Saturday, August 08, 2015

Peruvian Journey: Part 2 - Up to the Sacred Valley

While Lima is the capital of Peru, the heart of the country is the Sacred Valley. This is where the heart of the Inca Empire was based and that history and culture is still a source of pride for many Peruvians. The evidence of that civilization and the testament to their building prowess is easily visible at the many ruins in the valley. 

For tourists, Cusco is the gateway to the Inca ruins. The city sits more than 11,000 feet above sea level and is a quick 40 minute flight from Lima. Ticket prices are surprisingly reasonable and flights are frequent. LAN provides the most mainstream service with the best planes. Other airlines like StarPeru and Peruvian (which I flew) provide decent service and lower prices... but with a few trade offs. For example, this is a fine specimen of a 737-200 has been around for quite a while. It may very well be as old as I am. 

Once in Cusco, the most sensible thing to do is leave, immediately. It is not that the town is a bad plus, but the the high altitude is likely to have an impact. 11,000 feet up is the same as standing on top of Mount Hood or Mount Fuji. Other towns in the valley are actually lower altitude and better suited for adjusting to the thin air. In my case, I stayed in Ollantaytambo.

For transportation, nothing prearranged is needed. Ignore the taxi hustlers that speak excellent English when you first step out; They are just trying to get you to pay four times as much as you should. They originally offered $60 to drive out to Ollantaytambo (1.5 hours), which by US standards is great, but you can hire a private cab at the collectivo terminal 15 minutes away for $18. Or take a collectivo for the whole journey for a couple bucks!

Ultimately, I took the short local cab to the terminal and bought a seat in the cab. The cab normally takes four people and their stuff for a trip and leaves when full, but I opted to by out the middle seat for a more comfortable ride. I highly recommend this. In total, I spent $9 for two seats and an hour and a half trip through the Scared Valley.

This was the first view of Ollantaytambo (above). If I were to do the trip again, I would stay here and use this as the launching point for touring around the Sacred Valley. The place we stayed at Hostal Iskay was really nice and relaxing. Fortunately, there will have to be another time because there is much left unexplored.

Next time: The ruins of Ollantaytambo and More from Cusco!