As we chose to miss out on a gap year due to the rise in university fees my friend and I decided to do a bit of travelling in the summer before we started. We packed Paddington and set off on a 3 week tour around ‘Deepest Darkest Peru’ which was amazing and unforgettable. If you ever visit these are the top 10 things that should be on your list!
1. Sandboarding in Huacachina desert – located at the beginnings of the Atacama Desert this Oasis is a beautiful must see. For 60 sols (around £15) you get a thrilling ride on a sand buggy up and down the dunes by the crazy Peruvian drivers and then speed down the steep slopes head first on a sandboard. By far the most fun activity of the trip!
2. Arequipa– this beautiful city in Southern Peru was our tour guides home town and is definitely worth a visit even after the 9 hour night bus from Nazca. Known as the ‘white city’ as the buildings are made of white volcanic rock there is loads to do including a visit to the old monastery, shopping in the markets or hiking up the volcano Mount Misti.
3. Colca Canyon– near to Arequipa Colca Canyon is the top spot to go for Condor spotting and if you do the walk around it you get to see so many of the amazing birds soaring over your head. Watch out though as the high altitude catches you out unexpectedly!
4. Try the local cuisine – cheap, yummy and sometimes strange, trying a sample of Peruvian delicacies is something every traveller must do. From alpaca and chips, chewing on cocoa leaves, getting drunk off Pisco sours, swigging Inca Cola, or being brave enough to try Guinea pig (tastes similar to a Nando’s chicken) there will certainly be something that tickles your taste buds!
5. Palominas Islands – when we had some free time in Lima, we decided to explore the Palmoninas islands and we were pleasantly surprised about how good it was. After sailing around the islands for a couple of hours we got a chance to jump in and swim with the sea lions which although very smelly was great fun!
6. Lake Titicaca– a great way to get an insight into the culture of the indigenous people still living in Peru. By staying in a homestay or even just stepping on to the bouncy floating reed islands it really brings home how different our lives are.
7. Explore Cusco– Cusco was my favourite city of the trip and is a lovely place to spend a couple of days. While some of our group set off on the Inca trail we explored the cities museums, churches and even took a horseback ride around the mountains. Previously the capital of the Inca Empire, it should not be underestimated.
8. Visit the Inca ruins– It’s not only Machu Picchu that is an impressive Inca site. By visiting Pisac, Ollyantaytambo and Sacsayhuaman (pronounced sexy woman) of the Sacred Valley you learn so much about the interesting life of the Incas and marvel about how they managed to build such huge creations without machinery.
9. The Amazon – A wildlife spotters heaven the amazon is a must see whilst you’re in Peru where you will discover insects you didn’t know existed. Staying in a room with only 3 walls (the other being open to the Jungle), the strangest experience of the holiday was having a cold shower by candlelight whilst listening to the sounds of the jungle.
10. Machu Picchu – Whether you hike it or bus it Machu Picchu is of course somewhere you have to visit. Although we didn’t hike it this time, everyone who did said it was amazing, someone stating “it was the hardest but best thing I have ever done”. It is so huge and there is so much to see that it seems unbelievable that it was never discovered by the Spanish conquerors.