Huayna Picchu is part of the Machu Picchu compound, but is open to only 400 people per day, at two morning time slots. It allows trekkers a steep climb up the nearby mountain to get a real bird’s eye view of the Machu Picchu ruins. As we learned the hard way, you have to pre-book entrance passes to Huayna Picchu when you book your passes to Machu Picchu or else you are not getting in.
Clothing for every type of weather! In August, it was cool in the mornings, hot in the afternoons and freezing in the evenings – so essentially you have to dress in layers to get through the day. I forgot a hat and gloves and my travel partner didn’t bring any short-sleeved shirts. We ended up buying ponchos too.
A lot of people only get two weeks to travel, what can you recommend to get the most out of that little bit of time in Peru?
We did the classic Gringo Trail that loops from Lima to Cusco and back, cutting out a few destinations. We passed on the Nazca Lines (a $300USD plane ride) and skipped Puno and Lake Titicaca (which seems to be more of a tourist attraction than a cultural experience).
Lima - 2 days
Lima to Ica/Huacachina (5 hours by bus) - 1.5 days - Definitely do the dune buggy/sandboarding tour and a pisco tasting.
Ica to Arequipa (overnight bus) - 3 days - Go on the day tour of the Colca Canyon.
Arequipa to Cusco (overnight bus) - 3 days - Check out Maras/Moray and Salteneras, and Machu Picchu, for all of its fame, is not overrated.
Cusco to Ollantaytambo (2 hours by bus) - 2 days
The town of Ollantaytambo is about halfway between Cusco and Aguas Calientes, and is a great launching point for train travel to Machu Picchu. Ollantaytambo features ruins climbing up the surrounding mountainsides, a cozy central plaza and cobblestone alleys filled with Peruvian trinket vendors and cafes. We ended up cutting our time short in Cusco to stay here an extra day.
The food in Peru was a complete and pleasant surprise. My idea of Peruvian food only conjured images of the infamous guinea pig slurped down with a few pisco sours. While the guinea pig is prevalent (and the pisco sours were good), there is so much more to the cuisine than that.
Alpaca – very cute, and very tender. A bit wary of it? Try it in a stir fry first.
Stews – Peru is famous for the hearty, veggie packed and soul warming stews…try them all.
Quinoa – a perfect protein and a main crop of Peru, just give the quinoa bars a miss and instead have it in salads and stews.
Chocoteja – only found in Peru, these “chocolate tiles” are filled with everything from pecans to coffee cream to raisins.
Lucuma – a fruit that’s hard not to fall in love with at first bite.
Pollo a la brasa – rotisserie chicken shops that will fill you up for under $4USD.
Chupe de mariscos –seafood soup in a spicy red broth (a Peruvian version of the Malaysian laksa, in my opinion)
Lomo Saltado – the ubiquitous stir-fry seems to be the national dish – beef, onions, tomatoes and French fries are an easy, and filling dinner dish.
Pisco sours – if you try pisco on its own before you try this frothy sweet cocktail you may be turned off, but soldier on, it’s worth it.
Queso helado – cheese ice cream from Arequipa tastes nothing like cheese.
Coco tea – a good way to fend off altitude sickness and warm up in the mornings.
Do you have any travel safety advice? What are the important things to remember?
Generally, I felt safe in Peru. I wouldn’t recommend going out at night alone in Lima and wandering the streets, but in Cusco there were tourist police on every corner watching the streets. Also, for the long overnight bus routes, especially from Cusco back to Lima, splurge for the more expensive and nicer bus lines (like Cruz del Sur). Trust me, it will make a difference to your journey winding through the Andes. Finally, if the altitude gets to you, stay hydrated, slow down and try the coco tea.
Ayngelina Brogan shares her recipe for Chupe de Camarones (shrimp chowder) – a traditional dish in Southern Peru.
A few tips from fellow nomads before your trip to Peru. From learning a bit of Spanish, to finding the right tour operator, here's what you need to know.