Colca Zip-Lining: Meet the Monster

Thrill-seekers and adventure junkies, drop what you’re doing, it’s time to meet the Monster. Think you’ve been on a zip line before? Yeah, unless you’ve been to Colca Canyon recently, I don’t think so.

The brainchild of the completely insane and totally cool Peruvian American Natan, Colca Zip-Lining takes the art of cabled flight to awesome extremes. Natan is kind of like the Picasso of zip lines: he stands back, stares at the cliffs and then lays a stretch of line that makes people go, “Whaaat?!” Continue…

Canyon Adventures at Colca Lodge

The landscapes around Colca Canyon are savage and raw. Here, the Peruvian Altiplano plummets thousands of feet into the meandering Colca River. It’s a stunningly harsh region where villagers cling to the slopes in a cultivated tapestry of  geniusly terraced farms. In the distance, Mt. Sabancaya erupts sending a column of smoke high into the air. Just next to it looms Nevado Ampato, the volcano where the famous Ice Maiden was found.

The scenery is wild and striking. Huge, spectacular cracks along the road prove that those old B-grade movie earthquakes do exist. Volcanic waters burst from the earth and stream down the cliffs forcing your bus to slam on the brakes. The shifting earth is alive here. It’s beautiful, but not the kind of place that you expect to find luxury. Then again, Colca Lodge is not your typical hotel Continue…

The Volcano, the Maiden, the Cloister and the Crepes

Arequipa's most famous volcano, Misti El Misti volcano rises behind Arequipa

You do have to wonder why anyone would think it’s a good idea to build a city in the shadow of not one, but three massive volcanoes. Hello, doesn’t anyone remember Pompeii? Apparently, the Spanish colonists had forgotten to read that chapter in their history books when they founded Arequipa in 1540.

Peru’s second largest city is strangely monumental considering it has been a magnet for natural disasters for nearly five centuries. Despite the volcanic rocking and rolling that periodically tests the city’s foundations, an impressive amount of the colonial-era sillar architecture remains. In fact, it might actually be that traditional use of the whitish, porous volcanic rock that has allowed the city to survive the quakes. It’s certainly those sillar buildings that have earned Arequipa its nickname, the White City, as well as its place on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites Continue…

The Tombs and Treasures of Chiclayo

Tony exploring Túcume

If it seems from our previous posts that all of northern Peru is one vast burial site, that’s because – well – it kind of is. There is literally buried treasure everywhere. Unfortunately, a lot of it is being dug up by grave robbers who sometimes hit the markets to hawk their booty.

So in 1987, when archaeologist Dr. Walter Alva suddenly discovered a surge in black market plunder, he realized that those grave robbers had found something special. His quick thinking and investigative instincts led him to what has been labelled the King Tut’s Continue…

Gocta Lodge Adventures – Kuelap, Revash, Mummies and More

View of Gocta Falls from Gocta Lodge

Stepping out onto the balcony of our room here at Gocta Lodge, it’s hard to believe this view isn’t on the cover of every travel magazine on the planet. We came to Chachapoyas to explore Peru’s rising star Kuelap, which many are calling the Machu Picchu of the north. Yet, the view from our hotel room may eclipse that rising star.

We look out over a jungle-filled canyon framing the spectacular two-tier Gocta Waterfall, which has only recently been named one of the highest in the world. A flock of several dozen parrots swoops by above our heads. Hummingbirds dart from flower to flower below. The scene is our introduction to the incredibly rich Chachapoyas region, an area overwhelmed with natural, historical and cultural attractions. The isolated highland capital of Peru’s Amazonas state and its surrounding treasures are just starting to pop up on the tourist radar. But if the Peruvian government has its way, that’s all about to change Continue…

Mysterious Caral – The Most Important City You’ve Never Heard Of

Caral just might be the most fascinating place in the world you’ve never heard of. Located 200 km north of Lima in a desolate desert gorge to the east of Barranca, the mysterious complex of six stone pyramids and huge sunken amphitheaters is considered the oldest major urban center in the Americas… by far.

Aerial view of Caral

Thought to have been at its peak between 2,600 BC and 2,000 BC, the ancient city of Caral would have been thriving at the very moment the ancient Egyptians were constructing the great pyramids at Giza and the Mesopotamians were constructing the great Ziggurat of Ur. Caral is the earliest known pyramid culture in the Americas predating the Olmecs in Mexico by a 1,000 years. In other words, this is where it all began in the New World Continue…

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… 

Outstanding Things to Do in 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 makes talking about this gem to locals much easier.

Most tourists make a quick stop in Ollantaytambo 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, Ollantaytambo 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…