How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru: Part 2

Last week we gave you our top tips on How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru, going over the basics like physical fitness, acclimatization, and the essential packing list to get you fit and ready to hit the trail. In between reps at the gym and checking off the items on your packing list, though, it’s easy to overlook some of the other important stuff as you prepare for a trek in Peru. Here are a few things you don’t want to forget about!

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There’s more to preparing for a trek in Peru than hitting the gym and checking off your packing list. Read on for more top tips! Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

Money

The local currency in Peru is called the sol (plural, soles), and it’s important to have some on hand as you move around the region. While some places accept US dollars, many – especially, small local shops and restaurants – do not. Make sure you have small denominations (bills of 20 soles or less!) and that the bills are in good condition.

Fun fact: The current form of the currency is formally called the “Nuevo Sol” which means “New Sun” in Spanish. It replaced the previous currency, the Inti, in the early 1990s. Inti also means “sun” – in Quechua, the indigenous language of the Andes.

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Peruvian currency is called the “Nuevo Sol”.

There are numerous ATMs in Cusco where you can withdraw cash in soles or US dollars, and currency exchange kiosks line the main street. Most ATMs will only dispense $200-300 at a time, though, so plan your cash needs accordingly!

Insurance

It’s impossible to predict what will happen on any journey, and so taking out comprehensive travel insurance is a smart way to prepare for a trek in Peru. Make sure you look for a policy that will cover health concerns, strikes, natural disasters, and anything else that could impact your ability to complete your trek. Specifically, you will want travel insurance that covers you for medical emergencies outside your home country. Read the fine print!

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Travelling to Peru is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience – make sure you’re prepared for anything that could happen!

Passport

It might seem obvious, but make sure you bring your passport with you when you prepare for a trek in Peru! If you are hiking the Inca Trail, the Peruvian Ministry of Culture may actually ask to see it in order to compare your name to those on the issued permits. AND you will also have the opportunity to get an official stamp at Machu Picchu – but only if you have your passport with you!

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Don’t forget your passport when you prepare for a trek in Peru!

How to prepare for a trek in Peru: The little extras

Most personal items and other supplies are available in Peru, but when you prepare for a trek in Peru, it’s a good idea to stock up before you leave home. Here are a few items that we consider a must:

  • travel-size hand sanitizer or wipes
  • insect repellent
  • sunscreen
  • lip balm
  • travel-size hand cream
  • toilet paper or facial tissue
  • small plastic bags (such as Ziploc bags) – so, so useful
  • band aids, mole skin or “second skin”
  • pain killers
  • altitude pills
  • anti-diarrhea pills
  • a course of antibiotics – just in case
  • feminine hygiene products
  • a headlamp or small flashlight
  • refillable water bottle
  • extra batteries for your camera or other equipment
  • a small daypack for on the trail
  • a swimsuit
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Preparing for a trek in Peru can seem daunting, but the Apus Peru team is here to help, with more packing and preparation tips.

There is so much to consider when you prepare for a trek in Peru, it can seem overwhelming! For more information on what to bring, see our Packing List, or contact our Customer Service team for more tips. And when you arrive to Cusco, remember that the best thing you can do to prepare for a trek in Peru is to spend those first few days taking it easy and drinking lots of coca leaf tea!

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How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru: Part 1

You’ve been dreaming about this your whole life. You’ve selected your dates, booked time off work, and now you’re finally going to take that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Peru: mysterious Machu Picchu, majestic Andean peaks, fascinating history, and rich, diverse culture await you. You’re all set! Right? But wait – now you’re wondering, what exactly do I have to do to prepare for a trek in Peru?!

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Read on for our top tips on how to prepare for a trek in Peru!

Peru is an amazing country, and trekking in the Andes a truly unforgettable experience. But you’ve probably never been somewhere quite like this, where life operates at a different pace, and the altitude starts at 3200m. So, preparing for a trek in Peru might seem a bit daunting. But fear not! We’ve got you covered. Here are our top tips for how to prepare for a trek in Peru:

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Peru is an amazing country, full of lively festivals and rich cultural traditions. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

How to prepare for a trek in Peru: Prepare for everything!

Weather in the Andes is notoriously fickle, and it’s entirely possible to experience intense sun, freezing wind, chilling rain, and even snow or hail, all in the same day. Even in dry season (May-September), when rain is scarce, the temperature can range from 25˚C in the daytime to -5˚C, or less, at night. That’s a drastic change! In the mountains, weather can turn on a dime, so when you prepare for a trek in Peru, it’s best to expect the unexpected, and carry gear that will protect you from all the elements.

Don’t leave home without these clothing essentials:

  • a sun hat – believe us, sunscreen is not enough to protect you from the intense rays at high altitude!
  • a warm winter hat, toque or beanie – for those cold nights under the stars;
  • a headband – I swear by this to protect my ears from the biting wind!
  • a long scarf – a versatile piece that you can wrap around you for warmth or to protect you from the wind;
  • gloves and warm socks – to keep your digits toasty!
  • layers, layers, and more layers – so you can go from summer to winter wear in a flash;
  • a rainproof, windproof shell – make it lightweight and foldable for easy storage.
  • sunglasses – rain gear and sunglasses, at the same time? Believe me – it happens.
  • adequate footwear – good-quality, well broken-in trekking boots to protect your feet on the trail, AND flip flops or sandals for walking around the campsite, your hotel room or luxurious hot springs!
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Good quality gear is essential when preparing for a trek in Peru. Make sure you’re ready for rain, sun, and cold – anything is possible in the Andes! Photo by Megan Gaston.

How to prepare for a trek in Peru: Physical Preparation

As we mention in our blog Top 5 Things that Make the Inca Trail Awesome, the Inca Trail – like all hikes in the Andes – is no walk in the park. This is challenging stuff! The best way to prepare for a trek in Peru is to make sure you’re fit and well-acclimatized to the altitude before starting.

Before you leave home, try doing plenty of aerobic exercise like running, spinning or aerobics classes – Zumba is a personal favourite! Get out and do some one day hikes in your area, testing out how you feel walking for 4-6 hours at a time. If you’ve never slept in a tent in the great outdoors – or it’s been a while – now’s the time to roll out your sleeping bag and take a couple of camping trips, too.

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There’s nothing quite like sleeping under the stars, but if it’s been a while – or maybe never! – doing some camping before you leave home is a good way to prepare for a trek in Peru.

And possibly the #1 thing you can do to prepare for a trek in Peru is to make sure you have adequate time built into your itinerary to acclimatize to the altitude. We recommend a minimum of 3 days of acclimatization at high altitude before beginning any trek.

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Hiking at high altitude is never easy – make sure you take the time to acclimatize!

Stay tuned for more of our Top Tips for How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru – coming next week!

A luxurious retreat at the Rio Sagrado…

Nestled into a hillside alongside the roaring Urubamba River and with the craggy mountains of the Sacred Valley as a backdrop, the Belmond Rio Sagrado property is beautifully placed for those looking for a serene getaway, located halfway between Machu Picchu and Cusco.

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Rio Sagrado means ‘Sacred River’ in Spanish and the connection with the river, mountains and earth are evident in many aspects of the hotel.  When you arrive you are seated in a cosy study, filled with books and with a huge telescope for viewing the night skies, which were so important in Incan times.

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Originally constructed as a family vacation spot, with the original villas now accommodating larger groups of up to 10 people,   the Rio Sagrado hotel has expanded out over a hillside, with a variety of different rooms and options. Natural materials are a feature, and the way that the rooms and casitas mould over the hill makes you feel that it’s grown organically.  With only 23 rooms in total, it’s a small, boutique hotel with a feel of exclusivity.

Food is a feature, and we were offered a delicious pachamanca picnic by the river.  El Huerto (the Orchard) restaurant is a delicious fusion of Urubamba’s best-kept culinary secrets and provides elegant dining by the river.

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A highlight is an outdoor heated pool, fantastic for year round relaxation, which sets this hotel apart from most other SV Hotels which only offer unheated (and therefore cold!) pools.   A beautifully appointed spa is located in a wooden and stone building and offers a luxurious range of treatments using local therapies.

As you would expect for a property of this standard, the Rio Sagrado rooms have been created with careful attention to detail.  Balconies are carefully concealed from their neighbours using plantings of indigenous trees, and you can shower looking out over the landscape –with your private parts modestly obscured by clouded glass! Large beds, pima cotton sheets – and heated wooden floors, as expected from a hotel like this, your stay will be extremely comfortable.     We also were pleased to see recycling options in the rooms.

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As the aim of the hotel is to getaway from the busy world, relax and connect with nature there are no televisons in the rooms, but wifi is accessible if you wish.

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Finally a word on access – the hotel does offer one disabled/easy access room at the top of the hill and provide a golf buggy to access all locations in the hotel, including the restaurant located near the river. Otherwise, access to the rooms is via a series of steep steps and may not be a wonderful option if you struggle with climbing or descending steps!

 

Hotel Sol Y Luna: Heaven on Earth

The name, Sol y Luna evokes a connection with the stars, sun and moon which in turn reminds us of the Incan connection with the heavens.  The Incas believed that the Sacred Valley was a reflection of the Milky Way and with warmer climes, lush vegetation and flowers; the Sacred Valley was literally heaven on earth.

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The 2013 Trip Advisor Traveller’s Choice Awards placed the Sol y Luna Hotel at Number 1 Hotel in South America, – and it was included in the list of top 25 hotels in the world  – no mean feat!

And yet, despite being located in ‘Heaven on Earth’ and such a prestigious accolade, these rammed earth, rustic bungalows, set in abundant, beautiful gardens are natural and not in any way overconfident or boastful.  They fit in with their surrounds, and are in harmony with the earth.

On the day of our visit, it rained and we ran from Casita (little house) to Casita, enjoying the space, winding paths and flowers.  Each room has its own unique touch, decorated in a simple, yet elegant manner and you can imagine enjoying the space with your family.

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The decoration in common areas (reception, library etc.) has been done by a Limeno artist…. and is very memorable, quirky and fun!  Contemporary pieces are found throughout the property, including in the restaurants and guest rooms. This really adds to the atmosphere of the site and sets this hotel apart from the other hotels in this price range in the Sacred Valley which belong to chains and are a little less personalised.

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Their spa is housed in a stunning building, surrounded by extensive stained glass walls, and named Yacu Wasi – “the house of water”.  It is a space that seems made for a peaceful, pure restoration, but possibly also an understated indulgence!

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Having grown organically since being first built in 1996, the Hotel Sol y Luna now offers a series of different standards of room, all of them bungalow style.  The Casitas are very nice, well decorated but a little older and simpler. The Deluxe Casitas are very large, luxurious and decorated with attention to detail – they are clearly Peruvian, yet with modern amenities to complement.

The property has two restaurants, both known for their great meals and high quality cuisine.

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And perhaps if we haven’t provided enough superlatives about this great experience, there is the fact that Sol Y Luna has a foundation that supports children’s education in the Sacred Valley.  This belief that tourism needs to give something back mirror’s Majestic Peru’s own beliefs.   Sol y Luna’s Association now supports not just local schools, but provide Vocational training and other initiatives that support a stronger local economy.

Sol y Luna is much more than a hotel – it is an experience.

 

Travel to Cusco in February, the wet season

Why should you visit Cusco in February, the height of the wet season?

Here at Apus Peru we can’t take credit for this great piece written by someone at the the South American Explorers Club some years ago, but we are publishing it because its so TRUE!!

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We firmly believe that February is THE time of year to be in Cusco – and here’s why:

• It is the warmest time of year, meaning that you will not find yourself wearing Llama blankets wrapped around your waist as your new stylish evening attire.

• Carnival in Peru is celebrated by perfect strangers attacking each other in the street with water bombs, foam, eggs etc. It is taken for granted that anyone who ventures out of their house is “playing” – there are no rules, other than that your attacks must be directed at a member of the opposite sex.

• Ever wanted the chance to visit Machu Picchu all by yourself, or alone with your loved one? Well, now is the time to do it – with the Inca Trail closed and wimpy tourists favoring the coastal sunshine of Lima, you can enjoy an almost deserted Machu Picchu – the mist just makes it more atmospheric.

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visiting machu picchu on a rainy day (with a baby – who is under the umbrella on the back!!!)

• February is one of the best times to appreciate the natural beauty of Cusco. The valley turns a lush green, and due to the bursts of sunshine and intermittent torrential rain, there is a very high chance of glancing impressive rainbows over the Imperial City of Cusco. Just remember to bring your rain jacket.

• Low season means high bargaining power for the tourists who are here, and some discounts on accommodation and food.

Apus Peru addition:  it is true that the Inca Trail is closed for maintenance during February but that doesn’t mean that you can’t trek in the Lares region or on short day hikes.  It also doesn’t mean that the Inca Trail is closed.

for more information on wet season in cusco check out our wet season trekking inforrmation

 

Six things that may surprise you on a trek in the Andes!

Even for experienced campers and trekkers, a trip in the Andes is often a unique experience with new challenges.  Here are a few ideas and suggestions to take into consideration as you prepare for your trek!

Trekking in the Andes is challenging – but easier if properly acclimatised. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

  • Altitude can greatly influence how you feel and what you are capable of. Depending on how long you are in Cusco or other high-altitude areas before you depart, the altitude of most Apus Peru treks can be very physically challenging!  For this reason we recommend at least 2, ideally 3 days at altitude pre trek, in order for your body to acclimatize and to recover from any symptoms of altitude sickness. During this time, it is a good idea to drink plenty of water, try the coca tea (it works 🙂 ) eat lightly and get plenty of rest the first day. After that, mild to moderate physical exercise can help you prepare for your trek.
  • You will get very dirty! Depending on the length of your trek, quite a long time can pass without an opportunity to shower or bathe.  While most people expect plenty of sweat during a long day of trekking, there is also dust and mud to deal with depending on the season. Wet wipes, plenty of clean socks and liquid hand sanitizer go a long way toward making you feel comfortable at the end of the day.

Trekkers on the hike to Huchuy Qosqo, a little known ruin in the Sacred Valley. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

  • Reading up on the region and route before departure will enhance your experience. The Andes and Cusco area have rich cultural histories and natural diversity, which you will be experiencing first hand! Our guides are well prepared to teach you about all of this, but arriving in Cusco with background knowledge in areas you are interested in will provide context and allow for deeper understanding.
  • The sun is extremely strong! Sunshine and UV rays are much stronger close to the equator and at high altitudes. You will be very happy to have your wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunblock once your trek is underway! If you have lighter skin or are especially sensitive to the sun, lightweight clothing to cover your arms and legs is useful for sunny days.

Guide Herbert provides an overview of the ruins at Huchuy Qosqo. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

  • Communicating with your guide before and during your trek is important. Our guides are professionally trained and experienced in what they do. That said, every client is different! Letting your guide know about any new medical issues or dietary requests before departure helps them prepare. Updates regarding how you are feeling, walking pace, if you need more drinking water, or any other question or concern will help your guide ensure that you have a rewarding and enjoyable experience during your trek.
  • Be prepared for surprises. Many times, the most memorable events on a trek are the ones you don’t anticipate! Because Apus Peru tries to give our clients unique, “off the beaten path” experiences, treks and tours often include unplanned sights and opportunities. Keeping an open mind can help you make the most of your trip!
Nosey llama, early morning misty clouds and Machu Picchu!!

Nosey llama, early morning misty clouds and Machu Picchu!!

Many thanks to Amanda Zenick for this article, updated for 2015

For more information please visit our pre trip planning page on our website:

http://www.apus-peru.com/trip-planning/

Why change a trekking route?

Hot off the press: Choquequirao to Machu Picchu hikes to follow new itineraries!

Everyone agrees – the Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek is a wonderful hike through the high, isolated Andes visiting amazing Incan ruins along the way.

First glimpse Choquequirao

First glimpse Choquequirao

“I clearly remember talking to an old campesino as he pointed over the mountains and said – well of course you can hike to Choquequirao from here, and Machu Picchu too. It seemed so obvious to him, that all sites were linked by Trails, as they were in Incan times,” says Ariana Svenson, Co Founder of Apus Peru. “Six months later, in 2003, we armed ourselves with topographic maps, and old trekking guide books and set out to hike those Trails. But the key was that we hired local muleteers and they guided us from place to place. To them it was just following a trail, from A to B, that they had known their whole lives. To us, it was a great adventure.”

simply natural beauty

simply natural beauty

Several years later, Apus Peru was established as a travel agency and given the incredible nature of the route, the Founders felt that it was a “must see” trekking route for visitors to the region.  Memorable ruins, stunning mountain scenery and plunging river canyons – the glorious isolation of the Andes, Choquequirao and beyond became accessible. Two great ruins in one great trek!

Now, many years later, we have had many trekkers pass through our doors and enjoy this wonderful route with us, whether it was our 7, 8 or 9 day trek. However, Apus Perú strive to offer great experiences, and are constantly listening and responding to our clients’ needs, suggestions and feedback. This brings me nicely on to the reason for this blog.

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We have taken the plunge and recently made some necessary changes to these classic routes. Here we would like to take the opportunity to explain why – and how excited we are to be offering new itineraries!

As mentioned, back in the day of ‘trail blazing’, the tiny village of Yanama, situated about half way between Choquequirao and Lucmabamba and home to some of our arrieros, was exceptionally isolated and only reached on foot.

By 2012, with the onward march of progress, a road had been bulldozed in allowing vehicle access.  It has to be acknowledged that this is great for locals, easing the task of transporting goods and general all round connectedness. For more perspectives on roads and what they mean for small Andean villages, please read Co-Founder Ariana Svenson’s thoughts on roads accessing other remote villages: http://threadsofperu.com/road-to-chaullacocha/

So while we celebrate better services for the locals, we recognize it is not so great for the purist trekker looking for solitude and a taste of Andean wilderness!

Walking the last day of any trek along a road is not ideal, in addition to meeting a section of the now very popular and busy Salkantay trek, we felt that our guests were looking for remote hiking experiences – and it was time for change.

Now, our new, revised 9 day  Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek route as goes via Vilcabamba!! Three great ruins in one great trek!

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Our 8 day trek option has been created with the purist in mind and is a real adventurer’s option. We get off the beaten path, literally, at Yanama and take our new alternative route to the Qhiswa Pass and on to Totora. Difficult? Most definitely. Worth it? Ultimately. However, this is not a trek to consider unless on day 6 of an already tough trek you will have the physical capacity for a long and demanding 22km one day loop!

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Our 7 day itinerary, removed the Yanama – Totora hike section and created an extra day to play with. The 7 day Choquequequirao to Machu Picchu now includes a very special introduction to Machu Picchu – the hike of Lucmabamba to Llactapata ruins. A wonderful way to end a memorable trek – by hiking back into civilisation with your first glimpse of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu from the East.

We look forward to exploring with you! For more information please contact: reservas@apus-peru.com