Everything to See and Do in Peru!
I Left My Heart in Peru.
I had always wanted to go to Peru. Many people do, to see one of the "Wonders of the World" there called Machu Picchu. Oh my word, is there so much more to the country than that. So much that I even extended my trip two days to enjoy more of it.
Peru is now my new favorite country of the seventy-something I have visited. It was just so special to me. Iceland, Greece, and Italy are up there still, but there was something so magical about Peru.
I think it was learning so much about the Incans and the religion and their hard-working, and family and God-loving lives. I loved their morals, kindness, and hospitality. It was fantastic. They're soft, kind, and caring. They love animals, and they love their country. They love all the fantastic food that is produced there also. They love each other, and what I found is that they love when foreigners come to learn about their country and culture.
Peru was one of the most authentic places I've ever been to. It was so unique and different from many places I've been to. There was history all around, and a reminder of their heritage and past. The women would dress in beautiful colorful clothing, and they would have pet animals, (many make money this way, but they were still lovely to them) and most would be hard at work, painting, spinning, sewing, and creating. It was such a buzzing place. I know I've said this already, but the people were all just so sweet and helpful. It was so lovely, even as a solo female traveler, I felt safe always. I cannot recommend this country enough for anyone, but also for any woman to go explore it alone. You will be amazed and not want to leave.
Your Ultimate Guide to Cuzco and Machu Picchu.
Besides telling you all the amazing things about the country, and why I love it, and will most certainly be back. I am going to give you a guide, so when you visit Peru, it will be carefree and painless. I will also give you all the recommendations for the things I did.
Peru truly is one of the most amazing countries in the world, and it is cheap, so I would absolutely make it a "must-see" place in your lifetime! I'm going to go over when the best time to visit Peru is, what the top things to do are, how to get to Machu Picchu, the best things to do in Cusco and the best hotels in Cusco and Machu Picchu city aka Aguas Calientes.
The best time to visit Peru depends totally on you, and your trade-off. Do you care about saving money and it being cheaper? Do you care about having dry, sunny days, and getting photos without rain? The winter (May-Oct) is the driest time. Therefore, you won't get as much rain, but it will be much busier, and hotel prices will be higher. The summer (November to April), is warmer but wet. I would go on a border month of summer and winter perhaps. The busiest months are June and July. One month, I would not recommend going, is February, as that's when the Inca trail will be closed. It's a pretty wet month. I went in January, as I didn't mind occasional showers and had days to spare there, but was lucky with about 60 percent sunny days, and the 40 percent it rained, it didn't rain all day, but, to really have dependable sunny and dry days I would say go in the winter, maybe very beginning or end of winter, just keep in mind, it's cooler then.
Where do you stay in Cusco?
That's easy! There is one hotel that not only sticks out in Peru, but was one of my favorite hotels I've ever stayed in, and I do not say that lightly. You will not see that claimed in any of my blogs so far. The JW Marriott Cusco was in all ways, perfection. From check-in to check out, everything was so above and beyond, that I could genuinely tell you that the price tag on this hotel, is worth every penny. The attention to detail here is just impeccable. I was greeted in an old stone lobby with high ceilings, that I found out was an old monastery. The property alone is so stunning, and it has that real authentic historical touch to it given it was a monastery prior and built hundreds of years ago. They do a hotel tour for free every other day, and you can learn all its history and see some of the artifacts and pieces of the building in the basement.
There are also authentic pieces inside the hotel. You will see just how dreamy the place is when you step inside the lobby. They also have a beautiful terrace that is so romantic filled with pillars and balcony rooms looking over it. I arrived and was given cocoa tea to curb my altitude sickness, which you WILL get. The JW Marriott Cusco also keep a paramedic on site always in case anyone needs oxygen. I would later realize I needed him that evening when I felt super dizzy and faint. He came within 2 mins and brought me oxygen and was constantly checking my vitals. It was just so nice to have that relief. Altitude sickness is no joke and makes you feel faint, dizzy, anxious, and in some instances, makes it difficult to breathe, you need a good full day to acclimatize to the altitude. The cocoa tea and candies helped me out a lot. The rooms are beautiful and large, and I was lucky to get a balcony room with an outside patio overlooking the beautiful terrace below. It was just such a romantic hotel that I wish I would have had my boyfriend with me. I can see why there were honeymooners there. It's so romantic.
Now about the food there, the breakfast was out of this world. There were so many options, and even a table dedicated to the gluten-free guests. It was so plentiful that each day, I just loaded up on so much food. One of my favorite things about the hotel as well is that they had free activities that are included, that you could do daily.
One thing I did was a little cooking class with the head chef, and I learned how to make Peruvian ceviche. It was so good, and I realized then, just how much I love Peruvian cuisine as it's all the things I love. I love mango, fish, corn, quinoa, potatoes, ceviche, etc. etc. The one thing that is also popular in Peru, I couldn't try, is a Guinea pig. I had a few pet Guineas as a child, so I just couldn't. The bar in the JW Marriott is amazing also and had some refreshing and neat specialty cocktails that took mixology to the next level. The chocolate cocktail was something else. They also made terrific Pisco Sours, which are like the national drink in Peru and Chilé. They even had an activity in the bar where you learn all about the origin of the Pisco sour, where pisco comes from, how it's made, and at the end, of course, you get to have your pisco sour. They're great but be careful. They don't seem so strong but can get you all buzzed up. Other activities the hotel had were yoga and playing with their baby llama. That was my favorite part playing with her. I went and saw her on the terrace most days before I set out to explore Cusco or do tours.
There are so many tours you can do from Cusco after you have walked around the historic old town where the square is, there are cool museums and churches, and a beautiful park in the middle of the square. You cannot miss walking around the historical area. It's stunning. There is also a tour just outside of Cusco you can do that consists of Saqsaywaman, Tambomachy, Puka Pukara, and the white statue of Christ. I personalized this tour with a driver as you can do, but some tours stop at 3 of the 4 of these sites. You can honestly hire a driver for cheap if you wanted or just get Ubers to each place as Ubers are very affordable here, you can also negotiate with your cabs or drivers.
Tours that were further outside of Cusco in the Sacred Valley were also a "can't miss." Parts of the sacred valley are almost as impressive as Machu Picchu. I did a tour arranged by the hotel that stopped in Pisac, a cute little Peruvian village, then to some more Incan ruins called Tipon and on to Ollantaytambo, more impressive ruins with insane views. This tour is a must do. It's a full day, but it's incredible. In the summer, you can also do a tour that stops at Moray, a circular ruin area of three, and Maras, the super cool salt flats that are amazing for photos. We also stopped by another old Peruvian city called Chinchero. You get so much of the Peruvian culture on this Sacred Valley trip. It's a must-do. We stopped on the Urubamba river for a delicious lunch, as well as incredible views. This area of Peru has so much beauty, everywhere you look. There was a tour that I also really wanted to do, but I did not bring the appropriate clothing, and it was freezing, but if you have time and proper shoes and coats, I would say, do the rainbow mountain tour. It's prettier in the summer as the colors are more vibrant, but either way, it looks so amazing. It's just a long journey there and hike up to the top. The elevation is even higher than Cusco, so take some altitude medicine and dress warmly.
Now Let’s chat about the Wonder of the World!
Now we discuss all the things Machu Picchu!
You are going to love it. One thing I didn't realize it that the little town "Aguas Calientes," which they are now trying to name "Machu Picchu City." There is an excellent 3-hour train ride in the summer. In the winter, the first train is not in service, so you must Uber or cab to Ollantaytambo, I would say negotiate the best rate as booking from the hotel for a taxi is costlier I found out. The trains are excellent. I spent a little more and got the panoramic train there, as it is seriously the most beautiful ride of your life. I think I took about 50 videos on the 2-hour journey from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. The trains are a little pricey, but you must do it, so allocate a good extra 100-200 for the RT train ticket price. It's busier and costlier during the high season, so you should book online before, or have the hotel book for you, as they fill up quickly. Upon arriving at the station at Aguas Calientes, I had someone from the Inkaterra hotel meeting me there to walk me to the hotel and someone to carry my bags. The hotel I chose to stay, as I said, was Inkaterra because it's just stunning and so close to the train station. There is no other place I would stay in the area as it's walking distance to restaurants and the small city center.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is where I stayed, and I loved it. Inkaterra is Heaven if you're a nature lover like myself. It is an intimate village with little casitas tucked away in the cloud forest with hundreds of bird and plant species as well as the most extensive native Orchid collection in the world. It has stone pathways, little waterfalls, two restaurants, a spa, and beautiful views of the river and mountains.
My room was big, as was my bathroom. I had my own beautiful flower garden and plunge pool. I so wish I had someone with me as this hotel is perfect for a honeymoon. The glass roof ceiling also allowed me to take in being in a forest type setting and see the clouds. It was honestly so amazing being in all nature.
The restaurants were great in Inkaterra, and I had the chicken two nights in a row as it was the best chicken I've ever had and it was presented so well! The bar manager took special care of me during my stay and made sure my dining and drink experience was next level. He made some of the best and most beautiful cocktails I've ever had. I was spoiled at this hotel. As I said, the service here was fantastic, and it is truly such a romantic place. They have a private dining room for couples that I got to take a peak in. They had a candle lit dinner set up ready for one honeymooning couple. It was special. They also offer eco-tours and activities. I was meant to see bears, but I sadly fell ill the last day, so I didn't make it, but the activities are free, so I would strongly recommend doing one or two while there. The lobby and dining lounge area in Inkaterra is so cute and reminded me of a log cabin retreat in nature. The whole vibe was so cool. I loved this hotel.
Getting to Machu Picchu can be a bit of a mission, but it's not that bad. They say to go early in the morning to beat the crowds, but I was told by a local, that in the morning it's covered with clouds, so I waited to go at noon. It was perfect timing as I got beautiful weather and the clouds only rolled in when I was finishing my tour.
From the hotel, you walk into the city center, and you get a RT bus ticket to get up to Macchu. There is no other way of getting up there unless you hike, which will take you a few hours. You also must buy your actual ticket into Macchu from the city center. Both places only accept cash, so make sure you have cash. If not, there is an ATM nearby. The bus ride is about 25-30 minutes each way from the stations. Check bus times and ticket times. There are two different ticket times per day, so make sure you buy it at a good time. You can only spend up to 4 hours in the park per day. I did the 12-4 time slot. I think they stop selling tickets after 2 pm. Also, to buy a ticket, you must have your passport with you. When at the Peruvian Icon, you can get your passport also stamped, which is a cute idea.
I highly advise getting a tour guide when you arrive. There are many outside, and you can get them cheap. Hire them for an hour or 90 mins and negotiate the price. This is good not only for the history and information regarding the ancient site but also for someone to take all the photos and videos you want. My guy was great at taking pictures, and we took our time through most of the park to get the best pictures. Another tip I tell people when going here or any big tourist site that requires walking is. Dress in comfortable clothing and then bring a dress to change into or put over your clothes. For my Machu Picchu trip, I wore thin leggings and a shirt and then removed my shirt and put a cute sundress over and pulled up my leggings. I also wore tennis shoes and didn't show my feet in the photos. This idea is super smart for getting great pictures but still staying comfortable.
There are so many beautiful viewing points in Machu Picchu, so take your time going through it. There is so much history and, I'm sure you know, there are adorable llamas that were placed there for tourism. They are friendly, and you can take photos with them. Many ignore you, but you can get some neat pics. Try to take a snack to give them, like some big blades of grass or a piece of fruit. I got photos with them and some interesting bugs. It started to rain my last few minutes in the park, and I didn't take a poncho, so if you go during the rainy season or shoulder season, I would at least pack a small umbrella in your bag or at least a light poncho. I got soaked, but it was so worth it.
One crucial tip for solo female travelers, if your guide says anything inappropriate to you, tell him politely to stop. I was a bit bummed out I didn't have the guts to say something to my guide after he said some things to me, asked me to dinner, and touched my side a few times while showing me photos. Perhaps he didn't see an issue with this and was being friendly, but I was uncomfortable. I usually would always say something in this situation, but I knew I had to walk with him another 30 minutes to the end of the trail, so I didn't want to make it awkward or make a scene. I am sure this is not a normal occurrence, but it did happen to me, so just a heads up for solo females. This goes for any country you have a guide as a solo female traveler.
All in all, besides that, the tour was informative. I got great photos, and I got to be in one of the most magical places I've ever been to on Earth. This place is so spiritual, and just like nothing I can describe in words. The feeling you get walking around Machu Picchu is so surreal. The views and beauty is like nothing many have seen. I would take your time there and take it all in, and I felt I rushed towards the end, due to the rain and the tour guide getting a bit touchy, so don't rush. Be more prepared than I was. There is a café in Machu Picchu that is nice, but a little pricey since it's in the park. Bring toilet paper for the bathrooms as well. They're nice there, but didn't have TP when I went and, restrooms at many tourist sites charge a small fee, so always carry some coins with you.
After you spend all day at Machu Picchu, I recommend visiting the hot springs in Aguas Calientes. It's busy but still amazing and so warm. You can go rain or shine. I couldn't go due to some intestinal issues, but I've heard great things!
Have the best time in Peru and Machu Picchu. Peru became one of my favorite countries in the world. The beauty here is indescribable. The people are so hospitable and welcoming, and they love their culture. The food is some of my favorites, so it was Heaven for my taste buds being here. Peru should be the next place you visit. I cannot say more good things about it. I extended my trip here which if you know me, I never do this even if I want to as I stick to a pretty strict schedule, but I just had to explore more! Enjoy one of the most beautiful countries in the world!