This was an awesome and amazing trip! We looked at other tour company trips with the hope of booking a trip with like minded travelers. By chance, we stumbled upon Zicasso who put us in touch with this travel agent. He guided us through the planning of a custom trip with private tours that allowed us to see everything on our bucket list for a little less than the cost of a group tour! He started us at the lowest elevation in the Amazon Basin and progressively moved us to higher elevations through the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu then on to the highest at Cusco and environs. We were able to acclimate and did not have any adverse effects.
We can't say enough good things about our travel agent (and all of the Peruvians we met). He lives in Cusco City and was able to recommend great restaurants and even booked us into a cooking class. On one day in the middle of our trip, there was a general strike that prevented us from taking our scheduled tour of the Sacred Valley. Our agent was able to rearrange our itinerary on-the-fly so that we did not miss any of our planned excursions.
The quality of the tour guides and transportation were first rate and we were well taken care of. On one tour, we visited the Moras Salt Pans and the ruins at Moray followed by a wonderful picnic prepared by a private chef (who knew that was coming?). Thanks again to our agent and his commitment to first rate service!
We enjoyed all of our trip! Peru is a diverse country and each place we visited left a lasting impression. The Amazon Basin was amazing. We stayed four days at the jungle lodge, a one hour boat trip up the Tambopata River from Pt. Maldonado. It was cool weather, low humidity, and no insects (really)! Everyone at the lodge seemed to have a great time. In the Sacred Valley, we stayed at the outstanding hotel at the Urubamba. A beautiful hotel with a great young staff and an excellent chef. We had a down day here due to the strike and enjoyed ourselves immensely. This was our home-base for the tour of the Moras and Moray. We traveled to Machu Picchu via the VistaDome and felt that it was worth the extra cost. The countryside is beautiful especially as you enter into the cloud forest. Machu Picchu is awesome mostly because it is ~70% intact and stuck on the side of a mountain. It is crowded and best appreciated with a knowledgeable guide. We hiked to the Sun Gate which rewards you with an expansive view of the city and valley below and, for old folks like us, felt like an accomplishment. We also spent a half day exploring the lovely gardens at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo and Aguas Calientes town. Cusco City is a medium-sized city with some very interesting ruins close by, but little remains of the Inca within the city itself. It does have lovely Spanish architecture, is easily walked, and has good restaurants. The San Pedro central market is a must-see and, if you can, book a cooking class.
In summary, we found the Moras salt pans, the experimental agriculture terraces at Moray, and the store houses at Ollantaytambo as interesting as Machu Picchu because they gave you insight into Inca engineering and creativity and would encourage anyone to visit them. All of our tours were accompanied by a history lesson that put where we were visiting into a proper context--we can't imagine do this without an experienced guide. Our tour guides were courteous, friendly, knowledgeable, well-organized, and took great care in making sure we saw as much as possible.
There are areas we did not have time to visit so we would likely travel to Puno, Arequipa, etc... next time. Alternatively, we enjoyed the hotel at Urubamba so much we might make it our home-base and explore the Sacred Valley in more depth!
We have only two cautions: 1) don't drive in Peru and 2) drink bottled water but be prepared to pay for it! Although most places cannot guarantee potable water, they still charge several $ for a bottle. Hotels give you one per person per day which is not enough for the basics.
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