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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.…

At last, we’ve come to the final post from our month-long journey in Peru. Our last destination (before one more night in Lima) was the beautiful colonial town of Arequipa, one of our favorite stops. We arrived in Arequipa in the mid-afternoon after taking a 6 a.m. first-class bus from Puno. (Here’s our post about Puno and Lake Titicaca.) The bus ride itself was spectacular and scenic, taking us across the austere high country of southern Peru. And  when we say high, we mean it: one of our stops on the journey topped our entire Peru experience, at 4,560 meters (close to 15,000 feet). We passed through a few small towns, each bustling with activity from the region’s mining industry. Since the bus was going on to Chivay, the gateway to Colca Canyon, we switched to a private taxi arranged by the bus company for the final 2-hour descent into Arequipa.  …

On our recent trip to Peru, we traveled from the Sacred Valley by train to the city of Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. (That train ride was an unforgettable experience. And, in case you missed it, here’s our post about our visit to the Sacred Valley.) Street scene, downtown Puno We found the city of Puno itself to be pretty unremarkable. It has its charms, but mostly it’s a somewhat grungy agricultural and industrial center for southern Peru. We spent two full days in Puno before taking the bus to Arequipa, and that was plenty of time. Most memorably, we got to explore the lake and learn about two colorful and ancient indigenous peoples based there: the Uros, famed for their floating reed-island homes, and the residents of Isla Taquile with their colorful knitting and weaving traditions. A Life Afloat: the Buoyant Uros A Uros family welcomes a new…

All over the Sacred Valley, we saw these “Pucara Bull” ornaments on the tops of homes and businesses. They’re said to bring good fortune to the residents. So many places, so little time. It’s the big conundrum of travel: if you spend too much time in one place, what will you miss that’s just around the bend? As John likes to say, the sand is slipping through the hourglass. Even so, we didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in the Peru’s Sacred Valley. We were in Cusco for four days to acclimate to the altitude before our Inca Trail/Machu Picchu adventure, and then stayed in Ollantaytambo for three days afterward. Now, the Sacred Valley has joined the long list of places to which we hope to return. Maybe . . .So what’s so sacred about the Sacred Valley? For starters, it’s the cradle of civilization for the fabled and long-disappeared…

We weren’t prepared to love Lima. One reason was the negativity we got from some of our friends, including some who have never been there. In keeping with Latitude Adjustment Travel Rule #1 (never form an opinion about a place unless you’ve visited it yourselves), we ignored the nay-sayers and spent four days in Lima at the beginning of our Peru odyssey in October. We bookended our trip three weeks later with a final night in Lima before flying home. As South America’s fourth largest city, Lima has big-city problems: paralyzing traffic, a fair amount of air pollution, and extreme poverty. It’s also got a stunning historical district, fantastic boho neighborhoods, world-class restaurants, and little pockets of whimsy when you least expect them. We loved our visit! Here are our Lima highlights: The Food Lima has a well-earned reputation as the culinary capital of South America, and everything you’ve heard…

As part of our 23-day Peru adventure, we wanted to experience a part of Peru by rail and enjoy the beautiful scenery that Peruvian Andes country has to offer. The PeruRail Titicaca Train from Cusco to Puno exceeded our expectations by far.  Since we’re usually budget-to-midlevel travelers, this luxury train ride was a bit of a splurge. But we wanted to give ourselves a little reward and a bit of pampering after completing our trek on the Inca Trail. We took an early-morning taxi from Ollantaytambo, where we had spent three nights after the trek, to the Cusco Wanchaq PeruRail station for the 7:50 departure to Puno. The pampering begins at check-in, when the friendly porters take your luggage and escort you to your assigned train car and table. Nice touch! The train features an open-air observatory car with a full bar, and the train cars are decorated in the 1920s Pullman style…

Earlier this month, we realized a dream a year in the making when we walked Peru’s Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It was one of the more physically challenging things we’ve ever done, and also one of the most rewarding. There’s so much to tell that we’ve decided to split this post into two. Here, we’ll talk about the Inca Trail experience. In a subsequent post, we describe our encounter with Machu Picchu, the fabled city that so many have tried to understand but to this day remains shrouded in mystery. We’ll also throw in a few tips for folks that are considering a trek of their own. It’s worth mentioning that “Inca Trail” is a bit of a misnomer. The stretch we walked, almost 28 miles, is actually just a tiny fragment of a huge network of trails that criss-cross the Andes and link important Inca and pre-Inca sites. At…

A serendipitous moment Oct. 9 was election day in Peru, and citizens across the country turned out to choose their local and provincial officials (in other words, mayors, aldermen, and state governors). And, lucky for us, Oct. 9 was also the day we arrived in the Sacred Valley town of Ollantaytambo — to hordes of Andean folks who had come in from their mountain villages to cast their ballots. We were spending a night in Ollantaytambo before starting our trek on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, but that’s another story! Also known as Quechuas, the Andean people trace their roots to the original Inca empire. Their brilliant clothing signifies the village they’re from and the position they hold in their local society, including marital status. Quechua is their first language, but many also speak Spanish. Party time As fate would have it, our hotel, the Casa Blanca Lodge, was situated…

How is it possible that it’s already November? Seems like yesterday that we wrapped up our epic road trip through southeastern Colombia. Through the month of August, we drove almost 2,500 km primarily through Santander and Boyacá departments, with additional stops in Cundinamarca and Tolima. We spent several days each in Barichara, Monguí, Villa de Leyva, and Honda – four of Colombia’s most beautiful and well-known Pueblos Patrimonios (officially designated heritage towns). So many other picturesque Colombian towns and villages caught our attention, even if we were just driving through or making a lunch stop. Here are just a few. USUAL NOTE: Most of our photos are in galleries. Just click on the first one to click through larger versions of each. Zapatoca: The Quintessential Colombian Town Heading south from Bucaramanga, we reached Zapatoca after a morning drive through a northern reach of the dazzling Chicamocha Canyon. (We visited the Canyon…

The Basilica of Our Lady of Monguí and adjacent convent, which now houses a museum. On our way to the heritage town of Monguí, we found ourselves once again on an unpaved road. It turns out Waze really doesn’t know the back roads of Colombia very well. Who knew?? We headed out early from the small town of Guadalupe on a paved rural route through the rolling landscape of Boyaca, with field after field of potatoes, peas, beans, and onions (lots of onions!) against a distant Andes backdrop. Upon reaching the highway, we had a choice: keep going south, or take a shortcut recommended by Waze. Of course we took the shortcut, even though we lost the pavement pretty soon after leaving the highway. The road added two hours to our trip, but the day was far easier than our journey to Barichara more than a week earlier. And the scenery…

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