Our Trip to Peru: Sacred Valley, Cusco, and Lima Days 5-7

Waking up the next morning after getting to cross off one of your major bucket list items sure does feel good. However, waking up after walking for miles up and down uneven stone steps made by the Incas hundreds of years ago sure does hurt too! Jason and I were so ridiculously sore the next day we were pretty much waddling instead of walking.  Not only were we sore, we were so sun burnt! Our bodies were tired and weary but we still had one more thing to see before we left the Sacred Valley and that was the Archaeological Park in Ollantaytambo, the town we were staying in.

I will be completely honest here and say that we didn't spend as much time here as we originally anticipated.  We were seriously beat so we cut it short and found ourselves a colectivo and got our ride back to Cusco.  We got dropped off at a plaza not too far from our hotel, but we were so tired, we got ourselves lost - seriously going up and down the same street the hotel was on! We needed naps.  After we settled into our room and rested a bit, we had to go back out for our last night in Cusco and grab a few souvenirs for family and say goodbye to this amazing city.  

Next morning we were refreshed and ready to fly out to Lima and spend the day exploring Peru's capital city.  Avianca Airlines, however, thought we might enjoy spending most of our day at the airport instead! Our domestic flight was delayed and we didn't leave Cusco for about 4 hours later.  Nobody was happy about the situation, but I was just glad we didn't have to catch our flight home that day.  

Once we finally made it to Lima, we got an Uber and made our way to our hotel in the Mira Flores district.  At this point, it was mid afternoon and we didn't have much time for sight seeing.  We ended up checking in to our hotel and simply grabbing some appetizers and drinks at a restaurant in the nearby Larcomar Shopping Center.  The shopping center was right on a cliff overlooking the water and had tons of American stores, like Gap, Victorias Secret, and restaurants like Chilis.  It felt like we were at an outdoor mall in Miami! We walked around there a bit after we ate and then walked some more around town.  We ate at a Chinese restaurant, which is popular in Peru and called Chifa, fusing both Peruvian and Chinese ingredients and traditions.  

We arranged an Uber to take us to the airport the next morning and off we were to make our way back home.  At this point, we were pretty exhausted from all the traveling and ready to sleep in our beds and enjoy the first world comforts we take for granted, such as clean water and toilet paper! 

Thanks for sticking around and ready all about our adventures in Peru!  In the coming months I plan on sharing a few useful tips on planning your own Peruvian trip, like the best time to see Machu Picchu, transportation, and must-haves. Let me know if there's something specific you'd like me to share and I'll be sure to do so! 

The best greeting from our little one when we got home! 

The best greeting from our little one when we got home! 

Our Trip to Peru: Sacred Valley Day 3

By day 3 of our trip we were feeling great! We did find ourselves way more winded than usual after a few flights of steps due to the higher elevation, but other than that we didn't suffer from altitude sickness.  We got up early to check out of our room in Cusco and make our way to the Sacred Valley.  We knew we wanted to find a colectivo to take us all the way to our hotel in the Sacred Valley's small town of Ollantaytambo.  A colectivo is basically a hired van that fits about 10-12 passengers (it won't leave until it's full) and makes a few stops along it's route.  The cost for a colectivo is significantly less than a private car.  The only problem was that everything I read was super vague about where to find them, although they all suggested and recommended them.  During dinner the night before we asked where to go to catch a colectivo and were given two cross streets that were about a 10 minute walk from our hotel.  

So, Saturday morning we took off in that direction. Not really knowing what we'd find, I was hoping for a sort of bus staging area or even a bus station. Boy was I wrong!  First off, the walk took way longer than 10 minutes with our big backpacks and steep streets.  Then, when found the cross-streets there was no actual sign or building, just a bunch of vans and cars parked alongside the road, so we assumed we were in the right area.  Either the drivers or their assistants were walking up and down the sidewalks asking you to come with them, where were you going, practically taking our backpacks off our backs to get us on their vehicle and not the next guys.  It was very overwhelming for me and I speak fluent Spanish.  I can't image how it must feel if you don't speak the language.  So, just be prepared to be bombarded by drivers! We found a van that wasn't full yet, ensured the negotiated rate, and sat inside.  We got 2 seats that were together and by a window, YAY! It didn't take long to fill the van and off we went.  Most were locals from Cusco traveling to the Sacred Valley, but there were a few other tourists like us.

Once we made it to the town, we dropped off our luggage, found a place to eat in the small plaza, then it was off to find another van to drive us to the sights.  Again, we didn't know exactly how we'd find a driver, as we weren't part of any actual "tour group".  But, drivers could figure out we were looking for a car, so they mostly came to us to try to negotiate a rate.  This is how we found our driver for the day.  He was looking for 2-4 other passengers to fill his van.  We negotiated our rate (always negotiate beforehand) and off we went for our adventure through the Sacred Valley.  We shared the van with 2 other guys and along our stops picked up another person.  Keep in mind that doing it this way, saves you money but it is not a tour and the driver is not a tour guide! He takes you to your stop, parks, and we settle on a time to come back to meet up at the van and go to the next stop.  Totally no frills and this is how we like. We aren't big on waking with big groups of strangers and following someone around.  We prefer to do our research beforehand and have the freedom to go explore the sights ourselves.    If you want a tour guide, you can definitely make arrangements in Cusco or in the towns of the Sacred Valley.

Our first stop was the ruins of Moray just outside the village of Maras.  This place was so impressive!  There are several terraced circular depressions, the largest is about 98 ft deep.  Although the exact purpose of the site is unknown, like most Incan ruins, it's believed to have been a sort of agricultural test lab.  Due to the circular shape and depth of the terraces, they could study who different temperatures, wind, and sun direction, affected the crops and they were even able to create various types of potatoes! 

Our second stop was the Salineras de Maras, salt mines located along the slopes of Qaqawiñay mountain.   There are nearly 3,000 salt pans, shallow pools that are filled by a hypersaline underground spring.  It is believed these salt mines have been around since before Incan times and are still active and hand-harvested by local families to this day.  We even saw some men tending to their plot.  This was my favorite from all the sites we saw in the Sacred Valley and of course, we brought some salts with us! I loved that we could walk on the edge and get up close to the pans, careful not to disturb them of course :) 

The next stop was at a local artisan shop where we learned how the alpaca wool was cleaned, dyed, and turned into beautiful blankets and scarves using ancient techniques.  I'm sure the ones we purchased were not made this way, of course! But they were still beautiful and made great souvenirs to bring back home.  

Our final stop was to Chinchero, a small town with more ancient ruins, terraces, and a adobe church built by the Spaniards in the 1600s.  As you can imagine, by this point we were exhausted from our long day of traveling and sight-seeing! The views from the hillside were beautiful, but we were pretty much done!  After grabbing some snacks from a vendor, we made our way to find a bus to take us back to Ollantaytambo.  And so began another adventure in public transportation! The sun was about to set, we were cranky, hungry, and tired at this point and just wanted to get back to town to rest.  We managed to figure out which bus to get on, but it only was taking us as far as Urubamba, from there we had to figure out what to do. By the time we arrived at the bus station it was dark and we weren't sure what to do.  I asked and was pointed to the side of the station I needed to be in to catch a bus to Ollantaytambo.  We ended up in a small van cramped with too many people.  We were the only tourists in the van but we didn't care.  The ride took a lot longer due to the many stops along the way but we finally made it and couldn't have been happier for the fresh air!

Once we were back in Ollantaytambo we found a small restaurant for dinner and enjoyed a nice! After we picked up some waters and snacks for Machu Picchu the next day, then took some much needed showers back in our room and got to bed! I was so excited to finally be heading to Machu Picchu the next day.  Stay tuned....

In case you missed it, here are Day 1 + Day 2 recaps! 

Our Trip to Peru: Cusco Day 2

Our second day in Cusco was jam packed.   The day was unseasonably warm and sunny!  We actually had amazing weather the entire week we were there, no rain at all! Considering we went during rainy season, we really made out great! 

After breakfast, which was provided by the hotel, we went out to purchase our Beleto Turistico.  It's basically like a CityPass here in the states.  You pay one fee and it includes admission for a lot of the archeological sites and attractions in and around Cusco and the Sacred Valley.  Once we got our ticket we started our walk to Sacsayhuama citadel.  It was not a very long walk, maybe about a mile from the city center, but it was a very steep walk uphill and there were lots of stairs.  Thank goodness for coca leaves, which helped with the altitude sickness!  

Once there we were greeted by the impressive Incan construction and massive walls!  It was also here we stalked some poor llamas for selfies and I even got to hold a baby llama - cuteness overload!!! *Be sure to tip the women with the llamas for the photo :) 

After a couple of hours at Sacsayhuama we took a taxi to Tambomachay, another archeological Inca site.  This one was not as impressive as the fortress of Sacsayhuama but it had interesting water ducts and waterfalls. More of the impressive Incan architecture.  We were pretty hot, hungry, and tired at this point so we took a local bus (quite the adventure!) back into Cusco.  Unfortunately, we got off too early and ended up walking a lot more than we expected and maybe got a little bit lost but we found our way back to our hotel thanks to the awesome app CityMaps2Go.  This app was super helpful during our entire trip.  You can download the maps ahead of time, so it'll work even without an internet connection.  WIN!! 

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After lunch we went back to our hotel room to rest up and freshen up for the evening.  We walked around and did some shopping, visited the Coricancha museum and then got kicked off the grass. But, not before we took our selfie :)

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After that and a stop at Starbucks, we grabbed a bite to eat and then made our way to the Museo Del Pisco Bar.  We tried a variety of piscos, which to my surpise are made from grapes like wine, but taste more like tequila! There was a live band playing everything from Bob Marley to local Peruvian songs.  It was such a perfect way to end our night!  I didn't want to leave, but we had to get up early the next day to make our way to the Sacred Valley.  We're getting closer to the main part of our trip: Machu Picchu! 

In case you missed it, here's Day 1 of our adventure!