Updated: Jul 27, 2019
From walking the strenuous hikes of Salkantay, to being on top of the world at the majestic Machu Picchu, sandboarding the vast desert of Huacachina, salivating over every dish in Lima, and drifting across the serene Lake Titicaca, my trip to Peru awakened all my senses to boundless levels.
My friend Maria invited me to Peru and of course having the travel bug fresh from Africa in February, I jumped at the opportunity. Maria organized our groups itinerary and it couldn’t have been more perfect!
After my flight from Los Angeles to Lima, we stayed at the airport to catch our flight from Lima to Cusco. We wanted to conquer Machu Picchu first so we can relax the rest of our trip. Once we arrived in Cusco tired from our long flights we settled at our hotel and headed out to grab a bite to eat. We fell victim to hunger and had a lapse of judgement by going to the first place that was recommended, La Cusquenita. The cebiche and Lomo saltado were decent but there are better options for sure. Lunch wasn’t our favorite but the restaurant we went to for dinner was heavenly. We ate at Inka Grill not only once but twice. The first time we went I ordered quinoa soup because they recommend eating super light the night before you start your trek. The second time I ordered the lomo saltado. They have delectable food and drinks and would recommend it 100 percent. We closed the night feeling satisfied and ready for bed.
From Cusco we were picked up at our hotel through our tour guide to begin our Salkantay Trek. There are several treks you can take to get to Machu Picchu. Salkantay is one of highest and most stunning mountains in the Peruvian Andes. Also it is one of the more difficult treks. The altitude alone makes it severely hard as you always feel out of breath. Initially, I didn’t think it was going to be this hard but it challenged me beyond my imagination. There is no greater feeling than conquering the hours and hours of traveling through the andes to reach your tent for a good wipe down and kick off those hiking boots.
If you decide to do this trek I would highly recommend booking through Peru Leisure Travels. I’m obviously not being paid by them or sponsored in anyway. My friend Maria was connected through them directly in Peru. A lot of times Americans go through these third party companies and end up having to pay the middle man, so by booking directly with an agency in Peru we saved so much money. Also by doing so you are supporting Peruvians directly, in which they’ll take a higher cut for their time. It's just better all around.
The experience was amazing. We had other people in our group that booked with different agencies and we by far had the best of everything, from the hotels we stayed at to our trains being included as well as the option for Wayna Picchu. You can communicate with them through whats app and email. They are the best. From our agent to our tour guides I have nothing but nice things to say about them.
This is a list of items I would recommend bringing from home. Sleeping bags, tents, walking sticks (SO useful for going down hill), larger duffels can all be rented before you start your trek. Don’t worry if you forget anything from home as well, Cusco has everything you would need. Things like altitude medication are readily available and the tour guides are also prepared with coca leaves to combat any illness.
Hiking Boots/ Makes it easier to navigate through the terrain so you won’t slip // here
Day Backpack/ Peru Leisure Travels provides a duffle for you to put your extra stuff in that you won’t need for the day while your hiking so all you need is a small rucksack to fit day essentials// here
Lightweight down jacket/ its light and compact enough to carry in your small backpack and keeps you warm from the drastic weather changes you encounter/ here
Swimsuit/ We got the chance to go to the hot springs on day 4 of our trek/ here
Camera/ Capture all the beautiful scenery and document your unforgettable journey/ here
Flip Flops/ With your feet throbbing after the strenuous hike you’ll want to slip out of those bulky shoes and free your feet/ here
Hiking Socks/ Merino wool regulates temperture and protects your feet from developing blisters/ here
Lightweight hat/ Helps protect your face from the harsh sun, better if its lightweight because of the long hour hikes and keeps you less sweaty/ here
Sleeping bag liner/ Peru Lesiure Travels provides a sleeping bag for a very small additional fee which allows for more space in your luggage so all you need is a liner. Temperatures drop really low at night plus since is a borrowed sleeping bag in nice to have a liner/ here
Headlamp/ makes it easier for getting ready in the morning since you start before suns out. Also useful for going to the restroom in the dark/ here
Toilet Paper/ Although there are outhouses and proper restrooms throughout the trail, toilet paper is hard to come by
Bug repellent/ There are mosquitos everywhere so unless you want to be eaten alive, this is dire. (The mosquito repellent bracelets help too)/ here
Sunscreen/ You should be wearing this everyday, but especially when you’re outdoors all day in the sun/ here
Body Wipes/ Camping, no showers, dirt and sweat. 5 days. Need I say more?/ here
Lip SPF/ We tend to forget about our lips but with the wind and sun in the andes you can’t. This baby saved mine/ here
I’ve left out some obvious things like your workout clothes for the 5 days. Layers are key so bring a few pairs of pants or capris, dry-fit tops, and a sweater. Your usual toiletries like deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste.. etc. Water is of course needed but you can buy along the trail. 32 Oz is good to start with because water tends to get pretty heavy. They have stands throughout Salkantay where you can purchase water and snacks. Also some nights where we set up camp you can purchase as well, so no need to try to bring so much water inititally.
This is just what I packed for the Machu Picchu portion of our Peru trip. We were able to store our suitcase filled with the rest of our trip’s stuff at our hotel in Cusco which we would pick up when we got back from our 5 day hike.
Our itinerary included a 5 day 4 night trek to Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu was the best reward after our 4 day trek. The night before we were finally able to shower at our beautiful hotel, El Mapí in Aguas Calientes. We had a very delicious 3 course dinner with wine. We slept off our food coma and woke up at 4 am to catch the bus to Machu Picchu. You have the option to hike from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu but we figured we had enough hiking. We got on the bus and it was a 20 min ride to Machu Picchu. Its true what they say a picture doesn’t do it justice, go and see it for yourself! *Also Aguas Calientes had the best souvenirs, better than lima, I found very beautifully made throws. The textiles is what you’ll want to load up on. So beautiful.
We were able to get a spot to climb Wayna Picchu. You have to book this 6 months in advance because they only allow 200 people a day. It’s def worth climbing the very narrow (v scary) stairs to the top of elevations you thought you’d ever reach. The views of Machu Picchu from here makes it with the hour stair master session up.
From Machu Picchu we made our way back to Aguas Calientes by bus and got the Perurail train back to Cusco. From Cusco we took an overnight bus to Lake Titicaca. It was so relaxing after all that hiking we had done the past days. The sunrises and sunsets here are to die for. I would wake up early each morning here just to catch the beautiful sunrise. We took a day trip around Uros (the floating islands) and the island Taquile on our own private boat. Its so interesting to see how these civilians live.
We stayed at Hotel Libertador. Your standard hotel. Really great dinner here and gorgeous views
Best place we ate: Mojsa. Even tried the traditional guinea pig. The owner is from Minnesota and the nicest woman. She gave us all the best places to try in Lima.
Lima is one of the best foodie cities in the world. We really went in, ending every day and night in food comas.
El Mercado: Just order everything on the menu we basically did.
La Lucha: What I would do for a chicharron sandwich from here right now. This quick spot is an absolute must for lunch!
Central: 2nd best restaurant in the world. Its an experience for sure that I wouldn’t want to ruin any details, just check it out.
Isolina: huge and delicious portions so would recommend sharing family style
Ayahuasca Bar: Stylish place to grab drinks, make sure to check out all the rooms and try a pisco sour (of course)
One of my favorite things to do in Lima. Museo Mate is a museum in the Barranco district in Lima.
I really enjoyed this part of town because it has more of an artistic vibe. The museum was set up by famed fashion photographer Mario Testino. His beautiful work is displayed in this small museum. I loved all the Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell photographs. Don’t forget to stop at the gift shop, they make for the best souvenirs.
As far as Lima goes, I would say you would only need 3-4 days here. Aside from the food there isn’t a ton to see. The weather is generally quite grey and overcast so beaches are not an option.
-Visit the Plaza Mayor in the center of Lima
-Walk around the Barranco District
-Shop unique Peruvian fashion and gift items at Uno the store
Maria and I decided to do a day trip from Lima to Ica to sandboard the dunes and were met with this beautiful oasis. We booked this trip through our hostel in Lima, Pariwana. By bus it took us 4 hours to get there and 4 hours back.
Had to get one last lomo saltado in before we went back to the states, and tried the known Peruvian Chinese food for the first time. It did not disappoint.
I absolutely loved our trip and I thought we had the perfect itinerary. I would’ve spent an extra full day exploring Cusco if I could and also visit the Rainbow mountains, but nonetheless I feel as though I had an amazing overview since we were able to visit and do so much during our two week stay. Overall Peru is such a beautiful country with a myriad of adventure and landscapes, as ample as the multitude of potatoes that grow here (over 4,000 varieties!). The colorful textiles and delectable cuisine leaves your senses craving more once you return home, at least for me it did… this trip was everything and more.
Here is a video of all the fun we had!