PeruView Peru photos including Lima, Cuzco, Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes and more in my Peru photo stream on flickr.com: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kellygrainger/sets/72157624030145120/
Travelling to Peru? Like most people I went to check out Machu Picchu (see below). I didn’t really know what to expect, but my cousin had already booked a trip so I piggy-backed his plan. I had friends that backpacked up the north-west coast of Peru for a week-long surf camp and they loved it, however I think it’s safe to say that the #1 attraction in Peru is Machu Picchu.
There are several guided tours you can take into Peru and all the way to Machu Picchu. I recommend Intrepid Travel tours. These tours are all affordably priced and run by experienced guides.
Hotels in Lima
I recommend visiting HotelAndFlightBooking.com to find cheap hotels in Lima, Peru. You can search for Lima hotels and the search engine will find all the best hotel deals on the web. It saves you time searching through dozens of the top hotel booking websites.
Hotels in Cuzco
I also recommend using HotelAndFlightBooking.com to find cheap hotels in Cuzco, Peru. Just search for Cuzco hotels and the search engine will compare hotel rates from all major hotel booking websites on the internet.
The plan was to arrive in Lima, Peru, spend a couple days hanging out, and then head to a city called Cuzco where we’d begin our journey along the inca trail to machu picchu. There were a few options: We could take a train right up to Machu Picchu, do a quick 2-day hike through a not-so-beaten path, or do the more adventurous and strenuous “4-Day Inca Trail Hike”. We chose the later, as it was more genuine and we both had a couple of weeks to kill – we weren’t in any kind of rush.
We got a tour guide from a company called SAS Travel Peru, and were grouped with about 10 other people from all over the place. In addition to the guide, SAS provided a cook and some porters to carry things like tents, pots, chairs, etc. The porters were awesome, and rumored to be locals that lived up in the mountains, hired and well-treated by SAS.
I heard that Lima wasnt a very nice city. Actually, I liked it. Every city has it’s dirty, industrial, and sketchy areas, but if you steer clear of those you’ll find yourself in the nicer areas. Lima has a more “touristy” area called Miraflores, which is full of restaurants, internet cafes, pubs, hotels, hostels, etc. It’s also got a main landmark/square that is within walking distance to the ocean. Its a nice place to hang out, there were markets and such, a good place to buy souveneirs.
From the ocean there are great views of surfers and what feels like miles of sea-side walking paths through parks. When we were in Lima the later-part of this park route was under construction, indicating these guys were spending big bucks on making it even better and extending it even further. Another cool part about this Miraflores area is that there is a shopping mall built into the side of a cliff. The stores are decent, and there’s lots of different food to crush.
One thing I will say is that the Miraflores area of Lima doesn’t have much in the way of sightseeing old buildings and historical landmarks, which is probably one of the cooler things to do/see in Central and South America. Most of these sights are located in the center or heart of the city – which brings me back to the dirty/shady part. Downtown Lima IS very dirty, and very shady. By “shady”, I mean you’re likely to get into some sort of trouble regardless of how low-key you think you’re being. To give you an example, one of the first stops through the center of Lima in our taxi ride from the airport, we looked out the window and saw two drunken guys step out of a bar and go toe to toe with each other. A flury of haymakers and one of the weirdest, unorthodox punches I’ve ever seen in my life left one of the combatants KO’d on the street about 10 feet from our taxi. Not that Lima deserves to have a single bar fight tarnish it’s reputation, I just thought I’d mention it because the downtown Lima area seemed like the wild west, and that sort of thing is probably a common occurance. I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be walking in the neighborhood of those places at night and have those two step out in front of me. There was also a lot of trash, stray dogs, and “rough” looking people lurking around. My last day in Lima, I gave a taxi driver US$50 to drive me downtown, show me the sights, and basically babysit me. He was awesome, actually parked his taxi for a couple hours and walked around with me all evening, providing translation and brief history lessons here & there. He knew where and where not to go, and made me feel a little less like a tourist with a big target on my back.
Another rumor I heard was of people dying on the Machu Picchu tour (falling off the side of a mountain or collapsing from exhaustion on the Inca Trail). This is true, and you can die, if you’re an idiot. For example, there are places along the Inca Trail hike that you are not advised to venture out to, or climb up a mountain side you’re not advised to climb. Some people wanted to be “that guy” and paid the price. If an idiotic adrenaline rush doesn’t kill you, you’ll likely end up breaking a leg, arm, back or with a nasty concussion.
SAS also advised that you only do the 4-day Inca Trail hike if you’re physically fit. I thought I was in pretty good shape and ready for the trip, and I near puked every day. Now I’ll define what I called physically fit, because I obviously wasn’t. For 2 months I walked 6 flights of stairs up to my office at least twice a day, and played squash, ball hockey, ice hockey and ran track each at least once a week. I was fine for the first day, finishing first or second place in the group, and by the 4th day I was dead last, wearing a knee brace on loan from an ex-rugby player in the group and 2 borrowed walking sticks from a couple girls. Keep in mind you pass altidudes of 4,000 meters and if you’ve never been at such an altidude you don’t know how your body will react. I was light headed, short of breath, my joints (fingers especially) swelled up, and my knees buckled big time. Your body is likely not used to those altitudes, so if you’re not in shape don’t bother, seriously. It’s recommended that when you get to Cuzco you shoud stick around and climatize to the altitude for a couple days, I say more like 4 days. And Cuzco is a VERY cool place to hang out in for 4 days.
I felt like two days in Lima were enough, no longer. I loved Cuzco (sometimes spelled Cusco) and feel 4 days there would have been perfect. If you’re going to see Machu Picchu, make not only the sight of it but the journey there a memory and hike the Inca Trail to Machu – and yes, travel with SAS Travel Peru because they’re awesome. Oh – and do NOT take the bus ride from Lima to Cuzco, it’s 18-24hrs (I think, will have to double-check that) if you’re lucky. I heard stories of buses breaking down in the middle of nowhere and an overall uncomfortable ride. My advise is to budget for the $200, 2hr flight. There’s one leaving Lima just about every hour to Cuzco.
There are several guided tours you can take into Peru and all the way to Machu Picchu. I recommend Intrepid Travel or G Adventures. These tours are all affordable and run by experienced guides:
I recommend visiting TravelingGreats.com to find cheap hotels in Lima, Peru. You can search for Lima hotels and the search engine will find all the best hotel deals on the web. It saves you time searching through dozens of the top hotel booking websites.
You can also find cheap flights to Lima, Peru, at TravelingGreats.com.
I also recommend using TravelingGreats.com to find cheap hotels in Cuzco, Peru. Just search for Cuzco hotels and the search engine will compare hotel rates from all major hotel booking websites on the internet.
Cheap flights to Cuzco can be found at TravelingGreats.com as well.
View Peru photos including Lima, Cuzco, Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes and more in my Peru photo stream on flickr.com: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kellygrainger/sets/72157624030145120/
* The first Machu Picchu picture at the top of this page is from http://www.toddadams.net/. It’s one of the best photos I could find, he lucked out and got a great shot on a great day! All other photos are my own, and you can see more on my flickr page.