Saturday, September 2, 2017

Peru Itinerary

Almost a full year after our wedding, we finally got to enjoy our honeymoon in Peru! Two full weeks in August (Peru's winter) of exploring the capital, the coast, and of course the mountains ending with an unforgettable stop at Machu Picchu. Here is a general overview of everything we covered. 

Day 1: Travel to Lima
Most flights into Peru go straight to Lima, the capital. We landed in Peru around 11pm on Saturday night having flown from Richmond to Fort Lauderdale to Lima. One of the employees of the Pay Purix Backpacker Hostel picked us up at the airport and drove us to the hostel for 15 soles. 
Plaza de Mayor

Day 2: Morning in Lima, Bus to Paracas

OK so "exploring the capital" may have been a bit of an exaggeration since we spent a whopping 5 hours in Lima outside of the hostel. However, we saw enough for our interest as Lima isn't much of a tourist destination. We walked around the Plaza Mayor, took some pictures, and had the best street ceviche of our trip for 8 soles right outside the bus station. 
We purchased our bus tickets in advance on the Cruz del Sur website for 60 soles per person. The buses were very comfortable for the 3 hour ride with TV's at every seat and a variety of movies to pick from (all in Spanish with English subtitles).  However, I was very glad to have eaten the ceviche prior to the trip as the included lunch looked thoroughly disgusting to me. 

Day 3: Paracas
We spent the evening of day 2, all of day 3, and the morning of day 4 enjoying the coastal town of Paracas. Here we took a boat tour of the Ballestas Islands and biked around the national reserve.
Paracas National Reserve

Day 4: Paracas, Bus to Ica, Taxi to Huacachina 
Once again we bused with Cruz del Sur, having bought tickets in advance for 25 soles per person for the 1.5 hour trip from Paracas to Ica. Since our destination was the oasis Huacachina, we had to hail a taxi in Ica for 8 soles. However, we saw buses in Paracas offered by some of the hostels straight from Paracas to Huacachina for 20 soles per person which would have saved us a little time and money if we hadn't already purchased tickets with Cruz del Sur.
We stayed at Bananas Adventure in Huacachina and enjoyed riding a dune buggy and sandboarding included in the cost of our room. 
Dune Buggying in Huacachina

Day 5: Huacachina, Night bus to Cusco
Although we had to check out of Banana's Adventure at 11am, we were allowed to leave our backpacks in their common area (not exactly protected so we were taking a risk) for the remainder of the day while we relaxed and walked around the desert oasis a little more. We returned to Ica for our 6pm bus to Cusco, a 17 hour ride. I picked up dinner before, and John elected to suffer through the questionable meat and rice dish offered by the bus company. We found the seats to be reasonably comfortable for sleeping in though the windy road made it very difficult. I would not recommend this route for anyone who gets car sick!
Plaza de Armas, Cusco

Day 6-9: Cusco
To prepare for the Salkantay Trek, we planned several days in Cusco to acclimate ourselves to the altitude. We thoroughly enjoyed Cusco and spent the time exploring the sacred valley, shopping in the market, and climbing a via ferrata to sleep in a skylodge. Additionally, we found Cusco to have some of the best food of any city we've visited!
Sacred Valley

Day 10-14: Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu
After all the buses and taxis we'd taken, we were very excited to get on the trail headed to Machu Picchu. We booked our trek through Refugios Salkantay (Classic 5D/4N) and couldn't have been happier with their hospitality. They picked us up in Cusco to start the hike and provided lodging and meals for our 4 days and 3 nights with them for $400 USD for the two of us. We ended the hike in Aguas Calientes where we stayed in the El Tambo Hotel for 130 soles. The next morning, we woke up at 4:30am to hike up Machu Picchu. Visiting a World Wonder was the perfect way to end our honeymoon!
Machu Picchu

Day 15: Fly Home
We returned to Cusco after Machu Picchu via trian to Ollantaytambo and then combi for 10 soles per person. On our last day in Cusco, we stopped back at Green Point, one of my favorite restaurants, for lunch and did a little more last minute shopping before catching a taxi to the airport. Then we flew Cusco -> Lima -> Miami -> Charlotte -> Richmond, arriving home about 20 hours after we showed up in the Cusco airport. 

Some Take-Aways:

  • There are a lot of people in Peru who speak no or very little English, but their Spanish is very clear and easy to understand.
  • Peru is not a very credit card friendly country. When we got our card out people generally looked unhappy and would tell us that there was an extra charge to use a card or even that the card reader wasn't currently working. 
  • The weather in Cusco is a little crazy because the variation between day and night is about 40 degrees (70's during the day, 30's at night). The Airbnb's we stayed at had very poor insulation and finicky hot water, so we were glad to have brought some extra layers.
  • Many people get mild altitude sickness just from being in Cusco. Be careful when climbing those steep city streets and drink lots of coca tea!

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