10 days,  Aug '11




Kind of travel:
Me and my girlfriend Elisa in an independent travel

15th- 26th Aug 2011 (only Peru)

Do I need a visa:
no, just the passport to get a small anonimous black stamp

How many km:
1700 km
(only Peru)

How I moved:
we moved mainly on buses, generally with a good standard, in particular the semi-bed ones for the night travels (1st class!). Crashes are common and Ormeno and Cruz Del Sur company are the safest. We also took a 4 seat plane to fly over Nazca lines (90€ for 30min), and the Machu Picchu train from Ollantaytambo to Aguacaliente. We hitchhiked in the Sacred Valley but most of the small transport were by minibuses.

Freezing or baking
Generally temperatures have been perfect, In Arequipa it was warm (27C), in Cuzco colder (23C) and in Machu Picchu 12-20C: The only pain as per the temperature as been in freezing night buses although a blanket is always provided

Where I slep
It's plenty of low budget and medium budget places ranging from 20€ to 40€ for a double. Even popping up in the late evening in Aguacaliente you'll find your cheap room

What I liked:

Salinas in Sacred Valley have been the highlight of the trip followed then by the flight over Nazca lines and the candle lit night visit of the Monastery Santa Catalina in Arequipa.

What I disliked:
sometimes you miss the authenticity given the huge tourist flow and
the super-organized tour in Colca Canyon hasn't been my thing.
The last but not the least I hated the troubleful online booking for Machu Picchu entry tickets and the train ones

How much daily:
Peru' is not as cheap as Bolivia but you can make with 40€/day + Machu Picchu tickets (40€ pp) +train tickets (50€ one way) + Nazca line 90€+ Colca Canyon tour (40€). Hence more than the daily budget are the highlight costs to raise the bar. Restaurants in towns (ie Arequipa) are costy, and often the dinner will be more expensive then the accommodation

Dangers/ hassles:
Lima is dodgey, and avoid landing directly at 3,600m in Cuzco since altitude sickness is very common (strong headache for few days)

What you do need:
to book the Machu Picchu entry tickets on line in advance especially in high season (August), having motion sickness pills for bus trips and Nazca flight


I'll shot hard as it came to me: Peru' has some world wonders, however if you are backpacking in Bolivia before Peru, be ready to have the latter shadowed by the former; to minimize it, invert your itinerary.
The point is that Peru' from the backpacking standpoint cannot stand the comparison with Bolivia, since you cannot help to feel in a touristic prearranged channel. We wanted to visit the condor in the Colca Canyon booking a 2days tour; everything was perfectly arranged, but we really felt as in the Peruvian session in Disneyland (scheduled stops to pee, to take picture of a precise point indicated by the guide, to by the souvenir, traditional Peruvian dances during the dinner,...).
At the end Peru' should be proud of being able to exploit the touristic potential but you know, backpackers want something more.
Our experience with Machu Picchu hasn't been remarkable as well: we were there at 7.30am and still we had to queue and waiting to enter the single houses.I know we were there in the high season but when you are there to enjoy the charm of the desolate village hidden among the mountains, the awareness doesn't smooth the disappointment.
Having said it, a travel in Peru is a must: we never regretted a single moment we were there, and flying over the Nazca lines by a vibrating 2 seat plane has been a great fun!


Day Transport Night Price Duration
11 Copacabana- Puno bus     3.5h
11 Puno- Arequipa Bus     7h
11night Arequipa   Hostel Solar 29€ double  

Arequipa- Arequipa
(Canyon del Colca)

Minibus (tour)   41€ pp 2days
12night Chivay   Cheap hostel included in the tour price  
13 night Arequipa   Hostel Solar 29€ double  
14 Arequipa walking      
14night Arequipa- Cuzco Night bus   41€ pp 8h
15 Cuczo-Saqsaywaman, Q'ennqo, Pukapukara walking- minibus      
15night Cuzco     19€ double  
15-16 Cuzco-Ollantaytambo
(Sacra Valley: Morray- Salinas)
Minibus + Hitch hiking     1day
16 Ollantaytambo- Aguacaliente Train   50€ 3h
16 night Aguacaliente     25€ double  
17 Aguacaliente- Machu Piciu Bus     40min
17 Machu Picchu entry fee     41€pp  
17 Machu Piciu- Agucaliente Bus     40min
17 Aguacaliente-Ollayntatambo Train   35€ 3h
17 Ollayntatambo- Cuzco Minibus     1.5h
17night Cuzco- Nazca Night Bus     13h
18 Nazca lines 4 seat flight   90€ pp 30min
18night Nazca   Hotel Oro Viejo 35€ doulbe  
19 Nazca-Ica Bus     2h
19 Ica-Huacachina (dunes) Taxi     15min
19 Huacachina (dunes) - Ica Taxi     15min
19 Ica- Pisco Bus     2.5h
19 Pisco- Paracas Taxi     30min
19night Paracas   Hotel Santa Maria 28€ double  
20 Islas Ballestas Boat (tour)   11€ pp 3h
20 Paracas- Pisco Taxi     15min
20 Pisco- Lima Bus     4h


We entered Peru' from the border point near Copacabana on a bus direct to Puno, where we immediately changed to Arequipa (6h), where we stayed at Hotel Solar (29€ double).
Arequipa will surprise you, since it mixes modern and stylish shops/pubs/ restaurants with original Colonial architecture, but if you are expecting a real Peruvian town you will enjoy more Cuzco. Anyway what might be worth the trip is the charming Monastery of Santa Catalina in particular if visited in the evening when the dark ghostly rooms and the cobblestone streets are lit by candles (it's open till 21.00).
Beside don't miss the Museum Sanctuary where the body of Juanita, a girl sacrificed by Incas, is perfectly conserved.
In Arequipa we booked a 2 days tour (15 people on a minibus, 25€ all included, spending overnight in Chivay) to visit the Canyon of Colca and in particular the Santa Cruz viewpoint, where you can easily enjoy the 2m wing span condors gliding over. No complain on the organization of the tour, but definitely such organized stuffs (traditional dance at the restaurant during the dinner) make me feel in a sheep flock and aren't my things; hence I wouldn't recommend to a backpacker.
A night bus took us to Cuzco (8h, 41€ semibed seat), being the best town I visited in term of Peruvian vibe.
We immediately went to the train station to buy the ticket Ollantaytambo- Machu Picchu (50€ one way pp!!!!), while as concerns the Machu Picchu entry ticket we had already bought on line but don't forget to check in on the website
Trying to buy the train tickets and the Machu Picchu entry tickets has been the most annoying thing of the whole trip: theoretically you could do on line but the site never works.
The following day we jumped on a minibus to Ollantaytambo to visit the highlights of the Sacred Valley. (read travel tips for details)
At first the site of Morray (the concentric Inca circles); 1.5h from Cuzco we got dropped off at the crossroad where we got a taxi (there are just waiting there) to cover the missing 8km. Don't expect too much but for sure it's something particular and it's worth if you are on the way, while unmissable are the Salinas. It's 40min by minibus from the Morray crossroad, and still you have to walk for 30min steeply uphill, but the endless number of terraces of salt and water areamazing. Salinas are still operative and you can buy the salt they got evaporating the water.
Once back to the main road we hitch hiked to Ollantaytambo (30min) waiting less than 10min for a lift. The city it's a convenient place to take the train to Machu Picchu (there are far more trains from here than from Cuzco) but as concern the Inca site I wasn't impressed that much, so I'd not recommend unless you have spare time waiting for the train.
In 3h the 7pm train took us to Agua Caliente, where we stayed in one of the endless cheap guesthouses. It's amazing how many hotels, restaurants ranging from the low end to very high end have been built in such small town perched in the hearth of Ande.The day after we took the 20min bus to Machu Picchu (read travel tips for details): the site and in particular the location is impressive but in high season (August) being crowdy like Milan underground the day before Christmas, personally it hasn't been my thing, that's why after 1 hour I turned back walking down to Aguacaliente (45min).
Just to leave the crowd I followed the railway tracks upstream and after 2km I got to the Botanic garden with a nice waterfall; nothing amazing but at least I was alone.
From Agucaliente we took the train at 1.00pm to Ollantaytambo where by minibus in 2h we were in Cuzco, ready for the night bus to Nazca. Expect a loooong trip, not only for the 13h along a mountany road, but also for the coldness being all the way at 4.000m.
In Nazca from the bus station we jumped on a taxi and at 10.30am we were in the airport. Here it didn't take that long to have two seats on a small plane (90€) for a 30 min flight over this mysterious lines whose complete designs, mainly recalling animals, can be seen only from a high altitude. There are around 12 designs, some are clear as perfectly drawn on the earth, others more hardly identifiable, but in general it's something so unique that I'd recommend unless you are an easy-puking person when it comes to motion sickness (read travel tips for details)
In Nazca downtown at the Hotel Oro Veijo (35€ double) we recovered from the night trip enjoying the swimming pool.
The day after in 3h by minibus we were in Ica where in 10min taxi we reached the oasis of Huacachina.
It's a Sahara-like place, where a small lake skirted by palms, restaurants and hotels is surrouned by high sandy dunes where people sandboard with buggies playing the role of the ski-lift.I climbed the highest dune (sweaty job), and the view of the Ande mountain westward and the huge desert southward is stunning.
The same day from Ica in 2h we were in Pisco where by taxi we reached Paracas exactly on the seashore in front of the 'Galagapos of Peru', the Ballestas Island. Right at Hostal Santa Maria (28€ double) where we were staying we booked the tour ticket for the following day and at 9.00am we were already on a speed boat well packed with other 30 tourists (tour: 11€ pp). Islands are a Natural Reserve and nobody is allowed to step there, however even from the boat, the scene of thousands birds covering every square centimeter, the seals and also penguins is more than worth.
From Pisco to Lima it's an easy 3.5h by bus, and we happily skipped the dodgey capital reaching the airport for our flight to New York.



Peru travel tip



EU citizens staying less than 90 days don't require anything more than their passport. It'll be stamped with a small size black stamp.



The currency is the Nuovo Soles; the official change rate. (1€= 3.6 Sol Aug 2011). The Sol is very volatile versus the euros, being more aligned to USD



I had Footprint (Peru- Peru- Ecuador) and LP (7th April 2010 in Italian) both very useful as usual.



I had the usual vaccinations: ephatite A, B, typhus and tetanus; given the season and the low temperature there's no need for no risk for Malaria.
What should be your concern is the Altitude, in particular if you land directly in Cuzco (3.600m) you may feel it. I had a strong headache for few days and there's nothing you can really do against it beside avoid doing any effort and getting some pill (Moment) for headache. The obvious suggestion is to come from low lands (i.e. from Lima) and getting slowly acquainted. You can chew Coca leaves if you think it may help (plenty of stalls selling them); we did and I don't remember any relief




    - How to reach Machu Picchu
    The only way of getting to Machu Picchu other than on foot (Inca Trail), is by one of the frequent buses shuttling from Aguacaliente (20min).
    Then the only way to reach Aguacaliente is by train (again unless walking the Inca Trail) leaving from the Poroy station of Cuzco (5h) or from the Ollantaytambo station (half way from Poroy and Aguacaliente) (3h). Generally from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu there are more trains and it's cheaper, on top of that you can conveniently end the Sacred Valley tour here, without returning to Cuzco: that's why the majority of the people get on the train here (on the way back it could makes more sense to do the whole way till Cuzco)
    Reaching Ollantaytambo from Cuzco can take the whole day if you enjoy the Sacred Valley or it's just 1,5h by minibus from Cuzco
    The station of Poroy (the nearest Cuzco towards Machu Picchu) is 30min by minibus from Cuzco.

    - How to buy entry ticket and train ticket
    Since July2011 there is limited daily number of people to access Machu Picchu so unless you want to risk popping up at the ticket counter at the entry gate in the morning and being rejected (especially in August), the only way is to buy tickets on line and print them. It may seem easy but we got mad to have the site working with the transaction (you pay by Verified Visa credit card).
    As per the train ticket you can pop up at the station in Cuzco and buy them or buy on line as we did : , again be ready to get mad with the website
    Most of the travellers do believe Perurail is the only train company operating, in reality there's also, from Ollantaytambo to Aguacalientes.

  • How to visit the Sacred valley
    Sacre Valley is the Valley nearby Cuzco full of Inca Highlights. You can spend even two days wandering around, however the best compromise is to spend one day on the way from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo.
    You can use minibus (as we did) and some parts walking or getting a taxi, or rent a car with driver for the whole day.
    Take into consideration that after a whole you'll be fed up of Inca Site, for instance the ones we visited for me where enough:

    -Saqsaywaman, Q'ennqo, Pukapukara: Inca ruins at walkable distance from Cuzco if you allow half day. don't expect too much, although just the view over Cuzco is worth the walks. If you are tired jump on one of the frequent minibuses shuttling to/from Cuzco

    -Morray: concentric Inca terraces: quite curious mistic place that is conveniently on the way from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo (get the minibus, be dropped off at the cross road and get a taxi (you'll find waiting there) for the missing 6km)

    -Salinas: Evaporating terraces to get the salt from the water: the most amazing site I've seen (even more impressing than machu Picchu!). get the minibus from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo and be dropped off after 1.5h (the driver will know the exact point). Then walk for 30min uphill. there's also a small shop where you can buy the salt. If you have your own mean it's worth to reach Salinas from the top (a completely different road)

    -Ollantaytambo: Inca Ruins: don't expect too much, apart of flocks of tourist visiting the place waiting for the train to Machu Picchu

  • How to fly over Nazca lines
    "Do I have to book in advance?" this is the most common question when it comes to Nazca lines. We popped up at Nazca airport at 10.30 am and after 40min we were on the plane. I had the feeling that although being plenty of tourists, there is so much availability (at least 6 companies operate at the airport) that the risk of staying grounded is minimum. Although in few travel reports I read it happened, this might be the case if you are a group, but I hardly believe if a couple.
    The flight take 30min flying over almost all the 12 lines (you will get a map to spot them) and it costs 100$ + 20$ (taxes) for almost all the companies at the airport (at least 6!!), unless you are in a group then you can negotiate.
    The whole drawing of some lines is very clear (colibri'- UFO, monkey ...), for some others having studied the map beforehand helps a lot.
    Generally I reccommend, since although being a truly touristic attraction, it's quite unique both for the lines and for the flight.
    If you are prone to motion sickness take some pills and don't eat beforehand.