 

Peruvian and Incan history is vast. To put your trip into context, do some research ahead of time. I read Turn Right at Machu Picchu which is part travelogue, part history lesson and it was the perfect read for the trip. I highly recommend.

Prepare for the Weather

We traveled in March 2016, in the middle of the rainy season. We brought rain jackets and waterproof shoes just in case and it turned out to be a mild season. We still needed our rain gear, especially on Machu Picchu. At one point there was a literal downpour and a woman had nothing and she was soaked. But the sun poked out later in the day and we all get a little burned, so layers are always your friend with traveling.

 The rainy season of 2017 was horrible, creating mudslides that claimed many lives. Be prepared but most people try and avoid rainy season.

Prepare for high elevation and wear sunscreen

The elevation changes in Peru are no joke. Cusco which is 11,152 feet above sea level! Many travelers not used to high elevation get altitude sickness and drink coca tea which is supposed to help with the symptoms. We live in a higher elevation (definitely not that high) so I didn't get sick but we still noticed a difference. The air is thinner so take breaks, drink more water and don't overdo it.

While it should be obvious, it might not be. The higher you are the closer you are to the sun. WEAR SUNSCREEN. It doesn't take much time at that altitude to get burned, even if is partly cloudy.

Fun fact: Machu Picchu is actually lower than the city of Cusco. Elevation of Machu Picchu is 7,972'.

Take friends who speak Spanish.And make sure that they are friends that you like. :)

In all seriousness, Peru was easy to navigate and we would have done just fine without speaking Spanish (Jacob speaks Portuguese which is not the same but has some similarities), however, it was amazing traveling with friends who spoke the language. We have never traveled internationally where someone in our group knows the language so that was a treat. I was the annoying one saying giddily, "what does that sign say!" only to learn happily that the sign indicated that the building was earthquake proof. :)

And travel with another couple can be tricky to navigate. We were so fortunate that after we traveled together we still want to be friends. My advice: find a couple with similar travel styles and budget. Where there is imbalance, it could get wonky. This is especially important if you are traveling a lot throughout a country and switching locations.


Peru has a lot going on and quite a bit of diversity of landscape. There was much on our list that we didn't get to make it to, but here is what we did with our limited amount of time.

Travel Day:
Arrive in Lima, Peru at 11:35 p.m.
Spend what was possibly the worst night ever in the airport for a 6:50 a.m. flight. What doesn't kill you, etc.

Day 1: Ollantaytambo
Fly to Cusco then bus to Ollantaytambo, our homebase for the Sacred Valley
Visit Plaza de Armas, Fortress of Ollantaytambo
Early to bed. Stayed at B&B Chayan Wasi. Loved! The breakfast was delicious and they were really helpful with booking things.

Day 2: Tour Sacred Valley
Hire a guide/driver to see Moray
Drink chicha morada in a hut
Salineras salt terraces
Town of Chincero

Day 3: Chocolate cooking class and Aguas Calientes 
Chocolate cooking class at the ChocoMuseo
Train to Aguas Calientes, the jumping point for Machu Picchu
Soaked in thermal springs/body broth in Aguas Calientes
Stayed at Inn New Day Machu Picchu

Day 4: MACHU PICCHU (!!!!!!!!!!!)
Early bus to Machu Picchu (get a stamp at the entrance for your passport!)
Explore ruins of Machu Picchu
Hike Huayana Picchu (reservation req) for extra stunning views
Train ride back to Olly and taxi to Cusco

Day 5: Cusco
Sacsayhuamรกn complex and natural slides
Cristo Blanco
Explore San Blas neighborhood
Cathedral at Plaza de Armas for Easter candle lighting
Stayed in Airbnb (lovely!)

Day 6: Cusco
Plaza de Armas by day
Twelve Angled Stone
Market hopping, highlight: San Pedro Market
Sun Temple or Qorikancha
Cultural show

Day 7: Travel Day
Cusco in the a.m.
Flight to Lima, Bus to Paracas (3.5 hours)
Dinner on the beach
Stayed in Airbnb. Would pick something else.

Day 8: Ballestas Islands
Boat tour of Ballestas Islands (penguins!!!) and the Candelabra
Sandboarding near Huacachina

Day 9: Paracas/Travel to Lima
Morning at the pool
Bus to Lima
Stay in Airbnb. Would recommend.

Day 10: Lima
Plaza de Armas
Presidential Palace for changing of the guards
Catacombs at Convento de San Francisco
Mira Flores
Parque del Amor
Coast peeping
Dinner on the pier

Travel can be slow between areas so there are a couple of days lost to travel. The Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu were definite highlights, we loved sandboarding and 1 day was plenty for Lima.

We landed on this itinerary this way: the main goal was Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. So it was hard to find something else to do in 3 days. Many of the other things we were interested in would have cut down the time in the Sacred Valley so that is how we landed on Paracas. If we had more time, we likely would have visited the Amazon via Puerto Maldonado, Arequipa, Colca Canyon and/or Puno for Lake Titicaca. There's a lot going on!

As always, be kind and be respectful.

Do research ahead of time on cultures and how to be respectful. Time to speak the language as best you can when you can. Smile. Be patient that things are different than at home. Different is why you came. Embrace it and enjoy this beautiful slice of the world.

Hope this helps!

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