Traveling Through Peru

Mar 29 2023
Lima, Peru
Posted by Emilie

Lima, Peru is not at all like what we imagined. We've always been so curious about Lima and its beautiful location sitting on the cliffs right next to the ocean. But we were also a bit scared to go. We had heard so much about high crime levels and how we shouldn't trust the taxis that it made us a little afraid of the city. And yes, there are some unsafe parts of the city that we were told to avoid. And yes, you do need to be very selective about the taxis you get into. But the neighbourhoods we visited, like Miraflores and Barranco, are reasonably safe and they are so beautiful, with so many amazing things to do to take in Peruvian life from walks right along the ocean to visiting markets, restaurants, and public parks.

And because its located in the desert, and with over 11 million people living there, it is actually one of the largest cities in the world located in a desert. And its almost always sunny with very little rain.

Lima is inexpensive, has lots of shopping, green spaces filled with art and people enjoying the day, and all kinds of food. For sit-down service, the local Peruvian restaurants serve huge entrees with a soup and juice on the side for under $4.

In the neighbourhood of Miraflores sits the Museo de Sitio Pucllana, where you can find the ruins of the pre-Incan civilization that was the first to settle the area 2000 years ago. To visit the ruins you must book a ticket online ahead of time, and then take a guided tour.

On the tour we learned that this temple was built to honour the god of the sea in about 400 AD. The adobe bricks we see still standing have withstood centuries of earthquakes and flooding.

The tour also includes a walk past alpacas and flora like the quinoa plant. Our guide told us the water that supports life in Lima comes down the rivers from the Andes mountain range, including the Rimac river that gave Lima its name.

The Indian Market is a great place to look for souvenirs and products from the Andes. Stuffed alpacas of all sizes from small keychains to medium sized ones to much, much larger ones are all available for purchase.

When we visited the Plaza de Armas in the Historic Center, we left our cell phones back in the apartment because we heard it was a high-crime rate area. But we stuck to the area around the square and felt more comfortable than we thought we would.

We also enjoyed Lima's nightlife. The pedestrian only streets by our AirBnB across from Kennedy Park have so many restaurants and places to relax with a drink. I loved walking around after dinner in the warm air and being part of the energy of the crowd.

We feel so lucky to have come and experienced this amazing city. We're so glad we were aware of some of the crime and issues in the city to make informed decisions about where to explore, but we didn't let them scare us out of coming. Lima is a beautiful and vibrant city with a unique landscape set on a cliff between the Pacific ocean and the Andes mountains. It's definitely worth a visit!

Apr 4 2023
Arequipa, Peru
Posted by Emilie

We had never heard of Arequipa, Peru until we started planning to visit this country. Arequipa is located in the Andes mountains, and with a population of over a million people, is the second most populous city in Peru after Lima. And it's also very reasonably priced. So what can you get for your money here?

We travel the world full-time, but we're doing things a little differently in Peru. Normally, we'd rent an apartment for a month in the places we stay. But because of the recent protests we delayed our arrival to the country. And we also have another place we need to be in 6 weeks. So we decided that instead of renting a place for a month, we'd break up our slow-travel style and move around every couple of weeks to see more of Peru in the time we had.

So so found ourselves in Arequipa, Peru, surrounded by the Andes mountains and 3 volcanos. This is how much food, accommodation, personal items, and tours cost us.

Let's start with the cost of food. Chaufa, which is a Chinese-inspired fried rice dish, is one of the most popular foods here and a cheap way to eat. You can find restaurants serving Chaufa on almost every block near the city center. The rice dishes have a variety of options like chicken or vegetables and cost about 10 soles each ($2.60 USD, $3.60 CAD). Grocery stores are also reasonably priced here. A simple loaf of bread is 6 soles ($1.60 USD, $2.15 CAD). And we paid 12 soles ($3.10 USD, $4.30 CAD) for 4 empanadas.

As full-time travelers, we'd normally rent an apartment for a month. Here in Arequipa, a short-term AirBnB rental would run about $740 USD ($1000 CAD). But because we only stayed in Arequipa for 2 weeks, with a 2-night break to see the Colca Canyon, we rented a hotel room instead in a lovely 10-room hotel called Hostal Virreinal AQP run but a very kind couple. Our room was basic, but very clean. And the price per night was $25 USD ($35 CAD), including a breakfast of eggs, toast, coffee and tea, and freshly blended juice. We booked directly with the hotel by messaging them on WhatsApp to save the booking fees that online booking platforms charge.

The hotel room was a bit smaller than the one-bedroom apartments we usually rent, so it's great for a shorter stay, but we definitely prefer having a full apartment with a comfortable sofa and kitchen.

Arequipa has tons of markets where you can buy pretty much everything you need for daily life from food and clothing to electronics and personal care. I picked up a new jacket as my old one had developed a few holes, and we found a headlamp for just $2 USD, that we'll need for our hikes as my old one broke.

And lastly, let's talk about the cost of tours. Normally, we try to visit places on our own, but the tours in Arequipa are so reasonably priced and they make transportation so easy that we decided to try them.

First we did the Sillar Route. Sillar is a natural stone that is mined in the region. The canyon was pretty narrow and cool to walk through. And on the walls we saw petroglyphs of different animals and stories being told. After the walk, we checked out some of the carvings made from the sillar.

The 4-hour tour, including transportation, entry into the canyon, and guide was a very reasonably priced $7 USD ($10 CAD).

Since our first tour went so well, we decided to book another. This time a 10-hour tour, beginning with a 6am pick, to the Salinas Lake Reserve located 14,000 ft above sea level, high in the Andes mountains.

Our first stop on the tour is a viewpoint for the Misti volcano.

Next we went to Salinas Lake itself, where we even saw flamingos, vicunas, and llamas!

The full-day tour, which included breakfast, transportation, a guide, and all the stops we mentioned was just $20 USD ($27 CAD). Lunch was not included.

We loved our time in Arequipa. It's is an amazing city in the Peruvian Andes, not super touristy, and very reasonably priced.

Apr 7 2023
Colca Canyon
Posted by Emilie

We did the 3-day Colca Canyon hike near Arequipa, Peru. Our 3-day trek through the Colca Canyon started off with a very early 3am pickup from our hotel in Arequipa. The 3 hour drive through the mountain road was a bit scary, but at least we slept through most of it. Our first stop was the town of Chivay for breakfast.

After breakfast, we went to see the condor viewing area, but we didn't end up seeing any condors, which was a bit disapointing.

But then we started our trek down into the Colca Canyon and we were able to see several condors!

Day 1's goal is to decend into the Canyon. It was quite steep and my toes hurt a bit from the constant pressure. It was nice to get to our homestead for the night, which was a basic room with a private bathroom and hot shower, but no electricity.

Our dinner at the homestead was a warm soup and a main course of rice, eggs and potatoes, veggies, and some meat,which was alpaca and so I asked for the vegetarian option instead.

We were provided a battery operated light for our room, as there was no electricity so we were glad we had our portable power packs to recharge our phones overnight.

Day 2 of the trek was an undulating trail through smaller towns at the bottom of the canyon that ended in the Sangalle Oasis and spring-fed swimming pools.

The small towns receive supplies by mule, and you can stop to buy snacks and water. My favourite store was a small hand-built structure about 30 minutes before the Oasis.

Getting to the oasis and soaking in the spring-fed pool at the homestead was amazing. The main reason we opted for the 3-day trek instead of the 2-day was so we could enjoy more time at the bottom of the canyon, and we were definitely able to do that!

We went to bed early, so we could get up at 4:30 for our 4km, 1000m hike out of the Colca Canyon.

It was still dark at 4:30 so we used our headlamps for the first 40 minutes or so. And after a 2.5 hour, constant uphil hike, we made it to the top!

Over the 3 days we hiked over 23 km and ascended over 1200m

Our last day of the trek also included a breakfast, a stop at some hot springs, which felt pretty awesome after all that hiking, lunch in Chivay, and a stop at the peak of the mountain road at 4910m in elevation. On the 4 hour drive back, which isn't super comfortable due to lack of leg room, we also spot some super cute alpacas and vicunas.

We booked this beautiful 3-day trek through a tour company in Arequipa for $85 USD. This included:

  • Round-trip bus transportation from Arequipa to the Colca Canyon
  • Our guide
  • 2 nights of accomodation
  • All our meals except for lunch on the last day

It didn't include:

  • Our entry permit into the Colca Canyon, which is 70 soles per person
  • Water and snacks along the way. We spent about 40 soles per person on these.
  • Entry into the hot springs for 15 soles per person
  • Lunch on the last day. We didn't go to the recommended buffet restaurant which is 35 soles, and instead walked to a sandwich place and paid 5 soles for a simple sandwich.
  • Tip for our guide.

So in total, the 3-day trek cost us about $130 USD per person.

The Colca Canyon is an amazing experience. If you're able to travel to Arequipa Peru and you enjoy a moderately challenging hike, we highly recommend it!

Apr 15 2023
Cusco, Peru
Posted by Emilie

Cusco is a city of about half a million people located high in the Peruvian Andes. 700 years ago, the city was at the heart of the Incan empire and today it's the gateway for visiting Machu Picchu, hiking the Inca Trail, and touring the Sacred Valley.

The city's main square is filled with tourists wearing full hiking gear and shops selling clothes made out of Alpaca wool to keep you warm this high up in the Andes. But is Cusco just a stopover point to other destinations? Or is there more to Cusco than that?

We're currently in Cusco, Peru trying to catch our breath at 11,000 ft (3400m) above sea level. And while so many people only come here for a few days on their way to other popular sites, this city is so much more than a stop-over destination, and it is worth spending more time in.

The city is very affordable, and has delicious food, fun markets, cute alleys, and ruins of its own to explore.

The main tourist area of Cusco is the central square, called the Plaza De Armas. Here you can find some of the more tourist-focused restaurants and shops selling American outdoor-apparel like The North Face and Patagonia. This is also a great area to pick up souvenirs and goods made with Alpaca wool.

There are definitely lots of tourist areas, but Cusco is also a city where half a million people shop and conduct their daily lives. For cheaper restaurants with a more local vibe, you just need to head away from the main square. We found restaurants serving huge plates of Chaufa for about 12 soles, a "menu-del-dia" for 10 soles, and bakeries selling empanadas for 4 soles each. And for cooking at home, there are plenty of reasonably priced grocery stores as well.

We took a short but steep uphill walk from the city to the Qenqo Forest, where we were able to see some of the ruins for free. Then we paid 70 soles for a pass to enter the 4 paid sites in Cusco including the very impressive, Sacsayhuman.

This site was built by the Incans in the 1400s. Here we were able to see the huge stones that were cut into perfect shapes to fit together without mortar. These stones weigh 10s of tonnes, some more than 100 tonnes and were too big for the Spanish colonialists to take down and use in their buildings, so we can still see them standing in their original position.

Cusco is also just a 45 minute bus ride away from the town of Pisac in the Sacred Valley. To catch a bus to Pisac, we just walked down Puputi street and looked for the bus drivers calling out that they were going to Pisac and hopped on. The ride cost us 5 soles each.

Once in Pisac, we bought another entry ticket to check out the ancient ruins for 70 soles. The ticket is also valid for 3 other sites in the Sacred Valley, including Ollantaytambo, a bit farther from Cusco.

The Pisac archeological site is HUGE. You can choose to do a challenging uphill hike from the town of Pisac to see the ruins or take a cab up for 35 soles. Either way, wear sturdy shoes to explore this place. There are so many sites to see here. This place is a maze and everywhere we turn there is more to see and details about Incan ingenuity to learn about.

We also took a break from Incan ruins for a day-trip to Rainbow Mountain. The hike would normally not sound very challenging at only 7km round trip and an elevation gain of just 400 meters, but since we're doing it at 5000m (16,400ft) above sea level, it's more difficult than it sounds!

We booked with a tour company for 90 soles per person. We saw an option for 70 soles, but it had terrible reviews, so we paid a bit more to go with a company with better reviews. The price included transportation from Cusco to Rainbow Mountain on roads which are not for those who don't like heights, breakfast, a guide up the mountain, and lunch afterwards. The guide was there for support, but we did the hike at our own pace, with a time to meet the group back at the van a few hours later. The air was really thin up there: Chris did really well, but I had some trouble catching my breath.

Between hiking Rainbow Mountain, walking through ancient ruins, eating delicious food, and enjoying life like a local, Cusco has so much to offer. It's considered very safe and we loved being here. Its so much more than just a stopover to other destinations. Cusco is definitely a city that's worth spending some time in.

Apr 22 2023
Salkantay and Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Posted by Emilie

We spent 7 days and 6 nights hiking over 80km, with a high point of 5200m in elevation, on the Salkantay and Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It was an incredible and amazing experience!!

On the second day, we hiked up to the crystal clear blue waters of Humantay Lake. We started our hike early and Chris and I were the first to arrive, so we were able to have the lake all to ourselves.

On day three, we reached the top of the Salkantay Pass at 5200m of elevation, the highest we've ever been in the world. The climb was tough and the air was thin. I was so happy when I reached the summit that I started crying from happiness.

Day five, took us to the top of the famous Dead Woman's Pass on the Inca Trail, at an elevation of 4200m.

On day seven, we woke up at 3:30am to get in line for the trailhead to the Sun Gate, which opened at 5:30am. We ran uphill for 6km from camp to the Sun Gate to be some of the first people that day to see Machu Picchu. We'd seen a lot of Incan sites during our time in Peru, so I wasn't expecting Machu Picchu to be that much different. I was so wrong! My first glimpses of Machu Picchu took my breath away! Seeing the city for the first time, nestled into the Andes mountains is an incredible experience. And this initial view is only available to those that hike the Inca Trail.

After taking in the views of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, we decended into Machu Picchu itself, starting with postcard point, to see this amazing wonder up close.

Apr 30 2023
Iquitos, Peru and the Amazon Jungle
Posted by Emilie

We bit off more than we planned on this adventure, and ended up experiencing life in a way we never thought we would. Landing in Iquitos, then taking a 2-hour bus ride to the end of the road in Nauta, then a 5 hour boat ride to Requena that should have only been 3 hours but one of the two boat's motors broke down, before getting on another 4 hour boat ride to our lodge.

After going deep into the Amazon jungle, far away from the typical tourist lodges, we found ourselves in an accommodation in a state of complete disrepair. We expected rustic but we didn't plan for filthy accommodations, stained, ant-covered mattresses, and dangerously thin floorboards. But in this place we also met kind people who took us out into the jungle and taught us so much about the plants, animals, and humans that live there. They had so much contagious enthusiasm for all the birds and animals we saw and never hesitated to take us out for hours at a time. I'm not sure we would have taken this trip if we had known what we were getting ourselves into, but I'm so glad we were able to experience this aspect of life in the Amazon.

Here are just some of the animals we saw:

  • All kinds of monkeys: Squirrel, Capuchin, Titi/Tocon, Tamarind, Black Saki, Red Uacari, Howler, and White Capuchin
  • 3-Toed Sloth and Long Nose Bats
  • So many colourful birds: Plum Throated Cotinga, Macaw, Hoatzin Bird, Capped Heron (black head), White Necked Heron, Green Parrots: short tail parrots, White Wing Swallows, Black Collar Hawk, Masked Crimson Tanager, Black Cara Cara, Yellow Headed Cara Cara, Great Black Hawk, Aracari Tucan, White Throated Tucan, Horned Screamers, all 5 King Fishers (Ring, Amazon, Green and Rufus, Green, Pigmy), Crimson Crested Woodpecker, Parakeet, Greater Ani Birds, Pauraque (at night), Night Hawk, Owl, Violaceous Jay, Jacamar, Blue-Winged Parrolet, Anhinga, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Snowy Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Muscovy Duck, Swallow-Tailed Kite, Wattled Jacana, Yellow-Rumped Cacique
  • Tree Snake (non-poisonous), Amazon Tree Iguana, Green Lizard, Afaninga Snake, Caiman
  • Pink River Dolphins and Gray Dolphins
  • Walking Stick Bugs

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