In our family, I’m the trip planner. Over the years I’ve planned enough trips to know when I’m out of my league. Peru was one such trip.
Based on my experience the following are my recommendations on planning a trip to Peru:
- Hire a tour company who specializes in Peruvian travel. If you do, they will ensure that most of the following works with ease.
- Plan and purchase (tickets and hotel) months ahead if you are going to Machu Picchu: Only 2,500 visitors are allowed into Machu Picchu at one time and only for 4-hour blocks of time. If you are hiking in, only 500 permits are issued for the Inca Trail per day including porters and guides.
- If you hike the Inca Trail vet your company well to ensure that the porters who will be carrying your camping equipment operate within the allowable limits. Our day hike guide was emergency medicine trained which was a great relief due to the remoteness of the hike.
- Machu Picchu logistics are NOT easy: In the village of Aguas Calientes you catch a train (via Peru Rail or Inca Rail) to the village of Machu Picchu. From the village you take a bus up to the site. If you get off of the train at KM 104 to hike the Inca Trail your luggage will continue on the train while you hike the trail. It’s critical that you make arrangements, in advance, for how your luggage will be retrieved and secured while you are hiking.
- Adult diapers: If you anticipate needing to go to the bathroom while hiking on the Inca Trail you can forget about it. There is no space to hide. I wish that someone had told me to get over myself and wear adult diapers while hiking. It would have made our trek much more comfortable.
- Don’t hike the Inca Trail if you haven’t been conditioning. The trek is arduous and not to be taken lightly. There is no way to exit the trail once you start the journey. There is no way for emergency crews to get to you other than to haul a stretcher up the trail and carry you down the trail.
- Stay in the village of Machu Picchu at least one night to soak in the mystery and majesty of the mountains.
- Altitude is a REAL DEAL: Start your trip in the lower altitudes of the Lima area and gradually make your way to Machu Picchu, finishing at the highest altitude of Cusco. We saw many tour companies offering package trips starting in Cusco. We also read many reviews of people who arrived their first day into Cusco and immediately developed altitude sickness. I packed altitude sickness medication and started taking it one day before the trip because I didn’t want to spend one second of the trip ill. Be aware that the altitude sickness medications are de-hydrating so you will need to drink extra water to offset its impact.
- Stay hydrated but DON’T drink the water, including vegetables washed in the unfiltered water! The elevation will create extreme dehydration. To combat that drink lots of filtered water with added electrolyte packets and rehydration salts. You may want to consider packing your own water bottle with a built in filtration system such as Grayl.
- Thoughtfully pack your medicine cabinet in the US anticipating that you are going to pick up a foreign bacteria that will play havoc with your intestines. This would include an anti-diarrheal, pain reliever, altitude sickness, motion sickness (if you are riding in the back of a van), and blister plasters (if you are hiking).
- Avoid street food until the last day or two: Due to a high risk of picking up an intestinal bug, stay away from street vendor food until the last part of your trip (or stay away all together).
- Travel insurance is highly recommended to help with any accidents or health issues that might arise during the trip.
- Allow extra time in your schedule: Things can move more slowly and surprises do occur that require time.
- Hand sanitizer and wipes: The bathrooms in Peru are hit or miss. On the Inca Trail they are non-existent with the exception of camping spots with squat toilets. Anticipate this and have sanitizer, wipes, and possibly a SheWee on hand.
- Pack layers: Peru is a very large country with wide fluctuations in temperatures. Due to its high altitude it is advisable to pack sunscreen as the UV rays are especially intense.
Our trip to Peru was 12-days (including travel to and from) and began at the lower altitude of Lima where we stayed for 3-nights to acclimate at the Aposento – Hotel B. After the flight from Lima to Cusco, our driver met us for the journey through the Sacred Valley. After several stops along the way we checked into the Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba for a two night stay at a slightly higher altitude. From there, we traveled to Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo. On the train ride to the village we got off at KM 104 for the day hike down into Manchu Picchu. After two nights in the hotel, we made our way back to Cusco where we stayed for 3-nights at La Casona Inkaterra. We departed for the US from Cusco, flying through Lima to catch our international flights home.
My Peruvian Unforgettable Moments
Marinera: The National Dance of Peru, The Beauty of Peruvian Weaving, The Fresh Markets of Peru, Machu Picchu from KM104: It’s a Pilgrimage, Not a Hike, A Day in Cusco Peru, and Visiting the Maras Salt Pans of Peru
Mary Beth I have a passion for creating and experiencing unforgettable moments and sharing those with others. I hope that this story has helped you experience one of those moments.