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Peru: Exploring the Land of the Incas & The World’s Best Food

Greetings from the field. I’m currently traveling across Peru researching the country, having a few adventures and misadventures and planning upcoming tours to this fascinating country.

Peru is a diverse and rich country with some of the best cuisine in the world (they have been consistently taking top travel awards for best international food for the past few years), friendly locals, diverse geography, the amazing Machu Picchu archaeological site, unique wildlife, and so many adventure travel experiences that they could give New Zealand a good challenge as the adventure capital of the world. As the headwaters of the Amazon, 60% of Peru is jungle. The rest is comprised of arid desert coastline, the imposing Andes Mountain range, the world’s highest lake (Lake Titicaca), deep canyons in Arequipa, and a small mini-Galapagos just south of Lima. There’s so much to see and do in Peru for all types of travelers.

During my time here in Peru I’m researching future ArchaeoAdventure tours, finding all the best travel tips, and I’m diving into getting to know the country and culture. Below are some of my favorite travel moments so far.

Lima

Peru’s thriving capital city, Lima is bursting at the seams with 12 million inhabitants and growing. It is located on the desert coastline surrounded on 3 sides by mountains.  After Cairo, Lima is the 2nd driest capital in the world. Lima has also been re-defining itself as an important member of the world stage (recently hosting the APEC meetings) and as the culinary capital of the world. It’s a mix of ancient pre-Incan pyramids, Spanish colonial buildings and thriving modern metropolis. While most travelers only pass through Lima on their way to Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail, the Amazon or the southern part of Peru, Lima is a city worth spending at least a few days if not easily a week. During my week in Lima, we ate, ate and ate some more amazing food. Peruvian food is a wonderfully eclectic mix of food from around the world thanks to the many different groups of immigrants that settled in Peru. You could spend a week in Peru doing nothing but dining on amazing cuisine and still barely scratch the surface. Peruvians don’t measure quality by the price tag, rather good eats can be found for very reasonable prices. Peruvian culture and customs revolves around food. Family gatherings involve large feasts of so many different tasty dishes from around the country. Even breakfast is no small affair – with large spreads of meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables and homemade bread. Sharing a meal with local Peruvians is one of the best ways to truly get to know the country. And I was lucky this trip to have some great meals with friends and family.

Favorite Lima Experience: Huaca Pucllana

Situated  in the heart of Miraflores, Huaca Pucllana is a restored pre-Incan adobe pyramid. In ancient times it was a sacred religious center. An impressively massive structure located in the heart of the leafy boulevards of Miraflores, the best way to experience the awe of this huaca is with dinner and then a walking tour around the huaca. There is a wonderful (and quite affordable) restaurant located at the base of the huaca. Reservations are a must and ask to be outside on the patio with a direct view of the ancient pyramid. They run evening tours till 9:30pm. After dinner, join a tour of this impressive site.

Huaca Pucllana and the restaurant lit up at night. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

Machu Picchu – the great Incan city

Hands down Machu Picchu is one of the best travel experiences in Peru. With over 2,000 visitors a day, it is the most popular travel location in South America. And it is well worth the journey there – either by train/bus or by the Inca trail. In addition, to seeing the main sight I also climbed Machu Picchu Mountain – which is 2,000 feet of elevation gain above Machu Picchu. It’s pretty much stairs straight up the mountain and provides amazing views of Machu Picchu. Its a tough climb, but definitely worth it. If you visit Peru, Machu Picchu is a must.

Sunrise Machu Picchu. Photo Genevieve Hathaway Photography.
View of Machu Picchu from Machu Picchu mountain. Photo Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

Cuzco – heart of the Incan empire

Cuzco was once the heart of the Incan empire and the center of their universe. 4 main roads left Cuzco heading into the 4 Incan provinces. Qorikancha was their great temple, and it was at the center of Cuzco. From Cuzco, all the other religious centers (called Huaca’s) radiated out in straight lines. When the Spanish arrived they destroyed the Incan city and built colonial Cuzco on top of it, reusing the Incan blocks and foundations. Today Cuzco is a mix of colonial with Incan architecture mixed in. It’s a fascinating city. We were lucky to be there during the first few days of the big Cuzco cultural celebrations. There were parade after parade with different groups wearing their traditional outfits. It made for a very memorable visit to Cuzco.

Celebrations in the main square of Cuzco. Photo Genevieve Hathaway Photography.
Traditional outfit from a region near Cuzco. Photo Genevieve Hathaway Photography.
Even the kids got into the festivities representing their regions. Photo Genevieve Hathaway Photography.
All smiles from the dancers. This participant was wearing the traditional outfit from Cuzco city. Photo Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

Up next on our Peru travel plans is traveling to Iquitos and the headwaters of the Amazon jungle. The Amazon has been on my travel bucket list for a while and I thrilled to begin my exploration of this legendary river in Peru. This section of the Amazon has some amazing animal life – the world’s smallest monkey, pink dolphins, the white monkey. Stay tune to the blog for my upcoming stories from that amazing part of Peru.

Chau and Great Travels,

Genevieve
Founder, Owner, Chief Adventurista at ArchaeoAdventures

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