I recently went on an incredible three-day, two-night tour to Machu Picchu from a cruise ship.
Even though I’d researched it pretty well before going, and was given a lot of good information by the cruise line, there were a lot of things I still didn’t know to do, or that would happen.
Therefore, I decided to write an article on the exact details of my trip, in case this helps anyone else planning for something similar.
To be clear – this is not an exhaustive guide, and I’m in no way saying your trip will follow an itinerary like this, even if you go with the same cruise line, on the same tour, on the same month. Many aspects could be different.
Also, I am not writing this in any official way at all, this is merely my experience and opinions as an individual. I believe if I’d read someone else’s itinerary like this before going, I personally would have benefited from it.
So, take a read if you like. My intent with this is to highlight some aspects of the timings so you have more of an idea of what to expect, and I’ve woven in some extra tips to you that you may not have thought of – and to help you get excited to go if you are planning it!
Machu Picchu overland trip Sept 2018 (silver)
10.30am – All tour guests met in show lounge on ship.
11.00am – Left ship on bus to airport all 24 of group together (plus escort). We met our main guide who’d be with us the whole time.
11.35am – Arrived at Lima airport. Our guide got an airline worker to check us all in on her iPad then she printed all boarding passes for everyone, which made it much more pleasant and fast.
Only four guests checked in luggage – wheelie carry on cases, which was either a bit heavy or they had liquids in them too large for carry on.
Tip: Don’t check in any luggage unless you really need to, it’ll save time and hassle for yourself and the group.
12.30pm – Once everyone was checked in and had boarding passes, we walked over to the Lima airport hotel Costa del Sol/Wyndham.
Set lunch was:
Starter – Caesar salad
Main course – Chicken in curry sauce with potatoes and salad.
Dessert – Crème caramel.
Drinks: Choice of sparkling or still bottled water and choice of beer or soda.
Lunch was very nice and the service excellent. We were in our own dining room, the Silver group in one, and gold group in the other. There was hotel Wi-Fi which staff gave passwords for.
Tip: Use the Wi-Fi at the hotel to check up on anything before you fly. You’ll be given two drinks here, so if you don’t drink them both, you can take water on the plane with you.
1.40pm – Our group walked over to the airport and went through security and to wait at the gate.
2.55pm – Boarded plane, both groups together.
3.25pm – Plane took off.
4.30pm – Arrived in Cusco airport. At the airport as you walk into the baggage claim hall, there is a very large bowl with coca leaves in it. These are offered for visitors to take a few of and chew them to help straight away with the altitude adjustment to help avoid altitude sickness. I spoke to the lady working there asking about them, and she told me the leaves should be chewed slowly to best help with sickness. I took a few for myself and told the guests they were available if they wanted to try them, and many did.
Tip: Take some coca leaves at the airport and chew them slowly. Make a point to breathe slowly and deeply when you first arrive at this much higher altitude to help you get used to it.
4.45pm – Tour of Cusco by van. We were split into two groups and driven to the hotel via a tour around the historic centre of Cusco given lots of interesting information on the city.
At this point, two Cusco based local guides joined us. This was fantastic having the three of them, as we always went in two smaller buses with two guides in one, and one guide plus me in the other, so the guests were well taken care of and had plenty people available to help them at all times.
We got out of the van at the Plaza des Armas, the main square, to see it walking and take photos of it, and the surrounding buildings. The guides gave a lot more good information about everything in it.
5.35pm – Arrived at the Costa del Sol Ramada hotel and checked in. Our new guide also joined us at the airport and we checked everyone in and they went to their rooms. The dinner meeting time was set to meet in hotel lobby at 7pm.
5.55pm – I went to my room and dropped off my bag.
6.05pm – I went out with two guests to wander around the historic centre. All the other guests went to their rooms to rest a little. I walked the two blocks to the Plaza des Armas – main square – and browsed the shops, took photos of the cathedral as the sun was setting, looked in the Jesuit church which was holding Mass so we just peeked and left, then looked in the artisan market next door to the Jesuit church.
This market was very nice, and had lovely items for sale – but was a lot more expensive (about double) than the regular shops around the centre. We used this to look at crafts and souvenirs without being hassled for a sale, and then we actually bought elsewhere.
I bought an Alpaca sweater I liked from a small shop and a condor necklace from a street seller.
This was the only chance we actually had to explore Cusco other than the walk through the square to the hotel, so I would recommend saying to the guests at check in at the hotel that if they aren’t too tired, they may want to take a stroll. The area is very safe, and the hotel is only two blocks from the main square and all the shopping spots. Also, the only shopping time we had really was an hour in Manchu Picchu, so this would add a potential extra hour of shopping.
Tip: This was the only chance we had to explore Cusco, so if you’re not too tired when you arrive, make use to this and take a stroll around the city centre.
7.00pm – Our group met in the hotel lobby to be taken to dinner in the van to a local restaurant Tunupa. The restaurant was in the main square, on the second floor, and was very good. There was great décor, food excellent – a buffet with a lot of local and international food to suit any taste. The local entertainment was very good with musicians playing pan flutes, a whole band playing and singing Peruvian and famous Latin American songs, and dancers performing traditional dances in costumes.
The buffet choices of food included alpaca stew, chicken, rice, varied salad, sushi, potatoes, fresh bread, several delicious local desserts including vanilla cake and cheesecake. The food here was excellent and in my opinion the best meal of the trip.
Tip: Sample something new and local at the buffet. The food was really good here. Take time to enjoy the local music too. If your head if feeling up for it, ask to try the local Pisco sours, it is excellent.
8.40pm – Everyone headed back to the hotel. We could have stayed longer, but everyone was finished eating and had enjoyed the entertainment and was tired.
Two guests weren’t feeling well so the hotel reception brought them the oxygen machine, which they used to help their altitude sickness.
They felt much better afterwards.
Tip: Get as much sleep as you can this first night so you are fully acclimatized to the altitude and ready for Machu Picchu in the morning.
4.30am – Breakfast opened in the restaurant for any guest to go for from this time.
4.40am – Wake up call to all guests in their rooms.
Everyone had breakfast, which was very nice, but almost everyone only ate a little as it was so early and they were still acclimatizing to the altitude. One more guest felt a little ill from the altitude, so she also had a round of oxygen to help her. She again, felt much better after this.
Tip: Even though you might not be hungry then, lunch is planned for about eight hours from breakfast, so if you’re up to it try to eat some more, or grab a pastry or two to take with you for a snack for later.
Tip: If you get motion sick in any way, take medication for this before the van ride. The van ride is about two hours, and then 90 minutes on the train, followed by a hair bend ride up the hill, so it is bumpy and windy. I’m very glad I took medicine.
5.40am – The group met in the lobby and got in the two vans to drive to Ollantaytambo to get the train.
7.25am – Arrived at Ollantaytambo for train.
7.45am – The train left for Aguas Calientes. The train journey was great. Bathroom on train was fine and clean. If the arrival time here is close to the train departure time, best to advise guests to use the restroom on the train rather than the public ones as one couple almost missed the train as they went to use the bathroom, and the men’s was closed, so they went further to find one without telling anyone, so just made it.
Tip: Sitting on the left side going there gives best views.
9.15am – Arrived at Aguas Calientes. We walked through town from the train station to the local shuttle bus to go up to Machu Picchu. This bus is public so we were waiting in line with everyone else but it was only a 5-minute wait and we managed to all get on same bus.
9.40am – All group on the bus and left for hair bending ride up to Machu Picchu.
10.15am – Arrived at entrance to Machu Picchu, bathroom break, and then we all went in.
Note: You have to pay for the bathroom here, but it is only 2 soles (about 60 cents). You can use USD dollars, and they give you change in soles, so good to have a couple of one dollar notes on you. There are no bathrooms in the site, so definitely best to use them here again.
Tip: Bring single dollar bills to use for bathroom change and definitely use the bathroom before going into Machu Picchu, as there are no toilets inside the site.
10.30am – Went into Machu Picchu. It was incredible. The guides kept us in the two groups as in the van (so 12 and 12) and gave the tour of the site until 1pm. Tour was amazing and the guides all were really excellent. They took us to all the main sites and to as many places as time and walking speed would allow.
Everyone in the group managed most of it. Once couple left about halfway through and our guide took them to sit at a shaded bench near the entrance, and another couple, left about three quarters of the way through, and the guide took them to do the same. So this option is available.
The walk around Machu Picchu was incredible. There are a lot of steps though, and uneven cobbled terrain, and can be hot, or cold. In total that day I did 15,400 steps (almost 10km) according to my Fit Bit. I walked a bit more than the guests as I was going back and forth checking on them, but just so you know how much walking is involved to make sure they’re definitely able to manage it. Luckily there were no health issues.
Tip: There is quite a lot of walking, over uneven terrain with cobblestones. If you’re not up to walking up to 10km on quite steep terrain, then think about this before booking.
1.00pm – We left the site, and got our passports stamped with the Machu Picchu stamp at a table at the gate. I’d definitely recommend this, and all the guests were very happy to do it, and it was free. Then we waited in line for the local bus to take us back down the hill and some people used the bathrooms again.
Tip: Get your passport stamped at the table. It is free. Just wait a few minutes for it, as it is really fun to have it.
1.23pm – After waiting in line with the other visitors for 20 minutes, we got on the buses to go back to town. The group was between two buses then as it was much busier.
1.55pm – I got off the second bus with one if our guides and the four guests on the second bus, and walked the short walk to the hotel where lunch was served.
2.00pm – Arrived at local hotel for lunch. Lunch was a buffet with mostly international food and some local things. It included chicken and pork stew, rice, salad, bread rolls, yellow potato soup, pasta, quinoa, vegetables, and dessert was local berry Jell-O, fresh fruit and small orange cake and cheesecake.
Drinks were, water (sparkling or still) and a soft drink beer. I tried local soda Inca Cola, which our guide recommended – a sweet candy flavored beverage. The lunch was nice and all guests seemed happy.
Tip: Try some local Inca Cola with lunch. I enjoyed it.
2.45pm – We walked to the main square to get a group photo on my suggestion.
Tip: If you want to get a group photo of your tour, Machu Picchu’s main square by the statue of Pachacute is a great spot for it.
2.50pm – We walked to the train station so guests could see where to meet for getting the train back. There was then free time for shopping in the market by the train station.
Tip: Shopping at the Machu Picchu market is a great place to buy souvenirs.
3.50pm – All guests met in the lobby of the train station to re-board the train.
Tip: Sitting on the right side of the train on the way back gives the best views.
4.22pm – Train left to go back to Ollantaytambo.
6.00pm – Arrived at train station, bathroom break.
Tip: Use the opportunity for a bathroom break here, as the van trip will last two hours.
6.25pm – We all convened in vans again and drove back to Cusco.
8.30pm – Arrived at hotel and buffet was open for our dinner. This was a smaller buffet choice than the others, but was fine and nice, with some local and international food, like chicken breast, pumpkin soup, cheese potato gratin, vegetables, and mini cheesecake for dessert.
All guests (and the guides and I) were very tired, so had light meals and then went to bed.
Tip: Go to bed as early as you can after this very long day.
5.00am – Wake up call in rooms for all guests. Then everyone had until 6am to have breakfast and check out. The restaurant was open from 4.30am again in case anyone wanted to go in earlier for breakfast.
6.00am – Everyone met in the lobby and checked out with no issues. Took bus to Cusco airport.
Tip: Lunch may not be for eight hours, so grab a pastry or two from breakfast to snack on in the bus journey after the flight.
6.25am – Arrived at Cusco airport. The guides and I checked the guests in to the flight and then the two local Cusco guides left us here, and one stayed all the way back to the ship.
7.30am – Boarding commenced for the flight, and we saw the gold group here too.
8.03am – Flight took off for Lima.
9.05am – Plane landed. Everyone got off, collected their luggage, and stopped for a bathroom break.
9.45am – Group took the bus to Chincha for lunch. Drove through Callao and then Lima on the coastal Costa Verde area through neighborhoods Chorrillos, Mira Flores (a little only at the coast for timing), San Miguel, Madalena and San Isidro with lots of great information from guide.
1.30pm – Arrived at Casa Andina in Chincha for lunch. Lunch was a set menu:
Starter – Caesar salad with Lima beans, tomato, peppers and corn.
Main course – Grilled sea bass, roast potato and rice.
Dessert – Fruit salad (papaya, watermelon, pineapple).
Drinks – choice of still or sparkling bottled water and beer or soft drink.
2.13pm – Left to drive back to ship, along coast past desert landscape. Most people napped then a bit with commentary from guide whenever we passed anything interesting.
3.27pm – Arrived at ship. Everyone back, no issues.
The guides were all amazing and I would highly recommend them any time. They really made the tour special with their kind natures, and way they looked after the guests as well as the very impressive amount of information they gave.
The guides my tour had were:
The drivers Juan Carlos, Richard and Ramiro were all very safe, excellent drivers and very personable too.
The tour really was excellent – the planning of it all, the hotel, the food, the transport, and more than anything, the wonderful guides were really amazing and all guests seemed extremely happy with everything. I’d highly recommend it.