Updated: Oct 18, 2019
If you've always had Peru on your travel bucket-list, it's never too late to start planning. This blog post covers my own experience of traveling to Peru during Christmas.
December travel planning in Peru
Hello from Peru! If you've been putting off traveling to Peru like how I once did, you shouldn't wait any longer. I've had many friends and co-worker's who've traveled to this country to hike Machu Picchi or eat their way through the foodie capital of South America - Lima. Since so many people I knew went, I almost felt like I was there already so it was way down on my travel bucket list.
Finally, my wife and I decided to travel to Peru to spend our Christmas there.
Sometime in August, after a summer trip through London, France and Lebanon, we went online to research "visiting Peru in December".
There were quite a few blogs, actually pages and pages of information about visiting Peru and what to expect. It took some time to skim through the many awesome blogs and reading Trip Advisor reviews to formulate our plan of what to see and do.
We immediately booked our airline tickets to Peru in December using our airline points (two almost free round-trip tickets!). From there we booked our lodging reservations using Hotels.com , which is our preferred company due to the many free nights we've accumulated and the Gold member status customer service.
Please keep in mind we planned well ahead, about 4 months in advance in August for our December trip to Peru. I highly suggest you plan ahead too to lock in cheap rates and if you plan to see Machu Picchu you should buy your admission tickets in advance, plus your train tickets if you don't want to walk.
If you plan to visit Machu Picchu during Christmas
If you plan to visit Machu Picchu during Christmas you need to purchase your admission tickets preferably in advance because the number of visitors is capped daily.
I read the Thrifty Nomads detailed blog on "How to Buy Machu Picchu Tickets: A Step-by-Step Guide". You should read it too because it's probably the best guide out there on how to buy your tickets to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu.
You also need to plan on how you will get to Machu Picchu so planning well in advanced helps give you more options travel times, especially if you are going to go by train. You can also walk using the Inca Trail.
Speaking of train, you have three choices: Inca Rail, Peru Rail and the luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham train. My wife and I decided to splurge a little and bought two one-way Hiram Bingham train tickets since we were traveling on Christmas day.
We originally purchased two one-way Peru Rail tickets on their Vistadome train, but at the time we booked we didn't check Inca Rail, so we thought we were stuck taking a late train (4:30 PM) back to Cusco.
Luckily at the time of this writing, we checked Inca Rail and saw that they had a 10:00 AM one-way trip available. Peru Rail has excellent English-speaking customer service and since we were still outside the 24 hour cancellation window prior to the train ride, we called, then emailed to have our tickets cancelled. We just had to pay a 10% fee.
We then booked our new 10:00 AM train tickets and saved ourselves close to 5 hours of time to take an earlier train on Inca Rail so we could get into Cusco at 2:30 PM vs. 8:00 PM.
The only downside to the Inca Rail tickets were that you only take a train for about half of the journey to Cusco. You stop off at Ollantaytambo, where you will get off the train and then take a bus for the rest of the trip. No big deal, since time is very valuable when you are traveling on vacation, at least for us.
Christmas in Peru
Christmas in Peru is actually quite an experience. You will see some holiday decorations, but nothing that goes overboard like in some European and American cities.
We started off in Lima about four days before Christmas, where we stayed in the upscale, busy Miraflores district. This is a very nice, safe part of town. It's full of casinos, Western restaurants, party areas and it's central to just about everything.
It seemed like there were very few tourists and few residents in town, which to me was great! No long hotel check-in lines, no waiting at restaurants. It's awesome to travel to Lima in December during Christmas if just for this fact alone.
If you want to immerse yourself in a city's culture, I always recommend eating the local food and better yet trying to find the places where locals eat at.
We spent Christmas eve and Christmas day traveling to Cusco and to Machu Picchu. Cusco really knows how to celebrate. The Plaza de Armas is very packed and full of life and celebration. You'll find many pop-up tents selling merchandise and souvenirs and snacks such as popcorn. There's a lot happening with people dancing and singing too. If you have the chance to come to Cusco, Christmas eve might be the best time to do it.
Christmas day was spent traveling on the luxurious Hiram Bingam (named after the former American senator and explorer). I suffered from altitude sickness, so I really had to will myself that morning to pack up and move forward. After a nice welcome Incan dancing celebration at the Poroy train station we boarded this first-class train.
The service is top-notch and you definitely feel very welcomed and like a VIP. A suited man even provided oxygen for me and after breathing that for about an hour, I felt rejuvenated and 100% back to normal.
During the 3 1/2 hour train ride through the beautiful Peruvian countryside, you'll notice the scenery change from farm lands to more jungle. You'll also have a great Christmas eve lunch with plenty of wine, champagne or Pisco Sour.
They have a small band which played in the back of the caboose, near the bar. You'll get plenty of opportunities to take great videos and photos all to yourself since the Hiram Bingham train wasn't at full capacity during Christmas eve. Again, I recommend you travel during this time.
Thanks for reading this short blog on my experience traveling to Peru in December during Christmas. I'm still in Aguas Caliente now about to board the Inca Rail train back to Cusco and to continue our vacation. I hope this helps you all out with your planning!
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