A must see of Peru, Cusco and Machu Picchu. My incredible trip includes exploring ancient villages, and majestic sites of Peru and tips how to plan a trip to Peru.
South AmericaPeru8 days / May 2021
Highs & Lows
The arrival in the early morning to Machu Picchu, without anybody!
The first time we woke up during the Salkantay trek, it was so cold!
From Cusco to the emblematic lost city of the Inca empire, it is an incredible adventure that this part of Peru offered us. Between archaeological and architectural vestiges, imposing landscapes and unforgettable meetings, we learned a lot about these places full of history and about ourselves, in the heart of the Peruvian Andes.
During the superb Salkantay trek, in the heart of the sacred valleys and the highest Peruvian summits, it is in apotheosis that ends this amazing itinerary by the discovery of this one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu.
After 2 days of visit in the capital, Lima, we fly to the city which was once the most important of South America. Welcome to Cusco!
When thinking about Cusco, many people may only think about Machu Picchu, located nearby. But Cusco, between ancient vestiges and imposing landscapes, conceals sumptuous treasures to discover.
The arrival in the heart of the ancient Inca capital is quickly felt. Perched at almost 3400 meters of altitude, the breath quickly becomes shorter and the evil of the altitude can be felt for some people. In this case, the coca tea, serving to reduce these undesirable effects, will be your best ally!
- CUSCO CITY
For our first day, we choose to explore the heart of Cusco. We arrive first of all on "La plaza de Armas", historical center and beating heart of the city. It is lined by colonial houses, statues, cathedral and church. It is pleasant to sit down and simply observe the life which takes place there.
We will then continue this day of visit towards the San Pedro market, located at a few minutes walking from "La plaza de Armas". This local market is gigantic and full of fresh and cheap food products, clothes, handicrafts, all in a traditional atmosphere as we like it.
We will then go on with the charming district of San Blas, admire the stone with the 12 angles which represents surely the most beautiful example of the Inca construction, and then finish by climbing up to the White Christ for an impregnable view on all Cusco.
The next day, we decide to go to Sacsayhuaman, ancient Inca fortress, located at only 2km from Cusco and which offers a magnificent view on the city! This site was once built with enormous blocks of rock weighing several tons (up to 350 tons per rock)! One can thus wonder how they could be arranged... In these rocks, for the most observant, it is even possible to observe ''hidden'' animals, like pumas, lamas...
It is in any case a visit not to be missed! But a little advice, go early because the place is really touristy!
- MORAY TERRACES AND MARAS SALT PANS
For our last day of visit around the city of Cusco, we go accompanied by a guide to the discovery of the Moray Terraces and the Maras salt pans.
The Moray terraces, situated in the heart of the Incas sacred valley, is formed by a row of circular terraces and was used at the time, of agricultural "experiments" by using the astrology and the movements of the light of the sun. We learned a lot about the history of this place thanks to Sergio, an exceptional guide of Machu Picchu reservations agency.
We continue then this day of visit with the Maras salt pans, situated to more than 3500 meters of altitude. These salt pans were exploited in the pre-Incan era and are still exploited today for the harvest of salt. The Maras salt pans are thousands of small basins arranged in terraces that are also very photogenic! We can wonder how salt can be present at such an altitude, far from the ocean, a geological phenomenon that is surprising to say the least!
Our stay in Cusco is soon over. Indeed, we reserved a day of rest and preparation for the Salkantay trek, which begins the next day!
That's it, the trek bags are ready, the hiking shoes put on, we finally left for one of the most beautiful trek in the world!
For this 5 days trek we chose to hike with the guides of the agency Machu Picchu reservations.
- SALKANTAY TREK
On the D-Day, the shuttle comes to pick us up before the sunrise. We stop on the way for a hearty breakfast and then go to the very beginning of the trek, to Soraypampa.
We will walk about 5 hours for this first day. We will pass by the beautiful emerald colored Humantay lake, then go down on the other side to reach our first camp, facing the imposing Salkantay mountain.
The camp is original to say the least. This night we will sleep in glass bubble which will allow us to admire the majestic surrounding mountains!
The night is cold and the awakening at 5:00 am is difficult. Fortunately the guides are there to warm us up with the famous coca tea, the small ritual of each beginning of day of this trek!
For the second day and surely the most difficult, we attack early in the morning the Salkantay pass, perched at 4600 meters. For the ascent, we cross the greenery, then the rocks, the snow, the rain, the wind that blows away.
The descent changes completely the scenery. We are now walking in a humid jungle with a lot of vegetation and flowers of all colors! After 8 hours of walking, we finally arrive at the second camp, the Chaullay camp. Here it is possible for only 10 Peruvian sol to take a very hot shower, so good! We collapse then all in our tents directly after the dinner, already exhausted by all this walk.
This third day is much more relaxing along the Santa Teresa valley. Less elevation gain, water flowing along the trails, giant waterfalls that can be seen from the front. What a striking contrast with the previous days! All along the trail, it is possible to observe plantations of coffee, bananas, avocados, coca, passion fruits and of course, to taste them! We arrive at the end of the morning at the Santa Teresa camp and we have time to finish the day in the hot springs of Colcampayo before returning to the camp for a good tea and a warm dinner.
For the 4th day of walk, after 3 hours of ascent, we arrive to the ruins of Llactapata from where we will already enjoy a spectacular view on the Machu Picchu.
After a relaxing break, we go down again during almost 2 hours in direction of Hidroelectrical for an invigorating lunch in a local restaurant before attacking the long walk along the railroads until Aguas Calientes, departure point for the Machu Picchu.
We arrive at night in this small tourist city, staggering of tiredness. Even holding a fork in our hand becomes difficult for the evening dinner! It is 8:30 pm and after a good shower we collapse in our beds, impatient to discover the next day our ultimate reward, Machu Picchu.
- MACHU PICCHU
The long awaited day has arrived. We will finally be able to discover this marvelous Inca city. The alarm clock is made early, at 4:30 am in order to be able to arrive at the Machu Picchu doors as of its opening. 6:15 am, we enter in silence in the heart of this wonder of the world. The place is almost empty, we are about twenty people on this giant Inca site. How lucky we are!
We spend all the morning exploring the vestiges of the city and listening to its history.
This wonderful stay between Cusco and Machu Picchu ends and we leave towards new adventures, amazed forever of the discovery of all these Peruvian treasures.
Q & A
What would you have changed?
The tourist ticket we bought for the visit of 10 places in Cusco but in the end only 4 were open. But we paid the full price! So don't pay this tourist ticket or check before what is open and what is not!
Tips you would give a friend?
It is important to bring warm clothes, because at more than 3000 meters of altitude, it is cold!
Warm leggings, warm socks, hat, scarf, fleece and especially hiking shoes!
On foot, by bus, by shuttle, all the sites to visit are easily accessible in Cusco and its surroundings.
The price of the Salkantay trek seemed really cheap! Everything was included, meals, lodging, guides, hotel in Aguas Calientes, entrance to Machu Picchu!
We booked almost all the tours overnight. But be careful, for the Salkantay trek, book at least a week in advance to be sure to have places!