What to do with 2 Weeks in Peru; Part 1

llama at machu picchu in Peru

See the llama’s at machu picchu, peru

When you don’t have a lot of time, Peru can be a little overwhelming to try and travel through.  It is a vast country with so much to see.  Where do you start? Do you go to the Amazon Basin, check out Lake Titicaca in the far south or do you climb Cordillera Huayhuash?  Having never been before, we decided to do what the tourists do, since we only had two weeks in Peru.  How can we go all the way there, and not see Machu Picchu? It would be like missing the Pyramids while in Egypt.

We decided on our Peru at the last minute. We were looking at where we could go with our free Aeroplan points. Europe was an option, but when we saw that we could fly into Lima for free at the peak of tourist season, we just had to do it.

View of the Andes from plane, peru

View of the Andes from our flight

Upon landing, we decided to immediately grab a flight to Cuzco to see Machu Picchu.  Being so busy in the country, it was going to  be difficult to catch a train up to the ruins.  Having made our plans only 2 weeks earlier, there was little chance that we were going to be able to join a trek along the Inca Trail.  Normally you need to do that a year in advance. But at least we were going to see this famous Inca sight and we couldn’t wait.

Flying into Cuzco was breathtaking. the Andes were extremely beautiful with their snow capped mountain peaks reaching up to the heavens.  I was seriously taken aback by their beauty.

We landed at the airport, caught a cab for 5 soles ($1.65) and we were dropped off at the gorgeous square, Plaza De Armas. Cuzco is a lovely town and we didn’t mind taking in its beauty as we looked for a room.  Albeit, we were feeling a little fatigued from the altitude.  Cuzco sits at 3300 metres.

Plaza Des Aramas in Cuzco Peru

See the Plaza De Armas in Cusco Peru

It took a while to find a place. Everything was sold out of course, so we settled on a cheap room just off of the Plaza de Armas.  At least there was a wine bar around the corner, so we know where we would be that night.  We immediately dropped our packs and went off for some Cocoa Tea to take the edge off of our altitude sickness. The sun was shining bright and we mellowed out on a second floor terrace over looking the square.  Already, I knew that I was going to love Peru.

That night was a cold one in our concrete room and it didn’t help that the altitude was causing us to have to pee every hour.  Having no toilet we had to walk down the stairs in the frigid night air to go to our dark bathroom with a missing toilet seat.  No worries, we were heading to Macchu Pichu tomorrow. …WRONG…

First thing in the morning, we went to the ticket office to buy our train ticket to Aguas Callientas. We thought we would beat the line up and be on the first train out, but when we got their the line was around to corner.  By the time we made it to the front of the line, the day was sold and tomorrow too!  Plus, only VIP tickets were available for the next day. Well, we only had 2 weeks so we sucked it up and paid the $100 USD each.  Now what could we do in Cuzco for the next day and a half.

See the Sacred Valley of Peru

The Sacred Valley, a must see site in Peru

Turns out there is a lot to do.  We booked a tour to see Ollantaytambo and impressive Inca ruin it its own right.  Located in the Sacred Valley, surrounded by the Andes, we walked along its agricultural terraces, checked out the structures.  We took a tour of the valley and walked along a section of the Inca Trail.  We went to the market and enjoyed the countryside and visited a church. It was definitely worth the visit.

An old man waits at a market in Peru

An old mans gaze at a market in Peru

We spent the night enjoying Pisco Sours and trying the Alpaca meat and then it was up bright and early again to catch our train to Machu Picchu.  The glass ceiling allowed us to see the entire view of the Andes and it was incredible.  It was a slow ride, but relaxing and we were fed a meal and enjoyed the scenery.  Once we arrived in Aguas Callientas, we had the task of finding yet another hotel.  As usual, everything was sold out, so this time we had to settle on an expensive room at $100 US.  We didn’t mind though, at least we had flown there for free!

We had awoken the next morning at 4:00 am ran through the rain to beat the queue for the first bust to leave at 5:00 am( ish) and there was already a crowd when we got there!  We sat around on the bus for quite awhile and then finally it was our turn to leave.  We couldn’t see the harrowing ride, luckily.  It is a nailbiting journey winding up the side of a mountain with steep vertical drops. We made it up unscathed though and arrived to see hundreds of people already standing in line.

Llamas in the mist of Machu Picchu

Llamas as we approach Machu Picchu

It turns out we were pretty smart (unwittingly) and booked our entrance tickets to Machu Picchu at the cultural centre in Aguas Callientas as soon as we settled in. We stood in line with everyone else for a couple of minutes and then realized that we didn’t have to be in line. We already had our tickets! So we stepped out of line, walked up to the gate and went directly into the ruins.  We were one of the first people on sight.  I was taken aback as I walked in the dark and came across a Llama in my path.  It turns out there are llama’s scattered all over the ruins.  They made for some spectacular photo opportunities.

Arriving so early, has its pros because we had beaten the crowd and we had plenty of time to explore in peace and quiet, however, it was dark, it was raining and the fog was dense.  However, they restrice how many people can visit Machu Picchu each day, so I wouldn’t want to chance going later to stand in line forever and then be denied access.

We were pretty bummed out for a couple of hours as we walked around thinking that here was our one chance to visit Machu Picchu, and it was shrouded in cloud. But miraculously, as the sun rose, the fog burned off and the spectacular view was revealed.

man at machu picchu with llama

Dave gets up close and personal with a llama

The incredible thing about visiting Machu Picchu is that you can hike up other peaks to see it from different angles.  Seeing it from above really gives you a sense of the scope of the place.  To understand how the Incan empire built this city clinging to the side of a mountain, with terraces falling into the valley is incomprehensible. The back drop is absolutely stunning.  It is even a bit of a thrill to be there. Get too clse to edge at times and you are plunging into the valley.

We may not have been able to hike the Inca Trail. But I certainly enjoyed my time at Machu Picchu.  We explored Aguas Calientes and shopped a lot at the market. We took advantage of happy hour with pitchers of Sangria, we loved our room since we were paying $100 and it was nice for a change to know that we wouldn’t be having to get up and have to trek or cycle or climb some mountain.

Sometimes an adventure can just simply be the experience in itself. Hiking around sacred ruins, enjoying the sunshine and view and actually being in Peru. Wow, that is exciting, I never thought that I would get to Peru.


The famous obligatory Machu Picchu shot

So there are days 1-5. Our whirlwind tour of the Sacred Valley, Ollayantaytambo, Cuzco and Machu Picchu. A must on any travelers destination. But we still have 10 more days to go.  Stay tuned for part two of What to do with Two Weeks in Peru.

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