In October 2014, I traveled to Peru with my fiancé and our friends for a hiking trip through the Andes to Machu Picchu. Although we were exhausted and frozen 90% of the time, we fell in love with this beautiful, culturally rich country and its incredibly kind people. Our trip lasted about eight days (including travel days), and we were on the move the entire time. There is so much of the country that we weren’t able to see, but we took advantage of every day and were able to hit the main spots in the little time we had. Here’s a look at our itinerary while in Peru:
We flew into Lima and spent a day and a half exploring this beautiful coastal city. Every four years, the government bans alcohol for two days throughout the entire country during its national elections. And of course we just so happened to be in Lima for those two days, so that put a bit of a damper on the beginning of our trip (I don’t drink so it didn’t matter to me). However there was plenty to see, do, and EAT to keep us busy.
Foresta Hotel Lima – Located in the San Isidro neighborhood of Lima. The staff was super friendly, the rooms were modern and clean, and the included breakfast was fantastic. The hotel is a decent cab ride away from the heart of the city, so take that into consideration when deciding where you want to stay. We actually enjoyed being in a more quiet part of town as Miraflores is very crowded and busy.
Hanzo – A fantastic Peruvian Japanese fusion restaurant a few blocks away from our hotel. There is a heavy influence of Asian cuisine in Peru that dates back to the late 1800s when Chinese and Japanese workers migrated to the country. The food at Hanzo is delicious, especially the sushi as Lima is right on the Pacific Ocean.
Miraflores – Located right on the water, Miraflores is one of the main tourist attractions in Lima. This is where you’ll find all the best shopping, restaurants, and hotels.
Plaza de Armas – aka Plaza Mayor. This is Lima’s main square, and it consists of all the main government buildings/palaces. The square boasts beautiful landscaping and fountains and is a great place to hang out and people watch.
Cusco was definitely our favorite part of the trip, other than Machu Picchu. It really felt like we were able to dive into the culture and get a feel for what Peru was all about. Since our main reason for traveling to Peru was to hike to Machu Picchu, we traveled to Cusco a few days before our excursion took off so we could explore the city and properly acclimate to the altitude (over 11,000 feet). Altitude sickness is no joke and if you plan on doing a similar hike I would HIGHLY recommend getting to Cusco early so you can avoid it. I would also recommend purchasing Dramamine and taking a pill every day you’re in Peru.
Pariwana Hostel – We stayed at this adorable hostel not too far from Plaza de Armas, the main city square. This place is every Pinterest lover’s dream. We got a private room, but there are several other options to choose from. The food was casual but really yummy, and the cafe area was super warm and cozy. I wouldn’t have wanted to stay anywhere else.
Chicha – We came here for lunch on our first day in Cusco and it was a fantastic introduction to the city. Think farm to table Peruvian food. Definitely worth checking out.
Inka Grill – Our favorite restaurant in Cusco. We ate here 2-3 times. My favorite meal was the Lomo Saltado, an authentic Peruvian dish that consists of beef, rice, and potatoes (Peruvians are big on double starches…CARBS!) Make sure you order it at least once while in Peru because it’s fantastic. My fiancé ordered the guinea pig one night just to say he tried it (sad, but it’s a national staple). Luckily he didn’t like it, but if you’re feeling adventurous give it a try.
Mercado Central de San Pedro – a HUGE market on the outskirts of town. You can find anything from fresh flowers to fresh meat, souvenirs, and clothing. A must do.
Cristo Blanco – Hire a cab to take you up to the statue of Christ at the top of Cusco. The views of the city from there are amazing.
Sacred Valley – We took half a day to explore the Sacred Valley and Pisac, the cutest little village about an hour from Cusco. There is an outdoor market with vendors selling “real alpaca fur” merchandise. I put it in quotes because the big joke is that almost 90% of the stuff they say is real is fake. But if you get your hands on the real stuff you’re going to want to buy it! We ate lunch at Pisac Inn and had the most delicious empanadas.
Lares Valley Trek – And now the adventure begins! Before we left for Peru we scheduled our hike through Dos Manos, the most amazing tour guide company that we would 200% recommend for any excursion. Our guide was Daniel and I cannot rave about him enough. He and our sherpas were half the reason our experience was so wonderful. While in Cusco we went to their office to go over the itinerary, and on the morning our hike began they picked us up from our hostel and drove us to the starting point. Most people hike the Inca Trail while in Peru, but we chose Lares Valley for the intimacy. We literally did not see another human being for almost three days and it was so cool because you get to see a part of the earth that is still virtually untouched. Even the people that live in the mountains live with very little means in tiny little stone houses. No electricity. Almost no interaction with anyone outside of their own little world. It’s a great reality check for us spoiled Americans. **Make sure to bring candy with you because if you do run into any little kids while on your hike you’re going to want to have some on hand for them. The views along the trek are surreal. I don’t even know where to begin. Pictures don’t do them justice. You are truly in God’s country while hiking through the Andes. The hike wasn’t excessively hard (Daniel was shocked at how fast our pace was (shoutout to the college track days 💪🏻), but the progressively increasing altitude is what gets you. The highest point of our trek was 15,000 feet, which is no joke. We camped at 14,000 feet and I experienced hypoxia for the first time in my life. My entire body froze up and I couldn’t move. It felt like that tingling sensation you feel in your legs after they fall asleep, but times 100. The bipolar climate is something important to consider when packing for the trip. At different points throughout the hike we were in snow, then torrential downpours, then the hot rain forest. It was so awesome to have experienced all those climates within such a short period of time, but you have to remember to be ready for them. We packed everything from rain jackets, puff jackets, water proof hiking pants, thermals, and thick socks to shorts, tank tops, and T-shitrts. One of the best parts about having chosen Dos Manos was the extent to which they went to ensure that we had a seamless, comfortable experience. We thought we’d be straight backpacking, but the sherpas brought along horses to carry all of our belongings, including all of their equipment. I kid you not these horses were carrying EGGS. Soft, easily broken eggs…through the uneven, rocky, snowy, slick ANDES. It was crazy. The sherpas (who wore sandals to hike in, wtf) set up our camps for us, set out hot water for us every morning to brush our teeth and wash our face with, and set up and cooked in the most awesome little dining tent. I don’t know how they did it, but they were somehow able to cook us gourmet meals in the middle of no where by just bending down in the dirt and working over a little portable stove. Hands down the most impressive people I’ve ever met. Not only that, but they were so kind and helpful. I just can’t gush over them enough.
Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu – We hiked up until we got to Aguas Calientes, a little river town directly under Machu Picchu. We stayed in a hostel where we were able to have our first real shower in days, and then woke up at 5am the next morning to head up. If you don’t hike the Inca Trail, you have to take a bus up a sketchy hill to Machu Picchu. You want to go early to avoid the massive crowds, but there will still be some tourists even at that time. Once you get to the top you won’t be able to utter a single world. Machu Picchu is worth every single bit of hype. It was and will always be one of the most remarkable places I will have ever been. Make it a life goal of yours to go there one day. And if you do, make sure to schedule a trip up to Wayna Picchu. After exploring the ruins for a few hours, we hiked up Wayna Picchu, the huge mountain directly adjacent to Machu Picchu. Only a certain amount of people are allowed to go up per day, which is why you have to book it in advance because it is so worth it. Soak it all in. Not many people can say they’ve been to one of the Wonders of the World.
This was one of those once in a lifetime trips that I will never forget. I hope you have the opportunity of visiting this amazing country one day because you truly will truly never forget it.