As I explained in my previous post, we took our first day in Huaraz to shop around the prices for the daily mountain excursions. We found a company that was charging us 50 soles per day for each of Laguna Paron, Laguna 69 and the Glacier Pasturori Excursion. When we got back to our hostel, we talked with our host and we dealt with him about the same price for the tours, which he booked for us directly with his contact agency. This guaranteed us some sort of accountability and we knew they trusted this company as well.
Our first day trip was to head to Laguna Paron, in the Cordillera Blanca. The idea was that we chose the order of the excursions based on the altitude. As we were coming back from Cusco and had already hiked up to Rainbow Mountain, we knew we would be fine with the altitude. However, the overnight bus made us tired as well, so we wanted to go gradually. That morning, we were picked up around 730am and we drove for about 3hrs. It was nice to be in a smaller mini-van with our tour guide. She spoke mainly just Spanish, and talked – A LOT. We did a very short stop on the way to get some ice cream and snacks in a small town, before starting our uphill ride towards the Huascaran National Park entrance. From there, our driver started going on this very rugged dirt and rock road zigzagging up the valley.Read More
Our flight from Cusco was scheduled to arrive in Lima at 330PM, and I had previously booked an overnight bus to Huaraz from Plaza Norte terminal in Lima, with Cruz del Sur. Our bus ticket was 75 soles for the VIP seat. By the way, when in South America, always try to see if you can get a semi-cama (semi-bed) seat downstairs (most overnight buses are double decks). Usually, the first floor has only 3 larger seats wide, vs 4 seats on the second floor. You will be paying a bit more, however I always keep in mind that I am saving one night of accommodation, so I can spare a few bucks for the bus to make my night of sleep slightly more comfy. I am quite a sleeper, so when on the road, I tend to get sick quicker if I don’t sleep enough!
While reading online, I saw a few comments about how the area around the Plaza Norte Terminal wasn’t necessarily the safest to hang out. The day before our flight, I started looking at some last minute options for us. We would have about 6hrs to kill in Lima before our night bus departure time, and I wasn’t really keen to just taxi to Plaza Norte and wait on a bench with all of our luggage for that amount of time. I decided to book a cheap hostel room between the airport in Lima and Plaza Norte. I booked at Mama’s Backpackers, which is about 10min drive from the bus terminal. They offered a pick up from the airport, and Mama’s brother also offered to drive us to the terminal for a cheap fee later at night. In Lima, you can also use Uber or EasyCab apps. They recommended a good local restaurant where we went for dinner, and we used the massive and lovely common area to relax and refresh before heading for the night bus. I don’t think I would stay in the area as my base in Lima, however this was a perfect spot for transition and proximity to the airport.
On our 5th day in Cusco, we had booked a bus, day tour to visit part of the Sacred Valley. There are a lot of activities to do in the area, and you could definitely squeeze all of them into a long day trip if you want. I am really not a fan of spending all my time in a bus when I travel, so I usually try to do less but enjoy it more. Therefore, we decided to only book the day tour going to Moray, Maras and the Salineras (which is only a fraction of everything you could visit in the Sacred Valley!). I have heard really good things about Ollantaytambo as well, however, as we did see the area quickly during our train ride to Aguas Caliente (the views were epic, by the way), we chose to go for the sites that seemed different and more appealing to us. This post is going to be much longer that it should be, however I think this is a great travel story and you might enjoy it!Read More
One item on my bucket list in Peru was to check out the famous Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca). You might have heard of it or seen photos on social media, and you might also have heard about how crowded this place is getting right now. After doing some research, I was actually getting a bit nervous about this day trip, as I do not particularly like tours with too many tourists. Be warned: I heard something like 2500 people per day visit the trail, so you can be sure that you will be hit by a selfie stick at least once during the tour! I was actually considering looking at a different tour, a bit less crowded, of the Red Valley and an area called Palccoyo. However, my mom was really excited about the idea of Rainbow Mountain, and so we decided to go ahead and book this tour. We booked with a company called Machu Picchu Reservations (through a seller from Puma Trek/Tour Agency), as it was recommended to us by someone at our hostel.Read More
After we came back from Machu Picchu, we stayed in Cusco at the Hospedaje Recoleta, just about 15min walk away from the historic center, in St Blas district. My friend was staying only one day with us, and we decided to take it easy that day before they left for the airport. We had been pretty much on the go for the last 9 days, so it was exciting for my mom and I to know that we would be staying put in Cusco for another 5 nights afterwards.
On our first day in Cusco, we went to the Artisanal Market to shop for a few last souvenirs and gifts. We were told that the market in Cusco was probably where the prices would be the best (for touristy items mainly). I don’t really buy much anymore when I travel, but my travel partners got crazy with alpaca scarfs and blankets (scarfs for 3-4$ as a gift is a pretty good deal!). Most of the touristy gifts and souvenirs will be the same from city to city, from market to market. The idea is just to walk around and spot a few things you like before buying. The prices are so cheap, I usually don’t try to bargain that much anymore. Instead, I try to buy somewhere where I had a really great service, and where I feel like I am contributing to help the local craft or artist more than the big business. I try to make sure that I buy items made locally as much as possible, if at all possible!
We had our second night bus with Peru Hop from Puno to Cusco (about 8-9hrs). I was a bit nervous about this one as I had booked this bus on the night just before our train to Aguas Caliente. With only 10 days before my friend left from Cusco, we had little room to move our itinerary around, but we still wanted to have enough time to make it to the ancient Inca’s city without feeling too rushed.
Luckily, it all went well with no delays and we arrived at Cusco around 5AM that morning. We had arranged to leave our bags at our hostel in Cusco, the Hospedaje Recoleta. We had time to take a quick shower and I took a nap in the common lounge area before we cabbed to the train station around 730AM. It gave us just enough time to walk around, get a few snacks from the San Pedro Market and get on our train.
I guess I should start by explaining my thought process on this one. When I decided to visit Machu Picchu, I had many options in mind, depending on how much time I had and who I would be visiting with. There are many options to choose from depending on your budget and what kind of experience you want to have. A lot of people opt for a multiday trek, carrying a day pack and having some local guides carrying the bulk of the overnight gear, camp gear and food. The treks can vary from 3 to 7 days, with cost varying from 250 to 2000US. There are a lot of different companies, trails, etc. to consider before making your final decision. If you do decide to go on a trek, please make yourself a favor and get as much information as possible on the altitude, elevation gain, km of trek per day and difficulty of the trail. Some treks are going up to some mountain passes at 5200m of altitude, and not everyone can (or should) attempt such hikes with no prior experience and/or acclimatization.
I consider myself a pretty experienced hiker/trekker (I haven’t done tons of long multiday treks, however I have done a lot of overnights and enough multiday hikes 100% independently to know what I am getting into), and the length of the treks offered made me doubt my own ability to do the treks and actually fully enjoy it. My main issue : the altitude. Being in Peru only for 3 weeks, I did not want to risk getting altitude sickness (again), and waste thousands of dollars and many days of my trip not enjoying my time and feeling like crap (I don’t think I can describe altitude sickness better than this). Moreover, as I was traveling this time with my mom and a friend who have not done overnighters before, it wasn’t really an option.