IMG_3434-1024x492 Our Best of Peru Peru
One of the stunning views from the Inca Trail.

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.

Lima

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.

Here’s our more detailed Lima post.

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.

Read more about our trek to Machu Picchu here and here.

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.

Here’s the link to our detailed post on the Sacred Valley. We did a separate post on our serendipitous arrival in Ollantaytambo on Peru’s election day – a real experience.

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.

Here’s our detailed post about that amazing train trip, and go here for our complete post on Puno and Lake Titicaca.

Arequipa

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.”

Go here for our detailed post on Arequipa.

What are some of your memories of past trips that have made the confinement of the pandemic a little more bearable?

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37 Comments

  1. Another great post, you two. It’s obvious you’re antsy to get back in travel mode. One thing that always comes across in your blog is your love of the people you meet. It’s all very cool.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Aw, thanks, amigo! I’m trying to get less timid about taking people’s photos. Sometimes it seems like such an invasion. But the people really are what make a trip extra special and we want to capture that.

  2. This sounds like an amazing trip! Great photos, thanks for sharing all these beautiful places.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you!! Yes, this is one of our favorite trips (so far). Hope we can get back to Peru someday. The people there have been terribly ravaged by COVID. So sad.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Ha, that’s what we all are these days! Thanks for visiting 🙂

  3. Great pictures. It brings back great memories from our trip. We didn’t enjoy Lima though, maybe we didn’t give it enough time. And it looks like we should have spent more time in Ollantaytambo from your pictures.

    • I wasn’t a fan of Lima either, but since then, many people have talked about how much they loved it….we must have missed out on something 🙁

      • John and Susan Pazera Reply

        Pam – we definitely think Lima is worth a few days. It’s got a charm all its own! And the food . . . just wow.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We probably won’t ever go back to Lima (except to fly in and out). But we’re glad we got to experience it and did enjoy our time there. And we didn’t spend enough time in Ollanta either – hoping to get back there and “do it right” someday.

  4. Fabulous photos of a very colourful country. Kudos to you for doing the Inca Trail, it was already fully booked when we contacted them, so we did the shorter version instead. It is such a beautiful country and sounds like you had a fantastic trip. I like the idea of that train ride, looks great.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Gilda! We know people who did the shorter version of the trail and it sounds like it was still a great experience. We really hope to get back to Peru someday. It’s magical.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Pam! Hope you’re having a great week.

  5. Stunning photos! I’ll be sure to check out your separate posts if and when we explore Peru. Now that we have Maya, this will most likely happen with our own transportation. Questions: how long did you acclimatize in Cusco before you hiked the Inca Trail? Did you suffer from altitude sickness at Lake Titicaca? Is it “cold” above 10,000ft in Peru? What did you wear at that altitude? Thanks!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Oh wow, exploring Peru in a camper van would be amazing! Hope you get to do it someday. We are planning a camper van experience to Patagonia, but that’s another story 🙂

      So, answers:
      We spent three nights in Cusco and then one night in Ollantaytambo to acclimate, and fortunately neither of us had altitude problems even at Lake T. Except for a couple of nights on the Inca Trail, we never really got cold on the entire trip; the weather was pretty spectacular. Even in Puno it was pleasant. This is a great time of year to visit Peru, weather-wise.

      Cheers,
      Susan

  6. This brought back some great memories of our time in Peru. Seems we went to several of the same places, including the train ride (which we loved!) though in the opposite direction. One of the highlights for us was 10 days in Puno for a wild annual indigenous dance festival known as Candelaria. Spectacular.
    Alison

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Glad you got to take the train! That was a huge highlight for us. The scenery unfolding out of the windows was so breathtaking. And wow, we would have loved to see that Candelaria festival. I’ll bet you have some fantastic photos – I’ll go check your blog 🙂
      Cheers,
      Susan

      • Candelaria was truly amazing – and we got press credentials for it so could get into the media area for the best photos!

  7. Gayle Anderson Reply

    Thank you for sharing these fantastic photos. Amazing the stone work that has been accomplished through the ages. Beautiful attire. I wonder how they get the aqua blue that is so vibrant, and the green. Many of the women seem to have swollen joints…too much salt? High blood pressure? Too bad. Must be painful to carry those heavy loads up the hill.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much! That’s a good question about the textiles created by the indigenous people. When we visited the ladies who were weaving in the photo, they showed us all of the natural plants they use to dye the wool. But the really vibrant colors worn by the Andean people we saw in Ollantaytambo? Hard to say. And in terms of the their swollen joints, it’s hard to know – but I can tell you they have very physical and active lifestyles and could run rings around us on the steep Inca trail.

  8. I can’t believe this was two years ago! I remember reading a post about your preparations for that trip to Peru, and I’m glad that it ended up a very memorable one. I’m sure Peru is in most people’s travel wishlist — including mine — and when the pandemic is over, I can imagine the South American country’s tourism industry rebounding quickly.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Let’s hope so, Bama. South America has been the epicenter of the pandemic for so long (although it now seems to be shifting back to the US and Europe) and so many countries, including Peru, have suffered terribly. We really hope tourism rebounds soon but that really depends on a successful vaccine. Hope you can come to South America someday!

      Good memory, BTW 🙂

  9. Great post, illuminated by those wonderful “people photos”. “Lima food” is an entry on our travel wishlist – we’d forgotten why, but we now suspect it was because of one of your earlier posts! Your Peru memories make for great reading.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Ha, thanks! We were just talking about the food in Lima, and how that is one of the biggest reasons we’d go back there. The ceviche is legendary! Hope you get to visit Lima and Peru one of these days.

  10. Your post brought a smile to my face and some great memories of Peru. To be honest, I’d happily go back to Lima just to gorge on the fabulous food.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Right?? We’re getting hungry just thinking about the ceviche 🙂 I was just looking at your Cusco post and it’s making me want to go back there and see things we missed. Hopefully soon! Hugs to you and Nicky.
      – Susan

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Henry! Hope you’re well and headed back home soon. We really should get together one of these days 🙂

  11. Your post has brought back many memories of our own trip to Peru a few years ago. Ours was a cycling tour however followed a very similar path to your adventures. Even to Puno, the floating islands and a homestay on Taquile Island. I did find the floating island visit disconcerting as it seemed like the traditional way of life was now just a show for tourists. The research I did indicated that the increased tourism and boats on the lake was killing the reeds which the Uros people use to make their islands. Perhaps the pandemic has been a time of regeneration.
    Over all we loved Peru. I’m not sure I would recommend high altitude cycling, but certainly a trip of a lifetime. your photos are full of the vibrancy that we recall so vividly.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Oh my goodness, cycling through Peru would be a dream come true! I’ll have to go visit your blog and see what you posted about that.

      We hear you about the floating islands – we just hoped we were helping in a small way, since our tour guide told us that tourism is really the only thing that’s keeping the people on their islands now. He said there was even talk of oil drilling in the lake, which will really kill their culture 🙁 I hope you’re right, that they’ve been able to recover somewhat during the pandemic. But COVID has taken a terrible toll on Peru. Such troubling times, right?

      And thank you for your kind comments, as always 🙂

  12. Great photos! Those colourful and patterned textiles really pop in your images. All these places you describe from your Peru trip are on my list. I can’t wait to finally travel there.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Caroline! I hope we’ll get out from under this pandemic and you can visit Peru soon. It’s really special!

  13. Sunny Branson Reply

    I forgot you had gone for a whole month! Reminds me of our month in Peru! How was the trek? Were you warm enough?

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We were fine except for the second night on the Inca Trail – it was a bit chilly at 13,000 feet! I remember your trip; in fact, we took a lot of your advice 🙂

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