Peru – Machu Picchu

View Peru photos including Lima, Cuzco, Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes and more in my Peru photo stream on flickr.com: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kellygrainger/sets/72157624030145120/

Is Machu Picchu in Peru on your bucket list? I traveled to Peru to hike Machu Picchu and it was a trip of a lifetime. Machu Picchu is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and the #1 attraction in Peru. The Inca Trail hike is challenging, scenic, and rewarding. I traveled with a local tour operator (SAS Travel) along with a dozen or so other hikers. We hiked all day and made camp each night with the help of local porters.

machu picchu peru

peru

Peru and Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Tours

There are several guided tours you can take into Peru and all the way to Machu Picchu. I recommend Intrepid Travel tours. These tours are all affordable and run by experienced guides.

map of peru lima cusco machu picchu

map of peru

The 4-Day Inca Trail Hike

The plan was to arrive in Lima, Peru, spend a couple days hanging out, and then head to a city called Cuzco where we’d begin our journey along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. There were a few options: We could take a train right up to Machu Picchu, do a quick 2-day hike through a not-so-beaten path, or do the more adventurous and strenuous “4-Day Inca Trail Hike”. We chose the later, as it was more genuine and we both had a couple of weeks to kill – we weren’t in any kind of rush.


We got a tour guide from a company called SAS Travel, and were grouped with about 10 other people from all over the place. In addition to the guide, SAS provided a cook and some porters to carry things like tents, pots, chairs, etc. The porters were awesome, and rumored to be locals that lived up in the mountains, hired and well-treated by SAS.

Miraflores

lima peru

lima peru

Lima has a “tourist-friendly” area called Miraflores, which is full of restaurants, Internet cafes, pubs, hotels, hostels, etc. It’s also got a main landmark/square that is within walking distance to the ocean. Its a nice place to hang out and also buy some good souvenirs.

From the ocean there are great views of surfers and what feels like miles of sea-side walking paths through parks. When we were in Lima the later-part of this park route was under construction, indicating these guys were spending big bucks on making it even better and extending it even further. Another cool part about this Miraflores area is that there is a shopping mall built into the side of a cliff. The stores are decent, and there’s lots of different food to crush.

miraflores lima peru

miraflores lima peru

One thing I will say is that the Miraflores area of Lima doesn’t have much in the way of sightseeing old buildings and historical landmarks, which is probably one of the cooler things to do/see in Central and South America. Most of these sights are located in the center or heart of the city – which brings me back to the dirty/shady part. Downtown Lima IS very dirty, and very shady. By “shady”, I mean you’re likely to get into some sort of trouble regardless of how low-key you think you’re being. The downtown Lima area seemed like the wild west. There was a lot of trash, stray dogs, and “rough” looking people lurking around.

Inca Trail Deaths

I heard rumors of people dying on the Machu Picchu tour (falling off the side of a mountain or collapsing from exhaustion on the Inca Trail). There are places along the Inca Trail hike that you are not advised to venture out to. There are also mountain sides you’re not advised to climb. If you want to take risks (and the idiotic adrenaline rush doesn’t kill you), you’ll likely end up breaking a leg, arm, back or with a nasty concussion. Otherwise, the Inca Trail hike is very safe.

Is the Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu Difficult?

SAS Travel also advised that you only do the 4-day Inca Trail hike if you’re physically fit. I thought I was in pretty good shape and ready for the trip, and I near puked every day. Now I’ll define what I called physically fit, because I obviously wasn’t. At the time leading up to the hike, my exercise routine consisted of walking, running, playing squash, ball hockey, and ice hockey. I was fine for the first day, finishing first or second place in the group, and by the 4th day I was dead last, wearing a knee brace on loan from an ex-rugby player in the group and 2 borrowed walking sticks from a couple girls. Keep in mind you pass altitudes of 4,000 meters and if you’ve never been at such an altitude you don’t know how your body will react. I was light headed, short of breath, my joints (fingers especially) swelled up, and my knees buckled big time. Despite these surprises, I happily finished the hike. However, if I had to do it again I’d adjust my exercise routing to prepare a bit better. If your body is not used to high altitudes, or if you’re not physically up to the task, don’t bother hiking to Machu Picchu. Also, it’s recommended that when you get to Cuzco you should stick around and acclimatize to the altitude for a couple days, I say more like 4 days. And Cuzco is a VERY cool place to hang out in for 4 days.

Machu Picchu Photos

My Peru Trip in a Nutshell

I felt like two days in Lima were enough, no longer. I loved Cuzco (sometimes spelled Cusco) and feel 4 days there would have been perfect. If you’re going to see Machu Picchu, make not only the sight of it but the journey there a memory and hike the Inca Trail to Machu – and yes, travel with SAS Travel because they’re awesome. Oh – and do NOT take the bus ride from Lima to Cuzco, it’s 18-24hrs (I think, will have to double-check that) if you’re lucky. I heard stories of buses breaking down in the middle of nowhere and an overall uncomfortable ride. My advise is to budget for the $200, 2hr flight. There’s one leaving Lima just about every hour to Cuzco.

Machu Picchu Video

Peru and Inca Trail Tours

There are several guided tours you can take into Peru and all the way to Machu Picchu. I recommend Intrepid Travel or G Adventures. These tours are all affordable and run by experienced guides.

View Peru photos including Lima, Cuzco, Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes and more in my Peru photo stream on flickr.com: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kellygrainger/sets/72157624030145120/

* The first Machu Picchu picture at the top of this page is from http://www.toddadams.net/. It’s one of the best photos I could find, he lucked out and got a great shot on a great day! All other photos are my own, and you can see more on my flickr page.

 

 

77 Comments
  1. In your Peru photos – what/who are the guys in the striped shirts towards the end of your group of Peru photos?

  2. Hi Peru!
    i am an afghan and read alottle about the history od Inca and Peru, I liked it alot.
    secondly i also watched a tv documentery about the food of Peruvians, thank you Peru, LIVE IN PEACE, you and your country is really great and nice.
    thanks

  3. There are lots of benefits in traveling. I didn’t start traveling till I was in my 20s. Perhaps it was the fear of the unknown and even fear of flying but since I went for my first holiday to Australia, I have never looked back.

    • i’ve never met anyone who has been to machu picchu and didn’t like it. i recommend the inca trail hike, but if that’s not your preferred travel style i still recommend people get to machu picchu any way they can – it’s awesome.

  4. hello, i want to point out that you are scaring away people like me from doing this hike. I read this article, and almost wimped out on doing the trail that my husband booked. I am fit person, and by that i mean, i’m not overweight. but that’s all. i do not exercise regularly (if at all), but i have stamina. and I did the hike just fine. i went to puno for 2 days (and got a killer headache) and was in cusco for 3 days before the hike, so i acclimatized. I cannot imagine hiking it with that killer headache. so please, people out there, if you are determined, you can do it!! you do not have to be a runner, or be going to the gym multiple times a week, etc… to do this. It is HARD, but you can take your time, and STAMINA is what you need.

  5. You’re right that motivation and stamina factor in… however I still recommend that people phsically prepare for the Inca Trail hike.

    Intrepid Travel (who operates guided tours and hikes like this all over the world) gives the Inca Trail hike a physical rating of 4/5, and in their words…

    “Be prepared for some serious physical activity. The majority of activities included on this trip will be challenging. The fitter you are, the more you will enjoy your holiday.”

    I think this sums it up 😉

  6. With all the snow we have gotten recently I am stuck indoors, fortunately there is the internet, thanks for giving me something to do 🙂

  7. Excellent article and easy to understand explanation. How do I go about getting permission to post part of the article in my upcoming news letter? Giving proper credit to you the author and link to the site would not be a problem.

  8. I also am plannig to go to Peru. What is the best season do you think going there? Which month was your trip? Did you also search for visiting Peru else than hiking on Inca trails? Do you have any recommendation onto it?

    • Thanks for the post Raul. I feel for these tourists who had such a terrible experience in Peru. As horrific as this must have been, I am willing to bet that these travelers will not condemn Peru as a whole for the actions of a few. Personally, when traveling to foreign countries, I prefer to trek with a group and/or guide – especially when there are language barriers and cultural sensitivities.

  9. Pingback: Machu Picchu Closing? | Kelly's Travel Blog

  10. Hello, I volunteer for a nonprofit that performs free surgeries for children with cleft lip and palates. We are going to be at Hospital Regional de Ica on April 27th at 8am please help us patient recruit with this letter. Send to anyone, radio stations, newspapers, nonprofits that can help us help children with cleft palates. Thanks!!

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    Healing the Children Northeast es una organización independiente, sin fines de lucro y exenta de impuestos. Nuestro objetivo es ayudar a que los niños de todo el mundo reciban atención médica a la cual no tienen acceso debido a la falta de recursos médicos y financieros o un seguro de salud. A la fecha hemos ayudado a más de 43,000 pacientes como fruto de nuestro esfuerzo.

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    Los síntomas principales que buscamos en los pacientes son:

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    Si usted conoce a alguien que necesite ayuda con respecto a estos problemas, por favor envíe al paciente al Hospital Regional de Ica para que sea evaluado el 27 de abril a las 8 a.m. por nuestros profesionales médicos.

    Agradecemos su tiempo prestado y atención.

    Atentamente,

    Kerry Lynn

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  23. Fantastic summary! I pretty much felt lik you. Lima was okay but after 2 days I wanted to leave. The sacred valley and machu picchu were so much more impressive. Getting to machu Picchu was a bit hard for me, and sadly I couldn’t do the Inca trail due to health concerns. But it is fun to read about it either way!

  24. Hi Kelly, I enjoyed very much reading your blog, there’s a lot of useful info. I just came back from Peru, and the trip was just amazing. I hired a travel agency callled Machupicchu Holidays and they did such an amazing job organizing my trip, everything was just perfect. I highly recommend them! (www.machupicchu-holidays.com)
    MachuPicchu is such a beautiful place but Peru has a lot more to offer I visited Ica, Arequipa and Puno. I’m definitely going back to Peru!

  25. I can totally agree with you. 2 Days for Lima is enough..rather spend your time in the sacred valley – hiking to Machu Picchu or any of the other wodnerful treks! 🙂 Great pictures you got here!

  26. Hello, everyone, I love to travel and can´t let the opportunity pass to know Peru and this wonder called Machu Picchu. I´m traveling between January and February, but I have some doubts, which I believe you can help me solving:

    – I´d like to visit Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu on the same day. Is that possible?
    – Is it easy to find a guide in Machu Picchu?

    Cheers. Excellent blog..

  27. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR INCA TRAIL
    It is best to arrive at least 2 days before the trek so that your body gets used to working properly in height. Rest for at least 1 hour at your hotel on arrival, walk slowly and do not hesitate to take a taxi even when the journey is short.
    We recommend to take infusions of coca leaves (mate of coca) when arriving at Cuzco. All public places and hotels offer it and some hotels give it to their customers free of charge.
    If you are a smoker, try to reduce your consumption as much as possible.
    Eat light, no excess fat or heavy meals for digestion.
    Although the water is potable in almost all Peru, its chemical and bacteriological composition changes according to the place. To avoid problems, we recommend drinking bottled water.
    During the Trek, walk slowly and avoid making unnecessary efforts.
    Drink enough during the walks.
    Do not hesitate to stop and rest if you feel that you are short of oxygen.
    Tell your guide if you have any discomfort; He is trained and can help or take the necessary measures.

  28. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is rated among the best trekking trips in the world because of the exquisite beauty of its natural surroundings; these include different ecological areas from high deserts to Andean Tropical rain forests.

  29. this site is such an inspiration for me and my husband. We have recently planned a trip to Peru in March for our first inca trail with Alpaca Expeditions Tours

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