Click the Picture below to read my CNN.Com story about a town in the Sacred Valley.
I found one of my all time favorite places, thus far, in Peru. This trip report is on a week trip to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. June 2009.
MISC. Things you should know:
– Exchange in this report when referring to local currency, $1USD = 3 Soles.
-Bring crisp new bills one tear or tiny rip and they will NOT exchange them
-Exchange Money in Cusco before going to Sacred Valley
-The weather at night can be very cold be prepared.
– In Cusco pay airport tax to leave downstairs before heading up to departure area
-3 people were traveling 2 adults and a teenager
-Peru airport hotel Ramada is a bit pricey but worth it for early flights. It is steps from the airport and if you book on Interhabit website the cost is cheaper than walking in. For 3 people it was $175. You can check in early then go back to the room to relax.
-Print your boarding pass if flying Taca and you won’t have to stand in long line to check bags, they have a shorter one for those that had their boarding pass.
-Bring an alarm clock the fine Cusco hotel forgot our wake up call!!
-Airport Taxes!! Every time you fly you pay! Domestically it was $5 pp and leaving the country was around $30pp. so be prepared!
After landing at Cusco Airport we headed straight to Ollantaytambo and it turned out to be a great choice not just to adjust to the altitude but because I loved this town!
Many people stay in Cusco first, and then get hit by the altitude. By going down to the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo first, you avoid most of the effects of altitude – we barely felt it.
OLLANTAYTAMBO: I fell in LOVE with this town!!
-Hotel arranged taxi from airport cost $30 drive time about 1hr 45 min
-Located in the Sacred Valley between MP and Cusco, a beautiful old Incan town with cobblestone streets and surrounded by mountains. A tiny village with lots of color, amazing scenery, good food, plenty to do and nice people.
-Hotel Sauce: It was clean, nice and in a great location. Kinda expensive we paid $150 for a room with a queen bed and a double. Private bath, hot water and a really nice breakfast spread.
-KB Hotel and Tours: A less expensive choice but I didn’t see the rooms. The owner is a very helpful and kind American named KB said the building was new and rooms start at $20 a night. We did use KB to book our bicycle tour that I highly recommend. And the Restaurant in the hotel, ran by a Chilean Chef was outstanding!!! The Lomo Saltado, which I ate every day, was the best I had.
-Things to do:
We took a bike tour for $40pp where we were driven up about 14,000 feet to the Ambra Malaga Pass then coasted down the asphalt road filled with switch backs, on bicycles. This was a beautiful trip, snow covered peaks and green fields. Took about 4 hours in total. Easy for a novice. Bring a jacket it can get very cold and you probably won’t work up a sweat!
Ollantaytambo Parque Arqueologico Fortaleza Ruins: which you can see from the streets. We were able to get a ticket for 40 soles pp after telling the cashier we only wanted to visit this one spot and not the other ruins. So we saved 30 soles pp. If you are going to visit other sites around Cusco it is worth buying the more expensive ticket. So, I think it cost us in the end since we did visit another site near Cusco. We hired a guide after entering named Alberto he was terrific! He gave us a 2 hour tour, climbing the terraces and pointing out the faces carved in another nearby mountain.
Free Ruins and hikes: There are other ruins on the side of town across from the Fortress and they are free, ask around and you will easily find the way. Also at the Museum (which is free but you will be hounded for a donation) there are a few posters that have suggested walks in the area and the time they will take. We walked to the Inca Bridge around the town then on the railroad tracks back into the center.
Other Things to do: White water rafting, Horseback Riding, Mountain Climbing.
TRAINS: they run frequently to and from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. We took the backpacker train and the $10 more Vistadome. The Vistadome has bigger and better windows so you can really see the amazing view. You also get a boxed lunch and a very annoying fashion show which kinda ruins the view.
**If you are going for the day, there is a place on the platform where you can store luggage. However, despite the signs, there is plenty of room on the train for big bags.**
AGUAS CALIENTE – MACHU PICCHU
This town wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. I thought the plaza was cute and the alleys are just filled with restaurants. The problem is the hotels, unless you can afford a small fortune you will pay too much for a not so great place….unless I missed a place that was worthy of the price and that is possible. I just wanted clean!!
-Wiracocha Inn: The only hotel that no one was waiting for us at the train station, but we found it. The type of room we arranged didn’t exist. We took a triple room for $80 a night. It was not very clean, being a clean freak I was able to deal with it for one night but I would not return! The water was hot.
-Indio Feliz Restaurant: Food was very good. The tourist menu is 49 Soles and you get an appetizer, main course and a dessert. I really liked the mango chicken!
-Bus/MP Tickets: The MP tickets can be purchased in the plaza next to the church, if you are traveling with a child make sure you ask for the student price. The Bus tickets are around the corner right where you will see all the buses lined up. Price: BUS $14 / MP Adult day pass: 124 soles and Students 64 soles
-Train from MP to Cusco is around 3pm unless you go on the swanky $300 one way train later in the day. But if you go back to Ollantaytambo there are trains every hour either the backpacker or the vistadome. (we took a cab from the station to Cusco for about $15)
-Should you do a day trip?: The one nice thing about staying over night as I am sure you heard is the crowds leave and you have these amazing ruins without tons of tour groups ruining your vista. Even with the hotel I stayed in I would say it is worth it. We arrived at the ruins about 1pm and stayed until about 5pm and it was so much nicer after 4pm which I am sure people who get there first thing in the morning would say the same thing.
-Bring water and snacks there is a stand at the entrance but its expensive about $8 for a hamburger which wasn’t very good.
-we hired our own guide outside it cost $35 for a 1.5hour tour.
-Signs for the Incan Bridge at MP. It is about a 30 minute walk and the first 10 minutes or so is uphill. After that it’s a smooth narrow straight path around the rim of the mountain. The bridge isn’t much to see but the walk is nice.
-There are other hikes you can do either to MP from Aguas or once in MP up the adjacent mountains.