Enjoying Peru in a Month

If you have been following our blog then you know the length of trouble we went through to get Peru Visa for Shruti. We had given up on the thought of visiting Peru but I guess the Gods were on our side and the final attempt in Bolivia worked!

With the remaining bank balance and 3 months in hand, we had to do Peru in a month. Though we couldn’t visit the northern part of Peru, we are definitely satisfied with our travels to Cusco, Arequipa, Ica and Lima.

Peru is home to the most popular tourist spot in South America – Machu Picchu. But we realised there is so much more to Peru than just the Lost Kingdom of Incas. With plenty of hiking opportunities and cultural experiences, Peru is a dream location for a travelers. So much to learn and try!

Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru in a month

The Inca Culture is really prominent in most part of the country. We had plenty of mora and chicha while chatting away with the native women. And then when we reached Lima, we were a little ‘shocked’. When we got to the Capital city, we were blown away by the development and advancement in the society. So different to the Sacred Valley of Cusco!

Peru Travel Map

List of Posts

Exploring Puno, Peru

Arequipa & Hiking in Colca Canyon

Cusco – the Inca Capital

Sacred Valley of Incas

Machu Picchu

Huacachina – Desert Paradise

Lima – The Capital of Peru

Lima – The Capital of Peru

Heading out of Huacachina, we could go to Lima, the Capital of Peru or head further north to the mountains in Peru. We soon realised we didn’t have much time remaining before our flight to USA and so deciding our next destination wasn’t that difficult.

Getting to Lima

We arrived in Lima from Ica on a bus. Getting a bus was a pain but even worse was getting to the suburb Miraflores in Lima. The bus wasn’t going to a terminal so it dropped us on a highway with a road leading straight to Miraflores. Unfortunately, the taxi drivers were keen on ripping off tourists and asked for ridiculous prices. It helped that we went up a pedestrian bridge and asked a policeman who guided us better. We eventually took a taxi which dropped us right outside our Airbnb house. We had finally arrived in Lima, the last leg of our trip in South America!

Long Term AirBnB

Until now, we had used hostels and hotels in South America. We didn’t use AirBnB due to communication issues and safety. However, Lima looked like an expensive city, even when we looked at backpacker hostel charges. Suburbs around Miraflores seemed safe but were too expensive. Airbnb seemed like a reasonable option. We found a flat shared with one other guy for a decent price for a week. To be honest, we only saw him once when he came around one morning. We used the apartment like our own except his room and had no issues other than an inquisitive concierge attendant.


Miraflores and its surrounding suburbs are the tourist, expats and elite hub of Lima. The old city was considered dangerous and unsafe so tourists usually don’t live there. At first glance, you realise that the suburb is huge. It starts from the beach and keeps going quite a way inland. On our first night, craving Indian food we decided to walk to an Indian restaurant while doing our shopping along the way. The food turned out to be good but we had walked way too much.

Miraflores, Lima, PeruThe next day we walked to Larcomar Mall and the boardwalk which was recommended by our host. The mall is built right along the cliff edge overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The building architecture is very open, providing views of the sea from the food court, restaurants and break out areas within the mall. Some restaurants charge top money for a meal with the view. Moreover, despite the grey weather in Lima the Malecon area (boardwalk) of Miraflores was a safe place and great area to hand around.

Larcomar, Miraflores, Lima, Peru


Since Peru was the last stop in our South America trip, we decided to do some shopping for our USA trip. However, being backpackers, we couldn’t afford things from Larcomar. Therefore, we found a Peruvian version of Paddy’s Market closer to the centre of the city.

Polvos Azules complex was very similar to Flemington markets or Paddy’s Markets in Sydney. It was several levels of clothes, footwear, luggage and anything else you can think of. The catch was that it was all fake branding for a fraction of the cost. You could find Nike, Adidas, VANS, Gstar shoes that were not real but only an expert could tell them apart. In terms of clothes, you could get the copy of any of the popular soccer jerseys. I bought a Ripcurl Singlet almost the same as any in an Aussie surf shop for 15 soles, $5USD. Shruti managed to get a few A&F looking tops for 50 soles, $15USD. We knew we would be using them a lot in US so could use and throw. A great place to shop for fakes!

Lima’s Transport System

As with any big city there are traffic problems in Lima. However, from what we heard it was worse there. Therefore, the government decided to build a metro style BRT System. Buses run in the middle of the highway and each cross road is a terminal. The pass cost us 15 Soles each with 10 soles to spend. Each journey costs 2.5 Soles and as long as you are going along the highway the BRT is pretty good. We were able to get from old city to Miraflores with relative ease except the peak hour. We can’t comment on how good it is for the entire city but it certainly works well in some sections.

Old City

Lima is old, period! Along with Caracas, Cartagena, Mexico City and possibly Santiago de Chile, it is one of the oldest cities in Latin America. Therefore, although we were living in the posh, new and hip part of town, we had to visit the dodgy, old and preserved part of town. Getting there was relatively easy. Line A, B and C go to different parts of the Old City. We arrived close to the main square of the old city which had a Sunday market going on.

The great thing about South America is that small business is everywhere on the streets. There were book sellers, food stalls, artists and other people trying to sell things to the huge Sunday crowd. As we arrived at the Cathedral, we were completely blown away by the preserved buildings. The wooden balconies of Lima were unique and we had not seen them anywhere in South America.

Old City Lima

Lima has gone through since big earthquakes and the current buildings are preserved since the last earthquake but the colors and the condition of the buildings were a sight to behold. We had a late lunch in the old city with one of the girls we met in Puno. The old city is famous for being dangerous but especially on a crowded Sunday, we felt no danger. It was incredible!

Old City Lima


We had a weekend in Lima and thought we make the most of it. Our host recommended a few places but they were too far so we went to the Parque Area of Miraflores. We had a great kebab for dinner, did some gambling and drank some expensive beer. Guess what? Shruti managed to double the money. Not a bad result!

The clubs were average with the usual music and crowds. We changed clubs a few times but then went to a pub to play pool and drink some Happy Hour Pisco Sour at 1:30am. The scene wasn’t for us but we were happy to say goodbye to South America and Latin music with it!


While walking around the malecon (boardwalk) and Larcomar Shopping Centre, we had seen people paragliding above us. It seemed breathtaking as people crisscrossed above us while enjoying that view of the ocean. Shruti and I decided to do this as our last hurrah to South America. The cost was USD 80 or 220 Soles. We decided to pay in Dollars as were trying to avoid getting Soles from the bank.

The paragliding association was close to Larcomar on a cliff overlooking the sea. We had to get weighed to choose the right guide, get the gear on and fly. It seemed as if Shruti would go first but my guide was ready first and before I knew what was happening, I was above the Pacific Ocean with a quiet guide.

Paragliding, Lima, Peru

I had a smile on my face as we went over Larcomar and the sea walk. People would wave and I would wave back. It was a very happy moment for me to be over the buildings on the last day in South America.

Paragliding, Lima, Peru

The problem was that I couldn’t see Shruti in the air. The guide and I had a rough landing as he told me to lift my legs as high as possible. We came very close to not making it according to Shruti. She was standing there waiting for her turn but the winds were just not strong. After I returned, we waited and waited but no luck. Shruti’s initial guide, a tall middle aged guy even passed her on to my guide as he was lighter to help with the wind but to no avail. It wasn’t Shruti’s day and she wasn’t able to fly. Bummer!

Paragliding, Lima, Peru

Goodbye South America

We took an Uber from Miraflores to the airport. On the way, the Uber driver took the Malecon Road between the cliffs and the beach passing by the Larcomar Mall. We passed through Lima’s famous traffic, checked in our luggage, had a subway for dinner and flew to Washington DC, USA. With that, our 4.5 months in South Améis came to an end. Hasta Luego!

Final Thoughts

We spent a week in Lima but to be honest we didn’t do all that much. We rested a lot, posted on our blog and chilled in Miraflores. It was a time of contemplation and rest. We saw enough in the city to entertain us but despite that Lima has a lot more to offer.

Lima, Peru

Huacachina – Desert Paradise

We were finally done with Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley and we were ready to get out of the crazy tourist area. Little did we know our next stop was another touristy area!

Getting There

We took an Exclusiva bus to Ica from Cusco. We paid 150 Soles, USD 47, per person for this trip which was the most we paid in transportation in South America. They were the cheapest in the “luxury” buses and the only one to provide a bedlike 180 degrees seat. We even had to change the dates and they did so without a charge.

Once inside, we were amazed! A seat that reclined to 180 degrees, with headphones,  and an individual entertainment set with a selection of English movies as well as dinner and breakfast.

Exclusiva Bus, Cusco to Ica, Peru

The journey took 16 hours and we were dropped at the Exlusiva bus terminal in Ica. We hired the only available taxi for Huacachina. To be honest, I had never heard of the place expect from some Aussie saying “Its a sick desert oasis, mate” and I trust my fellows!

Dune Buggies And Sand Boarding

Huacachina is a Desert Oasis. Period. Some say that the oasis is no longer natural and the local office bring tankers of water so tourists continue visiting. Anyhow, real or not, it still amazed us. Right in the middle of the sand dunes is a green patch with palms and a pond.

Huacachina, Ica, Peru

The town is very small – we managed to walk all around it in 20 minutes. We arrived at 7:30am in the morning and most hostels were either still closed or just opening. We took the cheapest hotel we could find and decided to stay for 2 nights before heading to Lima.

Upon our check in we learnt that the hostel organizes dune buggies tour and we signed up for it. Dune buggies in Huacachina look unlike anywhere else. They appear to be a combination of a small truck and a Wrangler Jeep.

Dune buggie, Huacachina, Ica, Peru

The tour started at 4pm with confusion as every other tour in South America. There were three buggies and no one knew where to be seated. After jumping between buggies for 10 minutes, we were ready to hit the dunes. Or, at least that is what we thought! We hit a check post 5 minutes into the ride where we had to pay a 3 Soles per person as dune tax. Beats me why they don’t charge ahead!

Anyhow, the tour started and we got on the dunes. The buggie moved alot and we were convinced it will be a bumpy ride. After some laps of the dunes, the buggie stopped at the edge of a dune. Then whooooaaaaahh we were going down the dune in a bumpy car at a crazy speed. Ah yes, we had seat belts but it didn’t help. We screamed and held on for the next 15 minutes as we went down many dunes. Shruti loved it but I hated it but I was committed and there was no way out.

We stopped to take sunset pictures on top of a dune and then we were it again going down the dunes. It was really an intense experience where my heart was in my mouth. We eventually stopped for sand boarding. We started with a practice run down a small dune. Shruti went sitting on the top and reached down fine. I started out ok sitting but it got bad at the end when I flipped off the board and hit my head on the sand. Ouch!

The second run was much better but then came the final run. It was down a huge dune! Everyone went down in their own way and Shruti cruised down too but I stayed put. The fear of hitting my head again was too great. That ended the tour!

Extended Stay

Until we reached Huacachina, we had been in the mountains for close to 2 months. Everyday of wearing jackets and base layers finally got to us. Huacachina provided an excellent respite from the cold. It was sunny and hot all day so we decided to make a 2 day trip into a 4 day trip.

Wine & Pisco Tasting

The problem was that there was not much else to do in Huacachina other than dune buggies. A guy working at the hotel asked us if we wanted to do a wine tasting tour. We said yes knowing that I wouldn’t be able to taste anything as I was on antibiotics.

The “tour” as it turned out was the same guy driving us around to different wineries. The wineries were all in Ica which is famous in Peru for wine and pisco. The former is the standard grape wine but the latter is a distilled alcohol from a particular type of grape. The first winery we visited had an English-speaking guide on hand to show us around. The guide knew Shahrukh Khan and started chatting to us about him!!! Go figure.

She showed us around the vineyard, the collection point and informed us that grapes here are still crushed traditionally by feet. The more important part though is that the alcoholic pisco as well as grape juice is kept in huge earthen pots standing. Shruti tried the pisco and wine and we decided to buy a bottle of pisco for home.

Winery, Ica, Peru

The next winery was a little more mum & dad business. The complex was big but there was no guide. Our driver/guide gave us the tour here in Spanish which I then translated to Shruti. The weird thing was that the wine cellar was a cellar as well as a museum. It had things like alligator skins, antique pieces and the earthen pots in what was a damp and dark storage yard. The best thing was that you could try wine yourself using a bamboo stick and buy a bottle, a 2L plastic can or a 5L can. What!

Winery, Ica, Peru

It made wine look more local which we loved. It wasn’t your fancy schmansy wine tasting place where a host gave you 1 sip of all and then you were obliged to buy an overpriced bottle which is cheaper at a liquor store. Here you tried a shot or 2 from the earthen pots and then grabbed whatever quantity made you happy or drunk. We ended up buying the baby maker wine or Perfecto Amor which is its real name. It is a sweet wine which supposedly helped raise the population of the district, hence, baby maker. Mmmmmmm ooooh baby! Jokes we bought it for Shruti’s friends in USA.

In the Summertime

Huacachina had not much else except sun and the hotel was pretty average except the bar, pool and 3 dogs. I was off the drinks so we didn’t use the bar much but we fell in love with the pool and dogs. Our day would start with brunch (usually the same spot) and then we would return to the hotel, jump in the pool and laze on the pool chairs while occasionally playing with the dogs. This pattern continued day in day out. It was like we were taking a break from our holiday, you know, just rejuvenating.

Huacachina, Ica, Peru

Up the Dunes

One morning we decided to climb the dunes overlooking the town. We had to start early to beat the harsh sun. Now, the dunes look beautiful and camels look like ships on them but for humans its way tougher to walk on them than on land. We went up a small dune, rested for a bit and then went up the biggest dune in the area.

Up the dune, Huacachina, Ica, PeruThe view got better with each step and the oasis looked remarkable. After a brief rest and some photos, we decided to run down the dune. We felt like kids again! After that workout, we went to a backpacker hostel for breakfast where I had the Israeli breakfast full of tomatoes and bread. I can’t tell you the name now but it probably had a throaty sylable.

Up the dune, Huacachina, Ica, Peru

Final Thoughts

We had a great time in Huacachina with a couple of downers. Firstly, I had my awesone towel stolen off the line by some Peruvian teen girls (thats what the hotel said, we don’t want to blame anyone) but the hotel reimbursed me with exactly the same type which someone forgot. Secondly, because we wanted to end Huacachina with a lazy swim, we left our swimmers for drying and they are probably still hanging in the sun there. Most likely, the hotel will replace those for stolen swimmers.

Up the dune, Huacachina, Ica, Peru

Getting out of Huacachina/Ica was a pain. There was only one company going to Lima which had 2 types of buses every hour, one was faster and didn’t stop while the other was slower. We took the slower one but trying to understand the difference was a pain. In the end, we boarded a bus an hour after we arrived which stopped lots except for a bathroom break. That was the end of Huacachina.

Machu Picchu

The day had finally arrived! We were heading to Machu Picchu. My dream was finally going to be fulfilled. After spending a few days in the Sacred Valley and Cusco, we had a better understanding of the Inca Kingdom. We were ready to see the masterpiece that was never found by the Spanish!

Getting to Machu Picchu

We arrived in Machu Picchu Town, a.k.a, Agua Calientes, on the PeruRail train from Ollantaytambo. We paid USD 64 each for this trip. The lady assured us that she was giving us a left-side seat for the better view. Once we boarded and the train started to move, we realised we were on the right side of the train! There goes Shruti’s photo opportunities.

Train ride to Agua Calientes, Machu Picchu, Peru

To add on, the train ride to Agua Calientes isn’t a scenic one. We did Nariz Del Diablo in Ecuador and that was a scenic ride. On the way to Machu Picchu, once in a while we saw pretty meadows and high peaks but most of the ride was sheltered by trees on either sides. So there goes the chance to see! We felt as though we wasted tons of money. If we had taken the bus from Cusco, it would have been at least USD 100 cheaper.

Train ride to Agua Calientes, Machu Picchu, Peru

Rain, Rain, Go Away

We weren’t welcomed by Incas or Llamas but by the rain. Not the best sign but we were positive. The rain subsided eventually and the clouds flew away. Phew we thought!

Tourist Tax

We stayed two nights in Aguas Calientes because we did not want to rush our visit. It was a very touristy town with Mexican Restaurants and massage parlours everywhere. We had a few meals here before and after climbing Machu Picchu and ended up paying a thing called ‘tourist tax’. Funny enough we did not come across such a thing in any part of Peru, including Cusco. A bit steep!

Sickness and Change Of Plans

I started feeling a little sick in Sacred Valley. It was kind of a strange feeling with fever but no bad throat or funny nose. It progressively got worse and by the time we reached Aguas Calientes I was down with high fever. Therefore, our initial plan of hiking up to Machu Picchu by foot was impossible. To add on to our misery, we had bought permits to hike Montaña Machu Picchu and our slot was between 7-8am. We weren’t sure if that was going to happen though.

Anyway, we woke up early to get on one of the early buses to Machu Picchu. Though the bus service starts only at 6am, the queue starts to form at probably 4am! We were up and ready in line at 4:45am. The bus costed us USD 24 for both, each way.

Bus queue for Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu, Peru

Long Way To The Top

Upon reaching Machu Picchu, we cleared the entry and set about going towards Montaña Machu Picchu. We were supposed to be in the first group going up between 7-8am. I was confident I would be able to do the hike. After all, this is what I had wanted to do for a very long time. But at 6:45am, the rain came down and clouds were all over the place. Not a great start!

Hiking to Montana Machu Picchu, Peru

As we slowly made our way to the top of Montaña Machu Picchu, the consistent rain was slow murdering our hopes for the amazing view. After hiking for 2 hours, we reached the top only to find shelter from rain in the only hut available. All the hikers gathered around, waiting, chatting and trying to cozy up to keep warm. All our clothes and bags were wet and we couldn’t see a thing from the top.

Cozying up at Montana Machu Picchu, Peru

However, while this was a downer, everyone on the mountain was keen to see Machu Picchu yet the clouds wouldn’t allow us. All different ethnicities prayed to their own Gods for the clouds to part and the Sun (ironically Inca’s main God) to show if not for the glimpse at least for the warmth. It took a while!

Crowd at Montana Machu Picchu waiting for clouds to clear, Peru

First Glimpse

At around 10am, after waiting for 1.5 hours, the Sun first showed up and the clouds parted for 10 seconds. The entire crowd went berserk and then groaned together. Anyhoo, in that moment, Shruti managed to get our first shot of Machu Picchu from the top. That was as good as it got.

First shot of Machu Picchu, Peru

We waited and watched the sun and clouds play their hide and seek game. Every 15 mins it would appear as though the clouds would clear but that was nature messing with us. Shruti managed to get a couple of shots but we never managed to see the entire ruins from the top.

View of Machu Picchu, Peru

At 11:30 we decided to head down as we still had to explore the ruins. Luckily, during our descend, we got some clear views of Machu Picchu. Finally!

Machu Picchu, Peru

My dream of seeing Machu Picchu since I was at school was finally coming true. I had seen it in magazines and read about it as Wonders of the World. On this day, I was finally there. As we descended from the mountain, we took some iconic shots of the ruin, mountain and the llamas. It was surreal!

Machu Picchu, Peru

Tour of Machu Picchu

We had been warned about the crazy prices of tour guides in Machu Picchu. When we asked around though, the price was only 30 Soles per person if we did the tour in a group of at least 4. We met a Polish couple up on Montaña Machu Picchu who agreed to join us for the tour.

Group tour at Machu Picchu, Peru

The tour guide, Señor Israel, gave us a tour of the entire complex. He explained why the location of Machu Picchu was chosen, what purpose it served, information about the Inca Empire and the buildings within the complex. There was so much information that it was hard to take in. It really made us believe that Machu Picchu was a Wonder Of The World!

Machu Picchu, Peru

We took plenty of photos around and finally at 5pm, when the gates where shutting, we said our goodbyes. We had spent the entire day, 6:30am to 5pm, at Machu Picchu and it still wasn’t enough!

Machu Picchu, Peru

Sacred Valley of Incas

Our time in Cusco was wonderful, we learnt a lot and experienced the Inca culture. But we were craving for more! As we had agreed to visit Machu Picchu by ourselves, i.e., no tour, we planned our next few days ahead carefully. We decided to slowly make our way around Sacred Valley before ended our adventure at Machu Picchu.

What is Sacred Valley?

Sacred Valley is an Andean Valley along the River Urubamba. It is famous for housing some famous Inca Ruins including Machu Pichu. The Incas used the valley for farming and rituals and their imprint is very obvious in the valley.

How to get there?

The valley can be accessed by signing up for day tours from Cusco and making your way there using public transport, read collectivos. The cost of the tours range from 20 to 50 Soles. While it makes the journey easy and provides a guide, the ruins are packed with tourists. In our case, we did one tour but then decided to visit the valley by ourselves to soak in the culture.

Bus Tour to Sacred Valley

We signed up for a bus tour to Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. These are some of the well known villages with Inca ruins. The tour was supposed to start at 9am, finish at 7pm and it included lunch. To top it off, it costed us Soles 50 each, USD 15.6. Really cheap!

Our first stop on the bus was a local market as we entered to the valley. We walked around and bought a few souvenirs. The next stop was the Pisac Ruins. The Incas had built a farming village on top of a mountain. Not only were the views incredible, it was a remarriage effort to build the ruins so far up. There were several levels of the ruins used for housing as well as temple. The ruins were packed with people but we managed to walk around and enjoy the scenery.

Pisac Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru

Next we stopped at a silver jewelry store before lunch at a buffet restaurant. The jewelry store had a small tour of the silver jewelry and how theirs was the best jewelry. We spent some time viewing but the prices were exorbitant considering we are backpacking and on tight budget.

Silversmith, Sacred Valley, Peru

Moving on, we stopped at a massive building for buffet lunch. The spread was brilliant and there was a live band. We were amazed at how they could have a tour for 50 Soles where the lunch alone would be possibly 30 soles per person at least. Anyway, we filled ourselves with delicious mains and amazing desserts.

Buffet, Sacred Valley, Peru

Soon after lunch, we headed towards Ollantaytambo, one of the most significant villages in the valley. We reached there around 3 pm and we were to leave at 4pm sharp. From the outset, we were impressed by the town. The streets and houses were still from the Inca times though they had been paved over and added into the colonial style. Cooling drinks, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, PeruThe water engineering from the Inca times was still functioning perfectly well. A lady selling drinks had her drinks bucket sitting in the Inca water channel to keep them cool. That’s a brilliant way to keep the greenhouse gases down.

Ollantaytambo Village, Sacred Valley, Peru

The ruins were incredible too but there were two problems, stairs and crowd. As we had a guide with us, we didn’t want to lose the group but that was impossible with a humongous crowd and multiple guides. Eventually, huffing and puffing up the stairs, we found our guide who told us more about the ruins. As with all the Inca Ruins, there was corn production and storage but the Incas had also used this location for astronomy. They studied the stars and Sun positions. The Sun temple was brevet fished here but the ruins were still immaculate and still in good shape. We would be back again we decided!

Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru

On the way back to Cusco, we visited Chinchero which was only excavated not too long ago. The highlight was a church built over the Inca temple (as with many churches). The church was similar to other churches in the region made of rocks while the foundations sit over the Inca temple. Some locals observe both religions and celebrate the Equinox grandly. Additionally, the beauty of Chinchero is that the site looks over the clear range of the Andes. The tour ended just at it began at Plaza San Francisco around 8pm.

Chinchero, Sacred Valley, Peru

Hiking in Maras

We decided to see the Sacred Valley for ourselves once again. The Maras and Moray tour from Cusco is usual for 20 Soles, USD 6.25, for half-day, but we chose to do it our way. We took a collectivo going from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. The driver asked where we wanted to go and we told him Maras and he assured us that he will drop us at the main road. The ride was scenic for most of the way after Cusco. The Andean cordillera was visible throughout the journey.

As promised, we were dropped off at the main road outside the village of Maras. Taxi drivers told us they would take us on a tour for 15 Soles. We opted not to take the offer and decided to walk instead. An Argentinian Couple also decided to do the same and we struck up a conversation. At around halfway during the 6km walk, we saw the sign for Salineras de Maras and decided to go our own way.

Hiking to Maras, Sacred Valley, Peru

The walk to the Salineras was picturesque. The road was hilly mostly downhill with wheat farms next to the road. Occasionaly, a bus, car or quad bike would pass by and create a dirt cloud. As we reached closer, we arrived at the final hill over the salineras. The view was remarkable! White salt mines against the brown hills were a sight to remember. Unfortunately, we had to walk 2km to get close to them.

Hiking to Salineras, Sacred Valley, Peru

Once we arrived, we noticed all the cars parked and the tour buses. The mines were packed. We had our tourist ticket stamped and finally got close to the salts. The mines were huge and there was no way that we would be able to walk them all. We photographed the mines from close up and with selfies and returned to the entry. We didn’t feel like walking the uphill to the village so we negotiated with a car driver to take us for 10 Soles. He tried to sell us a tour to Moray along the way but we weren’t buying.

Salineras, Sacred Valley, Peru

The village itself was quite small. There was nothing there really except a quadbike shop which ran tours to Moray and Salt Mines. We had lunch with 2 huge glasses of Chicha while there and chatted with some old native ladies about they’re village. Chicha is a corn beer popular in Peru. It is quite cheap and usually made at home. We took a cab from Maras to Moray for 13 soles and the cab driver assured us that there is a trail back to Maras.

Chicha, Local Beer, Sacred Valley, Peru

Moray was an incredible place. It looked right out of a M Night Shyamalan film. Incas had farmed here by making circular step terraces going 5 stories down. We had seen the farming terraces in Ollanta and Pisac but this was something unusual. We hiked down to the lower levels and it seemed amazing that somebody could do this without modern tools or load carrying animals. We napped on the green grass before hiking back to Maras and eventually took a collectivo to Ollantaytambo.

Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru

Living in Ollantaytambo

As mentioned previously, we liked this little town and wanted to return. After Moray, we shopped around for a hotel and then went out to eat. We noticed a huge crowd and hawkers in the main square. After speaking to a few locals, we learnt a fiesta was starting the day we arrived. We grabbed a seat in a balcony overlooking the whole thing and orders food and drinks.

Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru

There were a lot of dances, dancers in different costumes and fireworks. It was more local than Copacabana, Bolivia where the fiesta had people from all over the country. There was an Indian-style burning of a wooden structure with fireworks. As the fireworks popped, a banner of Jesus unfurled from the top. It was a fun and lively event but concentrated on religion and culture instead of drinking and partying.

Ollan Fiesta, Sacred Valley, Peru

The next day we hiked up the hills of Ollanta and visited the free ruins in town. The ruins were granaries which have survived till today and if there were renovations, they could still function as modern buildings. That may give an idea of the amazing Inca architecture.

Inca Storage, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru

Further into the day, we walked on an actual Inca trail. The trail once connected Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. The water channels made by the Incas are still functioning and providing water to the farms. The highlight of our visit though was the Bullfight or Corrido Del Toros.

Farmland, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru

We heard the previous day about the bullfight in the fighting ring in San Isidro. The time of the bullfight was meant to be 3pm but the rings in village are tiny so we thought we would get there by 1pm. We did so and there were only a handful people there with most seats empty but people “reserving” by leaving tarps on seats. Anyway, we waited and waited as the skies threatened to pour. Around 3pm, the crowd started pouring in. We grabbed some popcorn and beer to kill time. We waited some more and had another beer. Around 4pm, the VIPs and the band came in. The fight wad about to start!

Bullfight Ring, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru

The matadors came out to cheers including a female matador. We had been expecting two bulls fighting each other. However, we realised that wasn’t the case and then the fear that Gosh! They will kill bulls infront of us. We waited nervously. The first bull was lowered from the truck into the ring. He charged hard and fast but the matador was experienced. Thankfully, the matador only showed his skill without killing the bull.

Matadors, Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru

The next bull wasn’t interested in fighting but the organisers annoyed him into running into the ring. He didn’t do anything at first but then ran hard and angry. He caught the matador off guard and then THUMP! The matador flew a little off the ground. The crowd gasped! He’ll be carried off for sure, we thought but true to the spirit, the matador got up after the jester and other matadors ran to divert the bull’s attention. Finally, this matador “defeated” the bull. The bull stood there angry and tired. A win for skill against brute force!

Bullfighting, Ollan, Sacred Valley, PeruThere were many amazing moments. The elegance of matadors, the anger of the bulls, a bull falling head over heels, a young female matador taking on a bull like David vs Goliath and finally, the MP of the district distributing free beer to the crowd. The spirit of the festival was on! Or maybe it was the elections ;)

Bullfighting, Ollan, Sacred Valley, Peru

Final Thoughts

The Sacred Valley is an amazing place to spend some time away from the touristiness of Cusco. It is the actual Inca City promised but never delivered by Cusco. The people still speak Quechua and drink Chicha. In fact, we paid more for hiking in Maras than needed but we got some incredible shots of the region away from tourist roads and also helped local taxi drivers who are too far away from the McTour companies of Cusco. A great trip!

Sacred Valley, Peru