12 Lima Surprises

Spectacular art of the Museo LarcoMochica Headdress in the Museo Larco

Lima is one of those cities which travelers tend to rush through. More than once, we’ve heard tourists count their luck that they only had to spend a few hours here in transit, or were able to bypass the metropolis altogether. So we were quite shocked when we got here and sort of fell in love with this South American capital. Lima has a fun, quirky vibe,  and Limeños are humorous, welcoming and helpful.

Yes, this town definitely has a rough side, and visitors and locals alike hold their breath every time they step into a taxi out of fear of being abducted. But if you pick your neighborhoods, take official taxis, and use your head, you’ll quickly discover that Lima is a unique city with a great deal to offer. Here’s just a sample of what we think makes this city of 8.5 million pretty great Continue…

Merry Christmas from Peru

Isas Uros in Peru

Merry Christmas to all our friends and family from the Islas Uros, the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. Time to gather ’round the tribal reed Christmas tree and sing some carols.

Deck the halls with bails of lake reeds,

Fa la la la la, la la la la… 

Extraordinary Nazca – Much More Than Lines

Nazca Hummingbirdve been associated with everything from aliens to Atlantis; they are certainly one of the world’s most mysterious creations. All that fame, intrigue and media attention means that the name Nazca has now become synonymous with the lines. But many people don’t realize that Nazca refers to a town, a region, and even an ancient culture. That culture left behind much more than lines.

Bucketlisters and speedy travelers shooting through Peru often spend half a day in Nazca, do a quick flight over the lines, and hightail it on to Arequipa or Cuzco. GIGANTIC MISTAKE. Nazca is a fascinating region which deserves far more attention. Thomas and I spent six days here, and this is just a bit of what we discovered Continue…

Outstanding Ollantaytambo

Thomas in the backstreets of Ollantaytambo

It took me a whole week before I could pronounce the name of this little Sacred Valley town without totally embarrassing myself. Luckily, I quickly learned that locals referred to Ollantaytambo as Ollanta which now makes talking about this gem much easier.

Most tourists make a quick stop in Ollanta to visit the famous ruins on their way to Machu Picchu, but few people seem to notice the town itself. Big mistake! With its gurgling irrigation channels and narrow cobblestone streets, Ollanta is a surviving example of Incan urban planning and a living work of art. Staying here is an absolute no-brainer for architecture freaks like us.

The town is also the perfect place to just wander around, soak up the atmosphere and people-watch. Cobbled paths take you away from the tourist buzz of the central plaza and way back into areas where only few visitors stray. This is authentic Peru just a few feet off the beaten path. Peak over the high stone walls and you will find beautiful gardens with colorful flowers, toddlers playing, drying laundry, chickens, cats, donkeys and cages full of guinea pigs destined for Continue…

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is spectacular… so spectacular that we needed to visit the super-monument twice. The first time was in July during a visit by friends Lisa and Garrett, who pop up on this blog once or twice a year. The second time was the last day of our incredible Salkantay Lodge Trek with Mountain Lodges of Peru.

In some ways, it almost feels ridiculous writing about one of the most photographed and documented places on the planet. Volumes have been written about how beautiful and mysterious the site is. Article after article invokes images of “the lost city of the Incas,”  which was never really all that lost. (Locals living in the area knew it was here.) So what is there to write? Can Thomas and I really add anything that hasn’t been said a thousand times? Perhaps.

One thing we can Continue…

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

Book the extended Salkantay Lodge Trek on REI

Many tourist brochures would have you believe that trekking options in the Cuzco region begin and end with the famous (perhaps overly famous) Inca Trail. Nothing could be further from the truth. Four-month waiting lists and packed campgrounds have left more spontaneous visitors to the Cuzco region searching for trekking alternatives which they can easily combine with a visit to Machu Picchu.

The rising star among these alternatives is the beautiful Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, a unique option which takes trekkers on a world-class journey across the high-altitude Salkantay Pass and descends into the cloud forests surrounding Machu Picchu. Along the way, trekkers experience an extraordinary range of Andean mountain environments as well as remote Incan trade trails and rare views of the western side of Machu Picchu from the Llactapata Continue…

Cuzco’s Fallen Angel

Fallen Angel restaurant

We love daring adventures: tracking wildlife in the jungle, clinging to sheer rock walls, crossing 17,000 ft passes in the shadow of crumbling glaciers. You wouldn’t think that a boutique hotel could rise to our standards of “epic” experiences. But then again, you’ve probably never seen Cuzco’s Fallen Angel.

Bold, ostentatious, humorous, psychedelic, flamboyant and fun, you might expect Fallen Angel in Berlin, Paris or Tokyo. But it comes as a TOTAL shock in the 16th century colonial courtyard of a Cuzco casa. The moment you step into the restaurant-bar-hotel, you realize you have entered a parallel universe of art and ideas, a cultural statement meant to challenge assumptions about Cusqueña and Peruvian culture: this country is about Continue…

Cuzco and the Sacred Valley

Grandmother and granddaughter at Tambomachay

Many tourists whoosh through Cuzco and the Sacred Valley on whirlwind tours which leave their heads spinning. While some might be content to shoot through as they tick off items on their bucket list, Peru’s most famous city and its surrounding valleys offer up a virtual smorgasbord of activities for those with longer attention spans.

During our nearly two months in the area, we’ve had some time to get acquainted with not-so-little Qosq’o (Quechua name). What we’ve discovered is one of South America’s most unique and appealing towns in one of the continent’s most unique and appealing regions. No wonder UNESCO declared Cuzco a World Heritage Site. Here’s just a tiny sample of what you can do in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. Continue…

Cirque du Soleil Corteo in Lima

Cirque du Soleil Corteo

OK, don’t get confused… this isn’t a continuation of our via ferrata in the Sacred Valley or another Amazon adventure sport. This time, Thomas and I are just kicking back in our VIP seats and watching Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo in Lima, a touring production presented in their cutting-edge traveling tent.

Corteo presents the Cirque’s unique blend of acrobatics, music, and variété through the death visions of a clown. Angels hover midair as a ballet tightrope artist dances en point onto the rope. Scantily clad ladies Continue…

Paracas and the Islas Ballestas

Paracas

If Dali designed a desert it would look a lot like Paracas. The surreal landscape of the Paracas Peninsula and the offshore Islas Ballestas are quite unlike anything we’ve encountered before. Where else do mustard yellow desert sands tumble down sheer cliffs onto rust red beaches. Green waters filled with white foam crash against a rainbow of rocks, the scene comes straight from an artist’s palette.

The fantastical environment is inhabited by a cast of weird and wonderful characters. Humboldt penguins waddle through stone arches past blood-red crabs and blue-footed boobies. Orange starfish and alien urchins cling to the rocks. Inca sterns with handle-bar mustaches and red-legged Continue…