Journey Through the Sacred Valley

I was lucky to take three international trips in 2019 and as I
look ahead to 2020, I’ve already decided on two of the three
locations for next year’s international adventures. Now that
we’re entering the holiday season, the content will shift in that
direction, so this will be my final travel post of the year, but I
wanted to share something really special: my journey through the
Sacred Valley of Peru and my visit to Machu Picchu.

I spent a few days with my travel companions exploring
Cusco
, the home base where most travelers begin their journey
to Machu Picchu. Some try to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu and
back in a day but that seemed incredibly exhausting so we decided
in advance to spend three days between a few of the towns in the
valley using various forms of transportation, this gave us a lot
more time to explore.

Here’s how we broke it up. On our first day, we shared a taxi
from Cusco to Urubamba with an hour long stop in Chinchero and
spent the night in Urubamba. On the second day we took the morning
train to Agua Calientes, then the afternoon bus to Machu Picchu
where we stayed until closing at sunset. That evening we returned
by bus to Agua Calientes and stayed at a hotel. On the third day we
took a train from Agua Calientes to Ollaytaytambo with a three hour
stop for sight seeing and lunch, then shared a taxi ride from
Ollaytaytambo back to Cusco. At the end of these three days, we
concluded we had paced it perfectly.

Urubamba is an hour drive from Cusco, and your taxi driver can
stop in a little town called Chinchero. It’s a tiny town where
textiles are made
and gives tourists a brief look at the
process and the opportunity to buy them. Llama and alpaca feeding
free of charge. 😉

 

 

We stayed the night at a nice hotel in Urubamba, ate breakfast
then walked the colorful downtown area to get a feel for it. We
loved all the tuk tuks the local use to get around!

 

My travel companions and I had read about the luxurious Hiram
Bingham round trip train ride
from Cusco to Agua Calientes but
realized that ticket is super pricey. We wanted the train
experience but not at that price, so we booked the one way Sacred
Valley train on Peru Rail
from Urubamba to Machu Picchu and it
was totally amazing! I almost wrote a single blog post just about
this train ride because it was exceptionally fun and now ranks as
one of my top five travel memories ever.

Large pieces of luggage are not allowed on this train so we
decided in advance we would live out of a backpack for our three
day journey carrying nothing but a few toiletries, phone chargers,
and a change of clothes. We caught the train at the Tambo Del Inka
hotel at 10:30 in the morning and as soon as we boarded we were
enchanted.

 

 

 

Riding this train feels just like living in a movie. The classic
bar car and polished caboose offer panoramic views and a brass
railing along the back of the train where we stood and soaked in
the scenery. I loved every detail and every minute!

The passengers are limited to 33 so never felt crowded, and we
were lucky to be traveling on a perfectly sunny day. The second
half of the journey included a three course lunch with wine in the
elegant dining car.  The food was simple but tasty (hello aji
sauce!) and the dessert was the best tres leches cake I’ve had in
years.

 

 

 

 

As we wound our way to our destination of Machu Picchu, we
watched the topography slowly changing as the train followed the
Urubamba River from the fertile valley through the mountains then
into the jungle. The train continues to wind its way through the
valley as the river turns into rapids making its way to Agua
Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu.

We drank our last cup of coffee and gathered up our backpacks
for our arrival. The only thing between us and Machu Picchu was
the final 20 minute bus ride! Bellies full, we were ready for a
hike to one of the modern seven wonders of the world.

 

To get to the site you need to take a bus, but before we boarded
we wanted to store our backpacks first. There are several places in
town near the bus ticket office where you can store belongings.
Agua Calientes is a charming little town and the only access in and
out is via train, so plan ahead. The line for the busses to Machu
Picchu can get long too, so allow for time to wait in line as
well.

 

Arriving at Machu Picchu is a thrilling experience, but you
can’t there unless you have your bus ticket, site ticket, and
your passport. We almost forgot our passports so don’t make that
mistake! Once you make it to the top and through the gate, get
ready, it’s very exciting because you’re about to witness one
of the coolest places in the entire world.

 

How lucky were we to be there on a sunny day, the shadows cast
by the bright sun brought out all the contrast in this UNESCO World
Heritage site. Amazing! The hike through Machu Picchu takes about 2
hours if you’re going at a leisurely pace. You can hire a guide
or do a self guided tour with some research beforehand, it has a
fascinating history.

 

 

Avid hikers can skip the bus ride down and hike the trail back
down to Agua Calientes. We opted to stay the night to rest after a
long day and also so we could experience the nightlife, eat more
Peruvian food, and listen to local musicians play pipe music.

 

 

Our final day in the Sacred Valley, we ate breakfast at our
hotel, then explored Agua Calientes on foot for a couple of hours.
It’s here you can pick up any souvenir you’re looking for in
the market stalls and shops. This town welcomes thousands of
travelers passing through every day.

Source: FS – All – Decorations – Home Decor
Journey Through the Sacred Valley