Peru is the fabled heartland of the Incas with mystifying heritage and unparalleled terrains offering diverse travel adventures and lifetime experiences. It is a fascinating land with the Andes dividing regions into a lush green panorama on one side and vivid colors of sand on the other side. From east to west, there’s a myriad yet overlapping wonders of history, culture and natural sceneries.
There’s more to this country than Spanish colonization and Inca civilization. In this country, you’ll find desert oasis, floating islands, alpine lakes, geoglyphs, wildlife, amazon tribes, Spanish influences and famous Inca trails to name a few. Here is my eight favorites that you should not miss when you travel to Peru.
Desert Oasis in Huacachina
This is definitely a must-destination. Huacachina is a tiny village of 100 people in the middle of a cold and dry desert harboring a natural oasis. This green oasis with lines of palm trees enclosed by golden-yellow and red sands vibrates a dreamy and exotic movie-like setting. This is my first time to see a desert and it was just beautiful to see how the sand rolls across a panorama of endless, dry and open lands at a cold temperature of 16C. I am from the tropics so anything below 25 is cold.
Islas Ballestas or Peru’s Galapagos Island is in Pisco protected as a sanctuary to numerous flora and fauna endemic to South America. I posted a separate spread for this Island so check out the colorful photos. The penguins and sea lions have this wolf-like noise when tourists pass by. You can see dolphins swimming around, pelicans dangerously atop the jagged cliffs and boobies birds flocking the clear sky. The rocks have variants of red colours as if bleeding from somewhere inside while blending with the bluish-green Pacific ocean.
On your way to the Island is this materpiece hieroglyph called The Candelabra dating back to 200BC! No ones knows who did it, how and why. For thousands of years, it has never been eroded baffling people as to its origin and meaning. Our guide said, it could be a calendar marker for the Inca or a sign for the incoming ships or a religious symbolism. Even these locals are still uncertain and drawn to this fascinating work of man.
Most people leave out lesser known destinations for the more famous touristic spots but I recommend to visit these less explored travel paths. Paracas National Reserve is a prehistoric site of the Andean civilization with mummified remains dating back to 6500 BC. But my favorite is it is where the desert meets the ocean. This reserve has pink flamingos, red beach, isthmus pass, sand dunes and millions of years rock formations (The Mirador and The Cathedral).
Secret Slave Tunnels in Ica
Hacienda de San Jose in Ica has many engaging tales of slavery intertwined with the country’s long and old history. This former sugar and cotton plantation has fascinating old and secret tunnels where African slaves were smuggled by Spanish landlords to avoid paying taxes to the government. When we went down to walk in the tunnels, some areas are too dark without any light coming through. Their sleeping quarters are too small with tiny holes for air circulation. I felt the horrendous experiences of these people who had no choice on their lives and everyday living.
Geoglyps Lines in Nazca
Nazca lines are ancient images on one of the driest places on earth with over 1500 lines stretching more than 80 kms in the rugged Peruvian desert. As of today, it remains an enigma as to who, what and how the ancients drew these patterns. It is still visible even after millions of years due to the area’s dry temperature receiving less than an inch of rainfall every year. Do not expect these lines to be long and large, some of them are just a body size so the best way to view it is aerial.
The Inca Capital Cusco
Cusco is the capital of the Inca empire that sprawled its power from Ecuador to Chile. It is the center of the earth for the Incas meant to be built like a puma symbolizing the greatness of earth. At modern today, this city has mixed heritages of Inca and Spanish influences noticeable on their unique architecture, colorful customs and exquisite cuisine. No wonder it is the most beautiful city of Peru stunning at 3,400 m altitude.
Wander around the cobble-stoned streets (a testament to the great Inca road system) and be drawn to numerous blue doors all around the city. I asked around and was informed for aesthetics and has no special significance. They are not comparable but it really reminds me of Sienna, Italy.
Highest Navigable Lake Titicaca
On the border of Peru and Bolivia lies Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake at 3,810 m above sea level high on the mysterious Andes mountains. The best way to reach it is either in Puno (Peru) or Copacabana (Bolivia). Around this lake is Isla del sol or the Island of the Sun famously identified as the birthplace of the first Incas accessible by a boat from Copacabana. It is fascinating to enjoy a boat ride over the lake’s rich blue water then hop off into the numerous Andean ruins around it.
Floating Island of Uros
The Island of Uros floating in Lake Titicaca offers a glimpse into how people successfully conquer and survive the limitations of an area. These ethnic islanders show a unique way of living where they used to wander from one mainland to another to look for sustenance and better life. These small islands are managed by families by laying buoyant totora reeds to keep it afloat. Every step in this floating island creates 2-4 inches dent so the top layer has to be changed every 3 months.
Never miss the Machu Picchu! Dubbed as the ‘city in the sky’, Machu Picchu sits atop the Andes mountain at 7800+ ft above sea level. The captivating city is so divinely well placed amidst the glorious and picturesque grandeur of the Sacred Valley. It has a mystical and overwhelming effect that impresses millions of visitors everyday.
The citadel’s ruins showcase a stunningly well engineered Inca city with solid aesthetic and functional designs by great engineers and architects. You will be impressed by the perfect fitting of the stones carved out from other massive stones and the city’s internal water aqueducts. You will be fascinated on their beliefs apparent on some structures like the Window of the Universe and the Temple of Condor. There’s an incredible and overwhelming story in every spot whether mythical, religious and historical. Add the wandering llamas and you have one of the best experiences in a lifetime. Peru will never fail you to discover one of Earth’s greatest.
Hello to April of acrosscities.com who invited me to this epic trip.