If you want to have the low down on the easier version of hiking Machu Picchu, including the best places to stay, or how much such a trip can cost, then read this blog:
1) We didn’t use Latam airlines—and for that, we were very sorry. More on this in a future blog.
Air Travel Costs: $1468 total for all four of us round trip from Medellín, Colombia to Cusco, Peru. For the first time ever, I paid for “1st class” seats, which was $150 extra. And it was a complete waste of money. Not only did we have no place to put our luggage (because hey, first row seats), but the airlines changed planes at the last minute, so the seats weren’t any bigger than normal seats.
This cost also included paying for one extra carry on that contained the cot for our kids to sleep on overnight in the Lima airport. This was also a waste of money (see future blog post for more about this).
2) Tour guide and driver for 5 days: $1700. Worth every.single.penny. Our tour guide, Jimmy Jhon studied archeology in the States and grew up with farmers in Peru, so he was a very knowledgeable guide.
This cost included the private driver and his spacious van, a welcome by the guide and driver at the airport, as well as the 5am drop off to fly back. And the entrance fees to all archeological sites (no waiting in lines for tickets!) and round trip on the incredible, first-class Machu Picchu train were also in this flat fee.
3) Medical evacuation insurance: $82 (We used Allianz again).
4) Hotels. This, the meals out, and a guide were where we splurged. The hotels averaged about $150/night, which was expensive for that part of the world. But the hotels were incredible!
The first night we stayed in a 3 story villa, which reminded me dearly of Tanzania. The last two nights we spent in Cusco at an old palace with a courtyard. The walls were thick, and it felt like we were staying in Southern Spain at a medieval castle.
The first day in Peru, we had a hotel mix up that was entirely my fault, and I called our amazing travel agent, Michelle. Despite it being a Saturday, she was able to fix things for us.
Folks, if you can avoid it, don’t be making travel arrangements yourself! Use industry insiders known as travel agents. She gets us amazing deals I could never score on my own: family suites for cheaper than I can book a room online. This lady is so amazing, she’s easily saved us over $5,000 the past four years we’ve used her (she literally saved us over $3,000 on a cruise we booked through her once). The only time I used someone else, I wanted to kick myself.
So save your time and money people, use a travel agent! (I highly recommend mine: mwood at nyaaa.com is her email).
Here are the hotels we used. We’d highly recommend all of them.
–First night in the Sacred Valley was at the amazing Wayqey Lodge (this was the incredible 3 story villa): Quinta Venecia, Larespampa s/n, Urubamba 8660 PE. Telephone: 51-580610
–Second night was in Aguas Calientes. This is the town at the base of the mountains leading up to Machu Picchu. We stayed at the CASA ANDINA STANDARD. The breakfast was amazing: not only was the food scrumptious, but you sit next to a roaring mountain river to eat.
Because more than one person told us not to for various reasons, we didn’t stay at the hotel right outside the gates of Machu Picchu.
While you’re in Aguas Calientes, make sure to stop by and eat at the India Bliss Restaurant. It’s tucked away on the side of the village down a sort of ally. The food was incredible, and the restaurant felt like it should be at the foot of Mount Everest.
–The last two nights, we stayed at the RAMADA COSTA DEL SOL CUSCO in Cusco. I know, you’re like, “What, you stayed at a Ramada chain in Peru? Why didn’t you stay at a local hotel brand?” Seriously, folks, this was one of the most amazing hotels we’ve stayed at. Ever. (This was the old world palace/medieval castle hotel in Cusco.)
5) Food costs: Ok, so here is where it gets weird. Looking back, we really only ate two real meals a day. Breakfast was included at all the hotels, and we stuffed ourselves. I brought a small bag of snacks from Colombia and America (think Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter bars. Yeah, I’m that mom). We used that small bag throughout our trip and snacked on it during the day about 2pm because we usually weren’t hungry until then (the joys of altitude sickness. One of the side effects is appetite loss).
By the time we finished hiking whatever archeological site(s) we were at for the day, we didn’t make it to a restaurant until about 3 or 4pm. We were always so exhausted by nightfall that we often just had enough energy and appetite for a granola bar and then fell into bed.
So the real food cost was one incredible meal out at a restaurant per day. We always asked our guide for the yummiest place to eat wherever we were, and his recommendations were fantastic. As part of tipping them, we invited them to eat each “lunch/dinner” with us. They never presumed to be asked and graciously waited to be asked to join them. (And this is where I have to take a side track and say: Peruvians are amongst the most gracious people I have ever encountered.)
The meals out were 5-star quality meals with the freshest of local ingredients. For 6 of us, the bill typically ran about $90 on average. Peru will always stand out in my mind as being one of the best gastronomic travel experiences EVER. They even had vegan options. (I’ll admit, I tried Alpacha. I didn’t try the guinea pig though.)
6) Tips: Driver, guide, restaurants, and maids.
Now folks, if you want to do the tougher version of Machu Picchu, you can walk on the original Incan trail. It stretches from the ocean for 450 miles inland. Most people, however, do the 4 days and 3 nights version closer into the Amazon. You “only” traverse 3 high mountain passes (the highest is nearly 14,000 feet). The other parts of the trail are at over 8,000 feet elevation and follow along the Machu Picchu railway. It’s a total of 26 miles of what they call “Gringo Killer Steps”—and they really are killer stairs! We’re in decent shape, but even we were feeling it at the end of the day at Machu Picchu. Although my Garmin watch read that we’d done 79 flights of stairs hiking to the Sun Gate, etc., my knees said 100!
We didn’t do this, but you can also take a flight to Puerto Maldonado so you can see more of the Amazon. Take a boat upriver to a rustic lodge there or else go to Manu National Park. Before you commit to this, take a look at this blog post.
Next blog post will detail the surprises we encountered during our trip to Peru.
(If you would like to follow our journey so we can help you with FIRE strategies and learn the truths we’ve discovered, please sign up as a subscriber. And if you found this post helpful, I’d appreciate it if you please shared it on social media using the button below. Thanks!)