About Lainie Liberti
Lainie Liberti is a recovering branding expert, who’s career once focused on creating campaigns for green - eco business, non-profits and conscious business. Dazzling clients with her high-energy designs for over 18 years, Lainie lent her artistic talents to businesses that matter. But that was then.
In 2008, after the economy took a turn, Lainie decided to be the change (instead of a victim) and began the process of “lifestyle redesign,” a joint decision between both her and her 11-year-old son, Miro. They sold or gave away all of of their possessions in 2009 and began a life of travel, service, and exploration. Lainie and her son Miro began their open-ended adventure backpacking through Central and South America. They are slow traveling around the globe allowing inspiration to be their compass. The pair is most interested in exploring different cultures, contributing by serving, and connecting with humanity as ‘global citizens.’
Today Lainie considers herself a digital nomad who is living a location independent life. She and her son write and podcast their experiences from the road at Raising Miro on the Road of Life.
Latest Posts by Lainie Liberti
Before we left on our trip to South America, things were different. I worked with technology every day. But I do remember a time before my laptop and I were fused together. I had computers, yes, but back then, I refused to own a laptop.
Because I knew myself. I owned and ran a busy a design / branding agency and I was a workaholic. I spend at least 60+ hours a week in front of my duel giga-something apples in the office loft, (which for many years also happened to where I resided).
For what reason could I possibly need a laptop too?
My fear was, I’d take the laptop into my bed and never get any separation from work, technology and being connected. I’d never have a break.
Yes. I know myself. Well.
I was a self proclaimed work-aholic for oh so many years. Prior to our travels, it was worse. I am committed, I am passionate and I am focussed. And I knew one thing for sure: Back then, I would have taken my laptop into bed with me. Without a doubt.
I bought my first laptop for our trip and for the last five years, my laptop has been my lifeline. I use my laptop to earn a living, to stay connected with friends and family and even to provide entertainment watching movies and tv shows and listening to music.
I couldn’t imagine traveling long-term without a laptop. I couldn’t work without one, support ourselves, or manage to stay connected. So, when Miro and I decided to travel to Ecuador for 10 days and we decided to both go without our personal laptop computers, it was a monumental decision for both of us. (I am not saying we didn’t use the internet cafes once a day to check in, but it was an intentional choice at that point, rather than wasting hours in front of our computers.)
So, what happened as a result of this little experiment?
Besides the obvious (not being in front of the computer all day and night) I noticed some miraculously wonderful side effects of being computer-free:
- We did not have to worry about leaving our valuable computers in our hostel room while we were out enjoying the beach.
- We spent all of our time together interacting and playing (multiple card and chess games) with one another
- We laughed so much together, the days seemed to be filled with nothing but laughter and joy
- We experienced the days as being longer and we had more time.
- We were more present at every meal, every interaction, every activity.
- We exercised creative ways to entertain ourselves; taking walks, pretending we were super-spies, drawing in the sand and making new friends.
Sometimes, you gotta just take a break.
Sometimes you gotta give yourself a few computer-free days, whether you are traveling or not.
Photo credit top photo: www.gdefon. com.
Since certain ingredients are used as a result of both history and geographic conditions, one of the best ways to educate yourself about a country is to sample its food. As well as treating your taste buds to exotic culinary delights, eating in a new country is a great way to truly immerse yourself in the culture of a new country, and meet new friends.
Chicken is eaten everywhere
The humble fowl really does have widespread international following. From China to Peru you’ll discover that every country on the planet has a different way of preparing chicken. You can stir fry it, or you can let it cook in an oven as a casserole. The chicken is perfect as a dish for curries or as a tempting recovery meal for anyone who has been ill.
French chicken classic
A classic French dish that is easy to prepare is chicken in white wine sauce. Simply buy some chicken breasts, fry them in a deep pan or casserole dish, add equal measures of chicken stock and white wine and then add 4 cloves of whole garlic and place the whole mixture to simmer for around 40 minutes. You can check if the chicken is properly cooked by just piercing the breast with a thin knife and making sure that it’s no longer pink. Mushrooms added in the last ten minutes of cooking time will enrich this recipe. You should also add herbs as well as salt and pepper for extra taste. Reduce the sauce by removing the lid and boiling quickly. This is when you add the cream.
Sample some Andean culture in Peru
In Peru they cook fiery chicken dishes using chillies, cumin and evaporated milk. This unlikely sounding combination is in fact delicious. It’s a one-pot recipe so once you’ve boiled your chicken and shredded it you can then fry the onion, chillies, pecan nuts and garlic and spices. Add evaporated milk to the spices then combine with the chicken. All that’s left to do is enjoy this meal while learning about the Incas and the lost civilizations of this fascinating part of the world.
Try Middle Eastern chicken recipes
Turkey is renowned for its incredible fusion of cultures, astonishing monuments and its mysterious Hittite people. It’s also famous for its beaches and bazaars. Chicken dishes from this country can incorporate cardamom, paprika and nuts. Simply boil your chicken pieces for around 20 minutes and then strain through a sieve. Whiz up the walnuts, onion and the water/stock from the chicken, adding paprika, some crusts of bread and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Smear the paste over the chicken and you’ll have a delicious meal.
Chiclayo, also known as the “city of friendship”, is located near the northern coast of Peru. It is the fourth largest city in Peru and probably the most modern. Its sunny climate, desert oasis and fresh sea breeze are pretty welcoming. The city offers its visitors a number of tourist attractions, from cultural sites to natural wonders. The ancient history from the area adds color to Peru’s already stunning legacy.
During our last trip to Chiclayo, Miro and I visited Túcume, Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipan, Lord of Sipan tomb, Ferrenafe Musuem, Museo Sicán, and the Brüning Museum in Lambayeque.
This time, according to Miro, he has already visited all the sites and remembered having a cultural overdose last time we were there. So this time, with our 8 hours layover, he said “NO WAY ” to revisiting any of the same sites.
Our first visit was to the capital of Sican culture, the complex of Túcume. The site is located 35 Kilometers from the Chiclayo. It is believed that Túcume was built later after the Sicán abandoned and burnt their capital of Batán Grande in A.D. 1050. Commonly referred to as Valle de las Pirámides, the area is easy to understand mainly from the lookout on Cerro Purgatorio. This offers an excellent view over the entire complex which has a small but interesting museum, opened 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
Lord of Sipan Tomb
Our next destination was one of the most significant archeological sites in the region – the Tomb of the Lord of Sipan . It was discovered close to the coast, in the middle of Lambayeque Valley, just 35 kilometers east of Chiclayo. The Lord of Sipan (or Señor de Sipán) ruled about 1600 years ago and was thought to be only 30 to 40 years old when he died. The Lord was buried in traditional Moche funeral clothes which adorned with gold, silver and jewels and on display at Museo Tumbas Reales de Sípan.
Museo Tumbas Reales de Sípan
Miro and I toured the Museo Tumbas Reales de Sípan which is the principal museum in Lambayeque. The museum was inaugurated on November 8th, 2002, is considered to house one of the nations leading archeological collections. The impressive building has been designed to reflect that pyramid-like sanctuaries of the Moche culture. Its multi-level interior, meanwhile, is a world-class showcase for the region’s many pre-Columbian artifacts. At the centerpiece, there is the Señor de Sipán collection (from the site of the same name, also called Huaca Rajada, outside Chiclayo), that features exquisite items that have been taken from the tomb of the Lord of Sipán.
Visitors enter the museum through the top floor and then descend to the second and first levels. Several tour guides are readily available but at an extra fee – if you aren’t familiar with the cultures of the northern coast, a guide can help you get the most from the museum.
Miro and I also visited the Museo Sicán during our visit. Located in Ferreñafe, about 20 kilometers from Chiclayo city, Museo Sicán is located along the road leading to Bosque de PómacSanctuary. This museum display various aspects of the daily life within the Sican culture including metallurgy and ceramics. Additionally, the Museo Sicán has a display of the Sican royal tombs.
The name Sicán is used to refer to the culture that flourished in Lambayeque area about 750 AD. The culture traces its roots to the Mochica culture and to some other contemporary cultures like the Wari, Cajamarca and Pachacamac.
The Brüning Museum marked the end of our tour of the Chiclayo region in Peru. Located in Lambayeque , the Brüning Museum was built to house the collection of German-born archaeologist and ethnographer Hans Heinrich Brüning Brookstedt. Brüning spent much of his life in northern Peru, exploring and recording the culture of the region and its past civilizations. In the 1920s, the Peruvian government purchased much of Brüning’s collection, including his photographs, sketches and an ever-growing assortment of ceramics and other archaeological artefacts. Brüning Museum has more than 1,500 pieces from various cultures of northern Peru that includes the Moche, Chimú, Vicús and Lambayeque civilizations. Many of these pieces show scenes of everyday life, including rituals and fishing scenes which is a vital occupation along the desert coast.
One of my roles as a parent is to serve as a guide and partner in learning. Through this partnership, we discover new ideas within the context of travel and explore how these experiences relate to our own lives. Additionally, I continue to be an integral part of his feedback loop, allowing him to process and express his own reactions to the world around us. This has become one of the milestones of our parent-child relationship and has contributed to our close relationship.
We were recently talking about the experience and with a little research, we realize there is a new exhibit right now in New York called Body Worlds: Pulse which we are considering attending later this year.
Throughout the exhibit’s history, it has been fought against, heavily criticized, and widely protested. It may even be an exhibit some parents may choose to shy away from, Miro and I are excited to explore it once again. The Body Worlds exhibit offers an intense (educational) experience that people of any age can find inspiration from.
The Body Worlds in the Making
Meet Gunther von Hagens, creator of the controversial process known as plastination. This process became the foundation for traveling Body Worlds exhibition. In the late 1970s, the German anatomist invented this technique used to preserve cadavers for further study. Without this invention, the unique Body Worlds exhibits would never have been possible.
The Exhibit’s Many Controversies
All of the Body Worlds exhibits have been under fire by several different groups. People from a wide variety of backgrounds actively protest the display, for not only because of their religious beliefs, but also from medical, ethical, and legal standpoints. Catholic leaders and Jewish rabbis have made it publicly known that they object to the exhibit. They claim that Body Works demonstrates a lack of reverence for the human body. Von Hagens does not agree with those viewpoints. To the contrary, he considers the exhibit to be an honor to the human body, not a show of disrespect. Miro and I both agree.
Exploring the Body Worlds: Pulse Exhibit
Each of the Body Worlds exhibits takes on a different theme. Body Worlds: Pulse is about the story of the human body in the 21st Century. As the newest in the series, this particular exhibit demonstrates the latest developments in von Hagen’s plastination technique.
The Body Worlds: Pulse exhibit focuses on displaying the potential within the human body and the vulnerabilities as well. There are displays that show bodies in distress and others showing them in health. It reinforces the thought of living life mindfully, finding meaning in it, and promoting vitality. The exhibit embodies a rich multimedia experience, intriguing metaphors and progressive storytelling, inviting each visitor to create their own narrative of the experience. Both Miro and I are anxious to explore this show first-hand.
Important Take-Away Lessons
In spite of the many controversies surrounding the exhibit, Body Worlds: Pulse offers many important lessons to all who attend. It goes without saying, one cannot help to learn a little about the human biology and serve as an immersive anatomy lesson. Through the highly visual and multimedia experiences, attendees become familiar with the many parts of the body and how they function.
But more importantly, the exhibit also inspires everyone to contemplate life around them a part of the greater system. Our lives and our bodies somehow have a deeper meaning through this experience. I am certain that many walk away from the show with newly found resolve and appreciation for their own existence.
To simply read about a location, an event or a cultural practice is indeed interesting, but to be immersed in the experience is to breathe it in and make it a part of yourself. This type of immersive learning has become our life-learning curriculum, guided simply by our combined interests. The world is our classroom, and our interests are our guide.
We are in a golden age of information, where with a click of the mouse, the internet has opened up our world. Unfortunately for many, the exploration stops there. As in this series, we hope our readers use this as a platform for information, but encourage everyone, old and young, to venture out into the world and feel, smell, experience all that you’ve imagined and use this information as your personal inspiration. And, as inspiration guides, Miro and I were inspired to explore one of Paris’ historic wonders, The Arc de Triomphe.
The Arc de Triomphe
Traveling to Paris, immediately conjures up romantic visions in my mind of the iconic Eiffel Tower, quaint city streets lined with cozy sidewalk cafes and the endless homage to art displayed in galleries and museums scattered throughout the city. But nothing compares in grandeur to the impressive Arc de Triomphe located on the right bank of the Seine.
Image courtesy of Paul-W, based on a Creative Commons license.
The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most famous landmarks in Paris. Seeing it in person is the only way to understand its power. In my early twenties, I visited Paris on my year-long-round-the-world trip. Twenty years later, my memories of the Arc de Triomphe remain constant, awe-struck with it’s grandness in contrast to the surrounding intricate delicate details.
Image courtesy of PLF Photographie, based on a Creative Commons license.
The Arc is in the center of a gigantic roundabout and traffic fed by twelve major streets. Entering the center of the roundabout from the underground walkway, you find yourself at the Place Charles De Gaulle where the Arc stands. Only there, can you will get a sense of the sheer massiveness of the monument. The large crowds were not discouraging to me, as I noticed there was enough space to wander about and be wowed. My secret tip: Look up.
The internal coffer of the Arc de Triomphe offers intricate patterned carvings that cast shadows and play with the light. As my eyes traveled down the side pillars, I found myself reading the inscribed names. There are over 600 generals listed, the underlined names signify the commanders that lost their lives in battle.
As you walk around the Arc, you will find a few familiar faces carved, including an image of a victorious Napoleon and an interesting human representation of Paris with her crown of city walls.
View From Above
Image courtesy of Pauldc, based on a Creative Commons license.
One of most unforgettable part of my visit including walking up the the 280 stairs to see a birds-eye view of Paris. I felt as if I was in the center of the world with every famous Paris landmark within view. Even the traffic on the circle below became mesmerizing.
Honoring the Dead
Timing is everything. Twenty years ago, by chance, I arrived at the Arc de Triomphe late afternoon, about two hours before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was honored. I had not planned it, but after learning this ceremony takes place daily, I waited to witness this for myself. I learned that below the arch lies this tomb was placed. I found myself wondering who he might be, how old he was when he died and what his hopes and dreams must have been. At 6:30pm I witnessed the eternal flame being relit with much fanfare and reverence. I was moved more than I had expected and with tears in my eyes, I knew I made the right decision to stay for this ceremony.
After my visit, I researched the history of the Arc de Triomphe with much passion. Not expecting to be touched as deeply as I had, I was inspired to I read and learn and discovered a checkered history. Although the monument appears to strictly be a celebration of war, I was delighted to learn that it acknowledges the need and value of peace. The Arc de Triomphe was built to honor Napoleon’s victory in 1805 at Austerlitz. Unfortunately, Napoleon never had the chance to see the arch finished. Of the four groups of sculptures, Antoine Etex’s Resistance and Peace along with Peace of 1815 tell the story after the fall of Napoleon.
Image courtesy of peirz, based on a Creative Commons license.
Throughout its history, the Arc de Triomphe has become the rallying point of French troops parading after successful military campaigns and for the annual Bastille Day Military Parade. Famous victory marches around or under the arch have included the Germans in 1871, the French in 1919, the Germans in 1940, and the French and Allies in 1944 and 1945.
The Tomb of the Unknown soldier was added after World War I in 1920. It stands as a symbol of the armistice signed between France and Germany. The french inscription reads, “Here lies a French soldier who died for the fatherland 1914 to 1918.” For an unknown person to be buried at the base of such a grand structure is awe-inspiring and humbling.
Important Lessons Learned from the Arc de Triomphe
A visit to the Arc de Triomphe is not just a tourist attraction, rather experienced as a transformative experience, living time and history. One cannot take away a profound learning simply through reading about it or seeing images. Twenty years ago, I experienced the power of presence, the living history and a rich cultural heritage only accessed through a full immersive experience. I felt the reverence for past wars and the value of peace contrasted with the supposed inner conflicts of a French citizen from long ago.
Traveling the world presents countless educational and developmental opportunities, as immense as the world itself. However it seems not many researchers have studied the effects travel has on children from an educational perspective, however I have witnessed first-hand the benefits of a world education, including developing an open mind, immersive learning, boosting confidence and contributing to greater creativity, curiosity, and problem solving skills. In fact, family travel benefits the family as a whole, regardless of age.
For us, the world is our classroom. Immersive learning is a completely different experience than simply reading about some thing or some place. Experiencing history, culture, science and art first hand can create a more profound sense of learning. Armed with our interests as our guide, the world is literally transformed into our classroom.
Getting to Know Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace did not begin as the structure we are accustomed to seeing in today’s media. Over the centuries, the palace has gone through several physical transformations as well as a few name changes. In 1705, it was simply a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham on a land that had sat for about 150 years, being held in private ownership. This impressive home that still pales in comparison to all that Buckingham Palace is today was called Buckingham House.
A little over 50 years after the townhouse was built, the property was purchased by George III to serve as a private residence for Queen Charlotte. At that time the name was changed to The Queen’s House. It wasn’t until 1837 that the property finally became the official palace of the British Monarch.
Today, Buckingham Palace contains 775 rooms and is the base of Britain’s lasting constitutional monarchy, serving as the location of the office of England’s Head of State as well as The Queen’s residence. The furnishings and décor it contains are absolutely priceless, much of it can be seen by tourists as they visit the palace’s 19 state rooms. The palace’s garden is also a breath-taking environment to be in, with its 350 varieties of wildflowers and amazing view of famous lake.
England’s Royal Family: A Deep History
It was during the eighth and ninth centuries that monarchy developed in Britain. The earliest times saw the reign of the Angelo-Saxons, including King Alfred the Great. After this rose the Normans, Angevins, Plantagenets, Lancastrians, Yorkists, Tudors, Stuarts, Hanoverians, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and finally the House of Windsor, which is ruling today. Each of these houses represents a new generation of the same family line.
The current queen in England, Queen Elizabeth II has the second longest running reign of any monarch in the UK. Eldest daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I, she was born on April 21, 1926 and became Head of the Commonwealth on February 6, 1952 at age 25.
The Intriguing Experience Buckingham Palace Offers Guests
In spite of the many changes that it’s seen over the centuries since it was first built, much of its original architecture remains. The palace has been long a key symbol of the UK’s rich history. Visitors to the palace get to see first-hand the beauty and grandeur of the palace and the artefacts contained within. They get the opportunity to stand in places where significant events took place in the UK’s history and impacted the rest of the world.
There are 19 staterooms that were designed specifically for receiving dignitaries and rewarding subjects. These rooms remain as designed by architect John Nash, reflecting the taste in décor had by King George IV who reigned from 1820 to 1830 and was affectionately titled “the First Gentleman in England” because of his charm. There are many important works of art contained within these rooms, including a sculpture by Canova, paintings by Van Dyck and much more.
Image courtesy of Leonard Bentley, based on a Creative Commons license.
Buckingham Palace’s Painting Gallery is one of the 19 staterooms. The exhibit is constantly changing as paintings are often lent out to other exhibitions around the world. Some of the paintings that can be seen in this room include works from Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Rubens, Claude, and Titian.
The rich décor and furnishings of Buckingham Palace offers guests an excellent cultural experience. Hundreds of thousands of tourists enter the palace every year. One of the sights that continues to be the most popular with guests is the Changing of the Guards.
The Tradition and Significance of the Changing of the Guards
The Changing of the Guards of Buckingham Palace dates back to 1837 when Buckingham House officially became Buckingham Palace and Queen Victoria took up residence there. The ceremony has remained the same throughout all the years, although visiting regimens from other branches of the armed forces are invited to join in, sharing with the Queen’s guards the pleasure and privilege of guarding the Queen.
The Changing of the Guards is the ceremony that takes place as one regiment ends their shift and another marches in to replace them. The ceremony takes about 45 minutes and is usually done every two days, weather permitting. This colourful, musical, and entertaining event continues to be the top attraction in London, attracting millions of more spectators annually than visitors to tour Buckingham Palace itself.
Important Lessons Learned from Buckingham Palace
A visit to Buckingham Palace isn’t just entertaining, but has proved to be a life-changing experience for many. At heart, The Royal Family is a family indeed, one that has stood strong throughout the ages. This in itself holds an important lesson for visiting families touring Buckingham Palace.
There are many inspiring stories told about struggles and triumph, as visitors come to develop a deeper appreciation for history, art, and culture. Also are the high morals and standards displayed and learned; such as respect, prosperity, honor, bravery, loyalty, and so on. The takeaway is different for each visitor to Buckingham Palace, but no one leaves being exactly same as when they came. The Buckingham Palace is high on our list to learn from.
Photo courtesy of Jimmy Harris, based on a Creative Commons license.
Gabriela Beese contributed to this article. She is versed in a wide variety of topics and has been particularly interested in travel journalism for the last 10 years.
Words and symbols are all around us. Sometimes they are part the environment but they always part of the culture. Often times, we find the messages contained universal. Street art has always been my favorite way to get a sense of the local culture. I hope you enjoy this series of street shot around Lima, Peru.
Most travelers come to Cusco and the Sacred Valley for one reason and one reason only. Over 2 million tourists visited Cusco on route to the ancient ruins in 2013. Miro and I have been living in Cusco now for more than a year and the question we receive most often from friends, family, travelers alike is “how do I get to Macchu Pichhu?”
The ruins of Machu Picchu, (although not my favorite site here in the Sacred Valley) are quite impressive and indisputably Peru’s hottest tourist destination. Countless people flock there every day of the year, despite the fact that there are no roads that lead directly to Machu Picchu. The only way to reach the scenic beauty of Machu Picchu is by train, guided hiking tours, or trekking it up the mountainside trails. The question remains, “I want to go to Machu Picchu, but how do I get there?” So for you, my fellow traveler, I wrote this post.
Macchu Picchu or Aguas Calientes
First of all, some people call the town “Macchu Picchu” and others refer to it as “Aguas Calientes”, guess what? It’s the same thing. It’s confusing if you don’t know that, so that’s the first bit of information I’ll share with you. Aguas Calientes is a fairly small pueblo with no direct roads in or direct roads out. Over the years the peublo has been transformed primarily into an over saturated tourist trap.
The majority of travelers spend one night there, mainly since there is no reason to visit the town other than using it as a launching pad for your visit to the archeological ruins. Aguas Calientes is indeed the closest access point to the historical site, which is only 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) away.
The town itself is split in two by a river, and on both sides of the river, you will find hotels, restaurants and shops covering all price ranges, all to serve the traveler on their way up to the site.Most people arrive the day before they plan on visiting the ruins. They stay in one of the many hotels, hostels or resorts. Then, early the next morning they ascend up to the archeological site either on foot or by shuttle.
There a shuttle bus that zig-zags up the side of the mountain, cost is $9 each direction (tickets available at the bus stop just next to the river). Many budget conscious travelers opt to walk up the hill on the stair case designed especially for those who prefer this option. The hike up the hill takes the average person about an hour and a half.
Accommodations in Machu Picchu
Whoa. This is a big subject since there is no shortage of options once you get there. The good thing is, there is no shortage of options once you get there. The bad thing is there is no shortage of options once you get there. There are luxury hotels to dorm rooms in hostels, so it depends on your budget, needs and preferences. I personally cannot recommend a hotel since they are pretty much just designed to accommodate people for one night and one night only and many I’ve spoken too have felt there is no sense of service in a lot of these places. That’s not to say there aren’t some really nice hotels and accommodations, but I suspect they are at a different price point than Miro and I are accustomed to paying for. Overall, there really isn’t much of a reason to stay in Machu Picchu (Aguas Callientes) beyond a single night’s rest before you head up to the archeological site.
But still, the question remains, “how do I get to Machu Picchu?”
Below are the three options to get there. The best option to get to Machu Picchu will depend on your desired experience, allotted time, destination, budget, endurance, and personal preference.
1. The Train Route to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes)
The easiest way to get to Machu Picchu is to take the “train option”. Many travel agents in Cusco offer this option as a complete package. Packages usually include transport from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Callients, 1 night in a hostel (1-2 star rating), entrance into the archeological site, a guide and back to Cusco. These packages are sold in any of Cusco’s hundreds of travel agents for $210 – $250 USD.
But let’s break down these costs individually in case you’d like to book everything yourself.
Cusco to Ollantaytambo
There are basically two options to get to Ollantaytambo from Cusco.
Option 1.) take the public collectivo, located just off Avenida Grau. The fare is 10 soles per person and you will be transported in a shared van. The trip is about one and half hours and Miro and I recommend trying to sit up front. The roads are windy and if you are prone to car sickness, the front seats are the least traumatic.
Option 2.) take a private taxi to Ollantaytambo from anywhere in Cusco. You will need to negotiate with your driver but rates can cost you anywhere from 70 soles to 150 soles. But make sure you negotiate the price first with your driver before getting into the cab.
Train to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes)
96% of the trains to Machu Picchu are operated by the company PeruRail . PeruRail offers trains throughout the early morning to the mid afternoon. The travel time to Machu Picchu is approximately 1.5 hours. If you opt for an early morning train, it is possible to arrive in Aguas Calientes and explore the ruins the same day. Many, however, seem to book the later afternoon train, arrive around mid day, explore the town a little then retire early to visit the archeological site early the next morning.
View from the train
Perurail offers 3 levels of services you can purchase for your train ride; Expedition, Vistadome, and Hiram Bingham. Expedition is the starting class and costs approximately $115+ U.S round trip. The view is nice, the seats are comfortable, but there are no perks involved. The mid-range option, Vistadome, costs approximately $140+ and includes non-alcoholic beverages and snacks.
The most expensive option is the *Hiram Bingham, first class, which includes a gourmet brunch on the way there, bus connections, guided tour at Machu Picchu, plus dinner and cocktails on the way back to Cuzco. This luxury options costs approximately $800 USD round trip.
*Note: The first class Hiram Bingham option is the only train leaving directly from Cusco (Poroy). Other options that leave from Cusco (Poroy) are really bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, then you board the train at Ollantaytambo. On the PeruRail site, the “Sacred Valley” starting off point is Ollantaytambo to avoid any further confusion. If you are interested in taking any train other than the Hiram Bingham and want to save a little money, get yourself to Ollantaytambo and leave from there.
2. The Backpacker Hiking Route to Machu Picchu
(Note: During the rainy season, this route is considered extremely dangerous due to slippery windy roads)
If you are looking for a less expensive and more adventurous option, you can take the budget- backpacker hiking route. Many travel agents in Cusco have put together packages for this route and usually run between $100 – $125 USD including the transportation, 1 night in a cheap hostel in Aguas Calientes, entrance to the archeological site and a guide. But like the option above, it’s possible to arrange this route yourself. Here’s what you will need to consider when arranging the trip yourself:
1.) You can do one of two things, either take the bus or collectivo from Cusco to Ollantaytambo (aprox 1.5 hours). See above, and as listed you can arrange your own transportation to Ollantaytambo. There is is even the option to take the public bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo if you want to save 3 soles (aprox $1.15) Then you will have to wait for a local bus in Ollantaytambo to Santa Maria. Local buses are often crowded and don’t have a reliable schedule. But it’s the cheapest way to get there. This is a great option if you want to visit the ruins at Ollantaytambo first, spend the night there and get up early to catch the first bus to Santa Maria.
2.) Another options is to catch a collectivo (aprox 4 hours) in Cusco directly to Santa Maria from Cusco (30-40 soles) next to the Qillabamba bound buses at the Santiago bus depot.
3.) Even cheaper, from Cusco take public bus (aprox 6.5 – 7 hours) from Cusco, towards Quillabamba and get out at Santa Maria (25 soles). The public bus departs at 8:00am daily and passes through Ollantaytambo, Urubumba and Santa Maria. t´s an 7 hour journey from Cusco to Santa Maria.
4.) Once in Santa Maria take a connecting bus (aprox 6 soles) to Santa Teresa (1.5 hours) or a taxi (10-30 soles) and about a 1 hour drive.
5.) Once you’ve reached Santa Teresa, you will need to get to hydro electric plant (planta hidroeléctrica) which you can do by either walking for 2 more hours, take a taxi or local bus.
6.) From Hidroeléctrica you will walk for 1.5 to 2 hours along the railroad tracks until you reach Machu Picchu (Aguas Callientes).
It’s not really that complicated and many tourists / backpackers are following this route. When we had the group of unschooling teens here they opted for this route, and had no problems at all. Anywhere along this route, people will recognize you as a traveler who is trying to get to Machu Picchu and will assist you along your way.
3. Trekking the Trails to Machu Picchu
There are two main scenic trekking routes that will take you to Machu Picchu if you are up for the challenge.
1.) Inca trail is by far the most famous trek in South America and is rated by many to be in the top 5 treks in the world. With a reputation like that, as you might have guessed, it’s in demand and expensive. The only way you can do the Inca trail is with a tour company on a guided trek. The trail itself is just 26 miles (43km)and combines a beautiful mountain scenery, lush cloud-forest, subtropical jungle and, of course, a stunning mix of Inca paving stones, ruins and tunnels. The path of course ends at the archeological site, Machu Picchu. The cost for this trek will set you back anywhere from $450-$650 USD.
2. ) The Salkantay Trek is quickly gaining in popularity as an alternative to the Inca trail. Both trails bring your through an impressive mix of lush vegetation, subtropical jungle, and stunning landscape that can only be seen in the region of Machu Picchu. However, the Salkantay trek allows you to see the snow-covered Salkantay mountain range and the impressive Andean jungle. There are guided treks available on the Salkantay trek being offered from anywhere from $325 – 550 USD.
If you are planning an upcoming trip to Machu Picchu, make sure to evaluate the three options above carefully before making your decision. The train ride may seem like the ideal choice but, it is a little expensive for the budget traveler. On the other hand, you will certainly arrive there quickly. On the other side of the coin, the backpack hiking route might fit better for your budget, but it will take a significant amount of time and possible discomfort. Trekking the trails to Machu Picchu allows you to soak in all the scenic beauty, but it may be costly to with a tour, and definitely physically challenging.
You travel option choice will ultimately depend on what you want to get out of the trip, how much you can afford, and your personal endurance level. Regardless of which way you take to get to Machu Picchu, it will be worth it once you arrive.