Wander or Bust: Machu Picchu Will Be The Hike Of Your Lifetime

by Stacey Leasca

Wander or Bust is an Elite Daily travel series that follows young women all over the globe to record their journeys as they experience the thrill of the far-flung and unknown.

They'll track their budgets, where they stay, where they eat and drink, and where they took that amazing Instagram that got them ~maximum exposure.~ The internet is full of travel advice, but none from women just like you. Read on for the tips no one else gives you, and when in doubt, get on the plane.

Here's Stacey Leasca's Wander Or Bust guide to Machu Picchu, Peru.

My Name: Stacey Leasca

What I Do: Freelance Writer, USC Adjunct Professor

Where I Live: Los Angeles

Where I Went: Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru

How Long I Stayed: 7 days, 6 nights

My Spending Style: Extravagant — but only because I wanted the best of everything Peru had to offer. Though, nothing was incredibly expensive anyway.

Where I Got My Recommendations:

I traveled alongside Mountain Lodges of Peru, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary. All of my travel plans came through them, which was a dream, as I didn’t have to plan a thing.

Exchange Rate At Time Of Travel: $1 USD = $3.28 PEN

The exchange rate in Peru is great for Americans. Your dollar stretches just a bit further, making everything feel like you’re coming out ahead.

What That Looks Like IRL: $50 USD = $164 PEN

Preferred Payment Method: Cash and credit, but mostly cash, as we went to some rather remote areas.

Phone Bill: $10 extra per day for Verizon’s data plan.

Mode of Transport: Airplane

Price: $800

Extra Costs: Never extra baggage, I absolutely refuse to ever check a bag when traveling. Taxis are an additional cost for sure, but they are about half the price of New York cab fare.

Transport Total: $800

Courtesy of: El Retablo

Accommodation: Mountain Lodges Peru

This is the best part of this particular trip. This is a lodge-to-lodge journey, taking you from Cusco to Machu Picchu and a ton of untapped, zero-tourist towns along the way. In each new town, I stayed in some of the most truly remarkable and luxurious hotels I’ve ever seen.

Location: In Cusco city center. Everywhere else truly the middle of nowhere.

Courtesy of: Stacey Leasca

Price: It all came included in the overall cost of the trip, which was $2,300 for a seven-day adventure.

Extra Costs: The only added cost is tipping. It’s crucial to tip your porters and guides along the way. Around 15-20 percent is normal.

Would I Recommend It To Someone Else:

Dear Lord, yes. Mountain Lodges of Peru is a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Accommodation Total: $2,300

Breakfast-Lunch Cost: $15/day

Again, it was included, but if you went out for these meals in Cusco or Machu Picchu they’d be about $10-$20/day.

Dinner Cost: $25/day

With Mountain Lodges, your food comes included in the cost, but normally it would come to around $20-$25/day

Average Total Cost: Around $40/day

Tip Situation: Yes, I always tipped about 20 percent.

Food Situation:

Food in Peru is delicious. It’s the home of quinoa, 4,000 potato varietals, and more. You’ll eat something fresh every day. Breakfast there is light while dinner is the biggest meal of the day.

Courtesy of: Stacey Leasca

Favorite Restaurant:

My favorite “restaurant” wasn’t really a restaurant at all. Instead, it was a meal we prepared with the locals in a town called Viacha. There, we prepared a traditional meal cooked under hot stones called Pachamanca. It included potatoes, of course, and a ton of other delicious vegetables. The potatoes were so tender and somehow tasted like they were smothered in butter, but were cooked plain. And absolutely nothing beat the views of the valley below.

Location: Viacha, Peru

Price: $0

Food Total: $0

Nightlife Situation:

Other than Cusco, we didn’t spend any time in a city. And honestly after exploring or hiking all day all you want to do is immediately go to bed.

What People Wear Out:

If we hung out at night it was always in comfortable clothing and just chatted around a fire with a nice glass of wine.

Average Cost Of A Pint:

I didn’t really drink on this trip as hiking with a hangover is about as fun as pulling out your fingernails, but had I wanted a drink it would have been about $5.

Extra Cost To Know About: Not really as it’s not a huge part of the scene.

Last Call: 2 a.m. for Cusco; much earlier elsewhere.

Average Total Cost Of A Night Out: Maybe a few dollars for a nice cocktail or one glass of wine.

Cheapest Bar I'd Actually Go Back To: Mama Africa

Courtesy of: Mama Africa

With music pumpin', salsa lessons spilling onto your table, and face painting, this is an easy access and fun bar to drink the night away.

Going Out Total: Maybe $30 the entire trip.

What I Spent A Lot On That Was Totally Worth It:

Since this entire trip was one big excursion, I’d say it was all totally worth it. Mountain Lodges of Peru took us to some truly special places, which are never visited by other tourists.

Courtesy of: Stacey Leasca

What I Spent A Lot On That Was Totally Not Worth It:

Nowhere really. The only place I’d say that is a little overhyped is Machu Picchu itself. But, there are so many other gorgeous archaeological sites that Mountain Lodges will take you too such as Pisaq, Ancasmarca and Ollantaytambo.

What I Spent Little Or No Money On That Was Awesome:

Hiking Huayna Picchu mountain, one of the two mountains to the sides of Machu Picchu. To hike either mountain you must make reservations welling advance as they only allow 400 people to hike them each day. But the view is astonishing and worth the extra planning.

Courtesy of: Stacey Leasca

Favorite Thing I Did, Regardless Of Cost:

Visiting a town called Choquecancha. There, we met with a group of local women who are weaving experts. They greeted us through a doorway by throwing flowers on us and giving us a kiss on each cheek. They then showed us their craft and even ate lunch with us.

Hidden Gem I Found:

So, so many. This tour will take you to places your friends have never even heard about before, but Choquecancha may be the most special of all.

Courtesy of: Stacey Leasca

The Photo I Took That Got The Most Attention:

This photo of me on top of Huayna Picchu.

Excursions/Extras Total: It was all included in the cost.

General Shopping: $0

Souvenirs: Two handmade pillow cases I purchased in Machu Picchu. They cost $30 each.

Courtesy of: Stacey Leasca

Souvenirs/Shopping Total: About $100.

Best Machu Picchu Hack:

Get a guide, get a guide, get a guide. Did I mention a guide? They help you with so many logistical things you’d never even think of.

Advice For Anyone Traveling Alone:

Talk to people, learn all you can, and, oh yeah, get a guide. Going on a week-long guided tour of Peru is the absolute best way to go.

Total Trip Cost: $3,230

Worth It? Travel is always worth it, but Peru is more special than most.