Explore Machu Picchu with Fast Fred and learn smore frugal travel tips along the way. Most tourists visit Machu Picchu during the southern hemisphere winter which is also the dry season. This also aligns with summer vacation time for those in the northern hemisphere. However as a river guide in Tennessee visiting in late June or July was out of the question. So this visit took place in December and the local rivers were raging. The weather gods smiled and the views were there!
Learn about the history and technics used to build this city in the sky that was supported by surround towns and villages. Spoiler alert aliens had no part in the construction of this world wonder. There is plenty of evidence left in the quarries as well as tool marks on the stones. The Inca had access to enormous masses of laborers and craftsmen to accomplish the feat. The Spanish were also aware of this city but because there was no gold to be looted bypassed it during the conquest of Peru.
Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti. Not only that Ollantaytambo still operates and lives as an Incan town. To visit is to experience living history. In many ways Ollantaytambo's terraces are more impressive than those of Machu Picchu; many of the terraces are still in use by the descendants of those who built them.
Don't skip this important town and historical site on your way to Machu Picchu through the Sacred Valley. By the way the craft beer in the Sacred Valley is among the best in the world due to the high quality of the water. I really enjoyed the local brews and food. Slow down and really experience Peru and the Sacred Valley. Guides are available and add quality and understanding to the overall experience.
How to enjoy the popular tourist route in Peru on a budget. Better still how to have a more authentic experience. How to avoid being gringo-ed or scalped by tourist agencies. Follow along and get the low down about catching buses and buying your own tickets for the best sites. How to half you costs a Nazca Lines and book a flight to see the Nazca Lines. How to see Machu Picchu on a bargain and get a better experience with a guide to boot. Learn about other options nearby Cusco like Urubamba. Find the best craft beer Peru has to offer up at far less the cost in Lima.
The National Police Day in Cusco Peru was exciting to say the least with fireworks and some unplanned pyrotechnics too! Fortunately there were no injuries. The special operations units are chilling to say the least. There is no wonder the indigenous people staged marches during the week before and after this day. As they suffered the impact of these units during the conflict with Shining Path.
I had been in Cusco Peru for over a week when this parade and show of force occurred. The action and entertainment value was high as well. Pyrotechnics got a little out of hand at one point but there were no injuries. You can some serious hardware as they used while fighting the Shining Path and suppressing the indigenous people. The police dogs were of many different shapes and sizes. They were sheltering under the same porch while I ate my breakfast.
Complete breakdown of Southern Peru travel expenses. Visit the best places on a frugal budget.
Most people fly into Lima's international airport to begin their visits to Peru. Barranco is one of the nicer parts of Lima with middle and high income residents, nice parks, street art, restaurants, cafes, and bars. Additionally there are two really nice micro breweries to visit. The Bridge of Sighs (Puente de los Suspiros) is very popular and crosses above the Bajada de Baños, a stone walkway that runs down to the Pacific through Lima's bohemian district.
South of Lima on the coast is Paracas and the Ballestas islands. Wildlife is a big draw for the Ballestas Islands National Park with its sea-lions, penguins, and many sea birds. Guano is still collected from a couple of islands. Access to the islands is greatly restricted but boat tours are available. The town of Paracas is small and walk-able but has a lively waterfront with restaurants and bars to server tourists. The seafood is very fresh and prices are fair for what you get.
Ica is the closest city to the oasis Huacahina just 5 km away. This former private resort features a beautiful oasis surrounded by tropical trees in the mist of a desert and giant sand dunes. For a small fee you can enter the Area de Conservacion Regional de Huacachina. As I recall the fee was close to $1. Better deals can be had in Ica than Huacahina for both food and lodging. Ica even has a nice mall.
Nazca is a small town with no night life. It is possible to see almost everything there in one day. The highlight of this stop are the Nazca Lines. Pro tip for the best deal go directly to the airport to buy your flight over the Nazca Lines. It is best to book morning flights for the best views and least turbulent flight. Price at airport is $50 to fly over the lines but the same exact trip is sold for $100 in town.
Arequipa the white city has a nice climate and is well located for taking excursions. There is a rather large expat community and likely as a result the city features quite the craft beer scene. Plaza de Armas has nice restaurants and a rooftop bar to enjoy sunsets. Mirador de Yanahuara Is a nice walk from Plaza de Armas and has rewarding views. Plaza Campo Redondo is the center of the craft beer scene.
Puno is located at the shores of Lake Titicaca near the Bolivian border. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. The altitude is high and the weather is cold. The floating islands of Uros are rather cold and damp. Average life expectancy of the people is 60 and rheumatoid arthritis is common due to the harsh conditions. The climate on Taquile island was warmer and more pleasant. The island has many ancient terraces. Sillustani is an archaeological site containing funeral towers overlooking a volcanic basin filled by a lake.
Cusco is a safe and walk-able city. Plaza de Armas features a full court press of high pressure sales by vendors, artists and torts. You can literally buy anything in the Plaza de Armas despite the heavy police presence. However it is possible to get better deals on tours elsewhere. Nearby Plaza de Armas is the Museo Inka with interesting artifacts and information; be sure to accept the services of at guide to improve your visit. Nearby you may find the Twelve Angled Stone.
Urubamba is pleasant town located in the Sacred Valley. It is easy to visit many archaeological sites including Ollantaybambo and Chinchero that can be simply access by bus from Urubamba's bus station for less than $2. You can easily find official guides at both locations near the gate. I found the terraces of Chinchero to be particularly impressive even compared to Machu Picchu. Ollantaybambo is sometimes referred to as the oldest living Inca town. Ancient terraces and grain storage buildings dot the landscape.
Finally the place most people think of first in Peru, Machu Picchu. You can choose between treking and even scenic train rides to Aguas Calientes the pueblo of Machu Picchu. You can catch the train easily in Cusco at the San Perdo train station or take an inexpensive bus to Ollantaybambo to catch the train there. My trip occurred during the beginning of the rainy season and the river was raging. Hiring the right guide can greatly improve your visit to Machu Picchu.
Danza de los negritos has a long history in Peru. In colonial times, the bosses gave freedom to slaves from December 24 to January 6. Those days, were used by slaves to celebrate Christmas, visiting the births that wore in the homes of the wealthiest families. From the Decree promulgated by Ramón Castilla on the freedom of blacks on December 13, 1854, the brotherhoods made their appearance in the streets, visiting not only the births but also the churches, where they danced and drank. The owners of the births in reward invited them huarapo, shacta, years later the locro. This was done in the following years and in this way the dance and Dance of the Negritos were institutionalized.
Over the years, men of color became extinct, so they were replaced by mestizos and then by whites. Since the dance was bold, they had to make masks.
The population of the towns and cities form brotherhoods that dance in the streets rivaling each other. In these brotherhoods stand out the bold ones that vary in number, but generally form two parallel rows, each row headed by two blacks called caporales; there are also the characters of the Turk, the lady, the flag bearer who represents a white man who wields a flag of freedom and the old gentleman also called Corochano.
The brotherhoods of blacks are attended by a butler to worship the baby Jesus, these butlers compete with each other in attention to their dancers and party guests. This butler has a historical existence because in the past these butlers hired blacks to worship the baby Jesus in their parties and when missing blacks they made black masks to dance the Indians or even whites.
These frugal stays were overall very nice. All of my stays were in private rooms with private bathrooms. Some stay even included breakfast. Video lodging reviews of all my stays during Peru Trip 2021-2022. It would be possible to stay in hostel dormitories for even less. However due to covid concerns and basic security I spent a little more. I still managed to spend less than a total of $1050 on lodging during my 90 day visit to southern Peru. I even visited Machu Picchu during this adventure. I think lodging for less than $350/month is not a bad deal especially while travelling to new places and moving about with a relatively open itinerary.
My total transportation costs in Peru during a 90 day trip were less than $275. I did take a few taxis but mostly walked locally. Urubamba was a great base for visiting the Sacred Valley. Transportation was easy and very cheap to all the sights. In the future I may spend less time in Cusco and more time in Urubamba. I prefer riding buses during the day to see the local scenery.
This map lists nine cities worth a stay as you travel the southern Peru classic tourist's circuit. Links to all but one of my stay in a Hotel at the Pueblo of Machu Picchu. It was omitted due to being substandard. Additionally may of the tourist attractions and historic sites are linked as well.
My average lodging cost was less than $12/day; see lodging spreadsheet for details or map for actual locations. All rooms were private with private bathrooms. It would be possible to stay even cheaper in dormitories at hostels. You could eat out for as little at $10/day. If you eat like a local breakfast of luch will cost about $2.50 each and supper will cost about $5. The local mercado is a good choice to eat frugal yet fresh food. If you have access to a kicthen and cook your own meals costs could be much lower. So room and board costs could be covered for $22/day. Transportation costs were low but depend upon where you want to go and how. I traveled overland from Lima to Macchu Picchu and back for less than $275 as detailed in my transportation spreadsheet.
There is more to see than just the Nazca Lines. When you visit learn about the culture and how people survived such a hostile environment and how their descendants still survive. Take this seek peak while you plan your trip to see the Geoglyphs, Cantalloc Aqueducts, and Cahuachi Pyramids. And learn some traveling tips for Nazca Peru.
See the Nazca Lines and save some money to with travel tips. This video features the Nazca Lines and geoglyphs. Also featured are the Cantalloc aqueducts that made life possible in the desert. The Cahuachi pyramids are adobe structures on mounds used for ceremonial purposes. Many of the geoglyphs feature animals from wetter climates like Amazonia.
Learn how to book the best flight for the lowest price. Don't get gouged in town! Take a taxi to the airport.