You know that trip you’ve been talking about for years? That was Peru for us. Two years ago, Cory bought me a guidebook for Christmas, and we’ve been dreaming of our adventure ever since. Our Peru dreams came true this month, and exceeded every expectation I had. I only wish we could’ve stayed longer. The following is an expansion of the recap I sent my family this week.
PART I: Puno
We flew from NYC to Lima and then straight down to Puno, which is on the southern end of the country and on Lake Titicaca. We spent a few days there, acclimating to the altitude and seeing the sights.
A highlight was a tour of Isla Taquile, a gorgeous island in Titicaca that is home to only about 2,000. It's known for textile and had amazing views — we could see Bolivia across the water. As part of the tour, we also saw the famous floating islands of Uros, which were undoubtedly unique. But we felt those were quite touristy, contrarily to Taquile, which felt pristine and untouched.
Where we stayed:
What we did:
PART II: Cusco & Sacred Valley
We flew from there to Cusco after a few days, which rapidly became one of my favorite cities I've ever been to. It's super quaint — lots of old buildings and well-preserved culture. It's a unique mix of being a modern stepping off point for Machu Picchu (there's a Patagonia store in the main city plaza) and being an old base for the Inca. We had some fun meals and explored the big church on our first day. Our first big adventure was an ATV tour of two sites in the Sacred Valley — Maras salt flats and Moray agricultural terraces. Going via ATV was a really awesome way of seeing more of the countryside and the greenest fields we've ever seen in our lives.
The next day we headed a bit out of the city again to tour four architectural sites: Tambo Machay, Qenko, Puko Pukara, and Sacsayhuaman. All were very cool to see, esp. the last, which is massive. The stonework of the Inca is incredible—still standing and perfect after all these years.
Where we stayed:
What we did:
PART III: Inca Trail & Machu Picchu
But, everything we did the first part of our trip was a leadup to the main adventure: the Inca Trail. We were picked up by our tour company at 4 am on morning and returned 4 days later, having had the adventure of our lives. Along with 5 other couples, 2 guides, and 20+ incredible porters, we retraced the steps the Inca took centuries ago. All together the trek is 26 miles and includes 3 summits—quite the challenge both physically and mentally. But we had a blast enjoying the sights, company and adventure. Along the way, as we ascended and descended, we experienced different microclimates, with such a unique mix of vegetation that made Cory the happiest guy. I particularly liked the stops at various historical sites along the way -- ruins of ancient buildings that were used by the Inca as homes, temples, and more.
On the final day, we were up at 3 in the pitch dark to get in line for entrance to Machu Picchu. The final burst was tough but exhilarating, and reaching the Sun Gate for our first view of the city was incredible. MP is down in a valley, so we looked down on it from above, with views of all the mountains around.
We made our way down, and it was odd to merge with the tourists who took the train up—of course, we stood out, not having showered in a few days. The ruins are bigger than you can imagine—an entire city in various states of preservation. Once we had our tour, we scaled Hyuana Picchu, the closest mountain, for a final challenge.
They limit visits to MP to 4 hours, so when our time unfortunately ran out, we headed to the nearby town of Aguas Calientes for a much-deserved meal and beers. The journey back to Cusco (via train & bus) was exhausting after all we'd done. Once back at our hotel, we enjoyed heavenly showers before crashing at like 8 pm.
The next day we treated ourselves to massages in the city center and walked around Cusco for the last time, sad to be leaving such a beautiful place. I think I could spend another few weeks just there!
What we did:
PART IV: Lima
Our last stop in the journey was Lima, which was not our favorite. Felt a lot like Miami or any other big city in South America. The highlights: We stayed in an adorable hotel in the touristy neighborhood, Miraflores, and had dinner at Astrid & Gaston, a Michelin starred restaurant that certainly lived up to Cory's expectations. The next day we had a late flight, so we spent time at the beach and explored the Huaca Pullana, a pre-Incan temple. Thanks to an overcast day, we forgot to adequately sunscreen up and headed home nice and burnt.