Peru: From Machu Picchu To Ica – Tips for the Andes and Desert Region
Cuzco is a small airport located in the Andes region of Peru. The flight is fairly inexpensive using StarPeru. Taxis are readily available to travel to the nearest train station although you may have to travel as far as Ollantaytambo on Perurail. You can buy your tickets online ahead of time and it is highly recommended. When trying to get a taxi to Ollantaytambo, walk to the road rather than using the taxis parked at the airport as they have to pay extra to park there and will pass those fees on to you. You shouldn’t pay more than $50-$75.
The trip by taxi to Ollantaytambo is long (approximately 3 hours); however, many picture opportunities await: the women with their long braids carrying heavy items on their backs; the many animals kept by the natives, the women on the side of the road selling hand-made clothing and sweaters that you can use later at Machu Picchu and, best of all, the beautiful alpacas.
For inexpensive rates travel backpacker class to Aguas Calientes; the stop for Machu Picchu. If you are from a low-lying area such as Florida, it may be a good idea to purchase a can of Oxygen or chew or drink the coca leaves in a tea. These are usually provided in your hotel or hostal but can also be purchased. A great place to stay is the Pirwa Hostal located at the top of the hill in Aguas Calientes.
The bus tickets to Machu Picchu must be purchased at the bus station prior to departure. Bring plenty of fluids and a jacket which you will probably remove later on. Don’t forget when you leave Machu Picchu to get your passport stamped with the logo.
After a brief stay in Lima in the magnificent but inexpensive Hotel España try taking the long bus trip to Ica. There are no flights to this region. Ica is in the desert region. Here you will find large dunes. There are several bus carriers to choose from with different classes and prices. Be sure to buy your tickets to and from Ica before you leave and buy them several days in advance to ensure you travel on your desired days.
The desert region
While in Ica, there are several activities to take part in. First, there are huge dunes that you can drive a dune buggy across or even dune boarding, much like snowboarding. The worst part is getting to the top. The best part of Ica is its’ vicinity to the port of Paracas which takes you to the Galápagos of Peru commonly known as the Islas de Ballestas. There is a boat tour that takes you to the Islands. The islands are filled with birds, seals, and lots of guano (which is exported for fertilizer). The travel guides are very informative about the history and those who stay on the island.
Be careful in Paracas if you have any time to spend there. It is a tourist haven and pickpockets are rampant. It is suggested that you stay more than two nights in the Hotel Huacachinero to complete the many activities available as well as relaxing in the rare pool. The days are short due to the large dunes that surround the oasis. El Huacachinero is a beautiful hotel with a pool, restaurant, and wonderful view of the surrounding dunes. It is minutes away from a beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert which is inhabited by a variety of birds. Also, and this is a big plus, there is air-conditioning.