The Traveling Professor has extensive experience in planning and running tours to Peru, Machu Picchu and the Amazon. He has been designated by The New York Times as a Peru "Travel Expert". Here are his tips for planning a Cusco and Machu Picchu tour.
Spend 2 or 3 Days in Lima: Located at sea level on the Pacific Ocean, this is a vibrant and modern city. 2 of the Top 10 restaurants in the world (Central and Maido) are located in Lima. There is plenty to see and do in the historic area of Lima as well in the trendy neighborhoods of Miralflores and Barranco. Don't miss the Larco Museum either.
Spend First Day in Cusco Relaxing: At 11,000+ feet, you will feel it as soon as stepping off the plane. Lay off the big meal and booze on your first day.
Where to Eat in Cusco: Chi Cha Restaurant is one of my favorites as well as Cicciolina. It might be too expensive to stay at the Belmondo Monasterio Hotel but lunch there is top-notch.
In Cusco, Get a Hotel with an Oxygen System: For instance, on The Traveling Professor tours to Peru, we stay at the 5-star Aranwa Hotel. Each room has oxygen pumped into it. In my 10+ years in going to Peru, this is a BIG advantage in acclimating to the high altitude and in avoiding altitude sickness.
Buy Tickets in Advance: Do not go to Peru without having train tickets between Aguas Calientes (where Machu Picchu is located) and Cusco. Do not try to buy tickets to Machu Picchu "on the spot", it is often sold out months in advance.
Best Hotels in Aguas Calientes: The El Mapi Hotel and the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. I recommend eating in the hotels.
Take the Train to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) from the Poroy Train Station: Otherwise, it is a 2 hour "adventurous" bus ride to Ollantaytambo to catch the train. The Poroy station is only about 20 minutes from Cusco.
Spend TWO Nights in Aguas Calientes: The biggest mistake people make when going to Machu Picchu is that they make it a day trip. On our Traveling Professor small group tours to Machu Picchu, we spend arrival day on a guided tour of Machu Picchu, then the next day taking an early morning hike along a segment of the Inca Trail to the Sun Gate.
Join The Traveling Professor on a small group tour to Machu Picchu and Peru.