We booked a 24 day group travel to Peru with Djoser Travel agency. As we don’t (yet) speak Spanish and we didn’t feel comfortable to drive ourselves we thought a group travel was an easier approach to explore peru. We compared plenty of offers of different travel agencies, but Djoser was the only one which offered a combination of the 4 – day Inca trail with a 3 day Jungle extension. Take off was foreseen on 27th of September, the day Tom turned 40 year. Was there a better birthday gift than a travel to Peru 🙂
Day 0: Ibis Schiphol Amsterdam Airport
Djoser offers a special Park & Fly deal at the Ibis Schiphol Amsterdam Airport for the price of 75€ you can sleep the night before your departure and park your car free for 21 days. Also included is a free shuttle to and from the airport. As we did not want stress with the Belgian traffic on Friday mornings it was very convenient to head there Thursday evening after our last working day.
Day 1: Amsterdam – Lima
After a good night we moved with the hotel shuttle to the airport around 10 am. It is only a 10 minute drive and you are dropped off at the main terminal of Schiphol. We moved to the check in where the friendly lady of KLM noticed it was my birthday. She congratulated me and took note for the crew. Shortly after the departure both Marie-Claire and myself were threated on a glass of champagne and I received a hand written card of the crew. It was a nice attention and some surprised views around us while we enjoyed our glass of champagne in economy class 🙂
We flew with a Boeing 777-300 and due to early check in we were able to obtain row 30, middle area, which is just after the toilets and offers a little more space and no row of seats in front of you. There is also a small wall between the toilets and the row, so you are not bothered too much with passengers. Some people are afraid of the toilet area because people hanging around or the smell of the toilets, but no problem with that. The crew comes to inspect the toilets every 1.5 hour and uses some air freshener. People around are requested to go to their seats.
From the hotel we had a private bus to pick us up and navigate us through the incredible busy traffic of Lima. I felt lucky I did not had to drive myself. A 30 minute drive brought us to our hotel. A welcome drink and beer later, we decided to call it a night.
Hotel Mami Panchita: A rather big hotel in San Miguel district which means you’ll need a taxi to reach the centrum. A taxi ride with Beat costs around S15. The room it is selected as it’s the hotel of the local tour operator who managed the first part of our trip. For a self organised trip to Peru I would recommend a hotel closer to the historical centre. Breakfast is sober but with bread eggs, jam and coffee you have all what you need.
Day 2: Lima
Android Beat Ride app: As Uber is not working in Lima, we installed the Beat Ride app. When you don’t speak the local language, it’s very convenient to get a trustable taxi. You can specify your target address and know the price upfront. Something which is easier than local taxis, as there you have to negotiate the price up front.
There is a nice city walk described in the Lonely Planet to explore the historical center of Lima. It starts from the Plaza Bolivar, however, when we went to the center from our hotel, we asked the taxi driver to drop us of at Plaza de Armas. I advise you to start on the plaza Bolivar as it’s easier to reach by taxi and we lost a bit of time in traffic jam to be dropped of close to Plaza de Armas. You can easily go from one plaza to the other via the pedestrian street Jiron Junin. The famous shopping street has lost quite some of its charm, but still…
Just make sure you are present at the Plaza de Armas around 11:30 when the changing of the guard starts. First there is the big band and at 12:00 the real ceremony takes off. We have seen a couple of guard changes before, but nothing like this. It’s incredible and becomes a bit like Lord of the Dance near the end. Awesome!
After the historic center we visited the central market where you can really explore and experience how local people are living. You can can find everything on the local market from fish, meat, to juices, herbs, fruits and many other things. We enjoyed a freshly prepared fruit juice prepared by one of the friendly ladies.
From Chinatown we started to walk inthe direction of Miraflores. First we went through some parks, via the National Football stadium and the famous Magical Fountain Park. First we thought of visiting the kitch fountain, but we read on the internet that only at night, together with the lights it comes to its right. So we moved on and decided it was time for some cake. Not far from the fountain we found a cosy place for coffee with cake called Tantalay Cafe. Worth a visit if you fancy good coffee and a tasteful piece of cheesecake.
In the pub we decided that the road to Miraflores was not interesting enough to hike, so we took a taxi, but a “cooperative” which you can recognise by their honking at the traffic lights and showing with their fingers how many places are free. They are way cheaper and from Lima center to Miraflores you pay only 3 Soles per person. However, this is not considered as always safe, so we only advise you to do this when you are not alone, when you feel comfortable and during day time. For us all went fine and 6 Soles later we were in Miraflores.
It a complete different district than the historical center and it feels almost European with it’s main shopping street, bars, restaurants and even promenade at the cliffs with shopping malls overlooking the Pacific Ocean. As it was end of the day we decided it was apero time and went to La Cervercercia. A cosy bar in a side street where you have plenty of draft beers (even Belgian) and they serve great Pisco Sour. After the apero we went for food and you really have a great choice, we selected Houlihan’s Irish Bar. As we were not that hungry we ate something light that fitted our beer. From there we ordered a Beat taxi ride to our hotel in San Miguel and paid 11 Soles.
Day 3: Lima – Pisco
Before heading to the Paracas National Reserve we headed for some food on the promenade of El Chaco. A rather touristic place where you have restaurants aiming for tourists. Add some musicians playing for money going for terrace to terrace and the picture is complete. We picked a restaurant and the food was ok, nothing more.
At the entrance of the National Reserve you have the Museo de Sitio Julio C. Tello museum. A part is included in the entrance fee but the second building needs extra paying. As we were not impressed by the first part, we did visited the second one neither. There is a path to the water where you can spot flamingo’s, but when you reach the end of the path, the flamingo’s are still more than 300 meters away and nothing more than white spots. Before heading to our hotel in Pisco, we also visited the hills and cliffs in the park. Worth a visit and a walk.
We explored Pisco and the main thing to check out is the Plaza de Armas where you have the municipal building and the newly build (modern) cathedral. This was recently build as the old cathedral colapsed after an earthquake. Strava track: Pisco city walk.
From the Plaza de Armas in the direction of restaurant As de Oro’s we found Taberna San Jose where we took an apero. It was not yet busy but the interior was nice and certainly from the outside it looked very welcoming. We followed our Lonely Planet to find a restaurant and selected As de Oro’s. A rather big and new restaurant where you have plenty of choice. Food was fine but it’s aiming on tourists. If you are looking for something more traditiional or Peruvian, I would advise to find something else.
Hotel San Jorge: a hotel with swimming pool on walking distance from the Plaza de Armas. The rooms were spatious and the basic breakfast was served at the table near the swimming pool area.
Day 4: Pisco – Huacachina
The Ballestas Islands are often called the Galapago Islands for the poor. We did not yet visit the latter but we can tell that a visit to the Ballestas Islands is worth the money and time. You head to the touristic harbour and board for a boat which will bring you in around 30 minutes to the islands. On the way there you will see the Paracas Candelabra and even maye some dolphins if you are lucky like us. Close to the Candelabra of the Andes you can spot the Peruvian Pelican. What follows on the islands is a mixture of an enormous numbers of animals ranging from Penguins, Sea Lions and plenty of birds, really thousands of birds. In the harbour they’ll try to sell you caps and heads to protect yourself against the bird poop, but according to us that is just to make money, but i’ll leave it up to you to decide if you wear a cap or not. Make sure to have warm clothes and as warm it can be on the promenade, as cold it can be on the boat in the wind. After 2 hours we were back in the port.
From Paracas it was only a short drive to Huacachina, a place of which we had big expectations. It is an oase in the dessert where you can ride a sand buggy and ski of a sand dune. During our visit not too busy, but we have heard that during the weekend it can get quite busy and loud with people from our around partying. So select your day wisely when you visit Huacachina.
Sand boarding & skiing
There are plenty of small tour operators offering buggy rides and sand boarding. It will be important to look a bit around and to negotiate a bit about the price. An extra tip is to negotiate that dune entry is included or you’ll still have to buy a ticket to enter the dunes. We paid S60 all inclusive. As it was already 11 years ago that Tom was snowboarding we looked if we could not rent regular skis and we found that. Seems not to be common, and the material is rather old and there is not a lot of choice, but in the end it’s not that important. Around 16h you will start to hear more and more engines being started. Plenty of buggy’s will go out and ride in the dunes. We read that some drivers take unnecessary risks, but ours was decent. The buggy ride can be compared with a very big roller coaster. The buggy goes up to the dunes and then, over the top, goes steep ad rapidely down the other side of the dune, searching for the next dune to overcome. After some time there was time to take some pictures and to prepare to start ski or sand boad. We were a bit nerveous for taking of with the skis. You don’t know you will slide from such sand slope and you don’t want to fall or hurt yourself at the beginning of a trip. Before each slope, you have to was your skis yourself with a candle. That will allow you to ski around 50 to 100 meters. Then you have to wax again. Luckily it’s not like that with regular skis. You can’t compare it with real skiing, but still it was a nice experience and like this Bucket List item n° 25 could be ticked off. Don’t hesitate when you have the chance to do this.
Restaurant Dessert Nights: Due to circumstances we had both lunch and dinner on the terrace of Dessert Nights. Normally we avoid to go twice to the same place, but this time that didn’t work out. Not a big deal as is was both times very nice and tasteful. They have a happy hour and they allow to share it between people.
Hotel Curasi:located at the entrance of the oase close to the promenade and the central pool. The hotel has a nice swimming pool and several terraces where you can sit. The breakfast in the morning is served on the roof top terrace where you have the choice between 2 menus. We had a good time here, so we recommend this place.
Day 5: Huacachina – Nazca
We headed in the direction of Nazca and before reaching the site we visited the Maria Reiche Museum (S4). Maria Reiche has done a lot of research to the Nazca lines. The museum covers a lot of her research and has some material of her, like her old VW van. However, the museum was for us not that special. When you would be in a rush and don’t have much time, I think you can easily skip it.
What can I say about this place… The records state this cemetery was found around 1920, but to me, what we have seen there is fake. I don’t think this is a genuine location. I would advise you go check it out for yourself and make up your mind. I think it was around S10 entrance fee, so you don’t have to bother too much about that. Let us know in the comments below what is your vision on this place.
This place is liked very much and which is pretty impressive. An ingenious system of stone aqueducts built by the people of Nasca in ancients times is still functioning and used by local farmers for irrigation. The entrance fee was around S10. Make sure you visit these ones when around. Normally you will also see them from the air if you choose to take a flight over the Nazca lines (more about that later)
In the middle of the dessert, a couple kilometers before Nazca, divided by the Latam highway you have the world famous Nazca lines, listed on Unesco. Along the way you have a tower to look at them. The entrance fee is only S4, but the result is dissapointing. When we visited we had to use the old tower as the new, much bigger and higher, was not accessible. They told it was not safe to go on this new good looking tower, but we had to go on some old tower. You see the lines, but you can’t assess their magnitude. It made us think to skip the flight over the Nazca lines of the next day.
Day 6: Nazca & Cauchilla
Nazca lines flight
We have doubted quite some time whether to go for a Nazca lines flight or not. We had great expectations of the lines and up front we were sure to take the flight. However, what we saw from the view point tower was very dissapointing and we were thinking to skip this (expensive) flight. The idea that most likely we won’t come back anytime soon, and extra Google work, made us go for it. So, what is our opinion now? You have to take the flight! Only then you can really see them properly and absorb how impressive it is. But…. I don’t hink they are real. I think they are create for touristic purpose. They state the lines are good preserved because it never rains and is bad weather. But still, sometimes flight are cancelled due to weather conditions. Just as the Necropolis I leave it in the middle wether these famous Nazca lines are genuine or not. If you saw them, let us know via a message on the bottom of this page what are your thougts about them. The pictures are not that great, but we didn’t made huge efforts to try to make pictures. We tried to enjoy the flight and look with our eyes. On the internet you need that travel pills are to be considered and that it’s not for people with weak stomacs. I thought it was a bit overdone and that we should not bother too much as we have done quite some crazy stuff. But… I can tell you, I was glad to be back with my feet on the ground. The plane goes from the left to the right, keeps on turning, twisting and we experiences some turbulence. So yes, what you read on the internet is genuine. The flight is heavy and if possible, take some medicine up front.
Hotel Don Agucho: just outside the city center you can find this nice hotel. It has a small pool and the patio is nice to relax. The breakfast is served at the table and not that much, but you can ask more to the ladies if you want.
Day 7: Nazca – Arequipa
We can be short about today. It is a bus or transfer day. When you travel a bigger country and want to see a lot, you have these kind of days now and then. Get up at 05:00, breakfast at 05:30 and leave the hotel by 06:00. Although we only had to drive between 500 and 600 km it would take us over 11 hours including a coffee and a lunch stop. First we drove a couple of hours next to the Pacific Ocean before heading more inside the country. What we saw was poverty and arid landscape.
Pizzeria Los Lenos: About 400 meters away from our hotel we found this inviting pizzeria. A small restaurant which can host maybe 20 people with a cosy and warm feeling due to the wood oven in the corner. You can select the size of your pizza per centimer. Prices are affordable and the pizza tasteful. Only negative point is that our Pisca Sour inteded as apero arrived together with our pizza.
Hotel Selina Arequipa: A relatively new travel platform which is rapidely growing in South America, North America, Central Ameria and Europe. One could call it a hippie hotel, and that is indeed the atmosphere in he complex, but they have it arrange pretty well. The garden has a pool with bar, tree house, slack line, several chill areas all in a good vibe with a mix between back packers and traditional travellers. The room had the best shower so far, so after a week it was wonderfull to enjoy a shower with a strong water jet. Also the bed was comfortable. The breakfast was extensive and there was quite some choice for Peruvian standards. We were happy to stay here 2 nights.
Day 8: Arequipa
Probably the most famous attraction of Arequipa and you should really visit this place when you are in the neighborhoud. We went very early in the morning and it was still very quiet which we enjoyed to explore the monastery. When we were done with our visit people were queueing and the place lost a bit of its charm. Although we are more nature people we still wandered almost 2 hours in this huge building which is in fact more a kind of city in the city. You have plenty of small streets, houses, rooms, kitchens, and many more to explore.
Arequipa is a city that has plenty to offer. from beautiful churches, shopping streets, plenty of cosy bars and restaurants.Like in other cities you also have a mercado where the local people buy their goods. We went to the fruits area for a freshly squeezed juice. There are plenty of friendly ladies trying to get your attention and make you a fresh juice. It’s not very expensive, extremely tasteful and healthy.
There is also a city park, which might be nice to escapte the busy center. We tried to go around the children attraction park, but as spoiler we can tell it’s not possible. We went up till the bridge, but turned back there, as we didn’t see where we could easily cross the bridge. Let us know if you find the way. By the end of the day, we walked again around 20 kilometers: Strava track
The Church of the Company of Arequipa: This church not far from the Plaza de Armas is worth a visit. Especially the chapel (S5) in the left corner. You are not allowed to take pictures or to film, but I can tell it’s really magnificient. Don’t save the 5 sol and go in there, you won’t regret!
Arequipa Cathedral: You cannot visit the cathedral freely during the day. You need to follow a paid guided visit. However, in the evening, between 5PM and 7PM there is free entrance. Make sure you wear long pants and cover your shoulders or you will not be allowed to enter the cathedral. Another reason to go back in the evening when it’s dark is to see the Plaza de Armas and mainly the cathedral by night as the cathedral nicely lights up.
Crepisimo: we had lunch in this nice restaurant because we wanted (salted) pancakes. They were affordable and tasteful, but if you are really hungry, you might not have enough. When you are there, make sure you go to the viewpoint or mirrador on the third floor. You will have a magnificient view on the city and on the surrounding vulcanos.
Pasta Canteen: For dinner we were looking for something good and cheap. Scanning TripAdvisor learned us that the Pasta Canteen is number 1 out of 552 restaurants in Arequipa and it was marked with only 1 dollar sign. Reasons enough to go check it out. It’s a very small restaurant which fits around 14 people downstairs and 8 to 10 people on the second floor. You can’t make reservation so you just have to drop in and find out if there are free spots. They have a menu where you get fresh bread, a small salad and a pasta with 2 extra ingredients and a selection out of 3 sauces. The food was tasteful and you can’t beat the price. There is also hanging a sticker of Sporty Travellers which approves the place 🙂
Day 9: Arequipa – Colca Cañon
Arequipa has an elevation of 2335 meters and from here we headed towards Chivay which lays on 3635 meters. However, to reach Chivay, we had to overcome a pass of 4900 meters. A new record at that moment for us, as previously it was on around 4200 meters (Kyrgyzstan). Doing that with a bus in around 2 hours was asking for trouble. Half of our bus suffered headaches and a handfull people was even in bad shape. We did not stop on the top, to limit the time on the altitude, but still, even Chivay was a big increase in heigth. We would stop on the top on the way back. On the road we saw plenty Alpaca’s, Lama’s and even Vicunjas where the latter are very graceful and elegant. While the Alpaca’s are very cute. The Lama’s are something in between, I personally don’t like them that much.
We also saw an active vulcano which was pretty normal for the locals, but for us, living in Belgium, this was a strange feeling to see an active Vulcano. They told us not to worry and that it was even not that active, although I thought the plume of smoke as already pretty impressive.
When we arrived in Chivay we went for a local lunch and headed to the hotel afterwards. When we were all checked in, we made a city walk to the church, Plaza de Armas and the local market. After some time we walked back to our hotel. The last part which went up gently was quite tough due to the altitude. Although 3600 is not really that high, it was because we just arrived and our body still had to adapt. We decided to limit the alcohol, drink a lot of water and take it easy. Strava track
Incari Eco Lodge: Probably the weakest hotel of our travel. The rooms were very basic and you had to be lucky or very patient to have warm water. The beds were very short and it was cold on the room. The breakfast was very extensive and everything was fresh and tasteful. Plenty of fresh fruit in the morning.
Day 10: Colca Cañon (Cruz del Condor)
Yet another early wake up call, 05:30 and leaving at 06:30 towards Colca Canyon. We were pretty excited to see the impressive Condors. When they fly, their width is between 2 and 3 meters. However, before heading to the famous view point, we passed to a small city to watch some dancing children. We watched for a while with mixed feelings. These kids clearly were forced to do this dance daily for the tourists, in order to collect some money. On their faces we could clearly see they did not really enjoy what they were doing. We like to travel, explore and get infused by other cultures, and we are sure that tourism brings a lot of opportunities, it also has a downside…
From the small city (I forgot the name) we drove to the Colca Canyon, a river canyon famed as one of the world’s deepest, a habitat for the Andean condor. Prepare yourself for a very touristic place. I think all busses we saw ride from the dancing children towards this place. The area was very impressive and giant, but the condors were a bit dissapointing. In this period they were nesting and we only saw some younger condors a about 2 – 3 year. Altough they were still impressive and big, the experience did not fullfill our expectations. but then a again, better 4 condors than no condors 🙂
When we saw the condors and no more new were coming, we headed for a walk, moving back from the viewpoint. We were the only people doing this, and it was nice to be alone in the canyon without hundreds of tourists. It was not a long walk, but we could absorb the impressive landscape and guess what? We sawe a few more condors!
La Calera Thermal Waters: just outside the city you can find these hot springs. As Marie-Claire was not feeling well, she decided to go and rest in the hotel. I went with another couple by foot to the hot springs. Just over an half an hour from the Plaza de Armas. We learned later that there are constantly riding shuttles, which made the road quite busy, but still we enjoyed our walk. The hot springs surpassed my expecations. Quite big, clean and well organised. There are 5 different pools, but the 5th one is the best. We checked the others only very briefly. And there are also 2 pools which are exclusively for locals. The other 3 are for tourists. Strange rules… But for
From the hotsprings I walked back in one go towards the hotel, only passing in the city to buy some bottles of water. A walk of around 5 km is not such a big deal, right? How hard can it be? All went fine till in the city, but then I started to suffer… No engery, no motivation, alone, and it became mentally and phisically very hard. Our guide told me to be reposeful, but yeah, who knows me can already tell I can’t do that 🙂 I suffered from the altitude and also had headaches which came and go randomly. When I finally reached the hotel, I took a hot shower, rest for 30 minutes and energy was luckily coming back. After I kept on drinking a lot of water, decided to avoid alcohol, have some spaghetti diner and when early to bed.
I had a relatively good night, although I got again some headache in the morning, compare it to a hangover without having drinks the night before. I took some pain killer and after 30 to 45 minutes I was good to go again. Normally a travel blog is all about good and fun things, but as we want to keep it realistic, I also mention that Marie-Claire her condition got worse. She felt miserable and was suffering. Normally she is the strongest of us two, so I knew it was serious. As the doctor was coming for another group member, we decided to ask if he could examine Marie-Claire as well. The diagnose was pretty easy, altitude sickness. An injection, some pills and after a couple of hours Marie-Claire was like new 🙂
Day 11: Colca Cañon – Puno
From Chivay we went back to the pass of 4900 meters and now we stopped 15 minutes to explore the area. Blue sky, vulcano’s, rocks, … Really worth the stop and it does make it a bit more special knowing that you are at 4900 meters, which is not easily achieved in Europe. We passed here a couple of days ago, but still, this is for now, a new record for us.
We visited once again the local market but this time with a mission. It was encourages to bring some goods from the market for the people on Amantani, as not everything is easily accessible to them. We selected several vegetables and quinoa to offer to our hosts. We also bought a small ball with the hope our guest family would have a kid
One of the famous dishes in Peru is Guinea Pig. I planned to try it out, but it did not fit our schedule earlier, so I tought that one of the great restaurants of Puno would be a perfect place for that. We selected Tulipans. We could select a place close to the wood fire in the corner, which was cosy and welcome, as it got a little cold outside. like this we could also peak in the oven to see my guinea pig to be prepared. It tastes a bit like chicken according to me. But it’s rather small and you have to munch to eat the guinea pig. The latter is the main reason why I won’t select this dish anytime soon.
Pizzeria El Tumi: As the Guinea Pig was more like a starter we went for another restaurant later on that evening. We selected El Tumi located in a side street of the main pedestrian Jr. Lima street. A tasteful pizza for a moderate price. But nothing special.
in total we walked 4.5 km on a relatively short time: Explore Puno city
Hotel El Buho: Hotel in a more quiet street in the city center, ideally to explore Puno. The room had comfortable beds but was a bit noisy because our room was facing the street side. Luckily all went silent around 10PM and with ear plugs we had no problem to have a good sleep.
Day 12: Puno – Uros islands – Amantani
The Uru of Uros are an indigenous people of Peru and Bolivia. They live on an approximate and still growing 120 self-fashioned floating islands in Lake Titicaca near Puno. I’m convinced that they have leaved like this for many years, but nowadays this is just kept for tourists and I don’t believe they leave there. When we visited these islands, you go with your boat to a cetain island, are welcomed, get an explanation, can look around and off course they offer their goods to buy. It is a nice and interersting visit, so I advise you to do it as well. However, when we came back the next day from Amantani in the late afternoon, the islands were abandon. I don’t mean one island, but all of them. We didn’t see a single person on any of those islands. I don’t believe they were at that moment all in their houses… I think they go there early in the morning, entertain the tourists and then head back to the main land. I can be wrong, I leave it up to you to decide and don’t hesitate to share your insights at the bottom of this post.
The Uru are also building a bigger island where they build a coffee place but they also are aware of prices. It was expensive… The transfer from the island were they are supposed to live to the coffee island can be done in a reed boat, off course for a little extra of S10 per person. But this is half fake, as they hook up a small motor boat behind the boat and push the boat, making that the persons with the peddles get a relative easily job. We did not go for this option. Way too touristic.
Our local guide claimed that Amantani, located in Lake Titicaca, is the highest populated island in the world. Lake Titicaca straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia in the Andes Mountains, is one of South America’s largest lakes and the world’s highest navigable body of water. The island embraced tourism some time ago, but to our experience it still has kept a certain form of authenticity. It takes approximately 3 hour by boat from the Uros Islands.
When we arrived we were all assigned a local host where we wold spend the night. Their house was really traditional, but they had built an extension with 2 rooms for tourists. These were basic, but way better than what we had expected. The house looked solid, and we had a bed. There was no running water but still there was a clean toilet (without flush obviously) so we had all we needed.
A little bit before sunset we started our hike to the top. There are two tops where you can choose from, Pachatata or Pachamama. We selected to check out Pachatata and then go to Pachamama. Like this we could avoid selecting and not knowing which top gives the best views. On Pachamama we went a little bit away from the crowd to enjoy the sunset, a highlight from our trip. Enjoying sunset at an altitude of 4200 meter, looking at Peru mainland. when we turned 180 degrees, we could see the snow mountains of Bolivia.
Later that evening there was a small dance party organised for us. We got some traditional clothes from our hosts to dress up. A local band played some traditional music. This was clearly organised only to please the tourists and you could see that the hosts did not really enjoyed this obliged event. It was funny to see ourselves in traditional clothes, but I doubt on the added value…
Day 13: Amantani – Taquile – Puno
From Amantani it’s an hour boat trip to Taquile. There we were dropped at one side and could walk via a nice path to the other side where the boat would pick us up. Our local guide, born on Taquile, told us about the history of the island. As our guide told his story about the island so pasionate, we really enjoyed it. It doesn’t happen too often that we really like a guided tour about the history of a location. Next to the great story the island and the views on Lake Titicaca, Peru and Bolivia were amazing. Add a blue sky and a pleasant temperature and you get an unforgetable walk (Strava).
Around noon we could enjoy a very appetizing lunch with lake view. Just before we got some show case about the ancient handcrafts and also some dances were performed. Off course to obtain a tip and after we were offered to buy the clothes they created. After about 2 weeks that gets a bit annoying as you can’t keep on buying heads, gloves, and other things. We friendly thanked the people, but continued our walk.
La Casona: In Jr. Lima you have this restaurant on the second floor The first part, close to the street is very cosy, but the second part, to the end, is more like a refectory. They have 3 tables for two people at the windows. We were lucky to obtain one of those. They are very nice as you can easily overview the main pedestrian street. Here I decided to try Alpaca steak. I enjoyed it, but it was not that special. I thought it would taste more like a steak, but it isn’t. Next to Guinea Pig this was the second dish I really wanted to try, so mission achieved.
Puno city walk: We explored once again the city of Puno to find a restaurant. We also visited the cathedral which is a must do. There is a kind of blue light behind the altar which I never saw before and I really liked it.
Day 14: Puno – Raqchi – Andahuaylillas – Cusco
Parque Arqueologico De Raqchi: We stopped here while heading to Cusco. We took a local guide for about 30 minutes and that is the maximum of time you should spend here. There is a giant wall, and some other ruines to see. They don’t really mean a lot without a good story of a local guide.
San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas Church: This church is located in a small village where you would not expect something so over the top like this church. She is also called Sistine chapel of (South) America. You are not allowed to take pictures or to film, but the church is so over the top, it becomes special again. When you pass by, make sure to stop here. You don’t need more than 30 minutes.
We arrived late afternoon in Cusco, leaving not much time any more. We had a meeting with the tour operator for the Inca Trail and also for the Rainbow mountain. We went for a restaurant in the neighborhood and also need to pack our backpack to survive 4 days. We were supposed to carry our daypack, but also our sleeping bag we brought and the Thermorest mat we could borrow. That was just too much for our 30 liter backpack. We could see to attach it at the outside, but off course what if the weather was bad. As we were 6 people for the trek, we decided to hire an extra porter (approx. 150 euro) who was allowed to carry 15 kg. That was enough for all our sleeping bags and mats. Once all this was arranged we went to bed for a short night.
Day 15-18: Inca trail
The Inca Trail was a great experience. We were afraid about all rumours that it would be too busy but don’t worry about that. The limit of 250 hikers per day is really working. We mostly hiked alone and could really enjoy the surroundings. When we came at the sun gate the weather was not yet clear, and altough we could catch glimpses of Machu Picchu it was not clear enough to take pictures. Anyway, you can do that better at the postal card view point. We had great expecations from Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail and they were all fulfilled. A great experience, but for way more details, tips and pictures, check out blog post
Day 19: Cusco
Instead of relaxing after the Inca trail and enjoy a free day in Cusco, we decided to go to the Rainbow Mountain and the adjacent Red Valley. Once again a short night and getting up at 04:25 AM, to be ready to leave at 05:30.
The Rainbow Mountain used to be only accessible via a multiple day trekking but in 2016 they created a road that ends close to the mountain. From Cusco now a lot of tour operators provide one day excursions to Rainbow Mountain. The new road starts about 1h30 drive away from Cusco. Most tour operators leave Cusco very early and provide breakfast close to the start of this new road. The new road is in terrible condition and the mini bus was driving very slowly. It takes about 50 to 60 minutes to reach the parking.
The parking lot is on 4600 meters and from there it’s stated as a 1h30 to 2h00 walk to reach the top, which is just above 5000 meters. In the morning the weather was acceptible and the sky was predominantly clear but clouds were coming. So I decided to hurry up to the top of the mountain, overtaking a lot of people and 46 minutes later I could admire Rainbow Mountain. It is gorgeous. Really Superb. Due to the clouds the pictures are not as impressive as some you can find on the internet, but I can tell you it was incredible.
The Red Valley
When turning back, 99% of the people just go back to the parking lot and miss one of the most beautiful places we have seen so far. You can walk to the left, up the red hill and go to a point of 5069 meters of altitude. There you can overlook the Red Valley. Truly magnificient and not possible to capture on a picture with a cell phone. If you are around Cusco, make sure you do this combo of Rainbow Mountain and The Red Valley.
The hike is not easy, but everybody can do it. Hiking on an altitude of 5000 meters and more is not easy, but as we were sleeping for quite some time now on 3500 meter and more, we did not suffer too much. From the parking lot we took the same bad road back, got lunch underway and arrive late afternon back at our hotel.
As it would be a pity to not have explored Cusco, we left at once for a quick city walk and passed by some highlights. Cusco city walk
We were supposed to fly the next day to Puerto Maldonado but due to some problems with plane tickets we had to change plans and go by night bus… We got tickets for a luxury Cruz del Sur bus. I have to be honest and the bus was indeed very comfortable. We got 2 seats next to each other and on the same row there was only 1 more seat separaded by a corridor. Boarding was at 20:30 and departure was scheduled at 21:00. We left perfect on time to start our 10 hour bus ride…
Day 20: Cusco – Puerto Maldonado
On schedule we arrived at 07:00 in the bus terminal of Puerto Maldonado. After two very short nights and an intensive hiking period, I had a relatively good night. I even slept a few hours on the bus. In the bus terminal we had to leave our main luggage at the office of the local tour operator and we could take a limited set of clothes to the jungle. We had a 20 minute bus drive to the river where we would embark in our boat.
The lodge was located 2.5 hours upstream the river. A long the road we were lucky to see some rare birds. We also saw Macaws at the lime cliffs. Seems it’s not guaranteed you can see these and according to our local guide, Can’t assess if this is true or not, anyway, doesn’t matter, as we saw them 🙂
Due to our early arrival with the bus, the local guides were not really foreseen on this extra time. The only suggestion was to rest a bit… Not really something for us, so we insisted a bit for an extra walk, which we got from a very friendly and communicative guide who told us about his youth when he grew up in the jungle. He demonstrated how fast he could open the Brazil nut. Pretty impressive how he opened that with his cuff. It was only a short walk, but a nice one (Strava track but started too late).
In the evening, when it was dark we had another short walk planned, to check the animals which are hiding during daytime. In the complete dark we were looking for animals with our torch. A very special experience. At some point the guide asked if we would stand alone in the dark to listen to the noises. We decided not to do it alone, but together. Like that Marie-Claire and myself were around 10 minutes in complete darkness in the middle of the jungle, alone. Well, alone… together with probably thousands of animals, some of them amking sounds, and some of them not. This was a very intensive experience. If you are ever able to do this, don’t doubt. But maybe do it together with another person like we did… (Night hike in the jungle).
Explorer’s Inn Tambopata Ecolodge: we stayed in a renovated room where they installed solar panels. Only a few rooms have this luxury at the moment of our visit. It gave us warm water in the shower. We had a twin room with mosquite net. The main building is nicely decorated and has a nice bar, plenty of seating area and a cosy atmosphere.
Day 21: Amazone
After a heavenly sleep we wake up with jungle sounds. As our room did not have windows, it was like we slept outside. It was an exceptional feeling. In the morning we went for a walk to the canopee tower which had 200 steps and measured 42 meters high. On the top you could overlook the jungle and the trees around. Very beautiful but one of the things you just can’t capture on picture. Why don’t you go out there yourself and experience the same.
When we came down from the canopee tower we experience a very common thing in the rain forest. Yes, rain! The local guids were telling there are two types of rain showers. Male and female showers. They state that the first last 20 minutes and the latter last very long. I can’t comment on that, it are the words of the guide 🙂
It splashed for 20 minutes and the walking paths transformed in small rivers. We put on our poncho but a made a small mistake by not quickly putting on my rain pants. Within 5 minutes my pants was socking wet. We returned to the lodge as walking in the rain is not that fun and the animals are hiding anyway.
After lunch we went by boat to a local farmer to learn a bit about the fruits they cultivate. We saw bananas, cacao, pineaple, coco nuts, pumpkin, and many more. We could also try a couple of them. After we walked around on the plantation and were able to taste more like fresh bananas, cane sugar. It was a tasteful and educational walk. We really enjoyed this one. (Strava)
After dinner we went for another crazy adventure, a boat tour in complete darkness to spot cayman. Our guide was well trained and experienced to know where we could spot cayman. With a massive torch he was exploring the sides of the river to find them. In total we saw around 4 to 5 cayman. When we went close to shore with our boat, one of the cayman rapidly came to us, freaking some people out and then the cayman hit our boat… His action probably got him a headache. After an hour on the river in complete darkness we returned to our lodge.
Day 22: Amazone
Once again an early wake up call at 05:30 to be able to leave at 06:30. We had a 20 minute boat trip to go to a lake. Along the road we saw a family of Capybaras which are giant rats that can grow to 60 kg. They are not the smartest of the animals living here. There were some birds eating parasits from them. Funny to see this. When we went to shore, we had to walk just over a half an hour through the jungle. During the walk we spotted some wild pigs, weasels and some squirrels. At the lake we explored the area with a catamaran looking for giant otters. Most likely they are always on the same spot at the same time, as we were able to see them as planned.
Day 23: Puerto Maldonado – Lima – Amsterdam
Today is the start of a long travel back to Belgium. Although we like to travel, we are always happy to go back home. But still, once you start the travel back, you just want it to finish as soon as possible.
- 2 hour with the boat on the river
- 20 minutes by bus to the bus station to pick up our main luggage
- 20 minutes to the airport of Puerto maldonado
- 1h30 flight to Lima
- 5h00 waiting on the airport of Lima
- 11h50 flight to Amsterdam
With the very weak signal on my cell phone I was able to check in up front and claim once again seats 30F and 30G. the same seats as our departure flight 24 days ago. This time without champagne and extra attention. Still, we had a very friendly crew and the film marathon could start…
Day 24: Amsterdam
The night flight was quite comfortable but still I was only able to sleep 1 hour. We arrived 25 minutes before schedule and could fetch our luggage at the belt. After saying goodbye to our group, we fetched the shuttle to the Ibis hotel and could finally start the last part of our trip back. A 2h20 drive back to our hometown. All went smoothly and at 19:30 we enjoyed the lovely feeling of coming home!