Relaxed and Cultural
Sample Itinerary: 7 days Relaxed and Cultural
Type of trip: Relaxed and Cultural
Highlights: This itinerary is what we would recommend to a friend visiting us, how to best spend seven days in Peru and see all the important sites, such as Machu Picchu, the fortress of Ollantaytambo, city tour in Cusco, and others. All this but without rushing around, at a relaxed pace that allows plenty of leisure time and getting to know the local culture and people of Peru. We believe this is an ideal itinerary for a seven day visit..
Arrive Cusco (let us know when and we’ll have a known and trusted driver there waiting) and then take the beautiful 2 hour drive through the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo. The drive is one of the most scenic you will ever experience, and is hopefully all you ever imagined Peru would be. You definitely will see local people living their farming lifestyle as they have for centuries; you will see very large mountains and if it is not raining you will see the glaciers above them. Arrive to Ollantaytambo and check into your comfortable room at KB Tambo and perhaps a hot shower to refresh yourself, or even a nap. Spend the afternoon just relaxing and wandering this ancient Incan town – there is always something to see !
Wake up and smell the coffee (or tea if you prefer – try the coca tea) and after breakfast make an early visit to the famous Ollantaytambo fortress. This incredible structure was still being built when the Spanish conquest arrived, and is the location of the only significant battle that the Incas ever won against the Spaniards. (Hurray Ollantaytambo !) It’s centerpiece is the un-finished Temple of the Sun, made of huge monoliths of pink granite carried from a nearby mountain side. It features some of the best Incan stonework in all of Peru, not to mention great views of town and the surrounding mountains. Get a guide at the front entrance (price varies, but is reasonable and negociable) in order to really see all the hidden secrets of this Inca site, which is one of the most important in all of Peru. It is best seen in the morning when there are no crowds, this visit takes between 2 to 3 hours.
* Tip: when descending the Incan staircase down to the valley floor and site exit after your visit, be sure to go left at the bottom of the steps (away from the exit). In just a few minutes, you will arrive at some of the best Incan stonework to be found anywhere in the world, including Machu Picchu. Here at this part of the Ollantaytambo fortress, there are unique and finely shaped stones of all sizes laying everywhere, and there is a section of vertical cliff where perfect cubes of solid granite were extracted from the cliff face using a method that it is still not known (picture on the right). The Incas were in the middle of building the fortress when the Spanish arrived, and it appears they almost literally dropped everything and left the job site – thus there are countless Incan stones laying around in the lower courtyard, eternally waiting for the job foreman who never returned.
In the afternoon, you could either relax and have a beer or snack somewhere, or else take a walk about town or one of a number of short side hikes from the hotel. As this is a relaxed itinerary and you will have just arrived and will still be acclimating, we recommend a stroll through town checking out some of the ancient Incan streets and town layout.
The historic town of Ollantaytambo is lovely, and has been continually inhabited longer than nearly any settlement in South America. It remains in many ways the same as it has always been, and is a fascinating walk. Inca legend has it that the first Inca came through the sun and into Ollantaytambo.
Take a peek into a local’s courtyard and the local housing style known as “canchas”, where one unimpressive doorway on the street opens up into a large and bright, sunny courtyard shared by several families. Here you will see a surprising amount of life behind the stone walls – children, chickens, and families going about their daily lives. Ollantaytambo is truly one of the most culturally distinct villages in Peru and well worth taking a few hours to walk around and visit.
After a leisurely morning and breakfast, ,head to the fantastic Incan sites of Salt Mines of Maras and the circular ruins of Moray. This trip is one that we recommend over almost any other, as it has a little bit of everything: breathtaking scenery, local people living their agricultural lifestyle virtually unaffected by tourism in any way. You will also see these 2 Incan sites that are different than any other and are really a must to see. They can be seen via hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding, but as this is a leisure itinerary we wil recommend going via taxi, which is much more pleasant than it sounds as the drive is scenic. It takes about 4 hours to see both sites using a taxi, this includes one hour at each site. In case of concern about physical mobility, altitude sickness, etc it should be noted that both sites can be seen literally from the parking lot, and that it is not nearly as much of a compromise as one might think. In reality, most of the Incan sites are best seen from above, including Machu Picchu. These two are no different. However, both also have an access trail which you can take on foot down into the sites themselves.
After returning to the hotel and having lunch, there is the option of either spending another night in Ollantaytambo at KB Tambo (which of course we recommend !) or else spending the night in Aguas Calientes. The main thing is whether you plan to get up very early to see Machu Picchu. If so, you should go to Aguas Calientes tonight. Otherwise, there is an early train that will get you to Machu Picchu around 9am. Since Huayna Picchu tickets are no longer sold onsite but rather online in advance, some people no longer feel the need to go at 6am. Others hope to go early and see the sunrise (keep in mind that due to the steep mountains, sunrise is relatively late in the morning and not always visible due to common fog. If spending the night in Ollantaytambo, there is the rest of this late afternoon and evening to have a good meal and relax.
It’s time to visit Machu Picchu !
First get your Machu Picchu entrance ticket at www.MachuPicchu.gob.pe For more information on this process see www.MachuPicchuInformation.com After you have your MP ticket, get your train ticket at www.PeruRail.com or www.IncaRail.com.
You will need to decide ahead of time whether or not you want to climb up to Huayna Picchu – see our section on Machu Picchu about climbing this famous mountain.
Day 4 Visit Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World! Enjoy, and if you are spending the night in Aguas Calientes take your time. Bring a box lunch and snack (prohibited in the ruins but with discretion and neatness probably not a problem) and stay as late as you can. Machu Picchu gets magically empty in the hour before closing, when nearly all the travelers have headed down the mountain to Aguas Calientes. (or you can return to Ollantaytambo on the evening train.
Day 5 Spend one last day in the living city of the Incas, Ollantaytambo. There are many activity options such as visiting a local weaving community, a visit to a woodworker or ceramic specialist, a half day hike or taxi visit to Abra Malaga or Pumamarca, or just relax again and wander around taking in the town sites.
Day 6 After breakfast, depart for Cusco. A visit to Pisaq is possible by making a longer detour, the advantage being the route into Cusco from Pisaq includes all the famous Inca sites such as Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, etc. That is one long day of ruin-viewing but you will see an amazing amount of stonework that is for sure ! And hopefully that is part of the reason for coming to Peru. Otherwise, there is plenty to do in Cusco and you could spend the whole day there instead, walking around and doing some shopping. There are a few good museums right on the main square. Try Ciccolinas for a good high end meal, or any of the restaurants around the main square for more traditional food.
Day 7 Have the morning in Cusco for more wandering around. Try to book a flight around 1 or 2 pm so that you have the morning to relax here. We recommend, however, not booking the last flight or two out of the day. Always better to leave a few flights in case you have a problem with yours, particularly if you have a connecting flight that same evening in Lima. Be sure to ask for a seat on the right side of the plane when checking in – the mountain views are incredible !
The cost for this trip, with a minimum of 2 people, is $1599, all included: