How To Get To Peru
However you get to Peru, this is one of those places where the joy truly is in the destination.
I remember the first time I stepped off the plane in Cusco, Peru. The fresh, crisp air of 11K+ altitude was refreshing. I caught my first glimpse of the city while walking down the ramp from the gate to baggage claim. I saw adobe homes, tiled ceilings, trees, and a bright blue sky.
After we got our luggage, we walked just outside the airport to grab a taxi. 10 soles later ($3) we were on our way to the world famous Plaza de Armas, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The area outside the airport and in suburban Cusco doesn't necessarily look unique from other Peruvian or South American cities. But, as you approach the Plaza you start to notice a shift. The streets become cobblestone. The foundations of the buildings go from cement to Incan Stone. Cathedral belltowers start to appear between alleys and above buildings.
When we rolled through the narrow cobblestone street to the Plaza it was the culmination of a long journey -- days of travel. And yet, the adventure had just begun. Machu Picchu awaited...
When planning a trip to Peru you will need to make some combination of the following arrangements depending on where you're traveling from and where in Peru you're going.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (and Boats!)
Except in extremely rare cases, your international destination will be Lima (LIM), the capital city of Peru. If traveling from the US, chances are that you will have a late-night arrival. Shortly before/after midnight there are 5K+ arrivals.
To see Machu Picchu or the Cusco area you will need to fly from Lima (LIM) to Cusco (CUZ). Cusco will be your hub for the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and the Cusco area. You also may need to arrange flights to Iquitos (IQT) to see the Amazon River, Puerto Maldonado (PEM) to see the Manu Rainforest, Juliaca (JUL) for Lake Titicaca, Arequipa (AQP) for Colca Canyon and Arequipa, or maybe even Tumbes (TBP) for Mancora and the beach resorts of Northern Peru.
Taxis / Private Drivers
To get between the airport, your hotel, restaurants, touristic sites, train stations, markets, and other destinations, you will need either a private driver (arranged through a Tour Operator) or taxis. Taxis in Peru are more affordable than other areas of the world.
If you're headed to Machu Picchu, you have two options: walk or ride a train. You can depart from the Poroy Train Station (30 minutes outside of Cusco) or the Ollantaytambo Train Station (1.5 hours outside of Cusco). This will be one of the most memorable experiences of your trip. There are also all-day train rides available to get you from Cusco to Puno (Lake Titicaca) or vice versa.
If your journey in Peru includes a visit to Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado, chances are that you will need to take a boat to get to your destination. Normally your jungle lodge includes this as part of your package, but you may also need to arrange boat taxis if you want to visit places like the floating market of Belen in Iquitos.
The Joy Is In The Destination
However you get to Peru, this is one of those places where the joy truly is in the destination. As fun as it is to navigate the flights, the car rides, boat rides, and train rides, when you walk around the corner at Machu Picchu, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.