Peru



Following a traumatic two-decade conflict - roughly from 1980 to 2000 - between the state and guerrilla groups, Peru has been experiencing an economic boom. Foreign investors have been keen to get involved in exploiting the country's mineral wealth, sometimes in the face of local resistance. Add to that a growing number of visitors being drawn to Peru's rich and varied heritage which includes the lost city of Machu Picchu, as well as spectacular scenery.

 

Lima

Lima is a vibrant and culturally rich city. It's a graffiti and alternative art lover's paradise. Miraflores and the bohemian neighbourhoods Barranco and Callao are the main spots, the last two being marginalized neighbourhoods.


 

Huacachina

Huacachina is South America's only natural desert oasis. Close to the city of Ica, it's located 4 hours south of Lima - give or take a few hours depending on your luck with the bus. Huacachina has the largest sand dunes in South America.


 

Cusco

Cusco, a city in the Andes, was once capital of the Inca Empire, and is now known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. I flew from Lima to Cusco with Peruvian, the views over the Andes were breathtaking.



In late 1533, the Spanish conquistadors entered the city of Cusco, the heart of the Inca Empire at the time. They were greeted as liberators because they had killed Atahualpa, who had recently been at war with his brother Huascar for control over the Inca Empire. Cusco had supported Huascar. The Spanish sacked the city mercilessly, searching all of homes, temples, and palaces for any gold and silver. All that remains now is Spanish colonial architecture and some Incan wall ruins.


 

Machu Picchu

High in the Andes, Machu Picchu is the site of an ancient Inca city and one of the most spectacular sets of ruins in the world. As late as 1528, the Inca Empire was a cohesive unit, ruled by one dominant ruler, Huayna Capac. He died, however, and two of his many sons, Atahualpa and Huáscar, began to fight over his empire. For four years, a bloody civil war raged over the Empire and in 1532 Atahualpa emerged victorious. It was at this precise moment, when the Empire was in ruins, that the Spanish conquistadors showed up: they were able to defeat the weakened Inca armies and exploit the social rifts that had caused the war in the first place. The Spanish made it their mission to eradicate the Inca culture, luckily the remoteness of Machu Picchu kept it hidden and preserved from the prying conquistadors.
The access point to Machu Picchu is the town of Aguas Calientes. This little town has no road access from any surrounding towns, it's reached by train or on foot.


 

Rainbow Mountain & Red Valley

Some peaks in the Peruvian Andes are uncommonly colored by the sediment and atmosphere of the area, unique because of its altitude (5000m) - the most marvelous being Vinicunca, also known as Rainbow Mountain or Montaña de Colores. The adjacent Red Valley is equally breathtaking. In the past, it took about six days of hiking to reach Rainbow Mountain. Nowadays, there are plenty of bus tours departing from Cusco to the mountain.


 

Laguna Humantay

The lagoon of Humantay lies hidden from view practically until you're at the water's edge. Surrounded by snowy peaks, the lagoon has a special turquoise color that is mystifying. The lagoon has been visited by shamans and tourists from all over the world. They often leave offerings to the Pachamama, a deity that represents mother Earth in the Inca culture. You can see the numerous offerings made through the placement of stone mounds that have been left around the lake.


 

Sacred Valley

Tucked under the tawny skirts of formidable foothills, the El Valle Sagrado (the Sacred Valley), is about 15km north of Cuzco as the condor flies, via a narrow road of hairpin turns. This fetching corner of the Andes is packed with Inca sites, colonial towns and isolated weaving villages.


 

Salinas de Maras

This canyon is filled with geometric salt pools that have been being harvested since the Incan empire.


 

Puno

Puno is a small city located on the shore of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake situated at about 3,830m above sea level. Puno is the gateway to launch a visit out to the famous Floating Reed Islands of the Uros people. These are inredible but super-touristy manmade islands in the middle of the lake made entirely of Totora reed, on which the Uros people have managed to forge a subsistent lifestyle for centuries. I do not have fond memories of Puno as I got food poisoning shortly after eating a local grilled fish.