Macchu Piccu, Rainbow Mountains, alpacas...have I sold you yet?
Let me tell you I was sold. This trip was probably my all time favorite. The cities nestled against the rolling hills, glacier lakes, mountains that look like Picasso stroked them with paint...nature and magic alike. This trip was also probably the most I've ever learned, in terms of geography in booking everything and in terms of the rich history of the land. Get ready to learn and marvel!
pro tip: Fly into Lima it will be way cheaper than flying straight into Cusco. Then book a separate connection to Cusco.
pro tip continued: Send it straight to Cusco. Spend at least three full days in Cusco before heading out on any excursions. If you are like me you might think Cusco is where Macchu Piccu is. Which it is not...Cusco is a glorious city where you can home base it for day trips/ trecks. Cusco is also very very high in elevation so if you take one tip from me let it be this: buy the water bottles they sell in stores and chug at least one a day.
-Wild Rover and Loki are two very fun hostels with a surprisingly strong night life. I myself stayed at the much more quiet Pariwana hostel. It depends what you are looking for! If you want quieter nights you could stay at Pariwana and check out the other two for a drink.
What to do when in Cusco (besides drink water):
Feeling a little tight from the plane ride?
Head to Exhala a yoga studio that offers English speaking classes. They have a beautiful studio space with greenery wrapped around the ceiling and big windows.
-Exhala is right by the San Blas district so continue to stretch out your plane legs and walk around the shops and streets here! (In San Blas make sure you visit the coke museum to see the coke leaves! yes I mean the drug)
-Qura bowl: avocado toasts, acai, fresh deliciousness you must try
-Green Point: a vegan restaurant right by yoga. Get ready to be dazzled sitting under the greenery in their outdoor seating.
-Xapiri Ground: cafe with an art studio
-Morena: Peruvian food in a vibey spot with a great view of the Plaza de Armas square which is a must to explore
-when over in Plaza de Armas make sure to pop into the Choco Museum for pre dinner hot chocolate/ chocolate tasters. Peru is one of the worlds biggest providers of cacao.
-Green Point: head back to this breakfast spot and try out their dinner! It's good enough for a repeat.
-After dinner drinks at the Pisco museum is a must, they have all sorts of fun infused Pisco drinks. Which brings me to a non negotiable: Pisco sours, often. Think a very limey/lemony frothy cocktail.
I booked everything through American Inca Trail and I would 1,000 percent recommend them. They were super affordable and on all their trips they feed you WELL. Most meals were three courses with soup or potatoes, meat/ veggies and rice (vegetarian friendly) and bread. The trips will pick you up from your accommodation and bring you back zero stress. If it is an overnight trip the stay is also included in the price (stay normally being hostels/ home stays). All the guides have so many awesome stories to tell about Peru's history so you get to learn so much as you sit back and don't have to worry about driving or transportation ect.
-Machu Picchu: of course the first thing most think of when they think of Peru!! For good reason the ruins are made for royals and you can tell looking out at the impressive stone walls and compasses...I did the four day three night adventure treck which I would completely recommend. We biked, hiked, white water rafted and zip lined all included in the price. Lots of adventure leading up to the last day spent at Machu Picchu! As you will see there are many options on American Inca Trail, some are catered to those who do not like hiking as much and others are more intense physically speaking.
pro tip- if you book through American Inca Trail they will ask you if you'd like to add on entrance tickets to Huayna Picchu to which your answer must be YES! It is a really cool short hike that starts right from the ruins of Machu Picchu. The hike involves some chains, but it is not scary! From the top you can see the ruins (think post card image!) It is truly amazing. You need an entrance ticket to do this hike so you have to plan out that your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu is staggered enough with your later entrance ticket to Huayna Picchu so that you are not rushed. (American Inca Trail takes care of this for you which is very nice)
-Humantay lake: must do! for my Colorado readers this hike feels very similar to a short 14er hike given the elevation and the snow capped mountains you get to look out upon! This is a very sacred place and you can feel the magic.
-Rainbow mountain: short but hard! (because of the elevation) hike up to a postcard view of a mountain with natural colorful stripes
pro tip- do this hike last, you get up to 16,000ft elevation (think Everest base camp) so you want to wait until your body has adjusted to the elevation. Also bring layers! With elevation like that comes very cold breezes.
-there are even more excursions on the American Inca Trail website, these three are all must do's though! I would call the company and book well in advance for all.
Perhaps you have a longer layover in Lima on your way home in which case stay in the Mira Flores neighborhood and you must try Che Cha station for brunch. Stroll around Love Park and watch paragliders. Then be sure to walk around the funky Baracaues district where Felicia Domingo (brunch) and Dedalo (shopping) are musts.
In the Inca language Quechua, there is no word for the "end." As they see it, nothing ever truly ends. Energy is never lost or left instead it travels throughout lifetimes. So 'Tupananchiskama' Peru (until we meet again). To all planning a trip I hope you enjoy the everlasting magical energy of this place!