The Travel Brats

An Exploor Guide to Peru and the Modern World Wonder, Machu Picchu

Episode Summary

Have you ever done something that absolutely amazes you? Through planning, grit, and big dreams, your vision comes to life. That’s exactly how it felt going to Peru for the first time. As soon as Ash landed in Cusco, it felt as though she walked into an ancient world that has transformed into the modern age, yet carries the depth of the Incan Empire history through ancient ruins, history, cathedrals, art, and community. She had never felt nor seen anything like it so listen as Ashley tells of her journey in Peru and Machu Picchu.

Episode Notes

Initial Planning to Peru

My partner and I planned our Machu Picchu trip in about three weeks. To optimize the planning process and to make the most of your international travels, I’d advise 6-8 weeks of planning and going for at least a week to get acclimated to the culture and altitude. 

Our main focuses for planning were where are we going to stay, how are we going to explore Machu Picchu, and are we going to explore reputable, safe provinces. So that’s where our planning process began.

Booking Flights 

Our trip was planned for four days - which was one to two days too short to account for the lengthy travel. From Miami airport, the flight to Lima, Peru is nearly 6 hours so we flew through the night. After going through customs at Jorge Chávez International Airport , we had to go through the check-in process and security again to catch our flight to Cusco, Peru. (We missed our flight - so make sure you have enough time accounted for if you have an international connecting flight)  

Luckily, we were able to get on the next flight out to Cusco at 10am, but that meant we had been traveling for nearly 12 hours by that point. The most competitive prices to get to Peru were from international hubs, like Miami and Fort Lauderdale, that flew into Peru’s capital. 

To browse flights and get the best deals, I highly recommend using Hopper and Skyscanner. For flights from Lima to Cusco, your best option is Latam Airlines. Still check sites like Kiwi and Skyscanner for deals on domestic flights in Peru. 

Where to Stay in Peru

Next step in the process was where to stay once we had our dates booked. By browsing Airbnb, Trip Advisor reviews, and highly regarded hotels, we choose to stay at Tocuyeros Boutique Hotel. At the heart of the San Blas neighborhood in Cusco and only a quick walk to Plaza de Armas, we couldn’t have picked a better location. Tocuyeros Hotel employed the kindest, most thoughtful people who went above and beyond to provide excellent service. When we first got there, our greeter had a 30 minute session with us - explaining about the property, showing us the best spots on the map, and answering any questions we had. It was so helpful and gave us great recommendations to look into. 

The entire property is so aesthetic and beautiful with a stunning view of the Andes Mountains and the town below. At night, they lock the main door to the property so no one can wander in, which added an extra layer of security. It also has 5 Stars on Trip Advisor and we felt extremely comfortable there.

Altitude Sickness 

Once you are in Cusco, you may experience altitude sickness since it’s 11,500 ft above sea level. For reference, Breckenridge, CO is about 9,000 above sea level. As you can imagine, it’s high up there. Here’s a helpful article to combat altitude sickness. 

 

Now for all things Machu Picchu with Exploor Peru

This is somewhat how your trip will look - 

Lima Peru > Cusco, Peru > Ollantaytampo Train Station > Aguas Caliente Bus station > Machu Picchu 

I can not thank the universe and the Instagram algorithm enough for putting the best tour agency in our line of sight. After browsing through #MachuPicchu, I came across this epic page called Exploor Peru, which showcased more than just beautiful photos of Peru. Exploor Peru is a tour agency that specializes in unforgettable tours through Machu Picchu, the Inca trails, Humantay Lake, Rainbow Mountain, and more. The main reason we were going to Peru was for this destination so finding the right tour agency was EVERYTHING. 

Exploor Peru had an outstanding reputation on every review/ tour site like Trip Advisor and Viator and for good reason. Therefore, we felt so comfortable putting our adventurous day to Machu Picchu into the hands of professionals and it was worth every penny. After asking some questions and booking with them, I received our train, bus, and entrance tickets along with a thorough itinerary to my email, which allowed us to breathe and focus on other planning aspects of the trip. This level of professionalism soothed my A-type energy. 

The entire team was so friendly and helpful, and on the day of, everything went down like a Disney Movie. We were picked up at our hotel in Cusco at 3am (so go to bed very early the night before), and driven to the Ollantaytampo train station, where we took the Expedition train. On the way there, we got to see the sun rising in between the Andes Mountains. An hour and a half later, we arrived at Aguas Caliente, known as Machu Picchu town, and had some time to explore before taking the bus up to the entrance of Machu Picchu. This tour catered to the tourists awaiting their adventure up and made for great photos and exploration. 

After connecting with our tour guide Peter, we took a quick 20 minute bus ride up the mountain to the entrance. This is where Exploor Peru shines - Peter was the most knowledgeable, friendly, and considerate person and guide we’ve ever had. Since we went up so early, we missed the large crowds and it felt more intimate to connect with this awe-striking World Wonder. There is a good reason that Machu Picchu was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site and later a Modern World Wonder - it’s hard to describe the pure magic and jaw dropping views and to know that you stand where an ancient empire once ruled. The grit and tenacity it must have taken to construct - unimaginable. Luckily, Peter was able to share more than 2 hours worth of facts and insights with us because you’re bound to wonder HOW. 

Although we did the day tour which I highly recommend too, Exploor Peru has other longer options like The Best of Cusco 2 Days - Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, 3 Day Tours, Tours with Hotel options, Hiking Tours, and so much more. They really cater to what you want and if you have questions, head over to Exploor Peru’s website and ask. The praise doesn’t go far enough - our trip wouldn’t have been complete without the help of Exploor. Thank you so much. 

If you don’t already - follow their Instagram for all the #travelinspiration. 

What To Do While in Cusco

Then after you trek back down and take the bus, train, and car again to get back to Cusco, there’s a few things you need to do. 

Walk around Plaza De Armas in Cusco  

Tour the cathedral in Plaza De Armas 

Go on a short tour of Choco Museo to try various chocolates and liquor

Spend a couple hours around Sacsayhuaman - protip: they only accept cash/SOL and it’s a minimum of 70 SOL per person. You’ll need an Uber to get there. 

Where to Eat in Peru 

Places to Eat in Aguas Caliente - 

After hiking through Machu Picchu and before you catch your train back, get lunch at Full House Peruvian Cuisine. Their views are worth it. 

Places to Eat in Cusco - 

For the most delicious Pisco sours, delectable Peruvian food, and excellent service, Morena Peruvian Kitchen is the spot. It was our favorite dinner out of the entire trip and it was located right off of Plaza De Armas. 

A highly rated restaurant known for the Peruvian delicacy, Guinea Pig, called Pachapapa was a very intimate spot with a very specific ambiance. It was a perfect date night spot with an interesting menu and exceptional service as always. 

Heading to Lima, Peru 

Unless you’ve booked your flight from Cusco home, you’ll typically fly out of the capital Lima once again. We booked a later flight the next day out of Cusco and arrived in Lima by 7pm - where we stayed at the beautiful 5 star hotel, JW Marriott Lima Miraflores. Miraflores was a highly regarded and safe neighborhood with a lively environment and breathtaking views, so it was an easy choice and only about 30 minutes from the airport. 

After an exhausting, fast paced trip, we chose not to explore Lima far beyond our hotel. I would recommend extending your trip and having more rest and relaxation time too. The JW Marriott’s Spa was perfect for that - best massage I’ve ever gotten. While in Lima, we did eat well and there were so many places with thousands of 5 star reviews. For a fancier dinner overlooking the Pacific, La Rosa Nautica hit the nail on the head and was the perfect way to end an unforgettable trip.