For what seems like forever, I’ve wanted to travel to Machu Picchu. Just about everybody says that though right? 🙂 I put Machu Picchu on my bucket list in my early 20’s as my wanderlust continued to grow. But, it’s always been one of those places that seemed more like a fantasy destination than an actual place. This year, slightly short of my 30th birthday, I was fortunate enough to make it to the place I had long imagined. Machu Picchu certainly did not fail to impress but what I found even more surprising was a deep love for the country of Peru and a strong desire to explore the rest of South America.
My husband, Landon, and I left Boise, Idaho at 6:00 AM in the morning and arrived in Lima, Peru, right before midnight. Not knowing what to expect in the middle of the night, in a foreign, international airport, I was a little wary. We hadn’t booked a hotel, because our next flight to Cusco left at 4:10 AM. We were pulling an all-nighter. But once we exited customs into the main check-in terminal of the airport, my uneasiness quickly disappeared. The energy of the airport, even at midnight, was revitalizing. People stood with brightly colored signs for all the people returning home to Peru as we made our way to exit. The only slightly confusing part about the airport is that you must go completely outside of the terminal and re-enter into the check-in airport kiosk area. But once we figured that out, we checked in and made our way up to the food court and shopping plaza. After surveying the scene, the first thing we headed for was a Dunkin Donut. So far, Peru wasn’t too different after all. 🙂 We waited until we could pass through security (3 hours prior to the flight) and found a seat to sprawl out on. By 2:00 AM, the longevity of the day started to set in and I could feel the tiredness start to weigh my body down. But we were surrounded by fellow travelers waiting for the first flight out, and there was no fear or uncomfortable feelings sleeping in the airport whatsoever. We finally boarded the plane right before 4:00 AM and saw the first light stream through the top of the mountains as we flew into Cusco.
After traveling over 24 hours from Boise to Cusco, in a daze, my husband and I made our way outside of the small Cusco airport to where our driver was waiting. I arranged transport ahead of time with Lino at Cusco Transport, and boy, was that a good decision! Already exhausted from the trip, it was so nice to have someone waiting for us from the get go. Even at 5:30 in the morning, Lino and his driver, Fernando, met us with smiles on their faces, welcoming us to Peru. (Note: I don’t remember seeing taxis at the airport that early in the morning, so although it may be a little bit more expensive to arrange transport ahead of time, it’s well worth not having the hassle of finding and negotiating with a taxi driver, especially if you’re heading further outside of Cusco.) We were quickly led to the van and away we went towards the Sacred Valley. On the way downtown, Lino, who spoke pretty good English, gave us some tips for our stay in Cusco. (I highly recommend Cusco Transport for transportation while in Cusco and the surrounding area.)
After doing quite a bit of research prior to the trip, many people had suggested going into the valley first to acclimate to the elevation to avoid altitude sickness, so I heeded the advice from the internet and booked two nights at the Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel and Wellness. We dropped Lino off in the center of town and soon we were gaining elevation up the steep cobbled stone streets of Cusco. As we drove, locals passed by dressed in brightly colored, traditional peruvian attire as dogs dug through the trash piled on the side of the road. There was something so peaceful about the city that early in the morning as the light filtered through the half built structures. As we left Cusco and continued on towards the Sacred Valley, the terrain turned to rural with rolling green hills and cows in the pasture. Bumping up and down the road and around the curves, I started to feel a little queasy from lack of sleep and true nutrition, but it wasn’t long before we were looking down over the Urubamba Valley. In all, it took about an hour and a half to reach the valley. The van wound back and forth down the steep switchbacks until we came into Urubamba and continued down the river to Huayllabamba to the hotel. Following the Vilcanota river, we arrived at the gates to the Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel and were soon welcomed by the staff. Since we were arriving so early, I had contacted the hotel ahead of time to see if we would be able to catch a few Z’s when we arrived. They were more than accommodating, and in the end, ended up giving us a beautiful suite right on the river. Built on a 17th century colonial hacienda, the hotel grounds were beautiful as well. Totally enclosed and isolated from the rest of the world, the hotel served as a nice sanctuary to enjoy our first days in Peru.
After catching a few hours of sleep, we arranged a taxi through the hotel to the town of Pisac, and our adventure continued. Even from the first few hours of our stay in Peru, I knew it was going to be a wonderful trip.
Next Up: The town of Pisac, Pisac ruins and a classic Peruvian market!
Also if you want to skip ahead to get a glimpse of the entire trip, check out this video!