Things to do in Machu Picchu, Peru

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Apus Peru FOCUSThings to do in Machu Picchu, Peru!

This series is a collection of travel tips and stories shared by other bloggers and traveler’s around the web.

We hope these tips and stories will inform and inspire you to visit Machu Picchu. If you have already been, please share a tip on things to see and do in Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu Travel Essentials – What You Need To Know About a Visit To Machu Picchu

The Basics – This is a great list of several things that are important to know before visiting the magnificent Machu Picchu. From pickpocketing to cold nights, these quick tips serve as a basic “heads up” to help prepare you for your stay.

Book Ahead – When traveling to Machu Picchu, you will need to purchase various tickets depending on your traveling needs. It is important to book early, as this blog post suggests as permits and tickets sell out fast!

An Overview – This website offers up a fantastic post highlighting the history of the stunning ruins. It is a bit lengthy, but certainly worth the read!

Things To Do In Machu Picchu

A Service Town – Aguas Calientes is the service town for Machu Picchu. With several hot springs located throughout, it is the perfect place to relax! This blog post is worth a read as it makes several other important notes ie. increased prices and lack of ATM’s

A Visitors Point-of-View – This is a great post, full of close up photos from a traveler who has been to Aguas Calientes. While it doesn’t offer a list of things to do or specific restaurants to visit – it does show one what they will be able to expect – and when traveling, surprises are the last thing anyone wants.

Things To Do With Kids In Machu Picchu

Let’s Be Realistic – Traveling with children is infinitely different than traveling alone. There are always inquisitive minds to appease! Between all the questions, and probably more than a few complaints you can utilize some of the fantastic tips listed on this blog post! Written by our very own Ariana Svenson, a mom who has traveled with younger kids, we know that we can rely on the advice she gives!

Bits And Pieces – This is a short post, with several small tips however I still felt like they were important, and could come in handy for a visitor. It highlights a few of the sights, instructs you to keep a close eye on your toddlers and reminds you to take the time to enjoy what you see.

Where To Stay In Machu Picchu

Affordable Family Hotels – Finding a hotel to stay in that is child-friendly can sometimes be a fight! Thankfully, Machu Picchu offers several affordable options!

A Fancy Accommodation – The Belmond Machu Picchu Sanctuary hotel, is located right next to the ancient Incan citadel. They boast fun activities, beautiful gardens, and massage treatments. This hotel can accommodate children but comes with a much higher price tag.

A list of recommended hotels – from our very own folks at Apus Peru Adventure Travel Specialists.

 

 

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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!

 

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

Who wants hot chocolate?

Now that I have your attention, I would like to share something with you about Apus Peru. Not only are we adventure travel specialists but we also work locally and sustainably with community groups in rural, high Andean communities. We achieve this through our work with and support of our partner NGO Threads of Perú http://threadsofperu.com/ in remote communities, specifically Rumira Sondormayo and Chaullacocha.

Games in the community of Chaullacocha

Games at last years Chocolatada in the community of Chaullacocha

What’s that got to do with hot chocolate I hear you ask. Well, every year we organize, participate in and fund a Chocolatada in Chaullacocha. It’s a very special occasion and includes all the staff at Apus Peru and the whole community of Chaullacocha.

Anyone for Hot Chocolate?

Anyone for Hot Chocolate?

Come and participate in making and enjoy drinking the hot chocolate! Always wanting to share the fun and spread the love and gift of giving, Apus have made this unique event part of a fabulous trek through the awe inspiring scenery of the Lares Valley all the way through to Machu Picchu. Our trek itinerary can be found here: http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/cusco_christmas_packages.html

Part of the Lares trek, no explanation necessary!

A section along the Chocolatada –  Lares – Machu Picchu trek, no explanation necessary!

So, for something completely different this year, leave the shops behind and spend the run up to Christmas visiting a completely “off the beaten track” village in Andean Peru.  All this combined with a visit to Machu Picchu and Christmas Eve in Cusco for ‘noche buena’. It really would be a wonderful and unforgettable way to round off 2013!

A community member enjoying the refreshments!

A community member enjoying the refreshments!

Lares Valley to the Machu Picchu Citadel - foto courtesy of Megan Gaston, many thanks!

Lares Valley to the Machu Picchu Citadel – foto courtesy of Megan Gaston, many thanks!

HAPPY TREKKING!

Celebrate Christmas at Machu Picchu 2013!

Maybe Machu Picchu has always been on your ‘bucket list’? Well why not fulfil that dream and tick it off your list this Christmas holiday?

Machu Picchu at first light as the clouds clear

Machu Picchu at first light as the clouds clear, foto courtesy of Megan Malley

Submerse yourself in the fabulous Peruvian culture that celebrates Christmas with a mix of Catholic and Andean beliefs.

Bustling Christmas Markets in the Plaza de Armas

Bustling Christmas Markets in the Plaza de Armas

Apus Peru have carefully designed special Christmas itineraries and tour packages that enable you to either visit Machu Picchu at Christmas, which many people say has a uniquely spiritual feeling, or participate in a special once a year trek that really centres on the ‘gift of giving’.

Hot Chocolate time at our Andean Community Christmas Chocolatada

Hot Chocolate time at our Andean Community Christmas Chocolatada

Other features of the Christmas itineraries highlight the mysterious city of Machu Picchu and cosmopolitan Cusco, where you can participate in a typical Peruvian event, like the Selling of the Saints market in Cusco.

Selling of the Saints a typical Cusqueño Yuletide festivity

Selling of the Saints a typical Cusqueño Yuletide festivity

Absorb the wonders of Incan archaeolgoical sites within the Sacred Valley like Moray, as well as participating in a local community project in Urubamba.

Get away this Christmas and make the most of your Christmas break, or vacation period by taking a holiday in Peru and experiencing a very different culture from your own!!

Apus Peru provide unique ‘sample’ itineraries which make a solid foundation for any visitor’s exploration to Peru. From these foundations you are able to create your own itinerary through the addition of:

  • Selecting one of four different travel styles, that offer the same itinerary but different accommodation and meal options.
  • Upgrading your culinary experience.
  • Adding in Lima, Nazca, Arequipa or Lake Titicaca extensions according to the time available.
  • Add a trek to non-trekking itineraries.

Here are our links to the varied and exciting packages that could make this Christmas a very special and memorable one for years to come: Happy Holidays!

http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/a-very-different-christmas.htm

http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/a-machu-picchu-christmas.htm

http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/cusco_christmas_packages.html

Different angles of Machu Picchu – a Photographers guide.

By Ariana Svenson,  Originally published as a “BlueList”

The complete guide to getting that perfect, different or enigmatic glimpse of these famous ruins!  An insiders look at many different angles of this fabulous city!

The Classic shot

The Classic Shot of Machu Picchu. Photo by Michael Mossop.

The Classic Shot of Machu Picchu. Photo by Michael Mossop.

It is said that travellers in Incan times had to undergo cleansing rituals at the Caretakers cottage before being allowed into the Sacred City. Things aren’t so stringent these days – this is the classic Machu Picchu photograph taken by thousands.

View from Inti Punku, arriving at Machu Picchu in the afternoon, on the Short Inca Trail.

View from Inti Punku, arriving at Machu Picchu in the afternoon, on the Short Inca Trail.

Inti Punku (The Sun Gate)

Doing the last stretch of the Inca Trail in the dark to be at the Sun Gate for sunrise is memorable.  As the ancient city is in the cloud forest it is sometimes difficult to see sunrise through the clouds – but you still remember it though!

The spectacular view from Huayna Picchu is well worth the climb. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

The spectacular view from Huayna Picchu is well worth the climb. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

Huayna Picchu (Young Peak)

This peak dominates pictures of Machu Picchu – and if you climb it, is likely to be your highlight of your visit to the Lost City. It’s a tough couple of hours up on narrow stairs – but you will never ever forget the impressive view of the ruins.

View from Huchuy Picchu, with the author Ariana Svenson in 2005.

View from Huchuy Picchu, with the author Ariana Svenson in 2005.

Huchuy Picchu (Small Peak)

Full of gung-ho (they will need it) to get up Huayna Picchu people tend to race past the unassuming Huchuy Picchu.  However it is well worth a look for its close up overview of the ruins – with a lot less climbing than for the bigger peak behind it!

Everywhere you look are fantastic opportunities to get another perspective of Machu Picchu.  Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

Everywhere you look are fantastic opportunities to get another perspective of Machu Picchu. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

Hiking up and down to Machu Picchu

For those that like a relatively easy climb/ or descent it takes about an hour. Not only do you feel somehow superior to those in the tourist buses, you get an appreciation of what an awesome feat it was to build a city there!

Hiking along the railway tracks from the Hydroelectric

Since Peru Rail have increased prices for this short ride, more people are hiking for 2 hours along the train track. The lower ruins of Machu Picchu tower above you – perched with breathtaking audacity over a gorge – and tourists seem like ants.

View of Machu Picchu from Llactapata.

View of Machu Picchu from Llactapata.

Llactapata (High Town)

These ruins were rediscovered in 2002 and their position on a ridgeline across a valley from Machu Picchu helps us to understand the complexity of the network of Inca cities. It’s great to camp here and see the ruins of Machu Picchu from your tent.

Mandor Pampa

A stop on the Hydroelectric train ride or a hike from Aguas Calientes, visit the botanical garden and waterfall here as a nice day trip. Far away from the crowds you get in touch with the cloud forest, and get a good look at Huayna Picchu..

Putu Cusi

View of Machu Picchu from Putucusi.

View of Machu Picchu from Putucusi.

Not for the faint hearted, this is the mountain opposite Machu Picchu. Climbing up rickety ladders and steep slopes, this is for adrenaline junkies and those that really want to get a different perspective on the famous city.  Highly recommended!

Does Machu Picchu live up to the hype?

by Isaiah Brookshire

If there is one thing everyone wants to know about Machu Picchu, it is whether or not the famed ruins live up to their status as one of the wonders of the world. In my opinion, the answer is yes, with a few caveats.

The Central ruins at Machu Picchu. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

The Central ruins at Machu Picchu. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

First of all, visitors to this ancient site need to understand what it is. While Machu Picchu may have once been a lost city, that hasn’t been true for about a hundred years. The jungle has been pushed back, turnstiles have been added, and repairs have been made to crumbling sections of the stonework. That said, it still remains one of the most amazing archeological sites on the globe. In fact, I think it has a leg-up on the competition in many areas.

Overlooking Machu Picchu, another fantastic perspective from Isaiah Brookshire.

Overlooking Machu Picchu, another fantastic perspective from Isaiah Brookshire.

Machu Picchu is crowded but in comparison to historical sites like Angkor Wat or the Vatican, it’s practically deserted. In fact, those who arrive early will only have to share the site with a few hundred other visitors — a comparatively small number.

Where Machu Picchu really shines is location. Let’s face it, the Giza Pyramids are a stones-throw from busy Cairo neighborhoods and the Roman Colosseum is in middle of a traffic circle. Machu Picchu, on the other hand, is located high in the Andes and circled by a cascading river. The views would be considered world-class even if the ruins had never existed.

We see many photographs of Mach Picchu, this one has a slightly different perspective.  Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

We see many photographs of Mach Picchu, this one has a slightly different perspective. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

The natural setting of this Incan city surpasses any other historic site I have ever visited. The steep grandeur of the mountains that surround Machu Picchu inspires awe, and the sheer drops off some of the edges might even inspire a little vertigo.  Machu Picchu certainly does live up to the hype and understanding what you are in for can help you get the most out of it.

Having a guide at Machu Picchu helps add to your understanding of this mysterious site.  Here, Apus Peru guide Herbert Saldivar  helps point out the different landmarks in the fog. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

Having a guide at Machu Picchu helps add to your understanding of this mysterious site. Here, Apus Peru guide Herbert Saldivar helps point out the different landmarks in the fog. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

Here are some tips for getting the best experience from your visit:

  1.  If you can, go without expectations. Approaching Machu Picchu with an open mind and not basing your expectations on photographs or stories will allow you to appreciate the site for what it really is.
  2. Go early. In this instance, the early bird really does get the worm. If you can ride one of the first few buses up, you will find Machu Picchu much less crowded.
  3. Go with a good guide. There are many theories surrounding Machu Picchu and its history is still clouded by time. A guide who is honest and educated will help you understand the subtleties that make this place such a compelling piece of our human heritage.

For more information on treks and tours to Machu Picchu, visit our website at www.apus-peru.com