So its another year with plenty of trips being fulfilled. I have managed to tick off my hit-list it has been wonderful with plenty to write about. Last year (2017) I missed out a trip to Helsinki and Tallinn with the winter proving too expensive for me to finish the year off, however 2018 fulfilled this plan.
Below are just some of the places ive managed to visit, click on them to read some of my write-ups. Next year I already have plans to go to Cambodia, Turkey and Chamonix in France. Other places that are a possibility are Morocco, USA and a return to South America.
South American Trip
Sao Paulo, Mar 18 – First trip of the year and entering South America for the first time on a Brazil and Peru trip. The city was safer than I thought I used public transport and walked everywhere.
Lima, Mar 18 – The Peruvian capital was a pleasure to visit, its museums were different to any other in the world.
Cusco, Mar 18 – The city is beautiful, old churches and Incan ruins was out of this world. Be very careful when visiting this place as the high altitudes do affect people in different ways.
Ollantaytambo, Mar 18 – One of the smallest but most beautiful places I have stayed. Me and my brother stayed next to a river with some of the best views of the surrounding river.
Aguas Calientes, Mar 18 – The main stage for the world famed Machu Picchu, one of the best places I have been, truly majestic.
Rio De Janiero, Mar 18 – As long as you’re extra careful Rio is a safe place to be, maybe a few money hustle form a few taxi drivers or vendors but other than those it is safe. Its scenery and beaches are some of the best in the world.
Cardiff, Apr 18 – A short weekend in the welsh capital, a place full of investment in order to establish it as a shopping haven.
Philippines & Japan Trip
Manila, Jun 18 – Its that time again where once a year I visit Philippines. A base to srelax before we head off to Japan.
Osaka, Jun 18 – Our entry point in Japan, smaller than Tokyo but a metropolis nonetheless.
Kyoto, Jun 18 – Beautifully preserved temples and religious places. Home of the world famed Geisha entertainers and the most cultural traditions preserved.
Tokyo, Jun 18 – Last city visited in Japan, a beautiful busy metropolis. Very crowded and bustling 24 hours a day. Bright lights, most modern technology and cuisine were a huge plus for this city.
Finland & Estonia Trip
Helsinki, Dec 18 – The Finnish capital had little to offer in attractions however the beauty of the capital is its people, arts and history.
Rovaniemi, Dec 18 – A true winter wonderland, the coldest place ive visited and the most magical place for families.
Tallinn, Dec 18 (post coming soon) – Outstanding pagan churches, Medieval Castles and modern festive market. Spookiest place ive ever been to with many stories of haunted past on many building in the old town.
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)
Straight from London and my first stop. This part of the trip was and insight to one of Latin Americas richest metropolis.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
3rd city of my Brazilian and Peru tour.
Type : Historical City
Best Date : May – Sep
Expense : Fair
Things to do : Dine, Shop, Hike, Adrenaline Sports, Museums, ect
Points of Interest: LA cathedral, Sacsayhuaman, Plaza de Armas, San Pedro Market, Moray, Salt Mines, Hamantay lake and more
The Goods: Excellent architecture and culture
The Bads: High Altitude causes sickness try acclimatizing in lower neighbouring cities before Cusco, many uphill walking
3rd leg of my Brazillian and Peru tour.
Cusco city is the capital of the Cusco region and province. With an average elevation of about 3,400m Cusco is the 8th highest city in the world. The city which is a UNESCO world heritage site used to be the historic capital of the Incan empire from the 13th to the 16th century when the Spanish conquest began. Today Cusco is one of the most popular tourist destination in Peru being the starting point of Machu Picchu and the Inca trail.
Cusco or Cuzco as its sometimes spelt has its goods and its bads, for me it was a good place to unwind but only for a maximum of 2 days. Firstly the city is very high at about 3,339m higher than all the surrounding villages, towns and points of interest including the famous Machu Pichu. Meaning air is much thinner and to acclimatize is much more difficult than if you were at Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes and others a like.
Cusco has many attractions for tourists, there are plenty of churches, museums, markets, cultural places and a handful of ancient historic ruins, most are within the city but some are just outside and needs transport arrangements. Firstly within the city there is ‘Sacsayhuaman’ which is a UNESCO world heritage site since 1983. These ruins is known to be the historic capital of the Incan empire and visiting this you will see the formation of rocks and walls from the ancient citadel. A good place to start off your Incan adventure in the city, be wary that this is one of the highest point in the already high city so it’ll be sensible to acclimatise first.
‘Plaza de Armas’ is the main square of the city and around it are various restaurants, shops and 2 churches ‘Iglesia Compania de Jesus’ and ‘LA cathedral’. The plaza has a beautiful fountain in the middle with a statue of an Incan Ruler ‘Pachacuti’ above it and surrounding it a well groomed garden. Within the city there is plenty of churches some of which are open to visitors but many are strictly for worship. In general the city centre is fairly small but the altitude definitely affects your ability to walk the distances, you also have to consider the fact that much of the streets are uphill slopes.
A short walk away from Plaza de Armas is ‘San Pedro Market’ which for me was one of the cleaner markets I’ve ever been to. The market was complete with fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, cheese, products and quiet strangely a line of fruit juice stalls. Although very clean I didn’t see anything different from other markets I have been to in other countries.
A bit of an excursion outside the city you will find attractions such as ‘Moray’, ‘Salt Mines’, ‘Humantay lake’ and many more. We visited these as a part of an ATV tour, which was a pleasure to do passing the beautiful sceneries and friendly local farmers waving at us as we pass. The ‘salt mines’ was unbelievable and the story behind it was interesting, it was 10 soles to enter the attraction and there you can taste the salt water and see the enchanting panoramic views. Moray is another Inca ruin which still has its mysteries because of its circular structure. Lastly the Humantay lake which was a good spot to just chill unwind and again enjoy the scenery. The ATV tour was a good side to see the farmlands and their people there were many animals and friendly locals around to great us as we passed.
Other than these attractions the city itself is a pleasure to be in, the restaurants and cafes vary from traditional Peruvian and even western food. Food in the city though has its ups and downs, fast food such as McDonald’s was the worst I have ever tasted around the world, in most other restaurants we went to the service was also very slow. The buildings itself are of Spanish colonial style and there are no high rise buildings which is good so that you can see the surrounding mountains. However a lot of streets are uphill so for those who don’t walk well it would be sensible to stay nearer the square. The people of Cusco are also very friendly to tourists however you can find many persistent people offering tours. Overall Cusco is a great place to visit but the majority who stay here would excurse to Machu Picchu as the main part of their itinerary.
Reference: Highest cities (https://web.archive.org/web/20130714072634/http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/featured/highest-cities-in-the-world/4660?image=1)