22 Aug 15 THINGS TO DO AND SEE, IF (AND WHEN) YOU VISIT MACHU PICCHU
Machu Picchu. A place that has managed to make its way onto almost everyone’s bucket list; everyone’s I-do-not-care-how-but-I-need-to-go-even-if-it-is-the-last-thing-I-do Wanderlist. Go on – go through your list in your head (or have a look at the one you’ve been populating ever since you signed up for our online course). We’re assuming Machu Picchu is on there.
And why wouldn’t it be?! An ancient city discovered only a little over a century ago, and, as the Lonely Planet team puts it, (it is) “the best-known archaeological site on the continent” (of South America). Of course you’re going to want to see it with your own eyes, and experience that “Old Peak” (which is what Machu Picchu actually translates to #FunFact).
So did we.
But what we didn’t realise, until we were wiping our drool, and dragging our jaws along salt ponds in Maras, or cruising the streets of Cusco, or photographing friends (hold puppies, and bananas, and paw paws, whilst wearing a poncho, at the same time) in Ollantaytambo, was how much more this gorgeous region in Peru had on offer.
*Thanks to Samuel for wearing that poncho too – made this special pic even more special.
Sure, Cusco – that southeastern town and former-historical capital of the Inca Empire – has visitors each year. Around 2 million, ‘they’ say. It is the main point of entry for Machu Picchu after all. But that is also the problem – it is seen as just that – a point of entry. We want you to see it as a destination, because there really is so much more to see and do there, than simply catch a train to Machu Picchu. The same can be said for nearby region Ollantaytambo, and the rest of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
So with that in mind, this is our recommended list of activities (which we are dedicating to our friends at The Luxury Collection and Beautiful Destinations, without whom this spontaneous Peruvian trip would have never happened).
Hope you enjoy (and plan to do and see a little more than just Machu Picchu in the nearby future)!
1. Get a selfie with a Llama (essential…and as we’ve seen, you may not need to bring your A game as these guys are trained professionals…but for goodness sake, please don’t touch or hurt the Llamas)…
2. …but if you must touch them, do so with care (and always show love, as they are rather emotional creatures – big thanks to Mike for showing us how it’s done right).
3. Put on a dress (although this is optional), wait for the crowds to pass, then rush down to get a real feel of the “artisan’s quarter” of Cusco, aka the neighbourhood of San Blas.
4. Get your taste of ancient agricultural laboratories at the Moray Ruins (yup, the different levels would have varying temperatures, allowing the Incas to farm produce at optimum temperatures – a sort of farming experiment, if you will).
5. Grab the window seat on your flight in (as aerial views of the Andes are probably unmatched).
6. If you’re not already staying at The Luxury Collection’s Hotel Tambo del Inka, or (more traditional) Palacio del Inka (both highly recommend btw), book yourself a night at these crazy-because-they-are-on-the-edge-of-a-cliff Skylodge Adventure Suites, for an, um, life-altering experience #WeHaveToNextTime.
7. Try some of the local dishes and delicacies (look, we’ll probably tell you to avoid the Guinea Pig, served at most restaurants #TrueStory) but go wild with the famed Pisco Sour cocktails (ok, not too wild) and corn snacks.
8. Add some colour to your wardrobe (although, as always, only buy what you need, not just what you want…but, assuming your backpack breaks, because you tried to stuff it with too many corn cobs – and bottles of Pisco – and you need a new backpack…then, and only then) support the locals at one of the various markets…
9. …and when you’re out supporting the locals and buying backpacks and ponchos, stop for a while to play with the children, because they are some of the sweetest and most charismatic kids you’ll ever meet.
10. Take a ride through the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo in a Tuk Tuk Taxi (although space for luggage not guaranteed)…
11. …and look back every now and then to take in the candid beauty of this region.
12. Make sure to visit the Maras salt ponds, a short drive away from the city of Cusco (if you need more convincing, check our other post too).
13. Get your fortune read in coca leaves by a traditional Inca fortune teller (and believe everything he says, especially when he tells you to “stick with your woman because she’ll make you more successful” *ahem, Steve*).
14. Oh, and since you will of course be headed to Machu Picchu (because let’s face it, you have to see it for yourself), and you happen to catch a train in, make sure you grab a selfie on the last cart…
15. …and then ask your nice friend Alex to take a pic of you at the iconic viewpoint (matching outfits optional).