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Travel to Peru in South America the Inca ruin of Machu Picchu

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Travelstory, trip to Peru in South America with the Machu Picchu - Cuzco - Lake Titicaca - Condors

peru machu picchu

Where in South America is Peru located?

map Peru South America

Travel stories: trip to Peru in South America including a visit to Lima, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, the largest birds on the earth; the Condors, Puno, Lake Titicaca, Cuzco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, the Inca ruins

Friday the 10th of May

From Antwerp to Schiphol - to Lima - to Peru, in South America

Around 8:00am our taxi picks us up at home and drives us in a smooth fifteen minutes ride to the entrance of Antwerp's Central Station. We quickly pick up our train tickets at the Thalys international counter and then have plenty of time left to buy a sandwich and newspaper for the road. The trains in Antwerp leave punctually and in no time we arrive at Schiphol airport.

As our flight to Peru was preceded by a train ride, it was impossible to check-in online in advance (we only found out about this, after a phone call with the KLM customer service), so next we have to pass through the check-in counters to get our boarding passes. Soon as we get there, we're told that the flight to Peru is overbooked and we have to report ourselves at the departure gate to check if we can conquer a place on board. Arggggh, sheer stress and definitely not a good start of our Peruvian trip! Fearfully, we report ourselves to the competent person and ... we get an upgrade to Economy Comfort! We breathe a sigh of relief because all doomsday scenarios had already passed our thoughts. Extra legroom on a flight of more than 12 hours is what you'd call a fortunate convenience!

After a flawless flight we land in Lima, (the capital city of Peru), around 18:00pm local time, where our guide Mariela has been waiting for us. She accompanies us to the bus transfer, that guides us safely through the hectic traffic of Lima. The Peruvians, apparently, don't take the number of lanes too seriously and are very happy to use their horn to admonish the others to drive faster. We are still a little groggy from our long flight when we arrive at Casa Andina in the Miraflores district. So it doesn't take long before we find our soft beds to get rid of the jetlag.

Saturday the 11th of May

The Miraflores and Lima in Peru

We get up around 7:00 am and after a refreshing shower enjoy an extensive breakfast buffet. After the inner man is strengthened, we start our exploration of Miraflores with its great shopping areas and glittering casinos. We immediately come to face a practical problem; we can't get money out with our Maestro card at any other ATM than the Scottish Bank. All other ATM machines refuse to spit collective money, but a little cash is always useful if you want to buy a bottle of water or get a cup of coffee. We walk a long way down the main shopping street Avenida Larco until we can't go any further and get to the Pacific Ocean. The ocean causes a foggy sight for a long period of time of the year in the Miraflores district.

lima peru

Pictures - photos and info about Lima the capital city of Peru 1

At 14h00 our guide Mariela meets us at our hotel and she first takes us to a local market where we meet many unknown species of exotic fruits. Of which we try a few and find out to have a delicious sweet taste. Afterwards we take the relatively new and fast public transport to downtown Lima, where Mariela gives us the necessary explanations about the many colonial buildings from the time of the Spanish occupation. After several hours of wandering through the center, our parched throats are in need of some refreshment. At a bar named Cordano Bar, we get spoiled with the best Pisco Sour of Peru! We find this national drink made from pisco, lemon, egg yellow and sugar syrup so delicious that we order an extra glass and we lose track of time. In the meantime it got dark, so via the Metropolitanu bus we make our way home. We arrive safely back in Miraflores, where we end the day in Tanta restaurant, which is located within walking distance from our hotel.

lima peru

Pictures - photos and info about Lima the capital city of Peru 2

Sunday the 12th of May

Flight from Lima to Arequipa in Peru

At 2h15 our loud alarm wake us up from a deep sleep. We need to catch our domestic flight from Lima to Arequipa in Peru at 5.30am. The taxi ride of +/- 30 minutes to the airport only cost us 40 soles. Along the way we pass a number of casinos in Las Vegas allure, which surprisingly still have many visitors during this time at night. We're tempted, but wisely let it go past us and at 3:30 we get dropped off in front of the entrance of the airport in Lima. We quickly check-in at the counter of Taca Airlines and it's almost time to go on board. After an short hour we land at the small airport of Arequipa in Peru. A driver of the booking agency awaits us at the exit and takes us directly to Hotel La Hosteria, where we'll spend the upcoming two nights. It's a small but very cozy guesthouse with a beautiful flower garden. The lady at the reception speaks a few words of English and we try our best in Spanish, but ultimately we understand each other.

After a short rest and a quick shower we go out and explore Arequipa in Peru; also known as the White City for its many historic buildings, formed with light-colored volcanic rock sillar. We walk through the sunny city, where we pass all the sights but since it's a Sunday, all shops and other buildings are closed, unfortunately. We decide to photograph the exterior of the beautiful buildings now and return the next day to have a look at the interior.

This afternoon, we only have a small appetite and go for a small lunch one of the restaurants on Plaza de Armas in Arequipa. Our choice is guided by the suggestions of the waiter and we get three different dishes on one plate each. We start this command in good spirits, but fail to finish our plates! We only paid 27 soles per person, which is a very reasonable price, considering the quantity and quality of the food. Sillar Wuasi restaurant (opposite the Compania church) is highly recommended for those who want to try and taste authentic Peruvian cuisine!

arequipa peru plaza de armas

Pictures - photos and info about Arequipa Plaza de Armas

Around 15h00 we have completed the walk throughout the city and return tired but content to our guesthouse. We take a long siesta on the communal terrace and at night, go back downtown for an oven-fresh baked pizza. Around 18:00pm it's dark already and noticeably cooler here in Arequipa in Peru. An extra sweater or jacket are definitely recommended to withstand the fresh breeze.

Monday the 13th of May

Arequipa in Peru

Today we have a free day in our schedule of Arequipa. This means a lay in! Well, until 8.00am, we slowly go for showers and appear for breakfast last, where we must help ourselves with a few leftovers. Fortunately, the kitchen staff is particularly helpful and, especially for us, scramble some eggs.

The Monasterio de Santa Catalina is located right across from our hotel and number one on our 'to-do-list' of today. It is the most famous religious building of Arequipa and that shows at the entrance price (35 soles per person). At the entrance you can also enlist the services of several guidebooks, but we decide to visit the monastery on our own gumption. It's actually a walled city with a colorful maze of streets, squares, houses and common places for the former residents. Very nice to walk through, but we weren't immediately overwhelmed with it, or would call it 'must do' experience. Something you could skip, if short on time.

For lunch we order a roasted guinea pig, a Peruvian specialty. The animal is served in its entirety and therefore may not be designated for sensitive souls. We find that there there's quite a bit of puzzling involved and that there isn't actually that much meat. The taste isn't bad, but for us it remains a once in a life time experiment.

The second stop of today's tour is the Cathedral of Arequipa, which is located on Plaza de Armas. The entrance tickets are 10 soles per person and unfortunately, the cathedral can only be visited during the day, under supervision of a guide who costs an additional 10 soles. The guide, thankfully, is very 'straight to the point', which doesn't make it a boring visit. Next to that, you get access to the beautiful museum with many religious relics in silver and gold, which on top of that are studded with diamonds and gemstones. At last, we take a look at the clock tower, where you get a very nice view over Plaza de Armas. If you visit the Cathedral of Arequipa in Peru between 17h00 and 19h00, the guidance of the guide is not compulsory, but you won't have access to the museum and the clock tower.

arequipa peru monastery santa catalina

Pictures - photos and info about Arequipa

Monday the 14th of May

From Arequipa to the Colca valley in Peru

At 8.30am we get picked up at our hotel in Arequipa by a private driver, who will drive us to the Colca Valley in Peru today (about 160 km). Initially it's quite difficult to get out of town, because a religious procession is underway, resulting in a number of major roads that are blocked and all traffic is diverted via small sandy bumpy roads.

Finally, we manage to leave Arequipa and drive into the mountains. We pass rough and dry landscapes where only stones and dusty shrubs are found. Somewhere, halfway through at about 3800meters high, we make a stop to drink some Mate tea (tea, based on coca leaves). In accordance to the local population, drinking this tea helps against or prevents you from altitude sickness. No harm, no foul. It's even tasty!

Afterwards we continue our journey through a nature reserve named Salinas y Aguada Blanca and we pass a number of groups wild vicuñas (the smallest species llama, which apparently, produce the finest wool in the world), then ordinary lamas and finally hordes alpacas, which are mainly bred in the highlands of Peru for their soft fur and lean, protein rich meat. Next to that, some native waterfowl and some sort of rabbit show up. Very cool, as the rabbit occurs to be very rare.

colca canyon peru

Pictures - photos and info about Salinas y Aguada Blanca National on the way to Colca Canyon 1

The road rises consistently and the air remains tenuous, but thanks to our Diamox pills against altitude sickness, which we've been taking since yesterday and perhaps thanks to the coca tea we drank an hour ago, we experience little to none effects of the changing altitude. We're out of breath from small effort quicker and recover a little slower, but don't encounter any headaches or nausea. Thank god! From the highest point at 4800 meters we enjoy some beautiful scenery and slowly start our decent to the village of Chivay about 3500 meters away.

Around 13:30 we arrive in Chivay, where we first pay 70 soles per person. Some sort of tax, that's charged to access the Colca Canyon. Next, our driver takes us to a local restaurant where we can join the buffet for 25 soles per person.

Once finished, it's only a short 10 minute drive to the 4-star Hotel El Refugio. An area situated on the banks of the Colca River with private thermal baths. The rooms are spacious and luxurious and each terrace offers an amazing view of the flowing river. Since El Refugio is fairly remote, we're almost obliged to have dinner at the same place. The choice is very limited. Three starters, as well as three main courses and three desserts. We decide to take a gamble and go for the Alpaca meat. And, actually, the taste isn't bad. We think it's best comparable to pork. Worth a second time!

colca canyon peru

Pictures - photos and info about Salinas y Aguada Blanca National on the way to Colca Canyon 2

Tuesday the 15th of May

Cruz del Condor in the Colca canyon in Peru

Another early start, because today our driver, José picks us up at the hotel at 6:30am. We're going to admire the beautiful 'Cruz del Condor' in the Colca canyon in Peru, where these scavenging birds, which have a wingspan of over three meters, are clearly visible.

We first make a brief stop at the market square of Yanque, where some Peruvians perform a folklore dance and women in traditional costumes lure tourists with a kind of eagle. For a small fee they'll let you take a photo with them.

After that, we go back to the Andes mountains and we admire the Colca Canyon in Peru and the many beautiful terraced hillsides that date back to pre-Inca era. The unpaved road to the condor viewpoint is overcrowded by the many tourist buses and as José regularly stops for a much needed photo, we're in no time, covered in dust. Oh well, we'll just take it as it comes!

We arrive at our destination around 8:30am, after a long and bumpy ride. There are quite some tourists there already, but fortunately we can still find a good spot with excellent view of the gorge. For a long time, nothing happens and we start to fear the worst, but stroke of the clock 9am, vision announces the first condor. Everyone grabs their camera and the photo festival kicks in! Fifteen minutes later we're still looking at only one, but then everything goes very fast. They're now coming from everywhere and at times we're watching five condors at once. It's difficult to say how many of these giant birds we've seen in total, but we reckon there were about 18. And, of course, we've been able to take some great shots of these amazing animals!

cruz del condor peru

Pictures - photos and info about Cruz del Condor 1

After an hour of watching the condors, we make our way back and around 11h15 arrive in Chivay. We stop for lunch and get some water for the rest of the day. Afterwards, we say goodbye to our private driver José and we transfer to a shared tourist bus to Puno in Peru. The ride will take approximately 6 hours. Sufficient time to get acquainted with our American and Brazilian companions and to take a nap to catch up on the lost sleep from last night.

We make a short sanitary and photo stop at an idyllic lake, but suddenly the air turns gray and threatening, thunder and a hailstorm burst out. From then it starts pouring down. The rest of the drive, all the way back to Puno it continues raining.

Just after 18:00 we arrive at our hotel; Hacienda Puno Plaza. It's dark, still raining and because of the rain, a few degrees colder. We are tired of the long day, so we decide not to go explore Puno right away, but instead dive into our warm beds.

cruz del condor peru

Pictures - photos and info about Cruz del Condor 2

Wednesday the 16th of May

Lake Titicaca, to the floating reed islands in Peru

A few minutes to 7.00am we're picked up at the hotel by a tourist bus and taken to the port of Puno in Peru. The sky still looks pretty gray, but at least it doesn't rain anymore and we're very pleased with that, because today we've planned a boat trip on Lake Titicaca. After all the tourists are divided over the (completely closed off and covered) boats, the guide gives us some more 'facts and figures' on the highest navigable lake in the world.

puno peru titicaca lake

Pictures - photos and infor about the little town Puno at Lake Titicaca

After half an hour of sailing we arrive at the floating reed islands of the Uros community (about 2,000 people) who have live here on their self-made reed islands since they established, after they fled from the Incas (at the time). Each boat docks at another reed island and our first steps 'on land' are rather shaky, but get used to it pretty quickly.

First, our guide and the 'President' of the island give us an explanation on how the reed islands are made (the construction time takes 6 to 12 months, on average). Fortunately the process is approached very playfully and it looks a bit like a puppet show. Afterwards, we get divided in to small groups of 4 à 6 people and are invited to some private reed huts to get acquainted with their 'way of life'. We Westerners can hardly imagine having to live in such primitive conditions, but the Uros families seem genuinely happy. Of course, (under slight moral coercion) we get the opportunity to buy souvenirs. We decide on a hand carved gourd for 20 soles, which, obviously, is far too expensive, but we didn't feel like haggling. Finally, we also have the opportunity to sail a little on one of their handmade reed boats. You can opt for a regular boat (canoe type) or the 'Mercedes Benz' (A bigger boat, which is covered and has a higher central area). Obviously, we choose the 2nd option! Cost here again isn't cheap: 20 soles per person.

lake titicaca peru the reed islands

Pictures - photos and info about Lake Titicaca and the reed islands 1

Afterwards, everyone climbs back aboard the tourist boat and set sail to Taquile Island on Lake Titicaca, situated near the Bolivian border. The trip on Lake Titicaca takes about 2u30min. Fortunately, we have very comfortable chairs that invite for an afternoon nap. Arriving on the island of Taquile we immediately start a steep climb to the place where we'll be served lunch. But, since we're at a height of 3800meters, we find ourselves gasp for air every few steps. A truly strange experience!

Once arrived, we sit down at a long table and pamper our taste buds with homemade pastries, topped with chopped tomatoes and very spicy onion rings, soup, omelet with rice and chips and at last we are offered a cup of fresh mint tea.

After lunch our stamina gets tested once more, because now, we've got to go all the way to the top of the Taquile where the main square is located. The square itself isn't to spectacular, but the stunning view of Lake Titicaca is amazing. Most of the local kids ask if they can join you in a photo and, if you are lucky, you get the chance to take some great shots of the knitting men. On Taquile knitting is men's business. The guide tells us that, depending on the colour and size of the pom poms, you can tell whether a person is single or married. Useful information!

To finish, we make a descending walk along the coastline, for about 45 minutes and get back on the boat to Puno. Along the way we fraternize a bit with some American and Colombian passengers and 3 hours later set foot on land in Puno.

lake titicaca peru the reed islands

Pictures - photos and info about Lake Titicaca and the reed islands 2

Thursday the 17th of May

Bus from Puno to Cuzco in Peru

Today we're on a long bus ride from Puno to Cusco in Peru which will take up to 6 hours. According to the tour operator, we certainly need to be present in the bus terminal, half an hour prior to departure. And, so we appear at 7:30am. Around 8:15am we must find our spots in the first-class bus of Tour Peru and we're very pleased with the comfortable seats, which can almost be transformed into a bed. These 30 soles per person are definitely, well spent!

The bus struggles to make its way up, but we don't worry too much, as it's a very, very steep slope and we're fully loaded. However, when we get to a flatter part, the pace remains very slow. Eventually, the driver and the bus conductor, stop at the edge of the road and open the bonnet. This doesn't bode well! After the 30 minutes stop, we depart again, but soon to find out that we still can't get to a normal speed. This scenario repeats itself three times. Eventually, the bus gets pulled to the side of the road and we have to wait for a new bus that's capable to take us along. (We got told that the previous driver tattered the engine) completely It's 12h00 when the new transport arrives and we finally continue our trip to Cuzco in Peru.

The drive further runs without any problems, but unfortunately it's dark already when we drive up the bus depot in Cuzco, a little after 18:00pm. The first exploration of the the city won't be tonight! We take a taxi (10 soles) to our hotel Encantada, situated in the district of San Blas, which consists of a maze of small, narrow and steep streets. Unluckily, they're busy with road works in the street our hotel is located on and therefore we need to walk through the broken steep street with all our luggage to get to Encantada. Fortunately, the bellboy sees us and comes to help us getting our stuff of the hotel. He grabs a sort of wheelbarrow, piles all our suitcases and belongings and smoothly pushes it upwards.

After checking in, our local contact of the travel agency gives us a map of the city and the necessary information (including sights, nice restaurants, locations of ATM machine, etc.). After that, we can finally explore our room and are very impressed with the interior, which actually is noticeable throughout all of Encantada. Being 'en route' for over 12 hours, our minds aren't too bright and so we play it safe by eating at the hotel. After dinner our batteries are completely dead and so we quickly make our way to our lovely warm cot.

Friday the 18th of May

Cuzco and sights

A free day in Cuzco, Peru. Which means another 'lay in' until 8:00am. We start the day with a comprehensive breakfast, including freshly baked eggs and begin our exploration of the neighbourhood of San Blas. Famous for its charming narrow cobbled streets. We end up at a local market, where our eye catches a stall with wooden and stone sculptures. We pick a stone sculpture we both like and start negotiating. However, the harvest is on the lean side, as we only get from 35 to 30 soles, but we got it!

Wandering through Cuzco in Peru we let the map we've received in the hotel, lead us to points of interest and they're quite easy to find. We pass the longest uninterrupted Inca Wall and visit the Santo Domingo Church and the Santa Catalina Monastery (double ticket costs 15 soles). Afterwards we pass many other churches (la Compania, La Merced, San Francisco, etc.) and of course the cathedral on Plaza de Armas, but since an entrance ticket is needed for all of them (eg. 25 soles per person for the cathedral) as well as, photos may not be taken, we decide to not participate in this flat commercialization of the Catholic church.

At Plaza de Armas we are approached by two shoe shiners. Our shoes are covered with a thick layer of dust, so, perhaps they could use a makeover. The men go straight to business, but all of a sudden tell us they've used some 'special products' and therefor put up the price by 10 soles per person, instead of the originally agreed 'one' soles. We refuse to pay the extra cost and have a brief discussion. As we walk off, we pay the discussed one sole. Deal is a deal! Although, our shoes do look like new!

Around noon our bellies start to rumble and we choose a nice brasserie on the main square to eat a little something. After our inner man is strengthened, we're ready to explore the last piece of Cuzco in Peru. Thus, we arrive at the Mariott hotel accidentally and decide to take a look inside, as the interior is extremely impressive. Furthermore, we pass the 'gringo street' (A neighborhood where many tourists stay), various churches and local markets.

cuzco peru

Pictures - photos and info about Cuzco, the cathedral, Plaza de Armas 1

At one of these markets, we once again attempt to buy an Inca Figurine, but we find 100 soles a bit too much. The seller only considers taking off 10 soles, so we walk on. Too bad! Now that we have put our minds on buying a nice souvenir, we stop at all shops, but the set prices are just keep going up. The little art pieces now start at 215- and some are even 350 soles! We always try to negotiate, but Peru works different to other countries. We assume that their prices must be well approximated and come close to the true value of the goods. That's why you can only obtain up to 10% off.

Night falls and we find the restaurant that was recommended by the staff of our hotel. We are offered a complimentary pisco sour and then we take the risk; ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice and chilli, served with onions and cold potato). We were a little hesitant for the tart taste, but find it actually isn't bad.

Tired but satisfied we head through the narrow streets of San Blas, back to hotel Encantada, where we find a hot water bottle in our bed. This hotel really has a fantastic service!

cuzco peru

Pictures - photos and info about Cuzco, the cathedral, Plaza de Armas 2

Saturday the 19th of May

Inca-ruins from Pisac and Ollantaytambo in Peru

Almost an hour later than agreed, the representative of Peru Sightseeing, a young man with a remarkable amount of spots, picks us up around 8:15 am at the hotel. There is no explanation, nor apology given for their delay! We're also the first tourists to take place in their (uncomfortable) van. We pick up the rest of the passengers in the centre of Cuzco in Peru. They all seem to be American, two older couples, a newly married couple and an unaccompanied male from Hawaii. Fortunately, the confused young man, gets exchanged for a more experienced guide. Something we're very glad about.

As we leave, we soon find out that one of the husbands of the older couples is a huge 'pain in the ass'. He doesn't seem to be able to shut his mouth for longer than two minutes and comments on everything, especially his wife. We must say he's right to complain about the fact that the van doesn't stop or even gives us the chance to take any photos from the incredible views of the countryside.

Our first stop is a shelter for neglected animals. We see several brightly colored aras, vicunas, lamas, cougars, naked dogs (apparently a local type with a body temperature of 46°C), but also three condors (1 'baby' of 3 years old, 1 adult of 30 years old and the padres familias, which are 60 years old). When the attendant lures the condors with a piece of meat, the birds skim only two meters above our heads. Such an impressive experience! Afterwards, there's some explanation and opportunity to ask about the processing, dyeing and weaving of the alpaca wool. Just before we finish, there's, of course, the obligatory option to go around the gift shop, where all kinds of garment from alpaca wool- and many other souvenirs, are sold. An hour later, as agreed, every one of our group is waiting at the van. Except for the nagging American and his wife. They apparently needed to empty half the shop and let the rest of the group wait.

sacred valley peru

Pictures - photos and info about Sacred Valley

We continue our journey through the beautiful mountains, where as well many beautiful terrace buildings are there to be admired. After a while, we arrive at the Inca ruins of Pisac. We buy a combination ticket of 130 soles per person (which is valid for 10 days and provides access to 16 different sites in the Cuzco region of Peru) and then walk from the parking area in to the archaeological site. The guide gives us heaps of information on the origin, the buildings, the Inca kings, etc. (great, but it's too much to take in). Next, we start our climb to the top of the complex. Via hundreds of steps, we huff and puff ourselves to the top, but on the way, are rewarded with wonderful views over the valley and surrounding mountains. The opportunity for some good photos is a little hampered by the large number of tourists walking around here every day!

pisac inca peru

Pictures - photos and info about the Inca ruins Pisac

Once back in the valley, we get a brief tour at a jewellery workshop (especially commercial drivel, in our humble opinion). Afterwards, we still have fifteen minutes to walk to the local market of Pisac, known for its many souvenirs. We make an effort to buy a nice Tumi figurine, but when the sellers tell us it costs 230 soles, we carry on our search. Guess who, joins the group half an hour later than agreed. 'We really start to hate the guy!'

After the market, we head for a village named Urubamba, where we stop for lunch. Because of the various delays throughout the day, we arrive after 14.00pm in Urubamba. Hungry as a bear, we don't know where to start the extensive, but also very tasty buffet. There is wide choice of soups, appetizers, vegetables, main dishes (even ceviche) and desserts. Lunch is included the price of the full-day excursion, but the drinks (except the coca tea) need to be paid for and they know how to take that as a benefit. 7 soles for a bottle of water is a bit of a rip off!

Our last stop today is at the archaeological site of Ollantaytambo, the only place where the Incas successfully fought and driven out the Spanish conquerors. Here as well, provides the guide us with a lot of facts and figures and background information. Afterwards awaits a steep climb to the top. Along the way we take as many photos of the beautiful surroundings and the exceptional structure of the architecture of the ingenious Incas. Incomprehensible that, in those days, they could build such complex structured buildings, without major technological tools. From the top, we have an amazing view over the underlying village, where a three-day festival is underway. This includes a big bullfight. It's almost 17:00pm and the sun goes down rapidly. Time to start our descent and say goodbye to the group, because they all return to Cuzco.

Instead, we are dropped off at hotel Samanapaq in Ollantaytambo, where we booked for two nights. It's a fun and in our opinion fairly modern hotel. Located a stone's throw from the Plaza de Armas. After we checked in, we almost immediately go back to the main square where the celebrations are still in full swing. We find a local restaurant that has a little terrace outside and order half a litre of sangria and a something to snack on. This way we get to see and enjoy the exuberant festival.

ollantaytambo peru

Pictures - photo's and info about Ollantaytambo 1

Sunday the 20th of May

Inca-ruins from Ollantaytambo and ruins from Moray in Peru

Since we have a free day in Ollantaytambo, we decide to go back to the archaeological Inca site to take some more photos of the impressive architecture and surrounding mountains, after breakfast. Now, we don't only have a much better light, there are fewer tourists walking in front of our lens!

Before we realize ourselves, we walk through a gate and apparently entered the excavations (we've visited before) through the exit, without passing a guard or having to re-pay entrance. We obviously take this opportunity to renew our visit, but this time, take it at a more leisurely pace. We now have more time to explore every corner and thus even more photo opportunities.

ollantaytambo peru

Pictures - photo's and info about Ollantaytambo 2

Around noon we call it a day and return to hotel Samanapaq. Along the way, a taxi driver at the main market offers us a ride to Moray for 80 soles. We agree with his proposal and after an hour's drive through the impressive scenery we arrive in Moray, where we admire three enormous circular terraced pits from about 36 meters deep. They date from the pre-Inca era and it's assumed that the ancient Peruvians used them as a laboratory for the optimal growth conditions of their crops.

moray peru

Pictures - photos and info from Moray 1

Because the location is quite remote, there are only few tourists to find and again are put in the occasion of taking some great shots. Along the way we spot two very photogenic hummingbirds. After an hour walking in Moray, we've seen everything and make our return to Ollantaytambo in Peru.

Since the festival in Ollantaytambo is on its last day, reaching its climax, we choose to have dinner at terrace on the Plaza de Armas, from where we can observe and experience the local festivities. The dressing up at the Carnival in Aalst (Belgium) is rather pale, compared to the exuberant blingy costumes of this local folk festival!

moray peru

Pictures - photos and info from Moray 2

Monday the 21st of May

Train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes in Peru

As our train to Aguas Calientes in Peru doesn't leave until the afternoon, we take it easy this morning. We go for a short walk through the old town of Ollantaytambo, of which large parts date back to the Inca era and since then haven't changed at all. Afterwards, we hit up some water and other supplies to get us through the day and are ready to go to station.

The manager of Hotel Samanapaq arranged a sort of 'tuktuk' which will bring us to the station for only 6 soles. At noon, we leave. The ride is quite bumpy, especially on these cobblestones. Definitely something different than a luxury taxi!

Just before the station there are several shops that sell water, biscuits, crisps, souvenirs, etc. as well as in the station, where there's still plenty of options to get some food and drinks. In other words, we acted on it too quickly, because the sandwiches at the station, look delicious.

Around 12:30pm, the train rides into the station. The railcars exchange tracks a number of times, wagons get added and taken off etc. It's a welcoming entertainment for all the passengers. Around 13h00, everyone goes to their seats on the train and we can start our journey, which will approximately take 1.5 hours. Our seat numbers are 49 and 50 in vehicle A (first class) which are located on the best side of the train. Lucky! Now we can admire the beautiful passing scenery. The route runs right next to the Urubamba river that soon transforms from a sluggish stream into a swirling mass of water. At the end of the journey, the vegetation is much greener with touches of tropical forest.

At the Aguas Calientes station, an employee of Hotel Inti Punku is already waiting for us. After a short walk of five minutes, we get to the lobby. We drop off our luggage in the room and go straight back to the station, which has a large indoor souvenir market. After rummaging in the various stalls for a while, we find the exact same figurine that we wanted to buy in Cuzco, but found too expensive (200 soles). After a short negotiation, the owner will sell it for 150 soles only. Bingo! Then we find another stall selling a nice Tumi-frame, that we'd also like to add to our collection. Here we are only able to get off 10 soles, but for 70 soles we take it anyway. Our sprees now are at cruising speed and we must restrain ourselves from buying more.

Afterwards, we try to find a counter where we can buy bus tickets to the Machu Picchu for the next day. A return ticket costs $18.50 per person. An absurd amount of money, but the only alternative is to go by foot. That doesn't sound very appealing.

Aguas Calientes actually is just one big tourist village and in its entirety built along the railway. There are dozens of hotels and guesthouses and hundreds of restaurants, all of which are trying to lure customers with happy hours, free nachos, free pisco sours, etc. The prices of the dishes can greatly vary. So, we kindly recommend you to compare! We choose a random tavern and from our seats wave to the regularly passing passengers on the trains. The tracks run right through the village, without any tree stroke or hostelry. Such a strange feeling!

aguas calientes peru

Pictures - photos and info about Aguas Calientes

Tuesday the 22nd of May

Machu Picchu, the Inca Ruins in Peru

At 4:00 am we get our wake-up call from the front desk, as we want to take the 5:30 bus to Machu Picchu. After a hot shower and frugal breakfast (there is not even bread available) we make our way to the bus station, where a very long line starts queuing. For a moment, we fear that it will take some time before we can get on the bus, but fortunately they know what their tourists want and several busses leave at the same time.

The bus ride to the lost city goes upwards and is very steep. The 20 minute route, by dusk and peaks hanging in the mist, is a very unique experience. At the at the entrance of the archaeological site we queue again, because all passports and entrance tickets are being checked very carefully. Moreover, it's very important, or at least good to be aware of the fact they only grant access to 2,500 daily. So, book your tickets to the Machu Picchu well in advance. Either via a travel agent or online.

Just after 6:00am we set our first steps at the Machu Picchu. As a visitor, the first image of the site you get, is stunningly beautiful. You see the whole city and behind that the Huayna Picchu mountain, the typical postcard image everyone knows. All visitors are waiting for that one moment the sun starts rising, which expelled the mystical fog layers and the town gradually. It's a breath-taking experience, we can highly recommend.

Now the sun has risen and a steel blue sky has revealed, the exploration of the lost city can begin. At the entrance, you get handed a map, but we decide to let our gut feeling lead us and not to follow the fixed route.

First we go to the highest part of the archaeological site, where, in our opinion, the best views are found and the best photos are taken. Our poor leg muscles get teased by the number of steps here, but it's all more than worth the effort. At this early hour, it's still relatively 'calm' so you don't get too many unwanted individuals walking in front of your shots.

Gradually we reach the lower temples and buildings of the site. It is a maze of narrow stairs and small rooms, which, in the Inca period, all had their own purpose and meaning. We hear snatches of information, provides by the many guides, but ultimately it's mainly down to the historical and religious significance of the Machu Picchu. Which for the historians overall still is, a mystery.

machu picchu inca peru

Pictures - photos and info about Machu Picchu the Inca's 1

It's getting busier and busier as the day trippers from Cuzco now make their entrance in massive crowds. Japanese, French and other nationalities storm in and the possibility to take photos has now become increasingly difficult. After nearly six hours of exploration in this beautiful excavation, we think it's time to return to Aguas Calientes. We first make a much-needed bathroom break at the exit (because, on the site, no sanitary is found!) and then return to the valley by bus.

Our legs are pretty tired of the many steps and our bellies rumble. We search for a nice little restaurant in Aguas Calientes, at which we can rest and chat about this wonderful experience.

Around 16:30 we take the Expedition train back to Ollantaytambo, where the driver of the travel agency will be waiting to drive us back to Encantada hotel in Cuzco. It's started to get dark, so unfortunately we can't see any more of the beautiful countryside. Just after 20h00 we arrive at our final destination. We are tired of this long, but also amazing day and quickly make our way to our cozy beds.

machu picchu inca peru

Pictures - photos and info about Machu Picchu the Inca's 2

Wednesday the 23rd of May

Saqsayhuaman, the Inca Ruins in Peru

Our last day in Peru already. Since our flight doesn't leave till the afternoon, we benefit from it in the morning and organize a quick visit to the Inca ruins of Saqsayhuaman near Cuzco. At the hotel, we arrange a taxi that will drive us back and forth for 30 soles.

The Inca archaeological site Saqsayhuaman can't be compared with the Machu Picchu, but it's certainly worth a visit. Some imagination is needed, because the then Spanish occupier aborted everything and what's left are only the foundations of this fort. After an hour, we have seen most of its sites and our taxi driver drops us back off at Plaza de Armas. Here we enjoy the last lunch of this holiday. In style, obviously, with a pisco sour and alpaca steak.

At 13:30, the same taxi driver picks up back up at hotel Encantada. After a short drive of 20 minutes we get to the airport of Cuzco (20 soles). Everything is going as planned and around 16h00 we take off towards Lima. After an hour, we're back on the ground to pick up the luggage and check back in at KLM. We buy a bottle of pisco at the airport to experiment with at home and our last soles get exchanged (at a very unfavourable exchange rate) to our trusty Euros.

At 20:30 we start our 12-hour flight to Amsterdam. As usual, spoiled with snacks and drinks, we watch a film, try to get some sleep and at 15.30pm local time land at Schiphol. We've been awake now for over 24 hours awake and don't look too fresh and shiny! Yet, we quickly pick up our luggage to take the 17u34 Thalys to our hometown, Antwerp, in Belgium. The end of another fantastic trip.

saqsayhuaman inca peru

Pictures - photos and info about Saqsayhuaman

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