I am pretty sure I can speak on behalf of everybody when I say I am desperate for a holiday! Sitting on the couch watching Netflix is great don’t get me wrong, but the wanderlust inside of me needs to be set free. The one destination I dream of getting ticked off my bucket list after COVID-19 is definitely Peru.
You may only know Peru as the birthplace of the iconic Paddington Bear. However, spanning 2500km (1554 miles) Peru is a captivating South American country filled with history and multiple cultural landmarks that you NEED to see.
Popular Places to visit in Peru
Tucked away in the beautiful Andes Mountains in Peru, Machu Picchu (also known as The Lost City of The Incas) is somewhere everyone should visit in their lifetime. You’ll almost definitely get lost in its beauty and be astonished by the hand-crafted temples and stonework. The archaeological gem was built in the 15th century under the direction of the Inca Emperor, believed to be something of a royal mountain estate, but it’s exact former use remains a mystery. The fact that these ancient ruins receive over a million visitors a year and was made one of the new wonders of the world in 2007, proves this landmark should be on your bucket list too. Machu Picchu was only known locally until Yale professor Hiram Bingham re-discovered the site in 1911 – from this it is alleged that the character of Indiana Jones is based on Bingham (which is pretty cool if you ask me).
There are multiple route options to get to Machu Picchu but the most classic one is the Inca Trail, which runs 26 miles (42km) long. It usually takes 4 days and 3 nights to arrive at Machu Picchu, but it is so worth it in the end to see those extraordinary panoramic views! You will also receive 4 stamps in your passport – one stamp for each day along the trail, the last one being Machu Picchu. Permits to hike the Inca trail become available January 1st every year and sell out super-fast, so you might want to bag a ticket whilst you can!
If you’re looking for even more scenic views, then the Vinicuna Rainbow Mountain is the place to be! Unbelievably this natural wonder was only discovered in 2015 near Cusco, when the snow covering it melted and revealed the most beautiful layered hues of gold, lavender, turquoise and red. The mountain is a product of climate change and its unique minerology created the mesmerising marbling effect you see today. The colours of the mountain fluctuate throughout the year and even throughout the day. If the weather is poor, the colours will become darker and fainter, but on a clear sunny day the colours will be much brighter. I would recommend visiting the attraction in the months of June – August for a more colourful experience.
You may have seen this vibrant mountain all over social media, but wouldn’t you rather see it first-hand (because I know I want to!). Tons of tourists flock in to get their instagramable shot of the striking mountain. However, pictures really don’t do it justice. Hiking, walking, nature trips and bird watching are accessible all year round on the mountains trail. The mountain takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes to climb and the trail is easy to follow – this would be an unforgettable day out. Whilst hiking the mountain you may see various wildlife and encounter the local Ausangate folk herding Alpacas and Llamas, but as sweet as these native creatures may seem, they won’t hesitate to spit at you. Amazingly the National Geographic has named the Vinicuna Rainbow Mountain one of the top 100 things to see before you die, therefore this surreal mountain is 100% worth visiting if your timing is right!
Local legend has it that a mermaid with flowing golden hair resides in the Gocta waterfalls cursing anyone who gets too close. But don’t worry many tourists reach the falls and return home safe and sound without being cursed by mythological creatures. This old superstition is of the reasons why the Gocta waterfall was only discovered in 2002, as locals kept its presence secret from the wider world. Gocta is a perennial waterfall with two impressive drops and is located in Peru’s province of Bongara in Amazonas. It is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. The falls truly is a breath-taking, mystical place where you can see the Amazon Rainforest meet the Andes Mountains.
Hiking Gocta falls is a must do activity whilst in Peru and as you might have guessed there’s a lot of hiking to do in Peru, so make sure you bring a good pair of walking boots! The hike is of moderate difficulty and takes around 5 – 6 hours to complete. Excitingly you can rent a horse to take you 2/3rds of the way, but the last section must be completed on foot. Whilst trekking through the forest you’ll gaze upon heaps of intriguing species including a native bird with an interesting name – the Cock of the Rock. After all that hiking you can take a well-earned dip in the pool at the bottom of the falls, so make sure to bring a swimsuit along too (remember to keep a look out for any mermaids lurking about).
At the end of the day after all that exploring, there are a vast number of restaurants in Cocachimba where you can grab a bite to eat. If you want to make the most out of your experience, Gocta Andes Lodge is a hotel with incredible views of the Gocta waterfalls. It’s a relatively expensive hotel, but there are many budget friendly hotels in the area too!
The Nazca Lines
Located in the Peruvian coastal plain there is a ginormous collection of etchings in the sand. In total there are over 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures and 70 animal and plant designs and these biomorphs range from 50 – 1200 feet, measuring up to the same size as the Empire State Building. Scientists believe that the majority of the lines were made by the Nasca people, who lived from around A.D 1 to 700. Over the years these mysterious lines have inspired many theories and have blown away Archaeologists and Historians for hundreds of years who still have no confirmed answer to how or why they are there. The Nazca Lines are virtually impossible to view from ground level, they were eventually brought to the public’s attention in the 1930s when planes flying over Peru spotted them. The thing that blows my mind the most is how did the ancient artists see what they were creating, as aircraft didn’t exist then! Recent research suggests that their purpose was related to water; the geoglyphs were used as part of a ritual to the Gods as an effort to bring much needed rain to their dry land.
There are only two options for viewing the Nazca lines – take a flight or climb the nearby observation tower. Taking the flight option is preferable as it offers a bird’s eye view of the etchings – but it all comes down to your budget really. If you are going to visit this archaeological phenomenon, I would recommend doing both options so you can experience the lines from all angles. The Nazca Lines flight is approximately £65 including the airport tax. No adventure holiday in Peru is complete without seeing it!
Lake Titicaca may have a funny name, but it is one of South Americas largest lakes and the worlds highest navigable body of water. The lake sits between Peru and Bolivia. The Inca people believe that the world began at this lake and therefore call it the “cradle of the world”. Lake Titicaca consists of 41 islands, including the famous floating reeds built by the Uru people, which allowed them to move if threatened. The Island, Isla Del Sol (Island of the Sun) consists of 180 Inca ruins – which is something I definitely want to see. The lake was formed about 60 million years ago from a massive earthquake and the crater was then filled with water from melting glaciers. The water is famously known for being bright and reflective; I wonder if there’s mermaids in these waters too.
The most common way of visiting Lake Titicaca is a day trip as options for accommodation are limited. While there are lots of hotels in the bigger cities near the lake, a lot of tourists choose to do a homestay with a local indigenous family.
Peculiar Peruvian Cuisine
If you’re a potato lover, then Peru is the place for you. The Inca Indians were the first to cultivate potatoes until the Spanish Conquistadors conquered Peru in 1536, discovered the flavours of the potato and took them to Europe. One of the most popular potato dishes out of many is the Papa a la Huancaina which consists of potato slices accompanied by a special sauce.
If Peru had a national dish it would probably be Ceviche - raw fish marinated in citrus juice. The acid in the fruit is said to “cook” the fish giving it a delicate flavour and of course, it’s served with potatoes. Another delicacy in Peru is Guinea pigs which may be quite shocking to us, but apparently they have a pleasant, gamy taste (I’d have to pass on that one). On that note, they also eat Alpacas. Another strange specialty of Peru is Uchunari Coffee, which is basically coffee made with animal poop, I know sounds disgusting right. However, the locals love it, and first-hand reports say the coffee is bitter, yet tastes of various jungle fruits. You can find this Peruvian poop coffee in coffee shops in the Cusco region, so why not grab a cheeky cup whilst you’re visiting the Rainbow Mountain.
We can’t go abroad right now, but you can still explore Peru by completing The GG Treasure Hunts new Peru Wanderlust Online Treasure Hunt!!!