Machu Picchu is a place that I never thought I would make it to. I always saw it in travel books and photos online, but it always seemed like such a mystical and magical place that I never imagined I would make it there. Then again, I never thought I would embark on a trip like this either, but here we are. Our trip to Machu Picchu was special because it was together, but also because four of our good friends from Rhode Island traveled all the way to Peru to meet us on our travels. Shout out to Chrissy, Max, Anne, and Dave! PVD Crew!

Our adventure started in the Cusco airport where we boarded the van that we booked and headed to Ollantaytambo where we would catch the train to Aguascaliente. The van ride took about two hours in total and we were blessed to see such beautiful scenery along the way. I never realized Peru is such a beautiful country. We arrived in Ollantaytambo and had about 5 hours until we had to board our train at 9:00pm so we headed straight to a restaurant for some Pisco Sours and a taste of Alpaca.

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Pisco Sour’s had to be drank at every meal!

Four pisco sours later….we boarded the 9:00pm train heading to Aguascalientes. The train ride lasted about 1 1/2 hours and sadly since it was dark so we were unable to see any of the scenery on our way through the mountains and to our place of rest for the night. When we arrived to Aguas we were beat and headed straight to bed in preparation for our early morning for Machu Picchu.

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The Machu Picchu crew! Providence representing in Peru.

We woke up on a Sunday at 4:00am and set off on our hike to Machu Picchu. We decided that we wanted to opt for getting up early and walking the hour or so up the initial part of the mountain to the entrance of Machu Picchu. We departed the town of Aguascalientes on foot by following the railroad tracks down the road. Now, it was pitch black in the dark so we didn’t realize we were going the wrong way until we came upon a tunnel for the railroad tracks. This was definitely the wrong way and as we looked down over the ledge we saw tons of flashlights and individuals walking so we shimmied down through bushes and dirt for a couple of minutes and finally found our way to the correct walking path. We walked for about 25 minutes in the dark until the sun started to rise and we came upon the entrance of the path. There were guards posted before the bridge and they checked our tickets and passports to make sure we had all of the proper documentation.

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5:00am and ready for our hike!

We crossed the bridge and headed up the mountain. There were a lot more individuals climbing up the mountain than we thought there would be. There are actually two ways to get up to the entrance of Machu Picchu; one is to hike for free (which we chose) and the second is to take a bus up the mountain for $12 each way. We wanted the hike and always try to save money where we can so we opted for the hike up!  The hike was a little more strenuous than I thought, but then again I really think it was just the altitude getting to us all. It was harder to breath the farther up we went and the hike was pretty much a vertical incline so by the time we got to the top our legs were aching a bit.

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Woohoo….hiking to MachuPicchu!!!

An hour later we arrived to the entrance of Machu Picchu. The park opens at 6:00am and there was already a long line to enter the park. We quickly found a guide for our group at the price of 20Soles per person (120 soles total) to take us around Machu Picchu until 9:00am. The park only allows each person to enter twice on the day of your ticket, so you have to be careful about how many trips you take to use the bathroom since there is not one inside the park. The very first thing we did once we were inside the park was head straight to the famous outlook of the park so that we could take our photos while there was still good weather. We were lucky that there were not that many people in the park and there was a clear view so we didn’t have to wait a long time to get our pictures. Large tours usually arrive around 11:00am, so if you want the park almost to yourself get there early!

PVD in Machu Picchu!

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❤ Love at Machu Picchu ❤

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After we took our obligatory Machu Picchu photos we spent the next three hours following the guide around the park listening to him as he told us the history of the park that was before us. Machu Picchu was built around 1450 and abandoned approximately 100 years later as a result of the Spanish conquest. The guide told us several stories of tourist misconduct and deaths that have occurred over the years. In the 1980’s the king of Spain wanted to land his helicopter in the open green area in the middle of the empire and an important stone was moved out of its placement to allow for this. There is at least one death every year due to heart attacks from altitude sickness, falling and slipping from the mountains, and other accidental deaths. The guide was very adamant about staying within the boundaries, keeping from the sides, and taking things slow as we descended and ascended each part of the ruins.

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Macchu Picchu in the afternoon when the sky is less clear.

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This is predicted to be a sundial that was used. A portion of it was ruined by a movie crew and is now roped off.

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The Inca empire worshiped the mountains. This is a rock replica of the mountain Huayna Picchu.

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Our guide showing us the shape of the Condor in the rocks.

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Obligatory selfie.

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Lunchtime! It was a long morning and we had our lunch at 10:00am with this fantastic view.

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The views were so incredible. So many beautiful mountains to take in.

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It is incredible how they built this place with such pristine and precision and that it still stands from the 1400’s!

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At 9:30am our guide departed and we took a moment to devour the sandwiches we had brought in near the exit of the Machu Picchu park. Of course, like the dumb tourists we are, we didn’t realize this was forbidden and got yelled at by some of the park workers. Oops. In our ticket prices we had purchased the opportunity to climb the actual Machu Picchu mountain that lay behind the ruins and is told to have the best view of the area. Since we had been up since 4:00am, only a few decided to do the 3 hike up and down the mountain. While Oscar, Anne, and Dave made their way up the mountain, Chrissy, Max, and myself reentered the park and explored the ruins one more time, but this time with more detail and a little more slowly. It was amazing how many things we had missed with the tour guide and there were so many more rooms that we discovered.

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View of the river from the top of Machu Picchu mountain.

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Incredible view from the top. Hike well worth it!

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Oscar and Dave at the top of Machu Picchu mountain. What a view!!!

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View of Machu Picchu ruins below. The mountains in the Sacred Valley are incredible.

At about 2:00pm in the afternoon we decided to make our way down the mountain. Chrissy, Max, and myself decided to walk down the mountain since we didn’t hike up the additional mountain as the others decided. Also, who doesn’t like saving money? Ha!  The rest of the group took the bus down and rightfully so after that additional three hour hike up the mountain!

Once we were back in Aguascalientes we all went straight for food and then headed to the thermal waters that we had been hearing so much about. After a morning of hiking and walking around all day, we were all excited to submerse ourselves into some warm natural pools. However, as we walked up to the thermal pools after paying 10 soles each we realized they ended up being glorified swimming pools with lukewarm water and rocks at the bottom. We were told after that the actual hot springs had dried up years ago and now they use these in place of them. Since we had paid for the entrance we decided why not try it and hopped into the pools. Some of the pools were warm and some were just plain cold and gross. The entire thing was weird being in a pool with tons of people where the water was really warm and people being served drinks. I know its just like a swimming pool, but the fact that it was warm and there was rocks at the bottom freaked me out. I would say it was not really worth it and it is something you can skip when you are in Aguascalientes; unless you really want to experience go for it!

Thermal Pools…Max is not that excited for it.

We stayed the night in Aguascalientes and got up early for the 9:00am train ride back to Ollantaytambo. This time, since the train ride was in the morning we were able to see the beautiful views that the Sacred Valley had to offer. Our breath was taken away by all the beauty that was surrounded us as the train made its way through the mountains. We were able to see individuals who participated in the Inca Trail walking with their packs on their backs following the river, ruins high up in the mountains that seem to have yet to be discovered, and the farm life in Peru. It was so beautiful.

 

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Trains go thru the middle of the town of Aguascalientes and is the only way to get to the town.

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Breathtaking views!

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Dave and Anne on the train. The train has windows all over in order to provide amazing views of the Sacred Valley.

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Machu Picchu was an incredible adventure for all of us and it was even more special to enjoy it with friends who traveled all the way to Peru to see us! Don’t forget to check out our video montage of our time at Machu Picchu!!

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We stopped over in Lima, Peru on our way to Bolivia for Christmas so that I could see a friend of mine (shout out to Alex and his wife Claudia!!) that I haven’t seen since 2009 in the states. We were only there for a couple of days, but we saw a lot of Lima and loved it. Neither of us had ever been to Lima, nor knew what to expect, but by the end of the couple days we were both wishing that we had more time to spend there!

Parque Del Amor
One of the first places that our lovely host took us was very near to his place in Miraflores called the Parque del amor.  This park overlooks the ocean and holds the famous statue “El Beso” constructed by Victor Delfin in honor of the kissing contest the mayor used to hold in the district. Oscar, Alex, and I walked around the park and read some of the love quotes that were written on the walls, took some cheesy photos and enjoyed the view of the ocean. This park also holds a lighthouse at the end of the walkway and is the place to go if you want to go paragliding over the city. I for one definitely did not do any paragliding as my fear for heights would never allow it!

Kisses in front of El Beso!

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In front of El Beso with my good friend from college Alex and our guide for our time in Lima.

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What a view!!

Huaca Pucllana
These ruins were discovered in the 1940’s and are currently still being excavated. The entrance is 12 soles; however if you bring a valid student ID then you only have to pay 5 Soles. The only way to explore the ruins is by a guided tour in English or Spanish and they take you around the ruins and explain various things about the Lima people and their culture, what the archeologists have found, and how the ruins were found. One of the most interesting things that the guide told us during our tour of the ruins was that the surrounding neighborhoods and houses are actually sitting on ruins that have not and can not be discovered since they are buried beneath private property. This fact made my mind go wild during the rest of our time in Lima thinking that any random hill or open area could have ancient ruins hidden beneath them. I have seen a lot of ruins in various countries, but this is one of the most impressive ruins I have seen because of the fact that it is located in the center of the city and it is currently being excavated. It was so amazing to see the portion of the ruins that have been excavated right next to the portion of the ruins that had not been excavated yet. This is a must see in the city of Lima!lima

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Adorable!!

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Parque De La Reserva 

We discovered this park from a quick search of Lima online and decided that it was a must see. Alex’s wife Claudia graciously accompanied us to the park. We arrived to the park around 7:30pm and were told that the main attraction, the Magic Light show, was not running due to construction but all of the other fountains were functioning. The cost to the park is 4 Soles per person, which is a little more than $1. The park has 13 fountains in total varying from those that are accompanied with music to those that are interactive. Our gracious hostess told us that in the warmer months of Lima, people will come to the park with their bathing suits and spend the day splashing around in the water. The park was absolutely beautiful itself with the water fountains; however with Christmas arriving as well the entire park was decorated with Christmas lights, which made it even more beautiful. This park is an absolute must to visit when in Lima and don’t forget to visit both sides of the park! The underground tunnel can be easily missed, but you don’t want to skip whats on the other side!lima water fountain

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lima water fountain

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Lima water fountain

John F Kennedy Park (aka Cat Park)
Every country in Central and South America has parks and plazas dedicated to different events, people, and places; however I have never seen a park such as John F Kennedy park in Lima. The story goes that there used to be a large rat problem in this park, so the mayor at decided that a few cats would fix the problem so he got a few cats and put them in the park. Once all the rats were gone, the cats stayed and began to reproduce. The cats never left the park because the people of Lima bring them food and water pretty much on a daily basis so they never have to leave the park. This park is filled to the brim with cats laying on chairs, hidden in flower beds, and climbing fences and trees all around you. It is an absolute phenomenon that you will not see anywhere else.

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cat park lima

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cat park lima

Monastery of San Francisco
The Monastery of San Francisco is one of the most impressive, historical, and creepiest places we have been to thus far on our trip. As we had not planned much for our trip to Lima since we were visiting friends, we were pleasantly surprised to be taken to this location. The entrance is 10 Soles and includes a guided tour in English or Spanish. The tour includes a view of the very impressive library that holds 25,000 ancient books. The tour guide does not allow you to take any pictures otherwise I would have an impressive photo of the library that I wish I had in my own home! The tour also included the church, various rooms where meetings were conducted, and the ever impressive catacombs. I had never experienced any catacombs myself and it was one of the most exciting things I have seen! The catacombs were discovered in the 1940’s and it is estimated to have over 25,000 bodies laid at rest underneath the Monastery. I was surprised at how extensive the catacombs were and just how many rooms there were in existence. Some of the rooms were completely dedicated to only one part of the body, such as one room that held hundreds and hundreds of femurs.catacombs lima

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Plaza Mayor (Plaza De Armas)
The Plaza Mayor is a very impressive park surrounded by the Cathedral of Lima, Government Palace, Archbishops Palace of Lima, Municipal Palace, and Palace of the Union. The Plaza itself is very beautiful, but the surrounding historic buildings add so much history and beauty to the Plaza that there is nothing like it. If you take a few moments to just look around you will see cholitas selling items, couples kissing on benches, businessmen and women rushing to meetings, and you may even see the President exiting and entering the Government Palace. Take a few moments to relax in this Plaza and soak in the surroundings; we did and we got to see Santa ride by on a motorcycle!plaza mayor lima

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Cathedral of Lima
The Cathedral of Lima is located in the Plaza Mayor and holds 14 side chapels, grand entrance, catacombs beneath, paintings, and the tomb of Francisco Pizzaro, the conquistador of Peru. The entrance is 10 Soles which does not include a guide; however it gives you the freedom to explore the cathedral on your own and at your own pace.

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