Peru is a diverse and fascinating country, and despite spending nearly a month here, we were never bored. Our first stop was Punta Sal, just north of Mancora. It was whale watching season and we got up close and personal with several humpback whales. Next up was Trujillo, home to the Chan Chan and Huaca de la Luna ruins. Making our way down south, we made a brief stop in Lima (don’t miss the magic water circuit show at night). From Lima, we drove to Paracas, home to Islas Ballestas, the “poor man’s Galapagos Island” where budget boat trips to see wildlife can be organized. Then onward to Huacachina Oasis, where we took dune buggies into the dunes and sand boarded, and camped in dunes with all you can drink Pisco sour – the recipe for happiness! Nazca lines were next on the agenda, and we took a scenic flight to admire the geoglyphs from up high. Arequipa was the next stop, boasting a lovely old colonial district and gateway to Colca Canyon, where we got to see Andean condors soar high above us. From Arequipa, we made our way to Cusco, one of our favorite cities in Peru. Here we did a day trip to Palcoyo, the alternative rainbow mountain and we embarked on our 4 day Inca Jungle Trek with Bamba Experiences. Mountain biking, white water rafting, trekking, zip lining – boy what an amazing way to reach Machu Picchu! Our last stop was Lake Titicaca where we did an overnight homestay with a local family on Amantani Island. It was fascinating to learn how the reed islands are built, although very touristy! Looking back, we are amazed we covered as much ground as we did in such a short amount of time. Peru has been amazing, and we really loved the variety that is has to offer. Next country will hopefully be Bolivia – fingers crossed because there are riots in the streets right now due to the elections! Stay tuned to find out where we end up next.
Casa de Slyvia, Amantani Island – Homestay on Lake Titicaca’s Amantani Island. Our room was basic with uncomfortable beds. Basic bathroom with bucket flush. All meals (vegetarian) included.
Hostal Los Pinos Inn, Puno – Ensuite rooms in this clean and comfortable hotel near the center of Puno. WiFi is very weak in rooms but OK in the common area. Breakfast is included. Staff here is friendly and helpful. We were able to leave our bags here while visiting Lake Titicaca.
Milhouse Hostel, Cusco – Comfortable hostel in the center of Cusco. Dorm rooms were bunk bed style, each with its own charging point. WiFi worked in both common areas and rooms, although it got slow during peak hours of usage. The hostel operated on a wrist band system – drinks could be charged to the band and settled up on the last day. Showers had hot water, and free breakfast was included (eggs, fruit, toast, coffee/tea).
Inka Tower, Machu Picchu – Posh hotel in Aguas Calientes. It was so nice to be “upgraded” to this on our last day of the Jungle Trek. Fabulous hot water showers, super comfy bed, reliable WiFi. Breakfast sacks provided in the early hours of the morning. Staff let us hang out here in the comfortable lobby couches while waiting for our train.
Hostel El Sol, Santa Teresa – Clean, comfortable ensuite rooms in the center of Santa Teresa close to many restaurants and bars. WiFi was reliable and staff here was honest and friendly. They held onto my bag the entire day while I hiked from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa. Bed was comfortable and it was a pleasant night’s sleep.
Hotel Inmaculada, Santa Maria – Very squeaky beds here! There were gaps in the door and window to allow bugs into the room at night (they were attracted by the light). No fan and it was stifling hot in here during the day time. The swimming pool looked inviting but the hotel’s dog was way to aggressive barking at anyone using it. Plus the pool water looked dirty so we didn’t take the plunge. WiFi here was OK and reached the rooms. Not the best night’s sleep due to the very noisy bed.
Bush Camp, Laguna de Languilayo – Found this site on an overland app. The described camping spot was taken by another camper, so we kept driving up the mountain and lucked out about 2 km up a very scary and winding road (esp at night) where the land plateaued out. There was enough area to put our tents out and set up the kitchen. Gorgeous views in the morning. Loo with a view very appropriate description here!
La Posada del Conde, Cabanaconde – Clean and comfortable ensuite rooms in Cabanaconde, which was near the Colca Canyon condor lookout point. The staff here was friendly and helpful. WiFi did not reach the rooms so only had connectivity in the lobby area. Breakfast was included (eggs, bread, butter/jam, coffee or tea, juice)
Hotel Las Mercedes, Arequipa – Camping in the garden of this nice hotel near the historical city center of Arequipa. The hotel here is very nice. Shared facilities have male and female bathrooms with 2 showers and toilets each. WiFi here is very strong and fast. Showers have hot water which is a bonus. The hotel ground’s are kept locked and there is a bell to be let out and back in (along with security camera). Staff here is friendly and helpful.
Hotel Puerto Inca – Camping right by the ocean near Incan ruins. The hotel here is quite nice and allowed us to use their bathrooms/showers. The Inca ruins were free to visit.
Hotel San Marcello, Nazca – Quite a step up from our normal accommodations. We were supposed to camp here but got upgraded to rooms instead. The hotel had a lovely swimming pool, rooms with ensuite bathrooms (hot water showers). Our room had a fan that worked. WiFi here was good and strong.
Huacachina Sand Dunes – Set up by Desert Nights Ecocamp, we slept in tents in the middle of the sands dunes of Huacachina. A lovely camp fire, lots of pisco, and even a private toilet tent, this was glamping for sure!
Paracas – Our first proper bush camp! Phenomenal camping site, we had this gorgeous cliff side ocean view to ourselves.
Hostal Bonbini, Lima – Just 2 blocks away from the Plaza de Armas in the historical center, this hostal was perfect for 2 nights. Ensuite rooms, strong and reliable WiFi, rooftop chillout area, and free breakfast, this was a major upgrade from camping!
Playa Besique – A “bush camp” with limited facilities, we were able to use the bathroom to a restaurant until they locked up at night and reopened in the morning. Decided not to erect our tent and slept on the beach chairs in the main dining area of the restaurant. Very cool and breezy, amazing sunset from the grave marker on the hill top.
Hostal Naylamp, Huanchaco – Nice camping spot close to the beach. Comfortable garden area to set up tents, hot showers, clean bathrooms and a kitchen area. Strong WiFi here. And a cheap place to upgrade (only 5 Soles extra per night in a dorm).
Waltako Beach Culture, north of Punta Sal – Camping on the beach. Lovely resort with a swimming pool. Owner was concerned about saving water and would turn it off frequently, resulting in overflowing toilets in the shared area. Ensuite huts were a very nice (but pricey) upgrade at $15 per night per person extra. WiFi was OK here. Bar was fully equipped but expensive, with cocktails starting at 20 Soles, and beer 12 Soles.
27 Sep: Punta Sal
Crossed the border from Ecuador to Peru. Smooth crossing and we drove towards Punta Sal’s Waltako Beach Culture. But first a quick stop in Tumbes to use the ATM there. Beware of ATM fraud here! Our card was debited twice even though we only received funds once and another girl had a similar incident. O/n at Waltako Beach Culture. Right on a beautiful, isolated beach, Waltako has a bar, swimming pool, and common share shower/toilet facilities. They are pretty strict on water usage and cut off the water quite frequently, leaving a mess in the toilets due to our inability to flush! WiFi is slow but usable. Food is good but quite expensive. We found it cheaper to eat in Mancora or nearby Punta Sal rather than at the resort. No happy hour here! Tents were set up right on the edge of the beach and we had a lovely breeze all night long.
28 Sep: Punta Sal
Day trip to party town of Mancora. Very popular with tourists on a budget and the party crowd, everyone was drinking by 10:30 am. We found an amazing local restaurant for lunch where we got the menu of the day – 10 Soles for ceviche, swordfish steak and juice. Bargain and super tasty too! Back at Waltako, we had Kebabs cooked on the camp fire for dinner followed by drinks. O/n at Waltako Beach Culture.
29 Sep: Punta Sal
Whale watching today! We were picked up by tuk-tuk and driven to Punta Sal for our 3 hour boat trip to see the whales. Saw a mother with her calf, and lots of pelicans, boobies, sea lions and dolphins. There were pods of hundreds of dolphins which was pretty spectacular to witness. Had lunch at a restaurant in Punta Sal (12 Soles for ceviche, pork and rice and juice). Pizza party for dinner courtesy of Bert and Keith. O/n at Waltako Beach Culture.
30 Sep: Huanchaco
Long drive day of over 600KM to Huanchacho. We set up tents in the garden of Naylamp Camping. Nice hot water showers here, clean bathrooms with toilet paper, kitchen facilities, and friendly staff. Good WiFi here, and a central camp fire ring in the center of the garden. O/n at Naylamp Camping.
1 Oct: Huanchaco
Visited Chan Chan ruins today, followed by cheap liquor shopping at a mall. We wanted to visit the Chan Chan museum on our own, so we caught a taxi there and back to the campsite. Early dinner tonight followed by a trip to the circus which was a lot of fun. O/n at Naylamp Camping.
2 Oct: Playa Besique
Visited Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) in Trujillo. Then a drive down south to our “bush camp” at Playa Besique. Had to drive through a cool tunnel to reach the beach, which appeared deserted. Camped on the floor of a restaurant. Luckily, we were able to use the toilet facilities until 10 pm and again from 6 am onward. Hiked up to a nearby hill for sunset. O/n at Playa Besique.
3 Oct: Lima
Long drive day to reach Lima where we will pick up 3 new additions to the truck. Reached Lima by mid afternoon and the traffic was horrendous, especially the last 3 km (which took about 45 minutes). Our lodging for the next 2 nights is Hostal Bonbini which is in the old historical center. Very nice hotel with friendly staff (free good WiFi, breakfast, hot water showers, ensuite bathroom, rooftop common area). Dinner at a nearby Peruvian restaurant followed by drinks on the roof top. O/n at Hostal Bonbini.
4 Oct: Lima
Free day in Lima. We relaxed and didn’t do much except have lunch, go shopping and visit the Parque de la Reserva’s “Magic Water Circuit” show in the evening. This is definitely Lima’s most redeeming sight and well worth a visit. O/n at Hostal Bonbini.
5 Oct: Paracas/Pisco
Long drive day to a bush camp to celebrate Alli’s 28th birthday tonight! We greeted our 3 new members (Tom, Giles and Raki) and drove south towards Paracas. Stopped at a couple of viewpoints overlooking the wild, rugged coastline before driving to our very windy bush camp. The first proper bush camp of the entire trip! No toilets, facilities, or WiFi. Dinner was 9 cheese pasta followed by birthday cake, Jägermeister, and jello shots. O/n at our bush camp near Paracas.
6 Oct: Huacachina Oasis
Today was dubbed “Sunday Fun day” and it was great! First up, a drive back to Paracas for a boat trip to Ballestas Islands, otherwise known as the “poor man’s Galapagos”. Then a drive to Ica, home to numerous Pisco distilleries. Here, we sampled 7 different flavors of Pisco which were mostly quite delicious. And last activity of the day was a drive to Huacachina sand dunes, where we loaded up in a dune buggy, went on a wild ride across the desert, and sand boarded down 3 progressively tougher slopes. Afterwards, we were driven to our secluded sand dune camp site where tents were set up, pisco was free flowing, and an amazing BBQ dinner was being grilled. Bliss! O/n in the middle of the Huacachina sand dune.
7 Oct: Nazca
Drove towards Nazca after a great breakfast courtesy of Desert Nights Ecocamp. Free time in Nazca to book flights, eat lunch and do shopping. Afternoon visit to the Nazca pyramids with a local guide named Jenssen. O/n at Hotel San Marcello. We were supposed to be camping here but with quite a few people feeling sick, Danny upgraded us all to hotel rooms. (Fan room, ensuite bathroom with hot water showers, swimming pool, good WiFi). O/n at Hotel San Marcello.
8 Oct: Puerto Inca
Left for our Nazca flight after breakfast. Had to wait forever but the flight was worth the effort, very cool to see the formations from up in the air. Afterwards, we caught a van out to Chauchilla cemetery (prehispanic mummified human remains). Then a drive towards our camp site for the night at Puerto Inca. We camped right next to the beach and had the use of Hotel Puerto Inca’s facilities (showers, bathrooms). O/n at Puerto Inca.
9 Oct: Arequipa
Super long drive day today! We had to cover 400 KM over some spectacular terrain. Pulled into Arequipa late afternoon and set up our tents in the garden of Hotel Las Mercedes (hot water showers, good WiFi), close to the historical center and a big supermarket. O/n at Hotel Las Mercedes.
10 Oct: Arequipa
Self guided walking tour in the morning, followed by a “reality” tour in the afternoon with Miguel. A bit more sightseeing after dinner in the central square. O/n at Hotel Las Mercedes.
11 Oct: Cabanaconde
Had truck breakfast and got picked up by Miguel for our overnight Colca Canyon tour. Drove up above 5000 meters and everyone was feeling the elevation. It was a long drive to the canyon, and by mid afternoon, we visited the thermal baths of Chacapi for a soak. Afterwards, we drove to Cabanaconde where we were told to take it easy on food and alcohol consumption. O/n at La Posada del Conde.
12 Oct: Laguna de Languilayo
Visited the condors of Colca Canyon in the morning and hiked along the rim of the canyon. Drove to the meeting point with the truck but it was AWOL. Apparently, it had some mechanical issues that Will was able to sort out, and he picked us up about 90 minutes later than scheduled. Drove towards Cusco, while looking for a bush camp at dusk. Found one near the Laguna de Languilayo after a somewhat nervewracking drive up the mountain in the dark! O/n bush camp.
13 Oct: Cusco
Drove from bush camp towards Cusco, stopping to visit Rumicolca (Inka Gate) along the way. Arrived to Cusco and lugged our gear to Milhouse Hostel. Rooms weren’t ready yet so we grabbed lunch at La Divina Patricia (opposite the hostel) for a bargain 10 Soles. Walked around Cusco, sorted out our rainbow mountain tour, and grabbed dinner at Fuegos, a posh burger ribs joint. O/n at Milhouse Hostel.
14 Oct: Cusco
Spent the morning sorting out our visas for Bolivia. By midafternoon, we had visas in hand and Keith had treated us to a sushi feast for lunch. Did some shopping around Cusco with Keith and Lisa in the afternoon. O/n at Milhouse Hostel.
15 Oct: Cusco
Booked a rainbow mountain tour today which left at 7 am and returned at 5 pm. Went to the pre-departure briefing at Bamba Experiences to find out what to expect from our 4 day Adventure Jungle tour. O/n at Milhouse Hostel.
16 Oct: Santa Maria
Got picked up early for our 4 day Jungle Adventure tour with Bamba Experiences. Drove from Cusco towards Ollantaytambo and then up the mountain to Abra Malaga. Then we mountain biked downhill for 50 kilometers which was loads of fun. Drove to Santa Maria and had lunch. Then we went white water rafting down the Urubamba River, class III rapids. O/n at Hotel Inmaculada.
17 Oct: Santa Teresa
We hiked our butts off today! 27 km of distance covered from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa. Highlights were the stop at Monkey House where we got to dress in traditional Peruvian clothes for photos and a squirrel monkey played with us. Then the hike up to the peak of the mountain with a fabulous viewpoint and a part of the Inka trail was another highlight. The day ended near Santa Teresa at the Cocalmayo hot springs where we took a much needed soak. O/n at Hostel El Sol.
18 Oct: Aguas Calientes
Zipline adventure with Vertikal Zipline in the morning was a blast. We got to zipline upside down (insane), cross over an Indiana Jones style bridge, scale the side of a waterfall, and fly like superman from one side of the valley to the other. Then we hiked the rest of the way to Aguas Calientes, reaching the base of Machu Picchu by mid afternoon. A hot shower and a nap were in order before dinner. O/n at Inka Town Tower Hotel.
19 Oct: Cusco
Early morning to be the first ones to Machu Picchu. We were lucky with the brilliant weather and had a wonderful 5 hours exploring the area (Sun Gate and Temple Complex) on our own after our guide left. After lunch, we caught the train from Aguas Calientes to Poroy, and a driver picked us up from Poroy to Cusco. Got a free foot/leg massage courtesy of Bamba Experiences and ate a late dinner. O/n at Milhouse Hostel.
20 Oct: Puno
Long drive day from Cusco to Puno. Stopped at Abra La Raya for lunch and a viewpoint. Reached the town of Puno by mid afternoon and checked into our hotel. Bought some gifts for our homestay hosts tomorrow on Lake Titicaca and had dinner. O/n at Hostel Los Pinos.
21 Oct: Amantani Island
Overnight tour to Lake Titicaca. Visited 2 of Uros’ reed islands, and then went to Amantani Island for an overnight homestay with a local family. Hiked up to the top of the island for sunset and attended a local dance dressed in traditional garb. O/n at Casa de Sylvia.
22 Oct: Puno
After breakfast, took a boat over to Taquile Island where we hiked up to the main plaza and ate lunch. Afternoon boat trip back to Puno. Received notice that Bolivia is having major riots due to the election, and our border crossing tomorrow is on hold for 24 hours to assess the situation.