Capital of Peru
When you first step foot in Lima, Peru’s capital, you will realize very quickly that Peru is a very different environment from North America. Be aware that air pollution is a problem and so is poverty, It’s a large problem in most of Latin America. You should never drink tap water, it’s always better to buy bottled water. Orientation will also be a problem because Lima is so enormous that it requires help from a detailed map to find your way around.
But be patient, Lima is only a starting point for your great adventure in the magical land of the Incas. On my trip to the different cities in Peru, I found that the best places to visit are Cuzco, Nazca and Iquitos. All three have a rich cultural history and offer a different culinary experience, not to mention that all three cities form part of different climate areas. Let`s start the adventure.
Cuzco City of the Incas
In Cuzco, you will be able to experience life in the Andes. To travel here you will need to either take a tourist bus or a plane from Lima. Temperatures can fall to minus zero degrees centigrade in Cuzco, so bring warm clothes for your trip. Cuzco is truly a city where remnants of old Quechua culture exist with the modernity of luxury hotels and technology. Don’t be surprised to look around and see people who walk around in 19th century attire, they are the indigenous people who still live as their ancestors did in the small villages surrounding Cuzco.
Among the foods that you will be able to eat in Cuzco are Alpaca meat, Pachamanca, which consists of burying the food in an underground oven to cook for several hours, and the popular cuy, which is a guinea pig cooked barbecue style. To my surprise, there are an incredible number of tourists that visit Cuzco because of its proximity to Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca city located high up in the mountains, this is the last known ruins of the last dynasty belonging to the Inca empire. To travel to Machu Picchu, you will need to take a train from Lima which takes around 4 hours to arrive at the base of the mountain, from here a bus will take you up the mountain.
For those adventurous travelers who wish to take in the scenery and way of life of the Andes, there is an Inca trail trek that is organized from Cuzco which takes you all the way to Machu Picchu on foot, the trek last 6 days. Machu Pichu is a unesco site and is a must see for anyone planning a trip to Peru.
Mystery of the Nasca Lines
Nazca is a city built around the mysterious Nasca lines. These man made markings are best visible from the sky. To get to Nazca, you will need to take a tourist bus because there are very few planes that travel to this destination and they are quite expensive when available. The goal of this trip is to view and experience the Nazca culture and see the famous man made lines in the desert. These amazing lines form intricate shapes that some believe were made by the Nazca civilization thousands of years ago as a way to communicate with extraterrestrial beings.
You can hire a private guide or take a group expedition to explore the lines. Be warned however, in this region of Peru temperatures rise to above 20 degrees centigrade as the city is located close to a desert that extends into Chile. As far as regional foods that you can try here are papas a la guancaina, which is a potato based meal with a rich sauce, Cebiches and other types of fish are extremely delicious and made in the tradition of the Peruvian coast.
Iquitos is the Gateway to the Amazon
Iquitos is located in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon. To make your way to this city, you will need to take a plane as there are no buses that will travel to this part of the country. The most popular beaches are Tunchi Playa, on Lake Quistococha, and Santa Clara and Santo Tomás along the Nanay River, which are ideal for water sports. Some 150 km from Iquitos lies the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, the largest reserve in Peru, the second-largest in the Amazon Basin and the fourth-largest in South America.The area is home to an astonishing biodiversity of fauna and flora.From Iquitos, you can find an eco-guide to take you on an unforgettable journey through the amazon river and into the tropical jungle.
It is advisable to spend some days in one of the different lodges, built in the style of the area, that are found on the banks of tributaries in the jungle. There you may visit indigenous tribes and take walks in the jungle. One of Iquitos’ main attractions is the Canopy Walkway, which is a hanging bridge constructed in the tops of the trees, about 100 feet high, from where you can see the flora and fauna close at hand. Iquitos has a humid temperature year round. You can expect heavy showers in the winter months. When trying out the food in Iquitos, you will find many dishes that incorporate fruits as well as local fish and local spices. Do not miss out on a chance to see the Peruvian amazon, it’s one adventure that will change the way you see not only nature but also the struggle of humanity to live in coherence with nature.
Modern Peru and Old Indigenous Cultures
Peru is a country full of wonder and contradictions between an emerging modern world and old culture segmented in the people that inhabit this great country. To travel here and to see it all with your own eyes is an experience not be missed.