Our trip started in Lima where we stayed in Miraflores a lovely area close to the sea. This area is famous is a mixture of modern glass-and-steel commercial buildings and fine old colonial homes. This area has also a lot of green areas that stretch along the cliff tops overlooking the ocean. By the time we arrived it was late and we were really tired therefore we decided to rest to be ready for the first day of our adventure.
- Reserva Nacional de Islas, Islates y Puntas Guaneros
- Barranco to Miraflores coastal walk
- Lima Half-day free walking tour of Lima Downtown
- On the way to Paracas
- Paracas what to see & do
- Huacachina Legend & some info
- Arequipa sights & interesting info
- The Colca Canyon Trek
Lima founded in 1535 and called “The King of Cities” by Francisco Pizarro is home to almost a third of Peru’s population – it has a lot of colonial architecture, beautiful buildings with carved wooden balconies & Baroque flourishes.
Reserva Nacional de Islas, Islates y Puntas Guaneros
The first highlight of this trip was swimming with the sealions on Palomino Island which is part of a natural protected area “Reserva Nacional Sistema de Islas, Islates y Puntas Guaneros” considered the key of the conservation and scientific research of thousands of species of the coastal marine wildlife.
San Lorenzo Island
Before arriving to Palomino Island, we passed close to San Lorenzo Island. This island is famous for the oyster fisher, the president house (even though he does never stay there during the holidays) and the military base.
Cavinzas Island was the second island we passed by and it´s famous for pelicans, the Inca tern, Humboldt Penguins and the guanay cormorant. We were lucky enough to see all 4 species.
Swimming with sealions @ Palomino Island
As said before the highlight was swimming with the sealions on Palomino Island. Before jumping in the water, the guide told us how to behave with the sealions especially he told us to put our feet towards them. Sealions are attracted to feet, and play with them, biting them smoothly. Unfortunately, he forgot to tell us the temperature of the water. Even with a swimming suit 14degrees do feel like a 1000 needle getting in your body. After jumping in the water, it took me a bit to be able to start breathing, but as soon as I turned around and saw all the sealions close to us I forgot how cold the water was. It was a wonderful experience – the sealions were so friendly, they swam around us, dived and played with our feet.
Thank god, I had a change which I used immediately after getting out of the water.
Video Snorkeling with sealions
Barranco to Miraflores coastal walk
When we got back to the flat we decided to go to Larcomar which is a shopping mall close to the sea. We decided to walk from Barranco back home. I read that Barranco has been popular for artists and writers. This area if Lima has some beautiful 19th- and early-20th-century buildings. architecture. On this walk there are nice bars & café where you can have something to eat looking over the ocean (maybe watching the sunset). We had a crepe which is obviously not a typical dish from Peru, but it is so delicious that we just could not pass by without having one.
Lima Half-day free walking tour of Lima Downtown
To visit Lima, you can do half-day free walking tours. We did one of Lima Downtown – we took a metro (subway) and then the Metropolitana (which is a bus with bus lane passing through 14 of the 42 districts of Lima. Tickets costs 2,50 Soles). On this tour we were given loads of interesting information regarding Peru and his history.
Lima Facts & History
Lima has 11Mio inhabitants unlike most cities around the world living in the city centre is less expensive than living in Miraflores and Barranco (on the coast).
The actual Peruvian currency “Soles” was introduced due to a big problem of inflation.
The actual president has polish origins.
On the weekend of election all bars are closed, and no alcohol can be sold anywhere to avoid people getting drunk. Unfortunately, this affects the tourists as well.
There are two rules to define who can become president: he must be older than 35 and must be born in Peru.
In Downtown Lima you can find loads of yellow building – the president likes to say that yellow is the national colour and therefore everyone working for the government has a yellow uniform.
Rimac is the river that starts in the Highlights and ends in Callao. The name means chaos and it is said that the shaman uses the sound of the river to predict the future. Coming from the highlands the water of the river is quite dirty and the black vulture are useful to clean it.
In the 90s Lima had problems with a terrorist group called “ Shanty” – loads of train were attacked by these terrorists and therefore all train stations were closed. The only trains operating are the once carrying gold, silver and copper. The chief of this terrorist group was put in jail by President Fushimoco who afterwards was discovered to be corrupted. Before being able to put him in jail he managed to escape to Japan. After a while he thought he could come back to Peru, but he was put in jail for 25years.
Due to the terrorists loads of people immigrate to Lima this caused a big growth of the city – mostly they went to the mountains to build their flats since the ground did not cost money. Nowadays they have electricity like everybody else and they pay for these services. For the people living up there it is quite uncomfortable to go to work because they need to get a tuk or taxi to get down and from there they must catch a local transport to reach the working place
We were also told that the Spanish people tried hard to make the Catholicism become the religion of the Indi, but they did not manage to do it. Indi people believe in the god sun and therefore they modified some statues of Jesus and Mary putting the sun or moon behind their head. In the last supper picture, they decided to put the Guiney pig and Pisco.
Lima has suffered a lot because of fires and earthquakes therefore you can find a safe place in every church. To define those, safe places there is a Writing “ safe in case of earthquake”.
Peru is also known for the Nobel price Jorge Llora Vargas who is now the boyfriend of Enrique Iglesias mother.
Lima Downtown is full of police which is something normal. In case of other president visits the streets get closed to prevent terrorism attacks.
Some other facts about Lima: just 1% of the population are Muslims
The average wage is 850Soles
There are private and public schools but to be able to register in public schools you need to pass an exam which is said to be much more difficult as the one for the private school. The average cost of a private school is 1200Soles.
Barranco and Miraflores are the most expensive places to live in Lima (average rent 1000Soles while the average rent of Downtown Lima is around 200-300Soles)
There is a law saying that after 7years that someone is living in an accommodation in the Favelas the place becomes automatically his. Lima is a very clean city.
Plaza De Armas
Plaza De Armas also known as Plaza Mayor is the historical center of Lima and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even though most of the buildings from the original city were destroyed in the earthquake of 1746 ( the bronze fountain built in 1651 is the only remain of that time) this plaza is a beautiful place and offers a lot to see such as the cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace; the Casa del Oidor; and the Palacio del Gobierno which is the official residence of the president and where you can experience the change of the guards (on weekdays at noon). The Palacio del Gobierno was built exactly in the same spot where Jose San Martín declared the Independence of Peru on July the 28th 1821.
There are some other interesting sights to see in the area close by such as the pedestrian Jiron de la Union which has a mixture of old and new buildings housing restaurants and shops. Here you can also find La Merced church (completed in the late 1700s) with its Baroque colonial façade and Casa de Aliaga which is one of the oldest and best preserved colonial mansions in South America.
Unfortunately Lima’s original cathedral (construction began in 1535) was destroyed in 1746 by an earthquake. It was then rebuilt and nowadays the cathedral is famous for holding the tomb of Francisco Pizarro, founder of Lima, a carving of Jesus in the chapel of St. John the Baptist, and Spanish Baroque style altars known as churrigueresque.
Convento San Francisco
San Francisco church and its monastery constructed in 1673 are famous for their catacombs – please be aware that due to the fact that the ceilings are low it is not for people who are claustrophobic. To be honest with you I skipped this part
The monastery is famous for the mural of the Last Supper where the apostles are eating a guinea pig
Built in 1540 the church and monastery of Santo Domingo is one of the oldest and most historic in Lima. I personally find this building gorgeous.
The tour finished in a market where we were given some Pisco to try. Pisco is the national drink of Peru and Chile. There is a “war” between these two countries for whom invented it. The guide told us that the Corte of Panama agreed that Peru is the one.
It has 42° and can be found in a lot of different flavours. Personally, my favourite one was the passion fruit pisco.
On the way to Paracas
Pacific War & Memorial
On the way to Paracas, our second stop, we stopped to see the monument in memory of the Pacific war: Chile had petrol and guano (bird excrement said to be a really good fertilizer) in Bolivia. Bolivia wanted to increase taxes but Chile didn´t agree and in 1879 the war of the Pacific started with Chile on one side and Peru and Bolivia (alliance) on the other. Thanks to France which told Chile they would get in war beside Peru and Bolivia if they didn´t stop, the war ended in 1884. The statue is in memory of all the civilians who lost their life’s. Our guide used the travel time on the bus to tell us a bit about the history of Peru and other interesting facts.
Chicha Morada @ serranito (Peruvian drink & Food to try)
Before arriving in Paracas we stopped in a typical “bakery” where we tried the Maracuja juice, la chicha Morada which is a famous Peruvian drink made of corn culli which is a purple variety of corn (originated in the Andes) and the serranito (typical round bread).
Chincha @ the Secret Slave Tunnel
We then stopped in Chincha to visit the Secret Slave Tunnel. The slavery in Peru lasted from 1688-1854. The owner of this hacienda did not want to pay taxes for the slavery therefore he constructed a 17km tunnel that connected the sea to his hacienda. In his Hacienda they were sold to others. Even though slavery was banished in 1854 – they continued to sell slaves till 1866. When they decided to free the slaves, they were killed by them. Nowadays the hacienda has become a hotel where loads of ceremonies take place.
Paracas what to see & do
Once arrived in Paracas which is literally just a 2 streets town we went for dinner at the Paracas Restaurant which has a gorgeous view.
Our first typical Peruvian Dishes (Cancha tostada, Ceviche, pollo saltado & El Tres Leches )
We opted for the first typical Peruvian restaurant and we started with a cancha tostada which is toasted corn. As a main course I took ceviche marisquero which is prepared with fresh fish, limes, onions, spicy peppers and fresh cilantro. I took a seafood ceviche which consists of seafood marinated with lime juice (the acidity “cooks” the seafood) served with corn (the biggest I have ever seen) and sweet potatoes. My mum took a pollo saltado (which is another version of the more famous lomo saltado which is done with beef). This dish consisted in Chicken sautéed dices with onions, tomatoes, garlic with an oriental taste sauce, parsley, pisco, red pepper, yellow chili pepper served with French fries and rice. As dessert we took “el Tres Leches” which is a creation of three different milks and pisco bathing rounds of cake. I did not like the dessert because personally I found it far too sweet.
Ballestas Islands Tour
Paracas was once under water but due to many earthquakes the level got up – all the minerals that were once in the sea are the once that give the colour to the desert.
The Paracas National Reserve is considered one of the richest and most uncommon ecosystems in the world.
The day after we visited the Ballestas Islands known as the “Poor man´s Galapagos”. These islands are a group of rocky islands with many caves and arches that have eroded over time, famous for their abundant wildlife including penguins, sealions, Inca tern and pelicans. This is a place where different oceans meet each other and therefore there is loads of food.
One of those caves is known as the maternity beach for sea lions. Since these islands are protected, you cannot swim with the animals or walk on the islands but by speedboat you can get up close.
The tour lasted around 2 hours in which we saw loads of sealions a few penguins and lots of birds.
On the way to the Ballestas Islands we saw the Paracas Candelabra (there are several myths one attributes it to José de San Martín another says that it was created to help orienting themselves in the ocean, others believe it represents the Mesoamerican world tree, others that it is preinca and others that it has something to do with the aliens – I let you choose the one that you prefer). It is a large-scale geoglyph like those of the Nazca Lines.
Another highlight of the boat trip were the guano collectors. In the early 20th century, the guano (bird droppings) from all the birds was collected and sold as fertilizer. Due to the vast quantities of this valuable substances this became a major source of revenue for businesses on the coast.
Paracas itself was not that impressive for me and I think that one day stay is more than enough.
Huacachina Legend & some info
Huacachina (from the quechua words “wakay” that means to cry and “china” which means young woman) was our next stop. The legend of this oasis (the only oasis in the desert in South America) says that a beautiful princess lost suddenly her prince and that she started running and crying. In the place she stopped longer her tears created the lagoon.
This was our third stop and the last stop before starting our long journey of trekking’s.
Huacachina is a tiny village which is located just 5km from Ica. Less than 1000 people live here, and it is famous for its sand dunes where you can do sandboarding. I did not do sandboarding and instead I went wondering around walking over the sand dunes from where you have gorgeous views of the entire village.
When you book your hostel ask them if they have free activities – most of the hostels do. Bring some cash with you because there aren´t ATM´s.
The day after we decided to depart early in the morning to reach Nasca for the Nasca Lines. Please consider that by the time of booking you need to tell your weight and that you need to bring you passport with you otherwise you won´t be able to start the flight. The ride was a bit bumpy due to the small plane and the wind. Because they want to give all the chance to see the Lines they fly on one side and then on the other side making some turnaround which let´s put it this way I am not used to. Till today no one knows how, why or who made them – in 1994 they became an UNESCO World Heritage. We managed to see all the lines we were supposed to see but I must admit that some of them are camouflaged with the surroundings. If you listen carefully to the guide you should manage to see all of them.
This is what you should see starting from:
- the ballena (whale 63m)
- trapecios (trapezoids)
- astronaut (astronaut 32m)
- mono (monkey 110m)
- perro (dog 51m)
- colibri (humming bird 96m)
- condor (136m)
- arena (spider 46m)
- Alcatraz (heron bird 300m)
- pappagallo (parrot 200m)
- arbol (tree),
- manos (hands 45m) finishing with
- the acueductos (aqueduct).
It was an interesting experience which made me become even more interested in Peruvian culture & history.
Other Nasca Sights
Having taken one of the morning flights we managed to visit some other interesting sights of Nasca (even though most people say Nasca is not worth a visit or a night stay I do have to say that I do not agree at all.
We started with a visit to the “Paredones” which is an archaeological site built from around 1471 and 1493 a.c. It is all built by adobes rectangular with Piedra tallada at the bottom.
Las Agujas was another site we visited. This geoglyph is one that can be seen without taking a plane.
As last we visited the “Acueductos de Cantalloc” which are a series of more than 40 aqueducts which are used all year round as a supply of water to the city of Nasca and the surrounding fields.
Arequipa – where does the name come from?
Our next stop was Arequipa which is the seat of the Constitutional Court of Peru. The name comes from a misunderstanding between preinca and Spanish people. It is said that when Spanish people asked what´s the name of the city the Pre – Inca replied Ari quipay which means yes stay (they understood can we stay? Therefore, they replied yes, stay).
La Ciudad Blanca info
Arequipa is also known as La Ciudad Blanca (The white City) due to the “sillar” a white rock obtained from the numerous nearby volcanoes which was used for the construction of many buildings of Arequipa. The city was founded in 1540 and the historic centre of Arequipa became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. The city is located at the foot of the volcano El Misti (5822m.a.s.l). It´s last eruption was in 1784. We decided to take a free walking tour (as we did in Lima).
Arequipa sights & interesting info
We decided to take a free walking tour (as we did in Lima). During the tour we were told that Chili is the name of the river that passes through the city . The name comes from another misunderstanding (between the Spanish and the preincas) It is said that at the Spanish question what´s the name of the River the preinca answered Chilly because they thought they were asked how the temperature was.
Plaza De Armas
Plaza De Armas with its Cathedral is an amazing place. We were told that in 2001 an earthquake damaged many historic buildings of Arequipa as well as the 2 towers of the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa and the organ which were reconstructed.
Our walking tour proceeded with the “tambu” area which was known as the hostel area of the preinca times.
The Mercado Central
The Mercado Central was another stop – one of the best. The waterless juices are just heaven. You can choose the fruits you want, and the Jugo’s are made at the moment and are just delicious. Here you can find ceviche, sandwiches, fish, meat and loads of other things. No visit to Arequipa is complete without at least one stop at the Mercado Central.
Pre- Inca restaurant
After the Mercado Central we went to the only pre- Inca restaurant in the world. Being a pre-Inca Restaurant, the owner showed us the way he cooks. He uses a hot volcanic rock to roast meat such as alpaca and guinea pig (please do not ask me how guinea pig taste – being considered a pet in Italy I simply could not) and terracotta pots for soups and stews. The restaurant has a lovely terrace from where you have gorgeous views of the Plaza De Armas.
Our last stop was at a cocktail bar where we were told how to prepare a pisco cocktail (I won´t spoil) & we had some to taste.
Alpaca Factories & the difference between the typical camelids of Peru
Arequipa is said to have 90% of the Alpaca factories. Therefore, I think that it is a good time to introduce you to the typical camelids of Peru.
Let´s start with the Alpaca which is known as the “lord” of the Peruvian Andes. It is said that in Peru live 4Mio Alpacas.
The guide told us that the lama is probably the most famous one since he needs less water than the others and that he can carry 20-25kg.
The vicuna is the smallest and most beautiful of the South American camelids. It is known as the gold of the Andes and 80% of the population live in Peru.
The guanaco is the fourth one of the list and the only one we did not manage to see in the wild.
The Colca Canyon Trek
Colca Valley & the Andean Condor
The day after we left for our first Trekking of this trip “the Colca Canyon Trek”. The Colca Valley is the world’s deepest canyon, reaching a depth of 4160m and it is home of the famous Andean Condor. Before starting the Trekking, we stopped for breakfast tasting the coca tea for the first time. We were told that it helps with the height – I am not sure about this, but I have no proof to say it is wrong. The “ Santuario,7 del Condor” is an area in which condor are protected. “Unfortunately,” we saw only an eagle. Condor live between 60-70years – their wingspread goes from 2.1m to 2.7m and it is also known as eternity bird (symbol of long life and eternity).
The trekking started from Cabanaconde with an 8km downhill.
After crossing a bridge on the Colca Canyon we started going up. At this point my mum felt sick, so I took her backpack and helped her to get on top of the first uphill section.
After a few up and downhill we reached the lunch stop where we almost gave all the food to the dog who started the trekking with us in Cabanaconde.
The trekking continued with up and downhills till we got to the river – the elevated level of the water made us take off the shoes and socks and with the help of the guide and a Japanese guy we manage to cross the ice-cold river.
Shortly before arriving at our accommodation we stopped at a “supermarket” which consisted of a man with some groceries put on the ground and under a roof.
The accommodation was a basic one, just with cold water, draftee windows, no light in the bathroom and light in the room just in the evening and only till 11pm.
The day after and without having had breakfast we started at 4:45 with our torches. After around 3hours we made it to the top – from there we walked another hour before reaching our breakfast stop.
Hot springs of Chivay
On the way back, we stopped at a mirador to take some pictures with lamas and alpacas and at the hot springs of Chivay. Please be aware that you can rent swimsuits and towels – I happen to know this because unfortunately I took the wrong backpack from the bus therefore we had to rent everything. It was really relaxing for our body and legs – after a 2-day hike this was the best way to end this trip.
Our next stop was Cusco (please refer to the Peru & Bolivia year 2018 Cusco to Lake Titicaca article)