Peru (Cusco and Machu Picchu)

After spending about five weeks in the States visiting with family and friends, planning for the spring, and eating way too much of our favorite foods, we set out on January 2nd for Peru to once again travel this wonderful journey we’re on. Neither Perry nor I had ever visited Peru before, but after hearing stories from people who had, our expectations were high. And after spending the last eight days there, to say that those expectations have been exceeded may be an understatement.

Our flight pattern to reach our final destination of Cusco was long and a little crazy so once we arrived, we were quite happy and tired. Unfortunately, to get to Cusco from the U.S., you almost certainly have an overnight connection through Lima (although this will hopefully change once Cusco opens their new airport around 2026). Yes, this can be a bit of a struggle, but trust me, it’s all worth it once you reach Cusco :)

For some background on Cusco, it was once the capital of the Incan Empire from the early 1200s until the Empire was conquered by the Spanish in 1572. During the Incan rule, the city was filled with Incan temples and palaces, which were sadly torn down and replaced with Catholic churches by the Spanish. The city was said to have once been shaped like a puma, but it has now expanded and grown to fill the valley it sits in within the majestic Andes Mountains. 


We stayed in the area of San Blas which sits up in the hills close to the historic district of the city. We loved being in this area and enjoyed the views it gave us over the city both during the day and at night. During the day, one could see red clay roofs for miles, and at night the city lights sparkled like stars in the sky against the background of the mountains. It was breathtaking and I loved staring out into the city at night. I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, but if you ever visit Cusco, I must recommend our hotel, Hotel Atoq San Blas. It was absolutely perfect with the cutest, nicest rooms and the most friendly, kind staff. They were such a treat to stay with and made our stay in Cusco all the better (we booked them through Hotels.com f you’re looking for it!).

For the first four days of our time in Peru, we explored Cusco and took day trips throughout the Sacred Valley surrounding the town.

Within Cusco, we loved learning about the rich history of the city. We were able to visit the Cusco Cathedral located within the main town square called Plaza de Armas.





We enjoyed wondering through the narrow streets of Cusco, visiting the San Pedro Market (which was actually designed by Gustave Eiffel- yes, the same engineer who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris!), and eating some delicious food like lomo saltado and alpaca burgers. We were even able to visit the site of one of the only remaining Incan ruins in the city, where a monastery once was built on top of it until an earthquake knocked it down and now the Incan foundations are all that remain.


















One day, we took a day tour from Cusco throughout the Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley is the area surrounding Cusco in the Andean Highlands that made up the heart of the Incan Empire. On the tour, we visited Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. 

Our day started in Pisac, which is a small town known for it’s Sunday Market, which we luckily were able to visit! The crafts within Peru are colorful and vibrant, and I honestly wanted to buy everything I came across…unfortunately Perry had to repeatedly remind me that there isn’t room in my suitcase…




From the town center, we traveled to the Pisac Incan Ruins. These ruins were made up of amazing building structures made of rock as well as terraces that scaled the side of the mountain and were used for farming by the Incan Empire. We were in awe of the brilliance of the design for something that was built probably around the 1400s. And the backdrop of the mountains and the river below made the scenery incredible.









After Pisac, our group stopped in the small town of Urubamba, where we ate lunch with a ton of other tourists at a restaurant with a buffet full of Peruvian cuisine such as alpaca, chicken, vegetables and fruit. One of the more interesting parts was there were two men performing Peruvian music throughout lunch. It was a little touristy, but quite nice as we were able to enjoy the traditional music of the culture.




From Urubamba, we drove to the town of Ollantaytambo, where we visited a different set of Ruins. These ruins were even larger than the ones in Pisac and we loved exploring them and learning about the history behind them. They too are supposed by historians to have been built in the 1400s as a resting place for the Incan nobility as they travelled throughout the Empire that at it’s height spanned from southwest Colombia to southern Chile.











Our final stop, on our way back to Cusco, was the small town of Chinchero where we visited a shop that uses alpaca wool to make textiles. Usually Perry and I don’t love stops like these on tours that often seem like sales-pitches, but this one was actually pretty interesting as we learned about how they make the yarn and dye it with natural plants like purple corn to make the vibrant colors of the fabrics.


Visiting each of these places was wonderful, but the drive between them, though long, was picturesque and full of breathtaking scenery. This day is definitely one that we won’t ever forget.




Our next day, we had an adventure where we were able to ride ATVs through the Sacred Valley and visit two other archeological sites that we hadn’t seen the day before.

Neither of us had ever driven an ATV before so that was fun in-and-of itself, but when you added in the background of the Sacred Valley and the beautiful mountains, it was amazing to say the least!













The first stop we made on the trip was to the Moray Incan Ruins, which were SO interesting in that not only were they terraces used for farming, but they were shaped in perfect circles. We learned that each terrace was used to grow a different plant because they each have their own climate with the temperature rising about 2 degrees (Celcius) as you go down each terrace- fascinating and brilliant agriculture, right??







And our second stop was at the Maras Salt Mines which have over 4500 pools and are used to harvest three different kinds of salt (white, pink and brown). The pools are filled by a naturally salty stream that flows from the mountain into the pools. When we arrived, the sun was starting to set, which made for an even prettier background.



We loved exploring Cusco and the Sacred Valley those first several days. It was amazing and exceeded all our expectations. It was funny too because coming just for those places would have been worth the trip to Peru, but really by day five of our trip, we hadn’t even made it to our ultimate destination: Machu Picchu.

After the Incan Ruins that we had already seen, the bar was set pretty high for our visit to Machu Picchu, after all it is the most famous of all of them.

To get to Machu Picchu, you have to travel from Cusco to the city of Aguas Calientes. It takes about four hours with a bus ride to start from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and a train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. The train ride itself was beautiful and wound through the mountains along the Urubamba River.








Once we arrived in Aguas Calientes, we settled into our hotel and enjoyed exploring this small tourist town built specifically as the access point for Machu Picchu.










The next day, we rode a bus up to “the lost city of the Incans” and learned an immense amount of history with our amazing guide.


Machu Picchu sits in between the mountains of Huayna Picchu (“Young Mountain”) and Machu Picchu (“Old Mountain”). Built in the mid-1400s, it was a royal city for the Incans. It had houses as well as temples for the around 600 people that lived there at one point. And as all the other ruins, it had elaborate terraces used for farming to sustain the city. It was incredible! Honestly pictures and words cannot do this place justice. To see how it sits within the Andes Mountains was unbelievable. We simply could not take enough pictures to give the feeling that comes when you’re standing there breathing in the mountain air and seeing the beauty all around you. 


















































































We absolutely loved visiting Machu Picchu and seeing its beauty. If you’ve never been, please put it on your list :) It and the country of Peru are wonderful. I know we will forever hold our time here dear in our hearts.

Reflecting on our last week in Peru and on our time in the States, I’m filled with gratitude for the opportunity that Perry and I have been given to see so much of this world. The places that we’ve been and the people that we’ve met along the way have changed us and I know they are shaping us in ways that we will never be able to describe. Similar to our experience on the Repositioning Cruise in November, I’ve been reminded how wonderful this world is and how much more alike than different we are from one another.

Christmas, for Christians, is about the Advent Season, a season where we anticipate and joyfully await the coming of Jesus. It’s easy sometimes to get caught up in the chaos of the season, but at the heart of it this year, I was reminded again and again that my Jesus came into this messy and beautiful world. As we’ve been in Peru, we’ve continued to see Christmas decorations all around, and this reminder continues to ring true in my ears, but it’s taken on a broader meaning. I’ve been reminded that Jesus didn’t just come for me, but He came for us all. He came for you and for me, for the American and the Peruvian, and for all the other people of this world, no matter their background or race. We live on the other side of that first Christmas and can celebrate, outside of the Christmas season, that He came.

So for today, I’m thankful for this wonderful, messy, beautiful world and the people that make it up. I’m grateful for Jesus and that He came for you and for me over 2000 years ago. And I pray that I might be able to spread the hope of His love with all that I meet. May we all experience the true love of our Heavenly Father every day of the year.

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