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Peru and Machu Picchu Recap

by habituallychic

06 . 20 . 16

I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since we returned from our whirlwind trip to Peru. Peruvian Connection was kind enough to invite us down to experience their 40th anniversary photo shoot and visit Machu Picchu. Founder Annie Hurlbut has been going to Peru for over 40 years so we couldn’t have asked for a better person to help plan our trip and experiences in the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and Cusco. Today is actually the perfect day to post about Machu Picchu. It’s may be summer solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere but it’s the winter solstice in Peru when the sun shines directly into the window of the Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu.

From New York, you will have to travel to Lima, Peru which is a seven and a half hour flight. You will then have a layover until a one and a half hour flight to Cusco. They are currently building a new larger International airport in Cusco so in 2017, you should be able to fly directly into Cusco. You will want to exchange some money or hit the ATM for some Peruvian soles. We then drove about an hour or so to the Sacred Valley to get acclimated and stopped along the way to use a bathroom and shop. You will often need one Sol to use the bathroom in Peru. You will often receive a better deal if you pay in soles instead of American dollars or credit cards if they even take them.

In order to avoid altitude sickness, it’s best to get acclimated in the Sacred Valley which is 8500 feet first and then move up in altitude to Cusco which is 11,100. We stayed at the Aranwa Hotel for one night before heading to Machu Picchu the next morning. Everything happens at the crack of dawn the day you travel to Machu Picchu so you may want to consider staying at the base so you aren’t traveling as much in one day as we did.

We were very lucky to have the Peruvian Connection tour guide Isaias Cardenas of Inka Tours help us with all the arrangements. You can email him at inkatours@terra.com.pe. If you stay in the Sacred Valley, you will have a half hour car ride to the train, then a one and a half hour train ride to the base of Machu Picchu, and then a slightly scary bus ride to the top.

Once we reached the entrance to Machu Picchu, we were met by Hamilton of Inka Tours who took us around the site and explained the history of everything at the site. I think it made the tour so much more interesting so I highly recommend a tour guide. After the tour, we then had about an hour or so to walk around Machu Picchu by ourselves. I actually thought we visited during a perfect time for the weather since the rainy season had ended. Our guide also said that the first two weeks of December are a quiet time for Machu Picchu since the crowds get much bigger over the holidays. After taking the bus back down, we ate in town at Indio Felize which is the best restaurant in Machu Picchu. We then had a very long train ride from Machu Picchu to Cusco.

As soon as you arrive in Peru, everyone will tell you to take it easy.  Drink as much bottled water as possible, eat lightly, and don’t drink too much alcohol and nowhere is this more important than in Cusco at 11,100 feet. We brought Diamox with us just in case but luckily didn’t need it. I came down with a cold before the trip so I found Cusco a little more exhausting. We stayed again at an Aranwa Hotel and they pump oxygen into the rooms. They also have oxygen tanks that you can order to your room.

After the 40th anniversary photo shoot for Peruvian Connection, we had some time to shop in Cusco. The best shops are located up behind the Cathedral in the historic center. You will definitely want to buy Alpaca scarves and clothing for yourself and gifts. We found great pieces at Sol Alpaca, Alpaca’s Best, and La Casa de La Llama. The next day, we visited the San Pedro Market but we unfortunately did not have time to visit the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco. During our time with Peruvian Connection, we had a group dinner at Greens and lunch at Pucara in Cusco.

The first thing everyone asked me after my Peru trip was what to pack.  As I was told by those who visited before me that it’s not a fashion show. I packed lots of layers, cashmere sweaters, a light wool jacket, jeans, flats, and sneakers. The cobblestone streets in the towns are slippery when dry and even more so when wet so you should wear comfortable flat shoes. There is no need to pack heels. We visited during the Peruvian fall so temperatures were in the 70’s during the day and dropped into the 30’s to 50’s at night. As soon as the sun goes down, the temperature drops significantly so plan ahead if you think you’ll be out all day.

People were dressed in expert hiking gear to regular street clothes for the visit to Machu Picchu. I ended up wearing a tank under a sweater, yoga pants, and sneakers. I also brought an Everlane Waterproof Anorak just in case. We were lucky to have beautiful blue skies for our trip but it would be very slippery if you visit when it’s raining. Make sure you wear strong sunscreen no matter what the weather since you will be near the equator where the sun is very strong.

Visiting Peru and Machu Picchu is at the top of everyone’s must visit list and I feel very lucky that I had Peruvian Connection plan this amazing trip for me. Check back soon for a more in depth post on Peruvian Connection too.
Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel and Wellness has an amazing spa which I’m sad we didn’t have time to experience.
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The base town of Machu Picchu.
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A woman in traditional dress with her child in the town of Machu Picchu.
The train that took us from Machu Picchu to Cusco. They do offer drinks and meals on board.
We only had one brief shower on our trip in Cusco. There are a lot of dogs in Peru but they generally leave you alone.
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The women with baby alpacas will ask you for money to take a photos of them.
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A child in the San Pedro Market reading a book and not playing on an iPad.
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The San Pedro Market sells everything a Peruvian could need from fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, prepared food, flowers, textiles, souvenirs, and more.

Street treats outside the market.
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All photos by Heather Clawson for Habitually Chic.