Peru is an enchanting country with friendly people, amazing food and breathtaking ruins.
I visited Lima (one night), Cusco (two days), and Machu Picchu (one day), and Iquitos (three days). We went in August and had amazing weather. The best time to visit is during the Peruvian winter because it’s their dry season and less likely to rain – from May to September.
The question I asked the most before my trip to Peru and people ask me the most about my trip: Do you need to book your trip to Machu Picchu in advance? No.
Here is the longer answer. July and August is the high season to visit Machu Picchu. My internet research told me I should book something in advance to be safe. This is what we did. But what I found out when I got there is that you don’t need to – even during high season. Even though tour companies should not double sell tickets, they do. I could not get a clear answer, but my understanding is the government legally only allows about 3,000 tickets to be sold a day. These tickets are split between 6 a.m.-noon entry or noon-5:30 p.m. In reality, they sell about double this amount and about 6,000 people actually visit a day. This practice means that even if you don’t plan in advance, you can always buy a ticket when you get to Peru.
I like booking things in-country because you get much better local advice and can compare pricing for a competitive advantage. Remember my trip to the Atacama Desert in Chile? We booked all of our tours when we got there. Doing this method works well, but does require you budget some time to doing this instead of exploring.
Our time in Peru was limited, so we decided we would go ahead and book in advance. We booked our tour through Lorenzo Expeditions. The tour was pretty run-of-the-mill. Our group size was small. However, we were paired with a few Spanish-speakers so our guide had to keep switching between Spanish and English, which meant it took double the time to explain things to us.
I would have loved to have hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, but we didn’t have enough time. People we spoke with who did the trial said it was very challenging! If you are an experienced hiker and have the time, I would recommend doing the hike.
We spent a day in Cusco before travelling to Aguas Caliente, the small town at the foot of the mountain to Machu Picchu.
In Cusco, we stayed at the Ramada in the center of the city. The historic area is relatively small and easy to walk around. We spent a day exploring walking the art district, Plaza de Armas and San Pedro Market. On our way to Aguas Caliente, most tour companies will stop in the Sacred Valley. Our tour company also stopped at an animal rescue center, giving us an opportunity to feed llamas, watch Condors fly and purchase cruelty-free fur accessories (scarfs/hats).
When you get to Aguas Caliente, go to their food market, which is a two-story building close to the train tracks. On the first level, it’s a Peruvian farmer’s market selling vegetables, fruit and meat. On the second level, it’s a food court with local vendors selling amazing Peruvian food for only a few sol (their dollar). We made the mistake of eating at a restaurant, which will charge U.S. prices for food. We discovered the food court on our second day and only ate there for the rest of our time in Aguas Caliente.
Packing Tips for Machu Picchu:
- Wear layers – It’s cold in the mornings, but it will warm up throughout the day.
- Hiking Boots – Pack good hiking boots because there are so many trails and several mountains you can explore. We spent a full day on top of the mountain.
- Backpack – You have to leave Machu Picchu in order to use the restroom or purchase food and your tickets only allow for two entries. Bring a backpack and pack everything you think you’ll need for the day.
The last leg of our trip was Iquitos.
We stayed at the Irapay Amazon Eco-Lodge, which is at the edge of the Amazon rainforest. The lodge is nice and sterile like a resort. Unfortunately, my partner and I prefer to be closer to the wild. If you are like us, then I’d recommend you stay at the Treehouse Lodge. They book out really far in advance; therefore, I’d recommend you make your reservations early. We couldn’t get space for our travel dates, which is why we stayed at Irapay. We organized our jungle tours through the eco-lodge, including a boat tour to spot pink dolphins, explore primal forest and visit an animal conservation.
Any eco-lodge you stay at will offer tours so you don’t have to plan them as well.
Peru is a beautiful country, and I highly recommend visiting.