How to do Peru in Luxury Part 1: Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley
Where? Machu Picchu and The Sacred Valley Peru
When? August 2018
Why? Machu Picchu in Peru has been on my ultimate bucket list of destinations for as long as I can remember. But travelling as much as I do, I never really had the time (or inclination) to get involved on a three day trek up the mountain. Also being a famous back packing destination, it’s also not always obvious how to travel through Peru in luxury. Until now!
When the prestigious, luxury group Belmond invited me to come and visit Peru in style and I was absolutely thrilled. They had designed a 7 night tour of all the key hotspots in Peru based on my needs, including accommodation in their fabulous hotels, transport between destinations and tickets on board the Belmond Hiram Bingham train, to get me up to Machu Picchu in just under 4 hours. No hiking required!
3 nights in Cusco – to see the spectacular city and also acclimatise to the altitude, important note, as Cusco is so high up in the Andean Mountains tourists often feel short of breath and also sometimes get altitude sickness, so it’s good to give yourself a few days here to get used to the heights.
I definietly felt the sickness for about 24hours, but Charlie was totally fine, just occasionally short of breath, so it really depends from person to person how you’ll be effected. If you do get sick the best thing to do is completely rest, don’t over exert yourself and they do sell tablets for it in the chemists here.
1 night in Machu Picchu staying at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel allowed within the sacred heritage site.
1 night in the Sacred Valley staying at the Belmond Rio Sagrado
And a final night back in Cusco in order to catch the return flight home from the international airport.
This blog post is all about the Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley section of the trip, next weeks blog will focus more on Cusco.
What you need to know about Machu Picchu
Getting there? There are several companies who organise 1 -2 or 3 day hikes from Cusco up to MP, we however opted for the luxurious, old school train journey on board the Belmond Hiram Bingham. It takes around 4 hours from Poroy near Cusco and drives you through the most breathtaking mountain scenery, straight to MP.
There’s a delicious 3 course meal served on board, live music entertainment and a stunning glass viewing carriage and bar at the back of the train. (pictured below)
The Belmond Hiram Bingham
Named after the American explorer Hiram Bingham III who discovered the sacred site of Machu Picchu in 1911, the Belmond Hiram Bingham train is a 1920’s style pullman train which can whisk you through some of the most sublime scenery in the Andean Mountains, straight from Cusco to MP.
Decadently furnished with varnished wood and brass panels, the elegant dining carts and open air observation decks really are steeped in heritage and a true example of the golden age of travel. I loved my journey on board, if anything it ended all too quickly! Image below is the welcome ceremony before boarding the train.
Best time of day to go? Machu Picchu is open all day, but in order to make sure the site doesn’t get over subscribed with tourists and to adhere to conservation rules, you have to buy tickets well in advance, on the official website or on the ground in Peru and enter the heritage site within the specified hourly slot allocated on your ticket. You also need to bring your passport as ID which correlates with your ticket.
How much is it? Entrance fee is around $44 USD, for the day, there are extra charges for more intense hike trails. If you’re not staying at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the bus trip to and from Aguas Calientes (the main town) is around $19.
How much time do you need there? You can buy 1 or 2 day tickets, we opted for 2. The first afternoon we went with a tour guide who told us all about the history of the sacred Inca site and on day two we did some photo shooting, filming and then did the 1 hour hike up to the Sun Gate, the highest point in the site, but be warned, you need to be quite fit to tackle these extra steep treks.
What to wear? The weather up there is so changeable, one minute it’s blazing hot sun, the next its torrential rain and cold. Layered hiking gear is ideal if you’re doing the hikes, or for the main site make sure you have cover ups or water proofs in case it rains.
If you’re a blogger like me, wear your photo outfit up there as there’s nowhere to get changed. Other essentials you’ll need are a hat, a bottle of water (there are no shops or toilets facilities once inside the site) and sunscreen too.
Where to stay in Machu Picchu? The Belmond Sanctuary Lodge
This small boutique property comprises of 31 rooms and suites and has the best location in Machu Picchu. In fact The Belmond Sanctuary Lodge is the only hotel allowed in the sanctuary area, with its location literally on the doorstep of the citadel. No other hotel in the area has such direct access, they all involve a bus ride up the hill. You really feel lucky to be staying here.
Our room had its own private garden with day beds looking directly out over the mountains, which was just blissful. You feel totally at one with nature here, high up in the clouds looking down into the valleys and beyond. It’s beautifully peaceful and the perfect place to retreat to after a busy day visiting Machu Picchu.
You can also indulge in a massage at the spa, have a private sunrise breakfast with a stunning view of the heritage site, do morning yoga on the lawn, have Pisco Sour making classes and get blessed by a shaman. All in all a pretty busy 24 hours!
I made some new friends along the way! The wild llama roam freely within the grounds of Machu Picchu and are open to being fed leaves and being stroked. They were so cute!
I also wanted to mention that my stay and visit to Machu Picchu was one of my all time favourite trips abroad. Everything about the visit was magical and I didn’t want to leave.
Where to stay in The Sacred Valley? The Belmond Rio Sagrado
After a busy stop over in Machu Picchu, the next ideal spot to head to is the Sacred Valley. We stayed at the sensational Belmond Rio Sagrado property, situated by the mystical River Urubamba with dramatic views of the mountains. It’s divinely calm, secluded and the perfect place to have a 2 or 3 night stopover when staying in the area.
All the rooms are colourfully decorated with hand sewn, indigenous designed alpaca cushions and throws. They match the beautiful flowers on the private terraces outside which cascade down to the river side. This hotel is a dreamy, serene sanctuary, the rooms have lounging day beds, fresh fruit deliveries and private, glass roofed showers with various jet washes to massage the body.
The hotel has its own two baby Alpaca which you can feed milk to at breakfast time. I loved them!!
Meals are taken at the lovely El Jardin Restaurant which as the name suggests sources all of its fresh, ripe ingredients from the hotels gardens. Dine on healthy quinoa and avocado salads or try the local speciality of Guinea pig whilst enjoying views of the waterfront.
My yummy quinoa and avo salad starter.
Hit the Spa
And perhaps the highlight of the hotel is its award winning Mayu Willka Spa. With floor to ceiling glass windows looking out over the Urubamba River and mountains, this spa is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever visited.
We spent the morning sunbathing on the terrace, enjoying the outdoor jacuzzi and continued the pampering with a wonderful couples massage in the stunning glass therapy rooms. It was divine and I highly recommend you save some time to visit the spa.
What to see in the sacred valley?
The Sacred valley area is absolutely breathtaking with spectacular scenery all around. There are several hikes and ancient ruins to see in the area, but the hotel is so amazing it is easy to just want to stay and relax there.
I do however recommend a short visit to the Moray Salt Flats though, the natural white pools are tiered down the side of a mountain and they really are a beautiful sight to behold.
That’s all from Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, Huge thanks to Belmond for organising such an incredible trip for us. In next weeks post, Luxury Peru Part 2, I’ll be taking you to Cusco, so remember to tune in!
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Bon voyage xx