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Simple MP & surrounding area visit - best way to go?

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DC
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Simple MP & surrounding area visit - best way to go?

Hi everybody,

My mom & I are planning to go to MP next May. We're not hiking folk and are definitely creatures of comfort, so we don't mind paying a little extra for nice amenities and things of that sort. We also try to avoid group tours whenever possible and generally prefer to explore on our own - no pre-arranged group dinners or anything of the sort. We won't have very much time - maybe 5 days in Peru total, not counting flights in/out - so I'm trying to lay out the easiest possible route that won't have us spread too thin across too many sites. I have several questions:

1. How much time would you recommend we spend in Cusco on the way in? Day/night? Two days/one night?

2. Would two days be enough in Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu without rushing through it?

3. Is there any real need to go through a tour operator for train/bus/MP tickets? If so, which would you recommend? My Spanish is pretty much at que hora es level, but I presume that wouldn't really be a problem with that kind of tourist traffic?

4. Is there anything else between Cusco/Aguas Calientes/MP that we absolutely MUST see, given time constraints?

5. Finally, are there any particular hotels in either location that we should avoid at all costs?

Thanks very much in advance!

Lima, Peru
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for Cusco, Lima, Arequipa, Peru
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1. Re: Simple MP & surrounding area visit - best way to go?

You need a minimum of 4 days to visit Cusco and MP.

Arrive Cusco airport and go directly to the Sacred Valley for easier acclimatization process. Check this forum for recommended hotels in the area as you will find different alternatives of luxury and comfort, depending on your budget.

Visit a couple of sites for a day or two.

Book the train departing from Ollantaytambo and entrance tickets to MP as they sell out.

Get a guide at the MP entrance for private tour.

Get back in the afternoon to Olly and by taxi to Cusco city.

Visit the important sites in town.

Fly back to Lima and home

Kamloops, Canada
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2. Re: Simple MP & surrounding area visit - best way to go?

1) It all depends on what you want to see and do but I would say the bare minimum needed for Cusco is 2 days. My wife and I had 4.5 and felt we could have used more.

2) Again it will all depend on what you want to see and do. If you want to hike Huayna Picchu then Id say yes plan for 2 days at Machu PIcchu but if all you want to do is see Machu PIcchu 1 day will be fine. Dont worry about planning for time in Aguas Calientes. Besides its close proximity to Machu PIcchu it has very little to offer in my opinion unless you enjoy concrete tubs filled with hot water and more pizza restaurants than all of Italy.

3) Buying all this through a tour copany will be easier but you can arrange it all yourself with a little work.

4) Take the train to Aguas Calientes from Ollantaytambo rather than CUsco and sightsee in the Sacred Valley on the way there. Pisac (Market and Ruins) needs about a half day. The town of Ollantaytambo itself is quite the attraction as well as its fortress. In between Ollantaytambo and Cusco are Maras and Moray which need only an hour or so each and can be visited by taxi.

Iowa
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3. Re: Simple MP & surrounding area visit - best way to go?

We made arrangements with Pachamama Explorers to see Machu Picchu with their train tour. This was very easy. They buy the train tickets for you, the entrance tickets to Machu Picchu and the bus tickets up to MP. They will also make hotel reservations in Aguas Calientes for you if you want to stay the night. I also had them make our reservations in Ollantaytambo and they made arrangements for transportation from the Cuzco airport to Olly. I thought the price was very reasonable. We made our own hotel reservations in Cuzco, but Deborah at Pachamama can do those for you. She is very easy to work with.

Cusco, Peru
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4. Re: Simple MP & surrounding area visit - best way to go?

How much time to spend in Cusco? I say spend as much as you can. I have been living here since late Aug and we are still finding new sights to check out. Considering most tourists have a limited amount of time to spend here, my usual recommendation is to see Machu Picchu, Pisaq, Ollantaytambo and Saqsaywaman.

I defiantly recommend going through a tour operator for Machu Picchu, cost should be around $200 pp, the other sights are easily seen by hiring a taxi for the day ($50-$75)

xochitl and I differ on opinions as to where to start, I say stay in Cusco and save Machu Picchu for the end, allowing your body adjusts to the altitude in Cusco (higher than Machu Picchu) will make walking around Machu Picchu that much easier.

Austin, Texas
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5. Re: Simple MP & surrounding area visit - best way to go?

Holger was our tour guide for our trip to Cusco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. He was assigned to us through Intense Peru; please see separate review on this great tour operator. I was traveling with my wife and twenty year old daughter. I cannot say enough good things about Holger. His English is great, absolutely no issues communicating or understanding. He is very knowledgeable about Peru and its history. He is very experienced, having been a professional guide for more than 16 years. He was able to handle all situations from city tour to Inca trail trek with ease. His years of experience and knowledge (university degree in tourism) really came out during our 5 days with him. In addition, we found him to be kind, caring and very interesting. We really enjoyed our time with Holger. We have used private guides in many locations and found him to be one of the best. Please contact me if you would like his contact information.

San Diego...
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6. Re: Simple MP & surrounding area visit - best way to go?

This is all great information and helps me get started in planning. Thank you for all your posts.

My Fiance and I are headed to MP for part of our Honeymoon in May. Do any of you have any recommendations for MP tours/train tickets/MP starting from Urubamba? Currently our itinerary is to stay in Urubamba for 2 nights (to get acclimated to the altitude) and head to MP on day 3 with an overnight stay in Aguas Calientas, day 4 back to MP, head to Cusco that night and stay in Cusco for 2 nights.

Does this sound like a good, realistic itinerary?

Please let me know if I should start another post.

New York City, New...
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7. Re: Simple MP & surrounding area visit - best way to go?

I stayed in Cusco for most of the time. Stayed in Olly for two days before and after MP. Most people I talked to said that AC was a waste of time and money. I hink we could've went straight back home to Cusco after MP.

Virginia
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8. Re: Simple MP & surrounding area visit - best way to go?

No matter how much travel you have done on your own, Peru won't be an easy place to handle without help. I recommend Viajes Pacifico. We had excellent guides and good ground transportation.

They helped me through an emergency in a way I've never seen an agency perform before. Without them, I would have wasted valuable time.

On our way home we met people in the airport who had tried doing Peru on their own and had decided they couldn't do more and called their trip short. One problem is the altitude, which will definitely slow you down.

You should remember that when you get into the highlands of Peru, Spanish is not the native language. Quechea is. Most people can speak some Spanish, often not much, but only those in the tourist trade speak English.

Edited: 5:23 pm, November 29, 2012
california
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9. Re: Simple MP & surrounding area visit - best way to go?

If you are only going to Machu Picchu, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, there will be no shortage of English speaking people to assist you. It is a very easy trip to plan yourself. Your hotels can arrange for transfers to and from the airport, and local taxis. Guides can be arranged at the main sites, or in advance from one of the locals often recommended here (eg Percy Salas).

sherry, how did you wind up booking an 8pm flight back from Juliaca? Was that something a travel agency suggested for you? If so, I would blame them for your predicament rather than praise them.

Cusco, Peru
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10. Re: Simple MP & surrounding area visit - best way to go?

I would recommend one adjustment to your itinerary, on Day 3 spend the morning in Ollantaytambo, then take the afternoon train to AC, stay the night and then do MP the next day, this way you will have a full day at MP.

As mlgb said, you shouldn’t have any problem navigating on your own, in addition to English speaking locals; there are always other tourists that are usually happy to offer advice or direction.