Trip Length: 12 Days
Activities: High AltitudeHiking, Rock Climbing
Highlights: Machu Picchu, Hatun Machay, Cordillera Blanca, Cusco
Here is a video summary of 4 friends' 12 day trip to Peru which is detailed in the itenerary below
Day 1 - Flight into Lima
We flew spirit airlines direct from Ft. Lauderdale FL to Lima for ~ $440. Cheap! but you get what you pay for. We arrived into Lima ~ 10:00 p.m. Our next flight was at 4:30 a.m. to Cusco so we slept in the airport. This was a challenge as there are no secluded sleeping areas but it was worth it not having to grab a taxi out of the airport t0 find a hotel.
Day 2 - Flight to Cusco Train to Aguas Calientes
Fly with LAN airlines, but DO NOT book through the internal peruvian website. It will allow you to book a very inexpensive fair however, this is only for Peruvian residence. We did this and ended up paying an extra $150 USD per person before we could obtain our boarding passes. The flight is quick ~ 1 hour and much better than taking the 22 hour bus ride option.
We arrived in Cusco in the early morning (6:20 a.m.) and found a taxi inside the airport. There are cheaper options (collectivos) but we didnt want to deal with delays and the taxi was inexpensive for 4 people. The destination was to get to Ollantaytambo which was ~ 1.5 hours taxi ride to catch the train.
Ollantaytambo is a beutiful small village surrounded by mountains. Book your train ride through Peru Rail and take the 12:28 p.m. train to Aguas Calientes which is the only means of getting to this town. While waiting for the train there is a great coffee shop "Cafe Mayu" with free wifi.
The train ride is truely amazing. It meanders along a river surrounded by snowcapped peaks. We suggest booking the train car with the skylights for the best views.
Lodging: Stay at the Super Tramp Hostel. Cheap, super interesting, and youll meet a bunch of cool people. There is a great restaurant connected to it, and an open air bar on the top.
Day 3 - Machu Picchu
Book your tickets ahead of time through the official goverment website. This is a bit complicated but there is a great 7 step website to help you along the process. You have to purchase tickets for Machu Picchu itself and optionally you can purchase tickets for Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu. I do recommend getting tickets for one of these as Machu Picchu itself will not take the entire day.
Machu Picchu Mountain - less exposed and more of a simple but steep hike. This offers the best views of Machu Picchu.
Huayna Picchu - Shorter hike and much more exposed. This is the popular one as it is the most adventurous.
There are two ways to get to Machu Picchu; by bus or to hike from Aguas Calientes. Suggestion: take the bus up and you can hike back to Aguas Calientes if you still want to get more hiking in. Take the very first bus available to beat the crowds (was well worth getting up early). There will be lines even at 6:00 a.m. so be there 30 min before the first bus.
Aguas Calientes is a great town to explore if your done with Machu Picchu early or want to extend your stay here an extra day. We strongly adivse against going to the "Hot Springs". We decided to ignore the trip advisor reveiws and go. They are more like luke warm urine pools. Beautiful location as they are outside, but not enjoyble.
Day 4 - Cusco to Lima to Huaraz
Re-trace your steps to get back to Cusco. Our flight didnt leave until that afternoon so we had the taxi drop us off at the Plaza de Armas and we explored Cusco by foot. Make your way to the airport and fly back to Lima. Once you arrive in Lima take a taxi to the Plaza Norte bus station. Book an overnight bus ride ahead of time from Lima to Huaraz through Cruz del Sur. The overnight bus allows you to get ~8 hours of sleep. If you get the front seat on the second level you get to look out the front of the bus but the only thing you see is the many near head on collisions.... Its best not to know.
Note: Do not order the vegetarian meal. You will get purple colored mush that looks and tastes like volcanic ash.
Day 5 - Huaraz to Hatun Machay
The climbing destination in Peru is near Huaraz at a place called Hatun Machay. The only place to stay is at the Refugio which is a 10 min walk from the climbing.
Once you arrive in Huaraz, you can easily find a taxi to Hatun Machay by going to one of the climbing guide shops not far from the bus station. This taxi ride will take awhile ~ 3 hours but is very beautiful drive. Before leaving Huaraz, be sure to buy food for your stay at Hatun Machay. We did not do this an lived on Nutella, 6 pieces of bread, and granola bars for 3 days. If you know when you want to leave Hatun Machay, tell your driver when to come back to pick you up. If your stay is an unknown duration, you can just wait until the next guests arrive and take their taxi back (this sometimes can be a few days). Cost when we stayed was $3 USD /day.
The Refugio at Hatun Machay is a two story rustic mountain house that makes you .... "un-plug" (no -wifi, no telephone, no distractions). There is a single wood burning stove that people congregate around to stay warm, chat about their climbs of the day, learn new languages, and get to know people form other countries. There is solar electricity but is only turned on at night. Warm water for showers is available if the sun is shining.
Bring your camera and tri-pod. At 14,000', and zero light polution, you will see more stars than you thought possible.
Day 6 -> 8 - Climbing at Hatun Machay
The climbing at Hatun Machay is primarily sport, with awesome rock quality, and is very remote. No overcrowded crags here. You will find routes for all leaders from 5.6 - 5.13. No guidebooks needed as all routes are posted online here.
You can barrow crash pads from the Refugio if you want to get in some bouldering. You can also explore around the upper parts of Hatun Machay. You will find old huts and ancient wall paintings and carvings.
If you need a day off from climbing or get done early one day, you can hike to the top of the mountains straight west of the Refugio. Arrive at the summit in the afternoon to get some amazing sunset views of the snow peaked Qiwllarahu Mountain.
Day 9 - Hatun Machay to Lazy Dog Inn to Laguna Churup
To get some high altitude hikes in the Cordillera Blanca, make your way back to Huaraz and get dropped off at the Lazy Dog Inn. The Lazy Dog Inn is an amazing adobe mountain lodge and bed and breakfast. The coffee is amazing, the food is home cooked, good beer, and the coolest dogs running around you've ever seen. You can also go horseback riding with the horses they have on site.
You can arrange the taxi from Hatun Machay with Diane through the Lazy Dog. Tell her to send TAO!
We left Hatun Machay early so we could get to Lazy Dog and hike Laguna Churup. We had Tao drop us off at the trail head and walked back to Lazy Dog. This ends up being ~ 8.4 miles and 3,000' of elevation. This hike will land you at a glacial lake at the base of Churup Mountain. There are a few sections that are bit a of a scramble but there are cables to hold on to and help you up.
Day 10 - Laguna 69 Hike
Have the Lazy Dog Inn book a taxi to take you to Laguna 69 trail head. This is the highlight hike of the Cordiller Blanca. You will see the highest mountain in the andes (Aconcagua at 22,828 ft). The total hike is ~ 8.4 miles and will take you up to 15,200 ft.
During the hike you will be surrounded by snowpeaked mountains and pass by many waterfalls. The most amazing part of the hike is a teal glacial lake at the base of the mountain.
Day 12 - Lima to Home
This day is open to explor Lima. We took a taxi from the bus station to Miraflores. This is the nicer part of Lima and is on the coast. Here you can go paragliding, or site seeing at Park Kennedy which is kind of unique as it is filled with cats lazing about. After being in the beautiful mountainous and remote areas of Peru, we could not wait to get out of Lima. Make your way back to the airport for your flight home.
Links contained in this article:
Climbing digital guide book - http://toposperu.com/huaraz/hatun-machay/
Super Tramp Hostel: http://www.supertramphostel.com/
Lazy Dog Inn - http://www.thelazydoginn.com/
Cruz del Sur Bus Service - http://www.cruzdelsur.com.pe/
Peru Rail: http://www.perurail.com/
LAN Airlines - http://www.lan.com/en_us/sitio_personas/index.html
Machu Picchu Tickets: http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/
7 steps to buying Machu Picchu Tickets: http://www.lan.com/onlyinsouthamerica/7-easy-steps-buy-machu-picchu-tickets/