Getting up-close and personal to Peru's Incan past has been a dream of mine since I was a child. And now that Tim and I finally found ourselves in Cusco, the old Incan capital, I could just feel the excitement mounting inside me. I wanted to see and experience it all.
And so we made a plan.
Our Paved "Inca Trail"
So if you are interested in coming to Peru and have the time and means to do this, and if you also have the burning desire to see South American ruins as I do, then I would highly recommend taking this route.
We'd heard that in order to do all the sites on this route in the most cost-effective way, we first needed to buy a full boleto turistico (tourist ticket) from the COSITUC office in the historic center of Cusco (-13.518063, -71.978563). It cost us 130 Soles (~$39) per person, was valid for 10 days, and allowed us to get into all the major Incan sites around Cusco and some museums, but it did not cover Machu Picchu. That is a separate ticket, and if you are going in the high season (June-Sep) you may want to consider buying your Machu Picchu ticket in Cusco as well, as they sometimes sell out weeks in advance. Otherwise, you can buy it when you get to Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes), like we did.
Sexy Woman and her Friends
Saqsaywaman - included on the boleto
Qenqo - included on the boleto
Temple of the Moon - free
Puca Pucara - included on the boleto
Tambomachay - included on the boleto
You can do all these sites in a day as long as you have a vehicle, hire a cab, or take buses. Either that or you're a hiking athlete who's already climbed Everest twice.
The Sacred Valley
Pisac - included on the boleto
Moray - included on the boleto
The hike around the terraces shouldn't take more than 45 minutes, and if you don't like hiking, this is one of the few places that doesn't require lots of walking since you can park almost up to the edge and still get the full effect. The road here is dirt and goes through the cute village of Maras, a perfect place to stop for lunch.
Maras Salinas - not included on the boleto, costs 10 Soles
The boleto turistico does not cover this site, but it costs only ten Soles to get in (~$3). And best of all, the bathrooms are stocked with toilet paper and paper towels, whoa!
Ollantaytambo - included on the boleto
Maybe it was because we went in the low season (Dec-Feb), or maybe it was because the weather was perfectly misty and mysterious. But my visit to Machu Picchu was everything I'd ever wanted and more.
So stay tuned, and I hope I have inspired somebody out there to experience these incredible Incan sites for themselves.
A Final Note
So unlike Machu Picchu, the Incan way of life is not gone, it's not ruined, and it's not lost. It's here, it's alive, and in the land of the Inca, it's all around us.