Destination: Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru

My vacation earlier this summer was my first time going to South America, as well as being the first time I would be experiencing high altitudes. Namely, I spent one week in Peru, most notably in the Sacred Valley, Cusco, and Machu Picchu, which are all located at over 8000 feet (2500 meters). It’s at this particular height that it begins to affect people’s health, whether from altitude sickness or general bodily discomfort.

Although I’m quite young (in my mid-twenties) and considerably in-shape, I was concerned as to whether I would affected by the high altitude. My parents had been prescribed some medication to combat the heights, and I did take the pills a couple of time prior to going. However, I stopped after two to three days, just because the side effects (intense tingling in my fingers and toes) were uncomfortable. I also drank coca tea while there, which I don’t think did much, but at least I got to try it.

Following our stay in Lima, our tour group took us to the airport where we caught a 90-minute flight to Cusco, which would serve as our jumping-off point to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. We also landed in Cusco as means of getting acclimated to the high altitude, so that we would later be all right– as the city is one of the highest at over 11,000 feet (3400 meters), it was definitely a lot to handle all at once upon arrival.

Once we landed in Cusco, we wasted no time taking our tour coach for a two-hour drive to our hotel near Urubamba, located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We checked in and were taken to our hotel rooms, from which offered sweeping views of the valley landscapes. As we’d spent half of the day in-transit, we were tired and didn’t do much for the rest of the day, albeit having afternoon tea (coca tea, mind you) and taking an evening stroll to see the constellations, even the Milky Way! Plus, we needed to get adjusted to the high altitude, so it was wise not to do anything strenuous that first day.

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Views from the hotel.
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Coca tea.

After our one-night stay, we headed out the next day for our full-day visit of the Sacred Valley. We climbed to higher altitudes once more to visit Chinchero, at 12,300 feet (3700 meters). Perhaps it was the altitude or the fact that I was still tired from the day before, but I did feel a bit sluggish as we were sightseeing around its sweeping terraces, along with silversmith and wool-dying stores. We even visited a small petting zoo with alpaca, llamas, and guinea pigs! Sluggish or not, I still made it through the day.

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Sacred Valley of the Incas.
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Terraces in the Sacred Valley.
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Wool dyes in Chinchero.
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Llamas!

We stopped for some lunch before continuing in the afternoon, this time to Ollantaytaymbo, an archaeological site for the Incas with its notable sandy terraces and naturally-carved godly figures on the face of the mountain. It was very picturesque as we headed up the terraces to the top before coming down and catching the afternoon train to Aguas Calientes where we would spend a night before visiting Machu Picchu the next day.

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In Ollantaytaymbo.
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Terraces in Ollantaytaymbo.

Besides getting us acclimated to the high altitude, our visit of the Sacred Valley of the Incas was incredibly educated, just as much (if not more) than that of Machu Picchu to come. The landscape was unbelievable, and it offered insight into the history and geography of such a place in the country of Peru.

More to come!

— The Finicky Cynic

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