I visited Peru in May ‘17 with one of my friends for a busy 10 day trip including travel time! Considering that the quickest journey from London to Lima was a whole 12 hours, we had a lot of planning and prioritising to do!
Luckily May is outside of the peak season so we didn’t have to book most of our tours before we left and British passports don’t need a visa for short stays. Peruvian currency “nuevo sol” is best exchanged in the city centres (pound, euro and dollar at least are all accepted).
We flew from London Heathrow with Avianca via Bogotá, Colombia (couple of hours wait) and then to Lima. Lima is Peru’s capital and receives the international flights.
As we were starting our trip in Cuzco, we had a final 1 hour plane journey to go. The flight to Cuzco is amazing! You start to see all the mountains and appreciate Peru’s natural beauty. The air hostesses gave us coca tea to start building our tolerance to the altitude.
Once we arrived at Cuzco airport, we found 2 fellow travellers to share a taxi with into town. We paid 10 soles each after some serious negotiations (basic Spanish is helpful in this instance).
Our hostel booking was a disaster. The first was too far away and suspiciously empty. The second one we booked in a panic had mixed outdoor showers and toilets…Cuzco at night in May is FREEZING. The final one we settled with, Vinicunca Hostel, was quite basic (as was the breakfast) but it was only a few minutes away from the main plaza and had a lovely host.
After a day of recovering from jet lag and our hostel woes, we were finally up to walking around Plaza de Armas to try and acclimatise to our new environment. The altitude sickness is real guys! It’s advisable to spend a day or two chilling before you start hiking and such. The weather is also very confusing with sun, gale force winds and rain in the space of a few hours so pack for every season!
We met up with some friends in Quinta eualiana – very authentic Peruvian restaurant which I highly recommend. Their breaded chicken was really good.
Another good way to spend your chill day here is visit one of the many knitwear shops around the square for incredible designs and the comfiest jumpers that I’ve ever felt!
Our friends were staying in one of the party hostels called Loki hostel so we visited in the evening for food, drinks and “blood bombs” (naturally the UK was well represented in a drinking game!)
Our only preplanning had been to buy Machu Picchu train tickets online at Peru Rail so we picked them up in the store at the Plaza. The train is ideal if your trip is short as you can do Machu Picchu in one day. We had also bought the entrance tickets (www.machupicchu.gob.pe has official tickets but the website is in Spanish!) which you definitely need to do in advance if travelling in Peak season as there’s a limit of 2500 daily visitors allowed.
We visited the Inka museum to learn about inka history ahead of our tours, watch the women weaving in the courtyard and buy handmade souvenirs.
We had lunch at Ukumari which was mixed with tourists and Peruvians. I tried the alpaca meat which is delicious. Another Peruvian delicacy on offer was the guinea pig which I wasn’t brave enough to try but do let me know if you’ve had it before!!
For a fancy but not too pricey dinner, I recommend Capriccio. It’s a mainly Italian menu with some Peruvian faves e.g. quinoa. Their fresh juices and desserts are tasty!
If your accommodation has cooking facilities then Orion supermarket is a great place to buy ingredients plus toiletries etc. We visited a few times to stock up on snacks for our tours.
The evening was spent walking around avenida del sol and we visited the textiles museum. It has a small museum at the back showcasing Peruvian fashion for different occasions and ages throughout history and in the shop at the front, there’s traditionally dressed women weaving amongst the knitwear and bags.
The first tour of our trip was to the Sacred Valley. We bought tickets for this at Loki tour office the day before for $15 (shop around for the best deal for you).
We met at 7.30am in Plaza de Armas to join our tour. Our guide Eloy was knowledgeable and had cracking one liners and he worked with our driver Orlando, who expertly manoeuvred the narrow roads and scary bends.
The Sacred Valley was part of the Inkan empire for centuries before the Spanish arrived. Within it, we visited Pisaq, Calca ,Cayo and Ollaytambo. As we had visited the Inka museum yesterday, Eloy’s history and culture lesson was really easy to follow. We saw fields of quinoa, climbed up many of the sights, stopped at the Silver museum to watch them making silver jewellery, shopped in local markets and found ourselves in another weaving museum!
Lunch wasn’t included so we opted to eat in the local cafe instead of the suggested tourist buffet restaurant.
This is the perfect tour to do before Machu Picchu as you can stay in Ollaytambo and go by train or hike the next day ( a closer distance than from Cuzco). Sadly we hadn’t realised this beforehand!
We had dinner at super pollo back in Cuzco which looks like a typical chicken shop from the outside but don’t let that fool you! I had rainbow trout and Nadia had lomo saltado (strips of stir fried beef), both of which were amazing.
The next day was our trip to Machu Picchu. We had booked the 6.40am “expedition” train from Poroy (these meet ups get earlier every day!) Poroy is a small town just outside Cuzco so we got a taxi for 22 soles to the station.
On board expedition, we were given free drinks, coca tea to prep us for the higher altitude…and a cookie. It was a really pleasant scenic journey with strange fusion oriential/latino house sounding music!!
From the train station, we took a bus from the town up to Machu Picchu which is a 20 minute journey for $48 return. Alternatively you can hike up to the entrance. You need to take your passport for this tour as they check it before you can buy a bus ticket and also it’s checked at the entrance of Machu Picchu regardless of how you got there.
We arrived just before 11am and spent about 4 hours here. Honestly it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. If you do one of the treks to reach Machu Picchu e.g. Salkantay then you arrive in the morning and beat the crowds. There are various parts and different mountains, some requiring early entry to hike and the rest open all day. It was nice to bump into the people from our tour yesterday too!
I even managed to get a llama selfie which involved using Nadia holding food as bait to get its attention!
There’s a restaurant and toilets just outside the entrance (you’re allowed 3 entries with your ticket that day so don’t worry about saving it all until the end). And when you finally leave Machu Picchu, you can get your passport stamped for fun. DO NOT pay anyone for it as it is free and the ink is there for you to use yourself.
We took the bus back to the town and wandered around the markets before our train. It’s best to avoid eating here as the prices are high. Our train back was called vistadome and was a slight upgrade from the morning. We were given free hot drinks and quiche for dinner and had entertainment plus a fashion show in which passengers could get involved!
The later trains often won’t go back as far as Poroy so our final leg of the journey was a shared bus back from Ollaytambo to Cuzco for 15 soles each which took another 2 hours!
The next day was our final tour of the trip to the Vinicunca “rainbow” mountains. We had booked 2 days earlier in a shop around the Plaza after searching around for the best deal.
We had to meet at 3.30am to get on our bus with the “friends of the nature” tour.
Our first stop was for breakfast and coca tea which was included in the price. We then drove to the bottom of the mountain and were given attractive green vests to wear so we wouldn’t get lost in another group. It took me about 2.5 hours to ascend and 2 hours to descend. The mountains are about 5000m above sea level so it was a gruelling hike. We ate many of coca sweets and our guided provided smelling salts to help with the walk. Locals also provided mules if you were struggling to walk (30 soles one way).
Once everyone was back and could breathe with ease again, we were taken for a carbtastic lunch (also included in our tour) and then made our way back to Cuzco.
So that marked the end of our time in Cuzco (I told you it was brief!)
Lima was so much sunnier and had lower altitude! The simplest way to get to and from the airport was with an airport bus return for $24 with free wifi and USB charging ports.
We were staying in Pariwana hostel which was the best hostel of our trip! We had the matrimonial room with an ensuite and it was far away from the bar so we could sleep. The hostel served food all day long and had themed nights and 2for1 cocktails.
We only had 24 hours in Lima so went to explore the malecon and beach. We also wondered around the streets and spent time in Kennedy park nearby which had stalls and entertainment.
Our last evening involved a BBQ dinner at our hostel and group beer pong which my team won! So we kindly suggested free shots for everyone! We met so many travellers from all over the world which is my favourite thing about hostel life. I remember first hearing Despacito here and thinking that it was a nice Spanish song, before we came back home…and the rest is history!
Peru is a huge, exciting and friendly country with so much to see and do. But it is possible to go for a shorter time period if you need to and fit in enough activities. Who else has been or plans to this year? Let me know below!!
PS. My next visit to this part of the world will be much longer so stayed tuned…! Live updates of my upcoming Central America tour will be coming next month on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages!