Let’s face it. The main reason anyone travels to Peru is to see Macchu Picchu; the main reason I traveled to Peru was to see Macchu Picchu. However as I explored other places around the country I realized just how much diversity the South American country had. I started out my trip flying from the United States into the capital, Lima. The next morning I flew to Cusco and then took a cab to the Ollantaytambo train station to catch a Peru Rail train into Aguas Calientes. Just on that one day I saw so much change in the Peruvian country side. Lima is located in a very flat, arid desert region along the coast while Aguas Calientes is lush, green and mountainous.
The pictures taken during my drive to the train station and a quick picture of the train. I was lucky enought to have a front car, first seat view of the breath taking country side on my way to Aguas Calientes. The train was very classy with a lunch service and pretty comfortable seating.
Aguas Calientes was a beautiful little town tucked inbetween lush Peruvian Mountains, the Bed and Breakfast I was staying at was walking distance from the train station and all of the shops and restaurants. The bright and early the next morning I took the local bus up to Macchu Picchu so that I could be part of the first group to be allowed to go up Wayna Picchu a Mountain next to the Macchu Picchu site. To even be able to enter the trail for Wayna Picchu I had to buy a pass months in advance like for Macchu Picchu itself. The trail is pretty steep and rigorous hiking so I did practice some before going on the trip and hired a guide to help explain the history of the trail and carry some of my group’s bags in difficult spots. I highly recommend this trail for adventure seekers especially if you didn’t have time to do the 3-7 day Inca Trail like me. It gives a good glimpse of what Incan life must have been like and has breathtaking views of Macchu Picchu and the surrounding mountains. Below are some pictures taken from on top of the Wayna Picchu.
The next day I took the Peru Rail back to Ollantaytambo Station where I had a car to pick me up and drive me to Cusco stopping at the Moray Salt Mines along the way. This was an amazingly scenic drive with views of the mountains, farms, towns and picturesque landscapes. The Salinas de Maras (Moray Salt Mines) were also a great site where Peruvian families harvest salt from the water that trickles through the mountains. It was very neat to see where the Peruvian salt you see in the grocery store actually comes from.
In Cusco my hotel was next to the Plaza de Arma, a beautiful square right in the center of the city. The part around the Plaza almost feels like a European city with large cathedrals and old buildings. I took the day pretty easy just walking around the Plaza, doing some touristy shopping and visiting the Temple of the Sun Museum. I would highly recommend doing your shopping in Cusco because it has the most variety and some of the best prices. When I tried shopping in Lima the prices were more than 50% higher! The Museum covered a lot of Incan History and was located in the Temple of the Sun. They have a lot of great artwork and a view into the life and beliefs of the Incan people. Definitely a great place to visit walking distance from the Plaza, with a lot of history and cultural information.
Next I flew from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado a town in the Peruvian Amazon. From Puerto Maldonado the tour company I was traveling with took my on a short bus ride to the river where our group caught a boat to take us to our lodge which was about 3 hours away. During this ride we saw some wildlife such as caymans and parrots and enjoyed the view of the amazon. The lodge that we stayed at was very beautiful but had electricity and wifi only in the lobby for certain hours during lunch and the evening. The rooms had kerosene lamps and 1 side with no wall that faced the forest. It was definitely not a luxurious hotel, but I think it was one of the best ways to experience the forest with some comfort of warm showers and wifi. Unfortunately it was raining a lot of the time we were there so I would take too many pictures but I was able to see a lot of wildlife and go on some pretty amazing hikes. Definitely a cool place for the adventurous type and a must see destination in Peru.
The last leg of my journey was in Lima, which I was only able to spend about 24 hours in but definitely glad that I didn’t skip over. Lima is definitely a different atmosphere than the other places in Peru, as the industrial and political capital of the country it felt more metropolitan with modern shopping malls and McDonald’s next to Peruvian shops selling rugs and ponchos. I stayed in the Miraflores district which is the more touristy part of town where there were a lot of wonderful fountain parks, government palaces, cathedrals and Museums. I especially recommend visiting the Circuit of Fountains at night to catch one of the create multimedia shows they have every night. Lima reminded me of Mumbai my home city in India, because of the juxtaposition of modernization and abject poverty. It is definitely a city you shouldn’t skip if you go to Peru.