This was our first guided tour--we have done lots of Europe by DIY in a rental car--but decided that this trip would be better in a tour. It certainly was--Steve, the owner, accompanied our group of 16. The group was great!
We started in the trip in Lima--we had two extra nights (really one and half nights) at the hotel--El Tambo in the Miraflores section. Separate review of hotel has been submitted. It was in a good location, close to the cliffs overlooking the beach; the LarcoMar shopping center; Parque Kennedy, lots of shopping and restaurants. We had an excursion to the Plaza de Armas with a guided tour of the cathedral and monastery. We also stopped at the Larco Museum for a tour of its beautiful pottery collection and a quick look at the gardens. We had dinner at La Dama Juana--a buffet restaurant with a floor show with Peruvian dancers/dances. I thought the food was good to very good--you could get a little taste of everything. For me, the dancers were talented, but the show was TOO long.
The next morning we flew from Lima to Cusco. Wow--what a change in altitude in only one hour. We had taken a diamox to ward off altitude sickness--we were glad we had. Two or three of our group had splitting headaches. That afternoon we had a tour of the square, cathedral, and Saksayhuaman--an Incan ruin. Hotel was Terra Andina--good location, near a supermarket, and the mercado, and town square. Separate review for it.
The following day we were on the train to Machu Picchu. We left our luggage and dirty clothes at the hotel and took a backpack on the train as required by Peru Rail. After a very scenic 3 hour train ride--we were finally there! The drop in altitude cured the splitting headaches. We checked into the El MaPi hotel (the nicest hotel we were at for the trip). We went up to MP on the bus that afternoon. When we first got there, it started to rain--but by the time we all had our rain ponchos on it had stopped. The sun came out and it was beautiful. Pictures don't do it justice. We were all awe struck. I decided not to spend money on hiking boots or shoes--what a mistake--my wonderful walking shoes (I have two pairs of the same shoe) did not have the needed traction. Plus, I had planned to buy a walking stick after we got up there--could not find one--and should have brought one from home. I am klutzy and afraid of walking down steep trails/steps and had a hard time. The next day, the intrepid had 7 AM reservations for the hike up Wayna Picchu--two of the women made it up and back in 55 minutes! In the afternoon, we met up with everyone and for a planned hike to the Sun Gate--I bailed at the first stop and stayed there and people watched. The hike unfortunately ended in a rainstorm and no view at the Sun Gate due to the clouds. We spent another night at the El MaPi (separate review).
The next day we were up early to catch the train to Ollaytambo. We exited the train and got on the bus for a tour of the Sacred Valley, including the animal preserve that has a puma, llamas, alpaca, condors, and the national dog of Peru (an overgrown Chinese Crested kind of dog). Back to the Terra Andina for one more night. We also stopped at the Pisaq market--I really didn't see anything that you couldn't buy in Lima, Cusco, MP, or Puno. Prices seemed to be the same (or the price that you could negotiate to was pretty much set) for these items no matter where you were. By the end of the trip, we felt that most of the items were not Peru handicrafts, but made in China without a label.
Up early again the next morning for a long, but scenic drive to Puno. We had two nights in Puno--with the full day spent on Lake Titicaca. We had a guided tour of the floating islands and then lunch on Taquile Island. The customs of the locals were very interesting and I think tourism is the only thing that is keeping them that way. One of the houses on the Urqos floating islands had cable TV and a radio!
We all had the same flight out of Juliaca back to Lima. We had a morning to sleep in, goof off, shop, check out the cathedral, and most of us went to the main square at noon to check out the parade of the local schools and police. We then had a bus tour to a look out in Puno and then to the Sillustani funeral towers near Lake Umayo. Then onward to the Juliaca airport for our return to Lima and the end of the trip.
Everyone had a red-eye out but us. We used B and B de Enrique (really K I K E but Tripadvisor doesn't like it as it is a pejorative) for overnight. Excellent for our needs.
Steve is changing up his tour to Peru next year--starting it in Cusco and ending in the Amazon rather than Puno. Several in our group hope to join him in 2014.
We really enjoyed our trip!