Travel Need help planning a trip to Peru Machu Picchu and....

francot1

O.G.
Jan 24, 2009
438
2
My DH and I are planning a trip to Peru in May. We definitely want to see Machu Picchu and will spend 4-5 days touring Cuzco, Sacred Valley and MP. We will have 8 days in Peru and are unsure of what to do for the other 3-4 days. Our options are:
Puerto Maldonado or Mana for amazon experience
Lake Titicaca
Lima city tour

I am leaning more towards an amazon side trip, but would have to get vaccinations (yellow fever etc) and take malaria medications, which I am not thrilled about.

I do not know too much about Lake Titicaca, and any thoughts or experiences would be appreciated. DH and I are very active and wonder if there is enough to do for 3-4 days?

Touring Lima might be fun, but again wonder if 3-4 days would be too much?

Our thoughts for Machu Picchu were to stay in the Sacred Valley and spend a couple of days touring the area, and Pisac Markets, and of course see MP. Do we need to stay at Machu Picchu, or could we take the train and do a day trip from the Sacred Valley?

We are also thinking about hiring a driver to do the tours, is this the best way to go?

Any info would be very helpful in our planning.
 
Mar 14, 2006
5,519
851
the lowcountry
oh I was just there, I loved my trip to Peru so much. it was way better than expected.

do go to lima but 3-4 is a bit much, 2 is more like enough unless you have a specific desire to see something that would take longer (like we went to a specific museum and to the race track for an afternoon.) we ate at some really nice restaurants in lima.

most people who visit machu picchu take the train up just for the day, BUT, if you have the money to spend, stay at the sanctuary lodge. it's the only hotel actually right there, steps from the gates. it's crazy expensive but I thought it was very, very worth it. I loved that hotel. and then you can wake up for the sunrise over machu picchu thing that everyone says is worthwhile and indeed is.

feel free to pm me with questions or more details, I feel like being too specific about what we did is a little hard for privacy reasons. we also stayed at the BEST hotel in cuzco. one my favorite hotels ever, but also expensive. again, pm me.

and about cuzco, don't plan too much all at once. the altitude wasn't so bad for me (I just sort of felt drunk/buzzed a little), but my mom had a really hard time adjusting to it. it was better for her when we returned to cuzco since machu picchu is like a happy medium altitude-wise. (we did 1 night in cuzco, left for machu picchu the next day and then came back to cuzco the third night).
 
Aug 14, 2009
5,366
8
I'm so glad you started this thread OP! SO and I are thinking about going there in November. We were looking at the Sanctuary Lodge, mundodabolsa, so it's great to hear it was so nice. We are very outdoorsy and like to hike, bike etc so any tips from anyone on those sorts of things would be great. We also like canyoneering/rappelling, kayaking, etc. How much time would you guys all recommend for Peru? We are actually thinking about hitting Chile in the same trip.
 

jigga85

O.G.
Sep 25, 2008
336
204
My DH and I are planning a trip to Peru in May. We definitely want to see Machu Picchu and will spend 4-5 days touring Cuzco, Sacred Valley and MP. We will have 8 days in Peru and are unsure of what to do for the other 3-4 days. Our options are:
Puerto Maldonado or Mana for amazon experience
Lake Titicaca
Lima city tour

I am leaning more towards an amazon side trip, but would have to get vaccinations (yellow fever etc) and take malaria medications, which I am not thrilled about.

I do not know too much about Lake Titicaca, and any thoughts or experiences would be appreciated. DH and I are very active and wonder if there is enough to do for 3-4 days?

Touring Lima might be fun, but again wonder if 3-4 days would be too much?

Our thoughts for Machu Picchu were to stay in the Sacred Valley and spend a couple of days touring the area, and Pisac Markets, and of course see MP. Do we need to stay at Machu Picchu, or could we take the train and do a day trip from the Sacred Valley?

We are also thinking about hiring a driver to do the tours, is this the best way to go?

Any info would be very helpful in our planning.
I loveeeed Peru! I was there last fall! You do not need to stay in Lima for more than 3 days max. I would've been happy with just 2 days but my friends wanted to stay longer. It's not a very exciting city. The smaller towns are better. You should do the Nazca lines! I regret not seeing it. Lake Titicaca would be nice but a day is good there.

I didn't do the hike up Machu for days.. I actually got strangled in Aguas Calientes for 3 days (normal due to the train strike which happens often apparently).
As far as hiring a driver, we did everything ourselves. Your hostel will tell you how to get to places and hire cabs/vans. I heard you can hire a taxi for a full day and give a fixed payment at the end.

EXCITED FOR YOU!!!!!
 

francot1

O.G.
Jan 24, 2009
438
2
I'm so glad you started this thread OP! SO and I are thinking about going there in November. We were looking at the Sanctuary Lodge, mundodabolsa, so it's great to hear it was so nice. We are very outdoorsy and like to hike, bike etc so any tips from anyone on those sorts of things would be great. We also like canyoneering/rappelling, kayaking, etc. How much time would you guys all recommend for Peru? We are actually thinking about hitting Chile in the same trip.

I thought about going to Machu Picchu and Chile also, but did not know if we would have enough time. We are planning on going for 8 days and figure we need 3-4 days for MP and surrounding areas, and with the other 4 days we could do something else in Peru. I thought it would be interesting to see the Amazon, Puerto Maldonado or Mana but hate the idea of getting vaccines and taking malaria medication. If we went to Chile we would not need to do this. How long of a trip were you planning?

We are very outdoorsy also and found that there are many day trips for river rafting, paragliding, rock climbing etc from the Sacred Valley.
 

francot1

O.G.
Jan 24, 2009
438
2
oh I was just there, I loved my trip to Peru so much. it was way better than expected.

do go to lima but 3-4 is a bit much, 2 is more like enough unless you have a specific desire to see something that would take longer (like we went to a specific museum and to the race track for an afternoon.) we ate at some really nice restaurants in lima.

most people who visit machu picchu take the train up just for the day, BUT, if you have the money to spend, stay at the sanctuary lodge. it's the only hotel actually right there, steps from the gates. it's crazy expensive but I thought it was very, very worth it. I loved that hotel. and then you can wake up for the sunrise over machu picchu thing that everyone says is worthwhile and indeed is.

feel free to pm me with questions or more details, I feel like being too specific about what we did is a little hard for privacy reasons. we also stayed at the BEST hotel in cuzco. one my favorite hotels ever, but also expensive. again, pm me.

and about cuzco, don't plan too much all at once. the altitude wasn't so bad for me (I just sort of felt drunk/buzzed a little), but my mom had a really hard time adjusting to it. it was better for her when we returned to cuzco since machu picchu is like a happy medium altitude-wise. (we did 1 night in cuzco, left for machu picchu the next day and then came back to cuzco the third night).
We were thinking of staying at Tambo del Inka in the Sacred Valley and doing a day trip to Machu Picchu. I love the idea of seeing the sunrise over MP, and have looked at the Sanctuary Lodge, but the price is unbelievable, over $900 US a night. I realize that all meals are included but wonder if the extra money is justified. Spending one night there would not be so bad, but 2-3 nights gets to be quite expensive.

My DH though it would be neat to take the Hiram Bingham train one way, and wonder how this compares to the other trains? Did you hire a driver or drive yourself? I have read that most people hire a driver to explore the area, but wonder how safe this is? We always rent a car on our trips and have driven all over the world, but were told that the road conditions in Peru are horrible and are like nothing we have ever experienced. I realize that we can only take a train to MP but as far as getting to see the Pisac markets and sacred valley ruins we would need either a driver or car.
 
Mar 14, 2006
5,519
851
the lowcountry
I'm going to break this into two posts:

We were thinking of staying at Tambo del Inka in the Sacred Valley and doing a day trip to Machu Picchu. I love the idea of seeing the sunrise over MP, and have looked at the Sanctuary Lodge, but the price is unbelievable, over $900 US a night. I realize that all meals are included but wonder if the extra money is justified. Spending one night there would not be so bad, but 2-3 nights gets to be quite expensive.
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There is really no reason to stay at the Sanctuary Lodge for more than a night. I liked it a lot, it's not an opulent hotel in the style of the Four Seasons in major cities or anything like that though. They can pretty much charge what they do because it's the only hotel there, and it's very small, only 20 something rooms, with only one small-ish restaurant. We lucked out and got one of the 8 or so rooms that open out onto this garden area with your own little patio and loungers. I liked staying there because it allowed us to visit the citadel at a leisurely pace. It closes at 5pm I think, and we were done wandering by about 4pm. So we sat on a bench and watched the sunset until it closed. Then went back to the hotel, I read a book out on the terrace until it got dark, we napped some. There were other people at that time having drinks on their patios, or going to the hot tub, just relaxing really. Then went to a great dinner in the restaurant. The next morning we woke up to watch the sunrise (which we did from the actual hotel instead of going with the crowds over at the citadel again), then had a full breakfast, went back to sleep for a few hours, had a nice lunch, and took the train back to Cuzco. We got the amazing experience of seeing Machu Picchu without the rush or stress. It was just so peaceful. We weren't doing anything else in the Sacred Valley though.

If you are into hiking and want to see the sunrise, from what I understand you can join a group that hikes up the Huayna Picchu (it's the peak across the way), and then watches from there. That must be really amazing too.
 
Mar 14, 2006
5,519
851
the lowcountry
My DH though it would be neat to take the Hiram Bingham train one way, and wonder how this compares to the other trains? Did you hire a driver or drive yourself? I have read that most people hire a driver to explore the area, but wonder how safe this is? We always rent a car on our trips and have driven all over the world, but were told that the road conditions in Peru are horrible and are like nothing we have ever experienced. I realize that we can only take a train to MP but as far as getting to see the Pisac markets and sacred valley ruins we would need either a driver or car.
I looved taking the Hiram Bingham. Sure, it's gimmicky and touristy, but I still loved it and thought it was totally worth it. I mean, I'm the type of girl who likes some luxury in my traveling and in South America you can have luxury without breaking the bank, so why not?

You get to sit on a fancy train, with fancy table service, and be waited on hand and foot. You get a delicious meal, all the wine/champagne/coffee you want, and beautiful sights. The distance from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes (that's where the train station is, from there everyone takes little shuttles up to machu picchu) isn't that far, the only reason the train takes 3+ hours is because it goes sooo slow. Which is nice because then you can sit back, relax, and see the beautiful landscape. I don't think the regular trains go faster so if you have to spend the time on a train, why not get a super nice meal along with it? That was nice too because then when we got to Machu Picchu we didn't worry about eating agian until dinner.

Also because it's special and expensive it was pretty empty, I think we only had one or two other families in our car. They have live music on the train, there was a whole group of men getting drunk and singing and dancing if that's your thing. Meanwhile my mom and I just sat at the bar drinking coffee by the big open windows laughing at all the people making fools of themselves while we gazed out at the beautiful river :P

On the way back we took the next level train down. There isn't really a need to take the Hiram Bingham both ways. The train we took still had sit-down tables and a full-service smaller meal though so I can't really speak to what the "regular" trains are like.

We used a tour company (that's the wrong word for it but I can't think of it right now in english...) for drivers that worked out really well. Again we didn't do anything else in the Sacred Valley though. On the way back the train we took didn't go all the way to Cuzco, I don't remember exactly but I want to say we got off at a town called Ollanta which was then like a 1.5 hour drive back to Cuzco, so we saw the area at least and the roads seemed perfectly fine and normal to me. I wouldn't drive there myself at night because it's very dark and remote but I never felt unsafe with the tour guide and driver in the slightest. I don't remember there being a lot of signage (but then again I wasn't paying attention to that...) so I don't know how hard it would be drive around on your own, especially if don't speak spanish.
 
Mar 14, 2006
5,519
851
the lowcountry
I thought about going to Machu Picchu and Chile also, but did not know if we would have enough time. We are planning on going for 8 days and figure we need 3-4 days for MP and surrounding areas, and with the other 4 days we could do something else in Peru. I thought it would be interesting to see the Amazon, Puerto Maldonado or Mana but hate the idea of getting vaccines and taking malaria medication. If we went to Chile we would not need to do this. How long of a trip were you planning?

We are very outdoorsy also and found that there are many day trips for river rafting, paragliding, rock climbing etc from the Sacred Valley.
I would do them separately unless you are spending weeks in South America. I think your original instinct to combine Peru with Lake Titicaca or the Amazon is correct if you want to add another area to the trip.

Chile has enough to see for it's own week-long to 10 day trip. I suggest then combining Chile with Argentina. We went from Puerto Varas to Bariloche, Argentina through the lakes region, skipping from ferries to buses to catamarans, etc, and I thought that was really nice.
 

francot1

O.G.
Jan 24, 2009
438
2
I looved taking the Hiram Bingham. Sure, it's gimmicky and touristy, but I still loved it and thought it was totally worth it. I mean, I'm the type of girl who likes some luxury in my traveling and in South America you can have luxury without breaking the bank, so why not?

You get to sit on a fancy train, with fancy table service, and be waited on hand and foot. You get a delicious meal, all the wine/champagne/coffee you want, and beautiful sights. The distance from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes (that's where the train station is, from there everyone takes little shuttles up to machu picchu) isn't that far, the only reason the train takes 3+ hours is because it goes sooo slow. Which is nice because then you can sit back, relax, and see the beautiful landscape. I don't think the regular trains go faster so if you have to spend the time on a train, why not get a super nice meal along with it? That was nice too because then when we got to Machu Picchu we didn't worry about eating agian until dinner.

Also because it's special and expensive it was pretty empty, I think we only had one or two other families in our car. They have live music on the train, there was a whole group of men getting drunk and singing and dancing if that's your thing. Meanwhile my mom and I just sat at the bar drinking coffee by the big open windows laughing at all the people making fools of themselves while we gazed out at the beautiful river :P

On the way back we took the next level train down. There isn't really a need to take the Hiram Bingham both ways. The train we took still had sit-down tables and a full-service smaller meal though so I can't really speak to what the "regular" trains are like.

We used a tour company (that's the wrong word for it but I can't think of it right now in english...) for drivers that worked out really well. Again we didn't do anything else in the Sacred Valley though. On the way back the train we took didn't go all the way to Cuzco, I don't remember exactly but I want to say we got off at a town called Ollanta which was then like a 1.5 hour drive back to Cuzco, so we saw the area at least and the roads seemed perfectly fine and normal to me. I wouldn't drive there myself at night because it's very dark and remote but I never felt unsafe with the tour guide and driver in the slightest. I don't remember there being a lot of signage (but then again I wasn't paying attention to that...) so I don't know how hard it would be drive around on your own, especially if don't speak spanish.
Wow, it sounds like you had a really nice trip. Thanks so much for the info you provided. We have decided to spend 2 nights in the Sacred Valley and stay 1 night at Machu Picchu Sanctuary. I did not realize that all the meals were included with the room rate at the Sanctuary, and having the access to MP when others are not around makes it worth the price.
 

jayjay77

O.G.
Nov 13, 2006
2,677
847
New York
I agree that a day is really all you need in Lima

I see you have decided to stay at the Sanctuary Hotel -- sounds wonderful -- when I was there I stayed at the Inkaterra which is in Agua Caliente -- loved the hotel and very convenient but it would be nice to have the Santuary experience -- we took the regular train from Cuzco and had a guide travel with us who gave us tours in both Cuzco and at Manchu Picchu
http://www.inkaterra.com/en/machu-picchu/suggested-itinerary

After Cuzco we went to Chiclayo in northern Peru which is best known for the Lord of Sipan tomb -- it was nice to see a different side of Peru -- we had a driver/tour guide and was definitely worth it
 
I'd definitely recommend the Eco Lodge called Casa Colibri (http://casacolibriecolodge.com/) in the Sacred Valley if you need a place to stay there. It consists of various houses and bungalows at the edge of the Amazon forest, so you genuinely feel like you're part of nature. We had a hummingbird feeder right in front of our house which was located in the heart of a botanical garden. The restaurant offers great food that's completely organic. They also grow their own tees and coffee beans, as well as herbs (there's a strong focus on sustainability).

In addition they'll also offer various guided tours around the forest, waterfalls and hotel grounds, so you get to experience the wildlife around you. I'd go back there in a heartbeat. So much more relaxing than the touristy bustle on Macchu Picchu.

Never stayed in the Sanctuary Lodge, though we did have lunch once there. Didn't really like the look of the place TBH, but it's convenient if you want to avoid the commute or want an early hike. Definitely don't spend more than a night there.
 

karmallory

Purse Peace <3
O.G.
Nov 15, 2010
878
10
LIM & ILM
Don't skip out on Lima! Visit Centro de Lima for half a day (that's all you need to be able to see the best things). Be sure to your the San Franciscan monk's Catacombs! Unreal. But what is really nice is to spend a day walking around Miraflores. I own a home there and I love the city. Near Ovalo Gutierrez, there is Huaca Pucallana which is an incredible, ancient Incan ruin right in the middle of the city! They offer English tours too. Parque de Kennedy has local artists get together and sell beautiful pieces of art and jewelry on the weekends. And there are many great family owned restaurants that have wonderful dishes. (Papas a la Huancaina is a MUST!) And hit up Larcomar if you like shopping, bowling, movies, and getting a nice view of the Pacific. Larcomar also has a night club that opens later if you're into that. Two days for visiting the city would suffice for sure. Please let me know if you'd like more info. I love Peru, it is my home and I am happy to share tips and what nots!
 

dorcast

O.G.
Jan 1, 2006
1,650
473
I loved Peru! One of my favorite vacations that I've ever taken.

We stayed one night (it was actually New Years Eve) at the Inkaterra - Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. I loved the hotel, and would recommend staying there or at the Sanctuary. The ability to be at Machu Picchu at sunrise, and before the tourist buses arrive, is worth it.

I was there years ago, and went on a Mountain Travel Sobek trip, so don't remember my exact itinerary. But, we stayed in Cusco a couple of nights, and then the Sacred Valley a couple of nights. It was a great way to do it, as by the time we were trekking at Machu Picchu, we had taken a couple of shorter hikes and acclimated to the altitude. Definitely a reason not to rush the trip for those questioning the length of stay.

As others have mentioned, you don't need much time in Lima.