Machu Picchu was simply amazing to see in person, trying to imagine how It was built by the Incas around 1450. It was abandoned just a century later as the Spanish invaded Peru (but they never found it). It was hidden away until 1911, discovered by a Yale historian. Our tour unlocked many mysteries but created many more.
We took a “semi-guided” trip package through Monograms (part of Globus). Their 8-day tour started and ended in Lima. It included all hotels, transportation tickets (trains, car service, motorcoach tour & in-country flight), guided tours and several meals. A guide met us as we arrived in each town to get us started. We were in fantastic hands, while being on our own most of the time. Our Machu Picchu local guide took us on a fascinating stroll through the many levels.
You must buy tickets ahead since there’s a daily maximum to protect the Machu Picchu site. Our tickets and guide were included in our tour package from Monograms. While some hike the Inca trail for four days to reach it, the much easier option is taking a bumpy bus ride to the entrance. It’s a short uphill walk to the ruins.
We stayed overnight at the town below Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes. Our ticket covered two days. After a guided tour the first day, we returned on our own in the morning to hike to the Sun Gate (about 2.5 miles) on the Inca Trail. Find restrooms and a surprisingly nice restaurant at the main entrance.
Our vacation started and ended in Lima. It’s easy to explore by foot, and the hotel arranged a very inexpensive driver to take us to a few spots. We appreciated having a pre-arranged driver to pick us up at the airport. Driving in Lima is quite the adventure, so don’t attempt! The above El Beso (the kiss) sculpture is in the “Parque del Amor” (Love Park) along the Pacific.
We stayed in the Miraflores neighborhood, the most popular area for tourists. It was a short walk to the oceanfront for the clifftop walkway through several parks with scenic views.
The historic center of Lima is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Plaza de Armas is a popular gathering spot dating back to 1535.
We enjoyed our evening visit to Circuito Magico del Agua (The Magic Water Circuit), the world’s largest fountain park that is located in central Lima. The creative fountains are highlighted each night by lights and lasers.
From Lima, we flew to Cusco, a large city high in the Andes at an elevation of 11,200 feet. It was the historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th until the 16th-century Spanish conquest. The main square in the old town is the Plaza de Armas.
The Convent of Santo Domingo dates back to the 1500s, built on site of the most important temple in the Inca Empire – dedicated to the Sun God.
Look down on Cusco from the Sacsayhuaman fortress above the city at 12,142 feet elevation.
Sacsayhuaman was first started by the Killke culture about 1100. The Inca took over in the 13th century, creating vast walls of huge stones carefully cut to fit tightly without mortar.
Sacsayhuaman is definitely a “how did they do that?” experience since the boulders that were cut and moved here weigh up to 200 tons.
This local women will pose with you for a small fee! They also sell some of the traditional Inca clothing and crafts.
Cristo Blanco (Spanish for “white Christ”) atop Pukamuqu mountain overlooking Cusco.
The Pisac Market near Cusco is one of the most famous markets with plenty of souvenirs to buy. Vendors were very friendly and not aggressive.
Find more Incan ruins near Písac, atop a hill at the entrance to the valley. Along the way, see some of the many agricultural terraces that the Inca built on the steep hillsides which are still in use today.
Ollantaytambo is a town and impressive Inca archaeological site. It’s the start of the famous Inca trail to Machu Picchu and where we boarded the train to Aguas Calientes (town nearest Machu Picchu). Climb the temple hill to appreciate its size. The Temple of the Sun was a calendar for the Incas, precisely marking the winter and summer solstice. Our guide was an accomplished professor, so he shared many amazing facts that boggled our minds.
Looking back at the town of Ollantaytambo from Temple Hill.
Our favorite place to stay on the entire trip was Posada Del Inca Yucay boutique hotel in the Sacred Valley, a former monastery is surrounded by the Andes.
Here we are: Tom, David, me and Frank! We will be glad to share more tips and advice for your trip. This was our itinerary:
SCHEDULE (Go to the Monograms website for tour details)
Day 1: Arrive in Lima
Day 2: Tour Lima
Day 3: Fly to Cusco. Tour the Santo Domingo Monastery and Plaza de Armas. Take a short drive above city to see the ruins of Sacsayhuaman.
Day 4: Ride a motorcoach to the Urubamba Valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, stopping at the Awanakancha alpaca preserve, market town of Pisac and explore the ruins at Ollyantaytambo.
Day 5: Board a train for Machu Picchu and stay overnight in Aguas Calientes.
Day 6: Tour Machu Picchu in the morning. Take train to Cusco in evening.
Day 7: Fly from Cusco to Lima
Day 8: Fly home