South France and Spain Trip

Part 1 : Marseille

The starting point of my short France-Spain trip. Marseille was excellent, friendly people and astonishing infrastructure, its history was also amazing.

Part 2: Montpellier

A short excursion from Marseille and into the vibrant city of Montpellier

Part 3: Barcelona

Crossed the border to Spain using the Renfre train, a quick transit in Barcelona for my train to Pamplona. Stayed in the station due to the time, but will be back at the end of the holiday.

Part 4 Leg: Pamplona

The main place I intended to go, a beautiful small city that has got a well preserved Spanish culture.

***San Fermin Festival***

The famous and controversial San Fermin festival. It was more than just the running of the bulls and had everything from music in each corner, kids activities and a 7 day 24hour party.

Part 5: Zaragoza

After the party of San Fermin it was time to head to Zaragoza which was quiet in comparison, plenty of museums and religious buildings.

Finale: Barcelona

I have been Barcelona before so this was just a quick visit, using a one day travel card I visited many of the cities main attraction.

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Cardiff

Type : City
Best Date : 
Apr-Sep
Expense :
Fair
Things to do : Nightlife, shopping, dining, sightseeing ect
Points of Interest: Cardiff Castle, Cardiff Bay, Principality stadium, Caerphilly stadium, Cardiff Millennium Centre and more
The Good: Plenty bars, restaurants and shops
The Bad: I cant think of any

Brief

Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and is known to be one of Britain’s flattest cities. It is located South of the country at the mouth of ‘River Severn’. The city is best known to be the smallest and newest capital cities only becoming a Capital on 1955.

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The Place

Cardiff is an interesting place to go whilst in the United Kingdom. Although relatively small there are various places to visit and whether you want to relax, dine, shop or learn the city has plenty to offer.

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Firstly Cardiff is famous for its shopping, the city has gone through heavy investment to establish itself a haven for shops. The capital itself is known as the city of ‘shopping arcades’, there are plenty of indoor Victorian arcades all which are lit by daylight. The shops within these arcades vary from traditional products, jewellery, textiles and also many cafes and restaurants. ‘Cardiff Market’ is also a credible place to visit. A traditional Victorian indoor market which sells fresh fruits, vegetables from local farms and fish which have just been caught.

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Secondly the bay which has gone a huge redevelopment, host many luxurious cafes and restaurants for a chilled relaxing day or a lively night atmosphere. Across the road from the bay is Cardiff’s ‘Millennium Centre’ which is the city’s stage for performing arts, many shows are played here every month. Next to the Millenium centre is the ‘Pierhead’ which has had significance in shaping the city. Once the centre of commerce for the country, now used for various exhibitions about the city and can host conference for locals. ‘Roald Dahl Plass’ named after the famous Cardiff born author is the plaza in the heart of the bay, this is a popular place for open air concerts. A walk along the bay when the sun is out is an amazing experience, it is not that big but the scenery and atmosphere is special.

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Next is Cardiff Castle situated in the centre of the city. It is just above £10 for a ticket to enter which includes various different exhibitions. Significant for 3 different ages in the Romans, Normans and Victorians this castle stood tall and defended the city in many different accounts, even through the world war the castle was used as a bomb shelter. Inside the castle you will gain an insight to the castles history through many different artwork and exhibitions, you will see the remains of Roman ruins and Nomadic architecture and Victorian artefacts. In the castle you will gain a feel for the city through the different ages. Although the castle is excellent to visit I have been and seen better, however the fact that the castle was occupied by multiple generations of the city is somewhat unique.

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Another place to visit in the city is the ‘Millennium Stadium’ or as  of 2016 the ‘Principality Stadium’ as its now known due to sponsorship. It is  the national stadium of Wales and is the 2nd largest stadium in the world with a convertible rooftop. the stadium is famous for hosting rugby matches but also hosts football, concerts and other events. The stadium has a capacity of 74,500 seats but can be added or reduced for different events.

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The city also has a booming nightlife with plenty different clubs and pubs within the city. Furthermore with a university just down the road from the city centre, plenty lively parties are frequent.

Other places to visit are Cardiff’s National Museum, University, Bute park and the Doctor Who Experience. I walked through Bute park but didn’t have the chance to visit the others.

Conclusion

All in all Cardiff is an excellent city to visit for a short stay. A day or 2 is enough and anything more may prove to be too long unless you want to take it nice and slow. The city was calm and pretty chilled in the mornings but very busy in the evenings. There is a fair amount of tourism in the city but not as much as London, Paris, Barcelona and other cities alike.

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Reference:

http://www.visitcardiff.com/
https://www.citybaseapartments.com/blog/facts-about-cardiff/
http://www.pierhead.org/en/
https://www.cardiffcastle.com/about-the-castle/

My Ilocos Trip

Holiday 2017 in the Philippines I decided to go north to the preserved Spanish colonial villages. Using the luxury Partas bus from Cubao I excursed north from Manila to visit the countries north

(please click on the cities to find out more)

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First Stop Laoag

My base for a night, the small city was capital of north Ilocos, it had important historical significance which is shown in many of their museums and buildings

Next Stop Paoay

Laoag’s neighbouring city, this is the more active area of the holiday with its 4×4 sand dunes and sand boarding.

The Finale in Vigan

Vigan one of Philippines highly preserved Spanish colonial cities. Capital of Ilocos south region, Vigan is one of UNESCO’s heritage sites in the country.

My Brazil and Peru Trip

A successful weird little venture which started off in Brazil over to Peru and then ended in Brazil in a quick 10 day holiday. Ive made a compilation of my whole journey.
(please click the city for more about the trip)

1st stop: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Straight from London and my first stop. This part of the trip was and insight to one of Latin Americas richest metropolis.

2nd stop: Lima, Peru

After a glimpse of life in one of South Americas most developed and rich citiy I go to one of its most undeveloped capitals (In my opinion). Nonetheless the experience was a valuable learning curb. In this Leg I visited Central Lima and the Larco Museum to build the flavour of my trip ahead.

3rd stop: Cusco, Peru

And now it was time to acclimatise and get ready for our main purpose (Machu Picchu). A quick roam around the city, into their market and main points of interest. Getting a feel of rural Peru.

4th stop: Ollantaytambo, Peru

Basing at Ollantaytambo the night before Machu Picchu, so we could get an easier transit to the mountain attraction. However I just fell in love with the village and wished I could have stayed longer. The scenery was just amazing.

5th stop: Aguas Calientes, Peru

Again this village was amazing, it felt like a movie set. A quick snack before and after our trip up Machu Picchu. Very touristic but still a pleasure.

*** Machu Picchu***
Preparing to travel
Travelling to Machu Pichu

A spectacle to see, the most amazing place I’ve been to. Hiking up Wayna Picchu was also something I’m glad i did, the challenge of those slippery un-barricaded steps was a worry but seeing the famous Machu Picchu from another height and view, it was all worth it.

6th stop : Back to Cusco, Peru

After an adventurous time across Peru’s smaller rural villages it was time to head back to Cusco and roam the city a bit more. Excursing outside the city with the ATV tours showing us Moray, Salt Mines and more.

7th stop: Back to Lima, Peru

Finishing Peru its another round of Lima but this time it was the wealthier Mira Flores, here we did shopping in Larcomar and the Indian markets.

Finale: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Although the bad reputation, I needed to see the paradise destination for myself. In my opinion well worth the visit and what a way to end the trip.

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Its been great Sao Paulo… Next up its Lima, Peru…

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CUSCO

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Rio De Janeiro

The finale of my Brazil and Peru trip.

Type : City, Beach
Best Date : Dec- Mar
Expense Fair
Things to do : Shop, Dine, Adrenaline Sports, Attractions, Beaches, Golf, ect
Points of interests : Christ the redeemer, Copacabana, Maracanã, Sugarloaf, Ipanema and many more
The Good:
Beautiful beaches and attractions, so much to see and do
The Bad:
Huge reputation of being dangerous

Brief

Rio De Janeiro (or Rio) is a beach city South East of Brazil, it is the second most populous in Brazil behind Sao Paulo. It was the first entry point for the Portuguese explorers which was then fortified in order to keep other nations out. The city’s name means river after the explorer Gaspar de Lemos mistakenly thought Guanabara bay was a mouth for a huge river. Interesting facts are that Rio is home to the biggest annual carnival, 8th largest library and urban forest in the world.

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The Place

Rio De Janeiro (Rio) is an interesting place for tourism as there is so much to do and places to visit. However the reputation of its crime rate always shadows what the city can actually brings.

There are so many different places to visit in Rio from its wonderful beaches to its colourful vibrant towns and districts. Rich in both history and modern culture the city has plenty of museums, stadiums, monuments and events to show the world.

Beaches

First lets start off with Rio de Janeiro’s beaches, one of the popular places to go in Rio and the reason for many visitors in the city each year.

Firstly the most famous of the Beaches is Copacabana beach known everywhere around the world. Situated in the south zone (zona sul) this 4km stretch is home to many beach sports such as volleyball, beach football and many more. Throughout Copacabana there is plenty of  bar stands, restaurants and cafes to unwind and relax.

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Next to Copacabana is Leme beach which is the small shore in between ‘Leme Hill’ and ‘Princess Isabel Avenue’. This beach is near to the ‘Forte du Caxias’ with views of the famous ‘Sugarloaf’ mountain.

Ipanema beach which mimics that of Copacabana but is known to be more expensive. Bordering Ipanema is Arpoador beach which is well known for its surfing as the best tides are here.

Other beaches in Rio are Barra beach which is furthest away and the place where most of the Olympic sports were hosted. Sao Conrado is where I stayed, was quiet compared to the other beaches in Rio, this beach is also the landing point for hang gliders. Lastly Leblon which is as small as Leme is said to be the most expensive of all the beaches. Luxury restaurants and hotels reside here.

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All beaches has lovely mosaic walkways and a bike path parallel to it. They were secure with security but all tourists were always advised not to go out to the beaches at night.

Districts and Neighbourhoods

There is so many different districts and neighbourhoods in Rio De Janeiro, all with different stature, culture and interests. In my time in Rio I can say I have visited many of the places but I definitely didn’t do all, some were too dangerous to roam without anybody, other just didn’t have anything to interest me and a few I missed simply because I didn’t have time. These are a few places I found interesting to visit.

First district to visit is Botafago which is known for its middle class colonial homes, museums, theatres and booming nightlife. Botafago has plenty of commercial districts and is safe to visit. The district is also near Urca, home to the sugarloaf mountain.

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Next to Botafago is Flamengo which is more residential than its commercial neighbours. The district has one of the best views of Guanabara bay, it also has many churches and museums. Flamengo Park is one I was most impressed with which was known to be improved by its Olympic fund. The ‘Museum of Modern Art’ also resides here.

Centro is the financial heart of Rio de Janeiro and is home to some of the most notable points of interest in the city. Firstly  the Carioca Aqueduct  which was built to bring water to the city in the 18th century. Its structure still stands today and has been modified as a bridge for the local tram. Another place is Cinelandia which was a street full of theatres and cinemas however has been revamped to modernise with plenty bars and restaurants (only a single cinema still stands) this place is also a popular meeting point for the locals. Museums are plenty in this district with ‘Museum of tomorrow’, ‘Rio Art Museum’ and the ‘National Library of Brazil’ (biggest library in latin America) being just some of the  places to go in Centro. In my opinion Centro is the place to go if you are looking for a more cultural aspect of Rio.

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Lastly Rochina which is known to be home to Rio’s largest favela. It is not advisable to visit the favelas on your own but there are plenty of different tours which will have access to these districts.

Points of Interest

I did most of Rio’s attractions with a day city tour and our first stop was ‘Sugarloaf Mountain’ which in my opinion is one of the city’s main attraction. The peak of Sugarloaf is reached using 2 sets of cable carts first ascending to ‘Urca hill’ then the other reaching Sugarloaf. This attraction is incredible as it has a 360 degrees view of the whole city and beyond. There are restaurants and cafes at the top so relaxing here is popular for tourists and locals a like.

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Christ the Redeemer is probably Rio’s most notable monument. Standing above the ‘Corcovado Mountain’ surrounded by the ‘Tijuca Forest National Park’, this monument is one of the new seven world wonders of the world. The statue itself stands at just under 40 meters tall, stretches 28 meters wide and underneath the statue is a small chapel. The monument is reached by 2 ways, a van transportation or tram, both ways I believe are equally priced. The Christ the redeemer monument for me was amazing, the views of the city were marvellous, however luck is required as the majority of the times clouds can cover the view. At the peak there are huge crowds so the perfect pictures may also be limited.

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Next is the Selaron Steps (Escadaria Selaron) which was made famous by several music videos, most notable from Pharrell and Snoop Dog’s Beautiful. Located in Santa Teresa this was just a plain set of stairs until a Chilean resident fell in love with his district and decided to decorate it. He took tiles from several different countries and made huge mosaic artwork which we can now see made his neighbourhood famous. Again this street is booming with tourists so it is pretty difficult to get the perfect picture you might see others have.

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The Maracanã Stadium is known around the world being the host stadium of the first world cup since the world wars in 1950. Although known as Maracanã Stadium, its real name is Mario Filho stadium named after a journalist who was a strong vocal supporter of building the stadium. This building has huge significance in the city historically and at present as it plays all the games of Rio’s top clubs Flamengo, Botafago, Vasco de Gama and Fluminese. In a country which is crazy for football you can imagine how special this building is.

Other notable go to places which I have missed out are the Botanical Garden which is the largest in the world, Sambodromo which is the location of the annual carnival event and plenty more.

Conclusion

My Rio de Janeiro visit was an enlightenment, with all its bad reputation it was good to experience the city for myself. Ive experience some good and some bad, the worst thing ive noticed was that the whole city was in one big hustle with a lot (but not all) of people played for that extra cash, from taxi drivers, airport staff, hotel staff and restaurant staff, tapping fares, asking for tip or selling extras was a usual in the city. The other negatives of the city is its petty crime, yes there are a lot of homeless about, drugs being sold, pick pockets and so much more. However this is not something that should deter a visit to the city, all you need is that extra precaution and vigilance. Don’t go out at night, listen to the locals, don’t wear valuable and hide your electronics are just some of the things to stay safe. Another negative is the chance of heavy rain, like my first day the rain flooded most parts of the city and it was like night time all day as dark cloud cover the skies, when it rains heavy in Brazil the whole day is wasted.

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For me the city has much more positives than it has negatives, firstly the sheer number of things to see and do makes Rio De Janeiro beat other holiday destinations easily. The fact you can relax on the beach, party at night, visit awesome attractions and do extreme activities such as surf, hang glide, scuba all in one city is not something many cities can offer. The scenery of Rio was also beautiful there was just 360 degrees of pure beauty including the favelas. I haven’t been to all of the places possible but from my short stay i can honestly say the city is well worth the visit, a 3-7 day duration is ok. Rio is a tropical paradise and I hope this is the side people see when visiting the city.

Reference

www.rio.com
https://www.momondo.co.uk/inspiration/facts-about-rio-de-janeiro/

 

 

The Machu Picchu & Huayna Picchu Experience

Brief

Machu Picchu is the Incan citadel on top of the Andes mountains, located in Urubamba province within the Cusco region in Peru. The famous mountain attraction is 2nd in Lonely Planet’s must go to places in the world. Furthermore the Incan citadel is about 2,500 metres high, said to be made for the emperor Pachacuti but was later abandoned at the time of the Spanish conquest.

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The Experience

 Entering Machu Picchu you will require your paper ticket and your passport, in what is like an airport style entry.  At times there is a long line but when I was there it was just a walk through. Take note there is only one toilet at the entrance of the site so emptying your bladder before proceeding would be sensible. If you do go back out to go to the toilet you will need your ticket and passport again and may need to line up.

Entering Machu Pichu there will be some people presenting themselves as tour guides (for a price) I believe they are legitimate guides but I don’t really know how much they were as I didn’t take one which I do regret, as the site itself had no descriptions and without the guide you would just be walking around the Incan ruin without any explanations.

Machu Picchu has various different routes, I think 5 in total which all circuit to the exit. It is possible to take all the routes but it can be tiring and time consuming. Attendants are ever present on the site as they look after the ruins and protect people from dangerous areas, however the site itself was relatively safe and controlled with plenty of resting areas. All ages and abilities can visit the site as there is nothing too difficult, I even saw a woman on a wheelchair so I believe it has disabled access routes.

The ruins itself were amazing with the huge boulders and stone walls still fully standing. The most Iconic building for me was the Guardhouse Watch Tower which had the best views of the whole citadel. Everything about Machu Picchu was great with uncountable scenic areas and magnificent ancient structures. I did however miss out on seeing the Alpacas and Llamas, which would have been one of the highlight pictures of the visit, nonetheless the experience was one of kind. Visiting Machu Picchu also requires a lot of luck, some days you can have very clear skies whereas others may get rain and worst clouds where you cant see anything. However the walks were too easy and I was definitely looking forward to the higher more challenging mountain ahead with Huayna Picchu.

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If you have bought the ticket to Huayna Picchu, the entrance to the mountain is at the back of the site. you will see a little hut with the map of Huayna Picchu, it has two gates one for exit and the other for entrance. It is advisable that you arrive 15 minutes before your allotted time as there can be an instant rush when the gates open, but I believe you can enter at anytime within your allotted time. Again your passport is required for this as they carefully monitor whose gone in and whose gone out.

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Huayna Picchu itself has one huge circular route but a few detours to turn back. I can only say that the higher you go the more difficult the climb is as stairs get steeper and thinner with not much to hold onto and there are points (higher up) where if you proceed there is no return and you will need to follow the route ahead. In my experience all climbers help and encourage each other where possible and no one was selfish, if someone looked like they needed help nobody would just walk pass that person. There is plenty of resting points on the mountain many with great views, but some areas are so tight you couldn’t stop as people behind would like to keep moving. To climb Huayna Picchu you will need to be a little fit but I did see 8th graders and seniors so i don’t think you need to be highly a20180319_113358thletic. Best advice is to take your time, do your own pace and bring lots of water. If for any reason you cant handle the climb don’t be ashamed to turn back or ask for help. As you climb up there will be plenty of different panoramic views of the scenery around but the best place is the view of Machu Pichu itself (if its not cloudy). Furthermore at the top you may take a picture of the Huayna Pichu sign which many mountains have at their peak (this area is a good resting point). The experience at Huayna Picchu was one of a kind, there was fear, adrenaline and also excitement. I have to admit the site was somewhat dangerous as there were little to no barriers, marshals and places to hold onto, which for me was the beauty of it all.

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Conclusion

My Peru, Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu experience has been extraordinary, it has been a trip full of education and challenges with every scenery as extravagant as you would see in magazines. Machu Picchu could prove to be very expensive but I can honestly say it is every penny well spent. It is one of those destination that even the best blogs cannot portray and you have to go and see it for yourself to be able to appreciate the scale of this mountain.

If you are yet to go, it is important to know that the Machu Picchu experience starts as you land in Peru, the journey to the site is as exciting as the mountain attraction itself so enjoy every bit of it.

Reference:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machu_Picchu

Travelling to Machu Picchu

How to get there

Machu Picchu is one of the most difficult place to reach and the reason for strong planning and research before travelling. Firstly getting to the country Peru is the first hurdle. Remember Cusco is the nearest airport to Machu Picchu but only a handful of international flights actually fly here. So Lima is usually the entry point to the country itself and a flight connection to Cusco is usually the norm as taking bus would take too long. After reaching Cuzco the journey still isn’t over as there is still a mission to get to Aguas Calientes the nearest village to Machu Picchu. There are various options to get from Cusco to Aguas Calientes but 2 popular methods are by doing a 4 day trek called the ‘Inca trail’ and the other is by commuting to a town called Ollantaytambo then taking train to Aguas Calientes.

Inca Trail

First method is the world famous ‘Inca Trail’. Now I don’t know too much about this as I didn’t do this method but from what I am told it is a 4 day walking journey from either Cusco or Ollantaytambo. The Inca trail is for the adventurous travellers and this method of reaching Machu Picchu is definitely the more scenic way.

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Commute

The other method to get from Cusco to Aguas Calientes is by commuting. It is important to remember that there is no direct trains from Cusco straight to Aguas Calientes and a stopover at Ollantaytambo is inevitable, making the travel to Machu Pichu a 2 phase journey.

The Cusco to Ollantaytambo trip (about 1.5-2 hours) can be done in various ways with the easiest being a private taxi which I could imagine to be expensive. Another way is by taking what is called the shared taxi which is usually a van (sometimes a car) that takes a bunch of travellers to Ollantaytambo at once. The positive with shared taxis is that it is very cheap at only 10 soles or 20 soles for a smaller car. The bad is that there is no timetable and the journey only starts when the van is full, which is not good for people on a tight schedule. Other ways to get to Ollantaytambo is by bus but this could prove to be too complicated for travellers as there is a couple of changes.

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Once at Ollantaytambo the next phase can begin and its much simpler than the first phase. All you need is to buy a train ticket at one of the 2 operating companies Peru Rail or Inca Rail (the more luxurious option). The train journey takes about 2-3 hours and depending on your operator includes a complimentary drinks and a snack. (Peru Rail will discussed on a separate blog) Please note that there is a baggage size and a 5kg weight limit.

One thing I didn’t mention is that Peru rail and Inca rail do offer complete transport from Cusco to Machu Picchu but a higher cost is expected. They will arrange their own bus to and from Cusco and Ollantaytambo.

After arriving at Aguas Calientes another short bus ride is required to get to Machu Picchu itself. There is only one official bus ride and it is quiet pricey. The only other way is to hike 1.5 hours up to the location. However I highly advise to take a ride up as there is plenty of walking at the site itself.

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Once the bus drops you off at the entrance of the Machu Pichu site, your journey is done. You have arrived at one of the greatest places in the world to visit, all there is to do now is to enjoy.

Next: The Machu Picchu Experience

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The Machu Pichu experience…

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Preparations for Machu Picchu

To visit Machu Picchu I believe careful planning is required as it is not as straight forward as visiting the likes of the Coliseum and Eifel tower. Remember the site is in a undeveloped rural area so various transports and hotels would be needed and you would require to plan a base city to travel from.

There are a few things you’ve got to consider before travelling to Machu Picchu, aspects such as weather, altitude, food, tickets, transport and many moreUntitled

Tickets- Before travelling to Machu Picchu it is advisable to pre-book your tickets as there are long queues and there is a restriction of the number of people they allow in the site. Furthermore if you wish to enter Huayna Picchu there is a limit of 400 people a day, 200 in the morning (07:00-11:00) and 200 in the afternoon (11:00-14:00) so reserving your ticket as soon as possible is highly advisable

Remember to print your tickets- Firstly you have to keep in mind Machu Picchu is a rural mountainous area and because of this there is little to no Wi-Fi or electronics so be sure to print your paper tickets and fully charge all your gadgets for your personal use.

Plan your hotel and transports- Remember the site is in a undeveloped rural area so various transports and hotels would be needed and you would require to plan a base city to travel from. Cusco city may be too far and complicated to travel from on the day (especially for tight schedules), so I believe either Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes to be a more desirable stay for ease of commute to Machu Picchu.

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Bring food and drinks- Machu Picchu is a whole days visit with long walks and tiring climbs so food and drinks are important. There is lots of restaurants at Aguas Calientes village however at the Machu Picchu site there is nothing for sale. I highly advise for each person to bring a big bottle of water and some nibbles as there is a lot of walking and it can get very hot at times.

Bring Cash and Passport- Another advice is to have plenty of cash as only a few establishments take credit card. Passports are also used for entrance to the site so it is equally as important to remember.

Prepare for Altitude- As Machu Picchu is 2,500 metres high, the air is thinner and oxygen less that normal, this could result in sickness and headaches. To prevent this I advise to climatise in one of the towns/ villages nearby first before going straight to Machu Picchu. However I also advise to be prepared bring Coca leaves to chew and for a tea, go to the pharmacy and ask for altitude sickness tablets.

Know the climate-  Lastly before travelling one of the most important fundamental to keep in mind is the climate. You have to remember that although Peru is known to be a hot dry country, Machu Picchu can be the opposite. As the site rises above the clouds you can imagine it being wet and sometimes cold so bringing a jacket and rain coat is advisable. Although the attire you bring should be good for both the climate but also for the activity ahead as there is plenty of walking and climbing.

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After taking these on-board then all you need to do is relax and enjoy the famous mountain attraction.

Next : Travelling to Machu Picchu

Aguas Calientes

5th leg of my Brazil/Peru trip

Type : Rural Mountainous
Best Date : Apr – Oct
Expense : Medium
Things to do :Hiking
Points of Interest: Machu Pichu, Huayna Pichu, Putucusi, Inca Bridge, Temple of the moon, ect
The Good: Excellent scenery
The Bad: Very small village

Brief

Aguas Calientes is the village nearest to the famous Incan ruin of Machu Pichu, also in the Urabamba province within the Cusco region. The village has an altitude of 2,040m and is only 6km away from the Machu Pichu site.

The Place

Like Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes is a small rural village which has its own unique charm. Although its attractions nearby are the main reason for the influx of tourists, the architecture and scenery is just something out of the ordinary. People who stay in this village may only be staying to acclimatize to the altitude or maybe to get some rest before or after their visit to Machu Picchu. In my opinion this small village is a great place and to stay here for one or 2 nights is a privilege.

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Aguas Calientes has a handful of magical attractions to visit, most notable is ‘Machu Picchu’ the Incan citadel on top of the Andes Mountain. In order to reach this attraction from Aguas Calientes you would either need to hike 1.5 hour up the mountain or take a shuttle ride up. Although very expensive I do advise to take the shuttle ride up as Machu Pichu itself has plenty of long walks. Once in Machu Picchu there will be a couple of private tour guides if you want to take them (for a price), I definitely do regret not taking one of them as I learnt very little about the site itself. Once entering, there is plenty of different routes within Machu Picchu itself, all showing the different angles of the Incan ruin. I didn’t plan a specific route but me and my brother opted to just go higher and higher. Once committing to a route its a little hard to go back or do another route as there are plenty of ups and downs.

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Behind Machu Pichu is ‘Huayna Picchu’ or ‘Wayna Picchu’ which is the higher mountain that the more adventurous travellers hike up for a better view and a higher adrenaline rush. The lower levels of the mountain is easy however as you go higher the ancient steps get steeper and much narrower with not much to hold onto. I would like to stress that the mountain is a little dangerous with full view of the heights above and the drop below, there is also very little barriers and although marshals are said to roam the mountain I did only see one. Only a total of 400 people are allowed up this mountain a day, 200 on the morning (07:00 – 10:00) and another 200 in the afternoon (11:00-14:00) because of its popularity I highly advise to book in advance.

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Puntucusi is another mountain opposite Machu Picchu on the other side of the vilcanota river, which is free to hike with a challenge. The good thing about this mountain is that it is relatively unknown to the masses of tourists. However this is ungoverned and there are no wardens so care is required.

One way to relax in Aguas Calientes is their hot spring baths which is a nice way to relax if you have done the 4 day trail. This hot spring have strict rules and require full swimming attire, towels and sandals. It is complete with showers, changing rooms and a snack bar.

There are other attractions such as the ‘Temple of the moon’, ‘Sayacmara’, ‘Puyutamarca’ and many more which makes Aguas Calientes very attractive as a place to stay for a little longer than people plan.

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Overall Aguas Calientes for me was a marvellous place to be in, the rail tracks and old rustic structures were a pleasure although many aspects such as food and drinks in the village were expensive as it would be more profitable from tourists. The traditional markets also have nice souvenirs which are again pricey at first but easy to haggle for a good and cheap price. Finally again the same as Ollantaytambo the scenery is majestic a wonderful panoramic place to be around, if I had the chance I would have stayed longer.

Ollantaytambo

4th leg of my Brazil and Peru trip.

Type : Rural
Best Date : Apr- Oct
Expense : Medium
Things to do : Hiking
Points of Interest: Pinkuylluna, Temple del sol, Ollytaytambo sanctuary, ect
The Good: One of the best scenery from within a village
The Bad: Small not too much to see, limited restaurants and shops

Brief

Ollantaytambo is a small town which is a famous archaeological site, it is enroute Machu Pichu in the Urubamba province within the Cusco region. A popular starting point for the 3 to4 day Inca trail. It has an altitude of 2,792m above sea level and is known to be located in what is called the sacred valley of the Incas.

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The Place

Many Machu Pichu visitors intend to stay somewhere close to the popular mountain attraction the night or day before their visit. Ollantaytambo is a small village in between Cusco city and Aguas Calientes (nearest village to Machu Picchu). The trains to Machu Picchu (Peru Rail and Inka Rail) only operates from Ollantaytambo as there is none from Cusco.

Due to the complexity of the travel from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and our early train ticket we opted to stay in Ollantaytambo so we were just walking distance away from the train station (not needing a 1-2 hour bus ride from Cusco) and just a short train ride away from Aguas Calientes.

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Ollantaytambo has a marvellous appeal but it is small and has limited points of interest. The main attraction is the Pinkuylluna which is an archaeological site on top of a mountain (with the same name), this was used by the Incans for granaries and storehouses. To enter this though you would need an entrance ticket of about 130 soles (about £35). There is also the Incan Bridge which is also an attraction with significant history although not too impressive.

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After these there is not much to plan for whilst visiting Ollantaytambo. However the village itself and its surroundings is the sole reason for visiting and staying a night or two. A very old town which is probably only improved for tourist accessibility and comfort. The small river is also an additional beauty to this town and there is a few cafes situated next to it. Lastly there is a brilliant market just outside the entrance to Pinkuylluna, they had excellent traditional handmade products from local material like Alpaca fur and others alike. Surprisingly the products were also fairly priced which was an added bonus as it was located in front of a tourist attraction.

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Overall Ollantaytambo is your small cute village that is out of the ordinary, it is mainly used for transit to Machu Pichu but i can confidently say you would lose out if you don’t roam this beautiful Peruvian country village. The scenery itself is a pleasure to be surrounded by and there is not too many tourists to disturb the peace and serenity of the area, so hiking here would be nice scenic and peaceful. A night or two is a good duration to roam Ollantaytambo, to visit but also to take a smoother unrushed transit to Machu Pichu.