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“Peru For Less - Cusco / Machu Picchu Trip - March 2018”

Santuario Historico de Machu Picchu
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Admission Ticket to Machu Picchu Ruin and Mountain
Certificate of Excellence
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Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Reviewed April 4, 2018

SUMMARY - Emily Richards with Peru For Less (PFL) did an OUTSTANDING job planning our March 2018 trip! PFL’s attention to detail was amazing. I’m a planner by nature and appreciated the little things. I will definitely use PFL (aka Latin America for Less) for future trips!

We thoroughly enjoyed our guides - Cusco City Tour (Freddie), Cusco Rooftop Kitchen (Xavier), Sacred Valley, Pisac and Ollantaytambo (Fabrizzio) and Machu Picchu (Peter).

ABOUT US - We’re a family of four - two adults and two teenagers, a 17-year old and a 14-year old. My husband and I have done budget travel and self-guided tours but like the context provided by local guides. Our objective this time was to do a memorable Machu Picchu family trip though not as part of a larger group tour. We knew what type of experience we wanted (personalized, customized) but didn’t have either the time or the energy to do the research and planning, We booked our March 2018 trip in November 2017.

DAY 1 (SATURDAY, 3/24) - This was a travel day for us. We departed from Los Angeles at 11:00 am PT and arrived at Lima at 9;40 pm CT. PFL representative met us at airport and walked us to our hotel. Even though the Costa del Sol is literally across the street from the terminal, it was nice to have someone help us get oriented upon arrival.

PFL’s 24-hour emergency number was greatly appreciated. The first leg of our trip was SFO-LAX on Friday. We were supposed to be on the 1:00 pm LAX-LIM flight, but it was at first delayed and then cancelled at 8:00 pm PT. We consequently missed Lima to Cusco flight. The PFL team rebooked our Lima to Cusco flight and also managed the hotel changes.

DAY 2 (SUNDAY, 3/25) - We took an early 7:10 am flight (arrived at airport two hours beforehand) from Lima to Cusco. We were met by a PFL representative at the airport and transported to our hotel - the Casa San Blas. Our guide (Freddie) for the Cusco City Tour (Sacsayhuaman, Q’enqo, Qorikancha, Cusco Cathedral) picked us up from the hotel. Tour was approximately 4-5 hours. Total size of tour group was six people, our four plus two more.

Absolutely love (and can’t rave enough about) the Casa San Blas! PFL rates it as a 3-star hotel. Casa San Blas has a reverse osmosis water purification system so plenty of water to easily fill our CamelBak reservoirs. Except for the Costa del Sol (4-stars, Lima), we stayed at 3-star hotels. None of our 3-star hotels had air conditioning though not an issue for March travel. All hotels included breakfast with stay. Casa San Blas had consistent hot water for showers and great WiFi. Casa San Blas location could not have been better.

DAY 3 (MONDAY, 3/26) - We intentionally spent two days in Cusco to adjust to the high altitude. Our second day was a “free, take it easy” day, so we visited the Inka Museum and the Choco Museum before our Rooftop Kitchen host (Xavier) met us at our hotel.

Rooftop Kitchen is a 2-hour Peruvian cooking class that starts with a tour of San Pedro Market before heading over to the Rooftop Kitchen building to prepare a classic pisco sour, appetizer and entree. Great recommendation by Emily for our “free, take it easy” day!

DAY 4 (TUESDAY 3/27) - Our Sacred Valley guide (Fabrizzio) met us at our hotel. The purpose of this day was two-fold: [1] visit Pisac and Ollantaytambo archaeological sites and [2] drive to Ollantaytambo to catch train to Aguas Calientes, the jumping off point for Machu Picchu. Tour was approximately 6 hours. Travel time from Cusco to Ollantaytambo without tour is roughly 2 hours. Total size of tour group was 12 people, our four plus two more families.

Our Ollantaytambo hotel was the El Alberge which is located next to the train station - very convenient given our 7:45 am departure time, trade-off is not staying closer to the center of town. Our guide (Fabrizzio) said the El Alberge restaurant had the best food in town. The food was indeed very good with farm-fresh menus at both dinner and breakfast.

DAY 5 (WEDNESDAY, 3/28) - Train ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes was 90 minutes. We were met at the Aguas Calientes train station by a PFL representative who then escorted us to the bus station. While only a 20 minute bus ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, we waited in line for about an hour even with multiple buses in service.

We met up with our Machu Picchu guide (Peter) and then entered the site. Tour was approximately 2 hours and a good orientation of the site. Private tour, just our family. Since we were coming back the next day to do a self-guided Huayna Picchu hike, we opted to return to Aguas Calientes shortly after the end of our guided tour.

Our Aguas Calientes hotel was the Hatun Inti which was a short walk from restaurants, bus station and train station. Dinner was at Indio Feliz, a unique franco-peruvian menu. Indio Feliz is highly rated by multiple travel guide books and sites, and it did not disappoint!

DAY 6 (THURSDAY, 3/29) - Buses to Machu Picchu start running at 5:30 am. Our goal was to catch one of the first buses out to stay ahead of the crowds. Our guide suggested getting in line at 4:00 am. We did arrive at 4:00 am and there were already 20 people in line ahead of us!

Our Huayna Picchu hike was definitely memorable in spite of Jurassic Park-like weather. Our entry time was from 7:00 am to 8:00 am. It rained during most of the hike and visibility was less than stellar at the top. Rain did stop and fog burned off later in the morning. The group with the 10:00 am to 11:00 am entry time likely had better weather and picture perfect views from the top.

We decided to hike up to Sun Gate (hadn’t originally planned to do so) with the hope the fog would burn off by the time we reach the top. So glad we did this! It was amazing to watch Machu Picchu / Huayna Picchu “reveal” itself throughout the morning.

We took the late afternoon train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo. A PFL representative met us at the Ollantaytambo train station to drive us back to the Casa San Blas. It was an absolute zoo at the Ollantaytambo train station, so we were thankful to have a stress-free trip (two hour drive) to Cusco after a very long day.

DAY 7 (FRIDAY, 3/30) - We spent the day in Cusco before a PFL representative picked us up at the hotel to drive us to the airport. We took an early evening flight from Cusco to Lima (arrived at airport two hours beforehand) and spent our last night in Peru at the Costa del Sol.

We took Uber to the San Pedro Market (explored on our own, took pictures, picked up a few souvenirs) and also visited the Machu Picchu Museum. The Machu Picchu Museum is very well done with 300+ artifacts from Hiram Bingham’s 1911 expedition, which were only returned by Yale to Peru in 2011. Glad we did this after our actual Machu Picchu site visit.

DAY 8 (SATURDAY, 3/31) - We took a 12:20 pm CT flight from Lima (arrived at airport three hours beforehand) and landed in San Francisco at 12:30 am PT. Thankfully, no mishaps or delays on the return trip home!

[1] Purchase travel insurance!
[2] Flew LATAM from LAX-LIM (Boeing 767) and then LIM-LAX (Boeing 787-8) with meals, service and in-flight entertainment all better than expected, making the 8.5 hour flight bearable
[3] We packed light and did not check our bags - i.e., only two carry-on items per person
[4] No mosquitos at Machu Picchu in March our guide said mosquitos a big problem in the high season but not so much in the low season
[5] We all took acetazolamide (Diamox) to help manage altitude sickness
[6] We each had a CamelBak reservoir in our day packs
[7] For those bothered by cigarette smoke, only people we saw smoking were the tourists

8  Thank Christine T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed April 4, 2018

Visiting Machu Picchu (and getting there via trekking the Inca Trail) was high on my bucket list, so I organised a trek there through BackTrack in Brisbane, Australia and Intrepid tours (using Peak in Peru).
I went in wet season as it was off season. Sure enough, there were less people there, but it did rain and there was low cloud, spoiling the view and photographs.
Nevertheless, it was still a "must do" experience, and even with the inclement weather, Machu Picchu did not disappoint.
It is massive!
Our guide was most helpful - probably better than wondering around alone!
I had thought that the llamas were photoshopped into the tourist brochures, but no - they are free to wander around.
Simply brilliant!

Thank seagullrob
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed April 4, 2018 via mobile

Machu Picchu is a destination to be appreciated for its beauty and the uniqueness of it cultural heritage. The train ride to and from is enjoyable. I would recommend having a guide to fully appreciate the site.

Thank carolc80
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed April 2, 2018 via mobile

Month of hike:late march.
Bamba experience is the best company ever!!! The guides we had, Francisco and Ricardo, did an amazing job throughout the whole incatrail. They were being informative, kind, funny and helpful at all times, and were always ready to answer any questions about flora and fauna, history and culture with enthusiasm and knowledge. Oh, and they spoke very good english as well.
The food was delicious! Oh my god. Pasta, omelet, pancakes, even vegetarian soy beef was served. Just plain awesome. Waking up to coca tea outside your tent every morning really gets you ready for a new day of hiking.
The hike itself is demanding. I'm a 23y old girl, not an athlete, consider myself in average physical health. Not an experienced hiker. Be prepared for a difficult hike the second day, as well as a lot of stairs going down the other days.

I would recommend this packing list (I chose to have a porter that carries 4kg of personal belongings as well as sleeping bag and matress, in total 7kg;most people choose this option):
To sets of thermals for upper body. One for legs to put on when it gets cold in the evenings.
Hike in work out tights or similar.
Hiking pants that dries fast to put over the tights when its raining (rent them in Cuzco for about 15soles)
One thick sweater - I brought a llama sweater from the markets of Cuzco.
Another thick sweater OR a thick outdoors jacket
I had an extra hoodie to put over my two warm sweaters (I did not bring a thick outdoors jacket).
Two pairs of warm socks
Gloves and a hat
Good hiking boots - not brand new ones. Should be rain proof and good support on your feet.
Another pair of shoes ex. Nike runners to use in the evenings.
Rain jacket AND poncho - poncho available for purchase for about 2-5Soles. The poncho covers your backpack as well.
Hiking poles if you have troubles with your knees (I didnt have any and I was fine)
A pack of coca leaves (really helps you breathe in the thin air)
Blister-band aid and sports tape for your feet
Sunscreen and sunglasses
Snacks such as chocolate and nuts
Water (ofc)

Think that was it. Even though it's hard and demanding, it is soooo worth it! Best outdoors experience in my life so far. You really get to test your limits as well as seeing so many beautiful things. Not only machu picchu itself, but also views along the way. Ruins, mountains, flowers and so on. Make sure to book many months in advance as this trip gets sold out quickly. So; what are you waiting for?

Thank May-Linda S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed April 1, 2018

Yes, I know - this is Machu-Picchu and everyone's supposed to give it 5* review. But for a truth's sake here's couple of minuses:
- there's no free map available. They gave me a map upon request, but the next person got unfriendly "we do not have maps" in response.
- there's 2 soles extra-fee for washroom.

After paying USD80 for the ticket - you get no map and no free washroom.

6  Thank Alexander_random
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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