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By Eric Friend

Peru Travel Blog

Are you interested in traveling to Peru? Peru is a country that you could spend a lifetime traveling through and still need more time, so…..how do you pick where to go? For me, I look for certain things when I pick where to travel:

If this sounds like your kind of trip, keep reading :D

about the blog

My photography blog, where adventure meets aperture and wanderlust waltzes with white balance! I’m your globetrotting guide, capturing the world one breathtaking snapshot at a time, with a side of snark and a dash of daring. Join me as I unveil photography’s best-kept secrets, spill the beans on the trendiest gear, and serve up a smorgasbord of tips and tricks to elevate your travel photography game. Fasten your camera straps, folks; we’re about to embark on a thrilling journey through the viewfinder!

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Things to know before traveling to Peru:

  • Visa – Make sure you check the visa requirements with the Peruvian embassy or Consulate in your country of origin. 
 
  • Safety – Peru has a relatively high level of crime in the cities so be careful of your belongings and stay aware at all times. There has also been some civil unrest in certain areas of Peru this year so make sure to keep up to date as your trip approaches to make sure you don’t need to make adjustments to your plans. Despite all this, you can absolutely travel safely by exercising caution and awareness. 
 
  • Currency – Sol is what is used for currency – $1 USD = ~3.85 Sol. Make sure to check your exchange rate at the current time  to plan accordingly.
 
  • Preserving Peru – Peru is home to some of the most beautiful natural and historical sites. Please always be mindful of the impact that heavy tourism has on the communities and the rich environments you visit. Always think how you can leave every place you visit better than you found it! 
 
  • Language – The official language of Peru is Spanish. Learning some basics will help you communicate more effectively while traveling. 
 
  • Vaccinations – It is recommended to be up to date on vaccines such as Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Typhoid and if you are traveling to remote locations such as the Amazon, Yellow Fever is strongly recommended. That being said, no vaccination certificates are required. 
 
  • Altitude sickness – Many travelers experience altitude sickness when visiting historical sites such as Machu Picchu or Rainbow Mountain. Be aware that hiking and doing other strenuous activities might be more difficult or result in altitude sickness. Some remedies may help such as Coco Tea but your body still may need time to adjust to the altitude before you hike. 

Trip Details

Flights: 

We booked our flights using travel points to save on cost but they were just over $1,000 per person round trip. We will fly whichever airline we can get the best bang for buck with our points. Delta is who we flew with this particular trip. 

Time of year:

We chose to go in November, which is the lower season for tourists and it was beautiful. The weather was amazing and the high elevation locations still had nice weather and only needed. 

Don’t forget to pack: 

1 Warm Jacket: the only time we needed this was hiking Rainbow Mountain at Sunrise 

Rain Jacket: It rains often in the Amazon

LightWeight +Light Colored shirts and pants: In areas such as the Amazon, or Machu Picchu, there are tons of Mosquitoes. Covering yourself well and light colors really helps.

High Deet Bug Spray

Tums or something to calm your stomach – The food was delicious but I had a few days where I was feeling a bit off from eating so many new things I wasn’t used to.

Peruvian Food you HAVE to try while visiting the country: 

Peruvian cuisine is renowned for its diverse flavors, fresh ingredients, and unique combinations of spices and herbs. Here are some of the best foods to try in Peru:

  • Lomo Saltado:  A popular Peruvian dish consisting of stir-fried beef, onions, tomatoes, and french fries, all served with rice.
  • Ceviche: A dish of raw fish marinated in citrus juices, chilies, and spices. It’s a staple of Peruvian cuisine and can be found all over the country.
  • Aji de Gallina: A creamy chicken stew made with ají amarillo chili peppers, nuts, and breadcrumbs. It’s often served with boiled potatoes and rice.
  • Causa Rellena: A traditional Peruvian dish made with mashed potatoes, which is then filled with chicken, tuna, avocado, or other fillings and served cold.
  • Arroz Con Pollo: A delicious chicken and rice dish, flavored with cumin, paprika, and other spices.
  • Condiments: Ball out on all their mayos and spicy sauces, I couldn’t get enough!  
  • You can also try Alpaca and Guinea pig meat here as well! 

Lima: Days 1, 2

Lima is full of Culture, History and has a blend of indigenous, Spanish, and African influences. We personally enjoyed so many different types of unique cuisine (will list some places we tried). The city has beautiful walkways that stretch along the coastline where you can spend time relaxing in parks, watching paragliders over Ocean, eating and incredible restaurants, and even enjoying some shopping. These are just a few of the many reasons someone may fall in love with Lima. Whether you’re interested in culture, food, nature, or simply the friendly people, Lima has something for everyone to enjoy.

We arrived in Lima on November 16th and spent 2 days exploring the city. 2 days was enough time for me to see what I wanted to see but if you love exploring cities, there are so many things you can do! 

Best areas to stay: 

We opted to stay in a cute Airbnb in the Miraflores area. This safe area sits along the coast and was walkable to most areas we wanted to go to. I’m a huge fan of the ocean so this was pretty perfect for us. Our second option would have been Barranco where you can find the best Nightlife. We did explore this cute trendy area and would absolutely recommend it as well. 

Top things to do in Lima, Peru: 

Lima, Peru offers a range of exciting activities and attractions for visitors. Here are some of the best things to do in Lima. 

  • Explore Historic Lima: This includes the Huaca Pucllana, a pre-Columbian pyramid located in the heart of the city, the stunning 16th-century Cathedral of Lima, and the San Francisco Monastery, known for its catacombs which were so fascinating to explore. 
  • Museums: There are many museums that you can explore but we chose to spend time at Larco Museum which had such a huge variety of things such as a permanent exhibition showing the development of the pre-columbian societies, beautiful archaeological pieces from throughout history, stunning gardens to walk through and even a Erotic Gallery showing art that offers insight to pre-columbian approach to sexuality. 
  • Walk along the Costa Verde at sunset! This beautifully kept walkway along the coastal cliffs offers spectacular views of both the ocean and city. 
  • Shopping at Larcomar: this place felt pretty similar to a large shopping center you can find anywhere except the fact that it has one of the most beautiful settings I’ve ever seen for a mall. We spent so much time here looking out over the ocean and enjoying the nice warm weather. 
  • Visit the Magic Water Circuit – This stunning park features a series of fountains and light shows, set to music and laser effects. This is one thing we weren’t able to do while in Lima but heard great things about!

EAT FOOD: Try the dishes I mentioned above and these were my 3 favorite spots I tried! 

  • Beso Francés Crepería – had the best crepes I’ve had in years! 
  • Ceviche Place – if you want amazing Peruvian Food 
  • Pizza Place – I’m a pizza lover so I get pizza regardless of the country I’m in and I was not expecting this place to be so delicious! lol 

Ica/Huacachina: Day 3

Huacachina wasn’t the most convenient place to travel to but we were able to hire some local drivers to take us down to see it. It took us about 4 hours in the car. If you don’t feel comfortable hiring drivers, there are buses that you can take, you will just need to allow for more driving time. 

We stayed in an airbnb about 20 minutes away from Huacachina but we had 6 of us which made the cost of the stay and going back and forth well worth it. If you are traveling alone or in a small group, you would probably want to stay closer. 

What we did: 

We arrived in the afternoon close to sunset and went straight to Huacachina. We hiked up onto the sand dune that overlooks the city to take a few photos and take in the beautiful views. There were quite a few tourists at sunset but not too many that you can’t get some good photos. 

We came back the next morning for Sunrise and we were the only people there so this is a great option if you want to enjoy it with no one around. We knew we wanted to go sandboarding so we walked around to some of the local tour guides to get some pricing. 

If you are not excited about actually sandboarding on a snowboard, they also have sleds which were super fun as well. Even just riding around on the dune buggy was a blast. 

Cost for sand boarding: ~$13 USD or ~50 Sol per person and then the snowboard rentals were another couple bugs. The sleds were free. 

*this was one of the locations that I wish we could have spent 2 nights instead of just one. I wanted more time to explore and relax. 

We then made the trip back to Lima to catch our flight to Cusco (there isn’t an airport in Ica).

Travel Day to cusco: Day 4

Flights within the country are pretty cheap but are very strict about carry on bags.

We paid about $30 per person. Some flights didn’t charge us extra for our carry ons but others charged us an extra $40 per person. Either way, a $70 flight is pretty affordable :) 

Most of this day was focused on packing up our things, flying, and getting to our Airbnb in Cusco. 

Elevation: Cusco is relatively high in elevation ~ 11,000′. Many people drink coco tea before arriving and somewhat regularly for a couple days while visiting. We did this and we had no issues with getting altitude sickness in Cusco. It’s good to arrange your site seeing so that the things you see that are highest in Elevation are last, this way, your body can acclimate! 

Cusco:

Cusco was probably my favorite place we visited in Peru. If you only have a short time to visit Peru, this is where I would recommend going. The city is beautiful and full of incredible shopping and local artists. It’s also close to some of the most incredible sightseeing in Peru. This is where the protesting was bad so we made it to 2 of the 4 major sites we wanted to.

Lake Humantay: Day 5

Lake Humantay is located about 3.5 hours from Cusco. The hike itself is rated (hard) on AllTrails and is 4 miles round trip so visiting this area from Cusco will be an all day trip. You can book tours in advance but you can absolutely book a driver to take you when you get to Cusco to save on cost. We were lucky we didn’t book in advance because all the tours were canceled and drivers wouldn’t drive because of the protests going on.

Getting to Machu Picchu: Day 6

Travel to Machu Picchu is a bit complicated if you haven’t done it before, so most people will book with a tour agency. Navigating your way through the bus and train tickets, getting a place to stay, and getting the right tickets for Machu Picchu is also a bit confusing. 

From Cusco, 

1. We got a driver to take us to Salineras de Maras from Cusco.

2. This is where you will need a train ticket to take you to Aguas Calientes. 

I recommend arriving in Aguas Calientese the day before you book the hike to Machu Picchu. The town is stunning so give yourself some time to walk around. 

3. Book a place to stay in Aguas Calientese. 

4. The day of your tickets to Machu Picchu, you will either need to hike up from the town or purchase a bus ticket to take you to the site. The hike to Machu Picchu from the town doesn’t allow you to see anything that you can’t see from the bus so if you want to save time you can skip this hike. Your energy will be better spent on Hyunupicchu or another hike within the sites :) 

Note: If you ride the bus, your ticket is first come first serve so if you have early tickets to get into Machu Picchu make sure you get in line early. We were in line for the bus at 4:30 am and our ticket times were for 6 am.  

We had all of this booked before arriving to Peru.

If you book through a great tour agency, they typically arrange all travel, a place to stay, some meals, and your tickets to Machu Picchu. We booked everything ourselves but it definitely took some extensive research. 

Buying your own tickets to Machu Picchu

If you are booking Machu Picchu on your own (without a guide), you should be aware of the following!

  1. Buy as far in advance as you can (usually needs to be months), book a morning time to deal with less crowds! We booked the earliest time available. 
  2. When you buy tickets for Machu Picchu you will be given a time that you need to be at the gate. 
  3. There are 4 different routes you can purchase that take you around different parts of the site. 
  4. You will have a time limit of how long you can stay in the site and you can’t move backwards along your route. 
  5. YOU CAN’T GO OFF YOUR SET PATH.  Note: They monitor extremely heavily and will kick you out if you try to hop over ropes (we saw many people try and no one succeeded). 
  6. Make sure to research which route you want or buy the pass that allows you to go on all routes. 
  7. There are separate tickets you can book that will give you access to separate hikes such as Hyunupicchu. 

Hiking Machu Picchu: Day 7

I already mentioned this before but try to book an early time, we were some of the first people into the sites and it was so peaceful, even one hour later there were loads of people pouring through the ruins. When there’s a lot of people, the security guards will also make you keep moving so it’s hard to take photos. Early morning was so much more relaxing! 

If you hike Machu Picchu in the morning, you should have plenty of time to take the train back to Salineras de Maras. We got back to Machu Picchu city around 1 pm, ate some delicious food  at Chef House and then caught a bus around 2:30 pm. If you eat there, the Alpaca Burger was incredible!

You can go to Sacred Valley from Salineras de Maras which was our plan but once again, the protests were a major concern so we had to skip this portion and head directly back to Cusco. This would have been what we did on day 8 instead of exploring Cusco for 2 days. That being said, Cusco was amazing so we weren’t upset having more time there. 

Exploring Cusco: days 8,9

We used these two days to really explore Cusco. I was so glad we had a lot of time because it was amazing to see!

Markets: 

San Pedro Central Market – this one is the most popular in Cusco, tons of cute shops, and food vendors. 

Mercado “San Blas” – this market had more of a locals feel. It was mostly food vendors and fresh produce, there were less tourists, and we had the best fresh juice and sandwiches we had on our entire trip. 

Museums: 

Cusco, Peru has several excellent museums, but some of the best ones are:

Museo Inka (Inca Museum)

Museo de Arte Precolombino (Pre-Columbian Art Museum)

Museo de Historia Regional (Regional History Museum)

Museo de Sitio Qorikancha (Qorikancha Site Museum)

Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco (Traditional Textile Center of Cusco)

If you aren’t the museum type, here are some nice areas you can walk around: 

Sapantiana Aqueduct – rock arch waterfall. This entire area is so cute to walk around. 

Archbishop Palace and Twelve-Angle Stone – these agent stones are cool to see and the streets surrounding it were full of shops and local artists selling beautiful artwork! 

You can also check out these areas as well: 

  • Hatun Rumiyoq Street
  • Plaza de Armas (Main Square)
  • Santa Clara Monastery
  • La Merced Churc

Rainbow Mountain: day 10

We were lucky the protests calmed down enough to make it to Rainbow MT. We booked a local driver for around $15 USD per person. We left Cusco at 2:30 am to get to the base of the hike before sunrise. 

The mountain is approximately 5,200 meters (17,060 feet) above sea level, and is known for its vibrant colors, which come from the natural mineral deposits in the rocks. The mountain was only discovered in recent years, as the snow and ice that once covered it has melted due to climate change.

The hike is not super long but it was pretty difficult near the end because of the altitude. One person traveling with us had to turn back and pay to be taken up on a horse ( I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this because the horses can’t get up the steepest part of the hike so you will have to do that on your own) take the hike super slow if you need to!  

Getting here early is a must if you want good photos because within 30 mins – 1 hour of getting there, the entire place was full of people. 

After our hike we headed straight to the airport to catch a flight to the Iquitos to spend time in the Amazon. 

The Amazon: Muyuna Ecolodge: Days 11, 12, 13, 14

Day 11

We only had time to do the 3 day experience so I will break down what we did. 

After arriving in Iquitos, we hopped on a moto taxi’s to get a ride to our Hostel. If you walk out, away from the airport, you should get a better price. We stayed in a cheap hostel for the night which was around $8 USD per person. Since we booked an experience with Muyuna Lodge, the remaining time was coordinated and covered by them. 

We were picked up in the morning from our hostel, taken to a boat and taken deep into the Amazon to our Ecolodge. 

We were greeted by an amazing lunch and drinks and showed to our rooms. 

The afternoon consisted of: 

  •  Jungle excursion to observe the enormous variety of flora.
  •  Observation of the Leoncito, the smallest monkey in the world
  •  Sunset on the lake Sapote
  •  Dinner
  •  Night excursion by boat to see alligators, nocturnal birds and mammals

If you are lucky, you will even get to hold a small alligator. 

Day 12

  • Breakfast
  • Excursion to swim in the Amazon River and watch the pink and gray dolphins
  •  Observation of Victoria Regia, the largest aquatic plant in the world
  •  Observation of iguanas
  •  Lunch
  •  Piranha fishing
  •  Authentic visit to San Juan de Yanayacu’s Village
  •  Dinner
  •  Night walk in search of huge tarantulas and frogs

The lodge’s many programs help protect and hatch turtles that they then release into the river.  We were super fortunate to be there when they were releasing the baby turtles and we got to be a part of the beautiful ceremony. 

Day 13

  • Breakfast
  • Boat excursion to Juanachi or Moena lake searching for a different bird species and monkeys
  • Filling out your biodiversity checklist-card with your guide.
  • Lunch
  • Transfer to Iquitos
  • Land transfer to hotel or airport

 

A few other highlights: 

  • The FOOD!!! I don’t know what their chef is up to but it was seriously the best food we had in Peru. I often felt sick to my stomach until we got to the lodge and ate the food they were preparing for us. 
  • Our Guide – He was so passionate and made the experience very special. He knew so much about the River, the culture, and the wild life.
  • We were fortunate to spend time with the Manager of the lodge who showed us how the lodge is run and all the efforts that go into making it not only completely sustainable but how they have many programs that give back to the locals and wildlife. It was truly inspiring.
 

I get no commission off promoting Muyuna so this is my genuine review! If you go to the Amazon, you consider having them help you experience it. https://muyuna.com/

After making our back to Iquitos, we spent the night exploring the city. We found some cool markets and restaurants along near the Amazon. There are areas of Iquitos that can be dangerous so please be careful while exploring here! 

Day 14

Travel home from our hostel back to the airport, fly to Lima, then catch our international flight home :)

 

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