One of the destinations where we always wanted to get to was Peru. And now that we have visited it, we consider it one of the best experiences ever.
Amazing desserts, the world’s highest mountain range, the world’s tallest navigable lake, welcoming people and, of course, Machu Picchu. What more can you want?

We had two amazing weeks and tried to cover as much as possible from this beautiful county. But we are talking about Latin America where the public transportation system is not excellent.
We tried to make the most of our time by using the Peru Hop buses from Lima to Cusco. And in Cusco we arrange some local travel agencies to help us to visit the Sacred Valley, Inca Trail and of course Machu Picchu.

Peru Hop is an Irish founded company in Peru, hop-on, hop-off style buses that take you to the most important spots in Peru.
It was the best and cheap way to travel Peru. We paid only 199 euros.
Peru Hop’s well-organized itinerary which offers enough flexibility to avoid the feeling confined.
The following are included in the price of the pass: hotel drop off and pick up, guides that can suggest the best activities at each location, free activities arranged at certain stops along the route, pre-planned food stops and discounts to certain accommodation. And not to mention very good quality buses.

Source: Peru Hop

The best option for our group of 15 people was the “Full South to Cusco” tour. It maximizes our time to 6 days to see Lima, Paracas, Huacachina, Nazca, Arequip, Puno and Cusco with a few extra stops for free tours.
Let me telll you more about the tour.

Lima to Paracas

It is a 7hour drive with the first stop for breakfast in a very authentic place where we had some amazing traditional sandwiches.

Before arriving to Paracas, we stopped at Casa Hacienda San José (stop included in the tour), which is now a luxurious hotel, but it once was one of the largest plantations in all of Peru. More than 1,000 slaves worked on sugar and cotton cane fields. This plantation was famous for the 17 km underground tunnels that illegally brought the slaves from the harbor.
We also had the opportunity to go through the huge secret labyrinth of underground tunnels.

Paracas is the place where the desert meets the ocean in a small fishing town, and the main attraction here is Paracas National Reserve which is the oldest marine reserve in Peru, it is called the Galapagos of the poor.

In Paracas we stayed overnight and had the opportunity to experience the desert buggy ride during the sunset, enjoy Ceviche, the national dish of Peru, and of course to see Paracas wildlife such as penguins, sea lions, marine birds and sometimes even dolphins on a tour to the Ballestas Islands.

Paracas to Huacachina

  • Next day, around noon we left for our next destination, the desert of Huacachina.
    Huacachina is only a short 1.5h from Paracas but feels like travelling from one paradise to another. Leave the ocean with the amazing wild life and arrive to the only desert oasis in all of South America.Once here we rented a buggy and sandboards and went to the next adventure. “Driving” through the dune of the desert was such a big biggest adrenaline rush. Not to mention the sand boarding on the huge dunes.
    We ended up seeing a stunning desert sunset at the end.

We stayed for 1 night in Huacachina. This way we had an amazing opportunity to spend the night in tents at the bottom of an enormous dune overlooking the perfect oasis. EcoCamp Huacachina was the perfect place for us.

Huacachina to Nasca and to Puno

After the incredibly hot and picturesque Huacachina, next day at noon we left for our next destination, Nasca.
First stop (included in the tour) was a Pisco Vineyard, only 15 mins from Huacachina.
Pisco is a traditional drink of Peru, made by distilling fermented grapes. Here we had the chance to see how is made.
After few hours of driving we arrived to Nasca and of course the famous Nasca lines.
The Nazca lines are a series of designs and pictographs carved into the ground in the Nazca Desert. No one really knows why or how they remained like this for centuries. Of course, there are a lot of hypothesis, but the true is that nobodies knows.
We spent an hour here. We climbed the Viewing Tower and saw 3 of the Nazca Lines {stop included in the tour).

Then we continued our drive through the mountains. This time we had to spend the night in bus and trying to sleep here was not we easy.In the morning we arrived to Arequipa, probably Peru’s most beautiful city. It is surrounded by 3 volcanos and is known as ‘The White City’ and famous for its Colca Canion.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have 2 days to spend here so we decided to skip Arequipa.
We remained in the bus and continued our journey to Puno.

Before arriving to Puno we had a stop in Lagunillas Mirador Viewpoint. This photo stop is at the stunning Andean Altiplano with views down onto the Lagunillas Lake. Here we had the first impact with the altitude sickness.

Once arrived in Puno the altitude sickness was so difficult to handle.
Located on the Andean plateau of Peru, the Puno region is dominated by Lake Titicaca, sacred place of the Incas and home to natural and artificial islands.
We spend the first night in Puno, try to get well, and the second day on the famous Titicaca lake.

The first stop was on the Floating Islands of Uros to see how locals build and live on the islands of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.

Then we headed to Amantani island to spend the night with the locals.
Here we had the opportunity to live for a while the life of the islanders and understand that their ways of living were kept intact for centuries.

Puno to Cusco

Next morning the bus was waiting to take us from Puno to Cusco, the city famously known as the gateway to Machu Picchu.
In few hours we arrived in Cusco, the center of the world and the final stop of Peru Hop.
Cusco was the former capital of the Inka empire. It has a unique architecture from past and present and fascinating culture and history.

Sacred Valley

Next day we booked a tour with a local travel agency, through the Sacred Valley of the Incas once the fertile and spiritual base of the Incan Empire.
Untouched villages and ancient ruins ranging across fields and mountain slopes, full with history, culture and beauty.

We started our day in Pisac Market which is an ancient market from the Inca time that is still in service today.
The villagers come here to sell their products. Here we had the chance to really see an authentic antique market.

One of the best archeological Inka ruin of the Sacred Valley is the Pisac Ruin., once one of the greatest cities of the Inka. Some say that even bigger than Machu Pichu

Next place was the famous Maras Salt mines
Well hidden deep within the Urubamba valley, lies an unbelievable place: The Maras Salt mines.
On the slope of the mountain are the ponds and the salt terraces created by a mountain stream. This salt mine is in use since the times of the Incas.

About 50 km away from Cusco you will find this very strange Inka ruin, which is called Moray
There circular shaped terraces that is believed to be used as agriculture laboratory by the Incas.
The different micro climes at the different level allowed then to study vegetation.

We ended up the day at a weaving cooperative.
Many people in the Peruvian hills still work in a similar way to their ancestors. Weaving is one of the most popular crafts in Peru and still practiced by many village people.

Machu Picchu and Inka Trail

Next day we started our journey to Machu Picchu.
We chose the 2 days Inca trail with a guide because it is not allowed to travel by yourself.

We had an early wakeup. Our driver picked us up and drove us all the way to Ollantaytambo where we took the Peru train till Km 104.From here we started our Inca trail through the tropical forest till the evening when we finally reached Machu Picchu.
Late in the night we arrived to the town below, Aquas Caliente, where we spent the night.
Next day we started our visit to Machu Picchu very early in the morning, just before the sunrise and continued it with the visit to Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu.We traveled in a group of 15 people, so this was the best way to handle Peru and to try to see as much as possible from what this beautiful country has to offer.

Roxana
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