Peru: Cusco, Sacred Valley & More
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Thursday Apr 26th: Bus drive from Puno to Cusco
For anyone wondering what the best and easiest way of getting from Puno to Cusco is & whether it is safe or not, well I can vouch that this is the most comfortable and easiest way of doing it.
We were picked up by our guide and dropped off to the bus terminal for 6:30AM. The bus company was called Turismo Mer. We left at 7 sharp. Wifi was available on the bus. Drink service. We even had assigned seats. It was very comfortable and the day seemed to fly. They look like green ants as Jerry and I named them :)
It had thundered like crazy overnight in Puno. I love it because in the mountains its such deep rumbling sounds. So nice for sleep. It poured rain and even ice pelleted & hailed. Through our drive in the mountains everything was white from all the hail. Very pretty sights along our drive out.
But we also had to drive back through the crazy busy hub of Juliaca. One of the unsafest cities of Peru, with a lot of criminal activity and poverty. As usual, its traffic chaos and everyone trying to go at the same time!
During our drive up we had five stops along the way, including a lunch.
Our first stop was at Pucara at 3860m (12,664 feet). We stopped for 35 minutes for a museum tour (all about the Inca’s and a sacred site). Bathroom stop, shopping and onwards.
Second stop: La Raya - the highest point on this drive (4335 m) 14,222 feet
Where the “Altoplano” or High Plains or Plateau ends and meets the Andes Mountains. La Raya means “The Line”. We stopped 11:10 for a quick photo opportunity of the Andes and where the plains end. There were mega vendors selling alpaca goods at this spot.
Aqua Florida is a liquid like an essential oil where you rub it on your hands and then smell it and rub it on your forehead and behind the ears. This opens up your lungs and breathing to help with altitude. We were given this a few times on the bus to help with altitude.
Third stop: Sicuani for lunch. 11:45 - 12:30 at 3540 m (11,614 feet)
Nice buffet lunch with decent food. Also a waterfall and an alpaca and a llama for photo opportunity and to have some fun with.
Fourth Stop: Raqchi 3175m – 10,417 feet)
We continued for 45 minutes then stopped for another tour at Raqchi to tour Wiracocha’s Temple. We did a walking tour around the site. Its said to be one of the biggest archaeological sites ever. The enormous structure is over 302Ft long and 84ft wide. When the Spanish found this site, they destroyed most of it. It was quite amazing.
Fifth stop: Andahuaylillas (3093m – 10,148 feet)
Stopped and got a tour of San Pedro’s Church in a small town. Stayed half hour or so. It was raining here. There were beautiful tall palm trees and massive 400 year old trees in the town square with vendors lined along one street. We didnt have time to shop though.
Passed by the Inca gate. Arrived in Cusco around 5pm right on time. Traffic was bad as everywhere in Peru but it didnt take too long to get through downtown. And that ended our tour and travels with View Peru & Signatures company. I was so pleasantly surprised at the safe and comfortable bus trip and thankful we arrived safe in Cusco! And on to our next 11 day adventure!
A new rep was waiting for us from Alpaca Expeditions who we will be with for the next 11 days. He took us to our hotel Rumi Punku, (Means Stone Gate and also was a university for the Incan’s).
We checked in and settled in. This is the smallest room we’ve had yet but still OK. Really nice on the outside, the interior courtyards and the way its built.
We went out to a pizza place La Bodega 138. Very nice ambience at this restaurant and highly recommended especially for the gringos. Jerry was feeling much better so he joined us. We shared a pizza and had a drink.
We then walked all around the center for an hour or so. Cusco has very narrow cobbled steep streets. Its crazy full of tourists and cars, not to mention 500,000 of their own people. And a ton of shops full of local crafts and alpaca products. It sits at Altitude 3399m (11,152 feet).
Friday April 27th: Cusco & Sacred Valley
We got picked up at 8 by Ruben our guide and our driver Javier. Off we went in our private van for just the three of us for the entire day. We first stopped for a panoramic view of Cusco and got a history lesson about the city. Ruben Sandwich (as he refers to himself) is hilarious - he has many stories to tell & he made our tour quite fun. Cusco was built from year 1100-1250, Sacred Valley in year 1250 & Machu Picchu in 1300. Cusco was the capital of the Inca’s but later they discovered the Sacred Valley and realized this was a much better spot for farming and living.
We headed to the Sacred Valley. We made some stops along the way. First at Awanacancha, a weaving center and alpaca farm. More alpaca and llama photo ops here. It was perfect beautiful weather today.
To give everyone an idea of how big these condors are!
We then continued to Pisaq Inca Ruins which is the beginning of the Sacred Valley. The terraces were used for planting potatoes and corn for the Gods. They planted for the Gods, for Pachamama and for the royals & the upper class. We stopped and hiked all around the terraces and buildings/homes at this sacred site.
Around 1pm we stopped at Hacienda Punka Punku Restaurant for lunch. We had to pay here, 45 soles each ($15) but lunch was a huge buffet with quite a few options and it was pretty good.
We then drove to Ollyantaytambo, an Incan checkpoint, where they protected Machu Picchu against any enemies. This is the best example of an intact Incan village with its waterways running through the quaint streets of town. We hiked all around the terraces and sites.
Our last stop was at Chinchero where there is a real authentic textile market. Chinchero ladies showed us how they clean and dye their wool. How to make their own colors from natural products and how they hand weave blankets and runners, etc. I was upset as I left my camera with the driver thinking this was just another vendor place, so these photos are all taken with my iPhone - which isn't the greatest.
The ladies were so fun and had such great character. One spoke English perfectly and she teaches the other ladies english. I bought a beautiful blanket and we photographed with them.
Friday May 4th: Cusco Rest Day and City Tour
The day after our Salkantay Hike and Machu Picchu was completed, we chose to have our first rest day as we thought we would get to sleep in & chill out a bit. But we woke up at 5:30 as none of us could sleep in! HA! So after breakfast we leisurely walked the center square and did some shopping. We went to San Pedro market, the oldest one here. I am getting better at talking and bartering in Spanish. Came back around 11:30 and got Jerry and then went for lunch. Found a hole in the wall down the street and had a nice avocado sandwich with homemade fries. It was very good.
We were picked up by a new guide, Yoel. Off we went on a walking tour of the center. We walked around Plaza de Armas and went inside the cathedral. Then we went to Q’oricancha, the Temple of the Sun. This was the key spiritual center of the Incas, which leads to all four quarters of the Inca Empire.
We were then picked up by our driver & drove to another Incan site just outside of the city called Sacsayhuaman (OR some pronounce it as “Sexy woman”)! Walked around the ruins and marvelled at the massive stones and how they were cut to fit so perfectly.
Next we drove to Quenqo Inca site to check out some altars & where they performed the mummifying process.
Then to Puca Pucara; a small circular site. And finally, to Tambomachay the temple of water.
We were dropped off around 6pm at the hotel. A full day and we were all dragging our butts a bit but decided to do a quick change and freshen up and then we headed out for dinner. We settled on the Irish Pub, Paddy’s. It was a great atmosphere, lots of people. Surprisingly not expensive so we sat there for a couple of hours and had some good conversation, food and drink.
Saturday May 5th: Our Last Day - Maras Salt Mines, Moray & Chinchero
Our last day in Peru! After three weeks of non stop touring it was hard to believe it was almost over.
We had another early wake with breakfast and then a pick up again by Yoel and driver David. We went out of the city for about an hour. Stopped at Chinchero first, the same town we stopped in when we did Sacred Valley and where the local women showed is how they make the textiles. This was a different group of women but had basically the same stuff. Yoel actually is from this town and his parents live here. I bought a nice sweater and Jerry bought one for his wife. We also saw some Inca terracing where the entire Incan civilization got their potatoes from here. We then carried on for another hour or so to the Salineras/Maras salt mines. It was extremely cool. Our first glimpse of the salt pools, looking down as we snaked along the mountainous road towards the main building below.
There are 3000 salt pools which are owned by the local farmers. Each little pool or square is owned by one family. The higher the salt mine is situated the more prominent the family is. Yoel explained how the salt is naturally extracted from the water which flows from the mountains. These pools have become the main economic activity for all the locals.
We then went to Moray Inca Archaeological center where the Incan’s studied farming at this location. They built terraces and experimented with different vegetables.
On the drive back I was glued to the window, taking in the scenery and trying to grab photos of the local farmers working the fields.
And another long day or touring and learning came to an end. Just before we got back to Cusco it started to pour rain with thunder and lightening. What perfect timing.
We re-packed again and got ourselves ready for our flight home tomorrow. We headed out to dinner one final time there and found another hole in the wall. A restaurant called T’oqo Kachi. It was actually very good. John got a spicy beef stew of sorts and Jerry and I got pizza which neither of us could finish. We were just so full and tired at this point!
We then wandered the shops and finished our shopping. Got a funny llama harley T-shirt for Phil which we searched for days and I finally found it!
We bought a blanket for Tash. I bought a bunch of Muna and Coca tinctures and salves. And we said our goodbyes to Jerry and that ended another crazy adventure that we can check off our bucket list! Peru! You were a fantastic & beautiful experience! Check and Done!