As many of you know, C and I got married in Lima last March. It was an amazing wedding which we got to celebrate and share with our closest and dearest family and friends. It truly was one of the best days of our lives – and all those months of hard work and planning really paid off.
Due to our somewhat crazy international lifestyle, we had over 90 overseas guests attend our wedding! Seriously – C and I should have received commission from the Peruvian Tourism Board?!
As we don’t get to see many of our close friends and family on a regular basis (once a year if we are lucky), we decided that we would invite everyone to join us on our honeymoon! Yup! You did read that right. There was no way we were only going to see our friends for one crazy day – when they had all flown from far and near to be with us.
So, 2 days after saying “I will” a group of 40+ people flew up to the Peruvian Andes and we spent an amazing 5 days exploring Cusco, the Scared Valley and Machu Picchu – I couldn’t have asked for a better Honeymoon!
Although tackling the Inka Trail has always been high on my bucket list (and even more so now when I have seen the beauty of the area), it just was not an option for this trip. So we did a bit of a ‘lazy-man’s’ tour which worked out beautifully, especially when you are moving around 40 odd people at various levels of fitness. So, if anyone does not have the time/money/interest to walk for three full days – but still want an unforgettable experience, keep reading!
However first things first – this trip would not have been remotely possible if it were not for the exceptional work and organisation of Sandra Marcovich and Jose Antonio Abad of Peru Unknown. Their attention to detail, creativity and problem solving skills coupled with their fantastic personalities, made this epic trip a huge success. They are true experts in their field, and I would have no problems recommending them to any family or friend, who is planning a trip anywhere in Peru.
As we had our hands full organising our own wedding, we left the ‘trip part’ in the capable hands of Peru Unknown – and it was the best decision we made. They dealt with all our guest’s queries, arranged the domestic flights, booked the hotels and arranged our itinerary down to the tiniest of details. All our guests, the majority of who are very well travelled, were highly impressed with the work they did, and the customer service they received. So Jose and Sandra – if you are reading this: THANK YOU! :)
Now back to the trip:
Arriving in Cusco – Day One: Flying into Cusco is quite an interesting/traumatising experience (depending on your relationship with flying – I fall into the latter category!). Not only is the city of Cusco surrounded by mountains, but the airport feels as though it is in the middle of the city. So when I wasn’t petrified about crashing into the mountain and re-living scenes from the movie Alive in my head (yes you know the one! Where plane-crash survivors were forced to eat the deceased in order to survive), I was terrified we were going to crash into some one’s house! Can you tell that I am a pleasure to fly with?
Located at 3,399 meters above sea level, you will automatically feel the altitude when you land in Cusco. Now, I live in Mexico City which is 2,200 meters above sea level and I was surprised at how affected I was. Just walking from the baggage claim to our tour bus I was light headed and out of breath. Which is why I would recommend taking it extremely easy on the first day, to allow yourself to acclimatize. Take a nap, stroll around the city, eat lightly – but just take it easy!
My parents who are pretty hardy travellers thought they would not be affected by the altitude, so went out with their ‘crew’ for dinner. A couple (or 3) glasses of red wine and a big steak later – my dad thought he was having a heart attack and felt absolutely miserable the following day! You have been warned ;)
The Scared Valley -Day 2 Straight after an early-ish breakfast we packed our overnight bags and were bundled into our tour bus. We spent the whole day slowly meandering our way down to the Sacred Valley where we were going to spend the night, stopping off at various points of interests. The scenery is breath-taking as you see miles upon miles of lush green mountains and hills, speckled with old Inka ruins.
About 30 minutes into our trip, we stopped off at rather touristy shop, where apparently they sold the best quality alpaca products in Cusco (you will hear that a lot!). Although I had no interest in the shop as I found it expensive – I did thoroughly enjoy the little alpaca and llama farm they had outside. It was like a petting zoo where you could feed and stroke the animals, while learning the difference between the two– definitely brought out the child in me!
During the day we went to two impressive archaeological sites, the first was Pisaq which lies atop a hill at the entrance of the Sacred Valley. Pisaq is believed to have military, religious and agricultural significance and was used to defend the Sacred Valley.
The second sight we went to was Ollantaytambo. Apparently during the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuit who conquered the region, and the ruins are of great religious value. Although both these sites are significantly lower than Cusco, it still amazing how physically hard it is to walk around the ruins, it is however a very good way to get yourself ready for Machu Picchu!
For me, both places where not only situated in breath taking scenery, but the level of detail and work that must have gone into these structures was quite awe inspiring. Something that I wish I had done prior to going on this trip was to have read up a bit about the history of the Inca Empire – this way I could have fully appreciated the archaeological aspect of the ruins and their importance.
A book that I read when I returned to Mexico called Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams would have been a perfect introduction. Rather light heartedly, Adams managed to portray a rather complex and uncertain history of the region in an easy to follow and understandable manner.
We also stopped at a craft market to do a bit of shopping – but if I’m going to be honest with you, these kinds of markets do absolutely nothing for me. It’s all low quality mass produced crap which I will have absolutely no use for when I get back home.
Lunch was at a beautiful Hacienda called Tunupa, which has a sprawling garden and perched right next to the Urubamba river. Generally I am not a big fan of buffets, but when you are feeding 40 people at once – this is the way to go, and I have to say the food was good but the pisco sours even better :)
Not all of us could stay in the same hotel due to the size and needs of the group, but C and I stayed in Casa Adina! As it was our honeymoon (afterall) Jose and Sandra had managed to upgrade our room to a beautiful Andean Cottage, with almost a Balinese feel to it. There was an outside garden shower, a little terrace with a little pool and a bath tub for two! My only regret was that we did not have enough time there…..
Day 3 – Machu Picchu What an amazing and inspiring day! Machu Pichu really lives up to (and in my opinion) beyond its reputation. All those pictures you have seen, and any documentaries you have watched, just do not do this magical place justice. Machu Picchu is something that you have to experience first-hand to fully appreciate how magnificent it is.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, as the train trip between the Sacred Valley and Aguas Calientes (the closest city to Machu Pichu) is a wonderful experience in its own right. Departing from Ollantaytambo with Peru Rail the train is designed specifically so you get to see as much of the scenery as possible, with huge panoramic windows on the side and smaller glass windows in the ceiling. It really makes for a magical 1.5 hour journey.
Once in Agua Calientes – a rather ugly city – we jumped straight onto the bus that took us winding up the mountain for 20 minute and deposited us at the door step of Machu Picchu. This I must admit is a bit of an anti-climax, as you are spewed from the bus along with 100s of other tourists, but it is what it is, and that feeling of slight disappointment did not last once you saw the beauty of Machu Picchu.
I will let my photos do the talking from now on:
We spent around 3 hours in Machu Picchu – and I think that was sufficient amount of time for us. When we were first planning our trip, I remember my dad saying that he wanted to spend more time there – as this was one of the main attractions, but he was very happy when it was time to go home!
We had lunch down in Agua Calientes and then took the train back to Ollantaytambo and hoped straight on the bus back to Cusco. To be honest this was a rather long journey to do all at once, but we saw some amazing stars constellations in the clear night sky and we were back in Cusco around 9pm.
Day 4 – Cusco and Near by Ruins.
I really enjoyed our last day spent in Cusco – now that we were all acclimatised (more or less) it was far more relaxed and enjoyable. In the morning we visited the impressive ruins of Saksaywaman which is a walled complex 10 minutes north of the city. An incredible structure that is made of large polished dry stone, each boulder is carefully cut to fit together tightly without any mortar.
To this day, researchers, scientists and archaeologists still can not explain how these boulders were put together. The fit of the stones are so precise and unmatched anywhere else in the world, that it is impossible to fit a single piece of paper between the boulders.
We then continued to Cusco’s market – these type of working markets are far more interesting to me than any craft market that you will be taken to. Here you will see how real people shop, eat and live, and you will feel the pulse of the city.
Our last stop before lunch with the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, or also known as Cusco Cathedral. A grand structure in the heart of Cusco which has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site, and has become home to huge array of Cusco’s colonial art, archeological artifacts and relics.
In good old Spanish Conquistador fashion, the cathedral is built on top of an Inca Temple called Kisarkanacha that was demolished by the Spaniards – to add insult to injury they used the rocks from Saksaywaman to build the new cathedral. The true Christian spirit!
It really is worth having a guide to take you around and explain everything to you, as there is so much to see in the Cathedral that you would miss otherwise. Although I think my favourite item is the very Peruvian tounge-in-cheek depiction of the Last Supper complete with a roasted cuy (guinea pig) on the center of the table :)
Lunch was served at a beautiful restaurant called Pachapapa, which is in front of the Church of San Blas. Out of all the lunches that were included in our tour, this one had to be my favourite! Instead of a buffet, our group was given an option of 3 starters, 3 mains and 3 desert – so we got a proper restaurant experience (can you tell I’m not a fan of Buffett!) The restaurant is known for preparing traditional stews in clay pots and the food was excellent. The atmosphere was lovely, as we all sat in the courtyard under parasols – it was the perfect unofficial end to our tour!
Although we were meant to go on to another museum – I think it was unanimously decided, that we were done! We would much rather sit and enjoy the beautiful weather, our lovely lunch and fantastic company than to do any more touring!
Transfer Out – Day 5
Many of us flew back to Lima on the Friday, however there were small pockets of the group that continued to other parts of Peru to continue their adventure. Some went to Puno and Lake Titikaka while others went to explore the Amazon, all of which was organised by Peru Unknown. The feedback that C and I got from all our guests who travelled on was that their experience was just as positive with the quality of the tour as they were in Cusco!
So this is where I leave you (Finally). A lazy-man’s tour of Cusco and Machu Pichu. With everything that we managed to fit into our 5 days it really wasn’t that lazy – but it was just the right amount of time.
If anyone is thinking of going to Peru – and you have stumbled upon this post while doing your research, I could not recommend the services of Peru Unknown more! If you want a stress-free holiday they are the people to contact and will be able to design a package that can suit your particular needs!
When I reflect on this amazing few days we had in Cusco and Machu Picchu, I am so happy that I married a Peruvian! As it means I get to go back to this wonderful country repeatedly in the future. Whats Next? I think the Amazon is calling….