Peru in 9 Days (with Trafalgar)
Last year, I was able to convince my dad to go to Egypt with me with the tour company Trafalgar. This year, I did it again! Only this time we decided to go to Peru. As more and more visitors flock to Peru to visit one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, areas of Machu Picchu have started to be closed off to visitors. We felt it necessary to get there before it was too late.
We chose to go at the end of May because the rainy season was over and winter had arrived. Why would I want to travel to Peru during their winter? The answer is simple - less rain, less clouds at Machu Picchu. I wanted to make sure we had perfect weather.
Why not just organize my own trip? It’s hard to do three (sometimes more) trips a year and plan them all myself. I love having one already planned out for me. That way all I have to do is show up. Trafalgar does that. They are experts at planning trips with the perfect itinerary built to fit the most in the least amount of time. They are logistics masters. There’s no way I could have seen everything I did in Italy, Morocco, Egypt and Peru in one week if I were planning it on my own. Not only that, but in most cases, the tour director is a local. There are also local specialists to show you around in each city, town or village.
This was the Highlights of Peru tour. An 8-day tour, but we chose to book an additional day on the starting end of our trip.
Day 1 - Lima Arrival
Day 1 and Day 9 of this trip are travel days. We started out in Columbus at 6am and ended in Lima, Peru (Jorge Chavez International Airport) at around 8-8:30PM. You can probably find a better flight, but coming from Columbus, Ohio there are never any great flights. This travel time also included a 5.5-hour layover in Miami to and from Peru.
Booking an additional day with Trafalgar is easy. You just tell them you want it, and they do all of the bookings for you (hotel and transfer). Trafalgar was waiting for us at the airport in Lima to pick us up and take us to the hotel.
One thing to note about Trafalgar is that they tend to put you up in a hotel that is not in the city center. Our hotel, Lima Novotel, was located in the San Isidro area close to Miraflores. It took around 45 minutes to get to the hotel. I didn’t mind it being far from Lima city center because there were places in Miraflores that I wanted to see.
Flying in late that night was not a problem either because it allowed time for us to get some good rest to be up and moving early the next morning.
Day 2 - Miraflores & Trafalgar Tour Welcome Reception
The official Day 1 of the Trafalgar tour we started out on our own again. We had a buffet breakfast at the hotel, and then called an Uber Black to take us to Parque del Amor in Miraflores.
TIP: Pack a jacket.
The weather in Lima around this time is pretty much always overcast. It can be slightly chilly, but very humid. I took a jean jacket as a layer. After walking around so much, I was hot and didn't need the jacket anymore.
There are two reasons that I wanted to arrive in Lima a day early. One, the flights available to us were all arriving late in the evening, and we didn't want to miss the welcome reception. I have missed it before, and it's not a big deal if you do. However, it is just nice to meet the group you will be traveling with for the next week and get some additional information before the tour actually begins.
The second reason was so that I could leisurely explore and take some photos in Miraflores. We walked and explored the whole area. Miraflores has beautiful views overlooking the cliffs and coast. If you walk far enough you can visit the La Marina Lighthouse. We crossed the bridge, went down, crossed the street and went back up. Be prepared for lots of steps in Peru! (Keep in mind that you do have the opportunity for a short 15-20 minute visit to the Parque del Amor on the Lima Sightseeing day of the tour.)
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo
(30-min walk from the Parque Del Amor)
Trafalgar Welcome Reception and Dinner
The welcome reception was that evening around six. Our tour director made a joke about how there hadn't been an earthquake in a while which means there might be a big one soon. Little did he know...
That morning at 2:41 AM there was an 8.0 magnitude earthquake in northeast Peru. We felt it! The beds were shaking, the light fixtures were rattling, the doors were rattling… it was crazy! At first, I thought I was dreaming. Then I sat up and felt it again. I yelled to wake up my dad (lol). Needless to say, it took me a couple of hours to go back to sleep. The front desk said there was nothing to worry about and that it happens all the time in Lima. Now that it's over, I think that it's cool that we were able to experience that.
TIP: When in doubt, don’t freak out.
Tremors are normal in Lima.
Day 3 - Lima Sightseeing
Our second day of the tour was focused on the historical and cultural side of Lima. We visited the Cathedral of Lima and the Church of San Francisco with its catacombs. The catacombs were creepy but cool. Picture a LOT of human bones just piled onto each other. No photos were allowed inside either place.
The Palace of the Union was supposed to be part of the tour. However, there was a meeting with the Presidents from different countries taking place that day. So, the square was blocked off.
Next, we met Chef Ignacio Barrios at a local market where he showed us some of the fruits, vegetables and seafood that are often used in Peruvian cuisine. After a quick trip at the market, Chef Barrios welcomed us into his cooking school where we watched a cooking demonstration followed by lunch. This was the “Be My Guest” meal of the trip. Trafalgar started doing this Be My Guest experience in 2009. Travelers are invited into, in most cases, the home of a local for a traditional meal.
Before returning to the hotel where we had dinner on our own, we had a chance for a quick visit to the Parque del Amor.
Day 4 - Cusco, Pisac & Sacred Valley
This was an early day. Our flight to Cusco was not that early, but in Lima you must be at the airport 2 hours early for a domestic flight and 3 hours early for an international one.
As soon as we got off the plane in Cusco I started feeling the effects of the altitude. At this point, it was subtle, but as the day went on it got a little worse. I had extreme stomach pains and a migraine. It is important to do your research regarding what to do to help remedy and prevent altitude sickness. This is another plus of traveling with a local expert as your director. They can take care of you and will know what to do in an emergency. One woman in our group ended up needing supplemental oxygen.
Our first stop was Awanakancha - a sanctuary to llamas, alpacas and vicuñas.
Sonesta Hotel Posadas del Inca Yucay
We stayed at Sonesta Hotel Posadas del Inca Yucay for the night. This was by far the prettiest hotel we stayed at! It was once an 18th century colonial-style monastery.
Dinner at the hotel was great. We tried alpaca. I would compare it to pork chops.
Day 5 - Ollantaytambo & Machu Picchu
This morning we climbed the Ollantaytambo Inca ruins before hopping on the PeruRail Vistadome train to Machu Picchu.
PeruRail Vistadome Train
TIP: Pack light.
Only small bags are allowed on the train. My dad and I took our backpacks.
Trafalgar took our larger bags to the hotel we would be staying at the following night when we returned to Cusco. The train was cool because not only were there windows on both sides of the train, but also above. They gave us small bites to eat on the way there.
I tried the coca tea too. It helps with altitude sickness. People living in the mountains chew on the leaves too. NOTE: If you have a drug test for a job or sports - it will show positive for drugs because one of the components that is in the coca leaf is what they use to make cocaine (I know - wild, right?).
Machu Picchu Day 1
The drive up to the ruins was insane. I kept saying that the whole way up! Dad, holy shit. Dad, this is crazy. Dad, we are literally in Jurassic Park. I did not expect what I saw at all. It was like a movie. So vast. I mean really, it was Jurassic Park vibes (lol). Once we reached the top we were split into three groups and given a guide. You are able to stay with the guide or go off on your own. We did both.
El MaPi Hotel by Inkaterra
Our hotel while in Machu Picchu was El MaPi. El MaPi is a cute, contemporary hotel located in Machu Picchu village (or Aguas Calientes). It is an updated hotel. Our room was small, but the beds were comfortable. I really enjoyed staying and dining with the group there.
Day 6 - Machu Picchu & Cusco
This morning there was an optional, 6AM, second Machu Picchu visit. Daniel, our guide, led the hike to the sun gate. The hike is approximately one hour up and one hour down. My dad and I chose not to go all the way up because we wanted to have more time to see some parts of Machu Picchu we hadn’t had the chance to see the day before. We did end up hiking halfway to the sun gate though. The halfway point was not bad at all to get to, but my knees were in bad shape on the way down.
After Machu Picchu we boarded the train to head back to Cusco with a stop along the way to sample some Peruvian beer.
We were on our own for dinner that night, so we went to Papacho’s for a burger. Papacho’s sits along the Plaza de Armas. The plaza was beautiful at night.
Day 7 - Cusco Sightseeing & Maras and Moray Excursion
The first half of this day was all about Cusco.
(Sounds like “sexy woman” lol)
Cusco Views From Above
Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas
Cool to see, but again - no photos inside.
Qorikancha (Temple of the Sun
Maras and Moray
One of the things I was looking forward to the most on this trip was the Maras and Moray optional excursion. Trafalgar offers optional experiences on every tour. What is nice about these optionals is that you don’t have to pay ahead of time. You can pay when you arrive in the country (usually the last day or so of the tour). This was the only optional experience we did this trip.
Salineras de Maras
These salt mines are incredible. They mine salt here the same way the Incas did it over 500 years ago.
TIP: Look out the car window and down!
In photos you can’t see how many salt pools there actually are. Looking down from above when you’re driving to and from gives you a better view.
TIP: You can taste the water from the stream running through the pools, but do not taste the salt.
There is no iodine in the salt.
These circular shaped ruins are a so-called agricultural lab where it is believed that the Incas used the terraces to test grow crops at difference temperatures.
Regional Meal at a Local Restaurant
Dinner was a buffet that consisted of many things including Cusquenian dishes. We also enjoyed traditional dance performances and live music. Oh, and we tried guinea pig. It’s normal to eat it there.
Day 8 - Return to Lima
This morning we took a flight back to Lima. We were able to rest in the hotel for a few hours before heading to Larco Museum.
So beautiful! That’s all I can say. I really wish I had gone here on our free day in Lima because the flowers in the garden were beautiful. We were broken up into groups and given a guide to walk us through many Peruvian artifacts in the Museum, giving us a great history lesson.
Our farewell dinner was served in the museum’s garden restaurant.
Day 9 - Depart Lima & Head Home
Time to say goodbye to this beautiful country. Like I mentioned before, international flights out of Peru you must be at the airport 3 hours early. So, we had to leave the hotel very early for our 8am flight.
I loved Peru. I truly had no idea how stunning and mystical this country was. And I did not even scratch the surface. There is still so much to see there. Something that really stuck with me about Peru was the Peruvian Philosophies. I am a very spiritual person, and they are very much so too. If you want to know more, please check out my tour director Daniel’s youtube channel here.
There were a lot of destinations I saw online that I had hoped to visit while in Peru, but time wouldn’t allow it on top of this tour. So, of course, if you have more time - spend it! Peru is beautiful and is worth the deep dive.
Last, but not least, I want to thank Trafalgar (not sponsored) for another amazing trip. I will see you on another tour next year!