(This is a brief re-write of the recap that was destroyed in the great disc-space crash of ReadWriteRun in December 2018)
I was so, so lucky to have the opportunity and ability to travel to Peru at the end of July/beginning of August. I chose to take an organized group tour for this one so as to see as much of the country as possible as efficiently as possible. Here’s how the trip played out!
We were in Lima, Peru’s largest city, during what it their mid-winter, so it was pretty cool and damp. That said, we really loved all the historical buildings, art, architecture, and (especially) the FOOD! My friend and I found gluten free and vegan options, and I for one loved me some ceviche! Here are a few pictures from our time in Lima.
Peru’s “White City” is at a far greater elevation than Lima, so although i was totally smitten by the architecture and the sunshine we found once we flew in, I was also somewhat altitude sick. I treated my symptoms by drinking A TON of (bottled) water and sucking on coca candies. I was feeling well enough by the end of our day there to try my first Pisco Sour!
Highlands & Colca Canyon
Next we took a ride through the highlands as we made our way towards the Colca Canyon area. The views were absolutely other-worldly. At first we went along miles of flat plaines dotted with llamas (WHICH I LOVE) and then we entered into some serious mountain ranges. We climbed to the highest altitude of the trip to take pictures near the top of a volcano; it was stunning and every cell in my body felt shattered due to the altitude. I had my first taste of coca tea that afternoon and felt a whole lot better, though. We passed through a few little towns where we got to learn about the amazing people of Colca Canyon, known for their colorful traditional clothing and hard-working mentalities.
Condor Crossing and Roadtrip to Puno
We then took a longer road trip towards Puno, making a few fun stops along the way. I was so, so thrilled to get to see a few condors at a viewing area in the Colca Canyon region! It really fueled me through the next few hours of sitting on a bus waiting to get to Puno, a city along the shore of Lake Titicaca.
Puno and Lake Titicaca
Once we arrived in Puno, my tour-buddies and I had a blast at a dinner show where performers did traditional dances of the various tribes in the area. Then the next mornign he headed out on a boat tour of Lake Titicaca. We visited the Uros floating islands and Taquile island, and took in so, so many beautiful sights.
That said…Puno was the highest altitude we got to on the trip. I’d woken up with blue lips and a migraine due to under-oxygenation and the only thing that saved me was copious amounts of vitamin C, water, and coca tea, and coca candies. Sidenote: coca is illegal in the USA, as it can be processed into cocaine.
Next we were off to Cuzco. Along the way we visited a few beautiful archeological sites, including Pisac. Once we arrived in Cuzco City, I fell in love, though. Firstly, it was at a somewhat lower altitude so I felt a whole lot better than the three days leading up to it. Also, it’s just a lively, colorful, and unbelievably historic city. I also didn’t mind the human-head-sized avocados for $.07 at the market… or the Starbucks in the main square!
Hiking the Inca Trail
A small group of us signed up to hike a portion of the Inca Trail towards Machu Picchu. This was my favorite day of the trip, especially since I’d been altitude sick and/or cooped up in a bus so often along the way and I was rearing to move my body. I loved seeing all the ancient Incan infrastructure that I’ve spent the last two years teaching my students about at work. I loved chatting with my tour-buddies and taking crazy pictures at insanely beautiful vistas. I loved being grimy with hair braids and a baseball cap and not giving a crap about how I might appear on Instagram.
The hike was about 10 miles of rigorous terrain with a whole lot of uphill along extremely narrow ancient roads. we actually had to walk one by one for the majority of the time. But the whole thing was so empowering and SO. FREAKING. WORTH. IT.
Okay, let’s be real: most people only know about Peru because of/for Machu Picchu. And Machu Picchu, and ancient Incan city hidden high, high up in the Andes mountains, is freaking spectacular. If you can go there…GO! See it for yourself!
Ugh, what an awesome trip!
So, here are my top tips for traveling to Peru:
- See a travel doctor before you go. Several vaccinations above and beyond standard American vaccinations are recommended for Peru.
- Spend time looking at weather forecasts! Peru is not only in a different hemisphere, it’s got some super variable terrain. It was 75 in Arequipa, but 35 a 2-hour drive away. Some people on my trip struggled with the relentless need to layer, and some had no idea it’d be winter there and showed up with all shorts. They had to do some serious shopping in Lima!
- DO. NOT. DRINK. THE. WATER. Even native Peruvians drink only bottled water. Don’t drink it, don’t use it to brush your teeth, and ask at restaurants whether they’re using bottled or tap water to wash produce; it matters.
- Bring A Good Book. If you’re trying to see a lot of the country, you’re going to be on busses/trains a whole lot. I read some fabulous romance novels along the way and it made the rides pass a lot quicker.
- BE SUPER OPEN! Peru was by far the most non-Americanized nation I have visited, and at times that can be tough. Even in Greece I was able to hit up a McDonalds when I was homesick. But not so much in Peru; their food, customs, weather, pace of life, and (obviously) language are super different from our own. If you’re prepared and open-minded, it’s wonderful. But if you’re not it can feel like a slog!
I hope you enjoyed this recap:) Comment below with any questions you have!