I have been to the Great Wall of China, climbed through Angkor Wat, stood among the Himalaya, and nothing compares to the magic of this site. Unfortunately, Aguas Calientes is the end of the train tracks town you must stop at to reach Machu Picchu if you did not take the Inca Trail. The whole town smelled like bad eggs due to the mineral pools and was quite expensive compared to the rest of Peru. We chose to skip the $12 bus and walked the 1.5 hours straight up to MP, in strong humidity and rain, with steps up to a foot tall and just inches deep. Coming out at the top we felt something near spiritual at the site of the ancient city. It was like we had just ascended to something greater than man. Sadly, since my trip here in 2015, they have begun to limit the number of tourist and the hours spent within the city. This is great for the conservation efforts but it will only get more expensive and difficult to see as time goes on.
-skip paying for a tour guide and just linger near a group if something catches your eye, otherwise move at your won pace
-the Inca drawbridge is just a few sticks across a whole in the path and not worth the trek
-with train tickets and entrance fees, expect to pay $250 US per person
-we spent 7 hours there including the hike up and down, it felt rushed
-do not stay here as accommodations are over priced in the city
-if you go to the edges of town you can find buy one drink get 3 free at some bars, meaning you drink for about 50 US cents a drink
Here we stayed in a wonderfully drafty, and yet authentic, traditional Inca homestead. The town boasted a large amount of ruins and the main tourist hub was quite expensive ($35 USD). Upon local recommendation we hiked the opposite side of the valley for free, trekked up some steep but well made paths to ruins we could touch and climb, and saw not one person for the hours we were there. The town also boasted a chocolate museum and factory, as well as the entry way to Machu Picchu.
Easily in my top favorite cities in the world and possibly my favorite overall, Cusco sits at the base of the Andes and holds a vibrant population. The old style buildings and architecture are busily surrounded by a large indigenous population, sleeping dogs, and a vibrant nightlife. In contrast to the warmth of Lima, Cusco in April was full of rain and thunder storms. The massive open market was friendly, the hostels gave out free coca tea and every bar had a pisco sour happy hour. During the day you could find fresh pastries for pennies, have locals cook your meals in front of you for a dollar, and even get your Starbucks fix overlooking the Plaza de Armas.
-Stay at Pariwana for hot showers, free breakfast, free tea, social atmosphere and great staff
-Book train tickets for Machu Picchu here and instead of taking the tourist bus, take the local bus to Ollantaytambo for $5
-Walk everywhere, don’t be afraid to turn down offers from locals to party, and eat street food
-ATMs are widely available in Cusco, stick to Scotiabank for lower rates and to avoid scams
-Exchange rate in Cusco was the best we found in Peru, 3.33 Sol to 1 USD, just be sure to never accept torn or stained bills, and never exchange anywhere but a bank or local exchange desk
My goal with this blog is to demonstrate how I plan a trip, what I look for while traveling, and how to save money along the way. I am dirt cheap, but only getting better at writing and budgeting as I go. The search bar can be used to look up a specific country, city, or continent (Europe, Asia, South America, & North America so far), and feel free to contact me for additional tips or comment with any information I may have missed. I am currently looking for locations to backpack summer 2018, any ideas welcome! Hope the tips help and enjoy the read!