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  • Andrew
  • May 14, 2017 03:04:17 AM
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Travels with Andrew, Heide and Lachlan. Stories, photos, tips and recommendations for family travel.

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RTW – Day Trips from Cusco

We had to rearrange our itinerary a bit due to our extended time in Lima, so we ended up doing a couple of day trips from Cusco before we saw much of the city itself. Arriving in Cusco The long bus ride from Arequipa on our Peru Hop bus was made more tolerable by our […] The post RTW – Day Trips from Cusco appeared first on Airports and...

We had to rearrange our itinerary a bit due to our extended time in Lima, so we ended up doing a couple of day trips from Cusco before we saw much of the city itself.

Arriving in Cusco

The long bus ride from Arequipa on our Peru Hop bus was made more tolerable by our downstairs seats. While we were waiting for the bus (at an ungodly early hour) some other passengers gave us a tip that these were better than the seats upstairs. We managed to grab the last few downstairs seats and enjoyed the extra space they provided. After just a couple of short stops (including a surprisingly decent buffet lunch), we got in to Cusco after dark. Peru Hop provided a taxi to our hotel, which was a nice touch. We found a cheap restaurant nearby to quickly eat before falling into bed, exhausted.

Lakeside viewpoint on the road from Arequipa to Cusco

The next day was mostly taken up with administrative tasks, including work on the insurance claim resulting from our incident in Lima. We did get out for a while to check out the Plaza de Armas and get an incredibly cheap lunch at the San Pedro Market. At 5 soles (less than USD 1.50) each for soup, main course and a drink this was the cheapest meal we’d found so far on our trip.

plaza de armas cusco
Statue of Pachacuti (an Inca ruler) – Plaza de Armas, Cusco
plaza de armas cusco
Church La Compañía de Jesús – Plaza de Armas, Cusco

Day Trips from Cusco – Southeast Valley Tour

The next day we did the first of our day trips from Cusco. This was a guided tour of the valley south of Cusco. This area is less visited than the Sacred Valley, but has some interesting sights. We first heard about it from one of Heide’s tennis coaches in Houston. He is from Peru, and told us that when in Cusco we had to see the church in Andahuylillas, known as “The Sistine Chapel of the Andes” for its murals, gold leaf altar and decorated ceiling.

In our pre-trip research we found a tour that included Andahuylillas from a company with good reviews online. After breakfast at our hotel, our guide picked us up and we were off on the day’s adventure.

Tipon

The first stop was the Inca site of Tipon. This place has the usual terraces, but also features a complex system of canals and decorative waterfalls.

day trips from cusco
Terraces at Tipon
day trips from cusco
Looking back over the valley from Tipon
day trips from cusco
Waterfall at Tipon

It’s thought that Tipon was a site where ceremonies took placed, based on the stonework and decorative features.

day trips from cusco
Wall detail – Tipon

One of the advantages of a guided tour is that you have someone to take pictures of the whole family.

cusco day trips
Tipon

Pikillacta

Our next stop was Pikillacta. This is the largest pre-Inca site in the region. It takes a bit of imagination to picture the city in its heyday, as a lot of it consists of piles of rubble and broken walls.

cusco day trips
Pikillacta

A feature that is intact is the system of passageways incorporating city walls that protected the city and controlled access.

cusco day trips
Pikillacta city walls

The city was located in a strategic position overlooking a valley with access to water.

Pikillacta

There are also parts of the site where a more focused excavation has occurred. These are thought to be the areas where the priests and rulers lived.

pikkilacta
Pikkilacta

It was interesting to see a pre-Inca site and see how different it was from the Incan ruins that are so prevalent in Peru.

Andahuylillas

The last stop on the first of our day trips from Cusco was Andahuylillas. The village itself is fairly small and unassuming. As we approached the church, our first clue that this place was something special was the line of souvenir stalls outside it.

andahuylillas
Andahuylillas

As we approached the church itself there were some external decorations that hinted at what we would see inside.

andahuylillas
Andahuylillas – the “Sistine Chapel of the Andes”

Before we went inside our guide lined us up for the obligatory family photo outside the church.

day trips from cusco
Andahuylillas

We had been looking forward to seeing this place since before we left on our trip, and we weren’t disappointed. The interior murals, decoration and altar were all a step up from any church we had seen so far in our travels (and by this stage we had seen quite a few). Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to take photographs inside, but you can check out this link to get an idea of what we saw.

Overall, this was a good tour, and we’d definitely recommend Exclusive Inka Tour if you’re interested in any of the day trips from Cusco they offer.

Day Trips from Cusco – Sacred Valley

The second of our day trips from Cusco was a “taxi tour”. This is where you hire a taxi to take you to a number of sites which you then visit by yourself. The taxi driver waits for a set period of time for you at each place. The driver doesn’t act as a tour guide, but you can hire a guide at each of the sites if you need one. We did a taxi tour that took us from our accommodation in Cusco to our hotel in Ollantaytambo. This would be our base for our visit to Machu Picchu.

Chincheros

Our first stop was the town of Chincheros. This is an interesting mix of Inca and Spanish colonial style. The town sits at an even higher altitude than Cusco, and we had to climb a hill to get to the main square. It was quite a workout for us first thing in the morning.

chincheros
Stairway to Chincheros main square

In typical colonial style, the Spanish built their church on top of an Inca palace. It overlooks the square where artisans sell their wares. We weren’t there on Sunday, which is the busiest market day. However, there was still a good selection of crafts, especially woven goods, at good prices. Although we were tempted, with our limited luggage space we decided against making any purchases.

day trips from cusco
Chincheros
chincheros
Church entryway – Chincheros
chincheros
Bell Tower – Chincheros

There is a large open area next to the main square with great views of nearby mountains.

chincheros
View from Chincheros

After our scheduled half an hour here, we made our way back down the stairs to move on to our next location.

Maras Salt Mines

Our next stop was to see the more than two thousand salt evaporation pools at Maras. Our driver stopped at the top of the valley so we could look down and get an overview.

day trips from Cusco
Maras Salt Mines

After driving down into the valley and paying our entrance fee, we made our way past the multitude of souvenir stalls for a closer look at the salt pools.

maras
Maras Salt Mines
maras salt mines
Selfie time at the salt mines
Maras Salt Mines

On our way back to the car we stopped to buy some salt, and some salt-infused chocolate. These were inexpensive, albeit temporary souvenirs of our visit to this interesting place. Unfortunately, visitors can no longer walk out among the salt pools, but the Maras Salt Mines are still well worth a visit.

Moray

The most spectacular site we visited on this tour was the Inca site of Moray, famous for its circular terraces.

day trips from cusco
Moray

As we looked down into the terraces we saw a group who were looking to adsorb some mystical energy by making a circle of their own.

moray

We made our way down the pathway into the terraces for a closer look, and a view looking up from the “bowl” that the terraces sit in.

moray
Terraces at Moray
Moray

There is a second “bowl” that is a bit less restored than the one you see when you first arrive. It’s interesting to see the areas that are in the process of being restored.

moray
Moray – areas under restoration

As we made our way out of the site it was interesting to see the patterns formed by the stone staircases between each terrace.

moray
Moray

Our taxi driver took a family portrait for us. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as good a photographer as our guide from the previous day’s tour.

moray

Arriving in Ollantaytambo

We had one more bonus stop before arriving at our hotel in Ollantaytambo. We pulled over for a quick stop to check out the Skylodge. These are accommodation pods that are accessed by climbing a ferrata route of iron rungs up the cliff face. When your stay is over, you zip-line back to the valley floor. Unfortunately, they were out of our budget, otherwise I’m sure we would have been up for the challenge of staying here …

skylodge
Skylodge – Sacred Valley

We finally arrived at our hotel in Ollantaytambo after a full day’s sightseeing. As we checked in to our room we could see a glimpse of some more Inca ruins, but these would have to wait for another day. After a stroll around the historic cobblestone streets to find some dinner, we fell into our beds, resting up for the next day’s adventure – Machu Picchu.

ollantaytambo
View from our hotel – Ollantaytambo

Although a lot of people come to Cusco to see Machu Picchu and maybe some of the city itself, it’s definitely worth it to allow a bit more time to do some day trips from Cusco. The tours we did were interesting in their own right, and also gave us context for the things we saw later at Machu Picchu.

If fully guided tours are out of your budget, then consider a “taxi tour” – we booked online with Taxidatum, but you could also arrange it directly with a taxi driver if you meet one you like, or your accommodation may be able to organize it for you.

The post RTW – Day Trips from Cusco appeared first on Airports and Sunsets.


RTW – Colca Canyon Tour

As well as the city itself, the other reason to visit Arequipa is to do a Colca Canyon tour. This is one of the deepest canyons in the world at 3,270 meters or 10,730 feet. As well as the stunning scenery, these tours provide an opportunity to see the increasingly rare Andean condor. Colca Canyon Tour […] The post RTW – Colca Canyon Tour appeared first on Airports and...

As well as the city itself, the other reason to visit Arequipa is to do a Colca Canyon tour. This is one of the deepest canyons in the world at 3,270 meters or 10,730 feet. As well as the stunning scenery, these tours provide an opportunity to see the increasingly rare Andean condor.

Colca Canyon Tour Options

There are two main decisions to be made when deciding which Colca Canyon tour to take from Arequipa. First, you need to decide whether you want to hike down into the canyon (and back up). You can do a 2 day or 3 day trek, both of which involve a hideously early (like, 3am) pickup time on the first day of the tour.

With neither the fitness or the desire for such a trek, we opted for a tour that included viewpoints along the canyon rim. You can do this in one day, but the pickup time is also ridiculously early as it’s a long way to the canyon. We chose a 2 day tour which included an overnight stay in the nearby town of Chivay before visiting the canyon. This allowed for a more reasonable departure time and also more stops to see things along the way.

This chart does a good job of comparing the various tour options if you’re considering a Colca Canyon tour.

Leaving Arequipa

We had time to grab some breakfast at the hostel before our 8:30am pick up for our tour. After some driving around town to circle back to pick up some passports that one of the other passengers had left at their hotel room, we headed out of Arequipa towards Colca Canyon.

Not too far out of town, our guide (the fabulously named Victor Hugo) suggested we keep an eye out for vicuña. These are the wild relatives of llamas and alpacas that produce an even finer wool than either of their domesticated cousins. Soon enough we came across a group close enough to the road for us to get a good look.

vicuna
Vicuña

As we pulled away after our photo op, Victor told us about the annual ceremony where they are rounded up and brushed (not sheared) to retrieve the incredibly valuable wool.

The scenery surrounding the vicuna was a barren desert landscape.

colca canyon tour
Desert and Vicuna

There were some interesting rock formations, and some stunning views of Misti, the volcano that towers over Arequipa.

colca canyon tour
Rock formations on the way to Colca Canyon
Misti

We also came across a group of llamas with a photogenic mix of colors.

llamas
Llamas

We made a brief stop at the Patapampa Pass. This was the highest elevation we would encounter on our Colca Canyon tour, at 4,910 meters (16,109 feet). As it’s located on a high plateau, looking out from the viewpoint doesn’t really give a sense of the altitude, but trying to walk around and breathe up there definitely did.

colca canyon tour
View from Patapampa Pass
patapampa pass
Patapampa Pass altitude marker

Chivay

Around midday we approached the town of Chivay where we would spend the night. Before our final approach we stopped at an overlook looking down on the town.

chivay
Chivay

We arrived in Chivay and headed straight to a restaurant for a buffet lunch. The deck of the restaurant offered a nice view of the town and a volcano in the distance spewing ash into the sky. The local populace seemed unconcerned by this sight, so we followed their lead and didn’t worry too much about the possibility of being buried under tons of volcanic ash while we slept.

chivay
Chivay – our view from lunch

After lunch our guide took us on a walk through the town. We saw the market, a series of statues commemorating traditional dances from the area and the Plaza de Armas.

chivay
Chivay Plaza de Armas

In the Plaza we saw a tree that had been carved with a crucifixion scene.

chivay

After our walk we checked into the hotel and had a brief rest before heading to the thermal baths.It was a bit cold getting in and out of the hot pool, but it felt good to soak after the miles we had covered on bumpy roads in the preceding weeks.

colca canyon tour
Thermal baths – Chivay

As we left the baths, we saw a nice sunset sky.

colca canyon tour
Sunset – Chivay

When we returned we had some free time before dinner. We chose to nap rather than do any more exploring, as we were feeling the altitude (about 3,600 meters or 12,000 feet) and the effects of our overnight bus ride from Nazca.

Dinner was a very touristy affair with local music and dances (with the obligatory audience participation).

chivay
Dinner and a show – Chivay

Colca Canyon

Even though we were close to the canyon, we had an early start the next morning, setting the alarm for 5:00 am to make it to breakfast at 5:30 am. The early start allowed us to beat the crowds traveling from Arequipa on one day Colca Canyon tours. It also meant that we could make a few stops on the way to the canyon.

We stopped at a couple of villages, including one where the local folks had set up an early morning market with souvenirs for sale, alpacas to take pictures with (for a fee) and traditional dancing. It was all a bit much this early in the morning.

One of the villages had a church that had been badly damaged in an earthquake. The passing tourist trade provides some income for the rebuilding fund, but it seems like restoration will be a slow process.

colca canyon tour

After a while we came to the beginning of the Colca Canyon. We stopped at a viewpoint to look over some agricultural terraces as the rising sun lit the peaks in the distance.

Condors

Our guide was very careful to manage our expectations about whether we would see any condors. As with any wild creature, there is always the chance that they won’t turn up. Nevertheless, we were hoping that we wouldn’t be spending a few hours staring into the canyon at nothing.

Before we got to the main condor viewpoint, we stopped at a site where condors are known to roost on the rocks. Sure enough there were a couple of juvenile condors posing nicely for us in the morning sun.

condor
Condor
condor
Condor

After this photo stop, we moved on to the main viewing point for condors, Cruz del Condor.

colca canyon tour
Cruz del Condor – Colca Canyon

We piled out of the bus and were confronted with an amazing view deep into the canyon.

colca canyon tour
Colca Canyon

Soon, however, we were distracted from the scenery by the arrival of a couple of condors.

condor
Condor – Colca Canyon
condor
Condor – Colca Canyon

We decided to move down to the lower viewpoint to see a different angle into the canyon.

colca canyon tour
Colca Canyon

As the morning warmed up, more condors appears, flying closer to us.

condor
Condor – Colca Canyon
Condor – Colca Canyon
Condor – Colca Canyon

Looking back towards the higher viewpoint we could see multiple condors riding the thermals coming up from the canyon.

Colca Canyon condors
Condors – Colca Canyon

Canyon Rim Walk

Because we saw so many condors so quickly, we didn’t need to spend as long as the tour allowed for at the viewpoint. This allowed us to make an extra stop for a walk along a nearby canyon rim trail. Looking down at the trails walked by participants in the the trekking tours reinforced our decision to take the non-trek option. Our guide told us that he used to lead these treks but had to give it up due to problems with his knees caused by the many descents and climbs to and from the canyon.

colca canyon tour
Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon

Our guide knew the perfect spot for the obligatory “standing on the edge of the canyon” pic.

Colca Canyon tour
Andrew and Heide at Colca Canyon

As we walked back to the bus we took one last look back at the canyon. Despite the early mornings and the altitude, our Colca Canyon tour was a great experience. We were fortunate to experience some great weather and see a lot of condors. This was one of the highlights of our Peru adventures.

colca canyon tour
Colca Canyon

We made one last stop in a village we had skipped on the way to the canyon. This was mainly for a bathroom break, but of course there was a village church to check out.

colca canyon tour

This one featured an impressive carved wooden alter, so was well worth a quick visit.

We then headed back to Chivay for lunch, before hitting the road back to Arequipa. This was a long drive, with only one bathroom stop and we dozed most of the way.

We arrived back in Arequipa before 5:00 pm, then headed out for a quick dinner. We were in bed before 9:00pm to be ready for our 5:00 am pick up the next morning for our bus to Cusco.

The post RTW – Colca Canyon Tour appeared first on Airports and Sunsets.


RTW – A Couple of Days in Arequipa

The next phase of our Peru adventures was a couple of days in Arequipa. We had originally planned to spend more time here, but we had to make some adjustments to our itinerary after spending more time in Lima than we had planned. Note – links on this page may be affiliate links. If you […] The post RTW – A Couple of Days in Arequipa appeared first on Airports and...

The next phase of our Peru adventures was a couple of days in Arequipa. We had originally planned to spend more time here, but we had to make some adjustments to our itinerary after spending more time in Lima than we had planned.

Note – links on this page may be affiliate links. If you use them, we’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Arriving in Arequipa

After a not-particularly-comfortable overnight bus ride from Nazca, we got to Arequipa around 5 am. A Peru Hop guide walked us down to our accommodation. Our first impressions of Arequipa were of old buildings and streets that were deserted except for the occasional taxi racing past. The formidable doors of the Flying Dog Hostel opened, and a sleepy staff member directed us to the lounge to make ourselves as comfortable as possible until breakfast started at 7:30 am.

After breakfast we checked into our room. We were please to find a room with plenty of space and a hot shower (not always a given in South America). We rested for a while, recovering from the bumpy overnight bus ride.

Initial Arequipa Exploration

Because we only had a couple of days in Arequipa, we knew we couldn’t sleep the whole day away. In any case, we were getting hungry. In any South American city, the main square is usually a good place to start, so we headed there.

Along the way we saw some of the historic buildings the city is famous for. Most of the blocks consist of historical buildings, it isn’t like some cities where the occasional historic building survives in between modern architecture.

days in arequipa
Arequipa

The weather was spectacular, cool but sunny. The winter sunlight made even random buildings very photogenic.

days in arequipa
Arequipa

As well as the overall scene, there were some interesting details along the way. Unfortunately, this frog fountain wasn’t running.

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Fountain, Arequipa

We eventually made it to the Plaza de Armas, which was a very pleasant space to relax in for a while.

plaza de armas, arequipa
Plaza de Armas – Arequipa

The buildings around the plaza are made of the white volcanic rock which gives Arequipa its nickname – The White City.

Some of the buildings are carved with interesting detail, with the best example being the baroque Iglesia de la Compañía which has particularly intricate exterior decorations.

days in arequipa
Iglesia de la Compañía – Arequipa

San Camilo Market 

By this stage we were getting hungry, so we headed to the San Camilo Market.

San Camilo Market
San Camilo Market – Arequipa

We squeezed around a small table in a crowded restaurant stall and enjoyed a tasty and very inexpensive chicken and rice lunch. We also tried chicha morada, a local drink made form purple corn. Heide and I liked it, Lachlan not so much.

After our lunch, we explored the market and picked up some fruit.

San Camilo Market
Different Varieties of Potato – San Camilo Market, Arequipa

Arequipa’s proximity to the Amazon Basin means that there is a great variety of fruit to choose from.

San Camilo Market
San Camilo Market 

There were some products available in the market that we definitely weren’t interested in purchasing.

San Camilo Market
San Camilo Market 

At this point we were again feeling the effects of the overnight bus ride, so we headed back to our room for a siesta. We did manage to rouse ourselves for dinner after a while, and enjoyed some great grilled octopus. We don’t usually take pictures of our food, but we made an exception for this meal.

arequipa
Grilled Octopus and Mixed Fried Seafood – Arequipa

On our way back to the hostel, we saw some illuminated buildings that showed off the city’s historic style. This really is a picturesque city.

arequipa

Mundo Alpaca

As we only had a couple of days in Arequipa, we planned for a busy day on our second day here. Our first stop was Mundo Alpaca.

mundo alpaca
Mundo Alpaca

Although this place is very obviously designed to sell alpaca wool products (and we couldn’t resist making some purchases), it’s worth a look even if you aren’t looking to buy anything.

The highlight was getting to meet and feed some alpacas.

mundo alpaca
Mundo Alpaca
mundo alpaca
Mundo Alpaca

We also saw interesting displays about the processes of turning alpaca fleece into alpaca wool, and weaving the wool into fabric.

mundo alpaca
Mundo Alpaca
mundo alpaca
Mundo Alpaca

We also saw a display of various machinery used in wool and fabric production over the years.

mundo alpaca
Mundo Alpaca

Monasterio de Santa Catalina

After some crepes for brunch at La Petite Française (highly recommended), we made our way to the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. This monastery was founded in the 16th century, and a group of Dominican nuns still lives there. It turned out to be the highlight of our couple of days in Arequipa.

days in arequipa
Monasterio de Santa Catalina – Arequipa

This is a large, sprawling complex that operated as a “city within a city”. Once the nuns entered the monastery they joined a self-contained community and had little contact with the outside world.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Monasterio de Santa Catalina – Arequipa
Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Monasterio de Santa Catalina

The nuns came from well-to-do families who paid for their upkeep, so they led more comfortable lives than you might expect. As well as the traditional sights like courtyards and chapels that you would expect to see, it’s fascinating to see all the various living quarters.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Monasterio de Santa Catalina – Arequipa

The kitchens in particular were interesting. There was no electricity in the complex until the 1960s, so the kitchens all feature wood burning ovens that would not look out of place in a trendy pizza restaurant.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Monasterio de Santa Catalina – Arequipa

Another interesting feature is the communal laundry area, where the nuns’ servants would wash their clothes. Mountain runoff water channels into large earthenware vessels.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Monasterio de Santa Catalina – Arequipa

At one point you can climb to the roof of a chapel and look over the monastery complex to one of the volcanoes that looms over Arequipa.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina
View from the Monasterio de Santa Catalina – Arequipa

The monastery also displays statues that are paraded around Arequipa on feast days and a monstrance made of gold and silver which is now kept in the monastery after being stolen (then recovered) from the church where it previously resided.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Monasterio de Santa Catalina

Photos from the Monasterio de Santa Catalina

After taking an informative guided tour, we spent some time wandering around the complex enjoying the interesting spaces. It’s an amazing place to take photos. There are all sorts of interesting details and angles, and the colors take on an amazing glow in the late afternoon sunshine we were lucky enough to experience.

Mirador de Yanahuara

We decided to visit one more destination to finish off our whirlwind couple of days in Arequipa. The Yanahuara outlook dates from the late 19th century, and provides a great view of Arequipa, with a stunning backdrop provided by the Misti volcano.

On our way to Yanahuara we passed a statue of the Peruvian war hero Francisco Bolognesi. He glowed in the afternoon sun.

days in arequipa
Statue of Francisco Bolognesi – Arequipa

When we arrived at The Yanahuara lookout we found a band playing classic rock covers. Soon after we arrived they played “Cocaine”. It seemed like an appropriate soundtrack for some South American sightseeing.

With the band set up on the main viewpoint terrace it took a bit of maneuvering to get a good view of Misti. I eventually managed to find the right angle and got the shot.

days in arequipa
The volcano Misti looms over Arequipa

After much deliberation Lachlan picked up one of the fluffy alpacas he had been eyeing from one of the many souvenir stalls around the viewpoint.

A boy and his alpaca

Did We Enjoy Our Couple of Days in Arequipa?

Yes.

It’s a shame that we spent less time than planned in Arequipa. We would definitely recommend including at least a few days in Arequipa in your Peru itinerary.

The post RTW – A Couple of Days in Arequipa appeared first on Airports and Sunsets.


RTW – The Nazca Lines

Having avoided Huacachina‘s famous party scene, we managed to get up bright and early to grab breakfast at our hotel before leaving for our 8:30 shuttle bus pickup. We were taking a detour from the main Peru Hop bus route to take a sightseeing flight over the mysterious Nazca Lines. Leaving Huacachina The drive from […] The post RTW – The Nazca Lines appeared first on Airports and...

Having avoided Huacachina‘s famous party scene, we managed to get up bright and early to grab breakfast at our hotel before leaving for our 8:30 shuttle bus pickup. We were taking a detour from the main Peru Hop bus route to take a sightseeing flight over the mysterious Nazca Lines.

Leaving Huacachina

The drive from Huacachina passes through some pretty desolate desert scenery. Closer to Nazca itself there are orange-growing communities, where oranges displayed for sale line the streets.

Desert scenery on the road from Huacachina to Nazca

Th road is gravel a lot of the way. There are some elevation changes which involve some interesting switchbacks.

The road from Huacachina to Nazca

About two hours after leaving Huacachina we arrived at Nazca Airport and checked in for our Aeronasca Nazca Lines flight. The check in staff weighed us all, then performed some calculations to allocate us to various flights. While we waited, we watched a video playing on a loop explaining the history of the Nazca Lines and how they were made.

Boarding Our Flight

Soon, our co-pilot collected us to get ready for our flight. One other passenger joined Heide, Lachlan and I as we headed to our plane.

The co-pilot took a picture of us, then we squeezed into the small plane.

Nazca Lines
About to board the plane for our Nazca Lines flight

Once we were on board, the co-pilot explained what we were about to see and experience as we taxied to our position for take off. When we were in the air, the co-pilot took a picture of us all buckled in for our Nazca Lines experience.

Nazca Lines

Before we got to the lines themselves we got some great views of irrigated green farmland surrounding the town of Nazca.

Irrigated farmland surrounds the town of Nazca

This soon gave way to desert, and we were ready to see the lines themselves.

The Nazca Lines

The first figure we came across was the Whale. The pilot banked and turned sharply to give people on both sides of the plane a chance to see it. It was a pretty intense ride for the half an hour or so it took to see all the figures.

Nazca Lines
The Whale

Next we saw some gigantic trapezoidal shapes. These may have had some astronomical significance or purpose.

Nazca Lines
Trapezoids
Nazca Lines
Nazca Lines

The next figure is one of the most mysterious. The Astronaut has been cited as evidence that the Nazca lines were built by aliens, or with help from aliens. I think this is unlikely.

Nazca Lines
The Astronaut

The next two figures were the Monkey and the Dog. The Monkey’s tail is a spiral, which has been adopted as a symbol of Peru (and looks really cool on stickers and tee shirts).

The Monkey
The Dog

Next we saw the Hummingbird, followed by a spiral. The highway passed near the spiral, which gave us a good sense of how massive these figures are.

Nazca Lines – Spiral

The Condor is one of the most iconic of the Nazca Lines figures. The spider and the Parrot are also often seen on tee shirts in souvenir shops.

The Condor
The Spider
The Parrot

Next we saw the Orca and the Heron.

Towards the end of the flight we passed over the observation tower next to the highway. The Peru Hop ticket includes a stop at this tower where you can see a few of the figures. We were glad that we had decided to make the extra effort (and pay the extra expense) to do a Nazca Lines flight, as we saw so much more that we would have from the viewing tower.

Nazca Lines Viewing Tower

Nazca Town

After our Nazca Lines flight, the shuttle bus took us into the town of Nazca. It dropped us off at a cafe that was the meeting point where we would rejoin the Peru Hop bus for the overnight trip to Arequipa.

After having some lunch, we still had a few hours to kill before our pick-up time. Lachlan decided to stay at the cafe and take advantage of its wi-fi. Heide and I decided instead to visit the Museo Antonini to learn more about the Nazca culture.

This small but interesting museum contains lots of artifacts from the pre-Incan Nazca culture.

Museo Antonini
Museo Antonini

We were particularly fascinated by the collection of human skulls, relics of the human sacrifices practiced by the Nazca people.

Museo Antonini
Museo Antonini

Behind the museum is a section of aqueduct. This is an example of the advanced engineering skills that helped the Nazca people survive in an inhospitable environment.

Museo Antonini

Leaving Nazca

After we had seen everything in the museum, we strolled back to the cafe, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.

Nazca
Nazca

We had time to eat some dinner before the Peru Hop guide showed up and led us down the street to board the bus to Arequipa.

The Nazca Lines flight was a highlight of our time in Peru. It was definitely worth the slightly complicated logistics and the extra expense to add it in to our Peru Hop itinerary.

The post RTW – The Nazca Lines appeared first on Airports and Sunsets.


RTW – Huacachina

After our short stay in Paracas, we headed inland to the desert oasis of Huacachina. Based on our research, this place exists for two purposes – 1. playing in the sand dunes on buggies and sandboards and 2. partying. While we weren’t particularly interested in number 2., the videos we had seen of the dune […] The post RTW – Huacachina appeared first on Airports and...

After our short stay in Paracas, we headed inland to the desert oasis of Huacachina. Based on our research, this place exists for two purposes – 1. playing in the sand dunes on buggies and sandboards and 2. partying. While we weren’t particularly interested in number 2., the videos we had seen of the dune buggy rides looked like fun, so we were looking forward to an overnight stay here.

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Arriving in Huacachina

We were delayed leaving Paracas because the bus we were joining was caught in some heavy traffic in Lima. After a short ride to Huacachina we hustled to check in to our hotel then grabbed a quick lunch, rushing to make it to our dune buggy ride.

As we checked in to our hotel, we could see one of the massive dunes that surround Huacachina. People were already climbing the dune to get ready to view the sunset.

Huacachina
Huacachina Sand Dune

A Wild Ride

After our rushed lunch, we headed for the meeting point for our buggy ride. This involved trudging up a sand dune, which was hard work. Eventually we made it to our waiting 10-seater dune buggy. There were so many buggies lined up waiting the place had a bit of a “Mad Max” vibe.

Getting in to our dune buggy – Huacachina

Soon we were in the buggy with seatbelts fastened, and ready to go. We set off and quickly got up to speed. The driver wasted no time in flinging the buggy over some steep drops at some interesting angles. It was like a noisy roller coaster ride. There were lots of buggies out on the dunes, but somehow the drivers all managed to avoid each other.

Dune buggy tracks – Huacachina

After a while, we stopped for a photo op (and to let our pulses reduce to a normal rate).

Huacachina
Family portrait – Huacachina
Huacachina
Boy on a buggy – Huacachina

We then moved on to the location for our next activity, which also had an amazing view over the dunes, as well as a very photogenic dune with windblown patterns undisturbed by buggy tires.

Huacachina

Sandboarding

We pulled up at the edge of a steep drop and the driver unloaded a stash of sandboards. After waxing them up, he handed them out and we all took turns sliding down the slope.

When we were all at the bottom of the slope (even those of us who had made noises about just watching the sandboarding and not actually participating), the driver drove the buggy down to meet us. We all piled into the buggy and drove to the next location which was an even steeper hill.

After we all survived hill number two, the process repeated and we faced our ultimate test, an even steeper slope. I managed to plant a foot and direct a spray of sand into my face on the way down, but everyone else managed the descent without incident.

Sunset

After our sandboarding adventures, it was time to head to our sunset spot. We made it just in time to watch the sun set behind the dunes

Huacachina
Sunset – Huacachina
Huacachina
Buggy tracks at sunset – Huacachina

As the sun dropped beneath the dunes the temperature also dropped, and it was time to head back to the small oasis village.

Huacachina
Sunset – Huacachina

With the lights of Huacachina in sight it was time to tip the driver and trudge back down the dune to find some dinner. After a hearty meal in a very touristy restaurant with a very friendly host, we headed back to the hotel to shower off all the sand which had collected on our bodies throughout the afternoon’s activities. With the sand at least mostly gone, we made it to bed at a reasonable hour to get some sleep before an early start the next morning to catch a shuttle bus to take us to the flight we had booked to see the mysterious Nazca Lines.

Huacachina
Huacachina

Where to Stay in Huacachina

The accommodation options in Huacahina skew towards the backpacker party crowd, but there are other family-friendly alternatives. We stayed at the Hostal Curasi, and would recommend it. It’s far enough away from the party hostels that noise isn’t an issue.

There really isn’t any reason to stay longer than one night in Huacachina unless you’re keen for a multi-day backpacker party experience, or you’re a serious competitive sandboarder. However, we enjoyed our overnight stay in this desert oasis and the buggy ride and sandboarding was a lot of fun.

The post RTW – Huacachina appeared first on Airports and Sunsets.


RTW – Paracas

After our extended time in Lima, we were well and truly ready to explore the rest of Peru. At 7am a shuttle bus picked us up from our hotel and took us to meet the Peru Hop bus which would complete our escape from Lima. The destination for the day was Paracas, on the coast […] The post RTW – Paracas appeared first on Airports and...

After our extended time in Lima, we were well and truly ready to explore the rest of Peru. At 7am a shuttle bus picked us up from our hotel and took us to meet the Peru Hop bus which would complete our escape from Lima. The destination for the day was Paracas, on the coast a few hours down the highway.

Although it’s a more expensive option than just buying regular bus tickets in Peru, we chose to travel with Peru Hop as it’s a very traveller-friendly service. Helpful guides accompany travelers on each bus, and they provide pickups and drop-offs from and to accommodations at each end of each leg of your journey. They also make some interesting stops between destinations.

On the way out of Lima, we caught some glimpses of Barranco, the artsy district next to Miraflores. Even with our extended time in Lima, we didn’t manage to get to Barranco because of the time we had to spend dealing with the aftermath of our apartment break-in. In the unlikely event that we ever go back to Lima, we’ll have to get to Barranco and check out its street art and cafes.

Note – links on this page may be affiliate links. If you use them, we’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

On the Road Out of Lima

Our first stop was for breakfast at a roadside eatery and bar that served excellent pork sandwiches. After everyone had eaten some breakfast we gathered behind the restaurant to play “drunken cuy”. This involves placing a cuy (guinea pig) in a box, spinning it around to make it dizzy, then letting it run into one of a circle of numbered boxes. Each player has a numbered ticket, and if the cuy runs into the box with your number you are a winner. The prizes were mostly pisco shots, and it was still only 9am, so we weren’t too unhappy we didn’t win anything.

The next stop on the way to Paracas was at the Hacienda San Jose in Chincha. This is a former plantation home that is now a luxury hotel. The blue sky overhead and sunshine was quite a change from Lima where we barely caught a glimpse of the sun all week. Lachlan found a hammock and enjoyed some time swinging in it.

Lachlan loves a good hammock

As well as the lovely house and grounds, there is some interesting history here, including secret tunnels used to hide and smuggle slaves to avoid taxes.

Hacienda San Jose – table from colonial times
Entrance to the Slave Tunnels – Hacienda San Jose

At the front of the house is an ornate chapel, next to a courtyard with a lovely fountain.

Hacienda San Jose in Chincha – Chapel and Courtyard
Fountain – Hacienda San Jose in Chincha

The chapel features a statue of St. Martin de Porres, a Peruvian saint. He is depicted with a broom because he believed all work is sacred, no matter how menial.

St. Martin de Porres

Arriving in Paracas

We arrived in Paracas at 2:30, and checked in to our room (small, but clean) at the Hotel Residencial Los Frayles. After dropping our bags in the room we rejoined our guide and some of the other Peru Hop passengers for a late lunch in a 4th floor restaurant overlooking the harbor. We took our time over lunch and sat for a while after eating enjoying the warm weather.

After lunch we walked around the small downtown area. Paracas is as much a fishing town as it is a beach resort. The beach isn’t that great, but the seafood is good, and there are things to see around the town in an interesting environment where the desert meets the sea.

After a quick rest at the hotel, we headed back to the beach to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine and check out the sunset.

Paracas
Heide and Lachlan, Paracas
Paracas
Sunset – Paracas
Paracas
The Fishing Fleet After Sunset – Paracas

After sunset we wandered around for a while, and found a place to buy some board shorts for Lachlan. We had discovered that his previous pair had been taken in our Lima break-in when he went to put them on for a swim in the hotel pool. We weren’t feeling very hungry after our late lunch, so we split a medium pizza in a backpacker reggae bar then went back to our room for an early night.

Ballestas Islands

One of the main things to do in Paracas is a boat ride to the Ballestas Islands. These rocky islands teem with birdlife, to the point that they have been called “the poor man’s Galapagos Islands”. Because we had just spent two weeks in the real Galapagos Islands we decided to skip it and had a sleep-in and a leisurely morning instead. If you go to Paracas and you haven’t been to the Galapagos Islands you should do the Ballestas Islands cruise. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to see some amazing wildlife.

Paracas National Reserve

At 11am, we boarded the bus for a tour of the Paracas National Reserve (included in our Peru Hop ticket). This is an other-worldly landscape, with desert and volcanic scenery meeting a spectacular coastline.

The first stop on the tour was the Cathedral. This used to be more a lot bigger, a natural arch topped with spires that inspired its name. However, it was extensively damaged by an earthquake in 2007, leaving what is still an impressive formation.

Paracas
Cathedral Rock – Paracas National Reserve

From the Cathedral Rock viewpoint there were also great views down the coastline.

Paracas
Paracas National Reserve

Next, we stopped at a high viewpoint overlooking Playa Roja (Red Beach).

Paracas
Red Beach – Paracas National Reserve

The views back across the desert looked like another planet. Looking at this picture without knowing where it was taken, you probably wouldn’t guess how close to the ocean it was.

Paracas National Reserve
A hawk circles above Playa Roja – Paracas National Reserve
Playa Roja – Paracas National Reserve

Our final stop was a close-up look at Playa Roja.

Paracas
Playa Roja – Paracas National Reserve

As well as the red sand that gives this beach its name, there were some interesting rock formations (and rock piles).

Playa Rojo – Paracas National Reserve

We walked out onto a rock platform right at the water’s edge. Occasionally we had to retreat as a larger wave broke over the platform.

Paracas
Lachlan surveys the scene – Paracas National Reserve
Paracas
Paracas National Reserve

We enjoyed our short time in Paracas. It can be seen as an overnight or day trip from Lima, or as part of an overland itinerary heading south from Lima. Either way, it’s well worth a visit.

The post RTW – Paracas appeared first on Airports and Sunsets.


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