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!

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?

Llamas, quinoa and not enough oxygen

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Okay, does anyone know where I may have taken my pictures that are showcased on my blog? Right, I’ll tell you: Peru.

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I went to Peru last year with a group from The University of Sheffield for the charity, Childreach International. I decided to do something completely crazy and different! After taking up Spanish at university, I thought this would be an unmissable opportunity to go to South America, something I wasn’t going to do on my own anytime soon, learn more about Hispanic culture outside Spain and practice some Spanish.

Together, our group raised an amazing £33,000 for charity over the year and challenged ourselves to trek the Salkantay Trek in Peru, i.e. a much MUCH harder version of the Inca Trail, to reach the beautiful Machu Picchu, one of the 7 Modern Wonders of the World! It took us a flight from London-Madrid, a 12-hour flight from Madrid-Lima and then from Lima-Cusco, but we got there and back with lots safe and sound with lots of souvenirs to take back and tighter thigh muscles for a few weeks.

I knew it would be challenging, but perhaps I didn’t realise just HOW MUCH. It was mostly because I suffered quite badly from altitude sickness; symptoms included shortness of breath, lack of appetite and dizziness which was pretty rubbish when we were trekking all day every day. We were warned of this many times before we left but I didn’t actually think I would be the one to suffer so much. Altitude sickness is so bizarre: you get short of breath after only walking a up a flight of stairs for example. You feel like you are really unfit, but it may just because there is less oxygen in the air than what you are used to where you live, e.g. the UK. When walking around Cusco, I saw some people jogging who were obviously used to the altitude – it looked like torture as there was no way that I would have been able to jog in those conditions!

It was an incredible experience and I am so proud to have achieved what I did. I guess, finding it so difficult made it so much more rewarding for me. I look back on what I achieved and I am so glad I persevered and pushed through to the finish line. I managed to crawl up the steps to Machu Picchu at 4am in the morning, something I felt I would not be able to do at the beginning of the trip. When I got to the top, all short of breath and near collapsing, some tourists looked at me in disgust; they believed I had suffered just walking from the coach drop-ff point to the Park entrance (I am not THAT unfit! #insulted, some of us climbed our way up!)

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Machu Picchu: The most beautiful view 

I took selfies with llamas, ate alpaca salad and LOTS of quinoa (quinoa porridge, quinoa salad, quinoa breaded chicken, quinoa quinoa…).

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Alpaca Salad/Ensalada capestina

I haggled in Spanish; much to my surprise, the Peruvians have a very lovely accent that I found no problem to understand after only studying Spanish for one year. In fact, speaking to the locals in Peru was easier than going to Valencia during Easter this year where they spoke so quickly and I felt out of my depth. I think that all I understood was when some people walked past commenting on our pasty legs, saying ‘que blancos están!’ (yes we know, this is why we are here – to get a tan!)

Peruvians are lovely people and very welcoming, I would love the opportunity to go back and discover other parts of South America sometime in the future. Especially now I speak Portuguese, Brazil would be amazing to go to as well.

If you have the opportunity to do something crazy yet incredible, something you think is too challenging – do it! You’ll never know unless you give it a try and it will be all the more amazing when you have crossed the finish line. 

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Me with a llama friend at Machu Picchu 🙂

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Mountain sketches in stone at Machu Picchu

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