This time two years ago, we were in the final days of our month-long journey through Peru.
Since international travel isn’t on our radar for a few more months (hopefully), we’re continuing our “Best of” series — reflecting on the past journeys and the experiences that have really shaped us as travelers so far. This installment: our Best of Peru.
We started in Lima, then headed to Cusco to prepare for a four-day trek on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. After that, we spent a few days in the storied Sacred Valley and then took a fantastic train ride south to Lake Titicaca. From there, we boarded a bus to the shining city of Arequipa before heading back to Lima and home.
We did a LOT of blogging about this trip, with much more detail about where we stayed and how we approached each location. Here’s our full Peru directory.
Note: The photos are in galleries – just click through each one to see a bigger version.
We weren’t prepared to like Lima. It certainly has its share of third-world big-city problems: choking traffic, air pollution, heart-wrenching poverty. But it’s also got plenty of stunning historical sites and lovely people, and it’s ground zero for Peru’s legendary culinary scene. We really enjoyed our three days there.
The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu
From Lima we headed to Cusco to acclimate to the high altitude and get ready for our four-day trek on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
The Sacred Valley
With the picturesque town of Ollantaytambo as our base, we spent three days after the trek exploring the Sacred Valley — an area anchored by Machu Picchu and the city of Cusco. The Sacred Valley is considered the historic heart of the Inca empire.
Puno and Lake Titicaca
Next, we splurged (a little) and took the PeruRail Titicaca Train from Cusco to Puno. It was more than we typically spend for intercity transport, but so worth it! The high-country landscapes on the all-day trip were unforgettable.
The city of Puno is not that remarkable, but it’s known as the place where you can visit the Uros people on the famous floating islands of Lake Titicaca. We would describe those as “touristy but worth it.” We also enjoyed visiting Isla Taquile, home of another ancient culture in which knitting prowess is a sure sign of masculinity. At almost 4,000 meters (about 12,500 feet), Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable body of water. It’s definitely not for people with altitude issues.
From Puno, we took a bus to Arequipa, our last stop before returning to Lima and then home. Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city and is known for its stunning colonial architecture and buildings made from the local volcanic rock, known as “sillar.”