July 24, 2011
Trip logistics: To re-create the trip described, contact any one of a number of Mountain Lodge of Peru's travel partners, including Mountain Travel Sobek (www.mtsobek.com); REI (www.rei.com/adventures) or Backroads (www.backroads.com) or contact MLP directly at http://www.mountainlodgesofperu.com . Depending on the time of year, the basic seven-day trek costs about $2,800 per person, double occupancy, irrespective of who you book through. Airfare to Lima and onward to Cuzco is extra as are extra nights in Cuzco and/or at Aguas Calientes.
When to go: The route is closed in January. The winter season (May-Dec.) offers the best chance of moderate temperatures and dry weather.
How to prepare: Train at high altitude if at all possible. In this writer's opinion, high intensity workouts with short recovery periods repeated for extended periods of time is a good way to get your cardio system in shape for the trip. Otherwise, lots of lunges; stairs; and squats to build up muscular endurance.
What to take: All outfitters will supply you with a list of essentials. To the obvious, add some sort of high altitude sickness medication. Consult your physician for his recommendation.
Where to stay: All outfitters will provide you with a recommendation for lodging in Cuzco and Aguas Calientes. We stayed at the Picoaga Hotel (www.picoagahotel.com) and Casa Andina Private Collection (www.casa-andina.com) in Cuzco and found the accommodations adequate. The Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel (www.pueblohotel.info) in Aguas Calientes was outstanding. There is one hotel located adjacent to the Machu Picchu Grounds: The Sanctuary Lodge Hotel (www.sanctuarylodgehotel.com). There, you can get a room for a view from between $8-900. Possibly worth it to forgo the early morning bus ride up the mountain.
What else to do: We stayed an extra day at Aguas Calientes so we could observe the sunrise on Machu Picchu. This was very worthwhile. We also climbed to the top of Huayna Picchu with our group the day we toured the site together. This is an exhilarating 1000-foot climb and descent. It is not for the faint of heart. Taking any of the Vistadome or Hiram Bingham trains from Aguas Calientes to Cuzco/Ollantaytambo is very relaxing and a lot of fun. Vistadome tickets can be booked through Peru Rail (www.perurail.com) or, for the luxury Hiram Bingham, go to http://www.orientexpress.com. The cost of a one-way ticket from Aguas Calientes to Cuzco is around $300. Our package included the Peru Rail Vistadome trip. We also traveled to Lake Titicaca, staying at the all-inclusive Titilaca Resort (www.andean-experience.com). This was a very worthwhile 3-day excursion, well worth the $600 per person per night tab we paid at the resort.
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