PERU, THE COUNTRY OF HIDDEN TREASURES
A well equipped rucksack, a good pair of lungs and a sense of adventure are all you need to have a great experience in Peru. Check out this 20 day itinerary around the world’s trekking capital.
After a twelve hour flight to the other side of the world I landed in Lima, capital city of Peru. I was about to start a twenty day adventure with my brother and two of his friends, Isabel and Paula, who I hadn’t met up to that day. Three intelligent architects and 18-year-old me exploring the land of the Incas and the world’s most famous trekking routes and ancient ruins.
Lima (2 days)
We decided to start our adventure on 17/1/17 for no particular reason. The moment we stepped on our hostel we started to hear what we thought were gun shots. Extremely scared, we asked the hotel manager what was going on. He explained to us while cracking up that we weren’t listening to gunshots, but fireworks! It was Lima’s 482nd anniversary and there was a huge ongoing party at its Plaza de Armas! We had a blast partying with the locals and singing along to some of the latest latino hits. Great way to bond with who instantly became two of my closest friends and start our Peruvian adventure!
Lima is divided into its cultural center, and two main neighborhoods: Barranco and Miraflores. Our favourite sight were the ruins of Huaca Pucllana, in Miraflores. It took over 300 hundred years to construct what used to be a sacred Inca temple. Restaurateurs are still uncovering its hidden treasures, so by the time you go to Peru, the ruins might be even more incredible!
TIP: If you are running short on time, skip Lima, there are way more exciting things to see around the sacred valley. For info about Lima: http://www.peru.travel/en-us/where-to-go/lima.aspx
Pisac (1 day)
Our hour-long flight to Cusco happened on a blink of an eye as we were all astonished by the view of the mighty Andean mountain range. As soon as we landed we got on a cab to Pisac. Our cab driver, Milton, was extremely friendly and helpful, he was our first Peruvian friend, and accompanied us for the following couple days.
Pisac’s Archeological Park is an ancient Inca citadel at the top of a steep slope. We were marveled by its temples and terraces, which are perfectly conserved. The city of Pisac has a market full of typical Peruvian handicrafts, and we had our best meal on the entire trip here: Peruvian Pollo al Sillao
TIP: The best textile store in the country is on the road from Cusco to Pisac. Even if you are not planning on buying anything, stopping here to feel the incredible softness of a real vicuña blanket is worth the visit.
Ollantaitambo-Aguas Calientes (1 day)
Waking up at 4am to go visit the amazing town and ancient ruins of Ollantaitambo was definitely worth the struggle. It seemed like we had traveled back in time as we sat on the top of the peaceful ruins and meditated.
There is a train that connects Ollantaitambo with Aguas Calientes, but we were running on a low budget so went for the cheapest way of getting there: a six hour trip on a shared auto through the extremely curved and muddy Andean roads followed by a two and a half hour trek through the equatorial forest.
MachuPicchu (1 day)
Our excitement to go see the old ruins of Machu-Picchu woke us up before our alarms had gone off. We caught the bus to the top of the hill… and as if it were a dream… we were completely taken back in time. Words can’t describe the feeling that these immense Inca ruins transmit while you walk through its terraces and temples.
Machu-Picchu helped me find the truth behind the word ‘limitless’. If the Inca community managed to construct this breathtaking place over 500 years ago without having invented the wheel, is there really a limit for what us, humans can accomplish?
MachuPicchu was, by far, my favourite part of the trip, and a place I want to go back to. The longer we walked around this place, the more astounded I was.
TIP: Make sure to buy food and snaks before you go up to MachuPicchu, as food there is ridiculously expensive!
Cusco, Moray and Maras (2 days)
The man at our hostel in Cusco was incredibly welcoming as we got there exhausted after a two and a half hour trek and over seven hour shared auto trip back from Aguas Calientes.
The location of this ‘secret garden’ Hostel where we were staying was terrible, but its owner took us to Saquaywaman, an old Inca village which is yet to be digged up. As he toured us around the place, my three Arquitecte-colleages seemed to be about to cry with excitement.
We also visited the ruins of Moray and Mara’s Salt flats, two must-sees on the sacred valley.
Lake Titicaca (4 days)
The highest navigable lake in the world, and largest lake in South America is home of six islands situated almost 4k meters over sea level. We went on a two day tour that included visiting the floating Uros Islands, staying the night with the local community of Amantani island and visiting Taquile Island.
Inhabitants of this lake practice the three principles of reciprocity: Aini (today for you, tomorrow for me), Minca (today for your community, tomorrow for mine), and Mita (obliged labor for everyone). They also practice a sustainable tourism policy to ensure the conservation of the lake, peacefully sharing its waters with Bolivia.
TIP: You can also visit this magical lake is going to Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna from Coppa Cabbana.
Colca Canyon, Arequipa (4 days)
We reached an altitude of 5k meters over sea level on our way to Colca Canyon. The road from Arequipa to the 3,270 meter deep canyon is gorgeous, full of Alpahacas, Vicunias and flamengoes
Even though they were miles away, we were lucky enough to see two spectacular condors fly across the Canyon. Chivay’s natural hotsprings were the most relaxing experience on the entire trip. We felt renewed as we walked out of this wonderful place.
Arequipa was the last stop we were visiting as a group, as my brother and Isabel were heading down to Chile while Paula and I we were going up to Nazca afterwards. We really enjoyed this small city and had a great time meeting people from all over the world at our hostel, which was very close to Plaza de Armas.
TIP: If you are not used to heights make sure to ask for coca candy or some medicine before heading to Colca Canyon to prevent altitude sickness.
Nazca, Ica, Huacachina (1 day)
We said our goodbyes and got on a twelve hour bus to Ica. There was an option to stop and visit the Nazca lines, but as our trip was ending and our pockets almost empty we had to pass on this experience… I guess we will have to come back!
The dessert of Huacachina is 10 minutes away from Ica. Our trip came to an end with some relaxing time at this natural Oasis and one of the biggest adrenaline rushes of my life as we went on a sand-boarding and buggy riding excursion through Huacachina’s inmense sand dunes.
It is said that traveling is addictive, and I can’t help to think about what my next destination will be while writing this. A tour through South India perhaps?
-The Inca community never invented the wheel, they carried everything on their backs.
-In Quechua language “Cusco” translates into “Earth’s bellybutton”
-There are about 90 microclimates in Peru, making it one of the most biodiverse countries in the world
-Peru is the homeland of potatoes, and they cultivate over 3000 different varieties of it.
-Peru is America’s country with a wider variety of butterflies (3532 species) and mammals (182 species).
Tours: the cheapest tours are found within each place. Booking in advance will cost way more and it is unnecessary
Buses: There is a huge bus offer in Peru. I wouldn’t advice anyone to go on a local bus, as first class buses can be booked at the stations for a decent prize, and to move from one place to another can take up to 16 hours.
For more info about Peru check: http://visitperu.com, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org