South America has been number one on my list for the past couple of years and I was finally able to cross it off with my recent trip to Peru! Located on the western side of the continent, Peru is home to incredible Incan history and delicious food. It is now probably one of my favorite places that I’ve visited to date. I was only able to go for a total of 6 days, so it was super important to me that I saw as much as I could! During the planning stage of the trip, I decided to narrow the trip down to two of the countries major cities: Cusco and Lima. You can get to and from each city by plane and the domestic flights are super cheap! I’m so glad I chose these two cities because by doing so I really got to see a little bit of everything!
Cusco is a super small city in the Peruvian Andes, a little over 11,000 ft above sea level. The altitude can be a B word, so prepare accordingly. Most hotels have free oxygen and coca leaves are also a lifesaver! With local vendors and hundreds of artisan shops, Cusco displays the fascinating culture of Peru throughout the whole city. It is also home to Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and while seeing the landmark is an absolute must-do- there is so much more the city has to offer! I’ve highlighted my faves from my time there.
Machu Picchu: There are several options when it comes to deciding how you want to see Machu Picchu. One of the most popular ones, “Inca Trail” requires a 4 day, 28 mile hike (7 miles each day) through the Andes. I am not much of a hiker and time was limited so I went with the fastest (and unfortunately most expensive) method of getting there. However, it was still no easy journey. We had a travel company, Viajes Pacifico, pick us up from our hotel at 3:45am and drive us a little over an hour to the Ollantaytambo train station. From there, the train ride was about 2.5 hours to the town of Aguas Calientes. This town itself is a precious gem! From Aguas Calientes, we took a 30 minute bus ride to the entrance to Machu Picchu! It was seriously the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. Tip: don’t be above having a tour guide. The things we learned from our guide made the experience so much cooler.
San Pedro Market: If you want to avoid getting ripped off do all your shopping at San Pedro Market! (I learned this the hard way) It’s a short walk from the city centre and filled with local Peruvian people and vendors. Enjoy local street food and juices and stock up on Peruvian goodies.
Plaza De Armas: Cusco’s main square, Plaza De Armas is known for its two major cathedrals and vibrant atmosphere. Walking through this area was probably where I felt most in the moment during my trip. There are tons of restaurants and artisan shops along with live music and teams of school children dancing to it in Peruvian fashion, giving you every reason to soak it all up!
While all of the sight-seeing was amazing, the food in Peru is absolutely phenomenal. Fresh food and ingredients are the only thing they know. Here are some places to note:
On the other hand, Lima is a major metropolitan city located right off the coast. We flew into Lima at the start of our trip but took a flight straight to Cusco after landing (about an hour flight). Since it’s a more lax city with beachy vibes, we decided it would be better to end the trip here and just kick back. Some highlights from Lima are:
Malecon De Miraflores: Miraflores is one of the most highly-recommended neighborhoods to stay in when in Lima. Within the neighborhood is the boardwalk, or malecon. It stretches for two miles and includes Larcomar, a very vibey outdoor mall. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, get you a scooter and ride up and down the area!
Haku Tours Cooking Class: I can’t recommend this experience enough! Not only did I learn a TON about Peru and make new friends, I made a dank ass meal in the process! Haku tour guides picked us up from our hotel and drove us to a nearby market. Here, we got to pick out our very own ingredients for everything that we would be cooking and learned about the many different kinds of fruits and vegetables that are only found in the South American region. Once we were done, we were driven to the main kitchen and it was game on!
With only 6 days total in this beautiful country, I am quite pleased with everything I got to see and do. However, I have a feeling this was just the beginning of many South American adventures to come!