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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chronicles of Planning a Trip to South America: Peru

  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites Cuzco City
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site Machu Picchu
  • Amazon Rainforest

Here's an excerpt of the suggested itinerary by Frommer's for a week in Peru.

Day 1: Arrive in Lima; Transfer to Cusco
All international flights arrive in Lima, Peru. With only a week in Peru, there’s little need to linger in Lima if you can avoid it; but there are no direct flight to Cusco but via Lima. Try to arrange it so that an overnight flight gets you there very early in the morning, with time enough to get a morning flight to Cusco (note that flights are occasionally delayed by weather in Cusco, though, so the earlier the flight, the better).

Take it easy in Cusco on your first day. Drink a lot of water (and perhaps some coca-leaf tea or acetazolamide twice a day two days before arriving to treat altitude sickness) and get a good night’s rest. The altitude (more than 3,400m/11,000 ft.) combined with an overnight international flight will prove very taxing. Have a light, relaxing lunch at Jack’s Café Bar, a popular gringo hangout. Limit yourself to taking a stroll around the delightful Plaza de Armas, popping into the tourist information office to pick up your boleto turístico (tourist ticket for the main sights in Cusco and the Sacred Valley) and choosing a spot for dinner. A choice of Cicciolina or A Mi Manera, or for views of the Plaza de Armas, La Retama.

Day 2: Colonial Cusco
Sticking to the area near the Plaza de Armas, visit the Cathedral and the Santa Catalina Convent in the morning. After lunch, see the superb Qoricancha (Temple of the Sun) to get an idea of the Incas’ incredible masonry and the clash of native and Spanish culture. Take a walk along the Calles Loreto and Hatunrumiyoc to see some more magnificent Inca stonework. In Plaza Nazarenas, check out the beautifully designed Museo de Arte Precolombino and some of the upscale alpaca goods shops on the square. Then stop at MAP Café , the chic restaurant in the museum’s courtyard, for a celebratory dinner. Have a pisco sour at one of the lively cafes or bars near the Plaza de Armas afterward.

Day 3: Sacred Valley: Pisac
Time you visit on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Sunday—those are market days in the Urubamba Valley (the Valle Sagrado de los Incas). Take a combi or taxi to Pisac and check out the popular and lively artisans’ market. Have lunch at Ulrike’s Café right on the main square.  After lunch either hike up to or grab a taxi to the Inca ruins looming above town. Pisac’s ruins will give you a taste of what you’re about to see in Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu. Head a little farther along in the valley (again by taxi or combi) to a rustic country hotel near Urubamba or Yucay, where you’ll have dinner and spend the night.  The most popular place by tripadvisor is the Kuychi Rumi.

Day 4: Sacred Valley - Ollantaytambo
Wake early and take a taxi to Ollantaytambo, where you’ll want to arrive as close to opening as possible to
explore the Fortress Ruins before the busloads arrive. Then take a walk around Ollanta’s Old Town and grab lunch. If you have the energy and can manage a few hours after lunch, go for a hike in the Valley, perhaps to Salineras de Maras, the ancient salt mines near Urubamba. If you don’t mind moving around, you could transfer to a hotel in Ollanta to enjoy it at night when there are few tourists (and be there for the train the next morning to Machu Picchu). Otherwise head back to your hotel near Urubamba.

Day 5: Machu Picchu
Catch an early morning train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, the rough-edged town that sits below Machu Picchu. REMEMBER:  Tickets are not available at the entrance at Machu Picchu, buy them in Cuzco or Aquas Calientes.  Catch the bus up to the ruins and spend the day exploring them (hiking up to the Huayna Picchu peak for panoramic views if you’re in shape). Have lunch at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge next to the ruins and stay until late in the afternoon, after the large tour groups have left. Spend the night either next to the ruins (if you’ve got very deep pockets) or back down in Aguas Calientes (which is actually more fun). Hit the bars along the railroad tracks to share stories with some of the backpackers who’ve survived the Inca Trail.
Here are more tips on how to arrange on your own to reach Machu Picchu by

Day 6: Back to Cusco
Now that you’ve acclimatized to the Andes and seen some of the greatest legacies of the Incas, head back by train to the old Inca capital, Cusco. In the afternoon, stroll around the hilly San Blas neighborhood, site of dozens of cool shops and art galleries. Do some shopping for handicrafts, souvenirs, and art. If Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo have intensified your interest in Inca architecture, catch a cab (or walk) up to the fantastic ruins, Sacsayhuamán, overlooking the city. If you have any energy left, get a taste ofCusco’s hopping nightlife at one of the pubs or nightclubs around the Plaza de Armas. Then make your way up bustling Calle Procuradores, Cusco’s gringo alley and restaurant row. If you’re dining on a budget, pick an informal restaurant along Calle Plateros, just off the Plaza de Armas, such as Chez Maggy; if you’re
looking for something more refined, try Greens.

Day 7: Back to Lima
Do some final shopping in Cusco before catching a flight to Lima. You’ll probably have an evening flight back home, so you may have enough time for a ceviche lunch in Lima and, if you’re ambitious, a short tour of colonial Lima Centro in the late afternoon.
NOTE:  Altitude in Cusco,:@11,000ft., Sacred Valley: @9,000ft., Machu Picchu: @ 8,000ft. At altitudes up to 9,000ft., people usually do not have bad altitude problems, but above it, they might. Gradual acclimatization is the best to prevent altitude sickness.

Some local tour operators:

Kuoda Travel
Pachamama Explorer
Peru for Less


  1. Freeze, Thank you for contacting us via our blog. Here is my one comment about the Frommer's itinerary - Cusco is wicked high. I would recommend descending IMMEDIATELY into the Sacred Valley to help you adjust to the altitude.

    We've answered your questions on our blog (namely costs of tour providers). Basically, I've responded with the full list of all companies we looked at and their respective costs. Here's the link again:

    Let us know if you have other questions.

  2. thank you for dropping a line here!

  3. 21 hour bus ride from lima to cuzco, for 67$