By: Maricielo A. (Colombia)
My trip through Cusco was filled with an energy that I cannot explain. From the first day I felt that there was something special in this land of the Incas. I got to know Cusco, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Maras, Moray, the 7 Colors Mountain and, of course, Machu Picchu. Each of the places I visited I did with an all-inclusive tour. This is my experience in the five days I spent in Cusco.
Day 1: Cusco City Tour
I arrived in Cusco at night. I was very afraid of what could happen to me due to altitude sickness. When I got to my hotel I felt a bit cold and I locked myself in my room. It was hard for me to sleep because of the headache. Could it be altitude sickness? After drinking coca tea I managed to fall asleep. The rich Cusco sun recharged me with energy. I had breakfast at the hotel and we walked around the city. I already felt much better.
In the afternoon, after lunch, we did the first tour: the City Tour around the city of Cusco. We booked the tour with an online agency a few weeks before the trip. The guys on the tour included us everything: the tickets, the guide and the transportation. It all started in the Main Square. We met there at 1 in the afternoon with the guide and the other tourists. The first destination was the Cathedral of Cusco. We entered and appreciated its beautiful works of colonial art. The guide explained to us that the church was built on top of an Inca temple. For its construction they used the stones of Sacsayhuaman, a place that we would visit later.
The next place we visited was the Coricancha, an Inca temple with really solid walls. The guide explained to us that it was the most important temple in the Inca era. We then boarded the minivan that took us to Sacsayhuaman, one of the most famous Inca sites in Cusco. The size of its walls is striking. The next places we visited were: Qenqo, Pucapucara and Tambomachay. They all had similar characteristics, however, Sacsayhuaman was the site that most impressed me.
Finally we return to the city of Cusco where we have dinner and go to bed. I already felt like one more cusqueña!
- Precio del tour: 60 USD.
- More information: The City Tour is recommended on the first day as it is a quiet tour ideal to adapt to the climate of Cusco.
Day 2: Tour to the Sacred Valley of the Incas
The second day we did the tour to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This tour started very early, from 7 in the morning with the pick up of the transport at the door of our hotel. By then we had already had a light breakfast. We contracted the tour with the same company with which we did the City Tour. It included everything: pick up, transportation, tickets, lunch and tour guide. Note that some tours do not include tickets and you have to buy them on your own. That is why it is always advisable to verify the quality and price of the tour.
After 1 hour of travel by minivan we arrive at the archaeological site of Pisac, the first place to visit. I was impressed by its immense platforms. Then we descend and visit a craft center where silver and gold objects are made. I bought some earrings with Inca symbols. Then we continue the trip to the town of Urubamba. There we have lunch in a comfortable buffet restaurant called ‘Tunupa’. Then the trip continued until we reached the archaeological site of Ollantaytambo. Walking there was difficult as you go up several stone stairs.
The following destination was the one I liked the most. It is called Chinchero, it is a town where there is an archaeological site that is somewhat deteriorated but very beautiful. The guide mentioned that it was the palace of the Inca Túpac Yupanqui. We also visited a textile center where some very kind ladies explained to us how they make their textiles in the ‘old’ way. There we took many photos and bought some chullos and gloves. Finally we return to the city of Cusco at around 7 at night.
Upon arrival in Cusco we have dinner at a restaurant near our hotel. Then we went to bed at 9 at night because the next day we had to get up very early (4 am). We were going to visit Machu Picchu!
- Precio del tour: 75 USD.
- More information: The Sacred Valley of the Incas tour is a classic in the trip to Cusco. If you come without a tour you must buy the ‘Cusco Tourist Ticket’ (70 Peruvian soles). This ticket allows entry to all the archaeological sites: Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero and, incidentally, Moray.
Day 3: Tour to Machu Picchu
The third day we did the exhausting but memorable tour to Machu Picchu. The transport picked us up at the door of our hotel around 4 in the morning. The trip lasted more than 1 hour in which I took the opportunity to sleep. When we woke up we were already in the town of Ollantaytambo (we visited it yesterday). Before getting on the train we took the opportunity to eat something in the station cafeteria. The train trip was in Peru Rail Expedition service. The seats are comfortable and everything is really clean. In almost 2 hours we arrive at the town of Aguas Calientes, which is also called Machu Picchu town.
The mountains of Aguas Calientes surprised me like giants. However, we would visit this town more carefully later because it was time to get on the buses that would take us to Machu Picchu. The bus ride took approximately 30 minutes. Upon arrival we met the guide and the rest of the group of tourists that made up the tour. The tour was just wonderful. In Machu Picchu we are filled with a special energy. The guide explained each of the constructions to us: the temple of the sun, the Intihuatana, the main temple and more. Luckily the weather was good so we managed to get the photos we were hoping for.
We return by bus to the town of Aguas Calientes. There we had free time to have lunch in a tourist restaurant. This lunch was not included in the tour. Then we shopped at the craft market. I took a very beautiful baby alpaca poncho. At the agreed time we boarded the train. The trip was also Expedition service and everything was great. We arrived at Ollantaytambo where a tourist minivan took us to the city of Cusco. We arrived in the city at about 8 at night. We ate dinner and fell asleep immediately. We were tired but happy!
- Precio del tour: 245 USD.
- More information: If you visit Machu Picchu without a tour, you must buy on your own: the entrance to Machu Picchu (at www.machupicchu.gob.pe) and the train tickets (at www.perurail .com or at www.incarail.com).
Day 4: Tour of Maras and Moray by ATV
On the fourth day we got up late because Machu Picchu exhausted us a lot the day before. We had juices and cakes for breakfast in the famous San Pedro market, very close to the city center. Then we walk through the historic streets of Cusco. Finally we had lunch and got ready because in the afternoon we were going to do the tour to Maras and Moray by ATV.
This tour seemed more interesting than others because it included an ATV tour instead of the classic minivan trip. The tourist transport picked us up at the indicated place. We traveled for approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. We arrived at a town near Chinchero where the ATVs were waiting for us. The instructor showed us how to maneuver them easily. The service included a guide, helmets, ATVs, transportation and entrance to tourist attractions. On board the ATVs we drive for almost 1 hour until we reach the archaeological site of Moray.
Moray is a special place because it has circular platforms that seem to have been made by aliens. There the guide gave us details of this site. Then we started the return by ATV (for almost 1 hour) to the town where the minivan was waiting for us. On board this transport we went to the Salineras de Maras. On the way we made a stop at a cultural center where they gave us information about Maras salt. Finally we arrive at the Salineras. We toured it with our guide. Finally we board the transportation back to Cusco.
The tour was short (approximately 4 to 5 hours) but full of adventure. I recommend it if you don’t know what to do with a free afternoon in Cusco!
- Precio del tour: 70 USD.
- More information: The Maras – Moray ATV tour is an option for young people and people with a young spirit. If you don’t want this adventure, you can get to know these two places with a safe half-day tour. Going by ATV is optional.
Day 5: Tour to the Mountain 7 Colors
On the last day of the trip, as we had planned, we decided to do the difficult tour to the 7 Colors Mountain. We chose the fifth day because by then we were already well acclimatized to the geography of Cusco. That way we wouldn’t suffer so much from altitude sickness and the arduous walk that awaited us.
The tourist transport picked us up at the door of our hotel at around 5 in the morning. After almost 2 hours of driving, we arrive at the town of Cusipata. We got out of the car and enjoyed a varied breakfast in a cozy cabin. Then we went back up and traveled for almost 1 hour to a type of camp. There we get ready for the most difficult part of the tour: the arduous walk to the top of the 7 Colors Mountain.
The route, as we imagined it, was difficult. We were over 5,000 meters above sea level! Every step took your breath away. Some tourists rented horses to complete the trek. We decided to do it on foot. Yes, it was difficult but it’s not impossible either. With a little acclimatization one can reach the goal. The guide accompanied us the entire walk. In the end, after almost 2 hours of walking, we reached the mountain. Our prize was the amazing scenery!
After taking the photos of the 7 Colors Mountain (I think one of the best of the trip to Cusco), we return on foot to the camp. The walk was difficult again. At the camp the minivan and the tourists who had already arrived before us were waiting for us. Transportation returned us to Cusipata where we had a varied menu for lunch. Finally the minivan returned us to the city of Cusco. By then it was already 6 in the evening. We were exhausted but happy to crown the trip to Cusco with the 7 Colors Mountain. It was 5 days that I will never forget!
- Precio del tour: 40 USD.
- More information: The tour to the 7 Colors Mountain is recommended to be done on the last day of your trip to Cusco. The reason? It is important to acclimatize well to the Andean geography of the region. This way the symptoms of altitude sickness will not be felt so intensely. The fourth or fifth day of travel is perfect.