Luxembourg in 1, 2 or 3 days

Luxembourg City

Luxembourg is a very small country, only 51 miles long by 35 miles wide and you can see a lot in 1, 2 or 3 days.

I spent a total of 5 days in Luxembourg and one of those days I did a day trip to Germany as I had allocated 2 days to see Luxembourg City but unless you are planning on visiting a few museums then only 1 day is needed.

Here is my intinerary and what I would recommend if you only have a few days in the country.

Day 1

Luxembourg City Luxembourg City

I would recommend if you have only 1 day in the country, then to spend that day exploring Luxembourg City, it is a beautiful city and one I fell in love with in minutes.

You can visit the Bock Casemates, walk the Chemin de la Corniche, see the old town, visit a fort, there are also lots of museums to visit too.

Day 2

Trier Germany Trier Germany

As I had seen everything I wanted to see in Luxembourg city within a day, I asked the hostel what I could do for the day and they suggested exploring Trier.  It is just across the border in Germany and is the oldest city in Germany.  It is very beautiful and if you have an extra day then well worth a visit.  It is only 50 minutes by train from Luxembourg City and the town is easily seen in a day.  The most famous things to see are Porta Nigra and the Market Square.

Day 3

Bourscheid Castle

I picked up a car from the airport and decided to have a day visiting castles.  My first castle was Bourscheid Castle, built in 1095 and partly restored but mainly ruins.  It costs 5 Euros and includes an audio guide.

Clervaux Castle

I then drove up to Clervaux in the north of the country and walked around the bottom of the castle before hiking to the top of hill to see the Abbey.  The castle holds 3 museums which you can visit or you can just walk up to the castle and into the courtyard as I did.  There is a church near the castle but the Abbey is at the top of the hill behind the church and is about a 15 minute walk.  It is well worth the walk up to see.

Wiltz Castle

I then made my way south to Wiltz and to see the castle. The castle is now the National Museum of Brewing, but you are able to walk into the courtyard and around the grounds.

Esch-Sur-Sure Castle

My favourite of the day was Esch-Sur-Sure, because of the view from the opposite hill.  I parked the car and then walked up to the ruins on top of the hill in the middle of the town.  The castle was built in the 13th century and there are only ruins left.  If you climb the hill on the opposite side and follow the path, you get a great view of the town and of the ruins.

Day 4

Mullerthal Trail Luxembourg Mullerthal Trail Luxembourg

I decided that I wanted to see a bit of the country and do some hiking, so I decided to do part of the Mullerthal trail.  It is split into 3 routes, all around 37/38km long, but you are able to do part of them too and get the bus back to Echternach.  I hiked about 22km from Echternach to Hersberg and caught the bus back.  It was a beautiful walk, though tough in places and after 22km I was ready to call it a day.  As I had finished around 5.30pm, I decided to have dinner in Echternach, see the cathedral and have an ice cream before heading back to my hostel.  As I arrived back in Bourglinster while it was still light I decided to go and explore Bourglinster Castle.  This is now a restaurant, but you are still able to walk around the grounds and into the courtyard.

Day 5

Vianden Castle, Luxembourg

This was my final day with the car and so I decided to see the rest of the castles I had missed.  I had deliberately left the castle everyone had said I must see if there was only 1 castle I would see in Luxembourg and that is Vianden Castle.  The castle is beautiful and has been well restored and costs 7 Euros to visit, I also decided to get the audio guide at 2 Euros and it was worth it, to find out more history of the castle.  The town too is so beautiful and lovely to walk through.  There is a ski lift up the mountain, though you can easily walk from the castle in about 20 minutes to the café at the top.

Beaufort Castle Luxembourg

I then drove to Beaufort Castle, here you can walk around the ruins of the castle built in the 11th century.  The renaissance castle next to it can be visited but only on a private tour at certain times of the week and must be booked in advance.

Larochette Castle Luxembourg

My final castle of the day was Larochette, another ruin built originally in the 11th century.  It is only a ten minute walk from the town and worth a visit.  It was then back to the airport to drop off the car before heading back to Luxembourg City for my final night.

If you only have 1 day in Luxembourg

If you only have 1 day in Luxembourg then, Luxembourg City is a must see.  There is enough to keep you busy for the day.

2 days in Luxembourg

If you have 2 days then on your second day I would say you must visit Vianden. It is possible to get the bus to Vianden from Luxembourg City.  If you have a car then you could also visit some of the other castles I have mentioned in the same day.

3 days in Luxembourg

If you have 3 days then for the extra day I would do a hike. There are so many to choose from in different areas of the country but the most popular are around Echternach.  It is possible to get the bus from Luxembourg City to Echternach and do either part of the Mullernthal trail or do the E1 trail which is 12km long and starts and finishes in Echternach.

If you are not into hiking then I would you could either go see some more castles or go to Trier in Germany for the day, it is a beautiful city.

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Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota USA

Before I visited South Dakota I had never heard of the Crazy Horse Memorial, but as I was researching what to do when I got to Rapid City I read about this place in a guide.

I knew about Crazy Horse and Lt Colonel Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn as we had studied it in history at school, so I was intrigued to actually be in the area near to where this famous battle had occurred and to go visit the memorial to Crazy Horse.

Crazy Horse was born in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1842 and was a native american.  He fought against the US Government who were taking the land and changing the way of life of the native american people.

He is one of the most famous native americans and helped lead the assault against Custer leading to Custer’s death in 1876.  He has honoured by the US Postal Service and appeared on a stamp in 1982.

Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA

In 1939 Korczak Ziolkowski was asked to carve a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse which eventually began in 1948.  Korczak worked mainly on this own, until his death in 1982 when his wife Ruth took over the project, changing the focus to finishing Crazy Horse’s face so the visitors would be able to see this from the visitors centre.  6 of his children and some grandchildren now run the project.  There is no completion date known as it all depends on the number of visitors and how much money they get in as to how much work can be done on the mountain.  I was told maybe 2050, maybe later!!

I arrived at the memorial late afternoon and went straight to the information desk to find out what there was to do. At that time I had no idea that the memorial itself is so far away from the visitors centre or that it costs to see it closer.  I also did not realise that it is not funded by the government and is a non profit foundation as Korczak wished that no federal or state funds would ever be accepted to create the memorial.

The cost of entry is $11 per person or $28 for a car with more than 2 people.  If you want to see it closer there are 2 options.  The cheapest is $4 and you can get a bus from the visitors centre for a 25 minute round trip, where you get out and see a closer view.  The picture below is the closest you get from the $4 trip, but well worth doing as you get an idea of how big it is actually going to be and you can get a good view of the face head on.

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota USA

Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA

Unfortunately on this trip you can’t get too close as it is a live working site and sometimes you can hear them doing detonations depending on the day you visit.

The 2nd option you can actually go and visit the head and face of Crazy Horse and get a close up picture, this trip though does cost $125 and needs to be booked in advance.  I have seen pictures of people stood by the face and this is when you realise just how big it actually is as the people are tiny!!  I really wanted to go do this, but as a backpacker I just couldn’t justify the cost.

It is the worlds largest mountain carving and just the head of Crazy Horse is 27 feet taller than a head at Mount Rushmore which are 60 feet high.  Once it’s finished it will be 563 feet high and 641 feet wide and it’s something I would love to see as it will look amazing carved into the rock.

After the bus tour, I then went into the visitors centre where I watched the orientation film on the history of the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is worth watching as it shows how Korczak came to live on the site and had his 10 children there, how he had to drag everything up the mountain to do blasts, to carve the rock all on his own, sometimes with the help of his children and how much it has changed now.  They now have a team of explosive experts that they can afford to employ run by Korczak’s son and his daughter runs the restaurant.

After watching the film I then went out onto the viewing veranda and watched a traditional native performance while seeing the memorial in the background.

Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA

I then had a walk around the museum and shops before stopping in the restaurant for dinner.  The food is reasonably priced and as I wanted to stay for the laser light show it made sense to sit in the restaurant looking out at the memorial until it the show started.

After dinner I went and got my spot on the viewing terrace, despite it being summer it still dropped cold on a night, so you would want a jumper!!

The show then commenced and it was great, a history of the native americans, worth seeing if you are in the area and visiting crazy horse.  At one point you can see exactly how the memorial will look when it’s completed.

Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA Crazy Horse, South Dakota, USA

After the show it was then back in the car for the drive back to Rapid City.

Crazy Horse was one of my favourite places to visit on this trip to South Dakota and I did prefer it to Mount Rushmore, it is a lot bigger and a lot more impressive.  The history behind it, of one man doing so much of it on his own, the fact that all the money used to create it has not come from any government or state funding but through donations or visitors to the site and it’s a memorial to a native american who was trying to keep his lands and way of life.

If you are in the area then it’s a great place to visit, and hopefully one day I will get to go back and see it when it’s finished.

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Read about my trip to Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota, USA. It's a memorial to a native American, trying to keep his lands and way of life.

 

 

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Sioux Falls – A visit to Falls Park

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

Before I travelled to the US, Sioux Falls was not a place I had ever heard of, but as I was visting a friend in Watertown, South Dakota and then going to Yellowstone National Park, my route took me through Sioux Falls.  I had a look on google and saw the pictures of the falls and so I decided I had to get down to the town to see them while I was passing through.

I said bye to my friend and his wife at a small gas station in Watertown just off the freeway and got the greyhound bus down to Sioux Falls.  My next bus across to Rapid City was not until the next day so I had the afternoon & evening to explore downtown Sioux Falls.  The bus station is quite far out of town so I booked a motel as near as I could to the bus station so that I wouldn’t have far to walk that night or the next day.

As I started walking the 300 metres to my hotel I noticed that there was no footpath across the bridge crossing the freeway to get to my hotel.  I could see the hotel but was like how do I get there as it was a 4 lane busy highway with no footpath!!  Luckily in the centre of the road was a divide with a bit of a raised section so I decided that would be a bit safer than walking along the side of the road!!

After about 15 minutes of avoiding cars and trucks I made it to the Guesthouse Inn & Suites, Sioux Falls, where I checked in and asked reception how to get to the falls in Sioux Falls.  I was asked if I had a car to which I replied “No, can I get a bus”, to which I was told, no idea about the buses around here!!  “Can I walk” I asked, “Oh no it’s miles away, too far to walk”.

Once I got in my room I rung the local bus company to ask if there were any buses.  Luckily I got through to a very helpful guy who told me exactly where the nearest bus stop was and the times of the buses and also how to get back. I then walked the 5 minutes and caught the bus into the town of Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls is the largest city in the state of South Dakota and was first settled in 1856 around the falls on Big Sioux river which were created around 14,000 years ago during the last ice age.  When the railroads arrived in 1880’s the town started expanding to what it is today.

There is a 16 mile bike trail along the river and this is where I got off the bus and started my walk down to the falls park.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

Its open from 9am to 9pm, and in the evening the falls are lit up which is a great sight.

I decided to first visit the Visitors Centre and the Observation Tower, you can climb up the tower for free which is 5 stories high and has amazing views of the falls and the surrounding area.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

I then decided to walk around the area and see the few buildings remaining on the site and have a closer look at the waterfalls.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

Before it got dark I decided to stop and have a snack at the cafe overlooking the falls.  It used to house the hydroelectric generators before it was abandoned in 1974, its now a great cafe with amazing views.

As it was getting dark I decided to make my way back to the hotel.  I was in between buses so decided to see if I could walk back rather than waiting.

I passed by the St Joseph’s Cathedral which was all lit up, but unfortunately it was shut so I couldn’t explore further.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

I made it back to the hotel in 45 mins, so not really too far to walk!!  I didn’t see one person walking though while I was walking back to the hotel!! I guess everyone has cars and use them for the smallest journeys!!

That night was spent researching the next part of my trip to Rapid City with a visit to Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park.

The next day I got lucky when I was checking out, the maintenance guy in the hotel saw me walking out with my backpack on and asked if I wanted a lift to the bus station.  Not sure if it was safe, but being a typical english person and feeling I couldn’t say no, I said thank you and got in the car.

Luckily I safely made the short distance to the bus station and the guy was fascinated that I was backpacking my way around the US and the places I had seen and was planning on seeing.  He had 2 jobs just to try and make ends meet, a very different life to mine.

After a bit of a wait, it was back on the greyhound bus and on to my next adventure in Rapid City.

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Read about my trip to visit the falls in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

 

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Mount Rushmore National Memorial – A day trip in South Dakota, USA

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, USA

When I was looking at my journey through the US I saw that my route would take me near to Mount Rushmore National Memorial so I decided to make sure that my route passed through Rapid City so that I could rent a car to go see the famous site.  I mainly knew it from films and knew no history about it before I went but decided I had to see the famous monument for myself. Continue reading

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Zion National Park, Utah, USA – What to do in 2 days

Zion National Park, Utah, USAAfter already enjoying 3 national parks in the US on this trip so far, I decided when I hired a car in Las Vegas to see more national parks rather than drive up the west coast.  The first park I decided to see from Las Vegas was Zion National Park.

Zion became a national park on the 19th November 1919 when it became the 15th national park and the 1st national park in Utah.

I picked up in the car in the morning in Las Vegas and drove the 120 miles to the hotel to drop off my bags before continuing on to Zion which was a further 42 miles.  I decided to upgrade and buy an Annual National Park Pass when I arrived as I had already in the past few days paid entrance to Yellowstone & Grand Teton which was $50 and the entrance to Zion was $30 which was the same price as upgrading and getting my annual pass.  If you plan on doing a few parks on your trip then it might be worthwhile.

I normally stay in hostels while I am travelling but around the Zion area there were no hostels available and the cheapest place for me to stay was in Rodeway Inn Red Hills in St George.  It was about an hours drive from Zion National Park but in the US an hours drive is not far and the roads are easy to drive.

After I had bought my pass, my first stop was to the visitors centre to find out exactly what I should be doing while I was in the area.  Also from spring until autumn (fall) the canyon is not open to cars and only to the shuttle buses that will drop you at various points through the park.  You catch the shuttle bus from the visitors centre.  It’s not a huge park and this is a great way to get around as the buses are very frequent.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA

My first stop was the Zion Human History Museum where there are indoor exhibits and there is also a 22 minute film on the history of the park.  Well worth watching if you have time.  I also got my first picture in the canyon.

I then decided to get the shuttle bus out to some of the stops so I could get some pictures of the views and to do a little walk from the Grotto to the Zion Lodge.  As it was getting to dusk I saw some deer too.  Dusk is a great time to see animals and the time when I have seen the most in all the national parks.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Deer at Zion National Park, Utah, USA

Once I got back to the visitors centre it was back in the car for the drive back to the hotel.

The next morning i was up early so I could be back to the park and able to park in the carpark before it was full.  It does get full early so it is worth getting there early otherwise you will have to park outside the park and walk in.  I once again went to the visitors centre to check the weather forecast, I was wanting to hike part of The Narrows but the risk of flash flooding was high that day and they advised against hiking it.

The Narrows is a gorge carved through the canyon by the river and is 16 miles long and in places only 20 – 30 feet wide. The path is through the river, though at times you can walk along the side, but you need to be prepared for wading and sometimes swimming through the river.  You always need to check with the rangers before attempting it as it might be a sunny day at Zion but 50 miles away there might have a storm and that water can travel down the river causing a flash flood.

As the risk of rain and flash flooding was at its highest I decided instead to just do the Riverside Walk, this takes you from the final bus stop up to the start of The Narrows and is a 2.2 mile roundtrip.  It’s a nice easy walk and getting to the start of The Narrows did make me want to give it a go especially when I saw a few people setting off, but as the risk was at it’s highest I decided to be sensible and give it a miss for this trip.  I will be back though as it does look like an amazing hike.

Zion National Park, Utah, USAZion National Park, Utah, USA

After this I decided to stop at the weeping rock trail which is a short 1/2 mile walk.  From here there is the option of a couple of other longer hikes, the Hidden Canyon Trail which is 2.4 miles or to the observation point which is 8 miles.  I decided against these as I wanted to do the Emerald Pools Trail.

I then caught the bus from the Weeping Rock to the Zion Lodge to start the Emerald Pools Trail to the Upper and Lower Pools.  It is a 2.2 mile high, but is quite steep and tricky in places but well worth it to see the views.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA

After this hike I then got the shuttle bus to canyon junction where I got off and walked the final 1.75 miles to the visitors centre along the river, amazing views and great to be able to do a final walk.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA

Another hike I really wanted to do but was advised against due to the weather, though the sun had come out in the afternoon was Angel’s Landing.  It is a tough 5.4 mile hike (generally takes 3-4 hours), up to the summit 450 metres high.  The last half mile is hiking along the sandstone ridge and this trek can be very dangerous after rain as it gets very slippy.  It can also be a problem for people with a fear of heights.

As the weather wasn’t good for the 2 hikes I wanted to do, I will be back in the future to complete these!! They both look amazing and I am excited about returning for them.

Once I was back to the visitors centre it was back in the car for the 75 mile drive to Panguitch, where I would stay overnight before exploring Bryce Canyon National Park the next day.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA

To get to Bryce the quickest way is on the Zion Mount Carmel Highway, this road goes up through the park and through a 1.1 mile tunnel cut through the mountain.  Anything larger than a car needs to have the traffic stopped as they need to drive down the middle of the tunnel.

As you can see when I entered the tunnel it was a beautiful day with a few clouds in the sky, when I left the tunnel 1.1 miles later, probably not even a 5 minute drive later, the heavens had opened and the rain was unbelievable.  I put my windscreen wipers on full and still couldn’t see anything.  Thankfully there was a car park next to the entrance of the tunnel and I pulled in there to wait until it eased.  While I was waiting I could see and hear the hail coming down and hitting the car, it was the size of a tennis ball!!! After about 10 minutes it eased off a bit so I got out to check the car.  What I saw and heard when I got out of the car amazed me.  Below me was the river, raging and carrying huge trees downstream as if they were twigs.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA

The ranger controlling the traffic came over and told me that 10 minutes ago where the water was coming down into the river below, it had been totally dry.  Now there was a huge amount of water coming over the edge and into the river below.   Now I saw how quickly things can change.  Five minutes before it has been a sunny day, now there was a huge torrent of water where there had been a dry river bed and I had seen how quickly a flash flood can happen.  I was certainly pleased I had made the decision not to hike in The Narrows.  It just shows that if the rangers are advising against hiking in an area due to flash floods, to listen to their advice.  Zion will always be there for you to return and have another attempt in the future.

After it had stopped raining so hard I continued my journey down Highway 89 until I reached my hotel and chilled out for the night.  The scenery along the way was stunning and we even got a rainbow after the rain had stopped.Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA

Zion National Park was certainly one of my favourite national parks to visit in the US and if you are in the area one you must certainly visit.

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Zion National Park, Utah, USA

 

 

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My Top 10 Posts from 2016

2016 was my first year of blogging though I have been travelling full time for nearly 5 years.  It has been great to share my experience of the places I have been in my blog.

I decided to have to a look at my stats so far and see which blog posts from 2016 were my most popular.

I only released my first post on the 27th May 2016 and this post about why I started blogging was my most popular in 2016 and it has just slipped into second place overall.  It has been overtaken by my recent post on hiking Misti in Arequipa, Peru.

Here are my top 10 posts of 2016, have you read them all? Which is your favourite?  Is there any countries you would like me to write about next that you are visiting soon? or any topic you would like me to write about?

1) My 1st Blog – Why I started travelling

My 1st blog

Exciting, my first blog.

I wanted to give a bit of background as to what made me start travelling and that would be my mum.

To continue reading click here

2) Vilnius, Lithuania – Things to do in 2 days there

I was trying to make a decision where to visit in September and finally decided on the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia & Estonia) as I kept seeing so many pictures from people visiting and had yet to visit myself.  I decided my first stop would be Vilnius, Lithuania.

To continue reading click here

3) My 2017 Travel Plan

After a terrible 2016, I am so excited for it to be 2017 and my travel plan.  I have lots of travelling planned for the year and knowing that I am seeing in the New Year in a country I love makes me even more excited.

To continue reading click here

4) Things to do in 2 days in Riga, Latvia

St Peter's Church Riga Latvia

If you are planning a trip to Riga, Latvia then these are the things you can do in 2 days.

I decided to go in september which is maybe not the warmest time of year, I was there in the middle of the month and within a day the temperature dropped 10 degrees!!

To continue reading click here

5) Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland

A trip to Iceland would not be complete without Seeing the Northern Lights. I had been recommended a company to use by a friend who was in Iceland when I arrived and so I decided to go with them.

To continue reading click here

6) Death Road, Bolivia – Cycling the most dangerous road in the world

The first time I heard of Death Road was on Top Gear, seeing them drive down this crazy narrow road with sheer drops at one side, it looked terrifying.  For those of you that haven’t seen the Top Gear episode or heard of Death Road, well it’s famous for being the most dangerous road in the world.  It is a gravel road that is 69 kilmotres long and in some places only one bus width wide.  It used to be the only road from La Paz to Coroico but a new road was finally built in 2006 and so now the only traffic you see on the road are the tourists, either cycling down or in vans, or the local farmers who live at the bottom of the valley.

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7) Choquequirao Trek – An amazing alternative to seeing Machu Picchu

I first saw Choquequirao on Ben Fogle’s Extreme Dreams in 2006.  I had visited Machu Picchu the previous year and had fallen in love with Peru and to know that there was another Inca ruin, visited by very few people in the middle of nowhere, made me determined that the next time I was in Peru I would go.

To continue reading click here

8) San Blas Islands, Panama – Why you should visit paradise

I first heard about the San Blas Islands when I was travelling in Colombia.  As there is no road from Panama to Colombia a lot of people opt for the 4 night/5 day boat trip.  It’s quite an expensive option and as I get so seasick I believed it was a trip I was never going to do and a place I was never going to see.

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9) Machu Picchu – One of the Seven new wonders of the world

Have you ever thought of visiting Machu Picchu? Did you know it is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World?

I love the place and that is why I have visited Machu Picchu 3 times!! Is that a bit excessive?? I don’t normally visit a place more than once but this place has certainly captured my heart and I can’t wait to visit for a fourth time in January 2017.

To continue reading click here

10) Parnu, Estonia – Things to do in 24 hours

Parnu Estonia in 48 hours

After visiting Riga, I decided to go to Parnu in Estonia.  I had heard about what a great beach resort town it is and despite the temperature dropping considerably to around 14 degrees celsius, I decided it was still a good idea to go.

To continue reading click here

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Ollantaytambo – A day trip from Cusco Peru

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

Ollantaytambo is probably one of my favourite day trips from Cusco, Peru.  It is 72 kilometres from Cusco which is about 2 hours away by minibus.

The buses from Cusco go from Calle Pavitos with Calle Belen, which is about a 10 minutes walk from the Plaza de Armas and it costs about 10 soles (3 USD).  You will find buses going to Urubamaba (you can change in the bus station) or directly to Ollantaytambo.

If you have done the Inca Trail then this is the place where you will have stopped to stock up on last minute snacks, water or walking sticks.  It is also a popular day tour from Cusco but it is also easy to do independently as there are plently of buses that go from Cusco.

This would be my 3rd visit to the ruins here and I decided to get the bus and stay overnight as there is a second set of ruins that you can see from Ollantaytambo which I have never visited and I keep saying I must go see them, so I decided to stay overnight and see both.

I got the bus in the morning and checked straight into my hostel, the Ollantaytampu Hostel, located 50 metres from the Plaza de Armas.

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

It’s a nice clean little hostel, in a great location with great views from the roof terrace.

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

I then decided to go to the main ruins that was included within the tourist ticket I had bought in Cusco.  As I was walking there it started raining as it was doing most days between 12 and 2, so again it was out with the rain jacket to see another set of ruins in the rain!!

Ollantaytambo town is 2,800 metres above sea level with the ruins climbing several hundred more metres up the mountain.

I entered the ruins and this is the first view you get, there were lots of tourists already inside and a lot more groups would be around later too.  It is one of the most popular ruins in the region.

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

Ollantaytambo was the royal estate for the Emperor Pachacuti.  The main ruins visited by tourists is the ceremonial site, referred to as temple hill.  Above the terraces there is a sun temple and the wall of the Six Monoliths (see pic below).  These are unfinished and it shows evidence that the site was still being constructed when it was abandoned.

Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Cusco, Peru

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley, Cusco, Peru

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

As I was exploring I saw an open door with a path up the mountain and so I decided to explore as I had hours left before it shut.  By this time the rain was easing.

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

I climbed up the mountain another 20 minutes where I found more ruins, I then climbed a bit higher, found a rock to sit on and had the most amazing views.  As most tourists have a limited amount of time in Ollantaytambo, this part of the ruins was empty and I had the place to myself.  The views from here are amazing.  I decided to stay here, relax, read my kindle and enjoy the views for a while.  I think I now understand why the Inca’s built there settlements on mountains, it wasn’t for a defensive reason but to enjoy these views!!

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

When it was getting close to 4pm I decided to climb back down, as the gate to the ruins shut at 4pm, and I explored the rest of the ruins.

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

After visiting the ruins I went into the town and had dinner and a few drinks on the way back to the hostel.

The next day I was up early so that I could go visit the other set of ruins you can see on the other mountain. To get there you walk along calle Principal away from the Plaza de Armas until you reach Lares Calle which is just a little alleyway.

Ollyantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

After the first alleyway on the left, the entrance to the other set of ruins is just through a door on your right that will be open with a little sign showing the ruins are that way.  It is between Calle 1 & 2 in the alleyway.

There are ruins all over the mountain at this side too, mainly there are storehouses, where they would store the products from the terraces.  The high altitude and climate helped against the decay.

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

I then climbed to the highest part of the ruins and once again, spent a few hours sat looking at the amazing views and reading my kindle.  I even somehow managed to get wifi from my hostel at the top of the mountain!! How does that work?

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

After a few hours exploring this side of the valley it was back down the mountain to get my bags and return to Cusco.  You can get a combi from either the Plaza de Armas direct to Cusco or just around the corner, near the market are combi’s to Urubamba where you can change buses (this way does take a little longer) to get to Cusco.

Ollantaytambo is a great day trip from Cusco, or a great little town to visit for a few days if you have time, and its an easy option to do on your own.

Have you visited here? What did you think of these ruins?

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Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

 

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Pisac – A day trip from Cusco Peru

Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

As I was spending over 3 weeks in Cusco I decided to get the tourist ticket for 130 soles (40 USD) so that I could go and see all the Inca Ruins in Cusco and the Sacred Valley.  I had already seen them all 4 years previously on a tour but this time I wanted the option of spending more time and being able to fully explore them.  I decided the first ruin I would visit was Pisac (or Pisaq in the local Quechua language), it is located 33km east of Cusco.

I decided to get the local bus so that I could spend as much time as I wanted there.  The bus to Pisac leaves from calle Puputi which is just off Recoleta.  It is about a 15 minute walk from the Plaza de Armas.  The bus also passes Sacsayhuaman and the other Inca Ruins near Cusco if you want to get a bus to them.  On Puputi street you will hear lots of men shouting “Pisac, Pisac”, these are the minibuses to Pisac which go quite frequently or when they are full.  It should cost around 6 soles (2 USD) to Pisac and you can negotiate less if you are not going that far.  The journey is normally around 45 minutes and they drop you off by the river in Pisac and it is just a 5 minutes walk to the entrance of the ruins.  The minibuses return to Cusco from the same place.  I love getting the local buses and meeting the local people, there normally isn’t any seat belts so maybe not too safe and you are crammed in with everyone but for me it feels like I am experiencing life there rather than being a tourist!!

As you get near to Pisac and are driving down the valley towards the river you can see Pisac high up on the mountain in front of you.  It is an amazing site, you can see the farming terraces cut into the side of the mountain.

Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

The town of Pisac is located at 2,900 metres with the highest point of the ruins at 3,400 metres, it is quite a hard walk up to see “Inti Watana” which is where the ceremonial platform and temple of the sun are, but you can rest, take lots of pictures and enjoy the amazing views.

Once you have walked through all the markets and parted with all your cash from buying some of the amazing clothes and trinkets they have in Peru, you will see the welcome to Pisac sign. The large market is open Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday though you will find a smaller market open on other days.   You carry on up this path, where you will have your ticket checked before finally entering Pisac.  It is open from 7am to 6pm so you have lots of time to explore this huge site.

Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

It is not known when Pisac was built but it is not earlier than 1440 and it was destroyed by the Spanish in the 1530’s.  It was a royal estate and as you are climbing up you can see the agricultural terraces that were built into the side of the mountain.  The fertile soil was brought from the valley so that the crops would grow.

Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

As I was walking up the mountain the views down into the valley were amazing, despite the rainy and cloudy day.  I kept stopping to look and enjoy the views of the town and the river snaking through the valley.

Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

As you are walking up the mountain you can see the towers from the citadel (the military part) above you.  I continued upward not realising that these towers would mean I was only halfway up the mountain.  It was around this time that the heavens opened and we had a heavy downpour.   It is something I would get used to while being in Cusco, as it was the rainy season it would rain most days in the afternoon!!  Generally between 12 and 2 which is not great timing when you want to go exploring!!

Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

When I reached the military sector I had a walk around as there are lots of ruins in this section, though it is hard to work out what the buildings were used for if you are not with a guide!!  There are people walking around who are guides but as I had done a previous tour I didn’t want to do another guided tour.  It is thought that Pisac defended the southern entrance of the sacred valley, with Choquequirao the west and Ollantaytambo the northern entrance.  The views looking down on the citadel are spectacular, even when it’s pouring down!!

Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

As you are walking up the hill from the citadel you can see the main ceremonial plaza, so it was head down as it was raining so hard and a trek up another steep hill to the top.

At the top I had reached Inti Watana the religious part of the site.  Here you can see baths, water fountains, altars, the temple of the sun.  Though for me the higher section was closed off, I think because it was raining so hard.

Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

After I had had a look around I had a sit down in a little covered area, the only area after the agricultural terraces with shelter, and tried drying off a little, reading my book and just enjoying the view.

Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

After this it was back on with the waterproofs and down the mountain in the rain.  There are a few paths so you can go down a different way to how you came up and see different parts of the ruins while you are going down.  It would of been amazing to have been able to sit up here and enjoy the amazing views for a few hours but it wasn’t meant to be!! Maybe next time!!

Once I was back at the bottom it was a short walk through the town and back to the bus for the journey back to Cusco.

Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

It is a great site to visit and the views are stunning and will be even more so on a sunny day, though you will need sun cream and a hat as there is very little shelter!!  If you get a chance it’s worth a visit!!

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Pisac Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

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Rainbow Mountain Hike in Cusco, Peru

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

Before I visited Peru I had seen many pictures of Rainbow Mountain and my old guide from my trek to Choquequirao, was now a guide on this trek, and kept posting lots of pictures on facebook and I knew when I returned to Cusco it was a trek I had to do.

When I arrived in Cusco I met with my old guide who told me about the hike to Rainbow Mountain.  There are options of 1 or 2 days though the 2 day hike is normally booked as a private trek.  His company is more exclusive and takes small groups early in the morning (2am) so that when you get to Rainbow Mountain there is no one else in your pictures.  The rest of the companies normally leave between 3.30 and 4 so when you get to the summit there are hundreds of people and that is just in the low season!!

If you want a more private tour then please have a look at his website AB Expeditions.

Unfortunately my budget did not stretch to this and I had to go with one of the other companies in Cusco which charges around 100 soles (USD30), for this you get breakfast, lunch, transport (it’s a 3 hour drive out of Cusco) and a guide.  We got picked up at 3.30am and drove around Cusco for another 30 minutes trying to find the hostels of the other people in the group!!  Once we had everyone we started the drive to the start of the hike.  After 2 hours we left the main road and continued on a dirt road slightly wider than a single track, up the mountains with a sheer drop to one side.  I closed the curtain, as to me we seemed to be driving too fast and too near the edge!! As is typical in Peru, everything worth seeing is at the top of a mountain or over a mountain pass!!  This part was only 20 or 30 minutes but I still felt I needed to celebrate surviving and still being alive when we got past this part!!

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

After 3 hours we arrived in at the village of Q’anchipacha where we stopped for a basic breakfast of bread and jam with a tea/coffee and admired the views of the valley.  We were then briefed that we would drive a further 20 minutes before getting out of the van and starting the 3 hour hike from 4,530 metres.  There is the option of taking a horse if you are struggling with the altitude but this costs extra.  We actually had a girl who was sick from the altitude about 5 minutes away from the start of the hike and had to walk back down to the village!!  Now that would be gutting after that journey!!

Until you get to this altitude you have no idea how you will deal with it, everyone is different and it has no relation with how fit you are either!! Coca leaves or sweets help, having a coca tea before the hike too which you can have with your breakfast.  If you have any of the symptoms you need to tell the guide as they can give you some coca leaves or some altitude sickness tablets (though I have heard mixed reviews about these helping).  Luckily I don’t suffer too much from the altitude and have never had to try these, I normally just chew on the coca leaves to give me a bit of extra energy!!.

We got back in the van and set off to the starting point, though at one stage it could not get up the steep bend as it had been raining heavily overnight and all the vans were skidding back down!!  We got out and walked up the valley part of the way, where I got a great picture of the view.

Rainbow Mountain Hike Cusco Peru

Once we arrived at the starting point, our guide gave us our entrance tickets and we started the hike through the valley.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

The views are amazing, the tops of the mountains kept peaking out of the clouds.  It’s a stunning area.

After about an hour the clouds started to surround us and it started raining, so it was on with the rain jacket and head down to get up there, feeling jealous of all the people going past on the horses, knowing they would be at the summit before me!!

There are a few toilets on the way, though one closest to the summit is about a 45 minute walk from the summit.  Also expect to pay as the locals have been building them and are using them as a way of making money.

We had nearly reached the top when it started snowing and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to see anything by the time we got there as I had heard a few days earlier that there had been snow at the top and no one could see the mountain!!  It would be so disappointing to get there and not see the different colours!!

When we could see Rainbow Mountain, it seemed to take forever to walk that final part but eventually I got to the top. It was full of hundreds of people and as I was walking up I saw my old guide on his way down with his group of 3. They had had the place to themselves and got some great pictures.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

To get the best view and the best pictures it’s best to climb a bit higher up to the highest point at 5,040 metres and you can then see the Rainbow Mountain opposite you.  The colours are amazing, it’s so beautiful to see.  The view from the top is amazing, not just of Rainbow Mountain but the surrounding mountains too.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

While at the top the rain and snow kept blowing in, but then it would clear and we would get amazing views.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

After about half an hour and eating a milkyway bar (mars bar in the UK) my hands were so cold that I knew it was time to head back down.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

It rained most of the hike back down but at times it cleared and we got to enjoy the amazing views and to see a view llamas too.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

Once we got back to the van we drove back to where we had breakfast and had lunch of soup and then chicken with rice before starting the 3 hour drive back to Cusco, going back along the terrifying road and arriving back at about 6pm.  It was a long day but well worth it.

The Rainbow Mountain is a great trek and if you are in Cusco then one that you must do, it’s not an easy hike but if you aren’t into hiking then you can always rent a horse.  It’s only a day trip but it’s a long day at 16 hours.

The rainy season is January to March so at this time of year there is a chance of snow and you will need your waterproofs with you on the trek.

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Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

 

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The Travel Whispers Blogger Challenge

I heard about The Travel Whispers Blogger Challenge that Stephanie Fox had started and decided to take part in it, it is aimed at rounding up 2016 and looking towards 2017.

If you want to take part then join the facebook group here.

A set of 10 questions have to be answered, and they have been designed to be a bit out of the ordinary to questions you would normally answer. It’s also intended to pass on the experiences and knowledge that you as a  travel blogger have had.

The answers that came to my mind did actually surprise me, and some of them were a fight with myself as I thought I knew where I loved.  I guess though the place in your heart you want to live might not be perfect and might not have everything but it somehow stole a piece of your heart.

Each Travel Whispers blog post can be found by clicking the link through to the next blogger at the bottom of the post, and so on, so have a read and see how other travel bloggers answered the same questions – you might find some exciting new bloggers to follow and some great travel ideas for the future!  You can also find them across Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #TravelWhispers.

1. If you had to move to a country that you’ve NEVER been to, and live there for ten years, where would you go?

This for me is so difficult as most of the countries I would want to live in, I have already visited.  I think I would have to say the Philippines, it’s a country I would love to see.  The beaches look beautiful and there are mountains too which is where I feel most at home.  I think it would be a difficult choice as it’s not exactly stable at the moment and I could of chosen somewhere nearer home within Europe but at the moment I feel pulled to go there and I never like to choose the easy option!!

2. If you had to live in a hotel for the rest of your life, which hotel would you choose and why?

Armogosa Opera House & Hotel, Death Valley Junction, Death Valley, USA Armogosa Opera House & Hotel, Death Valley Junction, Death Valley, USA

I would hate to live in a hotel, it’s really not me.  I have spent most of the past 4 years in hostels and yes it can be hard being disturbed in the dorm rooms but they are great places to meet people.  Yes the luxury of a hotel can be nice but they can also be very lonely places!!

My choice would be one probably no one else would choose!! In 2015 while touring the US, I stayed in the Amargosa Opera House & Hotel in Death Valley Junction.  It is run now as a non profit and they are hoping to restore it in time to it’s former glory.  The story behind it and the location I just loved and I think it would be such an interesting place to live for the rest of my life!!

3. If you could only eat the cuisine of one nationality forever more, which would you choose?

This for me is easy, I love the Peruvian cuisine, though I would miss pizza and a roast dinner (especially Yorkshire Puddings!!).

4. Who has given you ‘holiday envy’ this year, and how?

A friend went to the Maldives.  I am so jealous as it’s a place I would love to go and see.  Her pictures were stunning and its high on the list despite knowing it’s going to cost a fortune.

5. If you had to look at the same sunrise or the same sunset every day, where in the world would you never get bored of seeing? Please don’t say sitting outside Cafe Mambo in Ibiza.

Sunset Arequipa Peru

I have been lucky enough to see some amazing sunsets while travelling.  Sunrise is a bit too early for me, but I love a good sunset.  The sunsets while I have been here in Arequipa have been amazing but most of the year there are no clouds which is what has made them so spectacular this time.

The best sunset I have ever seen was in Death Valley, I have never seen colours like it and it’s not too far from the hotel I want to live in for life!!

Sunset Death Valley, USA Sunset Death Valley, USA

6. If you were taking a ‘staycation’ in your home town, where would it be and what would you recommend others to do?

Waterton Park Hotel, Wakefield Waterton Park Hotel, Wakefield

My home town is Wakefield in the north of England.  I would stay in Waterton Park Hotel.  My best friend treated me to a spa day and afternoon tea there in August for my birthday.  It is set on a island in a lake and the views are stunning.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Bretton, Yorkshire

After that I would drive out to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for a walk around the grounds seeing the different sculptures on show.  The last time I was there they had poppies falling from a bridge into the river.

In the evening I would go to a local village Horbury for a meal in my favourite restaurant Bistro 42.

7. Describe your perfect travel day of the year?

Misti, Arequipa, Peru

In 2016 I was not able to travel too much as I badly broke my wrist in March but the best day I had was when I returned to Arequipa, Peru and climbed the volcano Misti at 5,822 metres!! It is the volcano that overlooks the town that you can see from everywhere and it was one of the hardest things I have done but also a day I was so proud of myself for the mental strength I had to get to the top.

8. What have you ticked off your bucket list in 2016?

Misti, Arequipa, Peru

Climbing Misti and getting to an altitude of 5,822 metres.  I had tried it in 2012 and got nowhere near to the top, but this time I did it.  I would love to try Kilimanjaro too, it’s slightly higher but knowing I can deal with the altitude I hope I would make it.

9. What is top of your travel bucket list for 2017?

This year I have so much travel planned, but the thing on my bucket list that I am looking forward to visiting is Chernobyl.  I have read a lot about it in the past and seen documentaries and I think it will be so interesting to visit.

10. Share your favourite Instagram photo of 2016?

Ollantaytambo, Peru

Looking back through my pictures I realise I didn’t share many photos from travels from 2016 as I unfortunately didn’t get away much.  My favourite picture which is from the 29 December 2016 is in Ollyantaytambo in Peru.  I went to the ruins where there were thousands of tourists but found an open door and a path climbing up the mountain.  As I had plenty of time before it closed I decided to climb as high as I could, where I found a boulder to sit on and look at this view.  I sat there for ages, reading my book, chilling out and enjoying an amazing view, with no other people around.

This challenge was passed on to me by Julia Hammond from Julia’s Travels.  To read her responses click here.

I also now pass it on to Sara & Nacho from I do what I want to, read there responses here.

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Travel Whispers Blogger Challenge

 

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