If you asked me to describe this trip in one word, I would have to say memorable. Adding to that, I think that accomplishing something you never imagined yourself doing only adds to that sentiment. A visit to Peru can really be configured in many different ways. It can involve more of a “roughing it” experience or something a little more luxurious. Or, why not experience both? I chose a four day, four night hike with the remainder of the trip staying in a hotel. This trip was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I am not a hiker, a camper, or an intuitive outdoorsy type, so there was a lot to learn. For example, I had no idea what a Camelback was prior to leaving on this trip. Do not let this deter you. For the amateur hiker and camper, I did a lot of research before going and below you will find an outline of the highlights of my trip.
Prior to leaving: Something I did not think about until last minute was additional vaccines and medications to take on the trip. I made an appointment with Passport Health in San Antonio and received typhoid, hepatitis A, and a tetanus shot prior to leaving. They also will prescribe antibiotics for stomach bugs and Diamox for altitude sickness. I highly recommend the Diamox. Cusco is at approximately 11,000 feet which means a simple set of stairs will leave most short of breath. I started taking Diamox 24 hours before leaving through the end of the trip. I had no issues with altitude sickness. There are a few side effects with the Diamox. The only things I noticed were dry mouth and carbonated beverages tasted strange. I also took along Cipro, Imodium, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Zithromax just as an extra safety precaution in case of emergency.
Prior to arrival, I picked up Sols, the Peruvian currency. I brought $300 in Sols. Some places will accept American dollars and credits cards can be used in most restaurants. If you are hiking, I recommend having Sols to purchase water, Gatorade, etc.
Getting there: One advantage I found was the travel to Cusco is relatively easy. I was able to leave on a Friday evening after work arriving early Saturday morning into Cusco via a brief layover in Lima. On the way back, I left on Sunday evening and was back home before noon on Monday. My airline of choice is American Airlines. Choices for airline travel always depend on multiple factors. American works for me because of my home airport and where my family resides. They have flights leaving from both Dallas and Miami to Lima. Lima is about a six hour flight from Dallas. The additional flight to Cusco was on Latam Airlines. Our tour guide from Peru said Latam has a great reputation and good safety record as compared to some of the other airlines. I was very happy with Latam. Unfortunately, since returning from my trip, Latam has left the OneWorld alliance. Even though they are no longer a partner with American, based upon the feedback I received from our guide, I would continue to use Latam as a carrier in South America.
Arrival: We arranged ahead of time a tour with Tika Trekking. This recommendation came from a friend. Their website is www.tikatrekkingperu.com. Arranging a tour with Tika Trekking took the headache out of everything. Ronnie was our guide for the entire trip. He was excellent, and his English was great. Prior to the trip, he spoke with us over the phone on a few instances to help with planning and answer all of our questions. He was waiting at the airport to take us to the hotel via driver. The airport is small and taxis are easily accessible leaving the airport. It is a short distance to the Plaza de Armas where many hotels are located. We were advised it is best to spend a minimum of one day in Cusco to aclimitize. We planned to set out the next morning on the hike. In the photo, you will see a view of the courtyard inside our hotel, the Costa Del Sol Cusco. The rooms here were spacious, nice, and clean. They were nothing fancy, just your standard hotel room. A nice breakfast was provided in their restaurant daily.
Cusco: Cusco is a great city, and the highlights can easily be seen in 1.5-2 days. We spent the first part of our day walking to the Plaza de Armas and bought a pass to enter the cathedrals in the area. Next, we walked over to the Barrio de Blas where we found a street market and shops. Another place we explored was the Choco Museo. They have everything from liqueurs to lotions. Keep in mind to check opening hours for points of interest. Several places are not open on Sunday. Some souvenirs that I purchased were a couple pieces of street art in addition to one of the small “toritos”. Republica del Cacao in the Plaza de Armas had some interesting chocolate bars. I took home one with Inca corn and milk chocolate. The Inca corn in Peru is fantastic, so I couldn’t resist having it in a chocolate bar!
Best Restaurants: My absolute favorite restaurants were CHICHA and Morena Peruvian Kitchen. CHICHA has fantastic drinks and food. We actually went here twice! There are no worries about quality of the food and drink. The ice in the drinks served is from filtered water and safe. Keep in mind, you cannot drink the water in Peru. Have bottled water available even for toothbrushing. That being said, every dish I tried at CHICHA was excellent. Morena Peruvian Kitchen has a great atmosphere and food/drink to accompany. There were multiple large groups very similar to our own enjoying a meal in Cusco before setting out to hike or travel to Machu Picchu. I highly recommend both restaurants.
Day One: Aclimitize and explore Cusco
Day Two: Begin Choquequirao hike (a more detailed hiking schedule can be found in Hiking Choquequirao)
Day Three: Hike and explore ruins at Chocquequirao
Day Four: Hike all day
Day Five: Complete hike to start of Choquequirao trail
Day Six: Travel to Ollantaytambo for exploring, take Peru rail to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) in evening
Day Seven: Explore Machu Picchu and hike Huayna Picchu, leave via Peru rail and return to Ollantaytambo for vehicle transfer back to Cusco
Day Eight: Salt Mines, Moray, Weaving community
Day Nine: Half day Cusco and travel home