What to do Around Peru
Peru Trip: Wednesday, July 11th, 2018 - Monday, July 23rd, 2018
Salkantay Trek Dates: Monday, July 16th, 2018 - Friday, July 20th, 2018
Yes, I'm continuing to reminisce about the absolutely incredible time I had in Peru. While my primary mission was to trek to Machu Picchu via the five day/four night Salkantay trek with Karikuy Tours (read more here!), along the way I realized there is so much more to do in Peru than visiting Machu Picchu. BUT, don't get me wrong, Machu Picchu was life changing and you should totally visit!
Anyway, here's some activities to check out around the Cusco area while you're acclimatizing...
1. Get a Bird's Eye View of the Sacred Valley with Natura Vive!
One of the best things about blogging is partnering with companies to showcase experiences that are truly once-in-a-lifetime. When I heard back from Natura Vive I was over the moon. I had seen the Skylodge Adventure Suites all over social media and was determined to check them out before I left Peru. Liz from Natura Vive hooked Christa and me up with the Via Ferrata + Zipline package.We were picked up at our hostel in Cusco and taken to the Sacred Valley, received a safety lecture, and began climbing the Via Ferrata to the most incredible views. There were over 400 meters of Via Ferrata (1,312 feet) - pretty much straight up! What's a Via Ferrata you ask? Good question! A Via Ferrata is a mountain route equipped with steel cables, ladders, and other fixed anchors, for example suspension or cable bridges. We wore harnesses and had to clip in and clip out of numerous sections - safety first! Still confused? Watch a video here. The best part about our experience? When we were having lunch high above the Sacred Valley, one of the tour guides - Americo - gave us a tour of the capsules/pods!!! Honestly, one of the highlights of the trip. First we were taken into the pod in which guests have dinner and breakfast in.
Some of the guides were actually preparing that evening's meal when we visited. I long for the day I can drink a glass of wine complete with the views. Then we went into one of the three pods they have available for accommodations. One million star hotel is right! Each pod is hand crafted out of aerospace aluminum and weather resistant polycarbonate and each suite comes complete with four beds, a dinning area and a private bathroom. Since my dad had questions about the bathroom situation, maybe you do to. It turns out the toilets are dry ecological toilets (and sink), and yes, you can still enjoy the gorgeous views while sitting on the pot. You'd think a 24' x 8' x 8' capsule would feel small and claustrophobic but no, it was actually the opposite! The amenities and luxuries were bountiful - from a deck of cards to solar lights to coffee and tea - they thought of everything! I could've - and wished I would've - spent all day and all night in that pod but alas, it was time to start the decent. Luckily we didn't have to down climb over 1,300 feet. Instead, we had the thrill of ziplining down seven different lines ranging from 150 meters to 700 meters in length. We ziplined down for nearly 2,800 meters of fun! So while time and budgets did not permit a stay in the transparent luxury capsules that literally hang from the mountain in the Sacred Valley of Peru, I know I will 1,000% make this a priority the next time I'm Peru. If you're interested in the Via Ferrata, ziplining, having lunch in the capsule, and/or a night in the Skylodge Adventure Suites, check out Natura Vive's website here: http://naturavive.com/web/ and follow them on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/naturavive/
2. Take a Cooking Class at the Choco Museo!
There are so many different classes at the Choco Museo (with more being added!) that we actually took two different classes - the standard cooking class and the truffle workshop! We actually took the standard cooking class on our first day in Cusco which was a perfect acclimatization activity, despite our fatigue and overall exhaustion! Our instructor, Gabo, was the best! We started at the Choco Museo for a little briefing and then walked over to San Pedro Market where Gabo gave us a tour and we picked up local fruits, vegetables, and cheeses. The meats for our Aji de Gallina (chicken) and Lomo Saltado (beef) had already started the marinating process thanks to Gabo. We walked back to the museo and began preparing our ingredients. We also made our very own Pisco Sours - just one of the many highlights of the class. Since we had just arrived in Cusco, Gabo was a little weary about feeding us fresh fish (ceviche) so we skipped the ceviche in favor of an amazing corn/cheese soup. I opted for the Lomo Saltado while others prepared the Aji de Gallina. Dessert consisted of Choco Museo melted chocolate and fresh fruit for a scrumptious chocolate fondue. This four hour class ran us each $40 and was only one of the many Peruvian bargains! Our truffle workshop was still fun but I was 3x more exhausted during this class than I was during the cooking class as Christa and I had just gotten back from our epic day with Natura Vive! We spent two hours learning the techniques behind ganache truffles and shelled bonbons. We even got to make both kinds and take them with us. Sadly mine melted in Florida but I guess I didn't need those extra calories anyway, sigh! My last tip for the Choco Museo is to try at least one cup of their hot chocolate and one cup of their coffee - both were oh so tasty!
3. "Acclimatize" at Rainbow Mountain
Oh Rainbow Mountain. I will never understand why we decided to do Rainbow Mountain on our third day in Cusco. Nevertheless, we did, and I guess it's because we wanted to put a rush order on our acclimatization process and see how our training for Machu Picchu was actually going! We opted for Karikuy Tour's full-day trip to Rainbow Mountain, the same company we did the Salkantay Trek with. We were picked up from our hotel early Saturday morning (like 3 or 4am early) and were driven to the starting point of the hike at the foot of Apu Ausangate. We had breakfast at a local family's house before reaching the trailhead. It was cold at the trailhead but we quickly started warming up with every step towards Rainbow Mountain. We started at 4200 meters above sea level and went to about 5100 meters. I guess when you're acclimatized you can get to the top in about three hours. If your heart is about to burst out of your chest, it takes a little longer! All the while we walked through villages and amazing Andes landscapes. One of my favorite parts was of course the grazing alpacas and llamas. My second favorite part was actually reaching Rainbow Mountain and seeing the stunning colors and natural formations of minerals that give color to the mountain. My least favorite part? All the people. Even so - we made it!
4. Explore Salinas de Maras by ATV
Yep, another highlight. First, some background on the magnificent Salinas de Maras: while salt ponds are more commonly found on coastal plains and filled with saltwater from the incoming tide, the Salinas de Maras are special; they're at an elevation of 3,000 meters above sea level, a long way to the ocean. Alas, the mountain range was actually once part of the sea floor. The science behind tectonic plates astonishes me once more - the sea salt was locked into the rocks now making up the Andes and filters out through the Qoripujio spring. Absolutely incredible. Workers let water into their pool/pond by opening a notch in the side wall. When the pool crusts over, the worker uses a wooden baton to scrape up the salt to put into a basket to begin the draining process. Honestly, the entire visit was unbelievable; so much more interesting than I could have possibly imagined. The locals were selling the Maras salt in addition to various sculptures, made out of the salt. Almost equally as incredible was the fact we rode ATVs to near the Salinas de Maras, passing through small rural neighborhoods yet all the while surrounded by magnificent landscapes. Due to ATV/car accidents in the past, ATVs are now forbidden on the actual road down to Salinas de Maras so we had to take a van transport to the actual salt flats. After the salt flats we got back on the ATVs and drove to a breathtaking lake complete with mountain reflections. Check out Willka Travel for more information on the ATV tour.
5. Explore the City with a Free Walking Tour
We arrived in Cusco at 10:10am, were transported to our hostel, grabbed breakfast, and then started our free walking tour with "Free Walking Tour Cusco." After my first walking tour in Cuba, I now make it a mission to go on a walking tour in every new city I visit if time permits. Our guides name escapes me but he did a great job to give us the history of the oh so historical city of Cusco. I loved learning about how the Incas chiseled and built the stone walls and how the colonials built very colonial looking second floors on the Inca stones. The walking tour brought us to a number of areas we wouldn't have otherwise known to go, including an incredible view overlooking Cusco. We also went to a small market of sorts where a Peruvian man was playing Peruvian music and instruments, just absolutely beautiful sounds. Another highlight was, of course, seeing and holding a baby llama!!!
6. Hike to Machu Picchu!
I wrote an entire post here about our trek to Machu Picchu with Karikuy Tours. We did the five day/four night Salkantay Trek and it is actually one of my proudest achievements. I just typed that sentence and now I'm looking back on it and comparing it to earning a Masters Degree and some other pretty significant things I've done in my life. And, yes, it's true: trekking to Machu Picchu is one of my proudest accomplishments. It was physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging and yet all of that is overshadowed by the magnitude of Machu Picchu, the work of the Inca people, and the sense of achievement. If you're in Cusco, you have to find a way to get to Machu Picchu. It's one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, after all! If you can't hike or trek there, hop on the train and get to The Lost City of the Incas! You really must see the 100-acre complex of temples, warehouses, homes, irrigation terraces, and stairs that cascade down the mountain.
7. Eat to Your Heart's Content
After all that hiking and adventuring, we deserved to eat! There were three restaurants in Cusco that were notable to me. The first being "Cicciolina," the restaurant we dined at on our last night to celebrate the completion of Salkantay! Cicciolina is located on the 2nd floor of a colonial building and is said to be one of Cusco's best restaurants! I opted for a couple Pisco Sours, an amazing appetizer, a mushroom/truffle risotto based entree, and a super sweet dessert I couldn't fit in my stomach no matter how much I wanted to! My second favorite restaurant was recommended by Jeremy and our most frequented establishment... Chicha. I honestly think I was close to trying everything on the menu... At one point or another I had the following: White Corn Tamal, Alpaca Carpaccio, Mixed Ceviche, Pekin Guinea Pig, Firewood Pizza, Raviolis (with pumpkin and ricotta filling), and the Coffee Cream dessert. Nearly everything was to die for. My personal favorites were: the alpaca carpaccio, ceviche, ravioli, and the coffee cream dessert. Go to Chicha! Lastly, our go-to breakfast spot had an incredible view of the Plaza Mayor del Cusco, Papacho's. Let's just say - order the coffee, enjoy the view on the balcony, and devour the avocado and egg toast. Yum!
8. Get Some Rest & Relaxation
Now that we were fully exhausted from being on the go-go-go for the past 7+ days and we were in a food coma, now what?! Luckily God gave directions to rest "six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest..." I might go-go-go like a maniac, burn the candle at both ends, but when I rest, I rest. We booked 90-minute custom deep tissue massages at Samana Spa and I loved every second of it, especially when they mistakenly gave us facials! Our other form of R & R was preparing for success; planning to switch (upgrade) hotels for the nights before and after the trek. We opted for the Costa del Sol Ramada which was conveniently located across the street from our previous lodging (Ecopackers Hostel) yet much nicer! Private showers, full beds, room service, control of the heater - yes please! And with that I conclude with: Work hard, play hard.
Want to Replicate my Trip?
Here's a "rough draft" of our action-packed itinerary:
Day One: Wednesday, July 11th, 2018 - arrive in Lima around 10pm, transport to hostel (B&B Cusing Washi), sleep, return to airport circa 6am or so
Day Two: Thursday, July 12th, 2018 - arrive in Cusco at 10:10am, transport to hostel (Ecopackers Hostel Cusco), go on a free walking tour, take a cooking class, pass out
Day Three: Friday, July 13th, 2018 - have a thrill of a lifetime with Natura Vive, take a truffle making class, eat at Chicha, pass out
Day Four: Saturday, July 14th, 2018 - see if you're even remotely acclimatized by hiking Rainbow Mountain
Day Five: Sunday, July 15th, 2018 - have a "relaxing day" by taking ATVs to the Moras Salt Flats, have Salkantay Trek briefing
Days Six-Ten: Monday, July 16th, 2018 - Friday, July 20th, 2018 - Trek to Machu Picchu via the Salkantay Trail!
Day Eleven: Saturday, July 21st, 2018 - do laundry, buy souvenirs at the San Pedro Market, get a massage, celebratory dinner at Chiccolina
Day Twelve: Sunday, July 22nd, 2018 - get stranded in Cusco thanks to the weather and LC Peru and the devil, catch up on rest
Day Thirteen: Monday, July 23rd, 2018 - finally get to Lima, get amazing sushi, visit the cat park, spend way too much time at the airport, depart Lima after midnight (no thanks to yet another delayed flight!)
Day Fourteen: Tuesday, July 24th, 2018 - wake up in Florida... start another adventure...!
Interested in someone organizing a trip for you? Leave a comment below and let's connect!