Most travelers visit Cusco, from where visitors can explore Machu Picchu or the Sacred Valley, but Sacsayhuaman is also a must-see site for those who are interested in exploring ruins and the history of the Incas in more detail. Sacsayhuaman, meaning Royal Eagle is a magnificent fortress constructed during the Pachacuti reign. Historians say that it took over seven decades to construct and that 20,000 men were needed to complete the work. Truly samazing statistics.
Sacsayhuaman was the largest structure built by the Incas, and the fortress remains are a testament to their knowledge of construction and masonry. Many of the polygonal blocks are over 4 meters in height and weigh up to 100,000 kg. The stone structure was a huge accomplishment as evidence suggests that the blocks were pounded into shape rather than cut, and mortar was not necessary due to the precise nature of the setting of the stones. At its peak, the construction reached an impressive height of 18 meters and stood 540 meters in length.
The stone fortress included temples, aqueducts, terraces, patios and towers and was a location for important Inca ceremonies. It was also used as a storage depot for food, armor, textiles, ceramics and precious metals.
Sacsayhuaman lies on the outskirts of Cusco and remains to this day, an important part of the Inca culture. Each year you can watch the annual reenactment of the Inti Raymi Inca festival held on the winter solstice.
Sacsayhuaman can be visited independently or as a tour with other fascinating Inca sites such as Puca Pucara, Qenko and Tambo Machay. Either way, Sacsayhuaman is an impressive insight into the Inca culture and well worth a visit.
Quito (originally known as San Francisco de Quito) is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating cities in the world to explore – a mix of traditions alongside a bustling modern cosmopolitan scene and the highest capital city in the world. The historic center is extremely well-preserved and filled with Spanish Baroque architecture, in particular the famous Church of San Agustin. There are many places of interest to visit, including the Church of La Compania de Jesus, the Basilica del Voto Nacional and the Museo Nacional del Banco Central.
Most visitors to the city undoubtedly spend most of their time in Old City. Calle La Ronda is located here and is a cobbled street featuring colorful shops, interesting galleries and quaint cafes. It is particularly fun to visit on weekends when you can come across exciting cultural events and activities. El Panecillo is the name of the large hill adjacent to the Old Town which is home to the large statue of the winged Virgin Mary. She can be viewed from most parts of Quito and is worth a visit to the top.
Mitad del Mundo, or the Middle of the World, was originally thought to sit on the equator line. It is definitely worth a visit, as is the neighboring Intinan Museum. In truth, thanks to modern GPS technology, the actual equator has been calculated to be 240 meters away. But that should not distract you in the least from enjoying your visit.
This city is renowned to experience all four seasons in one day, so do pack wisely. Whatever the weather, we are sure you will enjoy your stay in Quito.
Visiting Chincha in the South of Peru instantly transports you to an entirely different time and place. Gone are the Inca ruins and traditional Peruvian dishes, replaced instead by black African figurines and mouth-watering dishes of Creole food featuring potatoes and rice .
The Afro-Peruvian culture is rich and colorful, steeped in a long history and well-defined traditions. If you visit Chincha during February or November, you will be able to see this part of Peru at its best. The festival of Verano Negro and las Danzas Negras bring the streets alive with music and dancing.
El Carmen is a worthwhile tourist destination at any time of the year with peñas (parties) featuring Afro-Peruvian music in clubs and bars. Pisco is served from the local wineries in the nearby district of Ica.
The traditional Afro-Peruvian music is played using a number of local historic instruments including the cajon drum, the cajita, and the quijada de burro, made from an ox or donkey jaw . The dances are fun and energetic bringing a smile to all those watching.
Hacienda San Jose built in 1688, a former seventeenth-century manor, provides a glimpse of a slave plantation from the past complete with catacombs and underground tunnels. Dinner and buffet shows are also available at this stately address.
Once the slave tradition ended, the Africans and their Peruvian-African descendants remained, enriching the local Peruvian Creole culture in Chincha and El Carmen.
Peru is known for its delicious culinary delights – from cuy to lomo saltado and a myriad of other delightful dishes. But did you know there are many tasty local beverages available to accompany the food found in restaurants and on street corners? While Cusquena (Peruvian beer) and Inka Cola (a yellow Peruvian soda) are thirst quenching at the best of times, here are four Peruvian drinks to add to your list to sample.
1. Pisco Sour
Pisco sour is a name you will see and hear in all parts of Peru, and if you are an alcohol drinker, you need to try it at least once during your visit. Pisco sour is the national cocktail of Peru and is made using the liquor of the same name, Pisco. The Pisco liquor is accompanied by lime juice, ice, sweet syrup, egg white and angostura bitters It is iconic as they come.
2. Coca Tea
Coca tea is a common drink in Peru and is brewed from the coca leaf. It is a popular drink which is also used to combat the effects of altitude sickness particularly in Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. It is also a great way to warm up when the weather turns cold. A version of a Pisco sour made with coca leaves, known as a coca sour, is also available.
3. Chicha Morada
This non-alcoholic version of chicha is served in restaurants, at the markets, and by street vendors. Deep purple, it gets its color from purple corn as the staple ingredient. It has a sweet cinnamon-like taste and requires sugar, lime juice, pineapple, cloves and cinnamon to complete the recipe. It is all boiled and cooled before being enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
4. Chicha de Jora
Chicha de jora is the alcoholic version of chicha morada. It is made from yellow corn and is fermented like apple cider. It has been enjoyed by Peruvians by hundreds of years and remains a much-loved and affordable alcoholic option today.
Cuy is a specialty dish in Peru, and whether you are in Arequipa, Lima, or Cusco, you will find it served in one form or another. Cuy is otherwise known as guinea pig, and while it is not a typical dish in other parts of the world, Peruvians don’t seem to get enough of it. In fact, they have been eating guinea pig for approximately 5,000 years.
Be prepared however as it is often cooked whole and is served with head, teeth and ears intact. Definitely not for the faint hearted!
Cuy chactado is a traditional dish in Arequipa –fried guinea pig although the roasted version known as el horno is popular too, particularly in the Cusco region. It is indeed a Peruvian delicacy. It tastes like a cross between rabbit and guinea-fowl, or pork when fried. These are small animals and have barely enough meat for one person. They are usually served with other Andean favorites such as potatoes, and corn.
There is no shortage of restaurants offering this Andean delicacy. Some restaurants specialize in cuy and are called ‘cuyeria’. So if you see a guinea pig in Peru, chances are it is not a family pet but a family’s plan for dinner. There is even a special day dedicated to this tasty animal – National Guinea Pig Day is celebrated on the second Friday in October.
Of course, cuy is not for everyone; but if you feel brave enough to try it, you will be in good company as approximately 65 million guinea pigs are eaten in Peru each year. That’s a whole lot of pig!
Nestled in the serene and peaceful setting of the Sacred Valley, Pisac has a fascinating artisan market. This market operates in some form or another every day of the week but on Sundays Pisac’s market is certainly a fascinating experience.
On Sunday, stalls line the plaza and adjoining streets as far as the eye can see, and feature all sorts of handmade delights from scarves and alpaca goods to ceramics and jewelry. Pisac is particularly well known for its stunning silver jewelry and gemstone work available in both classic and traditional Andean styles. Prices are just as attractive as the designs, and you may find you are lured into buying more than intended.
Along with the fresh produce stalls that attract the locals to the market, you will find vendors selling wonderful delicacies like empanadas and corn with salted cheese (choclo con queso). The variety of food on offer will help keep the hunger pangs away while you browse the stalls and enjoy the sights. The Pisac market definitely has something for everyone.
Shopping in this market gives the traveler an excellent opportunity to purchase souvenirs direct from the Quechua communities that will remind them of their travels and some unique gifts for those back at home.
Remember, prices quoted in the Pisac market are not set in stone, so you have the opportunity to test your bargaining skills. As difficult as it may seem at first, the whole process becomes fun for both seller and buyer and will save you a few soles on your purchase.
Pisac’s market is a fun day trip from Cusco and can easily be combined with the town ruins if you wish to widen your Pisac experience. Starting at about 9 am and closing at 5 pm, the Pisac artisan market is a must-visit destination for all visitors to Peru providing a colorful and authentic shopping experience.
The Barranco district in Lima is particularly charming with its apparent bohemian atmosphere, busy nightlife and colorful history. Barranco meaning ‘ravine’ is suitably named as homes and restaurants in and around the area are situated near a cliff overlooking a sandy beach. In the 19th century it was a very trendy area for the Lima aristocracy and today the popularity lives on.
The houses in Barranco are built in the colonial style and surrounded by well-designed parks and streets. Take a romantic stroll along the malecon to the north of Avenida Saenz Pena to admire the French style mansions which became popular at the beginning of the 20th Century. Much time and money has been spent on restoring Barranco’s former art deco glory.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC), the Museo Pedro de Osma, the Museo de la Electricidad, the Municipal Library and the Iglesia La Ermita are located in Barranco; all great places to visit if you have the time. As the sun sets, the streets awaken. The Municipal Park becomes a popular meeting place and diners head off to sample the typical Peruvian food as well as experience Afro-Peruvian and Criollo music .
The famous “Bajada a los Banos” footpath was constructed in 1870 leading from Barranco to the cliffs overlooking the ocean. The Bridge of Sighs, Barranco’s district landmark, was built shortly after and overlooks the footpath. Tradition maintains that if you make a wish and cross the bridge for the first time without taking a breath, your wish will be fulfilled.
Barranco is a worthy spot to visit inLima. From trendy cafes to the rich culture, we recommend you stop by.
There are many great reasons to visit Arequipa and the Santa Catalina Monastery is definitely a highlight in this fascinating city. The history of the beautiful and sizeable grounds (approximately 215,000 square feet) is fascinating and walking around the grand walled complex will immediately take you back in time a few hundred years.
Built in 1579, the founder of the monastery was Maria de Guzman, a wealthy widow. According to traditions of the time the second daughter (or son) would give their life to service in the church. However Santa Catalina was exclusive and Maria chose to only accept women from upper-class Spanish families who paid a dowry upon admission. The cost to be a choir nun was approximately US$150,000 today, and each one had their own private quarters and a servant upon entry. They were also required to bring statues, paintings, lamps, and clothes and some even brought English china, silk curtains and rugs.
In 1871 Sister Josefa Cadena was sent to Arequipa by Pope Pius IX to reform the monastery. She sent dowries back to Europe and freed all the servants and slaves. The nuns had the choice to remain in service or leave the church. At the height of its success, Santa Catalina housed approximately 150 nuns and 300 servants. One such nun, Sor Ana, was renowned for her accurate predictions of the future and the miracles she performed.
The monastery was damaged twice during earthquakes in 1960s, however has since been restored by the World Monuments Fund. What remains today is essentially a small village with narrow streets and a myriad of colorful buildings arranged in cloisters with living quarters, a plaza, a gallery and a chapel. Much of the compound is built from sillar, the white volcanic rock which gives Arequipa its nickname of The White City. While the monastery is now open to the general public for viewing, approximately twenty nuns still reside in the complex.
The grounds can be visited most days and on Tuesday and Thursday evening you have the option of taking a tour by candlelight retracing the footsteps of the Dominican nuns of the past.
In 2015, Peruvian cuisine was thrust into the limelight as Peru was named “World’s leading culinary destination”. It is not the first time the cuisine has been recognized as such, and it definitely won’t be the last. Internationally renowned Peruvian chef, Gastón Acurio, discovered this over 15 years when he opened his first Peruvian restaurant. Fast forward to today and he now manages over 30 Peruvian restaurants worldwide – such is the popularity of Peruvian food today.
What makes Peruvian food so unique?
Over time, it has been influenced from around the globe and today the result is outstanding . Food that Peruvians know and love such as ceviche, lomo saltado and picarones have reached all corners of the globe. From the traditional picanterias of Arequipa to the modern novo-Andean cuisine, Peruvian cuisine has a promising future in far-flung capitals including Sydney, Paris, New York and London.
Lima, of course, is fast gaining a reputation for being one of the leading gastronomic capitals of the world. Last year, Central in Lima was named the number 1 restaurant amongst the 50 Best South American Restaurants for the second year running – an amazing honor for chef Virgilio Martínez Véliz and Peru . Gastón’s, Astrid y Gastón were awarded third place and Maido, Mitsuharu Tsumura’s Japanese-Peruvian restaurant followed closely in fifth place. All 3 distinctions in the top ten restaurants in Latin America go a long way in ensuring the enormous popularity and success of Peruvian cuisine.
The mix and flavours of Peruvian food lie at the heart of its success – a strong heritage offering seafood, beef, chicken and pork delicacies. Alpaca and cuy (guinea pig) are achieving worldwide notoriety, and as you would expect, the emphasis remains on ingredients such as corn, quinoa, potato, and aji.
Arroz con pato (rice with duck), rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy peppers), anticuchos de corazon (grilled heart), causa relleno (layered potato dish) and papas a la huancaina (potatoes in spicy cheese sauce) have found a home in the hearts of many especially when washed down with a pisco sour.
When you think of Peru, instantly, huge untouched parcels of land spring to mind. Pacaya Samiria is one such piece of land and is one of the largest protected areas in the whole of Peru and the Amazon region. Located approximately 180 kilometres from Iquitos, it is said to cover over 2,000,000 hectares. The purpose of the reserve is to preserve the human, animal and plant population for future generations to come.
Inside the national reserve, there are three river basins (Pacaya, Samiria, and Yanayacu-Pucate) as well as many lakes, gorges, creeks, and canals. Pacaya Samiria is known as the ‘Mirrored Forest’ due to the large pools of water and is accessible only by boat.
This fertile area is home to many Amazonian mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and plants which make it a destination worth visiting, particularly for those who enjoy a spot of bird-watching or exploring. From playful monkeys to pink dolphins and a myriad of colorful butterflies, the panorama is spectacular. Alert visitors have also been known to spy the slow sloth and the sleek jaguar in the jungle; while night time brings caiman and capybara spotting to the forefront.
During October through to April, the area experiences the rainy season and the waters naturally rise, flooding a large part of the rainforest. This period is known as the crescent, and the mammals take to the higher branches. Reflex is from May to September when the rain decreases, and the water levels drop; large beaches are formed during this period and the charapa and the taricaya aquatic turtles come to these areas to lay eggs.
Due to its remote location, the best way to experience the beauty of the Amazonian rain forest is through a guided tour. Whether you opt for an excursion during the wet or the dry season, your visit will be stimulating for all the senses.
Huchuy Qosqo (translated to mean ‘little Cusco’) is an Inca archaeological site in the Sacred Valley; older than its better-known counterparts of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, yet equally rewarding to visit. Abandoned by the time the Spanish arrived and accessible on foot, the original Inca trails and ruins can be viewed with a two-day walk (or alternatively in one day from Chinchero) or can be an alternative trek to Machu Picchu.
The Huchuy Qosqo trail provides a worthy option for those looking to learn more about the Inca culture. If the trek is combined with Machu Picchu, it will generally end with an exploration of the ancient citadel on day three.
The walk begins in Cusco and takes you through scenic hills and alpine lakes allowing you to appreciate the llamas and other local flora and fauna without interruption. Savor the beautiful views overlooking Cusco as you set off and explore Tambomachay, one of Cusco’s more notable ruins. Following a 12km hike on day one, you will camp at Pucamarca in preparation for day 2 of the hike. After breakfast, the trek continues through a spectacular canyon providing you with a stunning view of the Sacred Valley. You will then have the chance to explore the ruins at Huchuy Qosqo after which you can return to Cusco or continue on to Machu Picchu.
A variation to this route starts from Chinchero and goes via the village of Tauqaq.
The Huchuy Qosqo trek, while considered an easy hike, does reach dizzying heights at approximately 4,000 meters. Giving you the opportunity to explore Peru off the beaten track, the Huchuy Qosqo trek is one we recommend if you can fit it into your itinerary.
You will undoubtedly have heard of the Amazon River but have you heard of Mismi? Mismi is a mountain peak located in the Andes mountain range near Arequipa, Peru, about 160km west of Lake Titicaca, and was recently identified as the most distant source of the Amazon River. It is also one of the highest points near the Colca Canyon. Whilst the river does not flow directly into the Amazon, it does flow into Qarwasanta and Apachita, and then the Apurimac River which eventually joins the Marañon River to reach the Amazon River itself.
In 1982, Jean-Michel Cousteau led an $11 million expedition to discover the origins of the Amazon River. Cousteau’s expedition culminated in a six-hour television documentary entitled “Cousteau’s Amazon”. Support bases were established in Cusco, Arequipa and Caylloma to discover the original source of the infamous river. Up until 1982, the source had baffled scientists and explorers alike, and many sites had been put forward before this discovery.
In 2001, it was again verified by the National Geographic Society as the glacial source and satellite mapping has since confirmed this fact. While Cousteau’s expedition was not the first to name the source, it was certainly the most high-profile.
Mismi Mountain, thanks to these high-profile discoveries, is becoming a popular destination for trekkers and mountain climbers looking to visit remote destinations. But it can also be reached by a 4×4 wheels drive from Yanque on a full day excursion.
What begins as a trickle of water off of the cliff high in the Peruvian Andes turns into the largest river in the world, the mighty Amazon. Until recently the Nile was thought to be the longest river in the world, this confirmation of the origin may also make the Amazon the longest as well as the largest. It definitely goes without saying that this is an exciting discovery for Peru and in particular, tourism in the area.
Chan Chan is the largest Pre-Columbian city in South America originally spanning some 20km and located in Northern Peru in the Moche Valley just west of Trujillo. Despite the fact it once housed 60,000 inhabitants of the Chimu Empire, it is not as well-known as Machu Picchu or as popular. Built in 850 A.D., it would have been very impressive in its heyday particularly in light of the fact it was the largest adobe city in the world surrounded by walls 15-18m in height.
Chan Chan was the seat of power for an empire which stretched for approximately 960 km from the south of Ecuador down to central Peru. Chan Chan fell into decline after it was conquered by the Inca and the city was looted by the Spaniards during their reign.
What remains today, however, is still a sight to behold. The city once consisted of 10 walled citadels all containing plazas, temples, residences, storerooms and burial mounds filled with offerings as well as chambers containing ceramics and jewelry. While Chan Chan was built on a bleak coastal area of Peru with much water shortage, fields and gardens thrived due to a sophisticated network of canals, irrigation systems and wells.
Currently facing erosion on a grand scale, much of the site is covered with tent-like structures to protect it from the elements and further erosion. II In 1986, UNESCO named Chan Chan a World Heritage Site. Serious concerns remain about the structure which is constantly being damaged by strong winds and rains, and preservation methods are being sought.
The Tschudi Complex has been partially restored, and the grand scale of the original design is evident throughout. From the courtyards to the assembly rooms, you can enjoy the adobe friezes and wander around the impressive ruins. Should you decide to visit Chan Chan, it will remain a highlight of your Peruvian tour.
The Tambopata National Reserve is a fascinating area to explore in Peru and accessible from Puerto Maldonado. Located between the Tambopata and Heath Rivers, the reserve has dense forests and marshes and covers over 250,000 hectares.
Imagine beautiful lush scenery, full to the brim with tropical flora and fauna; an amazing array of birds, butterflies, mammals, fish, reptiles presenting you with an adventure of a lifetime. In fact, new species of animals, birds and insects are discovered on a regular basis as much of the area is yet to be explored.
The macaw clay lick is an interesting place to visit as, like clockwork every morning, six different species of macaws, parakeets and parrots gather here to eat the clay on the cliff. Sometimes they are joined by tapirs, capybaras and squirrels while red howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys and titi monkeys watch on.
For those who like a bit of an adventure, try the Inkaterra Canopy, which stands at approximately 30 meters in height and 344 meters in length. A birdseye view of the rainforest will open up as you walk across hanging bridges, observation platforms and two towers.
You can visit Sandoval Lake and try canoeing or take a night tour to spot the caimans in the area. Venture out during the day for a chance to see the otters at play or to enjoy a forest excursion.
This area is remote yet surprisingly accessible and will be a memorable extension to your trip in Peru. If you are interested in visiting this area, contact us for more details.
Roberto D’Amico and the dedicated travel team at Perú InsideOut do more than just offer tours to Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador. They have extensive travel experience of all four South American destinations and first-hand knowledge on all the tours they promote.
They have a real passion for travel, and this is demonstrated by the tours they provide. They have personally designed tours to popular destinations like Machu Picchu and Lima, and they take you off the beaten track to visit other gems such as Chan Chan and Kuelap, all fascinating in their own right. They also believe in travelling responsibly, supporting the local communities and individuals who are happy to open up their homes and share their culture and traditions like in Amantani.
Based in Arequipa and with agents throughout Peru and main Bolivian destinations, Perú InsideOut enjoy what they do. They work with a wide and reliable network of qualified agents and travel guides who pride themselves on their knowledge of Peru and it shows in all the tours they provide. You will come away with a richer and better understanding of the culture, traditions and history and a genuine love for all things Peruvian.
When you book a tour with Perú InsideOut, you know you are in safe hands. From the time you are met at the airport to the time you leave to return home, you are supported and guided the whole way. More than a traditional travel agency, Roberto and the team can put together a comprehensive travel itinerary to meet your personal needs.
If Peru, Bolivia, Chile or Ecuador are the focus of your next trip, Perú InsideOut will be only too happy to create an itinerary to meet your schedule, your interests and your budget.
Peru is one holiday destination that never disappoints especially when it is packaged and presented as spectacularly as our flagship tour offer available August 2016. Perú InsideOut’s Machu Picchu Classic August 2016 Tour not only takes you to the wondrous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, but you get to explore fascinating parts of Peru that you never thought possible. From the depths of the Colca Canyon to the splendid waters of Lake Titicaca, from the cosmopolitan city of Lima to the ancient capital of Cusco; Perú InsideOut gives you the opportunity to experience all of this and more. Add the amazing flora and fauna of the Ballestas Islands and the mysterious Nazca Lines and you have a South American holiday that you will never forget.
Day 1: Your trip will start in Lima – you will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel.
Day 2: Tour colonial Lima and travel to Paracas with a VIP bus service.
Day 3: Sea lions, penguins, and sea birds abound in today’s tour of the Ballestas Islands. Tour Paracas National Reserve before embarking on the drive to Nazca.
Day 4: View the much acclaimed Nazca Lines (optional plane ride) and try and imagine about their origin. Spend the evening in Arequipa.
Day 5: Wander around the resplendent Santa Catalina Monastery and sample the delights at San Camilo market.
Day 6: Travel to the Colca Canyon taking in the scenery that the Peruvian countryside has to offer. After a traditional lunch, you will spend the night in Yanque.
Day 7: See the condors soar in their natural habitat at Cruz Del Condor after which you will journey to Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
Day 8: Turn back time with a relaxing visit to the floating islands of Uros, and Taquile, where you can learn more about traditional Andean hand-woven practices.
Day 9: Travel to Cusco via the Ruta del Sol discovering the villages and sites along the way. Spend the night in the ancient Inca capital of Cusco.
Day 10: Delight in a tour of the temples and Inca remains based in and around Cusco followed by a trip to San Pedro market.
Day 11: Explore the ruins of Pisac and stroll the local markets picking up souvenirs in our Scred Valley tour . Savor lunch in Urubamba before heading to Ollantaytambo fortress to board the train to Aguas Calientes.
Day 12: Nothing compares to a visit of the citadel of Machu Picchu particularly at sunrise. Enjoy the views and learn about the history of this new wonder of the world before returning to Cusco.
Day 13: Your tour to Peru in August 2016 ends with your return flight to Lima.
Don’t let another year pass by without experiencing the best that Peru has to offer. Let your Andean adventure start today by getting in contact with Perú InsideOut.
Regardless of how you choose to reach Machu Picchu, there is no denying that the citadel is an amazing place to visit. It is a tourist attraction that draws in visitors by the thousands each day and even surpasses expectations.
Whether you intend to do the Inca trail or travel by bus and train, you don’t want to be overladen with luggage. Here is our advice for a must-pack list.
Backpack. A solid backpack is a must and in fact, the smaller, the better. Most hotels in Cusco and surrounding area allow you to store larger luggage items while you visit Machu Picchu so make sure you have a small backpack or daypack at hand.
Water bottle. Of course, if you intend to do the Inca trail or another hike, you will need a water bottle or bag. Even day visitors will need a steady supply of water. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things during this visit.
Rain jacket/Light jacket. Depending on the time of year (wet summer season: October to March and dry winter season, April to September), a rain jacket or light jacket will keep you dry and warm and is a must during the rainy season. The weather can be very changeable, hence wearing layers of clothing is recommended.
Sun hat and sunglasses. While Machu Picchu is at a lower altitude compared to Cusco, it still sits at 2,430m above sea level. Therefore, a hat and sunglasses are advisable to avoid getting sunburnt. Even when it is cloudy the sunrays are strong and you may not notice that you are getting burnt: taking the necessary precautions is important.
Sunscreen and lip balm. A high SPF sunscreen and a lip balm with SPF to help hydrate and protect your lips and skin are also necessary as you wander through the ruins. Again you must ensure you keep hydrated at all times.
Camera. A good quality camera is a must to capture the beauty of Machu Picchu. The views are spectacular, and you will want to take that all-important selfie to show you were there.
Gloves. Depending on the time of year you will climb the peak, you might wish to have a pair of gloves– even better if waterproof.
Swimsuit. This item might surprise you, but Aguas Calientes has hot springs and you might enjoy a dip in the naturally warm waters.
Packing for the Inca Trail
If you intend hiking, you will need the following items, over and above what we have already mentioned. We recommend a sleeping mat, sleeping bag, quality hiking gear including hiking boots, walking stick, flashlight or headlamp, comfortable clothing including hiking trousers, insect spray, earplugs, personal toiletries including wet wipes, medication, toothbrush and toothpaste, as well as snacks for the journey such as energy bars. Trekking from December to January is not recommended because of weather conditions. The Inca Trail closes every year during February for maintenance.
Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, is surrounded by so much natural beauty – from the mind-blowing depths of the Cotahuasi Canyon, to the Misti Volcano providing a spectacular backdrop to the city. For those who are looking for something slightly off the beaten track, (over 370km outside of Peru to be exact) consider the Valley of the Volcanoes formed in the Quaternary age.
Spectacularly moon-like, the Valley of the Volcanoes is an amazing geological formation featuring more than 80 non-active volcanoes. Surrounded by desert landscape, despite being in the valley of Andagua River, this 65km stretch is fascinating to visit. Situated between the Colca and the Cotahuasi Canyon, this trip provides amazing unparealled views. These craters range in size and height (some less than 20 meters) and provide stunning views of the valley. The highest volcano in Peru, Mount Coropuna which stands at 6,425m, and Chachas Lake are also located in this region.
Devoid of tourists, the Valley of the Volcanoes is an adventurer’s and trekker’s paradise. Sighted by Robert Shippee and George Johnson in 1929 as they flew over the valley, you will have the opportunity to admire this beautiful lunar scenery.
Despite much of the landscape having been built by lava, robust flora survives. Much of it consists of cacti such as sanqallos and chacacoma used by locals for medicinal purposes. You may also spot a few viscacha, a chinchilla that looks like a rabbit except for its rather long tail.
For those who have the time and the inclination, the Valley of the Volcanoes is worth a diversion from your itinerary.
In 1987 one of the most spectacular archeological finds occurred in Peru; several Moche mummies and burial artifacts were discovered at Huaca Rajada, near Sipan. As fate or luck would have it, the main tomb was hiding the remains of the Lord of Sipán, as he was aptly named at the time. The Lord of Sipán was found to be intact and miraculously untouched by thieves thus offering an insight into the Moche culture.
Huaca Rajada was built as a monument by the Moche culture and consisted of two small adobe pyramids and a low platform. The earlier pyramid was built sometime before 300 AD and the second pyramid approximately around 700 AD.
While many skeletons were found in the area, the Lord of Sipán is the most impressive by far. Thought to be around 1.63 meters in height and 35-45 years old at the time of his death, his splendid regalia made the find truly spectacular. He was buried with elaborate jewelry and ornaments including a headdress, a face mask and a breastplate bearing the head of a man and the body of an octopus. He was also wearing two necklaces with gold and silver beads in the shape of maní (peanuts) to represent the earth the people return to when they die. The ornaments are in gold, silver, copper and have many semi-precious stones.
Buried with the Lord of Sipán were six others: three women in ceremonial clothing (thought to be wives or concubines), two males with amputated feet (possibly warriors) and a dog. 451 ceremonial items and offerings to the gods were also discovered.
An older tomb was found in the same area with similar burial artifacts, and the mummy was named The Old Lord of Sipán as his rank was thought to have been equal to that of the Lord of Sipán. After DNA analysis had been carried out, it was discovered that the two mummies were related via the maternal line. The tomb also contained a metal crown and other religious artifacts and the remains of two other people, a young woman and a man, again with amputated feet.
A total of 14 tombs were uncovered in the area making this an extremely rich find for those interested in archeology and history. You can visit the Royal Tombs Museum of Sipán, in Lambayeque, where the ancient Moche tombs are reproduced and you will be able to admire some of these important finds.
Spending the night on Amantani Island, a remote island on Lake Titicaca, is a unique experience. Known as the island of Kantuta because the Peruvian national flower grows in abundance, a homestay on the island will allow you to experience the traditional way of life and some delicious home cooking.
Guests will enjoy homestays in different locations and with different owners. One thing will be common to each experience: the authenticity and the warmth that accompany greetings.
A stay on the island includes lunch, breakfast and dinner allowing you to taste the delights of local cooking. The food generally consists of a quinoa and vegetable soup as a starter, followed by a vegetables dish, potatoes, cheese and rice; or a variation thereof. Pancakes with jam are served for breakfast, and all meals are accompanied by a cup of muña tea.
A visit to the island is not all about food and drink. In the afternoon, you are given ample time to explore Amantani and climb to the top of the island to visit the Pachamama and Pachatata temples. The view from the highest point is stunning at sunset and well worth the hike.
At night the temperature drops, so be prepared to feel a little cooler in the evening. And waking up to the sights and sounds of a car-less and breathtakingly quiet island is particularly distinctive, especially if you are familiar with the busy cities in Peru.
Visitors on this tour to Amantani will have the opportunity to enjoy the unique beauty and tranquility of the Lake Titicaca islands.
Love it or hate it, there is no denying that La Paz has a great effect on all who visit. Surrounded by mountains in all directions, La Paz in Bolivia sits at a dizzying height of 3500m. Because of the geographical position, you might need a day or two to acclimatize to the surroundings before you explore. And to make things even more impressive, towering above this fascinating and diverse city, Mount Illimani is a breathtaking backdrop – the highest mountain in the Cordillera Real, standing at 6,438 meters.
Up until this year, touring the city on foot was definitely the best choice to take in the sights and the sounds. However, since the world’s highest cable car was inaugurated, many visitors are opting for this scenic option between La Paz and neighboring El Alto to experience the city from high above. The cable car ride cuts off an impressive 50 minutes for those who are travelling between the two cities and costs less than US$1 each way.
Once you come down to city level, you have the opportunity to admire the many facets of La Paz. You can wander the quaint alleyways and markets, take in the museums, or enjoy a coffee at the trendy eateries and coffee shops which are now popping up in various parts of the city.
La Paz, is a great way to get to know Bolivia and to discover the vibrancy that this country has to offer. It is growing in more ways than one – finding the balance between the indigenous natives and the European inhabitants and coming into its own. Bolivia’s cultural and artistic endeavors will start to put cities like La Paz firmly on the tourist map, where it rightly deserves to be.