Okay, so now that we’ve gotten to Peru somehow, here is a breakdown of the tours and activities.
A note about tours: It appears that the tours being organized are subcontracted out to other tour companies so you will not be with the same group for the duration of the tour. For example, on the Lake Titicaca tour, we had the tour agency we booked with pick us up in a taxi and then pass us off to the tour company who would take us on a tour to Puno (the town next to Lake Titicaca). That tour company took us to a bus station where an agent met us, took us in a cab to our hotel. In the morning, we ended up with a different tour guide who picked us up in a shuttle and took us to the boat where we met a different group of people, etc.
What I’m saying here is that with these overnight tours you will not likely have the same group of people OR the same tour guide; however, we were always taken care of every step of the way. This was not explained to us ahead of time but the communication from the first company on WhatsApp was great and after the first tour we knew what to expect.
Day One: Cusco
Sharee and I arrived in Cusco around 11:00 a.m., tired from our red eye. We checked into our AirBnB, an adorable little place that is in a great location, very close to the main square in Cusco, Plaza de Armas. Check in was at 2:00 p.m. but our host’s sister let us into the apartment early which was very kind. While we had two overnight trips, the apartment was only $35/night so we kept it the entire time because it was easier that way. Plus, our host, Gabi, was very accommodating and responsive. If you need a small place to stay, I highly recommend it.
This was the only day we did not have a tour scheduled so we wandered around Cusco and huffed and puffed up the streets as we breathed in the thin air at over 11,000 ft.
Day Two: Journey to Lake Titicaca
We were picked up in a taxi by our tour guide at the Palacio De Nazarenas (most tours will not pick up at an AirBnB so we chose the fancy schmantzy hotel nearby) which was a short two minute walk from the apartment.
One of our first stops was San Pedro Apóstol, the “Sistine Chapel of the Andes” which is a church built over a ceremonial site for the Incans. (Note: you cannot take pictures inside the church)
Spaniards were real jerks, and just went building over sacred sites all the time. Like this church which was built over a temple. The church has frescoes painted by the Jesuits that were used to indoctrinate the indigenous populations; however then the Dominicans came over and were like “Your frescos are trash, Jesuits, we’re putting big ol’ gold altars and paintings over them” so I guess they now know how it feels to have your stuff destroyed.
After this stop, we continued along Sun Route, visiting several different archeological sites and got our first glimpse of the famous “Incan Road” which was a road system that went from Chile to Ecuador. We ended the night in Puno, right next to Lake Titicaca.
Day Three: Lake Titicaca
After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we were picked up by our guide to go on our boat tour. The first stop was the Uros Islands which are floating islands made of compressed reeds. Families can join other islands but if they do not pull their weight, can be cut off and pushed out into the lake. I would like to implement this practice here in America.
On this island they sell hand-crafted goods and speak Aymara as well as a bit of Spanish. Sharee and I were invited to the Island President’s hut for a tour where I leaned realllll hard on my basic Spanish skills from high school to communicate. He sold us some of his wife’s hand-woven tapestries. We then took a ride on one of the traditional boats where Sharee and I were attacked by four adorable little girls who braided our hair. One of the girls working on my hair finished early and then snagged my phone from me, looking at all my pictures and opening every app. She held it hostage the entire boat ride and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have some weird delivery from Amazon as a result.
The other girl didn’t like how the one girl did my braid so she took it out and redid it. I was slightly worried the first girl would have her part of the island cut off and pushed into the lake, but I think everything is going to be fine.
After this we headed over to Taquile Island where we hiked a way steep hill and had a traditionally cooked lunch while listening to stories about their culture, including how they use hats to determine who is single and who is not and man, is it wild. Learning about these very different cultures that lived on islands very close to one another was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.
After this, we headed back to Puno. We had the option of paying 50 soles for access to a room before our bus ride home in four hours. Since that equated to about $12.50 total we took them up on that. A representative from the tour agency then met us at the hotel and took us to the bus station for an overnight ride back to Cusco. The seats on the bus were comfortable and leaned all the way back to help with sleeping, but the ride was… rough. Roads in Peru are a hodge podge of asphalt, pebbles, dirt, and rocks from the before times. At the bus station we were met by a taxi driver who took us back to our AirBnB
This tour was extremely well organized and I would highly recommend. There was a guide at every step of the way to take us to the next location. Lake Titicaca is 7.5 hrs from Cusco without stops which is why people usually don’t do it but if you’re looking to learn about the culture, you really should do it ::whispers:: it’s better than Machu Picchu
Worth it: Yes.
Day Four:Vinicunca (Rainbow Mountain)
Alright so this is where it gets VERY METAL.
Our overnight bus ride got us back to our apartment at 5:00 a.m. and after 2.5 hrs of sleep we were back down to meet our next tour guide at 8:30 a.m.
I told y’all… METAL.
Because no one else booked the tour, Sharee and I had a private car with just us. It was a three hour drive from Cusco to Vinicunca, going the same direction as you head toward for Lake Titicaca. The last part of the drive is BEAUTIFUL, full of nature and trees and alpacas.
The hike is about 2 miles one way and starts at 14,500 ft. and ends at 16,500 feet, which was the highest that Sharee and I had ever hiked. We almost died, but still made it to the top in just over an hour–our tour guide said that was a great time, but he may have just been humoring us.
You can also rent a horse to get you most of the way up, but not up the steepest part, so you still have to walk it.
One sad note about Vinicunca is that the reason it was revealed was due to global warming– previously, snow and ice covered the very colorful mountain.
Due to social media it has taken off in popularity and has brought tourism to the rural area which has started an entirely different economy for the indingenous population.
After a quick history lesson, we headed back down and went to a restaurant for a buffet lunch (a 3 p.m. lunch…?)… a restaurant we would visit a total of THREE TIMES on the trip. Then, it was back to Cusco.
Worth it: Yes!