10 days, Aug '11
Kind of travel:
Me and my girlfriend Elisa in an independent travel
15th- 26th Aug 2011 (only Peru)
I need a visa:
no, just the passport to get a small anonimous black stamp
1700 km (only Peru)
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 slept:
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.
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
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
Lima is dodgey, and avoid landing directly at 3,600m in Cuzco
since altitude sickness is very common (strong headache for
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
IMPRESSIONS OF PERU
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
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
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!
(Canyon del Colca)
in the tour price
(Sacra Valley: Morray- Salinas)
+ Hitch hiking
(dunes) - Ica
TRAVEL IN PERU
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 http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe
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
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
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
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
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 : https://www.perurail.com/en/
, 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
from Ollantaytambo to Aguacalientes.
DON'T TAKE FOR GRANTED ON FINDING TRAIN TICKETS
FOR THE FOLLOWING DAY!!
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
-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.