South America, south america, Travel

Machu Picchu, Peru– How to Get There and Outsmart Altitude Sickness

My first world wonder. My first time in South America. A lot of first’s on this unforgettable trip that we were blessed to take for Myles’s 26th birthday, along with his mother and father. We explored Lima and hiked all the way up to top of Machu Picchu, taking in the rich history that was before our eyes.

I took this picture and happened to get an amazing shot of a complete stranger lol

Preparation

This trip required a ton of research. For those who don’t know, Machu Picchu is a trek to get to. I personally had no idea until I started diving in with my research. It’s not close to Lima at all, and you actually need to fly into a different city, Cusco, and then take a 3-hour train ride from there, so we knew it was going to be a mission and we had to plan the trip out carefully to make sure we had time to get there and back.

Also, the elevation in Cusco is 11,512 feet above sea level, while Machu Picchu is 7,972 feet, compared to Lima, which is only 505 feet above see level. This drastic increase in elevation can cause nose bleeds, headaches and elevation sickness. Upon reading this, I saw there was medication you could take to combat this. Myles’s dad, Mr. T, also did research and saw that there was a natural solution: chlorophyll. Apparently, if you added a couple drops of chlorophyll to your water in the days leading up to going to high elevation as well as the days you spend there, you won’t suffer from elevation sickness. I went to a vitamin store down the street from where Myles and I lived, and picked up this bottle for the four of us. We started drinking it a day before our trip and drank it up until the day we departed Cusco and never felt any effects of elevation sickness at all! So I highly recommend it.

Getting There

Myles decided he wanted to go to Peru for his birthday, which is on Dec. 15th. He had always talked about wanting to see Machu Picchu and we decided this year was the year. I did a ton of research for this trip, and am glad I did. I had no idea Machu Picchu was such a mission to get to, but once I realized it, I knew this trip had to be planned perfectly to ensure we could do everything we wanted to do. Eventually, we decided on two nights in Lima and two nights in Cusco with one day being dedicated to getting to and exploring Machu Picchu.

We started our journey in PSC. We took an early flight to SEA and then went to ATL, where we met Myles’ mom and dad. We all four planned on taking the DL flight to LIM. Myles and I got DeltaOne, while Mr. T and Ms. Chrissy barely missed it. We gave up our seats to them, and sat in economy on the 6 hour flight.

We landed in LIM at 11pm. Ironically, Ms. Chrissy knew a lady who lived in Lima, and she volunteered to pick us up at the airport. We stayed in Miraflores in this cute 2 bedroom Airbnb, which cost us $135 for two nights. The building had a security attendant 24/7 and we felt really safe anyway in the area.

While we said we would consider going out that night, we were exhausted from the flight and instead decided to just go to bed so we could be well-rested for a day of exploring the next day.

Day 1

When we woke up the next day, we called a cab to take us to Lima’s downtown area. A beautiful, walk-able area with shops, restaurants, everything. We even got to see Lima’s historical Changing of the Guard– very cool thing to witness! It was nice and hot out (summer in South America is during North America’s winter) so it was nice to just walk around and take everything in.

Unfortunately, it was some kind of election day in Peru, which we had no idea about. Normally it wouldn’t have affected us, but this election day meant no businesses were selling alcohol period! We were in shock when one restaurant told us and initially even though they were lying, but quickly realized they weren’t. Luckily, we found a couple restaurants who sneakily served us drinks and even found a shop that sold us a bottle of liquor.

After exploring downtown, we went back to the Airbnb and got ready for the night. We went to dinner at TGI Friday’s, which I had no idea was so popular in South America. We walked around the mall area a little and even found a club that somehow remained open and still served alcohol on this election day. We stayed for an hour or so before heading back to the Airbnb, excited to head out to Cusco the next day.

Day 2

We woke up early and I checked the flights. We were ZEDing on Avianca Airlines, so I made sure to check what availability was like. Fortunately, flights looked good for the whole day, so we chose a late morning flight. We paid $40 each per person, got to the airport, checked in smoothly and waited at the gate. We were assigned seats once everyone boarded and when we got on the flight, saw there was plenty of open seats. The flight was only about an hour, so we sat in and relaxed for the flight.

The pilot tells us that we will be landing soon and I take a couple pictures and videos.

About 15-20 minutes goes by and we still haven’t landed. The pilot comes on to say it is too windy to safely land, and in order to prevent running out of fuel, we have to head all the way back to Lima!

Supposedly, we were going to land in Lima, refuel and then wait for the weather to clear up. However, once we landed, the plane was disembarked and the flight was full on cancelled. We went back to the reservation desk, worried about what was going to happen to the remaining flights (there were only 2-3). They told us to come back an hour before the next flight. We did, and that one was full. They listed us on the last flight of the night, and thankfully, we made it on that one. That meant not arriving into Cusco until late, but we were just happy to be getting there!

We arrived in Cusco and we booked this three bedroom Airbnb for $190 for two nights. It was close to the airport and in a nice neighborhood. The Airbnb host arranged for us to be picked up by their driver, who unfortunately overcharged us for a few rides, so I do not recommend him. However, he was timely and took us to the Airbnb and recommended a nearby restaurant to us that we walked to after setting our bags down. Since Cusco is so high, it actually gets very chilly at night, but we were prepared for that. After dinner, we went back to the Airbnb and called it a night, we had a long day ahead of us the next day!

Day 3

Our Machu Picchu day was an early one. We woke up at around 4 a.m. to get ready for the day. Our driver picked us up around 5 a.m. to drive us to the train station, Poroy, which was about 40 minutes away from where we were staying. There are two options for travel to Machu Picchu, either Peru Rail or Inca Rail. There are direct three hour rides, while others are a train and van combined. We opted for Peru Rail, which was the direct train route. Tickets were about $140 per person, easily the most expensive part of our relatively cheap trip.

Right before we got on the train!

When we arrived, we were about an hour early for the departure time. The train was scheduled to leave around 6:40 a.m. so we grabbed some snacks and drinks and then took our seats. Seats were supposedly assigned, and we were not sitting together, but the trains were pretty empty so we went to a booth that was empty so the four of us were together.

The train ride was beautiful. We passed beautiful landscape, animals, schools, everything.

It was mesmerizing to sit at the window and just stare out for a few hours. Mr. T also bought some mini bottles from the store at the train station, so we were drinking and had a good time. Going there, the train ride did not feel like three hours.

When we arrived, we were greeted by beautiful Peruvian people. The town below Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, was small and cute with restaurants, gift shops, everything.

In the center of Aguas Calientes.

We had to buy our tickets to Machu Picchu in the little town from the Ministerio de Cultura. A passport and credit card or cash is needed to purchase. There are three different types of tickets you can buy, with the other two including access to the other two mountain peaks. We opted for the general pass, which was about $45 person. Note: if you plan on going during high season (June-Sept.), you should book your tickets online in advance, as only a limited amount of people are allowed to enter each day. We went in December, which is considered low season, so we were not worried about this. Another note, supposedly there will be a rule going into effect where you must have a tour guide to enter the park. That rule did not go into effect when we went, so we were able to enter and walk around by ourselves.

After we got our tickets, we headed towards Machu Picchu. You can either hike up, which takes about an hour or two, or you can take a bus up for $20 round trip per person. We were feeling adventurous so we decided to hike up.

This is how the stairs on the hike look, if you choose to do this route vs. the bus.

Things quickly turned left as some people (mainly Ms. Chrissy) did not realize how high we were going to go and got exhausted halfway up. However, we made it to the top but quickly decided we were definitely taking the bus down! 🙂

Machu Picchu was breathtaking. To see the ruins in person was a surreal experience. The grounds were so clean and well kept. The grass was a beautiful green, the llamas were pretty. To literally be in front of ancient history like that was an experience like no other. We did not get a tour guide, but walked around the area and soaked everything in.

After Machu Picchu, we went to a restaurant down in Aguas Calientes. I had a delicious meal and a couple gin and tonics and we got ready to take the 6pm train back.

My mouth still waters thinking about this meal almost two years later.

We had about 9 hours total to explore Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes, which was the perfect amount of time. On the train back, it definitely felt much longer than the train going there. We slept for the first hour, then there was some kind of show where a person with a scary looking mask on performed, but it was cute! He grabbed me to dance with him and it was a nice way to help the time pass.

The mask was kind of scary lol

When we made it back to Cusco, our driver was waiting for us and took us back to the Airbnb, and we passed out after a long day of adventuring.

Day 4

Our time in Cusco and exploring Machu Picchu was amazing but came to an end. This was our last day before catching a flight that night back to the states. We did another ZED on Avianca Airlines, this one being $35 per person and got on the first flight we listed on. We made it back to Lima without any problems. Our flight back to IAH on United was not leaving until 1:30 a.m. that evening so we had all day. I booked this Airbnb in San Miguel just to have somewhere to relax at until our flight. It was located right by the ocean, had a beautiful infinity pool and had enough room for the four of us.

We then met up with Ms. Chrissy’s friend one last time and went to dinner before heading back to the Airbnb to relax for a little before heading to the airport.

Upon arriving at the airport, we had to wait until we were cleared to get our boarding passes and go through security. This process was smooth overall, and we caught the 7 hour flight back to the states before heading home.

Vlog

I did my first vlog on this trip. It’s something I definitely want to start doing each and every trip, but it’s hard when all you have to work with is your phone. Any feedback on the vlog is appreciated!

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