November 25, 2020
Cusco - Machu Picchu Area Map

Peru: Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu (19-20 June 2019)

Our main goal in traveling to Peru was a visit to Machu Picchu. This post will describe our private 2-Day Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu Tour, booked through Expedia. Our guide for the 2-days was Amadeo Valer from Inkayni Peru Tours. Amadeo is an archeologist with a side job as a tour guide – see his YouTube videos – so was able to give us many insights other guides would have skipped over.

Wednesday, 19 June

Our first stops were in Chinchero, where we were to visit the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Natividad. However, there was a wedding in progress, so we didn’t go in. Next to the church is the Centro Arqueológico de Chinchero we viewed Incan ruins and walk a short distance on one of the many Incan trails.

The next stop in Chinchero was a textile art cooperative, a short drive from the ruins. Here, we were given an explanation of the fabrics and dyes used in Peruvian weaving and given an opportunity to examine many of the final products. It was amazing the quality of the colors they produce using local plants. Pat purchased a beautiful rug (orange of course) to hang in our apartment. David got an excellent blanket.

From Chinchero, we then drove to Moray. Our pictures below show the scope of this area. The terraces are impressive enough besides realizing that they were built by hand.

From Moray, we went to the Salinas de Maras. These salt mines have been used since before the Incan civilization. The evaporation pools/ponds cover a huge area and are fed, through a series of channels, from a spring in the side of the hill. By blocking various channels, the salty water is directed to any of the ponds where the water has evaporated, the salt removed, and is ready to be filled again. This is an impressive site (my second favorite place we saw after Machu Picchu) although the drive down was filled with deep drop-offs – gulp.

After we departed the salinas, we headed to Ollantaytambo to catch the Peru Rail train to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. We had opted for the train with the Vistadome. Although this option was fine, I don’t think it was worth the extra $55/person. The windows on the side were fine and we didn’t actually look up through the extra windows.

Once we arrived in Aguas Calientes, we went to the Golden Sunrise Hotel, that had been booked by the tour company, Inkayni Peru Tours. We are to catch the 6:30 AM bus up to Machu Picchu, so we called it a early night.

After breakfast we met Amadeo for the bus ride up to Machu Picchu. The crowd had already lined up at the bus stop, as the first bus was at 6 AM. We were aiming for the 6:30 AM bus and made it with no problems. The ride up to Machu Picchu was interesting with the narrow road, many switchbacks and backing up to allow other buses to pass. We were still early enough to beat the main masses of tourists and the heat of the day. Amadeo took us through one of the lesser used ways and, at least for awhile, that we had the ruins to ourselves.

After walking through the grounds of Machu Picchu, it was now time to climb Machu Picchu Mountain, which we had prepaid $35/each to do. This mountain is not the one generally seen in most photos of Machu Picchu, but is the one in the opposite side. Once we had committed to climbing this, we received an email from the tour company describing the route: ” Machu Picchu Mountain is the most spectacular yet one of the most overlooked optional treks available at Machu Picchu. Located to the south-west of Machu Picchu citadel and towering 3,050 meters (10,007 feet) above sea level, the mountain trek offers unparalleled views of the famous Inca sanctuary and panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountain scenery. The Machu Picchu Mountain trek is considered to be a moderate to challenging trek. Following an original stone Inca Trail and continuously acceding to the summit, a good level of fitness is required.

Pat and I made it to the halfway point; David, to within 10 minutes of the top; Justin, to the top. We were all pleased with our successes.

We all made it safely back down the mountain trail and met back with Amadeo, who led us on one last quick view of the ruins.

When we got back to Aguas Calientes, we had a beer and lunch. Then went back to the hotel to pickup our bags, go to the train station and head back to Cusco. The train ride back included a traditional dance and a fashion show. The things they were selling were beautiful, but way beyond what we were willing to spend. Pat did find some alpaca yarn in a local shop, though.

Once back at the train station in Ollantaytambo, we met up with our driver and headed back to our hotel in Cusco. Along the way, we stopped along the road in a very dark area to look at the Milky Way and spotted the Southern Cross. We also decide to have Amadeo arrange a tour for Friday (see the last installment of the blog – coming soon).

After we were back in Aguas Calientes, it was time for a beer and lunch
After we were back in Aguas Calientes, it was time for a beer and lunch

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