June 22 -- we flew from Austin to Miami. We had a 4-hour layover in Miami, but that's ok because we got our flights for a great price! The flight to Lima was delayed due to thunderstorms in Miami (we waited on the tarmac for 1 hour). We finally arrived in Lima at midnight. We took a taxi to our AirBnb in Barranco.
June 23-25 -- we explored Lima and walked about 10+ miles per day. I absolutely loved the area where we stayed and if I ever go back to Lima, I would definitely stay in Barranco again! We were walking distance to some hot spots: Puente de los Suspiros, murals, viewpoint, the beach, a little plaza and a delicious vegan restaurant called Germinando Vida, where I ate a very tasty Tacu Tacu (traditional Peruvian dish). We also walked to Miraflores and went to Parque Kennedy and also had fun watching the paragliders going over the cliff towards the beach. We went to these huge ruins, Huaca Pucllana, in the middle of the city that were only recently discovered (1981). They were buried under a huge mound of dirt! I would highly recommend a visit here! We met up with our good friends who are from Lima, but live in ATX and happened to be in Lima at the same time as us! We walked around Barranco and enjoyed seeing all of the beautiful street art. I absolutely loved Lima and its people! The one thing I didn't like was the traffic and the way people drive. It's truly scary and if you ever visit, you will see why!
June 25 -- flew from Lima to Cusco. We met my sister-in-law, Jocelyn aka Jotyta, in Cusco. As soon as we arrived to Cusco, we took a taxi to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. We were going to take the colectivo, but the taxi driver convinced us to take a taxi and that he was only charging us a few dollars more and it would be more comfortable. More on this in a minute .. As Cusco's elevation is really high (11,000 ft), we opted to acclimatize ourselves at a lower elevation in the Sacred Valley so we decided to take the taxi so we could get to a lower elevation pretty quickly. Well, the taxi took a shorter route and we ended up being stuck at the side of the road for an hour, waiting for the construction crew to work on the road. It was actually kind of fun waiting at the side of the road. We got out of the taxi and walked around this remote mountainous area and got to see small kids tending to their animals (like 4-5 year old kids!) walking their huge animals to the next village all by themselves! Our kids were shocked and kept talking about how we are very privileged to live where we live and get to go to school, etc. After the hour delay, we were on our way to Ollantaytambo! The road that was being worked on was frightening with huge cliffs and drop offs. Yikes! I was silently hoping and wishing for the best! We finally arrived in Ollantaytambo and it was getting dark. Our AirBnB contact said to meet her in the main plaza. This is a very small village so you wouldn't think it would take more than an hour to meet our contact, right? HAHA -- communication in small villages is a little different! I tried to call her via Whatsapp, but she doesn't have cell phone connection if she isn't at the AirBnb. So, we were walking around the main plaza saying, "Martha! Martha! Dónde estás?" It was quite the scene! I finally spotted her near a restaurant an hour later. She took us to the AirBnB house we would be staying at and gave us a tour. It was such a cute, rustic house! We didn't get to see too much of Ollantaytambo as it was dark when we arrived. When we woke up the next day, the sight was spectacular! What a picturesque little village - it's a true gem!
June 26 - we got up early so we could get to the train station to go to Machu Picchu. We took Peru Rail and we paid a little extra to have first class on the way there. I'm so glad that we opted for the Vistadome! It had 360 degree view with large windows on the sides and top of the train. The views were fantastic! I was surprised and amazed by how huge the mountains are (the train follows the river and is in the valley, not the huge mountains, much to my relief)! We arrived to Aguas Calientes 1.5 hours later. We got off the train and walked to the spot where you stand in line for the Consettur bus tickets to drive you to Machu Picchu. You can also walk from Aguas Calientes (takes about an hour), but we decided to take the bus up and planned on walking down. The line was long since you have to show your passports to buy the tickets and they only had one person selling tickets in a kiosk. We spent the time talking to some Argentinians in the same line, while Jotyta and the kids waited in the bus boarding line so we could board the bus as soon as we got our tickets. We boarded the bus and were on our way to Machu Picchu! So exciting! The trip takes 20 minutes and for the first 10 minutes, it's fine. As you start to climb up the mountain, it's downright frightening! I had to close my eyes for most of the last 10 minutes of the ride. There are sheer drop offs, where you can't even see the bottom of the mountain and the road barely fits two of the Consettur buses. There were areas that one of the buses had to back up to give space for the other bus to pass by and vice versa. At this point, the bus is hugging the side of the road, at the very edge of the cliff. The only thing that made me feel better is knowing that these young bus drivers do this drive multiple times every single day. That would make them experts, right?! HAHA I'm so glad that Fernando and the kids do not have a fear of heights like me! Once we arrived at the top of Machu Picchu, we entered the site and started walking around and exploring. The views are truly magical and awe inspiring! There are sooooo many people! Thank goodness they limit how many people can visit (2,500 per day)! There's a morning shift (6:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.) and an afternoon shift (12:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m.). When we were at the very top of Machu Picchu, there are some friendly llamas that walk around. If you take a snack out of your backpack, be prepared for a llama to follow you and be right in your face, asking for some of your snack! Once we finished our walk around Machu Picchu (about 2.5 hours), we returned near the entrance and stamped our passports with the Machu Picchu stamp.
We had planned on walking from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes, but after seeing all the sheer drop offs on our way to MP, we decided to buy bus tickets instead of walking. You don't know how happy I was when we arrived safely to Aguas Calientes! Aguas Calientes is a tourist trap! I'm sure there are some lovely parts, but as we were just passing through, we felt like it was a major tourist trap, or as Matías said, we are "walking and talking wallets!" So perceptive! We ate dinner at the Hare Krishna restaurant as we had heard good things about their food. The food was ok, but the service was awful and a little strange. Once we finished, we walked around and went to the market while waiting for our train back to Ollantaytambo. We took the Expedition train back to Ollantaytambo, which was a good choice since it was dark and you couldn't see anything outside so no need to pay extra for Vistadome. We were happy to be back in the lovely Ollantaytambo. As we walked from the train station back to our rental, there was a funeral going on a block away from our AirBnB home and the vibe was a little strange. Fernando and I walked around and saw some strange things too. The police were all gathered at a home and we heard a lady telling them to take the man out of the house because he was drunk and causing mayhem. Later on, we saw this older man and he was definitely drunk and out of it! He must have been in mourning. We returned back to our rental and from 1-3 a.m., we heard a lady crying very loudly and it seemed like it was right outside our window.
The next day, we got up and walked around Ollantaytambo. Fernando, Jotyta and the kids went for a hike in the ruins and I walked around the main plaza and the side streets of Ollanta. There was a free medical clinic happening in the main plaza so the roads were blocked and hundreds of indigenous people from neighboring villages were waiting to see the doctors. It was amazing to see the traditional clothing, hats, hairstyles and the babies/kids in their moms' wraps. The bright and colorful clothes were a feast for the eyes! Most of the people were speaking Quechua. Ollantaytambo was such a lovely village! I loved the little side streets made of cobblestone that are so small that cars cannot fit. They drive around in little moto taxis or walk. After walking around, we returned to our rental and said our goodbyes to Martha, the local contact. She brought her sweet puppy so the kids had a blast playing with him and we enjoyed looking at her beautiful garden! We had such a great visit to Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu!
June 27 - We took a colectivo (small bus) back to Cusco. The trip was 2 hours and took us through some lovely villages, such as Urubamba, Moray, Maras and Yucay. The drive was beautiful!
Once we arrived to Cusco, we walked to our AirBnB rental. This rental is in the back of a Jewish hostel (we didn't know about the hostel beforehand). It was a little weird! The place was comfortable and thankfully, had space heaters as it was VERY cold in Cusco since it was winter and a higher elevation! We walked around Cusco (super touristy place!), ate dinner at Green Point Vegetarian (OMG, the food was AMAZING!) and then went to the San Blas area. We walked up a bunch of stairs in the neighborhood to a view point in San Blas. The view was beautiful! Fernando and I had to stop a few times as our hearts were beating so fast from the stairs and elevation. We are in pretty decent shape, but the elevation was getting to us! I'm so glad that we acclimatized in the Sacred Valley because I think if we had stayed in Cusco first, we would have suffered more altitude sickness. Later that night, we met our Peruvian friends (who also happened to be in Cusco at the same time as us) at a vegan churro restaurant. Yum! Then, we went to the Museo Pre-Colombino and walked around the main plaza. We had a great visit!
June 28 - We took a taxi to the Cusco airport, said our goodbyes to Jotyta and flew back to Lima. We stayed the night in Lima (kind of near the airport) and had an early flight the next day to Santiago. We went to Miraflores to find a highly rated Vegan restaurant, Veda. That was a great decision! The food was simply spectacular and for such a great price! Our last night in Lima was great! Overall, we had such a great time in Peru and will cherish our memories from this trip!
Let's talk money:
Flight from ATX to Lima: $220 pp, $180 for Matías (since he's 10), Taxi to Barranco: $30, AirBnB: $56/night
RT flight from Lima to Cusco - $250 (we paid more so we could fly with a reputable airline, Latam). There are lots of cheaper flight options, but from the research I did, it appears that they are not very reliable, esp. if there is bad weather. We did not want to take the chance!
Taxi from Cusco to Ollantaytambo - $30
AirBnB in Ollantaymbo: $150/night
Peru Rail to Machu Picchu (RT): $130/pp (Matías was cheaper since he's a kid)
Consettur bus to MP from Aguas Calientes (RT): $24/pp
Machu Picchu Entrance fee: $50/pp (kids are cheaper, but we bought it online beforehand. You pay the kids rate if you buy your tickets in person in Cusco or at a tour company. We didn't want to take the chance of not getting tickets for the day we needed them.)
Cusco AirBnb: $90/night -- They have tons of hostels and hotels in Cusco. If we ever go back, I would like to stay in the San Blas area.
Lima AirBnb (in San Miguel, near airport): $57/night
Lima - Santiago one way flight: $101/pp
Peru was cheaper to travel and the food was a lot cheaper than in Santiago. The vegan food scene is so delicious and amazing in Lima and Cusco! I was really impressed! Overall, we had an awesome trip to Peru!
Photos coming soon ..