Peru is a land where you can find everything from beautiful beaches to mountains and volcanos, a big country with a whole lot to do. We loved Peru and if you are a nature type person we think you will to.
We started in Puno, which is a city just next to Lake Titicaca (shared with Bolivia). We didn’t do or see much of Puno as the main reason to go there was to find a tour to take us to Reed islands and stay on the Islands with local Peruvians.
We managed to find a tour pretty quickly which was 75 soles, so fairly cheap. We decided to go over for New Years as that would, if nothing else, at least make a memorable New Years.
The tour guide picked us up from our hostel in town and took us to the pier where we found the boat waiting for us. The boat we were on was probably the slowest boat we have ever been on. I am pretty sure you can swim faster than the boat.
Our first stop was the Reed Islands, or the floating islands. The locals make their own islands, pretty amazing actually. It takes around one year to make an island and it last around 8-10 years.
The process to create an island is explained by the chief from the island before the they start singing row, row, row your boat in both Spanish and English. We felt so uncomfortable watching this and at that point I felt like I had paid to go to a zoo… probably won’t be doing that again. It seemed quite degrading for the locals and really not benefical as a tourist
We had a couple of pieces of LEGO we had left over from doing perspective photos on the Bolivia salt flats. There we two children on the island so we decided to give them a LEGO figure each, they were very happy.. although maybe the parents didn’t appreciate it as much as the children did as they were fighting over the pieces within five minutes.
Next stop was the island where we were to sleep for the night. As we arrived we were allocated a “mamma” or a “papa”. We found our mamma and went back to her place. We met the whole family including the children and the grandparents. After some downtime we met up with the rest of the group and walked up to a viewing point with the sun gate.
After dinner at our mamma’s house we were dressed up in traditional clothing and met with what felt like the whole islands population in a community house for dancing and drinks. We are not all keen on dancing but you have to whether you want to or not.. the mamma’s and Papas will ensure that. At midnight we watched the fireworks from the different islands whilst we were dancing around the fire.
The next day we stopped at one more island before the went back to Puno on the slowest boat on earth which took around 4 hours.
This is a very nice city, the name translates to white city. It is surrounded by lots of volcanos and there are often earthquakes. There are lots of different things to see here including the monastery and the chocolate shop. The chocolate shop had an amazing carrot cake (unfortunately no tasters), and we were too cheap to go to the monastery (40 soles) but we heard good things about it.
Here we found a tour to Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in world. Twice the depth of the Grand Canyon at 3000m.
We decided to only go for two days, however after being there I would recommend going for at least three days. The first day is spent walking down and the second day is walking up. The landscape is very beautiful along the way and we ended up at an Oasis at the bottom.
Day 2 starts at 4am for a 6km walk up! This is done on no breakfast as you receive this at the end of the walk (bring snacks for breakfast) the walk wasn’t actually as hard as we expected. It took a good 2.5 hours to walk up.. slightly faster than we had been told so we were very happy. You can also pay for a donkey to get up but that’s slightly cheating. After breakfast they stop to see condors at the view point and if you are lucky you get to see a couple circling high above your head.
We did this via a tour, however if we are to ever do this again we would just get a bus to the village close to the Canyon and do the hike from there with no guide. This also means once you finish you don’t have to go on a two-hour bus ride to Arequipa and then trek back on yourself if you are going to Cusco as we had to. Four hours of that day was essentially wasted on the same road back and forth.
Here of course the main thing is to go to Machu Picchu.
Bus to Machu Picchu
We shopped around for a tour to see the ancient Inca city and managed to find something reasonably priced. We spent $85 per adult and $65 if you had a ICIS student card. This price includes, entrance, lunch, dinner and breakfast the following morning. The tour picks you up at 5am, drives for 7 hours with a quick lunch stop and then you walk along the train track from Hydro electrica to Aguascalientes for 2.5 hours.
We met our tour guide in front of the church at 5.30pm along with many other tourists doing the same tour as us. Very unorganised, lots of people shouting people’s name. Once they find you they don’t tick the name of simply tell you to stay in one place. 30min later they will then call all the names again, this time giving you the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu.
After some dinner you find the hostel and the tour guide hands out your “breakfast” for the morning. Handy tip, there is a rather pricey but delicious Paris bakery that opens at 4am if the breakfast doesn´t take your fancy
We started the walk 4.15am as the first check point only opens at 5am and then start the walk up what felt like thousands of stairs, it probably wasn’t that much. Anyway it took 45min and then you wait until the main gate opens at 6am.
You can avoid all the stairs by paying $USD 12 for one way, we of course were too cheap for that. And exercise first thing in the morning is always good right ?!?
We finally arrived, we walked in to see the amazing city… All we saw was cloud! It didn’t take long before it cleared for around 10 min and it was just as amazing as we expected. The whole morning we were there it cleared for about 10min every 20min.. so we had lots of opportunities to see the place.
Top tip: you can re enter if you leave, however you must have your ticket or ID with you. If you leave that with your friend, and go toilet, you can’t get back in
There are lots of different hikes you can take up to Machu Picchu including the official Inka trial for around $600 to Jungle trek from $150 to other random treks. Unless you want to go on the official trail there is no reason to book in advance. It very easy to find a tour going and haggle face to face is always easier than over email. The treks will also be cheaper if you book from Cusco.
We had heard so many horror stories about this place as we went during the winter and rainy season. We heard everything from snow to cloud so it took a while before we decided to go. It was so worth it. Lucky for us it didn’t really rain that day, no snow and no clouds covering the mountain.
What a view, the whole day you walk in the most beautiful surroundings. It was definitely a hard walk up to 5100 metres but so worth it. It is possible to get a horse for part of the day however again we felt this would be cheating and also not splashing out money for a horse when you can walk for free 🙂
Cost for the day 75 soles plus entrance of 10 soles. You get picked up at 3am and off you go, returning back to Cusco around 6pm.
Here you can get free tasters and free hot chocolate. You a grab a small shot glass and fill with hot chocolate.. so after you filled it 12 times you had the equivalent of 2 full cups of hot chocolate 🙂 and many other tasters and free wi-fi with us guessing the password correctly as “chocolate”. We went here 3 or 4 times during the time in Cusco.
There is a really good market close to the chocolate museum and the train station that sells everything.. if you want your clothes fixed or buy a guinea-pig to eat for dinner, you can buy it here. We loved the market, especially for the juice. There are around 30 different stalls, all next to each other with 30 different ladies shouting at you to come to their stall for their juice all made from the best ingredients. We ended up finding a good stall and we returned daily for our $2 freshly squeezed juice.
Cusco also has lots of massage parlours, treat yourself for only 20 soles for a one hour-long massage. That is $7 very well spent, especially after doing a bit of hiking.
Tip: Walk up to San Cristobal church for a great view of the city.
This is a small Oasis about 5km from the town Ica (taxi 9 soles). In terms of activities there isn’t much you can do here other than going on the dune buggy tour which also includes sandboarding. The sandboarding is slightly overrated as you can’t stand up on the board and you only go down three or four hills, however the tour is totally worth doing just for the crazy ride through the desert in the dune buggies. If you are lucky you get a crazy driver who will make the trip super fun. We have only heard of a couple of buggys turning over, so don’t worry about that 🙂 At the end of the tour is worth going up the highest point from where you can see a beautiful sunset and the whole “city”. We managed to get the tour for 40 soles including the “sand tax” of 5 soles.
There is a cool hostel called “Banana hostel” which is 75 soles per night including breakfast and one activity. The hostel did seem like a good place, however we decided to stay down the road for cheaper (20 soles, Hostel Desert) and hang out at Banana hostel and use their pool and bar during the day.
Tip. There are no supermarkets here and the hostels don’t have kitchens so not a place to stay on a budget. We found some cheapish food from the market but nothing worth writing home about.
Here we stayed at Hostel Alpez Huarez, which is a very decent hostel if you ignore all the passive aggressive notes hanging around the hostel. The staff is super friendly and the price was really good at 23 soles per night including breakfast.
One place we really wanted to go to was Huayhuash, an 8 day trek in amazing surrounding by mountains. This hike is rated by National geographic as the second most beautiful hike in the world. Unfortunately it was rainy season when we were there and no one would take us on the tour. The time to go for this is July.
This is probably the best-selling tour in Huarez and for a good reason. You spend around 3 hours walking up the laguna, which is pretty breathtaking.. in more than one way as its located at 4600m.
The tour starts at 5.30am by this time seems like a sleep in compared to some of the other tours we have been on. The price was 35 soles, booked through the hostel as this was around the same price as from the agencies in town.
Santa Cruz trek
See here Santa Cruz trek, Peru
This city at the north of Peru used to be a small fishing village and now its one of Perus most famous beach towns.
We arrived here after the night bus from Trujillo, walked down to the beach to find accommodation and due to an error with the manager being away we managed to get a private room at the Laguna surf camp for only 35 soles each. This place was really nice and luxury compared to normal. When the manager returned she was a bit unhappy with the price we got, we like mistakes like that 🙂
There isn’t too much to do in Mancora other than hang at the beach. If you want to party we would hugely recommend staying at Loki, however you may not sleep much while you are there. There are a lot of places to eat and drinks all around town for both budget and “normal” spending.
Kon Tiki Bungalows and Coffee, this place sits on the hill overlooking Mancora and its a lovely place for a sunset and a beer. The road up there is slighty odd, however use MAPS.ME and it will be easy to find. You can also stay up here, no dorms only private rooms.