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Touring Peru

PeruIn Peru all roads lead to Machu Picchu. The Qhapaq Ñan the road network of Tahuantinsuyo – The Inca Empire – embodies this. If Machu Picchu is among the new World Wonders, so should be Qhapaq Ñan, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. Many of the yearly visitors come to Machu Picchu hiking parts of Qhapaq Ñan through routes like the Classic Inca Trail, the Premium Inca Trail, or Huchuy Qosqo to Machu Picchu. It is no surprise that Machu Picchu is the climax of the journey through Peru.

However, Peru has so much more to offer. There are the three different environments of costa – the coast, sierra – the mountains, and selva – the jungle and there are many different civilizations that rose and fell through the long pre-latino history of today’s Peru.

Lima, the most visited city on the continent, has established itself as the gastronomical capital and the Mistura show is currently Peru’s most famous brand. Don’t miss this ten day festival of Peruvian cuisine. Lima with its elegant historical center, museums and galleries, vibrant modern districts, shopping centers, beautiful coastal parks, and the one and only bohemian neighborhood of Barranco is ready to please whichever may be your taste.

If you continue along the coast visit Paracas and Ballestas Islands National Reserve to see sea lions, penguins, and other marine life before exploring the ever mysterious animal, human and geometric geoglyphs of Nazca Lines. Another amazing stop is the wine and Pisco coastal region of Ica. Ica is a great place for wine tasting, adventure, but also relaxing. Visit Cerro Blanco – the South America’s highest sand dune with 2,080 meters. Take an adrenalin buggy ride through the dunes, try sand-boarding, or spend some peaceful time in the romantic Huacachina Oasis located about 5km away from the town of Ica.

Near the Nazca Lines there is the Museum and the tomb of Maria Reiche, who helped make the geoglyphs famous and protected by the Peruvian government. And also the town of Palpa, which is gradually gaining more recognition, because according to new archeological research Palpa Lines and the surrounding region is where the Nazca Civilization reached its final stage after abandoning their original location after a natural disaster.

Now you are close to Arequipa City and Colca Canyon. Arequipa is a very prosperous region and its Capital –Arequipa – is the second largest city of Peru. Visit Arequipa’s Main Square with beautifully designed sillar buildings that gave Arequipa its nickname: the White City – La Ciudad Blanca. Try the queso helado ice-cream, rocoto relleno, or cuy chactado – one of the tastiest Guiney pig recipes. Visit Santa Catalina convent, and Museum of the Andean Sanctuaries (Museo Santuarios Andinos) to learn about the human sacrifice practiced by the Incas and see one of them – the world famous Momia Juanita – the Inca Ice Maiden. Hike up the Misty Volcano. Observe the condors in the Colca Canyon.

The fastest way from Arequipa to Cusco is a flight. Now you are over 3,000 meters in altitude, so it is best to take it easy and start your visit with a rest. Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire, was once home to the largest building on the continent – Q’oricancha Temple. It was all the more impressive, because its walls were covered with gold. Learn about the Cusco School of Painting (Escuela Cusqueña) visiting the Cathedral on Plaza de Armas. The city’s outlying Inca ruins of Sacsayhuayman, Q’enko, Pukapukara, and Tambomachay can all be visited in one day. If you visit them on foot it will help you test your hiking stamina in the altitude before departing on a multi-day trek. There are many lovely shops that sell souvenirs, however the best place to buy them is the San Pedro Market located in a beautiful building designed by Gustave Eiffel. Experience the atmosphere of a traditional market; try a meal there, or a fresh juice. The fruit variety is overwhelming and smells great.

Important Cusco Holidays:

Inti Raymi

Santurantikuy

Corpus Cristi

1st August – the Day of the Pachamama and the Andean New Year

The most beutiful way from Cusco to Machu Picchu is through the picturesque Sacred Valley. Visit the ruins and traditional Andean market in Pisac. The best day for the market is Sunday, when the people from the local communities come to trade their produce. Don’t miss the Ollantaytambo town considered a living museum for its Inca infrastructure, stone terraces, temples, and the native people that continue to inhabit them. Both Pisac and Ollantaytambo are situated in lower altitude and tend to have more pleasant weather than Cusco.

It’s very easy to continue from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu by train. The trains go from Ollantaytrambo to Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo and back. (The other option is to take the direct train from Poroy station near Cusco.) From Aguas Calientes you can either take a bus up to Machu Picchu or hike a trail that ascends through the cloud forest. The very first bus leaves as early as 5:30am and there tends to be a line waiting for it hoping to see the sunrise if it is not too cloudy. The bus ride takes about 25 minutes. The hike up will take you about an hour and a half.  Taking the bus up and hike the trail back down to the station after your Machu Picchu visit is also an option. For more tips and information on Machu Picchu and when is the best time to visit read this, this, this, and this article from our Machu Picchu series.

Once back in Cusco after your Machu Picchu visit it is very easy to continue to the Titicaca Lake. There our sightseeing buses that leave Cusco in the morning and go through Andahuaylillas – known for its church, Raqchi – Wirachocha Temple, La Raya – the highest point on the route with beautiful mountain views, Pukara – famous for its torritos and pre-Inca culture, following the Ruta del Sol. You will be in Puno, the town on the Lake Titicaca’s shore late in the afternoon. More on visiting Lake Titicaca here, and here. Once finished your Titicaca cruise you have to options to continue with your journey: a bus ride to Bolivia or a flight back to Lima.

Peruvian Amazon is no less fascinating place to experience. There are two great options to visit the jungle from Cusco: Manu National Park and Tambopata National Reserve. Both places will recieve you with an overwhelming variety or trees, as well as of birds like macaws or toucan and Peruvian national bird Gallito de Rocas, insects like butterflies and spiders, and many other animals like monkeys, frogs, fish, turtles, otters, caiman, snakes, tapir, capybara, peccary, and of course the rare jaguar.

For those travellers who have a lot of time to explore Peru we recommend a sixteen day soft adventure Best of Southern Peru or a two-week combination of trekking and jungle Andes to Amazon trip. If you have only a few days and mainly want to see Machu Picchu we recommend four day Cusco Classic tour or three day easy Anta Pampa hike – both will help you to make the most of your limited time and take you to the Inca Citadel and back to Cusco.

Which was your favorite stop on your journey throughout Peru?

Travel tips for Peruvian North: Mancora, Chiclayo, Cajamarca, Trujillo, Piura, and Iquitos in one of our next articles.

 

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