Cusco (4 days) >> The Sacred Valley (1 day) >> Palcoyo (1 day) >> The Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu (4 days) >> Cusco (1 day) >> Puno (a short tour en-route to La Paz, Bolivia)
We started our trip to South America on 20th October 2018. A grand total of 36 hours to get there, we flew from London to Cusco with layovers in Toronto and Lima.
When we arrived it was 7am, we were tired and had to adjust to a whopping 3,399m above sea-level. We were aware of potentially getting altitude sickness but it’s difficult to describe how very real adjusting to the altitude is. Walking up hills was a struggle!
The old town of the city was very picturesque. We spent a few hours on the morning we arrived and the next few days wandering the streets, visiting an Inka museum and chomping down Empanadas and the Peruvian stuffed potatoes.
We spent the first few days in Cusco trying to take it easy and adjust to the altitude. We explored San Pedro market and booked the Sacred Valley and Palcoyo day trips plus the Machu Picchu trek.
Sadly after day 3, Sara was really struggling with a cold she had caught on the plane and chest pains so we went to see the Doctor for oxygen, altitude sickness pills and flu treatment. Thankfully, within a few days she was feeling back to normal.
Due to our breathlessness from the altitude, we decided to be lazy and get a taxi up to Christo Blanco that watches over Cusco and the Inca ruins of Sacsayhauman, pronounced “sexy woman”.
The Sacred Valley
We took a one-day tour of the sacred valley exploring Chincero, Moray, the Salt Mines, Pisac and Ollantaytambo. It was great to see so much in one day! We were also shown how the alpaca wool can be dyed naturally which was a lot more interesting than we thought it would be.
Similar to rainbow mountain, however Palcoyo is far less touristy. We actually read about this in a Wanderlust magazine before we went. The drive to the Palcoyo was long at 3 hours but the views from the mini bus were awesome. Palcoyo is even higher altitude than Cusco, at 4,700m high. It was cold and there was some snow on top of the mountain. The colours on the mountain range were stunning and we saw barely any tourists.
The Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu
This is an alternative 4-day trek to the famous Inca trail to Machu Picchu. We decided to book the trek with Peru Andean Hop after reading this blog. It’s a lot cheaper than some of the other treks, includes different activities and boy was it fun! We absolutely loved this trek.
Day 1: Downhill mountain biking and white-water rafting. Sadly for the downhill biking we didn’t get the views we were hoping for as it was wet and foggy- in fact we all got soaked! The white water rafting made up for it though, even when our guide’s oar snapped so we still had fun navigating the rapids!
Day 2: An all day trek (walking on part of the original Inca trail) followed by soaking in hot springs. Then it was dinner, drinks (including our first Pisco Sours!) and a wee party in Santa Teresa.
Day 3: Zip-lining in the morning and trekking in the afternoon. We stayed in Aguas Calientes for the night which is the closest town to Machu Picchu.
Day 4: The last day was dedicated entirely to the breathtaking Machu Picchu. We also got tickets to Machu Picchu Montaña (purchased in advance).
The cost of all the 4-day jungle trek, including meals, accommodation, the train back and Machu Picchu mountain was $240 per person. Not bad at all.
We were lucky to have an incredible group of people for our jungle trek which made it all the more fun!
Puno is located on Lake Titicaca and one of the main attractions is the floating islands. We visited as part of a 24hr tour from Cusco to La Paz in Bolivia. We booked the bus tour through Peru/Bolivia Hop. It involved an overnight bus, a tour in Puno to the floating islands, and then once across the Bolivian border a visit to Copacabana and Isla Del Sol before arriving in La Paz, Bolivia.
The floating islands are man-made by indigenous Peruvians from tree roots and lots of reeds. They live on the water and use boats made out of reeds to get between the islands.
Next stop was Copacabana in Bolivia. The border crossing Peru to Bolivia was really easy with British passports.
If you get the chance to go to Peru and have more time, other travellers we met highly recommended Arequipa and the Colca Canyon.