I went with GAP Adventures. I HIGHLY recommend them. The package I picked had a 3-day hike in the Andes (the “Lares Trek”), and some other touristy sites, which may or many not be up your alley. They do have about 106 packages that go to Machu Picchu, including a short 4-day Machu Picchu by train package. Almost everything they offer falls into the “adventure” category that involve a modicum of physical activity. Most also are designed for a minimum of 2 people—you can go alone, but it is more cost-effective to bring a friend! And as a bonus, the tour company took care of most of the details of bus/train/plane tickets, hotels, and park admission fees for us ahead of time.
I’d recommend grabbing a guide book or two about Peru—-they tend to list reliable restaurants & hotels/hostels—if you are planning on going it alone. Some good ones: “Moon Handbooks Peru” and “The Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour” (if you’re interested in the history/archaeology of the site).
The easiest way to get to Machu Picchu is from the nearby town of Aguas Calientes. The town is super touristy, so food & shelter should not be a problem. They have buses leaving probably every 15 minutes that go up & down from Machu Picchu all day.
The tickets to get into the park might need to be secured in advance (again, the tour company took care of this for us), and they need lots of information, including, iirc, your passport number.
I had absolutely no problems at all with anything. I loved my time there, and I really wish I could go back again right now! There is so much in the country to see and never enough time to do it all.
Awesome things to consider… thanks a ton! Can’t wait to start planning…
Funny you from Santa Fe. I went to St. John’s there. I did the Inca Trail route and after talking to people who did one or the other (took the train/bus in or walk the trail) the Trail seemed to be the winner by far. I would avoid the lodge at the base of the city entrance and stick with something in Aguas Calientes. You’ll cut your cost by 1/5. Honestly, hotels and dining all looked the same. It’s a town revolving around the tourist trade. I used Amazing Peru tour company to book three weeks of white water rafting, Amazon camping and Inca Trail/Machu Picchu. I cannot recommend them enough. No problems, wonderful people. Good luck.
Wow! Thanks a bunch! It’s always nice to meet someone whose been through Santa Fe!
I will definitely check them out!
I honestly don’t remember much as I got food poisoning in Lima before we left and was rather ill up until the day we went up to Machu Picchu. My dad had arranged almost everything. We flew into Cusco from Lima and then took a train from Cusco to Machu Picchu. There is a bus in Machu Picchu that takes you to the actual site of the old city. Cusco is where you would be staying though, most likely in a hotel, as I don’t know of any hostels there. I don’t remember the names of any of the restaurants, but all of the food was good. The only problem we had was at the train station, something about the operators telling my dad he needed to pay more (basically trying to con him) which turned into a heated argument in Spanish I didn’t quite understand, but that happens a lot in Peru I noticed. People want money and they like to see if you’re stupid enough to give it up :)
What are some of the best ways to get there? By there, I’m assuming you mean MP. You only have two choices, take the train or hike the Inca trail.
There are three levels of train service and you can board at Cusco or at Ollantaytambo. There is a backpacker train, least expensive, the Vista dome which is very comfortable and have a meal service provided or the Hiram Bingham train which is quite deluxe and pricey.
What tour companies did you use, best dining, hotels? hostels?
I booked my trip through “Peru for less” (www.peruforless.com) and was AMAZED at how smoothly things were.
They took care of booking my train travel, all tour reservations, ect.
Basically I told them what I wanted and they booked it. That way, all the paperwork was taken care of and I could spend my time (book extra days if you can) seeing the Cities. At no time did I feel like they were smothering, or hand holding.
In Cusco I stayed at the Hotel Arqueologo. Its about a 5 minute walk (downhill) from the Plaza. Basic, clean rooms with a small dining area. Free breakfast in the morning (fresh eggs, bread, fruit). Cute place, reasonably priced.
Major problems? None. Peru is a very laid back, easy going Country. Nothing is quick and you shouldnt go in expecting it to be so. The people are so friendly and welcoming. I traveled alone and never did I feel uncomfortable.
I’m certainly no expert, I can only give you my experience. You can see some photos of my trip here :
I travelled independently as part of a longer trip around Peru so I can’t really advise on tour companies.
You can either walk to MP or catch the train.
You can arrange walking tours from Cusco, there are hundreds of travel operators in Cusco and they are all basically offering places on much the same thing so spend an afternoon visiting as many as you can and choose the best deal. They are all very pleasant to talk to and wont mind at all you just checking them out without committing to anything. Have a look around Cusco at the same time and expect to wait maybe 1 or 2 days to get a place in a walking group. You can do walks of varying lengths so you should find something to suit you.
Travelling by train can be arranged in Cusco where the train leaves from or from Ollayantaytambo where the train also stops. There is an Inca fortress in Ollayantaytambo which is worth a vist, a nice hotel and several smaller guesthouses and some cheapish restaurants etc. The train is cheaper from Ollayantaytambo and you can get there from Cusco in a collectivo for around a dollar.
However you get there it’s well worth while and you’ll really enjoy it.
I went with GAP Tours. They were great. Everything is taken care of. If I were going again I would try to do the whole thing independently just to save money. But, for smooth sailing and no worries GAP is the one for me. I’ve used them in other parts of the world too.
I went with Andes Adventures. They conduct running treks in South America.
We ran the Inca Trail from Ollayantaytambo to MP. Much of the trip was based in Cusco. No problems. I had a great time.
We were in Peru from 2/22 through 3/5 this year (2007). My wife made the arrangements for our Machu Picchu trip and we went with Pachamama Explorers http://www.pmexplorers.com/ and were extremely happy. She looked at the packages offered by GAP, but they were a lot more expensive than Pachamama. When we were on the Lares Trek we had our guide, two horsemen, a cook and the two of us. We were passed by a GAP group that had about 12 to 15 hikers and their support staff. Although they seemed happy I really appreciated our more private intimate group. We also continued to see them around Machu Picchu, Aguas Caliente and Cusco.
We went on the Lares Trek because the Inca trail is closed in February. If I were visiting Peru again, I would do both the Lares Trek and the Inca trail. The Inca trail is more heavily travelled, whereas the Lares Trek is lightly travelled. The scenery was amazing on the Lares Trek and I highly recommend doing it.
Everyone elses descriptions of how to get there agreed with what I saw. If you’re going to do a trek I highly recommend spending at least two days in Cusco in order to get acclimated. I wish that we had taken one of the Sacred Valley tours while we were there. We drove through part of it to get to our trek and I felt like we missed a good portion of it.
Before I went on my trip, I booked flights and the train beforehand. Flew from Lima to Cuzco with Star Peru and then took the Backpacker train to MP. I would recommend doing an overnight stay at the hotel in Aguas Calientes to enjoy the experience and the hikes over the 2 days. Just a note: La Pequena Casita hotel is shady and gave us a smaller room (think closet) than what we booked and they charged us $10 for a heater on top of that. Its the customer service and the price gouging of tourists that pissed me off.
Anyhow, back to what I was saying.. On the first day we arrived on train, checked into the hotel, and then took the bus up to MP. I would recommend you pay for the bus ride since you should save your energy for hiking around MP.
We took an exploration hike around the base of the ruins and took pictures with the llamas. On the 2nd day we hiked up Huayna Picchu which is very steep and narrow. If you’re not in good physical shape, I wouldn’t recommend this since this involves steep steps and tight tunnel climbing at the very top. Well worth the efforts. I sat at the edge of the rocks and soaked in the beauty of overlooking MP from a gorgeous arial view.
We didn’t have a tour guide since we are more independent. At the top we did meet a tour guide that was with a few Brazilians and he helped me down the mountain. He made it super easy to come down as he allowed me to brace his arm. We made new friends and I would have to say it was one of the best experiences in my life.
Have a wonderful trip and enjoy! Peru offers the most amazing places to visit.
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