Is it “safe” to travel to Peru right now?

Here are a few things to consider before you plan your trip.

  • Peru is still seeing new cases of COVID-19 daily, but most of the cases are found in the hot spots of Lima and other coastal towns.  The Peruvian government has taken steps to limit exposure in these areas by requiring both masks and face shields in all public places.  Cities in the Andes, like Cusco and Puno, still have a mask requirement and curfew, but they are seeing significantly less cases per day in those cities.
  • The 14-day quarantine requirement has been lifted.  The Peruvian government is updating COVID-19 travel requirements every 14 days, but for right now you can travel to Peru with documentation showing a PCR test with a negative result received within 72 hours of your departing flight.  The negative PCR test is still required whether you’ve received a vaccination in your home country or not.  The PCR test or an antigen test performed in Peru (at your own expense) will be the only accepted documents to allow you to freely roam around Peru.  When you travel from city to city, you will be required to sign a sworn affidavit that you don’t have any symptoms and you must follow the guidelines specific to that area, which will likely include wearing a mask, following a curfew, and practicing social distancing. 
  • The majority of Peru’s tourist attractions are outside so it’s much easier to safely social distance.  Some indoor attractions are open to a limited capacity too, so you should be able to visit all the places you would like to see as long as you’re following the government guidelines.

BOTTOM LINE: It is as safe to travel to Peru now as it is to travel to most other countries as long as you’re willing to follow the government’s rules.  Tourists are starting to come back, restaurants and hotels are following a strict protocol to clean between guests/patrons, and the locals are doing everything they can to help keep the communities safe and healthy for everyone. 

If you have any specific questions or are thinking about scheduling your trip, please contact us and we can help plan and navigate the requirements. 

Why Hiking Off the Beaten Path in Peru Should Be Every Hiker’s Dream

Peru is one of the richest countries in the world for so many reasons that have nothing to do with money – the kindness of its people, the culture, traditions, impressive landscapes, and its yummy cuisine are just a few of the things that make this country what it is.  This is a place that inspires you to go out and experience everything it has to offer, and you’ll find the best opportunities to do this in places you may never have heard of before. 

Here are 3 hikes off the beaten path that will change everything you think you know about Peru: 

  • Salkantay/Savage Trek to KM 82 – The Salkantay “Savage” Mountain stands in the heart of the Mollepata district – 3 hours south of Cusco by car.  The trail head in Soraypampa offers a spectacular view of the Salkantay and Humantay mountains and the sleepy Humantay glacial lake below.  From there, the similarities to the Classic Salkantay Trek end though.  This hike takes you to the northwest towards the Incachiriasqa Mountain – the highest peak of the hike standing at about 4900m/16000ft – and is more often used by local ranchers rather than hikers.  The trail offers 360-degree views of the region with its incredible snow-capped peaks and grassy slopes.  It takes 7-8 hours of hiking to get to each campsite, but you’re rewarded with a quiet night and starry sky.
  • Lares Trek plus Short Inca Trail– This trek is one of the few places in the Cusco region where the Inca descendants are still alive, pasturing their llamas, plowing the soil, and keeping their Inca textile practices to create fully self-sustaining communities.  The trail begins from the heart of the foothills in the Sacred Valley of the Incas – Huaran.  It will take 7 to 8 hours to hike between campsites, but you will pass several villages and meet many local people who will come to say hello, share their stories, and sell their textiles.  With the blessing of Pacha Mama, you may be able to see the Milky Way on the first night and take a dip in the natural hot springs by day two.  This trek immerses you in the living Inca culture the whole way before you ride the Iron Horse (train) to the cherry on top of the cake – the last leg of the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
  • Ancascocha – While the Inca trail may be well-known by outdoor adventurers and covers the front page of all kinds of magazines, the Ancascocha Trek is the complete opposite.  You may never have heard of this trail, but it’s strikingly similar to the Inca Trail with one added bonus – it’s one of the few places in the northwest of Cusco where the Inca ruins were not touched by archeologists since the Incas left the area.  The trail is rated as “challenging” but the views in each stop are extraordinary and you’re likely to have those views all to yourself.  Make sure you bring plenty of water and sunscreen because there is not much shade along the route which means your views from the top will be unobstructed by tall trees.  You’ll be able to enjoy the impressive flora and fauna along the way too while getting up close to llamas and alpacas who roam freely along the hillside before eventually hopping on the train along the Urubamba River to Machu Picchu.

These are just a few of the many trails that lead to Machu Picchu and other destinations in the Inca Trail network, but they offer some of the best opportunities to experience living Inca culture along the way.  If you really want to avoid the crowds and discover the riches of Peru, get off the beaten path and live it.

Discovering Machu Picchu’s Backyard

If you’ve heard of Machu Picchu, chances are good that you’ve probably heard of the Inca Trail too.  It’s fantastic that this historic trail has gotten so much attention, but we’re finding most people now think that hiking the Inca Trail is the only way to get to Machu Picchu.  I am here today to tell you that’s not true!  There are many other trails that lead to Machu Picchu!

With the new regulations and limited permit availability for the Inca Trail, it’s becoming more difficult for people to get permits and it’s leading to disappointment among travelers.  If you want to hike to Machu Picchu and you a) can’t get a permit for the Inca Trail or b) would prefer to avoid the crowds, there are many alternative ways to get to there.  Eventually through our blogs we plan to tell you about every one of them, but today we will start with one of our favorites – the 5 Day/4 Night Salkantay Trek.

The Salkantay Trek begins from a town called Soraypampa (3 hours south of Cusco) and takes you over the snow-capped Salkantay Pass (elevation 15,091ft/4600m) through the cloudy forest and finally to Santa Teresa – Machu Picchu’s backyard.  Here are some of the things that make this trail great:

  • You will pass small villages and have the opportunity to interact with local, countryside people.
  • You will visit a coffee farm and have the freshest coffee of your life. You’ll see the process from the moment they pick the bean all the way to moment the first drop of rich brew lands in your coffee mug.
  • You have the opportunity to take a dip in some natural hot springs – they’ll be less crowded than the ones you’ll find in Aguas Calientes and you will get to feel all the benefits of the natural waters known for their healing abilities – perfect after 3 long days of hiking.
  • It’s mostly downhill! It’s not often the expression “all downhill from here” is welcomed, but after you reach the Salkantay Pass on day 2, the majority of the hike is all downhill.
  • You enter Machu Picchu from the back. This trail takes you around the mountain and into the Santa Teresa region – a part of the Andes that can really only be explored on foot.
  • It takes you through several microclimates – more than you would see on the Inca Trail. This trek has green valleys, snow-capped peaks (passing the 2nd highest peak in the Peruvian Andes), crystal clear blue glacial lakes, and the famous cloudy forest – a preview of what you would see in the Peruvian Amazon.

The Salkantay trek really is one you should consider if you’re planning to make the pilgrimage to Machu Picchu.  Even if this one might not be for you, we encourage you to consider any of the alternative treks over the classic Inca Trail.  Calling them “alternative treks” should by no means leave you with the impression they are inferior.  Any hike through the Andes will be an unforgettable experience you will never regret.

If you’re interested in joining one of our Salkantay treks, please contact us or check out our product page to reserve your space.

How to Avoid the Crowds on the Inca Trail

By now, everyone has heard of the Inca Trail – the legendary trek leading to the lost city of the Incas – Machu Picchu.  This incredible trail takes you through some of the most amazing scenery in the Andes and passes massive Inca sites you’ve likely never heard of.

Typically, people complete this trek in 4 days – 3 long days of hiking and the 4th bringing you into Machu Picchu.  Over this 4-day experience, the most common questions we get are “how much farther?” or “are we almost done?” and our favorite – “how many more stairs?

We’ve realized over time that it might be a common misconception among travelers that this trail has to be completed in 4 days.  What if we told you there is actually an option to spread the experience over 5 days?  Over this last year, we had more customers opting in for the 5-day Inca Trail and the response has been incredible.  Taking this extra day will help you avoid the crowds, make the trek less strenuous, and let you have more fun so you may even want to come back and do it again.

Here are some reasons we think you should opt for the 5-day Inca Trail if you’re considering making this life-changing journey:

  1. We take the trail at a much slower pace. The days are shorter and the campsites closer together, so you have more time to take breaks and photos.
  2. The trail takes the same path, but the campsites are different. You start your days later and further away from the 4-day trekkers which lets you avoid the crowds not only on the trail, but in the evenings when you’re relaxing and trying to sleep.
  3. You have more time to enjoy the trail and the Inca sites along the way. Many people don’t even realize that there are Inca sites other than Machu Picchu.  Taking the trail at this pace gives you a chance to really explore each site and understand their unique purpose. 
  4. You still have 3 nights camping under the spectacular southern Milky Way, but you have a 4th night at a hotel in Aguas Calientes. This gives you a chance to sleep in a comfy bed, take a hot shower, and reflect on your journey before returning to Machu Picchu on the 5th
  5. You have the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu twice. On day 4, you visit the city in the afternoon, and you go back in the morning on day 5.  With the new regulations at Machu Picchu, we can’t stay all day like we used to so this opportunity to visit twice with one ticket is unique (stay tuned for a future blog about the new timing regulations!)

Regardless of whether you choose 4 days or 5 days, taking this journey will be an experience of a lifetime.  This trail is meant to be enjoyed and we often hear from our customers that they hold more value in the journey than in the moment they step foot in Machu Picchu.  If this is something you’re going to do just once in your life, we hope you take the time to really enjoy it and appreciate every moment. 

If you’re interested in hiking the Inca Trail over 5 days this year, please contact us for availability.  We would love to be a part of your experience.

Mamacha Carmen – The Biggest Peruvian Festival You’ve Never Heard of

If you’ve been doing your research on Peru, it’s likely that you’ve heard of the huge sun festival called Inti Raymi that occurs every June.  But did you know there’s another huge festival down the road from Cusco in July?

There is a town on the eastern slope of the Andes called Paucartambo (pronounced: pow-car-tom-bo) that comes alive with its own folklore.  Just about 3 hours north of Cusco, this town has celebrated a festival as big as the Inti Raymi for centuries, and it remains one of the most excellent opportunities for travelers to experience the authentic, Peruvian culture in person. 

Origin –

The origin of this festival lies in the 17th century when K’apaq Q’ollas (llama traders), from the highlands would frequently travel to Cusco through Paucartambo offering gifts and merchandise.  On one of these trips, the face of the virgin appeared in a clay pot.  The people of Paucartambo were inspired by this apparition and created a larger image of the virgin.  Since that time, locals from the area have held this festival every year to honor and pay tribute to the sacred image.

Today –

While Cusco is obviously well-known for its history and is considered to be the folklore capital of Peru, Mamacha Carmen is an experience beyond a typical festival with just dancing and parades.  Each custom dress, mask, dance, food, and drink tells a story the Peruvian people are happy to share to those passing through.

This festival takes place every year from July 15th to July 16th beginning with a parade in the main plaza and fireworks in the evening that light up the sky.  On July 16th, the main day of the festival, there is a morning mass followed by a full day of performances of original, regional dances.  Finally, you get to witness the highlight – the grand parade of the virgin Carmen followed by dancers and worshippers behind her.

If you want to experience the Peruvian living culture for yourself, sign up here.  This can be combined with any of our other tours or treks to create the perfect itinerary for you.

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