Average cost p/day: US$40 (not including the Inca Trail/other hikes to Macchu Pichu)
Time frame: 1 month +
Currency: Peruvian soles
When you think of Peru, you inevitably think of Macchu Picchu and the crowded marketplaces, covered in outrageously colourful clothes and souvenirs. But there is soo much more to Peru – this is only the beginning! You can sand board down sand dunes in the middle of nowhere or explore the Amazon jungle or relax on the beach or hike to many incredible places you’ve never even heard of!
Every city and town in Peru has it’s own vibe, but overall the country is a very chilled out place to be. The locals are friendly but generally they don’t speak much English outside of major tourist areas. They’ll really appreciate if you try to use a little bit of Spanish!
Some interesting local cuisines include guinea pig and alpaca! The quality of these meals hugely depends on where you go – so make sure you go to a halfway decent restaurant to try them out!! Also look out for ‘Menu del Dia’ (menu of the day) to get a two or three course meal for a good price.
WHERE TO GO
A good starting point for Peru, with brilliant markets and heaps of great restaurants and bars, particularly around the Miraflores area. While in Lima, go to the San Francisco church to see catacombs and to admire the beautiful architecture.
A desert oasis! This little town in the middle of the desert backs onto a man-made lake – it’s a place that has to be seen to be believed! Climb up the dunes for great sunset views and be sure to organise a tour which includes dune buggying and sand boarding.
The Nazca Lines are a bit of a mystery. It is a collection of drawings, mostly of animals, out in the middle of the desert and no one knows quite how they got there! There are some viewing platforms where you can see a few of the drawings, but the best way to see it is by plane. Be aware that it’s a tiny plane that rocks about quite a lot – not suitable for those prone to motion sickness!!
A charming little city up in the mountains, used as a base for those off to see Machu Picchu. The nightlife in Cusco is phenomenal – for sure the best spot in Peru for partying. It also has fantastic markets and lots of options for great food.
Machu Picchu / Inca Trail
Machu Picchu is a MUST-DO while in Peru, and I highly recommend doing the Inca Trail to get there! You should bare in mind though, that there are many different ways to get to Macchu Pichu. While the Inca Trail is absolutely incredible, it is costly and requires a bit of planning. If you’re strapped for cash or don’t want to plan too much in advance, there are other hikes you can organise on very short notice. For those who don’t want to hike at all…no worries, there’s a train!
The largest high altitude lake in the world, Lake Titicaca sits on the border of Peru and Bolivia – so you could visit it from either side (or both!) If you’re visiting from Peru, Puno is the gateway. Puno itself is not very interesting at all. However, from here you can organise island hopping trips. Make sure that you visit Uros Islands, sometimes known as the floating islands, where the islands themselves are made from reeds and anchored down to stay in place. The houses are also made from reeds. The locals on these islands make money by creating handicrafts and either selling them to visiting tourists or taking them to the mainland to exchange for goods..such as solar panels & televisions! Kind of strange to see a TV in a little straw hut on a tiny island in the middle of a huge lake. Another standout island is Isla Amantani, where you can climb up a little mountain to get spectacular views of the lake. If possible, try to organise a homestay on one of these islands.
Peru’s second largest city, Arequipa is modern and clean as compared to Lima. Many of the buildings are made of white volcanic rock, which makes for a very pretty city! The Santa Catalina Monastary is absolutely massive. Long ago it was occupied by nuns, who were not allowed any contact with the outside world. It’s interesting to roam around, noting the colourful exteriors and the dark, depressing interiors. Museo Santuarios Antiguos is the home of Juanita the ice princess. Juanita’s frozen and mummified body was discovered only twenty years ago, high up in the mountains of Peru. Fascinating history – worth a trip to the museum! For a view of the city and the nearby mountains, head to the Yanahuara area.
The Amazon jungle spans 5.5 million sq km and can be reached from many different countries in South America. It doesn’t matter which country you explore the Amazon from – just make sure you do it! You’ll be able to see caiman attempting to eat their young, monkeys fighting over bananas and stars so bright you won’t believe they’re real.
Places on my to do list —
Huarez: An area known for its stunning hikes. In particular, I’m keen to do the Laguna 69 hike.
Mancora: A beach town famous for it’s party atmosphere!