I’m back from 15 days of traveling throughout Peru and I am still reeling from what an incredibly diverse country it is. From breathtaking mountains to pristine lakes, from vibrant cities to a desert oasis…we experienced it all! While planning for this trip, I gathered lots of recos from friends and friends of friends who have either traveled or lived in Peru. I feel so lucky to have gleaned these gems from my team of Peruvian experts, so I thought it would only be right to pay it forward. Lick My Spoon: CuscoThis guide includes travel tips, good places to stay, and of course, since all my itineraries in life typically center on what/where to eat, if you’re looking for eating recos, I’ve got you covered (claro)! View Map:
OVERVIEW We spent 15 days in Peru, broken down in this order: Flew into Lima and then immediately flew to Cusco. Spent 2 days in Cusco, 2 days in the Sacred Valley, 1 day Aguas Calientes, 2 days Cusco, 2 days Suasi, 1 day Lima, 1 day Ica, ended the trip with 4 days Lima. We decided against the popular trekking into Machu Picchu option (which typically takes 4 days) in favor of spending the extra time exploring other parts of the country. So much to see! So little time. We went in late December, which is summertime in Peru. It also happens to be the rainy season, which makes it a non-peak season for tourists. We lucked out and weather was sunny, with some showers at night. There was a story I loved about how farmers in Cusco used to track the rainy season using a llama constellation. The Incas had their own constellations they followed. Just like how we have the Big Dipper and Orion, they had the Llama and the Puma, and other animals they honored. The Llama was particularly important because it signified the rainy season (critical for the agriculture-centric civilization). The people would watch the llama as it moved across the sky during the dry season. Around October, the llama would disappear into the underworld to drink from the sacred river that runs to Machu Picchu and cry tears of rain. So, the people knew, when they could no longer see the llama in the sky, rainy season was upon them. BASICS
- Get altitude sickness medication from your doctor before leaving (we were given acetazolamide). You won’t think you’ll need it, but you will. Pretty much every hotel will have complimentary coca leaves (for chewing) or coca tea to help with the altitude. It tastes like strong green tea. I particularly liked iced coca tea with lime. Yum! Just be careful not to drink too many cups before bed, it’ll keep you up. Otherwise, to help acclimate, just take it easy, drink lots of water and get some rest.
- Buy your tickets for Machu Picchu as soon as you can, especially if you are traveling during peak season since there are a limited number of tickets available per day. You can buy Machu Picchu tickets online here however, the site is often down. We bought ours as soon as we got to Cusco (more info on that below). When you buy your ticket for Machu Picchu you should buy the package that includes entry to Huayna Picchu as well. Huayna Picchu is an adjoining mountain that you can hike (~2 hr roundtrip) that gives you the most incredible aerial view of Machu Picchu. Worth the huffing and puffing, I promise. There are two scheduled entry times for Huayna Picchu: group 1 allows entry from 7-8am, group 2 is from 10-11am. I recommend group 2.
- Taxis. We were warned about taxi drivers ripping off tourists, especially from the Lima airport. To avoid any hassle, we had our hotel concierge arrange for a taxi driver to pick us up and confirmed the cost ahead of time so we knew what to expect. In general, we found it to be helpful to always ask a trusted source how much a ride should cost before hailing a cab. We also found that it was pretty common for regular people driving their own cars to act as “taxis” – think of it as an unofficial Lyft. Of course, use your good judgement, but we lucked out when we arrived in Cusco and took a chance on a local driver. Ludwin ended up being a great guy and became our personal driver/knowledgeable tour guide for the day.
- Get small bills and coins as soon as you can (having some S/5 and S/1 coins on hand is a good idea).