May 3rd, 2013Tips & Advice
Its excellent location and tranquility: The hotel is located right in front of the Paracas National Reserve, where one can walk for hours between rocks and red sand beaches, while admiring migrating birds and sea lions. It is an oceanfront hotel with a view on the beach or the gardens with their flawless landscaping. The two pools and balconies (e.g. in the Solarium Suite) have a clean, slick look reminiscent of Mykonos; the Plunge Pool room has a private dipping pool and grilling facilities. The room interiors, restaurant and bar are clad in warm, earthy colors with Inca influences.
It seems only natural to make the most of this unique geographic location right between the sea and the desert. You can choose to tour the Ballestas Islands on a fast boat, directly from the private deck far away from other tourists, or depart on a boat journey in the bay of Paracas in a luxury yacht with finger food and champagne.
The hotels signature activity is an experience for the five senses in the desert. First, get an adrenaline boost with a 4 x 4 expedition in the dunes, followed by a luxury picnic in a white tent, surrounded only by the silence of the desert, your lover’s smothering eyes, sunset and candles.
If you decide to lounge, the bar with its wide view of wildlife on the beach is a good way to unwind. The hotel hosts two restaurants, where Chef Franco Rivadeneyra sings an ode to seafood, with a fusion from Peruvian and Meditarranean dishes, topped off with a few local touches, such as madeleines with grapes from Ica and Pisco for dessert. Want to take your relaxation experience up a notch? Then book a massage (for two in twin beds) or facial at the spa, which uses age-old ingredients from Peruvian nature: coca leaves, quinoa or cocoa. The spa also offers aquatherapy, yoga and tai chi classes.
July 9th, 2012Cusco
If you’re the type of person who prefers a 5-star way of travelling, you probably typically avoid developing countries as vacation destinations. This creates a problem when there is something on your must-see list, such as Machu Picchu, that lies within one. What you may not have realized is that it is completely possible to engage in a luxury tour within Peru.
There are a few basic tips to stick to, as well as some specific recommendations. One tip is to book your trip through an agency that knows the country, such as Aracari Travel. Let them deal with any headaches that arise because there is a problem with the reservation or a road is blocked. Always hire a private car and driver. This isn’t that expensive in Peru and while worth the cost. Always hire a personal guide for all tours. Again, labor is relatively cheap in this country and you will get a lot more out of the sites you visit.
You’re going to fly into Lima first. If you plan on spending a few days here, book into the Miraflores Park Hotel. If you’re just overnighting, you might as well stay at Ramada’s Costa del Sol which is within walking distance from the airport. With the traffic in Lima, it’s not worth staying elsewhere just to sleep. Flights to Cusco only depart during daylight hours so, if you arrive at night as many do, you’ll need to spend at least one night.
When you get to Cusco, you may want to head right to the Sacred Valley which, being a bit lower, allows you to ease into the high altitude a bit more than Cusco itself. Hotels to look at here, all of which have spas, include: Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel, Tambo del Inka, Rio Sagrado and Sol y Luna. These are all located in or near Urubamba. Each have their own style so you may want to visit their websites to see some photos of these places and get an idea which feels like it matches your preference. My personal favorite, which does a great job of combining luxury with a relaxed and personal atmosphere, is Rio Sagrado.
In Cusco itself, you have some options of luxury hotels but do take a look at the new Orient-Express all suites hotel, Palacio Nazarenas. Newly opened on June 15, 2012, it features a holistic spa where you can get a variety of treatments including massage, acupuncture and even a private yoga lesson. If you don’t spend time in Cusco before you go to Machu Picchu, you should definitely give yourself a couple of days there on your return.
To get to Machu Picchu, there is nothing quite like PeruRail’s Hiram Bingham train. This is Orient Express luxury in South America. The train departs from Cusco and you are intended to go to the site and back in one day. If you want to spend the night, something that is recommended so that you can go to the archaeological site in the morning for a private tour when it is less crowded, you will have to ask your agency to book an alternate return.
I can’t say encourage people enough to spend that night and go to Machu Picchu in the morning. I’ve been to the site many times, always arriving when it opens at 6 am. You won’t be alone but there are far fewer people there at the time, allowing you to really soak in the ancient atmosphere. Hang around a few more hours until the crowds descend on it and it will start feeling like Disneyland.
When at Aguas Calientes, the town right by Machu Picchu, by far the best place to stay is Inkaterra’s Machu Picchu Pueblo hotel. Not only can you have your own private little house, the grounds are extensive and gorgeous. You can relax in the gardens with a beverage of your choice or walk around the nature trails taking in the wide variety of birds and orchids, among other flora, that are growing there. And, of course, there is also a fantastic spa in the hotel as well as a gourmet restaurant.
July 9th, 2012Adventure
For many, the highlight of visiting Peru is the Inca Trail, the four day hike through the Andes Mountains to watch the sun rise over the glorious Machu Picchu. But securing highly limited permits for the trek is notoriously difficult.
With only 500 permits available a day, the Inca Trail is in high demand and travellers are usually required to plan their trip many months in advance, or face missing out on the trip of a lifetime. Tucan’s tool provides an easy and painless way of finding and booking available permits.
The number of Inca Trail permits is also available on Tucan Travel’s individual tours that include the Trek either as an included or optional excursion. Simply select the tour you wish to travel on, check dates and a footprint will appear next to the tour showing the availability of permits on the day the tour is scheduled to start the Inca Trail.
CEO of Tucan Travel, Matt Gannan writes “We are very excited about this ingenious new tool on our website and hope that it not only makes the booking process easier for clients and agents but that the tool becomes a source of reference for all those interested in the trek.”
Tucan Travel is a specialist adventure tour operator with hundreds of high quality, affordable and exciting adventures to worldwide destinations. Choose from over 400 group tours, Independent Travel packages and Expedition Cruises to Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America & Antarctica.
By Norbert Figueroa
I woke up at 6:00am in Ollantaytambo, had a quick breakfast, and made my way to Km 82 at Piskacuchu –where the Inca Trail starts. I just started what will be a four-day intense hike, famously known as the Inca Trail. The feelings running through my body where all over the place. I was excited, full of adrenaline rush, and scared at the same time. Just the though of walking through these ancient paths and the magnificent Andean mountains, surrounded by nothing but nature and history, was simply mind-blowing.
The first day of the hike was the least challenging. I handled the flat and gradual uphill segments like any regular hike. The gravel and dirt paths showed no trace of the original Inca-laid stones that once paved them – since the Incas destroyed some of the trails during the Spanish conquest to protect their sacred hidden cities. It felt more like a typical leisure walk, but with a much more beautiful and remote scenery.
A couple kilometers in we stopped for lunch at what looked like a family’s backyard. Young kids were skillfully playing around with their footballs and women were doing their daily tasks (cooking, weaving, and more), uninterrupted by our presence. I was eager to play with the kids, but at this altitude, my lungs were no match to theirs.
I was excited to see a few Inca ruins in their natural setting. It was like having a view through the looking glass, taking me back over 500 years ago. This is one of the reasons why I believe the Inca Trail is so unique. It is a challenge, but a historical perspective you won’t get anywhere else.
The next day the hike started to live up to its reputation. I admit that I was afraid of the second day, as it is known to be the most difficult day on the trail.
Still sore from day one, my muscles started aching after a couple uphill steps into the trail. I made sure to take it easy and slow. It was not a race, but an exploration. Unlike the first day, this day showed no ruins on the way; it was all about the physical and mental challenge. And it truly was a challenge for me. It took my mind and body to its limits, and beyond.
My guide, Fernando, said to me with a “get ready” tone, “This is the hardest part of the whole trail before reaching Warmiwañusca”. He then pointed towards Warmiwañusca (or Dead Woman Pass – the highest point on the trail), clearly visible from where I was standing. I had no reaction. I was puzzled by the beautiful Andean scenery and by the fact that somehow I had to get to that distant point that still looked so far and high.
The hike up was slow, but steady. The higher I went, the harder I breathed, the more my legs ached, the dizzier I got. The high altitude was taking effect. I was weak. For a few moments I felt like I wouldn’t be able to reach the top. But every now and then I told to myself; “Come on, you can’t give up.” And I didn’t.
Once at the top of the thin-aired Dead Woman Pass, I felt like I was in between the clouds. Well, I was! It was a cold and cloudy day, so the view wasn’t perfect, but just getting there felt like an amazing accomplishment.
But, the day was not over yet. I had to go down. As slippery, steep, and treacherous as the steps might look, for me, the way down was much easier than the way up.
The third day welcomed me with one of the most beautiful and untouched sceneries on the trail. The cobbled Inca paths crossed through the cloud forests, lush green valleys and mountains, intriguing cave-like passes, tall but delicate waterfalls, and some of the most impressive Inca ruins on the trail – which looked like surreal structures that are waiting to be discovered. Treasures like these make the Inca Trail such an iconic hike and a true exploration.
But, there was one ruin still ahead. Machu Picchu.
The next day I woke up at 3:30am. It was pitch black, except for the spot created by my headlamp. By 5:00am I was ready to race against time, against the rising sun. I had to arrive to Intipunku, the Sun Gate, before the sun did. And I did.
Once there, I got the most impressive view of all –Machu Picchu– still sleeping in the shadows. I was in awe.
There I saw how the sun flirted with the mountainous landscape and the ancient ruins. The first rays hit the summit of Wayna Picchu and slowly slid down the rocky mountain until they illuminated the most sacred space of Machu Picchu and continued down the valley.
There is no way of describing the feeling of setting eyes on Machu Picchu for the first time as the sun rises over it – revealing all its power and glory.
I wanted to run towards it, but I had to take some time to absorb it all slowly. I wanted to enjoy it.
No matter how many photos you’ve seen or how many stories you’ve read, nothing can prepare you to the surreal feeling of being there.
Hiking to Machu Picchu is a true, unexplainable wonder that satisfied all my desires, yet it left me wanting for more.
March 12th, 2012Tips & Advice
By Andrew Kolasinski
Llamas and Alpacas are among the earliest animals ever domesticated by man. They have served Andean people in many ways for thousands of years.
Llamas were originally kept for their meat, then later for their wool, and as pack animals. Today they still serve to carry cargo through the Andean mountain trails. Lamas are not big enough for us to ride, but they can carry 25 per cent of their body weight, about 50 kilograms on their backs. A big Llama can weigh up to 200 kilos and stand 6 feet tall. They live about 25 years. Their thick wool ranges in color from black, through shades of grey and brown to white.
Related to camels, the llama (a camelid) migrated to South American from North America millions of years ago. These herd animals were domesticated over 10,000 years ago as a handy source of protean.
I have eaten Llama and Alpaca meat and find both can be just as tender or as gristly, depending on the cuts and preparations. In the highlands Alpaca kebobs are common on menus. Ground Llama burgers taste similar to beef. Alpaca meat is low in fat and rich in protean with a mild flavor. Traditional Peruvian Alpaca (la viande) meals include: Alpaca Sirloin with Quinoa and Chimichurri (herbal sauce), Alpaca Aguaymanto (in sauce), Caraplulca (stew), and Carpaccio of Alpaca.
In their mountainous environment, ancient Peruvians never needed to invent the wheel, so Llamas were never put to harness. Instead they carried loads on their backs. The Inca roads, like the well preserved and tourist trafficked footpaths to Machu Picchu are ideal for Llamas.
Llamas are ruminants, and like cows have several stomach compartments, and chew their cud. As a result they are able to live on a diet of hardy alpine grasses. They are sure-footed, high altitude animals and can function in the thin Andean atmosphere, and grow fleecy pelts that are well suited for making weather resistant garments.
Alpacas are the smaller cousin to the Llama and are valued for their wool which is superior in softness and insulating properties to lama wool.
Alpaca fleece is softer, warmer and hypoallergenic, and more water resistant than Llama. The wool is spun and woven into fine clothing: sweaters, hats, socks, gloves, scarves, skirts, etc. Alpaca wool is the number one souvenir from Peru, and many travelers return with the characteristic Alpaca Chullo hats with side-flaps.
Llama wool is coarser; their stout outer fleece is used for weaving rugs, ropes and mats. Their hides are also tanned as leather for belts, handbags, wallets, etc.
There are four related Camelids: Llamas (Lama glama), Alpaca (Vicugna pacos), Guanacos (Lama guanicoe), and the smallest, the Vicuna (Vicugna vicugna). Only Llamas and Alpacas remain truly domesticated. Guanacos are the largest, and Llamas are their domesticated evolution. Vicunas were also semi-domesticated, and are the pre-cursers of Alpacas. Vicuna wool is the finest and costliest of the Camelids, with a single annual round-up and shearing of the small wild creatures. Vicuna ranching is centered in the highlands south of Arequipa.
Pure Vicuna wool and Alpaca wool should feel silky to the touch. Many bargain sweaters, scarves, hats, etc. are blended with Llama wool, or sheep’s wool, and even with acrylic.
You can find a good assortment of Alpaca garments in Miraflores, Lima: Mercado Indio is at Avendida Petit Thouars 5245, Indian Market at Petit Thouars 2822, and Manos Peruanas, Petit Thouars 5411. In Cusco check the stalls at Centro Artesanal Cusco at Huanchac and Tullumayu, also the shops Cusco Alpaca 111 on Plaza Regocijo, and Alpaca Mon Repos at Portal de Panes 139 are recommended for Alpaca wool. In Arequipa you can buy genuine Vicuna wool products at Incalpaca on Juan Bustamente.
Lima, Cusco and Arequipa are full of restaurants and artisanal boutiques specializing in fine Alpaca and Llama products – both food and clothing. Finding the right store can be difficult, so if you’re on the lookout for something special, contact a Peru travel agent such as this specialist in Machu Picchu luxury tours.
By Maureen SantucciAndean civilization has always been firmly rooted in a spiritual connection between people and their surroundings; the land, the mountains, the sun, etc. A traditional way of honoring this connection is by the Despacho ceremony, which is held for a variety of reasons but most usually as an offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth) or to the Apus (spirits of the mountains).The ceremony reflects the innate bond between Andean peoples and the land. When held for Pachamama, they are also called payments to the earth or pagos a la tierra.Pagos a la tierra have traditionally been done as a way of asking permission to till the earth and of giving thanks for the harvest.Offerings to the Apus are made to ask for and gives thanks for protection and for fertilizing the earth. It’s a recognition of the order of things and a way of making reciprocity for the gifts that are received.Traditionally, the rituals are performed by Andean priests who are called paqos or altomisayoqs. There are many different steps involved in performing a despacho properly. The details begin right from the setting out of the ceremonial blanket on which the offerings will be placed. These are weavings that represent the male and female energy.White paper is placed on top of the blanket or weaving and the offerings are placed on top of the paper. Incense is placed down first so that it will carry the prayers skyward. Petals of flowers are used, white for the Apus and red for Pachamama. These will be set down in a pattern, depending on the purpose of the ceremony. There will also be two colors of drink used as well, usually a red wine and white pisco.Coca leaves will be arranged in kintus, which are three leaves grouped together with the bottoms connected and the tops fanned out. These can be selected by the priest as well as by those people who are participating in the ritual. The kintus are blown on with the intention of the prayers.Other items will be added, depending on the purpose of the despacho. Things such as seeds, fruits and grains can be added to represent what is received from the earth. Sugar or candy is also often included for the sweetness of life. Shells, confetti, miniature figures, beads, llama fat (to represent the sun) and more may all find a place in the offering. Each item that is placed there has a significance and is put there with a specific intention. Once the offering has been completed, it will be bundled up and either buried or burned.There are many different types of despacho ceremonies for various purposes. All serve as a way for man to connect to the spiritual world, to recognize the place that he holds within the universe, and to give thanks and appreciation for life.The best chance you have of witnessing a ceremony for yourself is during a visit to the mountains around Cusco. If you take an Inca trail tour, you could ask your guide about the possibility of holding a ceremony. Talk to a specialist in Peru trips for more details.If you’re interested in learning more about this and other indigenous Peruvian ceremonies, try asking your guide during a Peru trek or Inca Trail tour. Browse the many trekking adventures on offer from this Peru adventure tours operator.
The mythical and ancient city of Cusco is almost invariably the pinnacle of most Peru vacation tours. Literally teeming with history, a window to a former world and an artifact of long-gone civilizations, Cusco could consume weeks of a Peru travel experience. With a bit of planning however, it is possible to squeeze the city’s highlights into two short days.
Most Cusco hotels are concentrated in the city’s central districts so if arriving by air, take a taxi (5 soles) from the airport. Begin your stay with a visit to the city’s Plaza de Armas, the central legacy of the city’s colonial history.
Arriving in the city in 1533, the Spanish were determined to stamp their mark on the rebellious Incas by constructing impressive monuments to European civilization on important spiritual sites. The Plaza de Armas with its dominating cathedral and plethora of other religious buildings is a prime example.
You can visit the cathedral (entrance $5) which was constructed atop the remains of a grand Inca palace. Inside the cathedral you will be treated to a fine display of art from the Cusco school, another remnant of the Spanish conquest which blends indigenous and European traditions, intended as a way to assimilate European dominance over indigenous civilizations.
Most of the other attractions within Cusco can only be accessed by purchasing a tourist ticket boleto touristico ($40) which seems expensive, but guarantees access to all of the major sites and which is valid for ten days. To get the most value from your ticket, take a Sacred Valley tour after your stay in Cusco and visit as many additional sites as possible.
Purchase your ticket from the main tourist office just one block east of the Plaze de Armas. Your ticket will be accompanied by a handy map to Cusco, with a walking tour of the main sites around the old town. Look carefully and you’ll notice that the original city layout was designed in the shape of a puma by the great Inca ruler, Pachacutec.
Your walking tour begins nearby at the museum of Qorikancha, located in the basement of a former temple with a wide selection of exhibits documenting Inca life. Look out for the ancient mummies that were retrieved from the cemetery.
Just a short walk along from the museum is the Cosqo Center of Native Art, with a vast collection of indigenous costumes and musical instruments. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a short performance of local music and dance. Check for performance times at the front desk.
From here, follow the busy Avenida El Sol (Sun Avenue) which was named in honor of the Inca’s worship of the sun god, Inti. You’ll eventually reach a busy junction dominated by a colossal statue of the Inca leader Pachakuteq. You can climb this tower although the views of the busy streets below are not stunning – the real attraction is inside, with an illustrated history of the Inca leaders and a brief history of their vast empire.
Head back to town in the same direction and stop in at the enormous handicraft market for some great bargains on souvenirs. This is probably the cheapest place to get your hands on those famous Peruvian holiday gifts; panpipes, woolly hats, ponchos and bags made from colorful textiles and llama wool.
The market is also home to a couple of great value restaurants where you can replenish your energy with a large plate of the local specialties which include guinea pig and alpaca steaks.
Walk back to the colonial center choosing your own route through Cusco’s trademark winding, cobbled streets and take in the atmosphere of this ancient city.
If you have the energy, spend the afternoon making a short walk up to the San Blas neighborhood, perched on the hillsides above the Plaza de Armas. It is in San Blas that you’ll get a feel for Cusco’s famous vibe, where bars and cafes, restaurants and bakeries, and tiny art galleries and handicraft stalls all compete for your attention.
This is also a place to catch some great views over the city, especially towards dusk and sunset. Spend the evening in one of the many cafes and bars in San Blas, the best of which are dotted across the top of the quaint Plaza San Blas.
Rise early and enjoy breakfast in your Cusco hotel before setting off for the city’s biggest and most important archaeological site, Saqsaywaman. This Inca fortress which lies across a mountain top above Cusco has a long, and sometimes bloody, history.
What remains is just a fraction of the original site but the unbelievably huge stone blocks that were perfectly carved to create the vast structure gives a clear impression of the might of the Inca empire.
Despite this, it was hear that the Inca’s last stand against the Spanish failed after a long and dramatic siege came to an end, marking the conquistador’s final domination over this great civilization.
Only the very fit will attempt the steep walk up to the site, everyone else will want to hail a taxi (around 10 soles from the Plaza de Armas). Information is very limited so you may want to hire a guide for around 30-40 soles. Prices are negotiable and guides in Spanish will be a bit cheaper.
You can easily spend a full morning at Saqsaywaman before taking a return taxi to central Cusco for lunch in one of the cafes and restaurants on the Plaza de Armas.
Museum fans can fill up on more local history and culture at the excellent Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Regional History, both to the south of the Plaza. Otherwise spend a leisurely afternoon exploring the city’s back streets where glimpses of a former age are to be found everywhere – not least in the traditionally dressed women and girls posing for photos with their pet llamas (you’ll be expected to pay 1 sole for the privilege though!)
Enjoy a final evening in Cusco’s historical center, where all the most important and impressive buildings are well illuminated for extra effect. Treat yourself with dinner at Sumaq Misky on the main Plaza which serves up some of the finest food in town before heading out to enjoy the vibrant nightlife, or catching an early night’s sleep before leaving for the next stage of your trip.
Without doubt, the Sacred Valley is one of the most important destinations to fit into any Peru vacation. This dramatic landscape of snowcapped mountains, green valleys, gushing rivers and countless tiny rural villages and settlements is often the pinnacle to a Peru travel experience.
Sacred Valley tours will also be offered by all international Peru vacation package providers but the adventurous can easily set out alone and see the best of the Sacred Valley on a two day loop.
All of the following attractions can be visited with the universal tourist ticket boleto touristico ($40) which offers entrance to most of Cusco and the Sacred Valley’s sites.
Start from Cusco with a bus from the terminal at Puente Grau. Buses here leave for the main transport hub at Urubamba but don’t continue all the way, ask to be let off at Tiobamba where you’ll be able to catch a taxi to the fascinating Inca site at Moray.
Resembling a series of large amphitheaters, the circular agricultural terraces at Moray were actually an elaborate laboratory which created a series of micro-climates with which the ingenious Incas could determine the optimal growing conditions for all their most important crops, thus ensuring a steady supply of food for the entire empire.
A walk around Moray lasts around an hour, but on-site services are extremely limited – bring water and snacks with you.
Take the return taxi back to the main road at Tiobamba and wait for a passing bus heading on to Urubamba. There’s little reason to stay in town, you can easily switch buses and head straight on for the nearby Ollantaytambo.
This small village is one of the most picturesque settlements in the Sacred Valley, where cobbled streets and traditionally-built homes give a picture of life which has gone largely unchanged for hundreds of years.
Ollantaytambo is home to an impressive set of Inca ruins but you might want to save these for the following morning. Content yourself with a relaxing walk along the wide, fast flowing River Urubamba. Follow the trails leading up the surrounding hillsides for wonderful views over the town and the ruins.
Spend the evening enjoying the town’s small but bustling nightlife, with a great selection of restaurants and bars to choose from.
The town’s ruins open to the public at 7am which is a good time to catch the pre-tour crowd. Bilingual guides are available for around 30 soles, which are strongly recommended due to the lack of alternative information around the site.
After a couple of hours walking up and down the steep ruins and enjoying the breathtaking views, head back into town for a bite to eat at Heart’s Cafe, the profits of which go to support local community projects in the surrounding area.
After brunch, catch a bus back to the main terminal at Urubamba and switch buses for another gem, the bustling town of Pisac.
If you can time your trip, arriving in Pisac for midday Sunday will give you a memorable insight into rural Peruvian life with a massive, frenetic market where all the region’s produce goes on sale.
Stalls offering produce as diverse as coca leaves, live guinea pigs, fruits, vegetables and all kinds of meat compete with more tourist friendly stalls laden with souvenirs and holiday gifts.
Spend an hour or so exploring the enormous market before catching a taxi to the top of Pisac’s ruins, an enormous complex comprised of Incan and pre-Incan constructions, vast agricultural terraces, mountainside tunnels and temples.
Once again a guide is recommended and give yourself at least three hours to explore the entire site.
Heading back into town, those with a strong constitution can try a glass of the local tipple, chicha, which is created by chewing and spitting corn kernels into vats for fermentation. Chicha is available from rustic outlets, usually someone’s kitchen, look out for a red flag at the front door and be prepared for lots of inquisitive attention from the locals!
If you can’t wait, have a late lunch in Pisac or else catch a direct bus back to Cusco, which should take around one hour. Settle back in to your Cusco hotel and relax after your two day adventure in the Sacred Valley!
Puno, one of Peru’s highest cities, is perched on the edge of one of the highlights of any Peru vacation – the spectacular and mythical Lake Titicaca.
The city of 200,000 people is often dismissed as nothing more than a convenient staging post before heading out onto the lake itself, but this reputation is unfair: Puno offers many attractions which will all add to your Peru travel memories.
A note of caution to any visitors, especially those arriving from low altitudes: Puno is one of Peru’s highest cities and mild altitude sickness is common. Take it easy when you first arrive and don’t attempt anything too strenuous.
Begin your visit to Puno taking a short walk along the city’s pedestrianized central boulevard, Calle Lima. This central thoroughfare offers the best of the city’s restaurants, shops and bars, and has two small but handsome plazas at either end.
On the central Plaza de Armas you’ll find the city’s Spartan Cathedral which is open to tourists (entrance free) during non Mass times. At the other end of Calle Lima you’ll find Parque Pino where many a local sits to enjoy the high altitude air and bright sun (from which you’ll need plenty of sunscreen protection.)
Stop for lunch at one of the many local menú restaurants which line the side streets. These are great places to fill up on cheap, authentic Peruvian cuisine from a set menu which includes a starter, a main course and a drink.
Alternatively, the nearby central market is a fine place to explore and witness every day Peruvian life, while the top floor is home to a countless number of small food counters offering cheap, delicious food for next to nothing.
After lunch hail one of the city’s ubiquitous mototaxis (motorbikes that have been converted to take two passengers) for a 4 sole ride to one of the best Puno hotels, El Posada del Inca. But you’re not here to check into one of the finest luxury Peru hotels, for just outside on the lakeside you’ll find a piece of Peru’s fascinating history.
The iron Yavari steamship was originally purchased by the Peruvian Navy in the 19th century, from a British shipbuilders in Birmingham. The ship was sailed across the Atlantic to a Peruvian port before being disassembled into thousands of pieces and hauled by mule across the Andes to Lake Titicaca at almost 4000 meters above sea level.
Having been retired and fallen into disrepair, the ship was subsequently bought and restored by a British enthusiast and is now open to visitors who can visit the ship’s decks, engine room and bridge.
After your tour of the Yavari, head back into town for dinner at one of Puno’s fine restaurants, where the Lake’s trout and kingfish are both highly recommended, being served up in no end of dishes.
Before heading to bed, take a look around Puno’s vast number of tour operators for a trip out onto the lake the following day. International Peru vacation package providers will also offer these excursions.
The options are almost limitless, from a short three hour trip to the floating island communities on Uros, to a full day island tour, to a multiple day cruise around the lake.
If, on the following morning, you choose not to take a tour onto Lake Titicaca, go for a walk up to one of Puno’s many miradors, viewing points. The viewing point at Huajsapata Park is probably the easiest and most accessible which also offers great views of the city and lake under the shadow of an enormous Manco Capac, the legendary Inca said to have been born from the lake.
Stop off at a bakery for a delicious empanada pastry and a coffee before continuing on to your next Peru vacation destination.
Travel Directory A worldwide travel directory featuring travel deals, travel photos and travel blogs.
One of the most unusual and interesting detours during many people’s Peru vacations are the floating islands of Uros, high up on Lake Titicaca, a short boat ride from Puno.
The islands, constructed entirely from reeds are home to a community of several hundred indigenous Peruvians who have lived in this high altitude world for many centuries.
Conquests by other Aymara tribes, competing for the highly fertile lakeside land, caused the local people to take to the lake in reed-constructed boats in a bid to escape their aggressive enemies.
A natural fishers and boatmen, the people of Uros found lake life to be entirely satisfactory, and they gradually expanded their boats until they became islands in their own right. It is on these islands that they remained, trading their abundant fish for other products with their land-based neighbours.
The people of Uros have become one many unique communities which can be easily visited during a Peru travel adventure.
Nearby Puno boasts many tour operators who can arrange short visits to the islands, while excursions will also be offered by all international Peru vacation package providers.
A visit to the islands is highly recommended and is guaranteed to offer the visitor a new insight into indigenous Peruvian life. The communities are virtually self sufficient; they harvest the abundant lake for fish and also produce a variety of meals from the reeds themselves.
They have become expert hunters, using homemade rifles to hunt the birds that live within the reed forests and taking eggs from bird nests, but only taking 5 out of 10 eggs, keen to emphasize their connection and sense of protection of the natural world that they depend upon.
The islands themselves are a sight to behold. Constructed atop the harvested roots of reeds, they consist of a thick layer of freshly cut reeds which create a bizarre, spongy feel underfoot and mean that no child can ever injure themselves by falling over!
Each island has around a dozen homes, also made from reeds plus perhaps a small chapel and a communal area.
Recent additions have included improved sanitary facilities and solar panels which have cut the risk of fires from candles and ovens. These improvements have been possible thanks to proceeds from a well-managed and sensitive approach to tourism which ensures that incomes are evenly distributed and community life does not become unsettled.
At the center of this floating community is a central, communal island, where the local councils meet and organize the life of the community, and also where a small restaurant, shop and even a hostel caters for the needs of community members and visitors alike.
Most trips to the islands last around three hours, including a tour by a bilingual guide and a chance to meet the islanders themselves. Also available for purchase is the impressive range of handicrafts that the islanders have to offer, including elaborately and colorfully decorated materials and textiles, and small models expertly made from the reeds.
If you’re lucky, you might even get a chance to ride one of the impressive reed boats that are hand built on the islands according to ancient skills and traditions. Without doubt, a highlight to any Peru vacation.