Peru - October 2016
When Heerali and I decided to take our first trip after our Honeymoon, our list of destinations was long and diverse. It was hard to settle on one location that we could both agree upon. For me, the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu was a bucket list dream. For Heerali, she loves south american culture and influence. So we agreed upon Peru for our week long getaway.
This was the first international trip we planned together. It was quite the learning curve to balance the expectation of the trip her needs and mine. As well as logistically planning travel, transportation and activities on a daily bases. Looking back, this trip was hectic and by the time we returned, we felt we needed another vacation just to recover. But again, we took it as learning experience which helped with coordination of our future trips.
We came back with great memories, fulfillment of everything we accomplished with our first trip and excitement for future adventures.
Our flight from Atlanta, Ga to Lima, Peru was a direct 6 hour flight. We landed late at night, so we made our way straight to our hotel. We stayed at a local Lima hotel, which had its ups and downs. The architecture and traditions which was beautiful, but the rooms were out-dated and uncomfortable at times.
We started the morning early with a traditional Peruvian breakfast. We then made our way to the city center. We walked the streets of the city and then made our way over to the coastline. We spent some time at the Parque de Amor. We watched surfers and paraglider as we walked up and down the boardwalk.
Afterwards, we had a historical city tour scheduled. We locations such as Saint Francisco Monastery, Plazas de Armas, Historic district and downtown Lima.
We ventured inside the Saint Francisco monastery. We learned about the Spanish conquest of the Incan culture and conversion to Christianity. We visited the catacombs underneath the monastery.
After our tour, me made our way back to our hotel and got ready for dinner. We visited Huacca Pucllana which is a clay pyramid in the center of Lima city. There is a restuarant right next to the Pyramid which provides a beautiful view. After dinner we took a tour around the pyramid which showed us the history and significance of the pyramid. At this time, the local Peruvian government is actively excavating and restoring the site.
The next morning was an early start. We took a bus from Lima to Ica. It was about a 4 our drive. The beauty of Ica is the rolling desert dunes. It's a amazing to think of the diverse climate and geographical changes Peru offers.
Once we reached Ica, we were picked up by our guide. He took us on tours of a few local wineries. We met the owners and locals of the area and had an amazing experience connecting with the people. Very humble and inviting. I was afraid this was going to be a tourist trap and we would be pressured into buying stuff, but that was far from the experience we had. They were just happy to have us around.
After the wineries we had lunch and tried the famous Pisco Sours, an alcoholic drink that is famous to Peru.
Our last stop of the day was to the desert oasis of Huacachina. This town is famous for being surround be massive sand dunes. The reason we ventured out to Ica was to ride Dune Buggies and go sand boarding.
After all the excitement, we found a dune and, to this day, watch one of the most beautiful sunset we have ever seen. We made our way back to the station and took the last bus back to Lima. Had dinner on board and watched movies for the 4 hours back. We didn't return back to our hotel until late into the night. Looking back we would recommend spending a night in Ica/Huacachina to really enjoy this beautiful town.
DAY 4: Next on our list was the city of Cusco. Cusco is the famous hub for travelers venturing to Machu Picchu. We landed in the famed city after a short 1 hour flight from Lima. The city was surprisingly large and busy. We stayed at a quaint bistro hotel near the Plaza de Armas called Hotel Pension Alemana. It is located in a more local district, but it has a beautiful overlook of downtown Cusco. We decided to grabbed lunch at El Museo del Pisco and afterwards strolled around the markets around the Plaza. The nice thing about the markets in Peru was that the vendors were not pushy to buy their merchandise. TIP: Cusco is +11,000 feet (3,400m) above sea level. Strongly recommend to take it easy the first day to acclimate to the elevation change. Fatigue and shortness of breath are the most common symptoms. All the restaurants have a "special tea" you can request, to help with altitude sickness. We made our way to dinner to a famous French restaurant call Le Soleil. This was a quit, intimate restaurant with great food and drinks. We ended the night with our last stop at Mythology, a local night club in Cusco. Luckily they were holding Salsa classes that night. We learned some new moves and danced the night away. We made our way back to our hotel for a good night rest.
Next, we had to make our way from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. Agues Calientes is a small town at the base of Machu Picchu and this where you will start your journey to the ruins. There are many ways to make the trip from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. The Only Peru Guide is a great resource to plan this portion of your travels.
To help ease our logistics , we hired the tour company Cusco Peru Adventures . They took care of our transportation to Aguas Calientes but also scheduled ATV, zip lining, and a tour of the Maras Salt Ponds along the way. We had a great experience with this team and would highly recommend them.
We were up at 4am in the morning and getting ready for the day we had been waiting for! We took a bus up to Machu Picchu. It was a cloudy day, so getting the view came in moments. However, it was an amazing beauty and a wonder of the world. We then started our hike to the summit of Wayna Picchu. Before you start this hike, you sign in and out the entrance. After the hike, we walked through the ruins and proceeded back to the Agua Calientes. We got to our train and returned to Cusco This was a great day, but we were ready to hit the bed for a good night rest!
We once again had to wake up bright and early at 3am for our next adventure, hiking Rainbow Mountain. We were picked up at 4am from our hotel and it took us 3 hours to reach the base of the mountain at an altitude of 14,000 ft above sea level. We started the hike with a hardy breakfast and then we make our way up the mountain. Due to the high elevation, each step was difficult. We made it half way up the journey but the elevation was really taking a toll on us. At the halfway checkpoint, we got horses to help us to the summit at 16,000 ft.
Once at the summit, it was a moment of expectation vs reality. The weather at the top got very cold and cloudy very quickly. Unfortunately the view was obscured severely and we were unable to see the iconic colors. We stayed as long as possible, but finally had to make our way back down before it got too late.
This was our final day in Peru. We finally had a day to sleep in!. After hiking Machu Picchu, Wayna Picchu and Rainbow Mountain, we were absolutely spent! Our flight out was late that night, so we made the best of the day and spent our free time wandering around downtown Cusco. We found a local massage parlor, and to this day, had the best massage at Ajna in Cusco.
Afterwards we went for drinks at Museo del Pisco where we learned to make the famous Pisco Sour of Peru. We spent to rest of the afternoon strolling the Plaza de Armas and people watched from a rooftop bar.
Sadly, our adventure had come to an end but we both knew this was just the beginning our our adventures around the world. We bordered out flight back to Atlanta with nothing but smiles and great memories.