Ok lets just pretend Traveling is spelled with two L’s because I do not plan on fixing it…
We just got home and I am already missing our nights spent drinking Inca Cola and sampling all the different galletas (cookies/biscuits). Peru was my first country to visit in South America and probably one of my favorite places we have ever been. Let me first start off by saying if Peru/ Machu Picchu is not high on your list, it should be. Some places are completely overrated but Machu Picchu is not one of them. It is worth the hype. Second, sorry this post is so long. You don’t really need to read the tips unless you are going there. These aren’t even a fraction of the pictures we took so we will have to make an album or something on fb because I love all the pictures so much.
We started off our trip in Cusco and it was absolutely perfect. We shopped, explored and fell in love with it. It took no time at all for me to learn the little route from our hostel to the center of town. I loved stopping at all the little tiendas and picking out candies and chocolates and then sampling them every night with Lyle.
This restaurant was recommended to us by one of employees at our hostel. It was probably the most traditional food and really cool. They had live dancers that would perform in different costumes and do different dances throughout our meal.
Cusco was way more traditional than Lima and I loved that. This is what the woman typically would wear with these long braids down their back. They always carried their babies in these packs or whatever else needed carrying. I told Lyle all the babies were always so well behaved here (and absolutely beautiful). The women would be selling things and the babies would just be chillin with their little heads popped out. I don’t think i saw a single crying baby. So of course, we had to get one. 😉
Me and the new besties. I may be a heck of a lot paler than these babes but they were very accepting of me nonetheless. p.s.- to hold any of the baby animals or take pictures with or of the ladies make sure you have money because they expect to be tipped. It’s not much like a couple sols. I had to have pictures with literally every baby sheep or alpaca because I just wanted to hug and hold them. They were the cutest and the alpacas were so soft. Everywhere we go I am all about the animals.
What’s cuter than a baby lamb with a flower crown?! Trick question, nothing.
Just a little North of the Plaza is Sacsayhuaman. We went up there and it is seriously beautiful! Not only are the ruins really cool, but it gives amazing views of Cusco. We went up on a Sunday afternoon and there were tons of families just hanging out and tons of kites filling the sky, it was so beautiful. The best part about Sacsayhuaman were the rock slides on the backside of it along with the cool tunnels! Don’t miss them.
Here’s me coming down the rock slide hahaha. My favorite thing about this picture is zooming in on all the peoples faces around me, they thought it was hilarious. It was so fun up here because it was mainly just the locals. Its also a lot faster than you’d expect and since I had to hold my skirt with one it was scarier since I couldn’t slow down. Lyle said if I didn’t do it I would regret it (since I tried to be classy and initially declined since I was in a skirt) but he was right. Make sure you bend your knees when you hit the bottom or else…
This is my favorite picture from the entire trip. I wanted to really capture the beautiful people and this woman is just perfect. It took no time at all for me to fall in love with the Peruvian people. I love this country and these people so much. Can I just be a National Geographic Photographer please? Is that still a thing?
We did a day trip to Salinas de Maras, Moray and Chinchero. It was really cool. Our favorite part was Salinas De Maras, which was this amazing salt field. I don’t know why but I thought this was just awesome. The best part of this day trip was driving through the countryside, it was so BEAUTIFUL. Having to stop because sheep were being herded through the road or the women in the fields was unreal. You feel like you are going back in time.
One of my favorite spots was the Plaza de Armas in Cusco. The buildings were amazing! We spent a lot of time around there because they have lots of food and shopping options near there. Make sure you go at night because it is absolutely beautiful! While we were there during the day we came across this parade with all the little kids dressed up and dancing. It was so fun to watch. We also went to church there this day and it was amazing. I had to focus so unbelievably hard during sacrament to catch what was being said it actually gave me a headache. I love loved singing the hymns in Spanish though. I was swaying because they were so pretty and just flowed better. I told Lyle we should go to a Spanish ward at home…
I loved Machu Picchu. It was our third world wonder and we probably should have saved it for last because I have a feeling it will remain my favorite. There were tons of llamas and tons of baby llamas! I took TONS of pictures, which is good because you can never take too many pictures at Machu Picchu. 😉
This is one of the peaks on Huayana Picchu with MP in the background! It’s not even the highest.
Some of the stairs on Huayana Picchu. This wasn’t even that bad because there was a railing! After you hike it though the steep stairs at MP itself are nothing. You feel like a pro.
I’m obsessed with this picture of lyle.
We had the absolute best time on this trip! We got to meet up with two of Lyle’s old mission buds which was so cool. His one friend is SO inspiring. He has been living in South America for over 10 months and left with just $2,000. My favorite part about traveling is meeting people because they have the coolest experiences and no lie Lyle spent the rest of the day figuring out if this was something we could/would do. Work hard for a year and then just go travel for a year. He kept telling us that you always will worry about money and you’ll never feel like you have enough saved in life and just go out and do what you want to do. It will change your life. So many people live like this and I could talk to them all day it’s so inspiring. Lyle’s other companion lives in Lima so they took us on a tour around. I was kind of bummed because I had so much planned but we didn’t do a lot of it. We did get to see a lot of things I wouldn’t have planned though like having the best Chifa of my lifeeee from the oldest Chifa restaurant in Lima. Lima is so different than Cusco and a lot bigger. I missed Cusco when we got to Lima haha. Some Lima plans I had were as follows: visit the Mario Testino Museum and the Barranco neighborhood, go to El Circuito Magico de La Reserva a water light show (we did see this and it was pretty), pick up Peruvian alfajores at La Casa del Alfajor, drop by Manolo for some churros ( this was the thing I was saddest about haha if you go you have to tell me if I truly missed out!), Huaca Pucllana, El Parque del Amor, bridge of sighs, Gold Museum, Mercado Indio (not as good as the markets in Cusco) and tour the beautiful plazas. Miraflores is where most of the tourists go. Its the safest part and really nice.
The town of Aguas (below).
Also I have to say, we met the CUTEST little girl ever at our hostel. She was the owners niece and she colored a picture for Lyle. I wanted to bring her home with me she was so perfect.
I helped save this dog in Aguas Calientes. They were catching the dogs to vaccinate and neuter them. This dog loved us and kept following us and would come when I called him so they gave me the noose to catch him. He was so sweet and I’m so happy he is getting help. The dogs here will make you so sad. I would save pieces of my chicken and try to feed them all. I was so embarrassed when Lyle first told someone that but I love dogs and more people should. I want to get involved with a group that helps to rescue the dogs in these poor countries, I feel like that is my calling in life. I had to post a dog picture…I mean would this even be my blog post if I didn’t?!
- Don’t worry about specific places to eat because we enjoyed pretty much everywhere and it also depends on your price point. You can get meals for $5 U.S. dollars or meals that are far more expensive. The only two places we would recommend are La Cusquenita (above) and Heladeria La Esquina Cafe for amazing gelato/icecream. It was a short walk from our hostel and SO cute inside, not to mention the icecream was really good. Lyle recommends the flavors Lucuma and Chirimoya. He had them on his mission and was so excited to have them again. I really liked Lucuma.
- You have to try a lot of the traditional foods when you are there! We loved Lomo Saltado (Beef stir fry mix usually served with french fries), Picarones (fried donuts), Chifa ( I love Chinese food so I loved Chifa! Its Just like fried rice with different meat) Inca Cola (tastes like bubblegum), Chica Morada (a purple corn drink), alfajores (cookies- they are different everywhere you get them but lyle says the best ones are covered in chocolate and have dulce de leche in the middle). We also tried Aji de gallina but I was not a fan. Okay also I love love bakeries and they have this cone thing with dulce de leche in it and its soooo good. So you should try that. Some foods people told us to try but we did not were Guy (guinea pig- I told Lyle if he got this I would not be happy haha. They basically fry it and serve it to you where it still looks like a guinea pig!), alpaca meat, pisco sour (since we don’t drink) and cerviche. Apparently the cerviche is a must have but we were nervous about having the raw seafood messing with our stomaches and we didn’t have any time to get sick. Most of the restaurants say what the food is in English but I would look up some foods ahead of time in case you don’t go to those places or speak spanish. Also, prepare to wait a while for your food and drink. Some places felt like forever and I joked to Lyle that at some of the places I worked at, this would not fly. If you are worried about the food, fear not, because there are tons of places that serve American food. Most places serve both American and Peruvian so you have pizza, burgers and even pasta (although we wouldn’t recommend the pasta).
- When you buy your ticket for Sacsayhuaman just buy the Boleto Turistico Del Cusco if you are planning on doing Chinchero, Moray, or any of the museums. It will save you money.
- Don’t feel pressure to book your trips ahead of time. The only thing you need to book months in advance is your PeruRail Ticket and your actually Machu Picchu Ticket. There are tons of places that do day trips or even your hostel. August is one of the busiest months for Machu Picchu and we didn’t have any problem doing our day trip. I would HIGHLY recommend just having a taxi driver take you there instead of a tour because 1. It’s about the same price, if not less (both affordable) and 2. You can do it based off your time. Chinchero wasn’t that cool honestly but without a guide you don’t have to stay somewhere that you don’t want to and you can stay longer in a place you want to. The freedom is worth it.
- I read tons and tons before coming. The main things people said to bring (mainly for Machu Picchu) was sunscreen, chapstick, bug spray, rain gear, a jacket and a hat. Lyle actually did get sunburnt on his neck and a little on his face so its safe to say we didn’t listen to the whole sunscreen thing…The bugspray was needed most near Machu Picchu. Aguas Calientes is very green and lush so you for sure need that! One thing not on the list which for sure should be is hand sanitizer. We used that more so in Cusco with all the animals but its so useful for everywhere. If you want to sample foods or stop and get a treat there isn’t always a bathroom so this was super helpful. We also used chapstick constantly throughout the day. I think it was the high altitude but it was not good for our skin and lips.
- Pack for both cold and warm weather. During the day it was really hot but at night (moreso in Aguas Calientes, a mountain town) it was always really cold in the morning or at night. I did lots of layering because I never knew when I was gonna be hot or cold depending on the weather. A jacket went with me everywhere.
- One day trip we didn’t do which I should have planned better for was the Rainbow Mountain near Cusco. I read that it was something you must be in shape for because its pretty strenuous. A lot of the pictures are enhanced on google btw but it still looks pretty cool. I heard a girl talking about it at the airport and she thought it was awesome. You leave at like 3 in the morning because its pretty far but I just thought I would share this even though we didn’t do it. I also would recommend Lake Titicaca, you can do a homestay out on the actual reeds where people live. I plan on doing that with another trip since it’s so far South but if you are doing more of Peru I wouldn’t miss that!
- I highly suggest hiking Huayana Picchu (pronounced Wayna). They only have 2oo people for the 7-8 a.m. slot and 200 people for the 10-11 (i think is the time) a day. Now to put that into perspective, they let 2500 people into Machu Picchu a day. It’s only $9 more to get the combined ticket for Machu Picchu and Huayana Picchu. The problem with these is they sell out months in advance. This is probably the most coveted hike at Machu Picchu. Another one you can pay for is Machu Picchu Mountain but from what I read most people who didn’t get Huayana tickets in time did Machu Picchu Mountain instead. Huayana is the highest and its in all the typical Machu Picchu pictures you see. It’s AWESOME. In general be prepared for millions of steps in Peru but there are tons heading up to Huayana. When you get to the top it is so freaky! The stairs are so steep and some of them don’t even have railings or anything to hold so if you are afraid of heights this is probably not for you. The views are out of this world though and this is hands down one of the coolest hikes ever. By the way, when you get into the area for this hike, you can go right to hike Huayana or left to do the smaller mountain and most people just go right to get started but we went left and did that one first. I thought it was cool because it’s a pretty fast hike and its got some cool elements to it like this rope you have to go up and there was barely anyone on it when we went.
- Spend two days at Machu Picchu. I promise you, you won’t regret it. Most people we ran into took the train in and just spent the day there. I guarantee you will be stressed if you do this. First off the train ride to Aguas Calientes is 3.5 hours. It’s a super cool train ride though and the views are beautiful. When you get into town you won’t have anytime to wander (which we were told Aguas was kind of crappy and you wont want to spend too much time there anyway by someone and I disagree, I loved it). The main street is tons of shops and food but if you wander down to the rocks and water it is so pretty. Then you have to get tickets for the bus ($12 up and $12 back per person) and thats a 25 minute drive and it closes at 5 and apparently the buses stop going down at 4. We didn’t test this out. The first day we just took it all in. We took tons of pictures and wandered on our own. We did the Inca Bridge hike and theres also the Sungate hike. For the half day/day you will also need to leave quite a bit early because the lines heading down from the buses are way long and take about an hour to get on a bus and you have to be at the station early and the 25 minute bus ride down. Basically you will be cutting it close. If you actually want to explore all the parts of it two days is necessary especially if you want to do Huayana because then you have more time to relax.
- They have tons of guides at the entrance of the gate that charge you to take you around Machu Picchu. If you do pick a guide we were told to ask them a couple questions to see how many actually knew most of what they were talking about. We chose not to use a guide because the groups can get pretty big and they can move very slow especially when they have some older people in it. You can always opt for a guide for just your group which may be more expensive but worth it.
- We chose to do the hikes in and around instead of doing the Inca Trail and now I can’t even imagine doing the Inca Trail after how tired we were and I think I am in pretty good shape. You can never prepare yourself for that many steps though. We hiked all around MP the first day, then down MP, then the next morning up it and then Huayana and all around MP. To say our legs were shot would be an understatement. I can’t imagine doing the Inca trail prior and then all that after. MP itself was the reason we went so we wanted to see it all. The first day we took the train up and decided to just hike down and save money, why not? Reminder, tons of steps. The next morning we underestimated just how long the line was. If you take any advice from this post it is this, ready? Machu Picchu opens at 6. The first bus heads up at 5:30 a.m. I read that there are long lines in the morning and you want to be early. DO NOT TAKE THIS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. No, the lines are not just long, they are unbelievably, insanely and crazily long. I’m talking the busiest day at Disney Land and then some. We got there about 5 a.m. and started walking back and back and back…until I just stopped and turned to Lyle and said we are going to miss out time slot for Huayana. People start lining up at like 3 a.m.!! If not earlier. You figure, there are 2,500 spots for Machu Picchu a day and Aguas Calientes is the only town that has buses to take you up, yes a lot come in during the day on train but probably over 1000 people are in that freaking line, if not way more. If you don’t have a morning hike entrance time or don’t need to be there when it’s not completely packed for some pictures first thing then by all means, wait. If you don’t want to get up by 3 a.m., plan on getting up early to just hike up to Machu Picchu. Give yourself lots of time for breaks because you don’t want to expend all your energy. It takes the average person 1.5 hours to get to the top but we got up in 45 minutes! Possibly because I am insane and I still can’t believe Lyle did not kill me after it. I was like the hike motivator which was super annoying I’m sure. I like to joke if there was an Olympic sport for stairs I would dominate because we were passing people left and right. But the altitude is NO JOKE. Which brings me to my next note.
- Altitude sickness. I was actually very worried about this. You read about this tons when you start doing your research so I was so nervous. They recommend taking it easy your first couple days in Peru and staying hydrated. Symptoms can be very serious and you can get the worst migraines. We didn’t have a single problem and I accredit that to Utah and how much we love hiking and are used to the altitude. They recommend Coca to help with this but just so you know it’s the Cocaine plant so we decided to stay clear of the Coca products.
- Don’t forget the cool MP passport stamp when you leave! Its on the side by the entrance gate!
- We went to Lima last and it was definitely more expensive than Aguas Calientes and Cusco. I would get your souvenirs in those places. Also, just like with all our trips I wish I had bought more souvenirs! I bought this sweater and I can’t take it off. Why did I not buy tons of them?! I think the name of the one we bought everything at was Centro Artesanal Cusco.
- In Cusco we stayed at Hospedaje Turistico Recoleta. We really liked it, the wifi is a little slow but they gave us breakfast every morning and it was SO good. One morning it was pancakes, the next a fresh fruit bowl with yogurt and omeletes along with bread and tea everyday. Which is nice because the hotel is around $30? And thats with our own private bathroom. If you don’t mind sharing then you can get rooms as well as $15 at some places! We spent less than $200 for a week. Lyle said the bed was a little hard but overall it was really nice and we would tell them when we wanted a taxi to get to the train station and she would take care of it (although finding a taxi is not hard at all). It was a little farther from the Plaza but we never mind walking and the chicken place diagonal too it is really good even though it doesn’t look it! In Aguas Calientes we stayed at Hostal Pakarina. It had a really comfy bed and a simple breakfast included but you can’t get wifi in the bedrooms. You don’t think wifi is important unless you’re traveling for a bit… You can stay up at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge and not have to take the bus up since it is the only hotel directly up next to MP. However you will be spending a lot of money on that room. I love staying in hostels because I honestly feel like you meet cooler people and get to know the locals better. We met this kid Nick from England who was down in Ecuador doing an internship as a doctor or Juan from Texas who told us some crazy stories haha.
- I highly recommend bringing a folder and printing out your MP ticket (you have to), your peru rail info sheet (x2), a copy of your passport, your hotel confirmations and finally a tentative itinerary. I wrote down numbers and addresses in case our phones didn’t work and even if our plans didn’t work out I was more organized in knowing what we wanted to see and do and when. Sometimes it can get overwhelming. This trip was pretty smooth because of it, I think we are finally getting the hang of it.
- Learn the basic Spanish terms like how much, hello, thank you, where is and more. Lyle served his mission in Chile so he speaks Spanish amazingly. I loved listening to him talk to everyone. It was honestly a lifesaver. A good amount of people speak broken English but it can get pretty rough. I speak decent Spanish but my conjugating sucks so it was nice to practice.
If you made it to the end congrats! This was so long but didn’t want to leave anything out and I hope our fails and successes help you have the best trip you can have. Traveling is such a huge part of our lives and not for bragging rights or anything like that but for how it changes you. It has helped me understand people better and the world for that matter. You realize how blessed you are when you see how some people live and you can help others. I have so much more compassion and love in my life after these experiences. I want other people to know its more doable than you think. I think that is my biggest hope for sharing my travel posts. I always feel like people will think its bragging when I share my travels but just so you know its not always easy and fun traveling. I mean most of the time it is but waiting in lines and when things go wrong it can be frustrating. For example I fell in the shower at our first place (my fault not theirs) and bruised my shin and foot super bad and Lyle actually thought I had a concussion! It was pretty scary, I could barely walk. No joke, Lyle gave me a blessing and the next morning I was completely fine. Talk about a miracle. This is now the second time I’ve needed a blessing while traveling and let me tell you, priesthood blessings are amazing. We have gotten sick and gotten lost on many trips but nothing compares to these experiences. Anyway, I digress, I know so many people who tell me they want to go here and do this and that and do it! If you have kids it may be a little harder but let me tell you, I saw people carrying around little babies in carriers. If you want it bad you’ll make it happen.
The hardest part is taking the first step in making it happen so here’s what you need to do first. Open Expedia and book the cheapest flight to Cusco (most will stop in Lima). Make sure its a couple months out so theres space for you to book your train ticket and Huayana Picchu ticket. The train tickets sell out fast. Go to this PAGE and also open this PAGE to book your MP tickets and train ticket. You will leave out of the Poroy Station if you are going from Cusco. The Expedition train is the most affordable, I’m pretty sure thats what we did and we enjoyed it. If you are willing to splurge the Hiram Bingham is SUPER nice. If you have any other questions or want help planning your next trip just ask them below or on instagram. I would love to help.