Posts Tagged ‘‘unesco world heritage site’

08
Mar
15

Peru: The Wonders of Machu Picchu


Machu Picchu is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization and it is one of Peru’s greatest man-made treasures having been preserved and untouched by the Spaniards when they came rumbling through South America. The ancient site has been voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

the trip to machu picchu

You can save a lot of time in visiting Machu Picchu if you fly direct to Cusco from some Central and South American cities thereby missing Lima which is actually too good to pass.  Otherwise, if you are coming in from the U.S. mainland, you need to fly to Lima first and then fly to Cusco like we did. (You can click here for my blog on colorful and bustling Lima.) You can either base yourself in Aguas Calientes area at the base of Machu Picchu or Cusco or the Sacred Valley which is two hours away from Machu Picchu. We stayed in a hotel in Cusco for a few days and we just allotted a whole day tour of Machu Picchu.

We left our hotel in Cusco very early in the morning for our 8 a.m. train ride to Aguas Calientes originating from Poroy train station, 30 minutes taxi ride away from the city central. We have arranged with our driver the day earlier at the Cusco airport for the taxi ride to Poroy.  The hotel staff in Cusco can also help you pre-book a taxi or get one on the spot.

DSC_0394Our train was on time for its departure.  For the train, you can choose between the cheaper Vistadome and the more expensive and luxurious Expedetion.  You can book train tickets directly at PeruRail website.

 

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Breakfast of pancakes and fruits with coffee or tea was served during the 112-km, 3-hour trip from Cusco to Aguas Calientes.  [As of this writing the 112-km trip has been divided into a combination of train and bus bimodal service from January 2015 to April 2015 only.]

 

DSC_0402 DSC_0411Through the train’s huge large and transparent windows and ceiling, we enjoyed the view on our way to Aguas Calientes.

 

 

arrival at aguas calientes

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Finally, we arrived at the Puente Ruinas train station at the end of the laid back town of Aguas Calientes.  You can opt to base yourself here for a few days if you want to explore more of the neighboring attractions like the Sunday Market.

We were greeted by the travel agency representative from whom we had bought bus tickets in advance.  We were led to the bus queue going up Machu Picchu. The bus is just one of the options for you to reach Machu Picchu from the train station. Another option would be to hike around 3km for around 45 mins up to Machu Picchu. Since we did not have much time, we  decided to take the one day tour and go up via the bus ride. The bus would leave every 10 minutes. The more adventurous travelers can join the 1-day or 3-day hike via the famous Inca Trail.

 

 

the ascent to machu picchu

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The view going up 7,970 feet above sea level was absolutely breathtaking and at the same time spine-chilling.  The winding roads do not have side protection and you could see the sceneries below directly from your bus seat.

 

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We arrived at the entrance of Machu Picchu after 20 minutes. We waited for our tour guide to call our names at the time we were scheduled to enter. When purchasing the entrance ticket, you would need to select the time of your entry to the site. Do not risk of getting no entrance tickets to Machu Picchu especially if you are only one a one-day tour so book in advance.  Take note that the number of visitors are limited per day at certain time allocations. You can book at this website.

 

 

the machu picchu ruins

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Our tour by the English-speaking guide started at the side of the ancient site overlooking a spectacular mountain range.

 

DSC_0454There were around 20 tourists with us. It was actually raining when we started the tour but as the tour guide told us, rain in Machu Picchu is just always passing and do not be disappointed as the skies will clear in a few minutes after a sudden rainfall. I suggest that you bring a disposable raincoat with you. There are also umbrellas being sold at the site entrance that you can use to protect yourself from both the sun and the rain.

 

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Machu Picchu was built in classic Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls.

 

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We then started to descend for a lower view of the ruins. I was actually starting to get bored halfway through the tour as I wanted to go up immediately to the highest point where the classic view of the site of the ruins could be taken.

 

 

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In a few minutes we started to go up.

 

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I was really awestruck at the ruins and the layout.

 

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Finally, the classic Machu Picchu shot!

 

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Machu Picchu ruins and myself.

 

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We were truly thankful for the excellent weather and safe travels.

 

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Alpacas abound in the area and they have been giving nature accent to the surroundings.

 

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And it was time to go and catch our train ride back to Cusco.

It was truly a dream come true for me to visit Machu Picchu.  The entire trip was challenging from planning to booking especially the connections from Lima to Cusco to Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu but everything was indeed worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

04
Mar
15

Hungary : The Marvels of Budapest


Budapest is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and it certainly has its own unique charm.  Separated by the Danube River into the Buda and Pest areas, it is expected to mesmerize first time visitors.  Budapest appears even lovelier at night with the absolutely thrilling display of lights along the Danube River and beyond.

the train ride to budapest

DSC_2155Coming from a few days tour of Prague, we took a 9-hour overnight sleeper train to Budapest that left around midnight.  

 

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One has the options of two-in-a-room or four-in-a-room setup.  We got the two-in-a-room which has actually a bunk bed.

 

It was not the most comfortable train ride I have taken.  Even though the beds were conducive for sleeping I was awake most of the time we were traveling because I am a light sleeper.

CSC_2182 DSC_2178Complimentary breakfast was served in the train as we were about to arrive in Budapest.

 

where we stayed in budapest

The final hotel selection was narrowed down to two Marriott properties: the Budapest Marriott Hotel along the Danube River and the highly-rated Boscolo Budapest Autograph Collection in the city center. We chose the Budapest Marriott because of its excellent location and more reasonable price. Indeed it was a very wise choice because the sweeping Danube River views from our room were just breathtaking especially at night.

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DSC_0766 DSC_0760It is the only hotel in Budapest offering magnificent river views from all of its 364 rooms.

The following are the views from our room taken at different times of the day. We could see the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle from our room!

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1546122_10202937812674883_987479911_nThe hotel is a short walking distance to three of Budapest’s top attractions Buda Castle, Chain Bridge and the Parliament.

 

 

the chain bridge

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The Chain Bridge, built in 1849, is the most famous Budapest bridge.  It is the icon of the city’s 19th century development. It is the nearest of the three major attractions near our hotel so we could just take a short walk to the bridge any time of the day.

 

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My favorite time spent at the bridge was around sunset until early evening when everything was beginning to light up and the sights in and around the bridge were just incredible.

 

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It was way more lovelier here at night with all the lights than at day time.

 

 

the buda castle quarter

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Walking along the Chain Bridge from the Pest side to the Buda side will lead you to the entrance to the Buda Castle Quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just a few steps off the bridge.  From here you would be taken up to the Buda Castle perched high above Castle Hill.

 

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The castle, seen here from the Danube Promenade, was first completed in 1265.

 

the parliament

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Around 15 minutes walk from Chain Bridge is the Hungarian Parliament, which is the third largest in the world. We tried to walk to it in the afternoon at the Pest side along the Danube Promenade and we only got this side shot as there was ongoing construction and most areas around it were off limits.

 

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At night we strolled once again along the banks of the Danube this time at the Buda side.  From afar the Margaret Bridge seemed like a lighted pathway to the Parliament.

 

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The front view of the Parliament was simply magnificent.

 

 

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We had a hard time taking a photo of the Parliament with ourselves but our cameras (flash settings and all) were not cooperating so we took this shot only using our mobile phone!

 

the banks of the danube

The entire stretch of the banks of the Danube in Budapest has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Again I like the river more at night with thousands of lights adorning its banks.

 

heroes’ square

CSC_0412A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Heroes’ Square can be found at the outbound end of another World Heritage Site, Andrassy Avenue.  It is one of the major squares in Budapest and it is noted for its iconic statue complex. The square has played an important part in contemporary Hungarian history and has been a host to many political events.

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The statues of the basement of the column depict the 7 Hungarian chieftains led by prince Arpad.

 

thermal baths

Bathe your cares away in the ‘City of Baths’. Hungary is a land of thermal springs, and Budapest remains the only capital city in the world that is rich in thermal waters with healing qualities. If you’re looking to kick back and relax over your holiday, Budapest is the place to be. 

Gellert-Baths-@-BudapestShown here is the Gellért Baths which are some of the most beautiful and elegant baths in Budapest. Its columned, Roman-style swimming pool may look familiar as it is the most photographed spa of Hungary. This was built between 1912 and 1918 in Art Nouveau style.

 

 

the gresham palace

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At the eastern end of the Chain Bridge over at the Pest side just adjacent to Széchenyi Square, an imposing building will truly get your attention.  A true example of Art Nouveau architecture, the Gresham Palace was completed in 1906 and now houses the Four Seasons Hotel Budapest Gresham Palace.

 

the gerbeaud confectionary

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Gerbeaud coffee house and patisserie in Vörösmarty tér continues to attract both a certain class of Hungarian as well as visitors from Vienna and elsewhere.

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It is one of the greatest and most traditional coffee houses in Europe.

 

 

buddha bar and restaurant

I always enjoy lounging at Buddha Bar locations whether it is for formal dinner or just simple drinks.

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I have loved their exciting menu of a mix of Asian flavors and French influence but this time I craved for beef goulash soup and Hungarian beer!

 

 

százéves

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I personally recommend százéves restaurants which are 100-year-old for those who are interested in history and who like to spend their meals in a pleasent atmosphere.

 

 

shopping

Whether it is souvenir item or maintstream shopping, everything was just a stone throw away from our hotel too!

DSC_0347Vorosmarty Square has a number of shopping locations and one of them is the newest glass mall in town.  The Hard Rock Cafe is also just adjacent to the mall.

 

 

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There are also a lot of small souvenir shops around the corner.  We chanced upon this extra pleasant Hungarian lady who told us that the residents of Budapest had a fund raising event for the victims of typhoon Haiyan when I told her that my family is from Leyte, the place hit hard by the typhoon.

 

metro & taxis

Budapest’s Millennium Underground is a World Heritage Site being the oldest in continental Europe.  It is currently in use and this mode of transportation took us to different places around Budapest.

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If you are in a hurry and do not have time to walk to a subway station, taxis can be a more expensive alternative but they are pretty safe.  The drivers are extra courteous too.

 

 

Our stay in Budapest was a memorable one and we were blessed with the best winter weather we could have imagined. The Hungarian capital offers much to everyone. For me, the best ones are along the Danube River so I will end with Katonam’s stunning panoramic photo of Budapest.

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