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Peru’s Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu: What to Know Before You Go

The Sacred Valley of Peru is a feast for the senses—colorful woven fabrics, mountains that soar skyward with little warning (or foothills), an ancient culture full of innovation, and a contemporary cuisine that has emerged from traditional crops, international influence, and creative playfulness among the country’s best chefs. In September 2018, I joined our Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley tour for my first time to Peru. From elevation headaches to photogenic llamas, here’s what to know before your adventure with Boundless Journeys!

 

Book early

Inca trail permits are limited and sell out quickly. The same can be said for Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain—two hiking options from Machu Picchu that offer a bird’s eye view of the ruins. If you would like to hike, don’t wait until the last minute to plan your trip.

prepare for a range of micro-climates

Packing light is always recommended (the less you have, the less you have to worry about!) but you will need everything from a warm jacket for nights and higher elevation climates to lightweight, quick dry clothing for Machu Picchu, which is much warmer and more humid. Refer to our packing list for further detail.

Acclimatize before imbibing

Wait a day before trying a pisco sour. It’s easy to get dehydrated just from flying. But you are also landing in Cusco, which is situated about 11,000 feet above sea level. Your body will thank you for not consuming any alcohol that first day while it works to acclimatize. Drink coca tea instead, but don’t try to bring it home. Coca tea is medicinal, and has been consumed by Andean people for hundreds of years to boost energy. It is a wonderful remedy for altitude sickness, and does not cause any adverse effects (though drinking too much can leave you feeling jittery, akin to having too much coffee. Stick to one cup at a time). Since cocaine (illegal in Peru) is chemically produced from the same plant, it is illegal to bring coca tea into the United States.

Ask to take photos of local people, and be prepared to tip

The first bit of this is common courtesy. The second bit may not always be expected, but is likely. Some situations are obvious; you will definitely see Quechua women in traditional dress, more than willing to pose with their llamas for a small propina. Your guide can offer further guidance, but have some Peruvian soles easily accessible just in case.

 

If possible, arrive one or two days early

I always feel a bit of whiplash when traveling a great distance, and prefer to arrive early whenever possible. I know I’m not alone; an old tale captures this notion by suggesting that while traveling, it’s important to pause to ‘let your soul catch up’. Those with less romantic world views may simply call this jet lag. Regardless, extra time allows you to rest, let your bags find you if they are delayed, explore Cusco freely without any agenda, and get used to the higher elevation before the trip begins.

 

Foodie? Extend your trip in Lima

And try the guinea pig. From street food to contemporary twists on indigenous dishes to Michelin-starred restaurants, the culinary scene in Peru is hotter than ever, and Lima is the hub. Guinea pig, or cuy, is a delicacy (and I recommend trying at least one bite!). You may also now indulge in another pisco sour.

 

If you’ve enjoyed reading and are inspired to join us or have questions about the adventures featured in this post, please give us a call at 1-800-941-8010 or send us an email at info@boundlessjourneys.com.

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