Come with us to Cuzco, Peru

 Cuzco, The Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu
Travel Guide 

Overview

Cusco/Cuzco
Cusco was the capital of the Incan Empire before the Spanish colonials came and conquered it. The city exhibits a fascinating and an intriguing blend of the Ancient Incan Empire and the Spanish Colonials. The city has been described as a “ gateway” to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu as this is the place most tourists go to before embarking on their journey towards the mystical Andean Valley surrounding the city.

Sacred Valley
This has to be one of those places that make you appreciate how beautiful our planet really is.  The Sacred valley is tucked away at the foothills of the Andean mountains with quaint villages and ancient Incan ruins stretching across its landscape.

Machu Picchu
Go experience it. Not enough words or pictures can do justice in describing this mysterious city, it is something you must experience in person. It is well preserved and walking through the city, you can’t help but transcend into the ancient times of the Incas. This place touches your soul!

City of Cusco


Before you go

High Altitude: This is very real. We read about this before we left but did not pay it much attention and boy oh boy! We did not expect the high altitude to hit us like it did. It was hard to take a few steps without huffing and puffing, we were feeling uneasy and were unable to move. Cusco sits at about 3,400 m above sea level and is considered to be at a higher elevation than Machu Picchu, which we were unaware of at the time; it is your best bet to go prepared and expect that this can cause some changes to your body. Once your body adjusts, the symptoms may subside for the most part.

  • Tip - Take Aspirin as that seems to be what the pharmacist there recommended as well. You can buy this at local pharmacies in the city of Cusco as well for a few soles. For people who have pulmonary issues, there are oxygen tanks available at most hotels.

Weather: We visited Peru in October and the weather varied based on where we stayed. It was freezing in Cusco while in Sacred Valley it was more like fall weather in the States. Machu Picchu reminded us of being at Miami Beach in July.  Something to remember is that the weather in Machu Picchu is unpredictable as per our guide and it rains quite often.

  • Tip: Take a light rain jacket for Machu Picchu and a warm coat for Cusco.

Vaccinations: Yellow fever vaccination is recommended. Mosquitoes primarily spread yellow fever and Peru has a lot of vicious mosquitoes.

  • Tip: Get vaccinated and take bug spray. Avoid wearing short sleeve tops and shorts while visiting Machu Picchu. The little suckers will get you. You have been warned!

Medicine: Take all medicines with you in your carry on, as most airports in Peru/parts of South & Central America don’t have a pharmacy.

Immigration tag: You will receive an immigration slip upon entering the country.  The hotels don’t charge you any taxes if you have this slip. This slip has to be kept safe in your possession throughout the entire trip. Every hotel you stay at will ask you for it and you need this to exit the country. It’s valued as much as your passport there. So don’t lose it!!

Flight Connections: In Lima, if going from domestic to domestic; You might have to claim your bags, exit the airport, re- enter the airport and then re- check it in Lima before your connecting flight to Cusco.

  • Tip: Verify this when you are boarding your international flight to Peru. This can get pretty hectic so put on your skates if you need to do the above and get ready to go to another gate across the airport. We sure did!!

Strike Information:  If possible, expect this to happen from time to time. We weren’t prepared for this. Things that are not expected can be frustrating initially but we had each other so we got through our predicament smoothly. Unexpectedly, there was a 2-day strike in Cusco before we came home. All transportation was stopped and we had no way of getting back to Cusco from Machu Picchu, where our flight was departing from. Thousands of tourists were stranded without a place to stay, roads were blocked, and many missed their flights. We had to camp out on our last day at the train station for over 7 hours before we were able to catch trains back to Cusco. Things did get rowdy but at the end of the day we were lucky to make it back in time to catch our flight back home. We know that this sounds disheartening and honestly, we felt this way when we were initially going through it; But now that we look back at our experience there, we feel extremely blessed and grateful to have been there regardless of the unrest.

Things to do
Cusco/Cuzco

City pass: This is a reasonable pass to buy and it covers a lot of attractions both in Cusco and The Sacred Valley (For more information on the pass, click here). Granted, you might not be able to visit all the sites depending on your time in Peru, it is a good bang for your buck. Below are some of the places we visited and would highly recommend.

Saksaywaman

Saksaywaman

Saksaywaman 

Saksaywaman: This place was our first stop in Peru and we can’t tell you the excitement, the energy and the awe we had when we set our eyes on this gorgeous site. This place is an Incan ruin built over a beautiful canvas of mountains. The Incans used it as a fortress. Don’t forget to take a picture with a Andean lady and her Alpaca.

  • Tip: Pay close attention to the stones you see. They are being held together without any mortar and each stone was hand placed and carried up the mountain. It is mind-boggling! This place is also one of the highest altitude places you will visit. Be prepared for this and take your time walking around it.

Tambomachay/ Puka Pukara: Both these places are located very close to Saksaywaman and are smaller Incan remains that were built. Both offer a stunning look into the Incan architecture. 


Puka Pukara 

Plaza De Armas: This is more like a gathering place for everyone. Cathedrals, local shops and restaurants surround the plaza. It is a nice place to go for a stroll and observe the culture. It is very lively! This is also a great place to do souvenir shopping. Be ready to bargain!

Cabs: The best way to get cabs is to have a hotel book one for you. The cab will take you to all these places and wait to pick you up to take you to the next stop. The cab drivers were friendly and always tried to have a conversation or explain different aspects of Cusco even if they didn’t speak much English.

Sacred valley

Urubamba: Villa Urubamba is the resort we stayed at. This wasn’t just a hotel to us; it became our home really quickly in the two days that we were there. The hotel in itself is located in the heart of Sacred Valley. The view surrounding us was stunning. We had a lot of fun just staying here; drinking coca tea, learning more about the Incan history and being in a tranquil state of mind.

* The places listed below were easily accessible via pre-booked cab from our hotel in Urubamba.


Pisaq 

Pisaq 

Ruinas De Pisaq 

Agricultural Terraces of the Ancient Incans 


Pisaq: We visited the ruins in Pisaq (This place is included in the city pass that you buy in Cusco).  This is the point in our trip we realized that the scenery around us only got better. This place is also an Incan ruin nestled atop the Andean mountain range. You can observe the majestic terraces that were built so carefully for agricultural experiments back in that time. There was a man playing his flute while we were there and we felt as if we had transported back to the time of the Incans! The flute provided a perfect background score for us as we just looked out into the mountains surrounded by the clouds and the sun slowly setting. It felt like we were alone and peaceful with no room for anything but nature in this place far away from home. We just could not stop staring.

  • Tip: Take a cab to this place as it located quite high and be sure to stop at the Pisaq Market held on Sunday’s to find unique handmade souvenirs! 
Quechua Girls 

Pisaq Market 


Moray and Maras: These are both villages that you find in the Sacred Valley. Maras is a small village, which offers an even further insight into the blend of the ancient Incans with the Spanish colonials. Moray allows you to observe the Moray Circles, which are the agricultural laboratories of the Incans. Both places are a must visit.

  • Tip - Cab it here and wear your walking shoes.


    Moray Circles 

    Misminay Village 


    Aguas Calientes: This is a dainty little town that is located between the Andean mountain range and the Willkanuta River. The area in itself is serene and aesthetic.

    Machu Picchu 

    Machu Picchu: Why is this a wonder of the world? We had our own doubts until we got there and realized how it truly deserves this title. The history of how this place was discovered and the theories behind this Incan empire are more than intriguing. Every stone used to built this empire and the architecture used at that time is unique and exceptional. The fact that it’s still standing after all these years in itself explains how smart these people were. Definitely put this on your bucket list if you haven’t already done so. The unique energy of this place, the free roaming llama’s and the history/theories behind this place leaves you wanting more and spellbound. To get up here you have to board a bus from the Machu Picchu train station. Prepare to wait in a long line, as it tends to get crowded even during low season. Make sure you have bottles of water and snacks with you. There are no bathrooms in Machu Picchu itself so remember to use the bathroom at the bus station before you go. 

    • Tip- Have Condor travel book this for you. They will book a bus ticket, entrance ticket, an English-speaking guide and free lunch. Be sure to wear loads of sunscreen and spray bug spray (seriously, just spray it).  Don't forget to stamp your passport on the way out! 


      Machu Picchu

      Transportation

      Condor Travel: Book everything in advance via condor travel (click here for more information). This is a much easier option than trying to arrange everything last minute. You will be spending a lot of time in cabs getting from one place to another, so you don’t want to waste any time as most of these places close early. We are not sponsored by Condor Travel, we just had a really good experience with them and highly recommend them. 

      Tickets to Machu Picchu via Peru rail : You can book this yourself online.
      Luggage limit: You are only allowed 1 backpack when travelling to/from Machu Picchu. The weight is about 11 lbs. or so. The only way to get here is by train. Make this a one-day trip if possible. Hotels in Cusco & Sacred Valley will gladly hold the rest of your luggage while you make the trip to Machu Picchu.

      Money

      The Peruvian currency is Peruvian Nuevo Soles. 1 dollar is about 3 soles. Convert more than you think you would need and do it in the States. No broken bills are taken there. We spent a lot of money on souvenirs and trust me you will want to buy everything.

      Language

      Quechua is the language of the natives in Peru and is not as prevalent in the general population. Spanish is primarily spoken here and not a lot of people speak English. We did find that a lot of the restaurants had an English menu.

      Culture

      People are very friendly and were always ready to help us when we needed anything. The Andean/Quechua people are known to preserve the culture of their ancestors (Incans). They wear very bright and colorful clothes. If you take a picture with them, be sure to tip them.

      Food


      The cuisine in Peru will accommodate everyone. Peru does have a lot of vegetarian options. The thing to try here is coca tea especially because it has a lot of medicinal value and we don't have it here in the States. It is actually illegal to bring any coca leaves back so don't try! Additionally, try the quinoa here! We are not huge fans of quinoa but the way it is cooked there, it is divine!!


      Coca Tea 

      Llama's 

      Machu Picchu

      - Dhara & Jenie 

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