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Cuzco + Machu Picchu in 48 Hours

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

There are few places in the world with energy quite like that in Machu Picchu—the way each temple was intentionally crafted to mimic the shape of another natural landmark, the way each window was strategically placed for rays of sunlight, the way the mountain tops in the East became a calendar, the way the fog dances through each structure—the beauty, thoughtfulness and spirit is unparalleled.

Before I go into details, if you take two things away from this post, let it be these:

  • Spend an extra day in Cuzco—I didn't (even though everyone and all my research told me to), and I regretted it; it's not just to have time to experience what Cuzco has to offer, it's to help your body acclimate to the insane altitudes.

  • Use a tour company—you could plan and figure this out on your own, but if you use a tour group, you'll thank yourself later. It's a pretty penny upfront, but the ease of trip worth the cost—there is a lot of traveling and different modes of transportation to get to Machu Picchu. I did the 3-Day journey with G Adventures and can't recommend it enough.

OK, without further ado—my Machu Picchu travel tips + experience!

Journey Through the Sacred Valley

Because we booked through G Adventures, we got to focus on what we were actually experience instead of of the stress of getting to Machu Picchu. The trip started off with them picking us up from Cuzco Airport and driving us through the Sacred Valley with a handful of stops and photo opportunities.

  • Disclaimer: I'm smiling in those photos, but I truly thought I was going to die from altitude sickness—I didn't want to tell the guides because I was afraid they wouldn't let me go to Machu Picchu, and thankfully after a car nap, several cups of cocoa tea and other herbal solutions later, I was well enough to continue. BUT the reason I tell you this is to prove the importance of going to Cuzco a day early.

The Ccaccaccollo Commity

Aside from experiencing all that is Machu Picchu, this was my favorite stop on the trip. This stop, alone, probably accounts for 80% of why I can't recommend G-Adventures enough—this women's weaving co-op, which is funded by G-Adventures. Not only are you greeted by a pack of adorably friendly alpacas but also by the wonderfully kind women in the co-op who preserve the ancient culture of dying alpaca fur & weaving. The explained the whole process to us, showed us how they do it and even served me a cup of cocoa leaf tea while they did it! Then, naturally, I had to by a beanie they made to match my outfit.

  • Disclaimer: we also visited a men's pottery co-op funded by G Adventures that I imagine was also very cool and interesting, but I was so low on oxygen at that point, I really don't remember any of it, let alone have any pictures from it. Again, I reiterate, spend an extra day in Cuzco.

Parwa Community Restaurant in Huchuy Qosco

Another G Adventures funded special, this community restaurant blew my mind away. All the food was farm-to-table, freshly made and included in our tour. The ingredients were sourced from different altitudes nearby to represent the beautiful diversity in Peru. Anyone that can turn a rainforest tomato into a wonderfully complex dessert deserves compliments. .

Journey from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes

After lunch, we made our way to Ollantaytambo, where we had enough time to grab a quick espresso and watch the dancers in the Señor de Choquekillk Festival before catching the train to Aguas Calientes—And not just any train, but the vistadome train. This train had the perfect windows for watching the rainforest, and the train itself had amazing refreshments.

Aguas Calientes

We dinner and stayed the night in Aguas Calientes before our early morning bus ride to Machu Picchu—it's a small town so you can explore it pretty quickly!

Machu Picchu

Unless you're doing one of the Incan trail hikes, the trek to this vista really isn't that bad—the hardest part for me, truthfully, was knowing how to dress. It was May so it got chilly when it was cloudy but very hot when it wasn't.

  • Disclaimer: there are no bathrooms inside Machu Picchu and once you exit, you cannot re-enter.

Trek back to Cuzco

Before making the journey back to Cuzco, we had one last lunch in Aguas Calienties and then we were back at the train station, doing everything we had done the previous day, but in reverse. One thing I learned in Peru: the food is good everywhere, even the tourists traps, it's hard to go wrong.

Last night in Cuzco

Before our early morning flight back to Lima the next day, we had one last night in Cuzco--we made the best of the short time by walking to dinner to explore the town. If you only have one night in Cuzco, Tunupa was amazing--10/10 recommend the lomo saltado.

How to get to Machu Picchu

If you've read this whole post, you probably see now why I recommended a tour company so badly. Remember, almost everything I described was included in the tour—that’s right: the airport transfers, private drivers, train and bus tickets, Machu Picchu tickets and guided tour, hotel nights, etc. were all included. But in case you needed it, I attached this quick summarized version of the journey it takes to get to Machu Picchu.

Have you been to Machu Picchu before? Share your experience in the comments below!

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Chort Nanyome
Chort Nanyome
Dec 11, 2023

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Hi, I'm Anna!

Whether I'm flying confirmed or standby, I've always had this affinity (and knack) for packing in as much as possible in 24, 48 and 72-hour trips. And that's exactly what this blog is full of—quick trip travel guides!

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