Laguna 69, Huascaran National Park, Huaraz, Peru

For our second day trip from Huaraz, we decided to book for a hike to the famous Laguna 69, in Huascaran National Park. We chose the order of our day tours based on the altitude. Eventhough we spent quite a bit of time in Cusco and around, we still wanted to start with the lowest elevation and make our way up every day. We knew the hiking in Huaraz was probably going to be harder on us as well, considering that we would be getting up very early every day, doing long bus rides (seemed to be the theme in Peru), and hiking in altitude.

So on our 3rd day in Huaraz, we had an early morning pick-up from our hostel. Unfortunately, because we were the last ones to get on the bus (our hostel was already North of the center of Huaraz, which also meant we could sleep a bit longer in the morning while all the other travelers were getting picked up downtown), we ended up with the last 2 seats, completely at the back (the last row with 5 seats instead of 4). There was a lot of construction on our road, so we were in for about a 3h drive, very uncomfortable. The tour was 50 soles with an additional 30 soles that you must pay at the entrance. If you are in the area for more than 4 days, it might be worth buying a multi-day pass. You can ask any tour agency about the details. We chose to buy day by day, as it was about the same price or cheaper for us considering the time we were in Huaraz. The trail for the Laguna 69 is just under 14km round-trip, with a total of about 842m of elevation gain, reaching a high of 4600m.

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Laguna Paron, Huaraz, Peru

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.

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Huaraz, Peru

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.

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Maras (Salineras) and Moray, Sacred Valley, Cusco, Peru

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!

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Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, Peru

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.

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Cusco, Peru

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!

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