Peru: Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Lake Titicaca and Arequipa
Fly in/out: Cusco/Lima
Recommended ages: 12 and up
Ball Park Price: High end
Best Season: May through October is dry season but most touristy
Currency: Nuevo Sol
Language: Spanish (not much English)
Portions of this itinerary were booked through perutravelnow.com.
DAY ONE: Fly American Airlines to Cusco (CUZ) and arrange airport pick up and tour through hotel, El Albergue Ollantaytambo. On way to hotel in the Sacred Valley area, stop and visit Saksaywaman, a walled complex on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco. Adjacent to this Inca site, stop at Cristo Blanco or “Statue of Christ”. Visit the local market in the town of Chinchero and experience a traditional market of Peruvian women weaving, buying and selling produce and goods. Next visit, Maras salt pans, (Salinas De Maras) a system of platforms and terraces to extract salt used since the Inca times. Check into hotel and enjoy dinner there.
DAY TWO: Go into town of Ollantaytambo (nicknamed Ollanta) then hike Pinkuylluna, Inca storehouses for the most spectacular views of the Ollantaytambo ruins and town. It’s a lovely 1-2 hour slightly arduous trek. In the afternoon, explore the Ollantaytambo ruins originally an Incan temple and later fortress. For lunch at the hotel, sign-up for a Pachamanca lunch for a total traditional Andean farm experience.
DAY THREE: Explore Peruvian village of Písac in the Sacred Valley on the Urubamba River. On Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, you can enjoy the open market and shop traditional and authentic Peruvian goods. Enjoy lunch at El Huacatay, a fabulous, chef operated restaurant. In the afternoon explore the Inca ruins in Pisac. Stay last night in El Albergue.
DAY FOUR: Take Perurail train to Machu Picchu. The train departs from the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo station. (Purchase tickets way in advance, see helpful hints). Board the Vistadome train car for panoramic windows and views. Arrive at base and drop off luggage at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel on Machu Picchu. Arrange a guide through hotel to take a morning ½ day tour. Enjoy a late lunch at hotel and check in. In the afternoon, go back to Machu Picchu during a much less crowded time for photo ops. Enjoy dinner and hot tub for one night stay at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge.
DAY FIVE: Climb Huayna Picchu, a trail on a summit for spectacular views of Machu Picchu. The climb is rather steep at times but well worth it. Have breakfast back at hotel and outdoor shower. Go to Aguas Caliente station and enjoy lunch. Take Perurail train and shuttle back to Cusco. (Tickets include both) Arrive into Cusco late and check in at luxury boutique hotel Inkaterra.
DAY SIX: Through hotel, arrange a ½ day tour of Cusco. Visit local market with amazing local items including fresh pig snouts. For local charm and flavor, visit Plaza De Armas and Cathedral of Santo Domingo, and branch off to avenues and alleys. Visit the Monastery Hotel, chapel and courtyard. Enjoy dinner in Cusco at highly recommended Cicciolina restaurant.
DAY SEVEN: Ride the Andean Explorer, a 10 hour unbelievably scenic journey on Perurail through the Andes highlands and end at Lake Titicaca, the highest elevation lake in the world. Check into Casa Andina Private Collection.
DAY NINE: Take five hour Cruz Del Sur bus from Puno to Arequipa, the second most populated city in Peru with a beautiful white Spanish colonial buildings with stunning volcano views of El Misti volcano and the Andes Mountains. Check in to Los Tambos Hotel.
DAY TEN: Explore more of Arequipa. Visit the Museo Sanctuaries for the exhibit and information on Mummy Juanita, a 500 year-old Inca girl who was killed as a sacrifice to the Inca Gods. Enjoy Sol de Mayo, traditional Arequipa cooking. Stop at the monastery of Santa Catalina Monastery. Enjoy dinner at El Montonero.
DAY ELEVEN: Take a flight from Arequipa (AQP) to Lima (LIM). Stay last night in Lima at the Marriott hotel with comforts and amenities for last night in Peru.
DAY TWELVE: Depart Lima to home.
- Our first few days in Peru, exploring the sites and ruins of the Sacred Valley area were beautiful to explore and gave us time to adjust to the altitude. This area was a great precursor to Machu Picchu because it taught Inca history and had remarkably well-preserved ruins.
- We felt our luxury one night stay at the only hotel in Machu Picchu was well worth it as we were able to enjoy a full 24 hours of views and climbs in Machu Picchu. Arriving early in the morning by train and experiencing Machu Picchu by guide was fabulous and informative. But the most memorable, was going back late afternoon when most tourists had left and enjoy this magical place almost all by yourself.
- The area of Cusco is considered the Capital city of the Inca Empire. The city takes you a step back to the Inca times with cobbled stoned streets, plazas and Spanish colonial Churches. The area is rich in history, so take advantage of exploring this area with a guide.
- We decided to explore more of Peru in harder to get to regions of Puno and Lake Titicaca but we felt that this was more of an authentic area to learn about the people of Peru. Lake Titicaca offered boat trips to the floating islands made of totora reeds which provide home to the Uros tribe. The islands are part of the Titicaca National Reserve created to protect the marsh reeds, 60 species of birds and homes to 2000 or so Uros people. The kids were mesmerized and fascinated with this totally remote culture.
- Our last portion of visiting Peru, was in the second most populated city of Arequipa. This stunning “White City” is a picturesque city with Spanish-colonial churches and homes made from volcanic white stone. The area is known for some serious hikers, but the city features some beautiful churches and monasteries steeped in Peruvian history.
- Exploring Machu Picchu and the Huayna Picchu hike were the most memorable. Staying the 24 hours to absorb the views was magical.
- Andean Explorer first class train route taking you from Cusco to the Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca is one of the most beautiful train routes in the world.
Places to stay
- Our first three night stay in Hotel El Albergue was a beautiful, upscale hotel with an amazing garden setting. They grow and serve their own produce from their local farm. Breakfast included with great coffee.
- The Sanctuary Lodge 5 star hotel was worth the stay for the spectacular views. We had adjoining rooms with the kids and the door opened in between. The restaurants for all meals were very good and the hot tub was a bonus for the kids. The hotel can book your Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu tickets for you.
- In Cusco, we would recommend the Inkaterra La Casona a rehabbed colonial mansion in the heart of Cusco. The Tierra Viva hotels where we originally stayed was a moderate 3 star and was in an area that was very loud.
- In Puno, we stayed at Casa Andina Private Collection Puno with beautiful views of Lake Titicaca. Breakfast included.
- In Arequipa, we stayed at Los Tambos Hotel, a clean and standard hotel but with also beautiful views and courteous staff. Breakfast included.
- A must experience in the El Albergue hotel in Ollantaytambo is the Pachamanca lunch featuring a traditional Peruvian experience on the hotel’s farm.
- In the Sacred Valley area, right next to Ollantaytambo (Ollanta town) is El Huacatay. It is a lovely restaurant with intimate ambience featuring traditional Peruvian cuisine such as alpaca tenderloin.
- In Cusco, we thoroughly enjoyed a rooftop restaurant with great views, Marcelo Batata.
- Also in Cusco, Cicciolina restaurant, a fabulous tapas restaurant
- In Arequipa, try restaurant Sol De Mayo.
and El Montonero.
- The key to start planning this journey is to schedule and book tickets to Machu Picchu, the Huayna Picchu and the Perurail train tickets together. Book in advance either through Sanctuary Lodge or through travel agency or direct through Ticket Machu Picchu because tickets to Machu Picchu are limited to 2,500 a day and Huayna Picchu to 400 a day.
- Adjusting to the altitude can be tricky for some in this area. If your family is prone to altitude sickness, talk to your pediatrician about altitude sickness medicine. There are helpful and useful prescription medicines for headache and nausea associated with altitude sickness. Also, cocoa tea is recommended.
- There were some “unplugged” long journeys on this trip. Kids can come prepared with books and electronics on this trip but only the less expensive electronics. (Bring electric converters). They are not heavily used or seen in many areas of Peru so it’s not recommended to bring them along on the more remote parts of the journey.
- Bring many layers for the changing temperatures in the Andes Mountains.
- Many licensed guides are available on-site at many archaeological sites throughout Peru and we like the option of exploring some days on our own. For many of the key city tours, they can be arranged through the hotels.
- It is useful to know some key Spanish phrases or better yet, if a child is studying Spanish at school. Bring along some helpful phrase books.
- Keep the Peru currency on hand the “Nuevo Sol” for local restaurants, cafes, tipping and guides.
- This trip is fast-paced in remote areas of Peru. Only the sturdiest of kids allowed with travel experience and able to climb some steep hikes for 2-3 hours to take full advantage of this area. Leave the whiney kids at home.
Before You Go
- For a nice overview of the “Indiana Jones” review of the person who discovered, Machu Picchu, have the family read this fascinating story: Cradle of Gold
- Because Machu Picchu is government regulated, purchase tickets in advance.
- A valid passport with at least 6 months before expiring is required for all ages.