Peru: The Sacred ValleyAuthor: Kathryn P
Date of Trip: May 2010
One of the reasons I love the Independent Traveler website is that I'm an independent traveler. I love international travel and have, so far, planned and travelled solo on all of my adventures.
I can't say enough about my fabulous trip to Peru in May 2010. Really - the only not-so-great part of the whole trip was the travel to and from Lima (traveling from Houston, TX, you are pretty much forced to spend at least one night in Lima on the way in - and I ended up spending another "gruelling" night - at the airport - on the way out due to cancelled flights).
There were terrible floods early that year (2010) and a long stretch of the normal rail-line from Cusco to past Ollantaytambo (going to Machu Picchu) was shut down. Thankfully, I had already planned and booked my trip around the central location of Urubamba. I booked a one week reservation to the Hotel Sonesta Posada Del Inca (Sacred Valley) in Yucay - a lovely location, with lovely rooms and a good on-site restaurant. It's a beautiful, peaceful oasis surrounded by towering mountains. The hotel staff were very friendly (greeting me by name the same evening I arrived, and each day thereafter) - but, more than that, they were very helpful in sorting out my travel to various sights in the valley, as well as verifying my train travel to Machu Picchu. They even arranged for a car to pick me up in Cusco, on my arrival, to take me to the hotel in the valley.
Also, the hotel bar, in the reservation building, is a great place to hang out and meet fellow-travelers. I had many a great conversation with folks from England, France, and Brazil in the Sonesta bar. Additionally, one of the things I wanted to do while in Peru was ride Paso Fino horses. I had gotten the name of a few outfitters in the Urubamba Valley to contact once I got there - but, none of them would take a single rider! My wonderful hotel staff came to the rescue once again.
They called Sr. Yojan Boza Valenzuela at Rancho El Chalan - a short taxi ride from the hotel - and he was more than happy to take me on a half-day ride. For all you horse-back fans out there - if you've never ridden a Paso Fino, put it on your bucket list! I had the most amazing ride of my life so far! And, Yojan is a friendly and informative guide - a true ambassador for Peru. This is 'butt-in-the-saddle' Western riding at its best! (Though, he does cater to riders of all levels.) We had a wonderful ride, and I learned a lot about the people, culture, and natural environment of the Urubamba Valley.
Rancho El Chalan also hosts everything from hourly rides - to several day outting, and will even build a ride to suit your fancy. Rancho El Chalan was truely a highlight of my trip to Peru; and the Staff at Sonesta Posada - Yucay made my trip and local travel to Machu Picchu, Pisac, and Ollantaytambo easy-as-pie.
With Machu Picchu on my list of 'to do's' in Peru, I knew there could be issues with altitude sickness. Most hotels in Cusco and the Sacred Valley offer coca tea, which helps with altitude. However, I have allergies to codeine and such, so didn't want to chance drinking it (not to mention US employment drug tests and such :o). But, I found some great stuff on-line prior to my trip - Alpine-Aid (alpineaid.com). I started taking it a couple of days before I left for Peru - and never once had an issue with the altitude.
I won't go in to all of the wonderous sights at Machu Picchu - since it's so very popular. But, I do want to give a 'plug' to Ollantaytambo - which is about half-way between Yucay and Machu Picchu. The town is on a hill-top, and well worth a wander through the ancient cobbled streets. And, the Inca sight of Ollantaytambo is a great place to climb around - large and ancient and lovely. There is also an ancient grainery on the opposite side of the town - that you can reach from just off the town square. But, I'll warn that it is quite a climb, and not always terribly easy, so one should use caution (and be sure to have water!)
Peru wasn't the easiest trip I've planned - but, thanks to the great folks at Sonesta Posada del Inca in Yucay, and to my friend Yojan at Rancho El Chalan - it's been one of my most memorable trips...
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