Standing at the top of the guardhouse at Machu Picchu looking out over the ancient ruins and the misty mountains behind them, I couldn’t help but think ‘wow, my neck is getting burnt’!
When you’re taking precious time off of work for a bucket list adventure like Intrepid’s 9-day Classic Peru trip, being prepared can make all the difference. Whether it’s simply packing more sunscreen with you for your time at Machu Picchu or brushing up on altitude sickness, these eight tips will help you make the most out of your once-in-a-lifetime trip.
8. I wish I’d known I would fall in love with Cusco
Flying into this city nestled between the mountains was surreal. Once I got over the altitude, I was stunned by its Spanish architecture, walkable layout, ancient ruins and incredible Peruvian food. Grab some local pisco or a coca tea on any of the balcony restaurants in the famous Plaza de Armas and people watch over the town square. After, head to the San Pedro market to try a fresh fruit juice and some local cheeses.
READ MORE: AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO WHAT TO DO, EAT AND DRINK IN CUSCO
7. I wish I’d prepped better for altitude sickness
At an altitude of over 11,000 feet, stepping off the plane in Cusco, Peru can feel a bit like floating. I’ve never been close to that high up, so I had no idea how the altitude would affect me. Being one of the lucky ones, I just had a slight headache. Not everyone in my tour was as fortunate, so those altitude sickness tablets came in handy.
Our Intrepid guide, Daniel also warned us against having too much to drink, as that can make it worse. Instead, bring lots and lots of water to drink and your body will naturally adjust.
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6. I wish I’d brought more bug spray and sunscreen to Machu Picchu
The weather in Machu Picchu is extremely unpredictable, until you get to the top. We ventured to the top in November, during their rainy season but instead of showers and wind we got sunshine. I was not prepared for how hot it would be, although it’s lucky they do have a place to check extra bags and coats at the entrance.
They didn’t, however, have a place to buy sunscreen or bug spray so bring your own, because no matter the weather, you’ll need at least one.
VISIT MACHU PICCHU ON A SMALL GROUP ADVENTURE WITH INTREPID TRAVEL
5. I wish I’d known how quickly the weather changes
The weather in Peru is truly unpredictable. When our group first arrived to Cusco in November, it was warm and sunny. We went into a restaurant for an hour to have lunch and when we looked outside it was hailing the size of golf balls with wind, thunder and lightning! Although it was their rainy season, this was still an extreme case because it made the national news.
Regardless, be prepared for hot sunny days and cold nights, and maybe a bit of hail too.
4. I wish I’d brought more cash for markets
Peru is known around the world for its handmade goods that include woven alpaca sweaters, socks, blankets and more. We visited several different markets in small towns scattered throughout the Sacred Valley, but there was always a noticeable lack of ATMs.
So if you plan on shopping – which you should – keep the equivalent of 20 USD with you in case you spot a custom piece you just can’t live without.
3. I wish I’d known to never stop drinking water!
Taking a flight, in general, dehydrates you. But taking two flights and a seven-hour bus ride within nine days will definitely drain you of fluids. Not to mention all the exploring and walking around Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. It’s not difficult, but when you add high altitude, you’ll need to double your water intake. Always keep an extra bottle of water on hand, because you can’t drink out of the faucet in Peru.
READ MORE: 10 THINGS YOU PROBABLY DON’T KNOW ABOUT PERU
2. I wish I’d researched more local restaurants
Lima is one of the food capitals of the world and, of course, there’s delicious food scattered throughout the entire country. If you’re into food like me, you’ll want to brush up before you arrive and book reservations way in advance. For the number 5 restaurant in the world, Central, try to make a reservation at least two months prior.
Thankfully, our Intrepid guide was a foodie and could direct us to some amazing local ceviche spots like Cevichería Bam Bam Y Sus Conchas Negras.
However, it’s still nice (in my opinion!) to have a list of recommended eateries so you don’t get stuck eating at the closest chain restaurant.
(To help, here are some starting tips for what to do in Lima and what to eat in Lima!)
1. I wish I’d known how beautiful the landscapes would be
I was expecting the big attractions like Cusco and Machu Picchu to be picturesque, but I was shocked when the entire country was like a painting – especially the incredible sunset we saw over Lake Titicaca during our homestay.
READ MORE: WHAT IT’S LIKE SPENDING THE NIGHT IN A HOMESTAY ON LAKE TITCACA