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The Semi-Adventurous Travellers

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Peru trip, it’s More than Machu Picchu

Cusco, Peru
When you think of Peru, you automatically think Machu Picchu. But there is so much more. We loved Peru.  Of course, we went for the Inca Trail hike like most people who go there.  But, as soon as we left, we started talking about going back. We found that there is a lot more to see than Machu Picchu. In fact, we will only mention in this post about alternative locations.

Cusco, Peru

When we first arrived in Cusco Peru we spent the suggested few days acclimatizing to the altitude (elevation is around 3,400 m or 11,200 ft.  Wow, I could have spent my whole trip just exploring that city.  Most people only see it as the jumping off point to visit the Inca Citadel.  Granted, it is a very touristy city, but that’s what a Semi-adventurous traveler enjoys. There were numerous plazas, restaurants both familiar (i.e., KFC) and authentic, and historic sites galore.

Outside Cusco Peru

Traditional Food
Alpaca Risotto
One of my biggest regrets about our trip was we did this city on the cheap.  We didn’t pay to see any of the attractions in Cusco.  Our primary goal was to acclimatize before the hike and see what we could in the Sacred Valley.
” Did you know: Cusco is the world’s ninth-highest city with a population over 100,000 by median elevation. “
There is a Cusco City Pass, “Boleto Turistica del Cusco,” that allows you access to many of the City’s and surrounding area’s sites. I wish we had of know ahead of time, but as usual, I was just winging it.  Not always a good idea if you want to save money and see stuff but that way I don’t have too many expectations.  In this case, it caused regrets.  At this writing, it offered different packages including up to 16 places. You can’t buy the tickets on the internet, but you can check here for the official page and here for an FAQ.   Be aware, both pages are in Spanish, and you will probably need to use Google to translate the pages.  For what we did see, check out our review of Cusco including a photo gallery.

Ollantaytambo

Another place in Peru we would love to check out for an extended stay that also has strong ties to Machu Picchu is Ollantaytambo. This town is an archaeological site all on its own located at an altitude of 2,792 meters (9,160 ft) above sea level. That’s still higher than Machu Picchu. Its  72 km (45 mi) from Cusco and usually part of any Sacred Valley tour and one of the most common starting points of the Inca Trail. Tripadvisor list more than a dozen hotel options in various sizes and quality. It also has a choice of more than 60 restaurants.
I know not everyone would agree, especially Michelle, but I could have skipped the crowds at Machu Picchu and just spent days hiking the ruins here.  Ollantaytambo was an important religious site as well as a fallback location when the Spanish conquistadors conquered Cusco. Although much of the original settlement has been built over and expanded, there is a small area in the original Inca style. There is also the imposing Temple Hill and Terraces adjacent to the town. We only had about an hour to explore. I would have liked to have spent more time here and used it as a base of operation to explore the Sacred Valley. To see more of our adventures here, read our previous post about Ollantaytambo.
Looking up from the Plaza
Looking down to the Plaza

Aguas Calientes

The last stop in my choices to explore around Machu Picchu in Aguas Calientes. Also known as Machupicchu Pueblo, it is located 6 km (3.7 mi) from Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary. It started as a farming settlement then grew into a railroad community. Now it is a tourist town for the famous Peruvian landmark.  The only ways in and out are to make the hike or take the train.  I, unfortunately, was very sick when we were here.  Michelle had an opportunity to go out for dinner and enjoy the hot pools the town is named after. The hot pools will only cost you a few dollars to get in. Although you have to remember your bathing suit and towel.
Outside of these reasons, there is little see in Aguas Calientes. There are lots of restaurants, but it is more expensive than most of Peru due to its isolation and tourist nature. An estimated 1,500 tourists arrive daily, but many take the train back without staying. Unless we revisit the ruins, it is unlikely I will get to explore this town again.

Puno and Lake Titicaca

We took a bus from Cusco to Puno to see the Uros Floating Islands.  A 10-hour bus ride! We did stop along the way at a few historical sites and had a nice lunch. But it sure was a long ride.
Lake Titicaca itself is the highest navigable lake at 3,812 meters (12,507 ft), and Peru shares its border with Bolivia.  It is also the largest lake in South America by both volume and surface area.
Our reason for visiting was the Uros Islands. The floating islands are created and maintained by the Uros people by cutting reeds that grow in the lake. As the reeds age, they turn the color of straw so that they look like huge, flat hay bales floating in a group.  I think the one we visited had about six huts on it that house an extended family.  They have a short demonstration on how the islands are built then show you the wares they have for sale.
Make no mistake; this is a money-making tourist operation. I bought a woven table runner that we still use today. They also “offer” a ride in their reed boats for a small fee. In our case, the tour operator insisted we take the trip back to another island where there was a permanent building offering toilets and refreshments. It was a little heavy-handed in my opinion but was ride nice. Many operators sell trips out to these islands; you should shop around. Keep in mind; you will be expected to spend money out on the islands.
Puno itself was another City I’d like to visit again.

Lima – Peru

Descend into the dark catacombs of the San Franciscan Convent. Walk through the remains of an estimated 75,000 bodies buried beneath the convent, a truly memorable and beautifully dark sightseeing experience. This was a surreal experience to me and one I can’t wait to do again.  I have no pictures as there is no photography allowed within the catacombs.

Hang out in the Plaza de Armas (Plaza Mayor), right at the heart of Lima’s historic center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Lima’s Plaza de Armas is a place of endless photo opportunities and excellent people watching. Notable buildings on the square include the Government Palace and Lima Cathedral, as well as the Archbishop’s Palace and the Casa del Oidor, both of which sport ornate box balconies made of wood.
See and be seen at Larcomar. Some people love this slice of modern uber-commercialism lodged in the seafront cliffs of Miraflores. You can shop for designer labels, go bowling, play arcade games, eat ice cream and go to the cinema. There are also some chic restaurants with sea views and the way-too-trendy Aura nightclub. Our dinner there was at a TGIF’s but it was over looking the ocean so worth it.
Peru Traveling
I sat down for a rest and this ginger crawled up for a nap
Stray Cats Of Lima
Stray Cats of Parc Kennedy, Lima Peru, keeping warm on a street light
There is so much to do in Lima, check out How to Peru for more Ideas.
Peru stole my heart and can’t wait to go back in 2020 with a group of semi-adventurous travellers.
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