September 2nd - 25th, 2017
We got a great deal on our flights to Peru through YVR Deals. Our round trip tickets were around 550 CAD, with a layover in Mexico City. Most (if not all) international flights to Lima land at night, so make sure you've booked a hotel ahead of time that will accommodate a late check-in.
Once in Lima, the best way to get around is either by taxi or Uber. At the airport, take a taxi instead of an Uber as it will save you from walking outside and dealing with a swarm of independent drivers offering you lower fare that can potentially lead to dangerous situations. Make sure you book your taxi from one of the official booths inside the airport. They will have your driver walk you out to their car. We used Taxi Green every time, but any of the booths will have similar prices and service. We were only comfortable taking taxis if we were at the airport or if our hotel called one for us. It's difficult when flagging one on the street to know if it's legitimate or not. In these cases, we relied on Uber, which we felt safe with each time.
Dazzler Hotel, Miraflores
Miraflores is a safe, walkable, scenic neighborhood in Lima, and is where the majority of tourists stay. Lima's historic centre is about 20 min away by car.
La Rosa Nautica
Huaca Pucllana Restaurant
Spend a day walking around Miraflores. Check out Kennedy Park, where stray cats find a haven among the trees and gardens. Afterwards, head over to Larcomar Mall and enjoy the view of the coastline while perusing some shops. Walk along the Miraflores boardwalk until you reach a set of stairs down to the water. At the bottom, there is a nice pier featuring a restaurant called La Rosa Nautica at the end. Have lunch here before heading back up the stairs and continuing along the boardwalk to Parque del Amor. This small park consists of mosaic walls reminiscent of Park Guell in Barcelona. Continue your walk until you reach the Miraflores lighthouse and then head back toward your hotel to complete your loop.
Take an Uber into the historic city centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don't miss the Monastery of San Francisco. They have a really cool guided tour of the catacombs underneath the church, which served as Lima's first cemetery. The library inside the monastery is world-renowned and quite breathtaking. It houses over 25,000 books and is one of the most important libraries in South America. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed inside, but trust us when we say this tour is totally worth it. Afterwards, walk around the Plaza de Armas (also known as Plaza Mayor, or main square) which features the Lima Cathedral and Government Palace. If you're lucky, you might see the changing of the guard at the palace.
When you're done exploring the centre, take an Uber back towards Miraflores and have them drop you off at Huaca Pucllana, a pre-Inca site that served as an important ceremonial and administrative centre for the Lima people, who flourished between 200 and 700 AD. The guided tour will show you how the Lima people lived, and how some of their building practices were adopted by the Inca. You can either walk back to your hotel from here, or take another Uber.
Fly (we chose Peruvian Airlines)
This company was fantastic. They picked us up from the airport and gave us a tour of Iquitos before driving us to Nauta where we caught a boat that took us to our lodge. We chose to stay in Treehouse 6 as it was the highest one, and it was such an incredible experience to sleep so close to nature and hear the constant sound of life in the jungle. Each treehouse has a bathroom and cold shower, and all meals are provided in the dining lodge. The food is fresh, varied and delicious and we still think back to some of the incredible and beautifully presented meals we had there.
Every treehouse has their own guide for the duration of the stay, and they take you on all sorts of excursions including:
Afternoon walk through a few nearby villages
Nighttime boat trip to look for caimans
Early morning boat trip to see monkeys and fish for piranhas
Sunset boat trip to see pink dolphins and swim in the Amazon
Night walk through the jungle with headlamps
Morning jungle walk to learn about medicinal plants
We stayed for a total of two nights and we both felt like it was the perfect amount of time to experience everything. There are longer stays available too for those that feel like they want more time.
We used this hop on, hop off service for many legs of our trip. The company is very safe and reliable, and they make stops along the way at various points of interest. Their guides are friendly and knowledgeable. Peru Hop partners with local tour companies and offers various optional excursion packages which was extremely convenient for us. Their website makes it really easy to book your trip, change your itinerary and book your excursions (if you don't want to pay in cash on the bus). In most cases, they'll even pick you up and drop you off right at your hotel or hostel.
Trattoria (Hotel Paracas)
Ballestas Restaurant (Hotel Paracas)
In the morning, take a two hour tour of the Ballestas Islands, the "poor man's Galapagos". On the way, your guide will point out El Candelabro, a large geoglyph with mysterious origins. Once at the islands, you'll see Humboldt penguins, pelicans, seals and a looot of guano (bird poop) which is actually extremely coveted as a fertilizer. You can't actually step onto the islands themselves, but the boats take you up as close as possible to the wildlife.
After your tour, hop back on your Peru Hop bus to see the Paracas National Reserve. The bus stops at a few scenic viewpoints in this amazing reserve. The coastline, beaches and rock formations reminded us of the Portuguese coast. Breathtaking! Afterwards, depart towards Huacachina.
Restaurant at Casa de Arenas (Peru Hop's preferred accommodation)
Wild Olive Trattoria
Huacachina is a tiny oasis in the desert. It's actually the only oasis in South America! Being pretty small, people don't tend to spend much time here. The main attraction is the dune buggy tours that are offered by pretty much any of the accommodations in town, but booking through Peru Hop is always convenient. Enjoy the ride up and down the massive sand dunes, and be sure to give sand boarding a try too before catching a gorgeous desert sunset.
Go for a morning walk and climb up the dunes for a final view of the oasis below. Have lunch in town before catching your next Peru Hop bus towards Nazca.
Peru Hop will stop at El Catador winery for a tour and tasting before letting you check out a couple Nazca lines from a viewing tower on the side of the highway. You can opt for a flight to see more Nazca lines if you prefer, but it will require you to spend a night in Nazca. From there, Peru Hop provides a night bus to Arequipa, so settle in for a long night.
Peru Hop (night bus)
Los Robles (Hotel Libertador)
Check out the Santa Catalina Monastery in the morning, a still-functioning convent that was founded in 1579. The property spans 30,000 square meters and its immaculate grounds are lovely to walk through. It's like a city within a city.
Afterwards, continue walking through the historic city centre which features the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral and numerous other religious buildings. The city has a lot of Spanish influence which can be seen in its architecture. The entire historic city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Wake up bright and early to be picked up by your tour guide to see the Colca Canyon. You can opt to do a one day tour, or you can stretch the trip out over a couple of days. You can also choose to hike down to the bottom of the canyon. This was probably our least favorite tour, because they crammed so many stops in one day. However, we still think it was our best bet to see the canyon, and we lucked out at Cruz del Condor and saw lots of condors flying which was pretty cool.
Fun fact: The Andean condor is the largest flying bird in the world, with a wingspan of over 3 m.
Restaurante Alma (Casa Andina Premium Puno)
The main attraction in Puno is Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. You can either do a two hour tour of the Uros Floating Islands, or a full day tour that includes Taquile Island as well. You could also do an overnight stay on Amantani Island with a host family.
For the full day trip that we opted for, your guide will pick you up at your hotel pretty early in the morning and take you to the port. The first stop are the Uros Floating Islands. These unique islands are made of totora reeds and are inhabited by the Uros people. There are about 70 artificial islands in total, each measuring around 2m thick and lasting 30 years before needing to be rebuilt. You'll see how the islands are constructed and how the Uros people live. They are very friendly and thrive on tourism.
Next, you'll head over to Taquile Island, which is known for its textile art. You'll have a delicious homemade lunch at a local family's property and learn about their culture's knitting and weaving practices. Traditionally, the men do all the knitting and the women do the weaving. Taquile island is beautiful and reminded us a bit of Greece.
We chose to take Inka Express instead of Peru Hop for this leg of our trip because Peru Hop only offered a night bus on the day we were traveling, and we had read that the drive from Puno to Cusco was very beautiful. We're happy we chose this option! Inka Express stopped at numerous interesting places along the way, and we were treated to a wonderful buffet lunch. Our favorite stops were the Raqchi archaeological site, featuring the Temple of Wiracocha, as well as the San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas Church, known as the "Sistine Chapel of the Andes".
Garden Grille (Hilton Garden Inn)
Head over to the Plaza de Armas in the morning and check out the Cathedral there. Make your way over to the Museo Inka and learn about the history of the Inca people. Check out the Twelve Angled Stone if you happen to be walking by, but there is no need to go out of your way to see it. Go see Qorikancha, the Temple of the Sun (once the most important temple in the Inca Empire). After lunch, take an Uber or walk up to the Cristo Blanco for a fabulous view of the city. This is a good acclimatization hike if you're planning to trek to Machu Picchu. You can also see the Saksaywaman ruins from here, they are just a short walk away. We opted not to go in, but they are open for visits if you're interested. Walk back down to the centre and wander the streets some more. There are lots of markets and shops to go into, so take your time and just experience the city.
Salkantay Trek - 6 nights (Mountain Lodges of Peru)
We cannot rave about this trek enough. It was singlehandedly the best part of our trip. We really wanted to hike in Peru but didn't feel like "roughing it" and camping in a foreign country, so we chose Mountain Lodges of Peru because they're the only ones currently offering lodge-to-lodge treks. It was 100% worth the extra cost. The entire experience was meticulously planned and executed. The trek was supplemented by cultural experiences such as visits to Inca ruins, villages, farms and plantations.
After a long day of hiking, we would arrive at these incredible lodges practically in the middle of nowhere and settle into our comfortable rooms. Each lodge has a hot tub, and you can book massages as well. The food was delicious, always something different and beautifully presented. There were 13 of us total in our group, and we got along really well with everyone. Our guides were fantastic, both really knowledgeable and charismatic. You could tell they loved what they do.
The last night of our hike was spent in Aguas Calientes at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. The hotel was included as part of the cost of the hike, and it was stunning.
From there, we took a bus up to Machu Picchu, the most recognizable landmark in Peru. What a sight! It's unfortunately packed with tourists, but there's always room to step off to the side somewhere for some peace and quiet.
From Aguas Calientes, we took Peru Rail and a bus back to Cusco, then flew back to Lima the following morning and headed home to Vancouver from there.
There you have it, that's how we spent 3 weeks in Peru!
Some general tips:
Stay at the nicest hotels you can afford. 3 to 5 star hotels in Peru are relatively inexpensive, and they provide you with an extra layer of safety and comfort. We ate most of our meals at our hotels, ensuring that breakfast was provided in our reservations and opting to eat many lunches and dinners in the on-site restaurants. As a result, we had many delicious meals and experienced no digestive issues.
Don't drink tap water unless you're certain it's filtered. Don't brush your teeth with it either. Use bottled water.
Avoid eating fresh cut up fruits and vegetables. Stick to fruit you can peel yourself, like bananas and oranges.
Have travel packs of tissues and hand sanitizer with you at all times. Many bathrooms in Peru won't have toilet paper or running water available.
Don't flush toilet paper, it will likely clog the toilet.
Give yourself at least two days to acclimatize once you get to high altitude, especially if you'll be hiking or walking a lot.
Make sure you have all the travel vaccinations and medication you need before entering Peru.
Let us know in the comments if you're planning your own trip to Peru and have questions for us, or if you've been already and have your own tips to share.