We just got back from a week’s trip to Peru. Yes, of the famed Machu Picchu, but not only that. After a 8-hour stopover flight we landed in chaotic Lima, the capital city.
Day 1-2, Cuzco
Flight from Lima to Cuzco (about 2 hours), took us to the biggest city in the Sacred Valley. Lots of ruins in and around the region dating back to the Incan time. Cuzco is nestled in the Andean valley and after the bustle of Lima seemed positively provincial. In light of what was to come, it most definitely was not. The city’s highlights include The Sun Temple, Qorikancha in Quechua, the town square, Playa d’Armas, and the cathedral. Cuzco is a pleasant little mountain town in itself that comes alive at night with locals thronging the town square, peddlers clamoring for tourists’ attention with knick knacks, little local children luring you for a picture with their baby llamas, student artists selling their work.
Day 3-4, Lake Titicaca
Flight from Cuzco To Puno, the site of Lake Titicaca, which at over 12,000ft is the highest navigable lake in the world. This water body also forms a natural border between Peru and Bolivia with both countries enjoying ownership of it in parts. The lake is famously home to the floating islands or Uros, which are basically inhabited pieces of swampland suspended on reeds. A boat trip to the islands includes schmoozing with the inhabitants who are very tourist-friendly, clicking pictures with their kids whilst they are on school recess, admiring handicrafts and marveling at how diverse people’s habitats can be. Imagine living your entire life on what is essentially a large houseboat!
Day 5-6, Machu Picchu
Onward to Ollantaytambo, base camp for Machu Picchu! Set in an even prettier setting than Cuzco, this small town has the classic backpacker bonhomie and hostels and cafes to match. For two days we called the simple but supremely comfortable hotel Samanapaq home whose super friendly owner lady won me over.
From Ollantaytambo a 1.5-hour train ride to the town of Aguas Calientes from where a 20 min bus up the mountain brings you to the Inca’s supreme feat of engineering — the ruined city of Machu Picchu. Spread over a 13km radius, this city was dedicated to the worship of Incan gods (the Sun primary among them). The awe of MP lies not in its architecture but its strategic positioning and the effort it must’ve taken to build it at the summit of a steep mountain.
Day 7-8, Lima
The noise and chaos of Lima proper gives way to posh residences and beachfront sophistication in the suburb of Miraflores, the area where most touristy things Lima has to offer reside. Great upscale shopping, fine dining, lush parks and lovely coastal walks are all to be had here.