Thursday, October 16, 2014

2014 - Peru (Trip Report)

Peru, a place where people travel from all around the world to visit Machu Picchu, one of the 7 Wonders of the World. We spent 16 days there (plus 2 days to get there and back) and it is a great place to visit.

View of Cusco
For our trip, we visited Lima and Cusco, although from my talks with friends, it sounds like there are a number of other places to visit.  Based on my experience and personal preference, I would say that Lima is skippable and just focus on Cusco.

Realize that you will be spending a lot of time haggling whether you are catching a cab or buying souvenirs.  I personally found a lot of joy doing this whereas Allison would just leave the bargaining to me.  I would say, haggle everything starting at 50% off what they say and go from there (you are probably still being ripped off at this point).

Cusco is an amazing city that is full of history and scenery.  It was nice walking in a city where all major franchises that I know don't have a huge presence here.  Only in the main square (Plaza de Armas) did we see Starbucks, McDonalds and KFC.

Cusco's main square
The two specialty dishes to try are alpaca and guinea pig (known at cuy).  They are worth trying, I enjoyed the alpaca and Allison really liked the guinea pig.

Alpaca Expeditions (4 day Classic Inca Trail), $615 USD (haggled them into providing us with free sleeping bags which are normally $20 USD since there were 3 of us on the trip).  I have no problems recommending this company based on our 4-day Inca Trail hike.  Herlin who was our tour guide was great, has a lot of knowledge behind the history of the Incans.  The crew of porters works well together and it was great to see that they would work as a group.

Pantiacolla (7 day Manu Biosphere), $1,270 (originally $1,370, got them down to $1,270 with some haggling).  Jose was a great tour guide.  He was very knowledgeable and had great eyes and ears for finding animals and insects.  Pantiacolla are very responsive to emails and generally get back to you within the day with any questions that you have.  My only issue after doing the trip is that you spend a lot of time traveling.  I had an idea of how long it would be, but when you are stuck on a boat/bus for a long period of time with no form of entertainment (unless you spot animals), it lessens the excitement (not that there's anything you can do about it).

City: Cusco
Accommodation Name: Hostel Wara Wara
Cost: roughly $60 USD a night
Verdict: wouldn't recommend

159 steps up from the main square, it is quite the trek uphill when you have just arrived and are trying to adjust to the altitude.  The place could use a bit of cleaning up.  It isn't refined in how it could be presented, but for the price, there isn't much to complain about.  The included breakfast was nothing special, came with bread, scrambled eggs and 2 slices of sausage (yes, slices of sausage).  While there, I did notice that when it rained, there was an area in the main lobby that was leaking a bit, but it may be fixed by now.  I do wish that I could say the same about the water situation.  Due to altitude (I think), the water pressure sometimes stops and that means no water.  They need to restart the machine but that might mean, in the middle of your shower, you may suddenly lose water (happened to me).  Based on that, I wouldn't recommend it.

City: Cusco
Accommodation Name: Wifala Thematic Boutique
Cost: roughly $52 USD a night
Verdict: no problem recommending it as long as you don't mind the 20 minute walk to the main square

Situated roughly 20 minutes away by foot from the main square.  While it sounds far, it actually isn't too bad when I think about how much time we must have spent walking up the stairs to Wara Wara.  The rooms are small but more than enough room for us and the showers and service was top notch.  The front reception did change on us a few times, so when we first arrived, the receptionist was great with directions and English, the other one spoke English but not to the same level.  The included breakfast was good and the server for breakfast was always the same and we had no problems communicating.

City: Miraflores (in Lima)
Accommodation Name: Tierra Viva
Cost: roughly $100 USD a night
Verdict: no issues recommending it.

Tierra Viva (roughly $100 USD a night).  Great location within Miraflores and the staff are very helpful and knowledgeable about the area.  The place is clean and spacious with a king size bed.  The breakfast buffet was delicious and with a great spread.  I wouldn't have any problem recommending them.


I have only included the attractions that we had to pay to get in.  I did not include the markets or squares that you would likely visit while you are here.

City: Cusco
Name: Cusco Planetarium
Cost: 50 soles

Cusco Planetarium
Worth a visit if you are into astronomy and worth it even if you aren't.  I found the information provided to be pretty fascinating although a fair amount of it was covered during our Inca Trail hike.  The planetarium is home grown and you can tell but it doesn't take away from what it is and when we got to see the stars and Saturn at night, it was worth it.

City: Cusco
Name: Salinas (salt pans)
Cost: 7 soles

Well worth a visit if you are coordinate a way to visit.  It was really interesting to see thousands of salt pans and try to understand that this is how this country creates and exports salt.

City: Cusco
Name: Ollantaytambo
Cost: Included in the boleto turistico

Very cool Incan ruins that you would read up on the history before going to.  The views at the top are quite stunning and you can send quite some time here if you are interested.

City: Cusco
Name: Chincero
Cost: Included in the boleto turistico

Skippable in our opinion.  It is a nice town, but I noticed that we saw very similar markets and terraces that make this a stopping point.

City: Cusco
Name: Moray
Cost: Included in the boleto turistico

Well worth a visit if you are doing this tour.  I thought this place was really fascinating for about 30 minutes that we were there.  Just to walk down to the bottom to get a sense of the scale of the site was great.

City: Cusco
Name: Pisac
Cost: Included in the boleto turistico

This place is enormous and if you can, I would focus most of your time here if you are traveling to the sites within the boleto turistico.  This places has a set of ruins of a small town and endless amounts of terraces on the side of the mountain.  We didn't get enough time here since it was our last destination and I wish that we could have had more time here.

City: Lima
Name: El Circuito Mágico del Agua

Cost: 4 soles

El Circuito Magico del Agua
If you are in Lima, this is probably one of the places that you will end up visiting.  It is easily worth the cost of admission although the show was a bit of a let down for us.  The other water fountains easily make up for it though.  Do try to eat before you go because the shops inside are very disappointing.

City: Cusco
Name: Divina Rosa

Divina Rosa's menu
Divina Rosa, cheap meal but cheap for a reason.  A 4 course meal for 12 soles, the food comes out warm but good value.  If you want something cheap, it isn't a bad choice.

City: Cusco
Name: Inka Grill

Alpaca steak from Inka Grill
Located in the main square of Cusco, I was worried that it would be a cash grab and based on reviews, I thought it would be okay, I was wrong.  There is nothing wrong with the food here nor is the service bad, but it is just really expensive for what you get.  This definitely feels like a tourist trap and we had much better food elsewhere.  Entrees were roughly 60 soles.

City: Cusco
Name: Kushka Cafe

Us at Kushka
Located just 5 minutes away from the main square, we really enjoyed this little shop.  The food that we had was delicious and wasn't very expensive.  We liked it enough that we actually went twice.  Entrees were roughly 30 soles.

City: Cusco
Name: La Cusquenita

Guinea Pig from La Cusquenita
If you ask ANY local, they will be able to direct you to this joint.  If that isn't a sign that this place has great food, I don't know what is.  Go for the a la carte meal and you won't be disappointed.  Make it before noon and you may end up watching a free show as well!  Entrees were roughly 25 soles.

City: Cusco
Name: Uchu

Uchu's steak
Want steak?  Want it on a hot stone?  This is your place.  They serve steak on a hot stone where you can cook the steak to your liking and it was fantastic.  I'd recommend going for a view if you want some steak.  Steaks were roughly 45 soles.

City: Lima
Name: Salon Capon

Salon Capon dim sum
Located in Chinatown, it was suggested by Lonely Planet and while it was decent Chinese food, I don't know if I would suggest making your way here unless you were in the area.  We ordered dim sum here after two weeks of Peruvian food and it was good enough to satisfy our cravings.  Our dim sum order of 4 dishes was 35 soles.

City: Lima
Name: Mangos

Us at Mangos
In Larcomar is Mangos, a restaurant that is built into the side of the cliff.  If you like, you can eat outside where you have a fantastic view of the coast.  The food was nice and the view was great.  The entrees were roughly 45 soles.