Visiting Peru

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Hiking the Inca Trail in Peru

May 2008

Has anyone hiked the four day Inca Trail that ends in Machu Picchu? If so, which month did you go, how was the weather, and can you recommend a tour operator? We want to go in October (mother-in-law will take our 2 yr old for a week. Yippee!) and are daunted by all the options for tour groups. Thanks, maya.s

My husband and I did the Inca trail in 2002--it was a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience! We did it in late May or early June which is the beginning of winter there. The weather was similar to SF's--cold(bring fleece) in the morning but comfortable in the daytime. It can still get cold in the daytime though b/c of the elevation. We did our trip through Indiana Expedition( The owner/manager is a wonderful young guy named Ivan Gallegos. We hung out with him a few days in Cuzco(before the ''big'' hike), doing short hikes(to acclimatize) and visiting the local bars/restaurants at night. It was a very personalized tour--only six in our group though we joined another group of 4 plus another guide for the Inca trail itself. I highly recommend this tour company--they are fun, trust-worthy and reasonably-priced. Have a great time on your trip! love hiking too

Traveling to the Amazon or Ecuador

Nov 2007

My husband and I are toying with the idea of visiting the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon with our 10 1/2 year old boy next year. I'd like to get recommendations for jungle lodges in the Amazon and ''not to miss'' activities. What were the highlights of your trip? Thanks! Yvonne

We went to the Loving Light Lodge near Iquitos, Peru about 7 years ago. It was a truly magical experience, although I'll admit, it was also QUITE an adjustment. We went during the wet season when water levels were high, there were lots of mosquitos, piranhas and other fish, and everything was just teeming with life, especially after the daily rains. We stayed in our own hut, walked on elevated paths that connected us to the main dining area, and went everywhere by canoe. We saw pink river dolphins, monkeys, sloths, caymans, tiny frogs, amazing birds and well, poisonous snakes, tarantulas, and cockroaches! Everyone there had their own schedule and guide, so we would all go on our adventures and gather in the evening to talk about what we'd seen. Newcomers would learn from people who had already been there a few days and then you'd go on to tell the next people what marvelous sights they could expect to see. All the food was FABULOUS, cooked by young men who didn't seem old enough to be out of school. I've heard that if you go during the dry season it's not such a ''rough'' time but you don't see as much because the rising water brings everything closer to you! This place was recommended to us by a friend who was living in Peru at the time and had done extensive research. It's a small operation, and because it's on a tributary not on the main river, you're much closer to primary forest than if you stay at one of the big lodges - this is good and bad, I guess: good because everything is right outside your doorstep, you see so much more and it has a smaller impact on the surrounding environment; bad if you're scared of noises and bugs and want a more luxe experience. I don't recall the exact cost but I remember it was a steal!!! Especially compared to the arm and leg that Galapagos tours charge (which is why we didn't go on one) - but of course those tours are protecting a valuable resource.

Anyway, here's the link - say hi to Marcos (ask for Octavio the guide if you can) and ENJOY! Jean C

Travel to Machu Picchu/Peru with 12yo

March 2003

My twelve-year-old daughter would like very much to go to Peru to see the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. Has anyone out there done such a trip? Did you go on your own or with a group? Where else did you go in Peru? I would greatly appreciate any information on going on such a trip. Thanks. Janet

Machu Picchu is one of the most magical places I have ever all means go go go! We were there in fall of 99. We did not go with a tour. We flew to Lima, then took another flight to Cuzco and a stunning train ride to the little town down below the ruins (I think it's called Aguas Calientes.) This is really just a collection of places to stay and eat for the tourists who come to see the ruins. Plenty of places to stay, probably no need to book in advance.

A strong recommendation I have is find out what day the local markets set up, be sure to go to the ruins that day. Many of the large organized tour groups spend one day visiting the markets and another at the ruins, so if you go to the ruins on market day it will be much quieter - we were there 2 days and amazed at how different it felt when far fewer people were there.

We also visited several other towns in the Cuzco area that had Inca ruins - Ollantytambo and another whose name is escaping me right now. They were interesting at the time to see, although in retrospect Machu Picchu is so incredibly spectacular that I don't remember too much about the other two spots.

I do recall that we were a little bit surprised that travel from Cuzco to the ruins was as infrequent as it was given that just about everybody who goes to Cuzco is planning to go to the ruins. I think I recall that there was one train a day and it left quite early in the morning. There are also dozens and dozens of organized trips to the ruins from Cuzco if you prefer to go that way. I would guess that a Lonely Planet could guide you toward reputable companies. Have a great trip!! Kathleen C

Fabulous! One of the best vacations I ever took-and it actually EXCEEDED my expectations! I went with a girlfriend, and we planned our trip ourselves, which is pretty easy to do. A couple of key pieces of information-make sure you acclimate yourself to the elevation when you fly from Lima to Cusco-Cusco is even higher than Macchu Picchu (I think 11,000 feet, if I recall) I was extremely ill after arriving in Cusco, from altitude sickness. This is no trivial matter-the doctor told me that my ribs were actually expanding! and wanted to send me immediately back to sea level (I could barely walk from the bed to the bathroom in our hotel room). No way was I going anywhere without first reaching my destination. We were incredibly lucky, however. In Cusco we were staying at this fantastic hotel-a centuries old converted monastery (forgot the name, but well worth every nickel, I'm sure you can find it in the guide books). The English speaking doctor actually visited me at the hotel, accompanied by oxygen, several times. Thankfully. This came about because I was careless and somehow ''lost'' my wallet at the airport on the way through security in Lima (make sure you watch your possessions carefully-I still wonder if it just fell out..). When I got to Cusco I spent the afternoon running around getting money and taking care of credit cards. Should have never done it- REST when you first arrive. No matter what. Cusco itself is worth staying in for at least a week-very artsy and colorful. A number of people walk the Incan trail, which takes several days and would be quite fun if you are big hikers-it can be rather strenuous.

I would recommend going sooner than later-the ruins are slowly disappearing over time. Right before we arrived, for instance, there was a fire in the mountains, and you could see where it licked the very hillside of the ruins themselves. This magnificent place may not always be there to see. It is a very spiritual trip, and if your daughter has this interest, I would personally go out of my way to encourage her.

Lima is relatively uninteresting. We did spend a couple of nights there on the way in and then out again. I would recommend the Museum of Archeology, however, which had remains taken from some of the tombs. And when you are in Macchu Picchu, I would also recommend getting some kind of tour of the ruins, so you know what you are looking at. It makes it much more interesting. Plan on spending at least one night, possibly two, in Macchu Picchu itself (reached only after you take a one hour flight from Lima to Cusco, then a three hour train ride, then a 45 minute bus ride, which takes you to the base of the mountain). At this point, you are pretty much in the wilderness- there is a reason why the Spanish never found the Indians in Macchu Picchu...

Oh yes, there are also some very interesting figures depicted in the deserts of southern Peru, visible from a plane that I have heard about. That could be interesting. Peru is a fabulous place to shop, too, if you are interested in Peruvian art (wonderful, affordable oil paintings in Cusco, for instance), alpaca blankets and shawls, lovely hand crafted/carved gourds and pottery, etc...

Have a great time, I am sure you will enjoy yourselves! jmroberts

My husband and I went to Machu Picchu about 2 1/2 years ago. It was a fabulous trip. We flew from Lima to Cusco and spent a few days seeing the sights of town and acclamating ourselves to the alltitude. We signed up with a travel company to hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu which took about four days. It was the most physically challenging thing that my husband and I have ever done and we were in pretty good shape at the time. I would recommend that you and your daughter fly to Cusco and take the train to Aguas Calientes where you can take a short bus (15 minutes) to see the ruins. You can even stay in a hotel in Aguas Calientes if you want. While the hike was amazing and you get to see ruins that you can't see by train it is very difficult and you should be in very good shape before you do it. The Lonley Planet puts out a good guide for Peru. We also spent time in the Amazon, Quito Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Have Fun! mia

Machu Picchu is fantastic! I think the easiest way to do it is to go to Cuzco for at least a few days first (it's a great place in its own right) and make your arrangements there. You have the choice of hiking in with local adventure travel groups, taking the train for a day trip, or taking the train one day and returning another. The trekking option is rigorous, but there are many options regarding speed, comfort level, etc. This is probably the most challenging and memorable way to do it, if you're physically up to it. The day trip option is popular, but in my opinion it does not leave nearly enough time for you to experience this magical place (you're probably there from 11am til 2pm). We opted to take the train and get a cheap, clean hotel room when we arrived at the town called Aguas Calientes, which is where the train ends and the buses climb the mountain to the ruins. This allowed us to stay all day at the ruins, visit early the next morning before that day's train arrived, and return to Cuzco at the end of the second day. There is an expensive hotel at the ruins, but I believe that it is overpriced and probably not as fun as staying in Aguas Calientes (which is really just a bunch of hotels/ cafes alongside the railroad tracks). Have a great trip! Mary