Visiting Peru: The Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu

Land of the Incas

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Visiting Peru was not on my bucket list of things to do. We had planned on visiting the Galapagos Islands and it is common to pair this trip with a visit to Peru. There are plus’ and minus’ to doing this (more on this later). Exploring the Sacred Valley of Peru was an experience onto itself. It is amazing to imagine how the Incans could have moved all those huge pieces of rock around. Where empires rise, they eventually fall and part of visiting Peru also includes a history lesson in how the Spanish conquered the Incans and took over the country.

ITINERARY FOR VISITING PERU

  • June 22, 2019
    • Private 8-hour tour of the Pisac ruins, Pisac Market and Ollantaytambo with lunch
    • Tour of Maras Salt Mines
  • June 24, 2019
    • Transfer to Ollantaytambo rail station to depart aboard the Vistadome train to Aguas Calientes
    • Private tour of Machu Picchu w/lunch
    • 1 night at Sumaq Hotel
  • June 25, 2019
    • Visited Machu Picchu again in the morning
    • Boarded Vistadome Train back to Ollantaytambo rail station
    • Private transfer to Cusco for two nights at the Aranwa boutique hotel
  • June 26, 2019
    • 3.5 hour group tour of Cusco and ruins
  • June 27, 2019
    • Transfer to Cusco Airport back to U.S.

VISITING PERU: DETAILS

We combined Peru with Ecuador. Word of warning to those thinking this is a good idea. It is A LOT of flying and layovers. If I had it to do again, I’m not sure if I would choose this itinerary. I am happy I did it but was exhausted by the end of the trip!

On Saturday, June 22, 2019 we landed in  Cusco, Peru after visiting the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. We had a 2 hour drive to our hotel in the Sacred Valley and stayed at Casa Andina.  I highly recommend trying the traditional Peruvian drink, the Pisco Sour, when you visit. It is delicious!

Visiting Peru and having a pisco sour

At 8 am we were picked up by Condor Travel. Our first stop while visiting Peru was the Pisac Ruins. It is believed Pisac was built to protect Cusco from possible attacks from other nations. Spanish conquerors destroyed Inca Pisac in the early 1530’s.

Visiting Peru and seeing the Pisac Ruins

We went to the Pisac market which is one of the most famous markets in the Cusco region. On Sunday indigenous Quechua communities from the surrounding highlands come to Pisac to sell their products.  On the way there we stopped to buy some roadside corn. The corn kernals are 2-3 times the size of corn in the U.S.

Visiting Peru and the Pisac Market

The Maras Salt Mines were created by the Incas. The source comes from a salty spring which is directed towards pools. After the water evaporates, the salt is harvested. There are over 300 families that harvest and sell the salt. They do everything by hand from shoveling the salt into the bags to carrying them on their backs to haul it out. If you will be visiting Peru, I highly recommend this excursion. You can also buy their salt on the premises which makes a great finishing salt.

Our last stop of the day was at the Ollantaytambo ruins. It was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti and was later used as a fortress during the Spanish conquest.

On Day 12 we took the Vistadome train from the Ollantaytambo rail station to Aguas Calientes, the town at the bottom of Machu Picchu. The 2 hour Vistadome train ride was quite scenic.

After we got off the train we boarded a bus for the 30 minute ride to Machu Picchu. We had a guided tour of the ruins. The site itself was very busy and crowded. At times we had to stand in line to manuver through the ruins.

After a very long day we waited for our hotel room to open up and then went out for dinner and drinks in Aguas Calientes. Our hotel, The Sumaq Hotel, was wonderful although drinks are super expensive there! It was within easy walking distance to both the trail up to Machu Picchu and the town.

Visiting Peru and the town of Agua Calientes

The next day my husband and I walked up 3,000 steps straight up to Machu Picchu. This trail is done in lieu of the bus ride. We met my dad at the top. It was fairly easy for me but my husband suffered from altitude sickness and had a tougher time.

On our second day at Machu Picchu we hiked up to the Sun Gate which was once the main entrance to the Incan ruins. This was a bit of a struggle as the second day of altitude sickness set in but we managed to make it up there and had a wonderful view! While we were up there we saw a group of people in their early 20’s drinking beer. No biggy but it is not allowed and I couldn’t believe it when I saw a park ranger sneak up behind them and bust them. Too funny!

We took the Vistadome train back that same day and was picked up and driven to Aranwa boutique hotel in Cusco.

On Day 14, we went on a 4 hour tour around Cusco. The first stop was the Qorikancha Sun Temple. This temple was destroyed and looted by the Spanish conquerors. Its ruins are now fused with the San Domingo church. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the church.

Visiting Peru and Qorikancha Sun Temple
View of the grounds surrounding the church

Our next stop was Qenqo. The purpose of the Qenqo temple is unknown but some believe it to a be a holy place where death rituals took place. There are caves and canals that were used to carry liquid. The canal leads to an underground chamber called the Chamber of Sacrifices. The underground space is believed to be a place where noblemen were embalmed and mummified in preparation for the afterlife.

Visiting Peru and Qenpo

Next we visited Puka Pukara. The ruins have remains of what seemed to have been watchtowers and it is believed to have been a military site.

Visiting Peru and Puka Pukara

Our final stop was the ruins of Saqsaywaman. The stones are so closely spaced that a single piece of paper will not fit between many of the stones. At the top was a great view of the city.

Our trip ended with a typical Peruvian dinner – guinea pig. Due to my food allergies I had a delicious fish. We stayed one last night in Cusco.

The drive to the airport in the morning took us past an outdoor market. I love visiting and driving past these local areas as you really get to see what’s outside the tourist area. My husband was tempted to try some local meat but we were a little behind schedule.

The trip to Peru gave us a little taste of the country. I feel like there is so much more to see there and perhaps we will make it back there again someday.

  • Road Trips are Back!

    August 12, 2021 by

    I have been wishfully thinking that international travel would be back and running in 2021. I was wrong. Since the pandemic we have been on two road trips (both to the deep south). Our last trip in February 2021 included Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama. We chose the South because of less restrictions and the… Read more

  • Getting Outside

    June 15, 2021 by

    Every year I get together with friends and do a canoe trip down the Patuxent River in Maryland. It’s always a lot of fun and while we encounter downed trees along the way that require some maneuvering, it’s these obstacles that create the memories. Every year we wonder if that huge tree will still be… Read more

View all posts

Follow My Blog

Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.

%d bloggers like this: