Beautiful memories and amazing scenery are best shared with family and friends... Photograph courtesy of Vivek Nayak.
Our trip to Peru in November 2016 was a memorable experience — it was a year in the making. My wife, myself, my uncle, and my aunt started looking at various travel sites and short listed two, both located in Lima. After inquiries, we decided Anywhere Peru was our first choice — the itinerary appeared more exciting! As they say, “The more the merrier.” We decided to call a few of our friends to see if they were interested in joining us and were now a group of eight people.
Over the next few months, we exchanged several emails with Anywhere Peru, tinkering with the itinerary…adding Colca Canyon… In May 2016, we all met to call Cesar [manager of Anywhere Peru] and make payment arrangements. Our excitement building, we treated ourselves to a pre-travel party where we prepped for the trip — talking about our itinerary, the weather in Peru, the currency, food, everything!
Finally, the day [of our trip] arrived; after a brief halt in Panama City, we landed in Lima, and were received by our gracious hosts and trip planners.
El Parque Del Amor (Love Park)
features sweeping views and Victor Delfin's statue "El Beso" (The Kiss). Photograph courtesy of Vivek Nayak.
The following day, we were off on a half day tour of Lima. We were taken to the Parque Del Amore and had a great time taking pictures of each couple near the famous landmark statue of ‘the couple in the park.’ We also visited other sites, including the Plaza Mayor, Huaca Pucllana, and Cathedral of Lima. In the afternoon, we decided to visit the Larco Museum — not to be missed!
The ruins of the Sacsayhuamán fortress are now peaceful grazing grounds for alpacas.
Upon landing in Cusco, we were told by our local guide to take slow steps, which seemed funny at the time, but as we exited the terminal, we realised how tired we were feeling walking at our normal pace…altitude! At the hotel, we were given maca tea to help us relax, but soon, our guide arrived and we were off on a half day tour of Cusco.
We visited Sacsayhuaman and the Sun temple. [It was] a wonderful experience with a lot of history. We saw a few alpacas walking around the area and petted one at the entrance. Later, we travelled to the Cristo Blanco — a mini version of Rio’s “Christ The Redeemer.” We also got a wonderful view of the city and the ‘Plaza de Armas’ (‘central square’). Durning our evening free time, we went to the city centre and watched a marching band, visited the Cusco Cathedral, and had a light dinner at a local restaurant.
Today was marked for a visit to the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo ruins. During the drive to the Sacred Valley, we stopped along the way to visit an animal research centre. We saw a variety of llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas, and could even pet them and feed them hay while taking pictures. We also saw a few local women making fabrics with several natural dyes.
Fun, food, and new friends are waiting for you in Peru...the animals feel the same way. Photograph courtesy of Vivek Nayak.
We then drove to the Sacred Valley to see the picturesque landscape of the Urubamba River. Further on, we went shopping at the Pisac Market. The ladies went crazy picking up all kinds of stuff; bargaining and getting prices down made them happy. The last stop was the Ollantaytambo ruins. The climb to the top was steep and some of the ladies within our group opted to stay at the base. The rest of us climbed to the top and marvelled at the feat of the Incas, who built the fortress.
Tomorrow would be the reason for our trip—a visit to Machu Picchu!
We eagerly awoke, anticipating our ride aboard the Vistadome to Aguas Calientes. The train journey was a memorable one, with the river Urubamba on the side and the Andes mountains on the top. After checking in and freshening up, we walked to the bus station for our ride to Machu Picchu…
What's a trip to Peru without at least one visit to Machu Picchu? Photograph courtesy of Vivek Nayak.
Once at the top [of Machu Picchu], we walked into the fortress and saw the breathtaking views of the mountain, the terraces, and the other Incan buildings. Our guide gave us a comprehensive history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and wonder of the world — little did we know that ‘Machu Picchu’ meant ‘Old Mountain.’ With several pictures and video clips, it was time to return to the base and head back to Aguas Calientes. I wished that I had done this trip when I was younger and could have done Huayna Picchu as well. We bid farewell to our gracious guide in a local restaurant, then explored the town on our own.
In the morning, we went to Aguas Calients’ namesake hot springs and experienced the warm mineral laden waters before our afternoon train back to Cusco. Next on the list was a culinary experience of Cusco. Chris, the local chef, picked us up at our hotel and we walked to his culinary studio. En route, we visited the local market where he purchases his local ingredients; there were many varieties of corn, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, lentils, meat, fish, and poultry.
At the studio, we learnt to make Peruvian cuisine including pisco sour, ceviche, and aji de gallina — a chicken dish.(Incidentally, we made pisco sours at our New Year’s party on December 31st 2017 — over a year after our Peru visit!)
Cheers to life!...Especially when you're enjoying a pisco sour in Peru ;-)
Photograph courtesy of Vivek Nayak.
Finally, it was time to leave Cusco and head for Puno — the next leg of our tour. On the way to Puno, our guide showed us a map with the sites we were going to visit. These included the beautiful Church of San Pedro de Andahuaylillas (where unfortunately I could not take any pictures), a stop at Oropesa to taste the ‘pan chuta’ or local ‘flat bread,’ and Raqchi, to visit the Temple of Wiracocha.
At Puno, we were received by our local guide and taken to our hotel, where she explained our itinerary for the next day — a trip to the Uros Floating Islands, located in the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,500 feet (3,810 m) above sea level — Lake Titicaca.
The Uros Floating Islands are amazing man-made structures which are continuously being rebuilt.
We reached the port early the next morning to board our boat to the Uros Islands, and soon saw the locals in their colourful dress. On one island, a chief explained how the islands are built and rebuilt every few years, as the base keeps wearing out.
After a ride in a colourful boat, we visited the main island for a great memento — a passport stamp of the island. From there, we were taken to Taquile Island. With the town situated at a steep height, walking from the pier was a tiring experience; we all made it — with several stops along the way. At the top was a small township where the locals were putting on a show for their visitors, and serving a lunch of soup and bread. They also explained their customs and code of conduct. Then, it was time to boat back to Puno.
Experience the tranquil beauty of Arequipa — surrounded by mountains and volcanos.
The next day, we explored Puno; we saw a few colourful processions of local people, and enjoyed a delicious lunch at a local restaurant. That afternoon was our trip to Arequipa, which was in a bus that looked more like a plane. The lower deck reserved for our group had wide seats and we could watch movies. We reached Arequipa around 10 p.m. and had to wake up by 3:30 a.m. the next morning to take our private mini bus to Colca Canyon to see condors in flight.
A condor soars majestically over Colca Canyon.
Excited, we were up and in the bus by 3:30 a.m. On the drive to Colca we saw several wonderful sights along the way — the Sabancaya Volcano, Colca Valley, and finally, the condor cross. We saw around five condors big and small in flight, and walked the nearby trail for a few minutes with our guide. On the way back, we stopped at Maca village to take pictures with alpacas and a unique Peruvian eagle which perched on top of our hats. We returned to Arequipa in the afternoon and had some free time to visit the local sights, including the Plaza de Armas.
The Santa Catalina Monastery is surprisingly vibrant, with buildings in a variety of colours.
The next day, we had a half day tour of the city sights, including the Compañía Church and the Santa Catalina Monastery. These sites are well maintained and organised, and definitely worth visiting!
There is plenty of amazing architecture you'll enjoy taking travel photos in front of. Photograph courtesy of Vivek Nayak.
Finally, we returned to Lima for the last day of our tour. We did some shopping at the local market, ate some local fruits — like the lúcuma and chirimoya — and had an evening at the Fountains of Lima. It was another unique experience. We returned to Canada full of memories of the several UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Peru, the friendly people, and our excellent tour guides. In a few years, I would love to visit again!