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
The Closest Airport to Machu Picchu
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 outside South America to here, and even those are limited.
Almost all routes to Cusco require a layover in Lima, and often due to flight times, an overnight. Also, flying in and out of this airport can be hair-raising, due to how close it is to the city center and its geographical location high in the mountains. Flights can only depart during the day when visibility is clear and the weather is favorable, so flight delays and cancellations are common.
Fly to Lima
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.
If you are coming from outside of South America, you are definitely stopping in Lima before heading to Cusco. You will need to go through Immigration and Customs and will need to retrieve your luggage even if your flight to Cusco is immediately afterwards.
If your flight lands in Lima after 9PM, you will need to spend the evening in Lima. We recommend staying at the airport hotel, across the street from the main terminal Wyndham Costa del Sol Lima Airport, or heading to the Miraflores area of Lima which takes about 1 hour by taxi.
From Lima to Cusco
From Lima, nonstop flights from Lima to Cusco cost anywhere from $100 to $200 and run every day of the week. The flight is only an hour and 20 minutes long. We do recommend booking with the more reputable companies. They seem to cancel flights less often and have more options if you need to move your flight.
Another way to get to Cusco from Lima is by the road. 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. From Cusco, travelers then take another bus or a train, taxi or tour group transportation up to Machu Picchu. Many opt to hike the entire way.
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
Things to See
Mysterious and visually stunning, seeing the well-preserved Inca city of Machu Picchu is a trip of a lifetime. But a trip to this beautiful part of Peru shouldn't only be about seeing Machu Picchu. Plus, you need a few days to acclimate before any trek. Here are some fun suggestions...
While everyone comes to Cusco to visit Machu Picchu, the city itself is worth a deeper look. The city was once the capital of the Inca Empire and still contains some of the most famous and important ruins that can be visited with a half day tour provided by Alpaca Expeditions.
Starting from your hotel, we will guide you to the Plaza de Armas. An important ceremonial site that has evolved over the years, the Plaza was once used for Inca festivals. Following the Spanish conquest, the plaza became the center of the city. Located in the plaza is the famous Cusco Cathedral. Featuring magnificent carved wood both inside and out, the cathedral is a favorite destination for anyone who comes to the area.
Next, you will walk to Q’oricancha: the Temple of the Sun. Formerly a temple dedicated to the Inca Sun god, a splendid Spanish church now sits on the ruins. Visitors will marvel at the differences between the two cultures’ architectural accomplishments.
This tour continues to the Inca site of Sacsayhuaman. A 25-minute bus ride transports you to this impressive fortress built by the Incas. Tens of thousands of laborers constructed the walls with huge blocks: some of the blocks weigh more than 100 tons. After you hear the history and details of the fortress from your guide, you can enjoy exploring this amazing site on your own. Later, take a short bus ride and you’ll arrive at the striking Incan altars of Q’enco in the Sacred Valley.
The last two stops are Puca Pucara (a military ruin) and Tambomachay (a water temple with impressive water fountains thought to be used by the Inca for bathing). Finally, you’ll be driven back to Cusco and can then reflect on the entirety of your incredible adventure. Perfect for visitors of all ages, this guided tour has so much to offer.
The Sacred Valley, along with Cusco, is the heart of the Inca Empire. It is also stunningly beautiful and contains some of the most important and beautiful ruins left from the Incas. Many people prefer to start their trip here since its lower in altitude than Cusco as well. There are lots of sites to see which can be done on your own or with Alpaca Expeditions.
This is a full day, beautiful tour with lots of stops including an Alpaca farm, Pisaq ruins, Pisaq handicraft market and Ollantaytambo fortress. Make sure you have comfortable shoes and lots of money, this is the best place to buy souvenirs.
Visiting the Sacred Valley is a great way to begin your Inca education. Farming was extremely important to the Inca civilization. Moray was used as a farming laboratory during the Inca times, built like a amphitheater with a circular terraces, allowing them to test out different conditions for growing different crops. Each area of the circle has different amounts of sun, temperature, altitude, weather conditions. It led to many advancements and allowed them to be extremely successful. Maras are salt pools that are still being used today. There are over 3000 pools carved into the mountain side, each one owned by a different family. This tour typically leaves at 8:30AM and back in Cusco before lunch time.
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.
Enjoy Peruvian cuisine
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.
Pisco Sour - 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!
Pisco Macerations - 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.
Celebrate in one of our many fiestas/parades
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.
When to Go: High season is June through September. January is the height of rainy season and the Inca Trail is closed in February. For near-ideal weather and manageable crowds, consider a spring or fall trip.
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 Huaynapicchu 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 Huaynapicchu 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 Huaynapicchu and one when you leave Machu Picchu.
HOW TO BOOK
For all of our treks and tours we require a deposit of $200 per person, the balance is payable when you arrive to Cusco. Please note that all of our tours are priced in US currency.
We use PayPal for sending deposits, that way you can use your credit card. PayPal charges a 5.5% service fee (for the international transfer), so the total deposit per person ends up being $211 per person and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our PayPal page can be found here.
When we receive your booking form details and deposit via PayPal, we will send you a booking invoice and confirmation that we have received your deposit and your tour has been booked.
To protect your travel investment, we highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance. Obtaining travel insurance before you leave home is strongly encouraged and very easy. In fact, we work with a great agency in the United States that has helped to make it easy and affordable. This is a great way to protect yourself while visiting Peru.
If interested in booking through our trusted partner, Ahart, Frinzi & Smith, CLICK HERE.