Updated: Mar 19, 2019
Trip to Cusco, Peru
Day 1: We arrived in Cusco airport at 8:00 p.m. As soon as we went through baggage claim there were several taxi services trying to get our attention. We stopped at one location called Inkatrail Expeditions. The representative offered to take us to our hotel, Hilton Garden Inn, (which was about 20-23 min away) for $12.00. However, we were able to negotiate a lower price with her to $9.00 total. We shared the taxi with one other person and was able to see some of the night life on the way to the hotel.
Driving the streets of Cusco at night
When we arrived at our hotel we received two free drink vouchers for being Hilton Honors members. We chose the national drink of Peru, which is the Pisco Sour. It’s a blend of egg white yolk, lime juice, simple syrup, pisco brandy, and angostura bitters. While there we chose to eat at the restaurant in the hotel since it was late. I ordered a local dish which is the chicken consume (kind of like a traditional chicken soup but with potatoes). Jay ordered the snow valley salmon with garlic butter asparagus and sweet mashed potatoes. We both were not a fan of the dishes due to the lack of seasoning.
Snow Valley Salmon with Garlic Butter Asparagus
Pisco Sour Drink
Day 2: The next morning we booked a guided tour trip through Inka trail expeditions. The original price was $30.00 per person but we were able to negotiate a lower price of $20.00 per person. This trip included a bus from Cusco to Ollytaytambo (roughly a two hour drive) with a few sightseeing stops along the way and a buffet style lunch showcasing Peruvian cuisines. This is a good way to see various sites such as the Sacred Valley, and Ollytaytambo ruins for cheap.
Ruins found in Sacred Valley
Ruins found in Sacred Valley
While on the bus we were able to stop for plenty of photo ops, play with llamas, and do some souvenir shopping. One of the souvenirs we purchased were alpaca blankets, which is made from baby llama fur. We paid $20.00 for each blanket. We weren’t sure if we were getting a good price but we were happy because we were able to negotiate a great deal. Originally they wanted to charge $80.00 for each one!
Side Note: We were told one way to tell if you’re getting a real alpaca product is by checking to see if it is heavy for its size and also if it feels cool to touch.
Stopping for souvenirs and play time with local llamas
Once we arrived to Ollytaytambo we decided to stay for one night since the train station for Machu Picchu was there in town. We stayed in the El Albergue hotel in Ollytaytambo which is a really cute boutique style hotel literally right in front of the train station. The hotel was only $60.00 for one night and included a free made to order breakfast.
Day 3: The next morning we were able to wake up a little late and walk just 2 min to the train station outside the hotel's door. We bought our train tickets online before we left for our trip for the 7:20 AM train. We decided to go on the 360 train on Inkarail website, which is a train that provides beautiful natural views from both sides and the top. It was $218.00 for two people roundtrip back to Cusco. We had to get our tickets verified by the train station and waited in Inkarail's passenger waiting area (which had free WiFi, coffee and tea while you wait). We were finally able to board the train and claim our seats. The seating was comfortable with panoramic windows that offered beautiful views. We were served a meal and drink while on the train and it was not the best. It involved corn, a ham & vegetable wrap, and cheese (they also have vegetarian dishes upon request).
Food Served on train ride to Machu Picchu
Side Note: You can walk into the open train cart to take photos and videos of the mountainside as you please.
We rode the train for 2 hrs and arrived in Aguas Calientes at 9:20 a.m. This was a super cute town and had a variety of different restaurants, massage parlors and shops for souvenirs. We explored for a few minutes and then proceeded to buy our bus ticket for the ride up to Machu Picchu. Once on location, follow the signs to the ticket office for the bus. It was $12.00 for a one way or $24.00 for roundtrip per person. We originally planned to hike up the mountain side ourselves from Aguas Calientes to the entrance of Machu Picchu, but, for the sake of time decided to take the bus instead. The hike is approximately 1 hr, but looked even further and more treacherous, as we rode pass the individuals who committed to the challenge (maybe next time).
Bus ticket prices from Aguas Caliente to Machu Picchu
The bus was kind of crowded and uncomfortable, but the views were gorgeous! When we arrived to Machu Picchu we didn’t have to purchase our tickets because we purchased them before we left for our trip, through the government website https://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/inicio. The price of the Machu Picchu tickers were $46.00 per person. We chose the 10:00 am time to tour the site. There are a set amount of tickets allotted for each time slot. At time of purchase, the 10:00 am slot looked open (when booking, you can see how many tickets are still available for each time slot). Once on location, you will have numerous tour guides approach you to see if you want to take a tour with them. If you want to do a private tour the price is around $60.00. We were only able to negotiate the price down to $40.00. We decided that was still too much, so we opted to do a group tour, priced at $20 per person, but we negotiated the tour guide down to $12.00 per person. Our tour guide was great. He snapped as many photos as we wanted, gave us some awesome picture ideas and told us about the history of Machu Picchu and the Incan civilization as a whole. We completed the route we took in about 3 hrs.
Travel Note: We were informed that Machu Picchu continues to gain an increasing influx of visitors from year to year, and that the sheer amount of foot traffic is starting to unsettle the ruins infrastructure. We were told, in the future, the peruvian government is heavily considering shutting down the ruins and only allowing people to take the typical picture on top of the hill (see picture below, of typical shot).
Over looking the old Incan Citadel
After our tour was done, we hopped back on the bus to take us down to the city of Aguas Caliente. We then took the Inca Rail train back to Ollantaytambo at 4:15 PM, which also included a 2hr bus ride to Cusco.
Day 4: The next morning while in Cusco we walked to the city center to explore. It took about 15 min from the Hilton Garden Inn hotel. We first stopped by the local Starbucks Café to purchase our around the world travel mug. While there, we also stumbled upon a local flavored frappuchino, called lucuma. Lucuma is a local fruit and a local favorite, and favors the taste of a mango. It was pretty good, not too sweet and not too bitter. Once done, we headed over to a peruvian sushi location named Itamae Sushi Bar. It is a Japanese style sushi spot, with a fusion of Peruvian flavors. It was very tasty and different. The sushi roll that Jay tried was the acevichados. It was a panko battered shrimp roll, wapped in salmon & avocado, infused with ceviche sauce. The flavors mixed very well. Jaquan also added a glass of chichi morada. When the bill came, we were surprised to see that everything came up to only $8.00.
Enjoying Japanese/Peruvian fusion sushi
Once our food escapade was complete, we eventually made our way to the San Pedro market, which is filled with souvenir shops, local produce, chocolates, breads, meats, and small restaurants. You can go around and sample a lot of the foods. We looked around as we waited to meet up with Chef Jesus for our peruvian cooking class.
The cooking class experience was awesome! We booked it on trip advisor before we left for our trip. Jesus guided us through the market to shop for our ingredients and learn about the history of the produce. Once we left the market we walked 10 min to the location of the kitchen to cook our 4 course meal. I highly recommend trying out the cooking class for a good time! Click here for the link to the class.
Chef Jesus picking out fresh ingredients
Picture of us cooking some traditional Peruvian dishes
Things we would have done differently:
We would not have stopped in Cusco and maybe stayed in Ollytaytambo the whole time. It was much closer to Machu Picchu.
We would have researched more about alpaca products. When we purchased our alpaca products, we were initially unsure how to distinguish the quality, therefore, we were not sure if we were getting a good quality product for a low price, or a cheap quality product for too much.
We would have booked a sooner return ticket from Machu Picchu. Not knowing how long the tour would take, we initially booked our return ticket for 7:00 PM, after arriving to Machu Picchu at 11:00 AM. The tour was done in slightly less than 3 hours. We were able to change our train ticket, but for an additional price.