Hi Knowmaders! I just got back from an incredible 18-day trip to Peru. It was a phenomenal adventure filled with many of the activities you, our travelers, experience, as well as hotel inspections and meeting with our local team. I was constantly expanding my knowledge of these incredible destinations and excursions. To be honest the whole trip was a little bit of a pinch me moment and it was really difficult to choose just a few to share with you. Read on for the top six highlights from my trip to Peru.
Highlights From My Trip To Peru: Traveling in The Sacred Valley, The Amazon Jungle & Lake Titicaca
1. Horseback riding past Andean countryside to Incan terraces, a breathtaking picnic, & traditional salt mines
This was our first true full day in the Sacred Valley, and although I can’t pick a favorite since each day was unique and unforgettable in its own way, this day certainly gave the others something to live up to right from the start. Let me start off by saying, I’m not a big horseback rider. I could probably count the times I have been on a horse with one hand. My husband, who I was lucky enough to have accompany me on this adventure, had actually never been on a horse. Despite our inexperience, seeing the countryside at this much slower pace made this day really remarkable. We rode past some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen in my life, from snowcapped peaks to fields of quinoa and wildflowers.
After seeing some fascinating Incan agricultural terraces at Moray, we arrived at our “picnic” lunch. By picnic, I mean this:
This is definitely one of those moments where you feel like you must be dreaming. Delicious food, wine, interesting conversation, and this view to top it off. Is this for real?
Following lunch, we rode back to the town we started in, Maras. From there we did a short downhill hike until arriving at the Maras salt mines. The community harvests salt here by using a natural stream coming out from the mountain and letting it flow down into these pans. After the water evaporates they scoop up the salt. I’ve never seen anything like this, and the view of the valley behind it all made it especially beautiful. To see a Knowmad itinerary that features this day check out our Peru Active Explorer trip idea.
2. Hiking to Huchuyqosqo ruins
This is a little known and beautiful day hike in the Sacred Valley. You hike from about 12,000 feet to 14,000, then down to the valley floor at 9,500 feet. We got a cloudy day, but the view from the top of the mountain was incredible, and I can only imagine what it would be like on a clear day when you can see all the surrounding countryside.
The highlight of the hike is the little visited Huchuyqosqo ruins. We didn’t see anyone else the entire time we were hiking, and at the ruins there was just one other person there, the person running the site. It’s really fascinating seeing these lesser known sites throughout the valley as it makes you truly realize how large the Incan empire was. Throughout the country you are seeing Incan remains, some renovated and some not. Often times you can just barely make out the terraces or stonewalls under the forest that has now swallowed them. If you have the time for it, I suggest doing this as a two-day hike with a night of camping under the stars at these ruins.
3. Machu Picchu, of course
This is the reason many people begin planning a trip to Peru in the first place, and I have to say it certainly lived up to its expectations. I’ve seen impressive ruins before, Teotihuacan in Mexico to Tikal in Guatemala, and they just don’t compare to Machu Picchu. The setting and history of these ruins are what really make them remarkable. When traveling to Peru, don’t shortchange this site. It pained me to see people arrive, spend 2 hours there or less, and then head out. Stay a night in Aguas Calientes at least, spend a full day at the site, and make sure you’re with an expert guide. You won’t regret it. Also, make sure you’re there in the late afternoon for part of your time. This is when the site clears out, you can find a nice place to lie down, and truly just enjoy and take in its beauty.
4. SPENDING TIME WITH the team in Peru
One of the things I was looking forward to the most about the trip was spending time with our Peru in-country team. We’re in constant communication with our in-country coordinators making sure every detail of every trip is perfect, so it was so nice to finally spend some more time together in person. It is no exaggeration to say that we have absolutely the best team in all of Peru; from our operations team to all of our incredible guides, drivers and porters. They are phenomenal. Making this even more of a highlight, we even found some time after work to go salsa dancing together.
5. Trudging through mud to get to Sandoval Lake
When traveling, there are always bound to be some bumps (or in our case mud) in the road. It’s just a part of the adventure, and often times these moments end up being some of the best highlights of your trip. We were in the Amazon right after some big rainstorms, and at the tail end of the rainy season in general. This meant the path getting to Lake Sandoval was not so much a path, but more 3 kilometers of almost pure mud, sometimes reaching up to our mid-calf and higher.
Despite the challenge of walking through the mud being honestly quite fun, this made it all the more rewarding when we reached the lake and got a beautiful canoe ride and wildlife sightings in return.
6. Indigenous cultures at Lake Titicaca
I have to say Lake Titicaca really surprised and impressed me. For a place that often gets a bad rap on online travel blogs for being an inauthentic tourist trap, I found it to not only be the complete opposite, but extremely unique and fascinating. Sure, I can see how someone would get the previous impression by doing a short visit and only seeing the large Uros floating islands, but getting off the beaten path here really makes all the difference.
One of the many highlights for me here was visiting the barter market. I’ve been to many larger markets in Latin America, but this was completely unique. It’s not a market at all designed for tourists and not where you would go to buy souvenirs, but is a wonderful place to really get a closer look at some culture and tradition. Everyone brings their goods to the market, whether it be potatoes, fish or other crops, and then they simply make trades. You don’t see anyone using cash, but just trading 10 potatoes for 5 small fish. People come from all around the lake, including the different floating islands that still make their living primarily off of fishing. Their clothing is so colorful and the hats the women are wearing each signify if they are married, single or engaged. I could go on for pages about their clothing and everything I learned at the market, but I think it’s best if you just go and see if for yourself!
I could never possibly choose just six favorite parts of my trip, but these moments really stuck out to me on the journey. To see more photos from my trip, check out the album, “Renee’s Phenomenal Peruvian Adventure!” posted on the Knowmad Adventures Facebook page.
Note: This post was originally posted on May 1, 2015 and was adjusted to include the most up-to-date information on December 28, 2016.
Renee is a Trip Specialist at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She lived in Mexico for over 3 years and is excited to help Knowmad travelers discover the wonderful impact not just travel, but really experiencing a different country and culture can have on your life. Read Renee’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.