A friend of ours David Lewis, who approached us for advice, has written a beautiful blog about his amazing trip to Peru.
Our first stop was Lima, arriving at the airport we met the other 8 members of our tour group and shared a mini bus to our hotel in the Miraflores district. Lima has a population that’s slightly larger than London, but is not well served by public transport – our guide took some sort of strange pride in that the city had recently been nominated as 3rd worst city in the world for traffic (after Mumbai and Bogoata) – consequently our journey of about 13 miles took the best part of 2 hours – Friday evening being the worst time of the week to travel.
In the morning we were taken on a tour of the City’s main sites. These included the Huaca Pucllana pyramid and the main square which is a UNESCO world heritage sight. Within the square is Lima cathedral, the official residence of the Peru’s president and the Archbishop’s palace. Next to the square is the Chocco Museum, we were able to taste samples and buy excessively priced chocolate - it was more shop and less museum and during our trip we noted ‘branches’ in other cities. We used our free time to stroll along the sea front in Miraflores. While the promenade is lovely and includes Parque de Amor (or Love park), our view of the Pacific was unfortunately obstructed by winter sea fog.
Our second city was Arequipa. At 7,600 feet above sea level, Arequipa is a great place to start getting used to altitude. Our tour included a visit to the Yanahuara viewpoint overlooking the city with views of the Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu volcanoes and a trip to the extensive and fascinating 16th century Santa Catalina Monastery, where we learnt about the lives of the nuns in days gone by.
Our tour continued to Chivay where we had stunning views both in the Pampa Canahuas national reserve, where saw Vicunas, Alpacas and Llamas, and at Pathuasi where there are strange rock formations. We then headed to Condor’s Cross, where we were privileged to see several condors flying in the Colca Canyon. Our guide told us that sometimes the condors don’t appear, but that morning there were the most she’d ever seen! For me this was definitely one of the highlights of our Peruvian adventure.
After a few more minor (yet satisfying) stop-offs we took a boat trip on Lake Titicaca, which at 12,500 feet is the world highest large lake. Our first stop was the Uros Islands – these are amazing floating islands built of reeds, initially built so that the local population could evade the Incas. It was fascinating to see how they are preserving their way of life, without completely cutting themselves off from the modern world. Our boat then took us to the more remote Taquile Island, which operates as a collective. Despite spending a while on the lake we only saw a mere fraction of its 3,000 square mile expanse.
After visiting Cusco, Chinchero, Ollantaytambo and Urubamba we travelled to Ollantaytambo from where we took an hour and a half train to Agua Calientes (aka Mach Picchu Pueblo) where we picked up a bus and arrived at the unforgettable Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the world. Having never been conquered by the Spaniards, 80% of the site is original and being surrounded by steep mountains creates a stunning backdrop. This trek was definitely another highlight of our trip!
The following day we visited the terraced salt fields of Maras, the remote village of Misminay and the huge agricultural terraces of Moray, all of which delivered great photos. We then returned to Lima where we visited the Parque de la Reserva and ate at Wallqa, which is attached to a Cordon Bleu cookery school – it had a wonderful ambience and the food was excellent. This was definitely the culinary highlight, it’s in a quiet area but definitely worth seeking out! We ended our time in Peru seeking out the Paddington Bear statue (donated by the British Embassy) on the Miraflores sea front before jetting back to London.
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