Start Here: Getting to Peru
Here is helpful information about getting to Peru for your mystical bucket list Inca Trail tour to Machu Picchu!
Start here with this easy-to-follow guide that covers travel logistics to Lima and Cusco Peru, what to pack, where to stay and things to see in Cusco.
GETTING TO PERU
Cusco Airport: Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport
The closest airport to Machu Picchu is the airport in Cusco, known as the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport. Although this airport is international, there are no direct flights from the United States to here. Instead, most direct flights come from surrounding Latin American countries, such as Bolivia or Colombia.
Almost all routes to Cusco from the United States have a layover in Lima before heading to Cusco. Flights can only depart during the day when visibility is clear and the weather is favorable.
Despite the fact that most people travel to Peru just to see Machu Picchu, the Cusco airport isn't as well-served as the one in Lima. Getting to the city center or back to the airport is difficult, as there is no connecting public transportation.
Travelers can instead take a taxi or a minibus known as a "combi" to get where they need to go, or inquire about a shuttle to their hotel.
Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport isn't very big either, and there aren't that many amenities for travelers. Beyond several restaurants, currency exchange booths, snack bars and cafes, there is no Wi-Fi in the airport except for at certain restaurants. There are plans to build a larger airport, to be called Chinchero Cusco International Airport, just outside of Cusco—to be more accessible for travelers looking to visit Machu Picchu—in the future.
Lima Airport: Jorge Chávez International Airport
Many travelers book a much cheaper flight to Peru's capital, Lima, and from there grab a domestic flight to Cusco or take a bus.
Flights to Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima operate regularly from many cities in the United States, and it is easy to find direct flights. From there, nonstop flights from Lima to Cusco cost anywhere from $50 to $100 and run every day of the week. The flight is only an hour and 20 minutes long.
Getting to Cusco by Bus or Car
Hop on a bus across the street from the airport at the Pesca petrol station. In general, there are two routes from Lima to Cusco by bus. One route is fairly quick, taking approximately a day. A second route, a three-day journey known as the southern route, is considered safer and is more popular.
WHAT TO PACK
As you make your Inca Trail travel checklist, be sure to include some absolute essentials that include:
If you have questions about these or other supplies you wish to bring, you can consult Alpaca Expeditions for advice. We’ve found that these are the most essential supplies needed for the Inca Trail Trek. Having them will make your trip less challenging so that you can focus on the hike itself and the marvelous views that await you.
WHERE TO STAY
Where Should I Stay in Cusco?
While many of you are expert travelers, you will see that planning for this particular journey is a bit more difficult than most. We are here to help every step of the way and may be reaching out to you from time to time with some advice.
To begin with, we have some suggestions on where to stay in Cusco. Cusco is a small city, but they are making more and more streets open to only pedestrian traffic – no cars. So these hotels are all really nice three star hotels that also are accessible for us to drive to for your pickup. These are suggestions only – not mandatory to stay here.
Alpaca Expeditions goes all-the-way to create an experience-of-a-lifetime for every single one of our clients who are trekking or traveling with us. We try to include every possible detail that will enhance your experience so that you can have a seamless and memorable trip. We always try to smooth any potential issues you may have along the way on your expedition. Here is some information of some of the services that we provide:
Cusco is quite a safe city. However, as locals we have experience with some issues which probably are not uncommon in developing countries like Peru, which we would like to make you aware of. Our city Mayor has provided as many police officers as possible, including a special force called “Policia Turistica” (Tourist Police) to provide a high security standard to the people who are visiting our city. However, we would like to ask you to please be aware that there are opportunistic factions which operate, especially in the early mornings or late evenings and in crowded areas and some tourists have experienced pick-pocketing or stolen bags. Unfortunately, occasionally even taxi drivers cannot always be trusted. With this is mind, Alpaca Expeditions want to ensure that you avoid these problems and to that effect, we are now offering to pick our trekkers up from their hotels. Prior to your trek, we will give you a briefing in our office, at which time we will determine what time we will pick you up on the morning your trek starts. Here are our basic guidelines:
Inka Trail 4D/3N pick up will be at 4.15 am to 4.30 am
Inka Trail 5D/4N pick up will be at 5.00 am to 5.15 am
Lares Trek 4D/3N pick up will be at 5 am to 5.15 am
Other tour departures are mentioned on our website or will be confirmed by our front desk staff during your check-in while you are in Cusco.
PURPLE: $200 or more a night
BLUE: $100-$200 a night
TURQUOISE: $75-$100 a night
ORANGE: $40-$75 a night
YELLOW: Below $40 a night
After hiking for days and getting up very early to catch mystical Machu Picchu before the clouds burn off and the day tourists arrive, plus the 4-hour trip from Machu Picchu back to Cusco, you will definitely be tired when you return to Cusco, perhaps hoping to jump straight into the shower. You’ll want to arrive back to your hotel as soon as reasonably possible. Alpaca Expeditions has put in place as organized and quick drop-offs to your hotel as possible.
However, we ask that you understand some logistical information which will assist in smooth hotel pick-up and drop-off. Cusco is an ancient, historical city with many very narrow streets, lots of stairs, and areas that cars cannot even access. This is part of its charm, though it doesn’t always make navigation by motor vehicles easy. Recently, they have even passed a law making the Main Plaza a pedestrian-only area, with no through vehicular traffic at all allowed. You can imagine, this complicates people getting dropped off directly to their hotels! We know you want to reach your home-sweet-home away from home as quickly and directly as possible. We therefore make the following recommendations.
In order to make Hotel Pick-Up and Drop-Off as smooth as possible, we highly recommend that you choose one from this list of hotels. This list includes smaller hostels and also larger hotels which have good vehicular access.
|NAME||CLASSIFICATION BY STAR|
|Hotel Rumi Punku|
|Hotel JW Marriott|
|Hotel Best Western Hotel|
|Hotel San Agustin el Dorado|
|Hotel Eco Inn|
|Hotel Andean Wings Boutique Hotel|
|Hotel Terra Andina Hotel|
|Hotel Esplendor Hotel|
|Hotel El Mercado Hotel|
|Hotel Niños 1 Meloc Hotel|
|Hotel Palacio Del Inca|
|Hotel Tierra Viva Centro|
|Hotel Costa Del Sol Ramada|
|Hotel Cusco Plaza Hotel|
|Hostel Wild River|
|Hostel The Point|
|Hostel Mill House|
|Hostel Flying Dog|
|Hostel Hitchhikers Cusco Hostel|
|Hostel Mama Simona Hostel|
|Hostel Atawkama Hostel|
|Hostel Amaru Hostal I|
Due to Cusco’s very narrow streets, our one-way traffic system, and other access limitations, we cannot guarantee that we can do a hotel pick-up/drop-off directly at your hotel or hostel if you choose one that is not on this list. If you are booked in another hotel, we can pick you up, but it will have to be at a pre-arranged location, perhaps a few blocks from where you are staying, and you will have to get there with your packs and/or luggage.
THINGS TO SEE
1. Take A Train Ride
Travelling by train is an amazing way to see Peru. The most convenient way to get to Aguas Calientes, the community at the foot of the mountain upon which Machu Picchu is perched, is to hop on a train. It’s an unforgettable experience—picture the fast-flowing Urubamba River with its green embankments, craggy peaks of the Andes mountains high above, and Inca ruins spotting the countryside. Opt for a late afternoon itinerary to catch the sunset and get an early start at Machu Picchu the next morning. Most trains leave/arrive at Ollantaytambo which is well worth a visit. Ollantaytambo is the starting point for the Inca Trail and has Inca ruins of its own. Insider Tip: Land a seat on the left hand side of the train to Aguas Calientes and on the right on the way back; you’ll get the best views from the train’s panoramic windows. And be sure to buy your ticket to Machu Picchu before you book your train trip as tickets to Machu Picchu are limited and can sell out.
Being let off a bus at the entrance can make you feel like you missed out on the adventure of hiking the Inca Trail. If you want to earn your visit to the Inca city but don’t have three days to spend on the trail, opt to hike Huaynapicchu, sometimes called Wayna Picchu, the sugarloaf mountain that towers above Machu Picchu. This arduous, vertiginous hike up a steep, narrow set of Inca-carved stairs takes between 2 and 3 hours roundtrip. Only 400 people are allowed up Huayna Picchu per day at two entrance times (7-8 am and 10-11 am) and admission must be purchased at the same time as your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu. Note: you must buy your Machu Picchu plus Huayna Picchu ticket at the same time, you cannot add on Huaynapicchu later. If you plan to hike Huaynapicchu, book tickets ahead of time. Aside from the impressive quad burn that says you’ve been there, done that, you’ll get an amazing new perspective on Machu Picchu from the various mirados (landings) along the trail.
Insider Tip: Treat Huayna Picchu like any other day hike and bring water and snacks but don’t overburden your pack. Take it slow due to the altitude. Wear hiking boots, sunscreen, and a hat and dress in layers as mornings can be chilly but the afternoon sun is unrelenting and there is very little shade. Most importantly, don’t forget your camera.
Bonus: Bring your passport with you to Machu Picchu—they’ll stamp your passport once you descend Huayna Picchu and one when you leave Machu Picchu.
3. Visit an Indigenous Community
Under an hour from Cusco, there are indigenous communities that preserve an ancient way of life few visitors are granted access to. Alpaca Expeditions actually visits one of these villages during the Lares tour and spends a lot of time with the children, helping them with providing school supplies and other treats. The additional income these communities receive via limited tourism allows them to continue to live in a traditional manner. Visiting them gives a lasting impression of a quickly disappearing way of life and really adds depth to any trip.
Insider Tip: Be sure to bring cash in small denominations of nuevo soles to purchase hand-woven dolls, textiles, bracelets, bags, and belts from the community of weavers.
4. Enjoy Peruvian Food
Sample Local Food and Visit a Market For a slice of Peruvian life, head to any produce mercado (market)—there’s one in virtually every town. You’ll find only-in-Peru fruits, like aguaymanto (gooseberry), cherimoya (custard apple), and lucuma (eggfruit) to name a few. Quinoa, a grain that has made its way to North American shores and is touted as a super food, comes in a variety of colors and is widely available here. Some local specialties to try: Ceviche, typically made with raw river trout bathed in lime juice, which “cooks” the fish, hot pepper, red onions, cilantro, and topped with choclo (corn) and sweet potato cubes. Pachamanca, a traditional dish of marinated meat and potatoes cooked in a hole in the ground lined with hot rocks. The meat is first marinated in Andean herbs such as chincho, hierba buena, and paico and is wrapped in banana leaves. You can’t leave Peru without trying a pisco sour, the national drink made with pisco brandy. There are many opportunities to learn how to make it (2 or 3 shots pisco, 1 shot lime juice, 1 shot simple syrup, 1 shot egg white, shaken with ice, dash of bitters) and discover pisco macerations, which include everything from local fruits like aguaymanto to coca leaves. Locals drink coca tea and chew coca leaves to cure soroche (altitude sickness) but the coca leaf is also held sacred and used in spiritual rites.
Attend a festival with colorful costumes, marching bands, religious processions, and fireworks—when Peru celebrates it’s a sight to see. Cusco’s Corpus Christi festival in June is a deeply religious affair with mass in the Plaza de Armas surrounded by fifteen statues of virgins and saints. The statues are brought from churches in nearby districts, which come to Cusco to be blessed. In the early afternoon, the beaded, brocaded, 15-foot statues are hoisted onto the shoulders of teams of men and promenaded around the plaza, genuflecting at various altars and ending at the Cathedral. It’s a day-long party where the whole city crams into the Plaza de Armas to watch the parade, eat, drink, and make merry. Other spectacular local festivals include Cusco’s Inti Raymi festival on June 24, which marks the winter solstice, the Fiestas Patrias, Peru’s Independence Day on July 28-29, and Ayacucho’s Semana Santa (Holy Week) Easter celebrations.
Insider Tip: Cusco’s Plaza de Armas has many restaurants and bars with a view of the action if you want to stay above the fray. Go early for the best views.