Taquile Island – Lake Titicaca, Peru
Six months in AMAZING Peru is coming to an end. Six months doesn’t sound like a particularly long time, but when you say I spent half a year in Peru it puts it all into perspective. Wow! Peru has been a country full of surprises from beginning to end. Its geography, its people, its food—I just had no idea it was so large and diverse. For those of you who like to travel it’s a travel destination worth considering, and I think it’s often overlooked.
Getting around Peru is pretty easy, though travel distances can be long. This is the land of the luxurious overnight long-haul bus with recliner seats, movies, Wi-fi, and onboard meals. Trips of 10 to 20 hours are not uncommon, but travelling at night you can sleep more than half of it away. Prices range from $10 usd to about $35 usd depending on distance and destination. Comfort rivals international airline flights, with the nod going to the buses for actual leg room.
Travelling the coastline from Ecuador to Lima it’s all ocean and beaches dotted with small villages providing tranquil getaways. Tumbes, called a shit-hole by one Lonely Planet contributor, is not a typical travel destination for travellers, but we found it quaint and preferred the label “authentic” as opposed to shit-hole. Piura was a step up for infrastructure, but still not a typical stop for travellers. Lima is huge, over 10-million residents, and very cosmopolitan (especially upscale Miraflores).
Huaraz is high in the Andes at 10,000 feet, and surrounded by the Cordillera Blanca with its snow-capped peaks. It is your gateway for trekking the Andes in Peru, and has a large indigenous population. Although it’s fairly remote it does get a lot of visitors, especially those looking for a more adventurous experience. We stayed in Huaraz for over two months and enjoyed good meals, cheap lodging, friendly people, and the ubiquitous Llamas and Alpacas.
Arequipa is good for a brief stop before heading to Cusco at 11,000 feet. Cusco was probably our favorite city with its colonial charm and beautiful historical area. Lodging was very reasonable, but food prices were high when catering to international tourists. To eat on the cheap you have to eat local, and sample the tipico Peruvian cuisine (i.e. Lomo Saltado). Gringo pizzas and hamburgers will cost you, but they’re a nice change periodically. Cusco is your gateway to Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.
We spent about three weeks in Cusco before moving to Puno, at 12,500 feet, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Puno is a small city of about 100,000 residents, and it has a vibrant tourist center. Like Cusco you can find cheap lodging, and food can be inexpensive or pricey depending on your preference. Eat with the locals and it’s a bargain, eat with the tourists and you’re going to pay a premium. The big draw at Puno is sailing Lake Titicaca. All day trips by boat will run you about $22 usd and include island visits.
We’ve been in Puno for a week and will be departing for Copacabana, Bolivia the day after tomorrow. Six months gone in the blink of an eye. Once again, wow! Many travellers visit the Amazon when in Peru or Brazil, but you can enter the Amazon river basin much cheaper in Ecuador (like we did) or Bolivia (which we’ll do again). For a once in a lifetime travel experience I can wholeheartedly recommend Peru–affordable prices, amazing scenery, and tasty food. It’s all good in Peru.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer, World Traveller
Puno (Lake Titicaca), Peru