Our time in Peru was quite an adventure. We were asked why we chose Peru a lot of times from locals and taxi drivers there. Even though our instant answer was Machu Picchu, we truly fell in love with the different culture and natural treasures the country had to offer. Here are some beautiful pictures of the variety of landscapes from Peru before we dive into details.
When to travel? The winter(dry season) is from May to September. This is the most preferred time to travel. The summer is from December to March but rains a lot due to monsoon season.
How to get around Peru? If you want to cover multiple cities, chances are you will take a plane, bus, train and a car here. See why in each cases below.
Currency: In most places they prefer taking cash over card. Suggestion is to exchange currency in Lima/Cusco town where you get to exchange for good rates. Avoid airports for heavy service fee.
Language: You can get around with speaking English in Lima, but might have to use Google translate for Spanish in the other cities. Especially with Taxi drivers and in markets. I had the offline version app handy.
The best way to get to Cusco from Lima is by plane. Cusco is worth spending a couple of days. Once the capital city of the Incas, you will get to experience the flavor of ancient Peru here. It will also help you get used to the high altitude, adore the alpacas, explore the local markets, the animal sanctuaries, eat delicious food and do some shopping.
Cusco is flooded with tourists as it is the stop over for Machu Picchu visitors as well. But you will love it regardless. It is easy to get around and the people are friendly. It is always better to keep an extra eye on your belongings. I was surprised to find Uber here and it was super cheap. Some rides were 1 USD to 3 USD.
Cusquenos are a very proud people, descendants of the Incas. Within the city you’ll find a mix of styles, ranging from the traditional to the modern and everywhere else in between – a combination only found in Cusco.
A 3 hour drive from Cusco and a 45 minute (supposedly) strenuous hike to the lake, this is an amazing one day trip. This hidden sacred beauty sits at 13,779 feet above sea level. It is truly breathtaking with majestic snow capped mountains and turquoise water.
There are multiple tours that take you from Cusco but we would highly recommend you to take a taxi (that seats 4) that would cost around 75 USD both ways. The bus to get here is about 50 USD per person. So you will actually save by taking a taxi for a group of two or more in terms of cost and time.
This man made wonder among the clouds, hidden within the majestic mountains is simply magical. We couldn’t help but marvel at the brilliance of the Incas and their engineering accomplishments.
Once you get to Cusco, you will most likely be taking the Peru rail to Aguas Calientes, unless you are hiking the Inca trail (4 day hike) to get to Machu Picchu. The 3 hour train ride is a experience on its own. With amazing service on board, fair priced food (Pisco Sour included 😉)the scenic route through the sacred valley and Urubamba river, we did not want the train ride to end.
From Aguas Calientes, you can either hike or take a bus (20 min). It is best to visit soon as UNESCO is considering to limit the visitor in an attempt to preserve this heritage.
We strongly advise to book the entrance tickets way in advance. The time slots to visit has reduced compared to the previous years. So staying in Aguas Calientes for a day to experience the sunset/sunrise based on your time slot, is a great idea as you can imagine how heavenly it will be to see the ruins during the golden hour.
The Incas spoke a language called Quechua and many people still speak the language to this day. Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain” when translated from Quechua into English.
The stones were either pushed up the mountain by the bare hands of hundreds of men or chiseled from the side of the mountain itself. It is also a testament to the structural integrity of the site that it still stands, through earthquakes, constant torrential rain and, now, heavy tourism.
Walking among the ruins, we could see how the Incas mastered the ashlar technique where blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar. The stones are so tightly fit you can’t even fit a blade between them.
Peru is extremely earthquake-prone, every building built in Machu Picchu was made earthquake-resistant by the Incas! When an earthquake does strike, it is said that the stones of Machu Picchu dance.
Another one day trip from Cusco is the sacred valley which consists of Pisac, Yucay, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. All this places has pre-Hispanic archaeological ruins that were built by different Incas and used as citadels or resting places.
Cascading down a hillside valley like uneven steps, the Salinas de Maras (as they are known in the local tongue) were first created sometime in the 1400s by the Incas. It is an impressive complex of salt exploitation. A natural spring feeds a salt-rich stream that flows down into the pools, which are then opened and dammed individually as needed. Once one of the pools is filled, the water is allowed to evaporate, and then the salt crystals are scraped off the ground with simple instruments. Then the whole process begins again.
Getting around Sacred valley can be most efficiently done by hiring a taxi. As there are multiple stops, this will give you the luxury to experience at your own pace.
Moray is known as the agricultural laboratory during the Inca times. They used these terraces to test the crops during the different micro climates.
In ancient times, the surrounding hills in sacred valley acted almost like a buffer against the violent Andean jungle tribes that would often raid the highlands. Although there is evidence to suggest the valley was inhabited as far back as the Stone Age, it was only farmed by the Incas. In fact, even today the valley is an important agricultural area and many forms of crops are still grown there and supplied to Cusco.
Pisac Market is the best place to buy souvenirs. The market sells everything from Alpaca jumpers to finely decorated Andean pottery. Be prepared to bargain for your purchases!
This beauty is the highest navigable lake in the world. The stunning nature and the clear lake takes your breath away. You will get a chance to get a glimpse of how local indigenous peoples live, and visits to Inca ruins that continue to tell an enthralling story unique to the region.
The Uros islands are a group of 70 man-made totora reed islands floating on Peru’s Lake Titicaca. Its inhabitants, the Uros tribe, pre-date Incan civilization. We got to stay in one of the floating islands and it was an eye opening experience. The host who own the floating island gave a wonderful tour of the floating islands and introduced to his family and friends during our boat ride. It had a huge impact on how I learn local culture vs hearing that from a tour guids/reading from a book.
The colorful boats you see in yellow and green in pictures below are made out of 10,000 plastic bottles. They make the best use of recycling plastics and live consciously in these islands.
Each island can house up to 10 families and are tethered together by rope so they do not drift apart and anchored by eucalyptus tree trunks. There are no walls on the islands except for the reed ones that make up the peoples’ homes, and nothing to stop you from dropping over the edge into the water. Needles to say we had one of a kind experience staying here!
This extra ordinary oasis was a day trip from Lima. We had an amazing time in dune buggy and sand boarding in the desert. This is an unforgettable experience for adventure lovers in Peru.
We booked a tour from Lima and also covered Paracas island on the way. There is a short boat ride to Islas Ballestas to spot the sea life.
Go with a hungry stomach! I had a long list of food to try in Peru. Lima satisfied them all. It will be an understatement to say Lima is a food haven. Some of my favorites listed below:
- Aji de gallina
- Papas a la huancaina
- Quinoa soup
- Anything Chifa
- Peruvian Chicha Morada
- Aji de Gallina
- Jungle fruit
- Coca tea
- Pisco Sour
- Palta a la Reina
- Milanesa de Pollo
- Te Macho
- Inca Cola
Other attractions you might want to consider:
- Rainbow Mountain
- Colca Canyon
- Nazca lines
Thank you so much for visiting our blog. I truly believe Peru is one of the most beautiful country with diverse landscape and rich history. These pictures do not do justice and there is so much more to say about Peru. Hope you get to travel soon and explore Peru eco -friendly 🙂