Top 4 Tips for your Machu Picchu Adventure! 

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I am very lucky to say I have visited Machu Picchu not once, but twice! The first time was on a guided tour, but this time, I organised everything myself.

Guided tours are efficient but they are costly, however if you research in advance, you can book Machu Picchu without forking out for a guided tour.

1. Book your train tickets well in advance

This is going to be the most expensive part. Most people start their adventure to Machu Picchu in Cusco however the main train station is a 90 minute drive away in Ollyantaytambo. It is very easy to get a cheap shared transfer there and back.

It’s important to decide which train company you want to go with and what you are willing to pay. You can splurge all out with some companies, but we went with PeruRail, which still set us back nearly £200pp for a return ticket! Luckily we got an economy comfort ticket which included food/drink and a glass roof to soak in all the scenery. The return train went to Poroy station, which is only a 30 minute taxi-ride to Cusco, which was a relief as Ollyantaytambo is much further.

Note: there are multi-day hiking opportunities to get there as well if that’s up your street.

2. Book your Machu Picchu entry tickets through the official website also well in advance

There is only one official website to buy tickets. There is a limited number of tickets to enter Machu Picchu each day. Choose either to go in the morning or the afternoon. You can buy tickets when you get to Cusco, but it is worth to have this organised so not to disappoint.

3. Stay overnight in Aguas Calientes

It is majorly touristy and more expensive than Cusco, but it is important to get a good night’s rest before you explore one of the Wonders of the World! I returned to the hot springs (where the name Aguas Calientes comes from), however the price had doubled since I went four years ago and I also got a rash when I went in the water…so I had to get out after 15 minutes. Not sure whether I would recommend that one…

4. Are you bus-ing it or hiking it?

I hiked the many many steps up the mountain to Machu Picchu the first time – it was brutal, and I had no intention of doing it again. However, the bus situation has become out of control; instead of a few soles to catch the bus up or down, it is 12€ EACH WAY for a 20 minute journey. These buses are the only transport to get up the mountain. They have obviously found a way of milking the tourists’ money. Anyone with mobility issues, young kids, or who just doesn’t want to hike has this as their only option. Not only this, but if you’re getting the bus to get to there for sunrise, you are going to have to queue from 2am for a 5:30am departure!! We saw people sitting in the queue all the way up the main street in town! I could hardly believe it…

After hearing all this, and debating it for several days, of course we hiked. I did it once, I was sure I could do it again. It was just a shame that the bus situation was the reason why.

See my next post for the hike up to Machu Picchu!

 

 

South America: Sacred Valley, Peru 

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This was my second time in Peru and I loved it even more the second time round! I completed the Salkantay Trek four years ago, which meant I had already visited Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu but I was so glad to be back in this amazing country.

I spent a day visiting the various sites around the Sacred Valley, as last time I only really hiked in the area.

The surrounding area of Cusco is at high altitude, however, in comparison to where we had just come from in Bolivia, it was so much lower. So my altitude sickness had gone and I didn’t feel out of breath whenever I had to climb stairs or walk anywhere. This was a massive relief for me but the rest of the tour group did struggle as this was their first stop in South America. I did empathise as I remember having terrible altitude sickness in Cusco on my first trip and had suffering quite badly in Bolivia the week before!

We were picked up at the hotel and made our way to Chinchero, the first stop. Here we visited a centre where we learned about the traditional techniques of dying alpaca fur and weaving it into beautiful clothing and homeware. We then visited the nearby Spanish church which was built over an Inca religious site.

We then visited Moroy to see the Inca terraces. The three that they have excavated so far are only a handful dotted around the region. Some more complete than others. The terraces being a large-scale experiment on farming using different altitudes to grow a range of crops – amazing that this was being done centuries ago.

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The next stop was the minas del sal where we learned all about the salt mining in the area – very different to the salt in Bolivia! It was so warm here and it was lovely to walk around in a t-shirt for the first time during the trip and not in a combination of thermals + t=shirt + jacket + coat!

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We then went to Ollantaytambo to climb up the ruins to the Templo del Sol. A lot of steps, but we made it to the top easily – thanks to acclimatising to the altitude! We would be back the next day to catch our train to Aguas Calientes.

It would have been better to have spent more time at this site, but our guide said it was a long drive to Pisac, and we were pushed for time as we didn’t want to get there for it to be closed! Some people in the group just didn’t care/listen to his instructions and took ages to get back to the bus because they were taking a million and one selfies.

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We got to Pisac and were the last ones allowed in, and we were chased out half an hour later by the security guards! Pisac is massive and unfortunately we were only able to see a small part to the ancient city.

In hindsite, the Sacred Valley has so much to see and do, and if I were to do this tour again, I would split it up into two days; this way there is more time to explore Ollantaytambo and Pisac without the feeling of being rushed. Either way, make sure you don’t miss out so that you can experience the beauty and rich history this region of Peru has to offer!

South America: the other Copacabana

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When I revealed the big itinerary to my family and friends of my upcoming South America trip, the one part where everyone stopped was – wait, Copacabana?! Isn’t that in Brazil? But you’re not going to Brazil?!

Copacabana, the Brazilian beach which even has a song named after it. However, the Copacabana I was going to was not in Brazil, it was in Bolivia. The more off-the-beaten-track kind-of Copacabana. It is only a few hours north of La Paz, and sits beautifully on Lake Titicaca and a short drive from the Peruvian border. It is a great stopover for travelers making their way into/from Peru and enjoy the laid-back lakeside lifestyle.

We decided to stay the night to break up the journey from La Paz before a long overnight coach journey to Cusco. That alone was worth it. After grabbing lunch when we first had to find our hostel.

The hostel was on an unmarked road and I couldn’t get online directions to it. After a lot of guesswork, asking anyone and everyone along the way, we climbed (crawled) up the massive hill to the hostel. Of course it had to be the one most furthest away! With a 20kg rucksack on and the high altitude, it was a struggle. Note: just get a taxi in future.

We dropped our bags off and had a quick look at the room. Although the climb up the hill was brutal, and we would have to do it later when we got back, the views were incredible of the lake – especially with our own terrace.

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We raced down the hill to catch the boat to hike the south-side of Isla del Sol. The sun was shining and the hike was beautiful. It was a one-hour boat ride each way, so by the time we got to the island, I was exhausted, and still had to hike an hour up and around the thing!

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Copacabana has many options for food and drink, and its restaurants on the lake-front with sun terraces are a big hit. The food is nothing special by any means – but it is cheap and the sunset was the best of the trip.

You could also just stay an afternoon in Copacabana between La Paz and Cusco to make the most of Isla del Sol – this is the most popular option; however we enjoyed having a extra day there to relax and enjoy a bit of the sun. Even though it was still not that warm, it was the warmest it had been of the entire trip as we were bit by bit edging farther north and closer to the Equator.

Next stop, Peru!

 

Returning to Peru: 3 things I’m looking forward to

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When I visited Peru back in August 2013, I did say to myself that I would return one day, but I didn’t think that day would come only four years later.

In less than two months, I will throw my backpack on and return to South America, on a journey which will not only cover Peru but also parts of Chile and Bolivia. I absolutely loved Peru, although it doesn’t always bring back fond memories, considering the terrible altitude sickness I suffered from on our treks.


I am looking forward to exploring more of this country, and returning to some familiar places.

Practice my Spanish…

When I first visited Peru, I had only been studying Spanish for one year at university. I managed to hold conversations and barter in markets but it will be great to go back and hopefully speak Spanish with more confidence.

Visit some new places…

I’m looking forward to spending a few days in the capital, Lima, at the end of our three week trip – all I saw was the chaos of the airport, which is making me nervous about stepping out of those airport doors again! We will also be visiting Lake Titicaca which I didn’t see last time either.

 Retrace my steps…

As well as seeing some new sites, I am really looking forward to returning to familar ones. We are spending about 4 days in Cusco. I loved Cusco as it had such a great feel to it and the markets were incredible. It will give us some time to chill and see the sites and maybe do a day trip somewhere.

I am also returning to Aguas Calientes (love the eggy hot springs!) and Machu Picchu. J. really couldn’t go to Peru without seeing Machu Picchu, now could he? It did mean forking out a fortune though for the train tickets but it had to be done.

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Machu Picchu

I wish I didn’t have to do the early morning hike there though from Aguas Calientes. I have done it before, and I don’t need to prove I can do it to anyone, not even myself, as I have already done it. The bus this time is appealing, but J. wants to experience it himself, so he is going to have to deal with me whining and complaining all the way up there!


There is so much more of Peru that we aren’t exploring this time, as we are wanting to see the Atacama desert in Chile before working our way up through Bolivia circling round again to Peru, but that only gives me the excuse to go back…

What do you love about Peru?