Population: 30 million
Languages: Spanish, Chechua, Aymara
Independence: 28 July 1821
GDP per Capita: $11,000
Border Countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador
Religion: Roman Catholic
Highlights: Machu Picchu, Nazca lines, Amazon, Colca Canyon
Cost: Very cheap!
Peru is one of the most diverse countries in the world! I’m not just saying that, according to United Nations, it is one of the 17 countries classified as “megadiverse”. There’s so many amazing things to do in this country, you could never be bored and you could never stay long enough. There’s a rich sea life in Paracas, deserts in Ica, and huge ancient Incan glyphs in Nazca. There’s the Andes, Colca Canyon, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca, and that’s just in the South! If you go north you’ll find both the snow covered Cordillera mountain range and the warm, sunny beaches of Mancora. Then of course, there’s the Amazon, dominating the entire eastern coast of Peru; like I said, you couldn’t be bored if you tried.
Peru was my first trip to South America and I visited with Seth for almost 4 weeks in April/May 2013. We started off in Lima and bused our way down the coast before travelling inland through the Andes. We passed through the Islas Ballestas bird sanctuary in Paracas, through breathtaking Colca Canyon and Arequipa, and on to the beautiful Lake Titicaca on the border of Bolivia. After that, we headed back up along the eastern side of Peru to Cusco, the former capital and tourist hub of Peru. We spent two weeks based in Cusco, spending a week hiking to Machu Picchu and a week exploring the Amazon before flying back to Lima to catch our flight home. Flying is definitely the easiest way to get around Peru, although it’s not the cheapest.
The most challenging thing about Peru is the altitude. Once you leave the coast, you ascend very quickly into the Andes. Cusco is located at an altitude of 3400m above sea level and Puno, the city located on Lake Titicaca, is at an altitude of 3800m. The highest point we passed through on the trip was 4910m, by bus, and we hiked up to 4600m. You definitely need to give yourself at least 5 days to adjust to the altitude, which was how long Seth needed. Unfortunately for me, it took about 2 weeks before I finally adjusted, so it can really vary.
Don’t underestimate altitude sickness. Most people get mild symptoms above 3000m, which can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, or difficulty breathing. I didn’t experience headaches or dizziness, but I found it challenging to breathe when walking on even the slightest incline. It made hiking very challenging and frustrating. Machu Picchu is actually only located at 2400m, so you should be fine there, but if you’re planning to do a trek to Machu Picchu, be prepared for high altitudes.
But altitude sickness aside, Peru is an incredible country that really has so much to offer. There’s lots of amazing places to see and lots of fun things to do! It’s definitely helpful to know some spanish (or to have someone you’re travelling with know some Spanish), but it’s not absolutely essential. The bottom line is that Peru is definitely a place you have to visit at least once in your life and Machu Picchu really is one of the 7 new wonders of the world!
Exploring the Peruvian Coastline – Peru has been amazing so far, I don’t even really know where to start! We left around suppertime the day after we finished university, so it was a pretty hectic day and a long overnight flight from Toronto to Lima. It was misty rain and overcast when we arrived as well, which was a little bit anticlimactic and had us wondering… read more
Traveling Through the Andes – Picking up where I left off in my last blog, we traveled from Paracas to our next destination, Arequipa, by bus. This was the longest bit of driving on the trip, so we decided to take an overnight bus. The main bus company here is Cruz del Sur and apparently they are years ahead of bus systems in the rest of the world, almost to the point… read more
Trekking from Salkantay to Machu Picchu – I’m going to postpone writing about lake Titicaca for now as I’ve just spent the last week hiking from Salkantay to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is, of course, one of the biggest attractions in Peru and one of my motivations for wanting to come here. We decided we wanted to trek there to make the experience a little… read more
Into the Amazon – After three and a half weeks, we’re finishing up our trip to Peru. We’re flying back to Lima today and then back to Canada tomorrow. It’s definitely been an incredible trip and the longest period of time I’ve spent on vacation! We spent the last week in Manu National Park, it’s located on the eastern side of Peru and is a part of the Amazon… read more
On the Shores of Lake Titicaca – There’s one last blog that I want to write about Peru. The last big location that we visited was Lake Titicaca. I skipped writing about it in favour of Machu Picchu and the Amazon, but it was a pretty great place to visit as well! Lake Titicaca is located on the southwestern side of Peru and shares a border with Bolivia. Approximately… read more