3 Different ways to discover Peru
Since this is the first article I’m puting outhere, you don’t konw that saying that I work a lot is an understatement! Last summer was a busy one, so I decided to book a trip to Peru in september (also, flights where cheaper than in the high season). I already traveled my fare share before that, but this was my first « solo » trip, and it was a revellation ! Since then, I decided to stop waiting for the right moment or for other people to be ready to go explore the world.
I tried to avoid doing the typical backpacker itineray, so I didn’t include things like Nazca lines, Huacachina, etc., and went up north instead. I divided my time between Cusco, Lima, and Chachapoyas tree very differents region of the country. The followings suggestions are great ways to explore Peru as a solo traveller.
Cuso : Inca empire & Jungle treks
It’s pretty hard to go off the beaten tracks in Cusco, but because the city attracts tons of tourists, it’s probably the best place to start if you want to meet other fellow travellers ! This is one of the reason why I decided to include it in the itinerary, the other being that it is the departure point of many treks and tours in the surrounding areas. I didn’t have any expectation about the city, but it turns out that, despite the large proportion of tourists, touristic shops and restaurants, the architecture is still authentic and creates a charming atmoshpere.
My favorite thing to do around Cusco was Hiking the Inca Trail. Yes, I know this a very famous treck and many people are talking about it. Althought, beacause of the restriction of the number of permits, there aren’t actually that many people on the trail. You do need a guide, and it’s a little bit pricy, but totally worth it if you’re into hiking. Appart from the Machu Picchu, which is the ultimate goal of the trek, there are many other impressive sites along the way. This is not an « easy peasy walk » like our guide Javier said at the beginnig (it wasn’t his first trek) ! You’ve gotta deserve this perfect viewpoint at the end, overlooking the famous Inca site! Just a small warning before you jump right into it: if you have vertigo, this might not be for you ! For my part, I discoverd that, when I’m walking on a 1 meter wide path right on the side of a deep ravine, I don’t feel so well ! That said, it is definelty one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. Walking trough the Amazon jungle with a view of the lush mountains at around 3000 meter elevation is an unforgetable « Indiana Jones moment » ! The ruins also add a mystic atmosphere to it…
You should book the trek in advance because of the permits and you are usually paired with a few other hikers (6-10) depending on the travel agency you chose. I went with Alpaca expedition, and was very happy with my choice. Side note, the surprising cooks in the expedition team will prepare the best peruvian food you’ve ever tasted !
Lima : Effervescence & Street art
Lima certainely is the furthest thing from the jungle ! It’s very cahotic, full of traffic jams and honking cars. The reason why I went is very simple : I had no other choices to get to Chachapoyas (there are bus, but if I remeber correclty, it takes around 40hours). The choice was easy… Insted, I booked a Flight to Lima, and another one to Chachapoyas, and decided to stop in between for a few days in the city before heading North.
The first thing I did right after arriving was a ceviche class, which happened to be a free activity proposed by my Hostel. I suppose you can easyly find another place to assist a cooking class since the city is renoun for it’s food scene. We were only 5, plus the chef. If like me, you’re a bit shy, I found that small groups activities makes it easyier to get to know other people. So, our group went to the market, and we chose our ingredients while the chef thaugh us how to select the right fish. Back to the hostel kitchen, we had took part on every step to prepare the perfect classic pervian ceviche.
At night, if you’re staying around the historical neigbouhood, I suggest going to the Magical water circuit. There are projections and interactive fountains that you can actually walk through and be a part of the installation.
I also went to see what is all the fuss about Baranco neiborhood. It’s actually very touristic, but a good place to wander around and get losts in the colorful streets or chase graffitis. It is a good place to go if you’re into street photography. It as a low key vibe, but at the same time there are many bars and restaurant to chose from. From there, I killed two bird with one stone, and decide to go to the indian market of Miraflores, but by cycling on the boardwalk along Costa Verde. It’s a footpath following the coastline and linking Mirafloress and Baranco districts, featuring ocean and city views from the clifs. It would have been better with a sunny day, but appenrently those a rare in Lima !
Chahapoyas : Culture & responsible tourism
Arriving in Chachapoyas area, in the Amazonas region in the Northern Peruvian Andes, is like stepping into another era. Because of the remotness and elevation of the city, the wifi and networks don’t work half the time, and the people produce almot everything locally. Truth is, the mountains make it hard to get there by car in a direct itinerary, even if when you look at a map, it doesn’t seem so far.
The populaiton, know as the « Cloud People », (because they litteraly live in the clouds !), still pracice ancient crafts like pottery or hand weavign, and use traditionnal agriculture methods. Unlike in Cusco, you can really exchange with the artisans and get to know their day to day life away from the large civilisations.
During my trip, I also went to Cocachimba, a small village near Gocta waterfall. I stayed at Albergue Sachapuyo, a small homestay with a peaceful view on the Waterfall. Rafael, the host, explained how the village was very careful about recycling (he had a whole sorting technic instored and wanted us to follow it). I was also happy to learn that the fees to enter the Gocta fall trail were not only to mainain the path. There is apparently a project to help the community with the school system developement, using the contribution from the visitors.
In the end, Peru is place where culture is very diversified and is completely different depending on wich region you’re in. To get the complete portrait of this beautiful contry, you would definelty need more than a two week itinerary !