Last summer, we took our 15 and 13 year old sons and 11 year old daughter for a week in Peru. We thought the highlight would be Machu Picchu. Don’t get me wrong, it truly was a remarkable site to visit and one that should be on everyone’s bucket list. However, our whole week in Peru was one of the best family vacations that we have ever had.
We visited Lima, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Cusco and were blown away by the beauty of the land, the food, and the history of the region. We visited churches in Lima and Cusco and explored the Inca Ruins in Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Food was a highlight. We tried Peruvian delicacies in markets and ate at some exceptional restaurants. One remarkable day, we rode horses below beautiful mountains, and on another, we hung out with llamas and alpacas. We watched local women weave beautiful scarves and clothes from the wool of the alpacas in a remote village. Then, spent an unforgettable afternoon with local children and their teacher at their school.
This week had everything that I always hope to have when I create an itinerary for my travels – culture, history, adventure, and, most importantly, authenticity. I worked with Kouda Travel, a local Peruvian travel agency, to help us build our itinerary. They were exceptionally helpful before we arrived and were amazing guides in their beautiful country.
Below is our day to day schedule with a little bit of commentary. If you wish to read more about this trip; what did and did not work; what we would change, if we could; and our highlights and why, then please go to my other blog called Peru and Machu Picchu: Would We Do It Again.
Day 1 – Lima
We arrived in Lima, were picked up at the airport and taken to our hotel, Casa Andina Private Collection Miraflores. We relaxed and recovered from our long day of travelling.
Day 2 – Lima
In the morning, we explored the Miraflores area around our hotel on our own and did a little bit of shopping.
In the afternoon, we were picked up at our hotel for a very interesting private tour of Lima. We went to:
- The historic centre of Lima, and saw San Martin Square and the Bolivar Hotel;
- The Local Market in Surquillo District and tried Peruvian fruits, vegetables and delicacies; and
- The Plaza Mayor and visited the Cathedral of Lima, the Archbishop’s Palace and Pizarro House.
We also explored Casa Aliaga, a special experience as it is one of the oldest mansions in the New World and has been occupied by the same family since 1535.
We walked from there to the Traditional Bar-Restaurant Cordano, where we tried a typical beverage of Lima called “Chica Morada” and other Peruvian dishes that were delicious.
Day 3 – Sacred Valley
In the morning, we were picked up at our hotel and transferred to the airport. We boarded a plane for our short flight to Cusco.
Upon arrival, we were picked up by a private car and guide, and our adventures in the Sacred Valley began.
Our hotel in the Sacred Valley was 1 1/2 hours away from Cusco. The scenery on our drive was breathtaking. Half way through our journey, we stopped at the Living Museum of Awanakancha where we watched traditional weavers at work. We had fun spending time with, learning about and feeding the llamas and alpacas. We explored the shop filled with luxurious and fashionable alpaca items, tempted to make many purchases. Afterwards, we headed to our hotel, Casa Andina Private Collection Valle Sagrado to relax.
Day 4 – Sacred Valley
In the morning, we explored the Inca Ruins at Pisac. It was spectacularly beautiful on top of the mountain with views from every vantage point we reached. I loved walking around these ruins and hearing about its history.
In the afternoon, we strolled through the native village of Pisac and its artisan market. We found many traditional crafts and hand-made textiles that we purchased. There were many opportunities to watch the traditional people and their children go about their daily lives in the market. They were friendly and proud of their market, and it was really fun to explore this village and their crafts.
We also had a pottery class with the owner of a long standing family pottery business. We each did our best to create something that didn’t make him cringe! It was very amusing and surprisingly relaxing! Our creations were left to be baked in the kiln, and were delivered to our hotel in Cusco the night before we left Peru.
At the end of our day, we tried one of the official delicacies of Peru – guinea pig! No one was able to do more than have a nibble or two of the dish. I think it had something to do with how we saw it cooked.
Day 5 – Sacred Valley
In the morning, we had a guided horseback riding tour on the rural paths below the mountains. We peaked over fences and met locals going about their business. It was quiet and magical and we didn’t want it to end. We had lunch at Hacienda Huayocari, the restaurant attached to the ranch. This was an extraordinary meal and a beautiful family restaurant with its own museum.
After lunch, we visited a remote local village called Umasbamba Community. There, we visited a traditional family home and watched the women do their extraordinary crafts. Afterwards, we spent time at the local school which offered after school programs for the children of the village. We met with the teacher and students and gave them school supplies that we brought on our trip. They sang for us and gave us artwork that they had created. It was an inspiring afternoon and one of my favourite experiences on our trip.
Day 6 – Machu Picchu
In the morning, we woke up early and checked out of our hotel. Our guide and driver picked us up and drove us 20 minutes to Ollantaytambo for our 2 hour train ride to Machu Picchu. The scenery from the windows of the train along the way was stunning. When we arrived at Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu, we lined up and took the 15 minute bus ride up the mountain to Machu Picchu. This was a terrifying ride. The road was barely wide enough for one bus and yet, buses going up and coming back down had to share it. There was a sheer drop hundreds of feet/metres to the ground below without a fence or barricade in sight. I just closed my eyes and prayed!
The day was already remarkable, filled with astonishing views, and we had not even reached Machu Picchu.
We spent the day at Machu Picchu with our guide. It was truly spectacular and fascinating. We walked, climbed and explored the ruins as we pleased while learning about its unique history. We loved it there.
In the late afternoon, we took the bus back down to Aguas Calientes and had a very good early dinner. We boarded the train for the 3 1/2 hour ride to Cusco. Upon arrival in Cusco, our driver collected us from the train station and delivered us to our hotel, the JW Mariott El Convento Cusco. It was a very long day, but it was filled with extraordinary experiences.
Day 7 – Cusco
In the morning, we had a private tour of Cusco and the surrounding areas. We visited the Santo Domingo Monastery and the colonial cathedrals in the Plaza de Armas.
In the afternoon, we visited the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, the temple and amphitheater of Q’enko and the red fortress of PucaPucara. We shopped and purchased many gorgeous alpaca sweaters, shawls and scarves.
Day 8 – Home
We left Cusco for our long flight back home.
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