Updated: Oct 21, 2019
Hello! I am the co-founder of RemoteWoman.com (@remote_woman) and I can’t wait to tell you all about this magical trip I took to Machu Picchu :)
Machu Picchu has always been on my bucket list. This year, I decided to work remotely and travel to South America (spending 5 months in Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, Patagonia, Machu Picchu & Lima). I knew that we had to make it here. Earlier in the year, I traveled to Chichen Itza in Mexico - one of the largest ruins from the Mayan civilization. During that trip, I read and studied the great civilizations of Latin America (Aztecs, Mayans, Incans, etc.). And I was truly blown away by the size of the Incan empire (Quito, Ecuador all the way down to Santiago Chile). They were warriors, travelers, chefs and empire builders. After reflecting on the extent of their civilization I decided that I had no choice - I needed to explore Machu Picchu.
We started the trip in Cusco for a couple days - whose cobblestone streets, amazing markets and delicious food left me craving more.
Day 1-2 Cusco
Everyone talks about the high altitude issues you encounter when you arrive in Cusco. We were no different. Arriving in Cusco at 11,000+ feet makes you feel like you are constantly out of breath. Luckily, we had purchased natural altitude pills (also known as Sorojchi Pills) & bought coco leaves to chew on. You can also add the leaves to hot tea. Within a few hours, the remedies kicked in and helped! That’s when we started our journey wandering on foot around the town - finding amazing restaurants like Pachapapa, Limo and Inkazuela, shopping in the San Blas Art Market for artisan trinkets, exploring the Inca museum and learning more about the their history.
Plaza de Armas
The first thing to do is walk to Plaza de Armas (maybe have a coffee overlooking the view). It’s the center of the town in many ways - from stores to bars to dance clubs and restaurants. When we visited, we witnessed street dancing, locals protesting and military parades. The architecture in the Plaza is truly astounding and you can see the mountains surrounding you in every direction.
Next up was the San Pedro market to buy fresh juice, vegetables & pretty much everything else you could imagine. Everything from Alpaca blankets, juice, nuts, fruits, chickens, sausage, fish & more! I visited twice a day just for the fresh juices LOL - they have 20+ stalls of women ready to make you whatever you wish!
Pretty much everywhere you look, there’s shopping to be done. You’ll be able to find local board games, jewelry and pretty much every type of clothing made out of Alpaca. I think, between me and my friends, we must have purchased 10+ Alpaca blankets…they’re super comfortable and amazing gifts for our families back home. I wish I had space for more. :)
Eating Guinea Pig & Alpaca
Local delicacies include guinea pig (locals call “cuy”) & alpaca. It may sound a little crazy - but they’re actually pretty tasty if you're open and adventurous! Food is a high priority wherever I travel. And if you want to eat as the locals do, then it’s time to order up (even if the guinea pig looks a little like a large rat...let’s imagine it’s closer to rabbit or veal).
Overall, it was interesting to taste Guinea Pig - but, to be blunt, I much preferred the Alpaca. Whether it’s in a stew, plate or burger, it’s surprisingly good. It’s a lean meat that’s low in calories, fat and cholesterol. Although, I’m not sure it’s the healthiest thing surrounded by delicious buns & french fries (see below).
Day 3-4 Machu Picchu
It’s a 3-4 hour slow train ride to Machu Picchu from Cusco. While it’s long, it’s a super pleasant ride on a comfortable train (purchase through PeruRail.com). Peru Rail staff were also super nice & provided snacks (just make sure to pay a bit more for the Vistadome train - it’s worth it).
We arrived in the town of Machu Picchu - a small tourist town about 20 minutes from the peak. There are nice hotels, restaurants, an awesome soccer field and thermal baths.
No matter how you do it, you’ll have to wake up early to get to Machu Picchu. Make sure to buy tickets in advance. We were in line by 6am to take the bus up. There’s two options - either trek up for 1+ hours or grab a 20 minute bus up. Honestly, we were a group and not everyone wanted to do the trek - so we chose the “lazy route” and just went up. I was a bit disappointed we were going the lazy route…then we rode up along the route and woah - the climb was steeeeep. It’s basically walking straight up a mountain for 45 minutes (super heavy incline). So I was pretty happy we could just get up, beat the crazy crowds and enjoy the actual ruins.
Once we got to the top, we were blown away. I’m sure a lot of people say this...but Machu Picchu is worth the trip! It’s truly incredible how high up it is and it’s surrounded by an incredible, striking mountainside. It feels like you’re closer to God high in the clouds. And somehow, a city was built, lived in and maintained. Amazing. Unlike the other “7 wonders of the world”, Machu Picchu was not rebuilt for tourists - it stands as it once was. We spent the better part of 3 hours wandering around, enjoying the view & hanging out with the llamas.
Hope you have a blast & enjoy the trip!! I’ll leave you with my favorite photo from the trip:
Jaira is the co-founder of Remote Woman - a community of women helping each other find the best remote jobs. Jaira has a strong background in marketing, communication and social media. She is on the forefront of community building.