Peru: First hand experience in Lima and Machu Picchu

vistas Machu pichu

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I had always wanted to travel to South America to taste its delicious food, explore the amazing landscapes and get to know the history. When the opportunity to visit Peru and Chile came up as my father had to work in Lima and Santiago I knew I had to join him!

I arrived in Lima late October of 2017 joined by my mother and father. We spent the first night at a hotel next to the airport as the next morning we had a flight to Cusco very early. There are several flights to Cusco per day and the flight is only around one hour and a half. Arriving into Cusco by plane was a very easy journey and the view outside the window approaching the runway of the surrounding Andes mountains were spectacular! 

We had booked the Sunrise tour in Machu Picchu, as it is recommended to buy tickets in advance online, especially if you visit in the high season (June to September). 

We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Cusco, a short taxi from Cusco airport, and only 600m from the main Square in Cusco. After a few hours of being in Cusco, I certainly felt some symptoms of altitude sickness. It is recommended to drink coca tea or leaves, however, in my case I don’t think this helped! The afternoon that we arrived, we walked down to the ‘Plaza de Armas’ (the main square in Cusco) slowly due to the altitude. We tasted a traditional Peruvian meal in one of the restaurants on the square. I had the traditional ‘Lomo Saltado’ which is a dish including sliced steak served with rice. I was not daring enough to try the ‘Cuy chactado’ which is fried guinea pig! 

plaza armas peru

After this, we took a taxi back up to our hotel as it was up a hill and with the altitude it is not recommended to walk it! That evening we relaxed in the hotels lovely Peruvian courtyard and took an early night as the next day we travelled to Machu Picchu.

The next day we had a great breakfast at out hotel, then travelled in a taxi for two hours to a small town called Ollantaytambo where the train to Aguas Calientes (the nearest town to Machu Picchu) departed.  We booked the Vistadome train by Peru Rail as an extra option the tour offered. The train takes one hour and a half, but it felt shorter as you get distracted by the amazing landscape surrounding you outside the windows. Aguas Calientes (‘warm waters’) is cut off from all roads and is enclosed by stone cliffs and forests. However, the small town is full of tourists wanting to explore one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu. We stayed in a very basic hotel, however, it was all that we needed for a one night stay, especially as we had to wake up at 4 am on the day of visiting Machu Picchu! That evening we dined in one of the many restaurants in the town and then returned to the hotel to prepare for exploring Machu Picchu the next day.

Aguascalientes peru

The next day we woke up at around 4 am to catch the bus from down in the town up to Machu Picchu. As we had booked in advance we were lucky enough to visit the citadel at the 6am slot instead of the 2pm slot, especially as we had heard it gets very busy later in the day. I was very excited and optimistic to see if the pictures I had seen online and social media reflected the true views. 

Once we reached the entrance of the site, we found a tour guide outside which I would certainly recommend as you can learn about the extensive history of the area whilst walking around. By the entrance of the site there is an area where you can stamp your passport with a Machu Picchu stamp, I thought this was a great idea as the memory of visiting the place can go along with the other countries and places you have visited.  

Our tour guide took us inside and guided us to one of many viewing points. As we were there very early in the morning mist was still in the sky, however, this did not detract from the beauty of the panorama and as the day went on the sun rose and the mist disappeared. The tour guide explained the history of the Inca Empire. The tour lasted around 2 hours walking around the ancient city so after that we decided to hike up to the “Puerta de Sol” which was once the main entrance to Machu Picchu and once up there you get great views of the citadel. 

After a long morning of exploring Machu Picchu it was time to make our descent back to Aguas Calientes and we decided to walk down and on the way, we stopped off at the Butterfly House where we learnt about the life cycle of butterflies and got to see different types of species. 

Before catching the train back to Ollantaytambo we stopped off at the market near the station to purchase some souvenirs. The train on the way back was just as good as the way there, also staff dressed up and performed a typical Peruvian dance which added to the atmosphere! 

We arrived back to Cusco late, so decided to go to sleep so we could wake up early and have until the after to explore Cusco before our flight to Lima in the afternoon. After breakfast, we decided to wander to ‘San Pedro Market’. As soon as we entered we were presented with an array of colours from the fruit, spices and clothes. It was great to see the culture of the country in such a small area. Then, we went to the Plaza de Armas where we started the Walking City Tour of Cusco. On the tour, we learnt about the history of the city, including the ancient Inca walls. Furthermore, we walked around the San Blas neighbourhood and up to the San Cristobal where there was a great lookout onto the whole of Cusco. 

Mercado san pedro

After the tour, we decided to grab some lunch at ‘Pachapapa’ where we sat outside in their courtyard and enjoyed some traditional dishes from Cusco. Shortly after this, we headed to the airport and took a flight back to Lima. If we would have had the time in Cusco, I would have loved to visit the rainbow mountain, however, I am sure in the future I will be able to tick this off my list as I would love to return to Peru and Cusco!

 We arrived to Country Club Hotel in Lima which is in the San Isidro neighbourhood next to Miraflores. We were eager to explore Lima so that afternoon we went into the centre of Lima by taxi as all the neighbourhoods are fairly spread out. We walked around the ‘Plaza de Armas’ which is a Unesco World Heritage Site and you can go inside the beautiful cathedral.

plaza armas peru

Afterwards, we wandered to ‘Basílica y Convento de San Francisco’ which is a historic church and convent. Later that evening we decided to eat in the hotel, and the food was amazing! The next morning, we explored the Miraflores area and we visited the Larcomar shopping centre which is built into a cliff. We did some shopping and had a drink in one of the lovely restaurants there. Miraflores has a lovely coastal path on the top of the cliff which offers great sea views.

In Miraflores, there is the ‘Park of Love’ which has huge kissing sculpture. We had been recommended to visit the Barranco district so we visited it in the afternoon. This neighbourhood is branded as Lima’s coolest area; it has a colonial style; the houses are brightly coloured and the walls are plastered with bright graffiti. We walked around taking photos of the houses and graffiti and walked on the ‘Puente de Los Suspiros’ (the Bridge of Sighs). We stopped by La Bodega Verde, an outdoor coffee shop to have some lunch. This area of Lima was my favourite as it had a very bohemian feel. Later that evening we went to a restaurant called Cala for dinner. It is located on the beach and we dined right next to the sea, which was an amazing experience. Here, we tried some local dishes including ceviche, tiradito and more local seafood. Although we didn’t spend that much time in Lima, I felt like I saw most of the city. 

parque amor peru

grafiti lima

However, I would love to return in another style of travel and volunteer to see the other side of Lima and help some of the less fortunate people living in the city. Lima is a very large city and you can find a lot of variety between each of the neighbourhoods.

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