Just back from: Peru with Natalie Paiva-
Our Real Latin America Expert
Travel consultant Natalie tells us all about her recent trip to Peru.
What country did you visit?
How did you get there?
I flew with Avianca via Bogotá. They have very nice new planes and great food on-board.
Where did you go?
I did the classic highlights of Southern Peru, so I started in Lima, flew to Arequipa from where I visited Colca Canyon and then I went on to Lake Titicaca. After that, I continued north to Cusco, visited the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu and finally flew to the Amazon before heading back home... a bit of a whirlwind!
Have you been before?
Yes, about 12 years ago I joined the Pato Andino: Panorama of the Andes group tour. During that trip I visited Lake Titicaca, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu and Cusco. It was nice to see the other highlights in Peru on the trip I went on this time, and to spend more time in Lima than just one night.
If so... any notable differences?
There's a lot more traffic in Cusco and Lima than I can remember from my last visit. Therefore, it's definitely better to explore both cities by foot rather than by vehicle. Puno is a bit more built up as well, and there are just a lot more tourists at the main sites, such as Machu Picchu. However it still is a magical country.
Which was your favourite...
Place: Lima really bowled me over. It was always seen as a city just to pass through and spend minimal time, but it's changed a lot and I really loved walking through the different neighbourhoods and exploring this new foodie capital of South America. They even have a statue of Paddington!
Hotel: Colca Lodge, 165km from Arequipa on the banks of the river Colca, has a really peaceful setting. It’s worth having some free time here to enjoy the natural hot springs and extensive grounds. They also have a really interesting interpretation centre about the condors found in the area and also an exhibition on alpacas and the wool industry. Did you know that condors can soar over 5500 metres above sea level?
Excursion: The walking excursion of Chinchero, Moray and Maras – having lunch at Puma Rock with that fantastic view of Moray was stunning!
What was your most memorable moment?
The last time I went to Peru, I got food poisoning before reaching Machu Picchu, where it was overcast and gloomy; so I don't have many great memories of the ruins and it's all a bit of a blur. This time round I did the mini Inca Trail; so once I reached the Sun Gate and saw Machu Picchu laid out before me in the afternoon sun, I did get a little emotional! It was just so beautiful and peaceful! It completely vanquished my old memories and I just really enjoyed it! You feel a great sense of achievement walking part of the Inca Trail and my guide really set the scene on what it must have felt like for the Incas reaching Machu Picchu.
What tips do you have for travellers wanting to visit the same destination?
Try to visit Peru during the months of May/ June as there are so many festivities that take place. Inti Raymi is well known, but maybe try to coincide a stay in Cusco during Corpus Christi. It’s a hugely celebrated religious festival in this part of Peru with various processions taking place displaying a mix of Catholicism and Inca culture.
Altitude is always a concern with our clients, but it really can affect people in different ways and only until you get to altitude will you know. I found drinking water (even better take rehydration salts with your water) helps. I also tried coca tea and even ventured in chewing coca leaves (even though they tasted disgusting, they helped me) but most importantly don’t overexert yourself. Take your time and go slowly.
Is there anything indispensible to pack or prepare for?
Binoculars are useful, especially for the Colca Canyon and getting to see the Condors in more detail. Also if you’re going to the Amazon, any plastic or zip-lock bags to separate your clothes and keep stuff dry, as clothing gets damp in the jungle.
Sum up your trip in one sentence...
Steeped in indigenous culture, fascinating history, varied landscapes that are mind blowing and a great fusion food scene; it’s great to go back to Peru!