South Peru – Nice places along the Gringo trail

South Peru - HuacachinaThe first 10 days in Peru were in the touristic south. Lots of nice places, some of them very unique. Though everything was very comfortable and western in this region, some places were too touristic. 


Landing in Lima was quite ok. I was scared to walk around the streets, but except for the The beach at Mirafloresdepressing fog, I can blame only my prejudice, and not reality. The beach was also gray. But it was fun being in the other side of the world.

The visit to the Museo de Nacion is a good start for Peru, to get to know the culture. It’s better done taking a tour (not hanging beside one like a begger).

The first bus ride was a good surprise. They seemed very organzied, and the bus was comfortable. The 5 hour journey to Ica went smooth. From Ica, we went to yet a smaller place, Huacahina, a tiny oasis overshadowed by great dunes. Parties by the pool at the Casa del Arena are on everyday.

Vineyard at IcaIca has only a few things to offer. We went to the choclate factory of Tejas which was disappointing : they don’t let you in, only look in through the window. The more interesting thing in Ica is it’s wineries.

I was taught that grapes that are good for wine grow only between 30 to 50 degrees latitude. It was a weird sight seeing a vines amongst dunes. It was even more wierd after tasting some wine and Pisco, one of the great symbols of Peru.Buggies

The main highlight of this region is definitely going on a buggie ride around the sand dunes. This roller coaster stops at the top of high hills, and then you ski or fall down. 

Falling down didn’t hurt my body, but my camera didn’t like it at all, and stopped fSkiing down the dunesunctioning. Money fixed it a few days later.

A cameraless tour to the Pisco-Paracas followed. The islands around the town of Pisco are considered “Poor man’s Galapagos”. I’m not such an animal lover, so I would leave recommend it only for animal lovers. The big beaked birds are strange creatures. The sea lions were really cute, especially in when seen in giant groups.

The Paracas natural reserve featured some crabs, red sands and some viewponts. Sea lionsUnfortunately, the guide spoke some bad English, so I don’t know much of what I saw there. At least he sent us to a great seafood restaurant…

Arequipa is a nice place to visit. White buildings pretty streets and nice people, especially at the Casa Yael. Juanita, one of the Inca’s human sacrifice’s has a fascinating story around it. Thanks to a volcano eruption about 10 years ago, the deeds of those crazy Incas come to life. Well, she’s dead, but her body in the transparent freezer is the closest you’ll get to an Inca.


The tour to the Cañon de Colca started by climbing to a wild plateau with Vicuñas, Llamas and sick tourists chewing bitter Coca leaves, trying to fight mountain sickness.

On the way, we stopped for playing with some Alpacas (actually buying souvenirs). These soft animals make some excellent Alpaca sweathers, and good steaks. Descending from the mountain passAlpaca to the vialley was a spectular bus ride, but we had to descend quickly, so everyone would feel better (at least in their head).

Near Chivay, the central village in the region, I met my first hot springs. It followed a hike to see some ancient graves. These graves are open some people in the group played with the bones..

Big BirdThe highlight of the tour was the Cruz del Condor, the place for viewing the truly impressing bug bird, with it’s 3 meter wing span, and it’s elegant gliding. I didn’t get the best pictures. So, the Australian woman from Hong Kong, if you are reading this, you had excellent pictures with your professional camera. Please send them over!

The grand grand canyonAlso walking along the Canyon, the deepest in the world, was a great experience. This depth cannot be felt through the camera, but here’s one picture anyway.


The next place on the way was the high altitude city of Puno. I still don’t understand why the main tourist street is in the middle of the city and not along the lake, but it’s touristic enough.Sillustani

Being spontaneous is sometimes a draw, and we found ourselves chasing a tour bus with a taxi, and then chasing the group uphill. When we finally got there, to Sillustani, we saw Inca and pre Inca funerary towers around a small lake. The Spaniards tried to destroy it, but they still left something for us.

Sunset at AmantaniThe big lake, Titicaca, is much more than “the highest navigable lake on earth”. It has deep blue waters and colorful sunsets. The first stop was at the famous “floating islands”, aka Uros. These interesting islands were built with reeds, when the Uros tribe fled from it’s enemies, into the lake. They can be easily built, split up, anchored or be on the move. Also their boats are made by those reeds. Despite all this, these islands are too touristic. It seems like Floating islandsthe “ancient tradition” is jsut a show for us. Of course, they want to sell all kinds of “authentic” goods. I doubt that they were really made on the island, and not in a factory.

Going to Amantani island was a much more authentic experience. It didn’t consist of finding a lost tribe, but the everyday life seemed real, especially when staying at a local family’s house. No electricity, Dancing at Amantanilow ceilings, quinua soup made from local products and the guinea pig running around in the kitchen made it a unique experience.

At night, they took us to dance with them. Wearing the heavy poncho was relatively simple. The girls had to wear a much more complicated costume. It was fun !

Taquilli islandThe last stop (on this post) was going to Taquilli island. The pretty island is surrounded by the beautiful lake. They have a special society over there. Men and women have different distinctive clothes according to their status. Leadership changes every year, to avoid corruption, and a couple must live together before getting married. This is strange for a traditional society. We witnessed people going to a multi marriage ceremony. Many sheep were needed for these festivities.

See more pictures here  

Next stop: Cusco…