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  • Day75

    Some very beautiful days hiking around the Codillera Blancas, between 4000 and 4700m so definitely feeling the altitude but I also feel slightly adjusted which feels like quite and achievement for persisting. Lots of glaciers, clear blue and turquoise lakes and dramatic rock faces. So so pretty and refreshing! The lakes are used for hydroelecticy so there are lots of pipes bringing the water down.

  • Day16

    // Written with close supervision from my Aunt

    Dimitra is overnighting at Somes Island so Aunt Dina came to complain of Dimitri's lack of response to her epistoles. I softened her stance by feeding her the delicious Peruvian leftovers and now that her tummy is full she is as happy as Larry.

    // This is the point the keyboard was wrestled away from me.

    Dimitri you may have have gone to the exotic Islands of the Galapagos but equally we have Somes Island that we don't even have to change into any foreign currency so we can visit. I think your mother and other teachers from the Montessori school have taken pupils there. They are teaching the young ones to make sure they see home before you leave the country. It's an old slogan from way back we used to see on TV.

    You never talk about the weather but we will. We have been having almost Mediterranean weather which is far too hot for us. And now it's raining and it's more Wellington weather.

    Chorus came up Phoenix Way to dig to put the fiber in and they made a mess so today their inspector came to see the mess they made and will come later to fix it. Also they scoped out the job which they will start tomorrow. So by the time you get back I shall have fiber. I hope it will be alright coz a friend of mine tells me things can go wrong with it.

    Afta yia tora and no more because you never answer any of my questions nor comment on the news I tell you.

    Keep enjoying yourself with your mates and don't forget to take lots of pictures of Machu Pichu.

    Aunty Dina
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  • Day61

    Yesterday, we had a good journey from Guayaquil to Cusco. After the many bus journeys in Ecuador, we were quite happy to do this trip by airplane and arrive relatively relaxed, if tired, in Cusco.

    After escaping the taxi hawkers at the airport we checked into our little guest house and set off to explore the historic center of Cusco. All in very slow pace - the change in altitude from 0 to 3400 meters meant that even casual walking was causing us to breathe heavily.

    Cusco is a very beautiful city. It has an amazingly well-maintained central square with colonial architecture and splendid churches and a cathedral. we walked around a bit and then treated ourselves to some coffee in one of the many very good local coffee houses.

    We will spend some more time here before we make our way to Machu Picchu which we plan to visit on Tuesday :-)
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  • Day12

    Chicken stew with walnuts and Parmesan. Like bacon and chocolate (not together), Parmesan makes everything taste better.

    Great meal with company this time (Maria, Aliki, Dimitra and even Theo). Some of yesterday's leftovers on the table as well. pick&referringId=2433&referringContentType=recipe hub

  • Day62

    We had a great day today exploring Cusco. Once more we were stunned by the beauty of this city. Its location, embraced by mountains on all sides, mean a lot of walking up and down but also means that beautiful views frequently pop up out of nowhere :-)

    Apart from just wandering about town, we visited the cathedral, which we really enjoyed! (The audio-/videoguide was great and we spent about an hour looking at the building complexes that make up the cathedral.)
    We also hiked up to Sacsayhuamán - Inkan temple ruins located on a hilltop about 150m above the city. It offered us a first taste of the vastness of the Inkan heritage in Peru and - as a bonus - offered us nice views over Cusco during sunset.

    Finally, we went for dinner in a great restaurant (Organika), but stayed clear of local specialities such as Alpaca steak and roasted guinea pig (at least for now ;-))

    Off to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley tomorrow :-)
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  • Day63

    Very smoothly we got out of Cusco this morning around 8:30. A niceprivate driver actually got helped us to find the collectivo stand and so we took one to Ollantaytambo. Price: 2.50 Euros for ~1.5h ride in the mountainous terrain.

    We met a very friendly and interesting artist on the bus (who transported his paintings ;-)) and told us a lot about the Inca culture, their architectural skills, connections to Egypt and what not. Really an experience and good Spanish practice :-)

    Arriving in Ollantaytambo, we stopped for juice, coffee, and a brownie in the lookout café adequately called “Inka Tower” where we escaped the midday heat and admired the Inca ruins all around the town on the steep mountain slopes. The town itself also appears really nice and relaxed - one can vividly picture how previous civilizations lived here embedded in tall mountains alongside a big river and smaller streams.

    Side note: the Peruvians are very catholic (like most of Latin America) and so in the center of the main square there is a nativity scene like in most European cities. Only here, the sheep are replaced by llamas to make it fit in better :-)

    After depositing our luggage at a hostel we then walked to the main ruins and were awed by so many things:
    - the vast terraces and the steep incline on which the former temple/fortress/recreation spot was built
    - the intricate water works that run within the temple to bring fresh water to many places
    - the corn and grain storage houses constructed on the steep mountain phases to secure them from floods and heat

    Bear in mind that the Inca are still thought of as not having had access to neither wheels nor horses to carry all those stones!

    Interestingly, even without much expertise we could make out 4-5 different styles of construction techniques - and learned later that this is probably due to the Incas’ incorporating and integrating other cultures’ temples and constructions in a peaceful attempt to expand their empire. Really good BBC documentary on the Incas’ (mostly peaceful and collaborative) 100 year reign until the Spanish conquistadors came:

    We then invested some money in the overpriced train tickets but buying us more time for actual hiking in the valley (instead of walking alongside the train tracks for 4 hours ;-)) and had really good, authentic, inexpensive dinner: stuffed avocado, alpaca steak, quinua soup - yum!

    Impressed by Ollantaytambo, we look forward to the supposedly even greater work of Machu Picchu :-)
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  • Day49

    No matter how luxurious the cruise, when it is time to get off, it's hard not to feel like you are being thrown out with the trash! Generally, everyone has to be off no later than 9:00 a.m. Wendy and I were assigned to the first departure group as we had to meet our driver to the SkyKItchen cooking school at 8:00.

    The port was once again an indusstrial, commercial port. The area assigned to the Sirena was quite small and when Wendy and I walked off, it was full of luggage, buses and men waving their arms. We wormed our way through the crowds to the shuttle bus which takes us out of the port area, to a different part of the port where the taxis and tours awaited. When we got off the shuttle bus, we were swarmed by taxi drivers who were generally polite, if persistent. All under the eye of two very disinterested heavily armed police officers. Fortunately, our driver was waiting for us and whipped us off to meet, Diego, our cooking instructor.

    I found it interesting that the port and the airport are in a distinct district called Callao. It is surrounded by the city of Lima but is a separate district. This is the area of Lima that tourists are cautioned not to walk around in (even during the day) and it was easy to see why.

    We met up with Diego at the local Mercado which is a huge indoor market that sells pretty much everything needed to run a household. But we were there to see the wide variety of fruits and vegetables used in Peruvian cooking, many of them native to the area. After 40 min. in the market, we headed to the SkyKitchen cooking school which is, somewhat surprisingly, on the 3rd floor of a residential building in Miraflores (an affluent part of Lima). The owner lives on the first floor of this 2 story apartment and has converted the 3rd floor to one large kitchen/dining/patio area. About half of it was open to the sky, hence the name of the school. As it was another beautiful sunny day, it was a pleasure to be up there.

    Diego had us taste a variety of fruits, some of which we were familiar with and some which were new to us. Needless to say, some better than others. The most surprising was the cucumber melon (a green melon like honeydew that tasted like cucumber) and an apple banana that taste like, well an apple-flavoured banana.

    Wendy and I were joined by 2 hikers from the Netherlands and a man from Kansas City. The other half of the class were 3 Spanish speaking women with their own teacher. We learned to make Causa (a tower of mashed potatoes, avocado, and chicken salad; (way better than it sounds), ceviche (fish salad cooked in vinegar - a national obsession in Peru), Lomo Saltine (a beef stir fry) and Picorones ( a sweet donut dipped in a cane sugar syrup which tasted a lot like molasses).

    A couple of comments about the food. Everything had lime juice in it and so it all tasted fresh and tangy...really nice. A ubiquitous condiment is a paste made out of the Yellow Pepper (which is actually orange). Diego warned us that it is impossible to recreate with peppers available to us here and encouraged us to source it through a Peruvian grocery store when we got home. The beef stir fry seemed a little out of place until Diego explained that the influx of Chinese workers in the 1800's resulted in a Peuvian/Chinese fusion cuisine called Chifo; there are lots of Chifo restaurants in Lima.

    Menawhile, Brian, the Hadleys, Trodds and Bonnie were stuck on the ship till 10 a.m., as it was chaos where the shuttles were trying to unload the passengers. As we thought we couldn't check in to our hotel, the wait was not a hardship. Brian hired 2 taxis that were relics from the 2nd World War to take us to our hotel and by the grace of God we all made it shaken but not stirred. The hotel staff were great; no hassle having 2 families sharing each room. The concierge found us a tour of Lima that picked us up and dropped us off at our hotel. We had time for a nice lunch in the hotel then off to explore.

    We hit the main tourist spots: the view from the cliffs of the ocean and daring para-sailors; the main square, the 'mud made' pyramid; the Jiron De La Union & Museo Convento San Francisco y Catacumbas, (the latter, a monastery built in 1673, with a Spanish Baroque church and discovered in 1943, catacombs containing the bones of 25,000 bodies).

    The rest of the crew left for the airport that night and I was on my own so I went to Wendy's hotel to have dinner with Wendy and Christine. The food was surprisingly good for a hotel dining room (Christine had a terrific fish soup called Suda Suda; a fitting end to a cooking school day.)

    The next morning while Christine waited in Bogata, I had a lovely, leisurely stroll of the area, got a haircut in a shop about the size of our bathroom and had some delicious empanadas at a local cafe. My ride to the airport was a pleasant one (a new car, thank God) as my driver wanted to be an English teacher and used the opportunity to practice. Once checked in, I had a great cup of coffee and a pleasant conversation with 2 missionaries on their way to a new posting
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  • Day25

    I really should've read our tour itinerary. Instead of beginning the Inca Trail straight away, we actually were booked in to visit a rural village to spend a night home-staying.

    I was rooming with Louis this time. Our host mother Patricia greeted us at the parking-lot with flowers. She then carried all our bags up to her home.

    The village itself mostly consisted of mud-brick houses. Facilities were basic, but better than I expected, with both running water and electricity. There was also a football pitch where we kicked a ball around with Michael (Patricia's 9 y/o son).

    We were taken to do some local farming, where you bang a hoe into the ground near plants. I have no idea how this helps them grow and, frankly, we did a terrible job. The 'experience' was called off after 20 minutes as it became clear we were ruining the harvest. If they really do still farm in the traditional manner (there could well have been a tractor hiding from tourist sight), that is impressive but somewhat misguided - modern machines are far less labour intensive and do a better job.

    The meals served by our host family were hearty, though both Louis and I have our reservations as to hygiene. Another spin of food-poison roulette wheel.

    Next morning, we bought a woolen hat each from Patricia (she is a weaver, like most of the village women). The transaction was completed in her home, meaning she could conceal it from the rest of the village. They are supposed to share all weaving profit apparently, and this is enforced by them all supposedly selling only at their central market. The attitudes and mannerisms all felt very much like a Greek village (very 'choriatiko').

    An interesting and enjoyable experience. For a night.

    NOTE: We are setting off on the trail tomorrow - no internet so no posts for 4 days.

    Pics: (1) Patricia, despite our objections, carrying our bags up herself; (2) All dressed up; (3) Farming lessons - not the career for us I think; (4) The hills were very steep; (5) The annual running of the sheep; (6) A sample of local cuisine (cute guinea pigs) - would you eat it Sophie?
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  • Day64

    Awake in the early morning (you cannot avoid it if the streets are all cobble stones and people roll carriages up and down in front of your window :-)), Anna re-took to doing yoga. We then ate a fast breakfast in order to still hike up the other ruins at Ollantaytambo. Again, very impressive how the Inca made their corn and grain storage houses cling to the cliffs where usually only falcons sit :-)

    We then took a half-full train (hallelujah to off-season travel ;-)) to Aguas Calientes and spent some time hiking along the river to get away from the busy and touristy town and find a place to pitch Natascha’s and Karl’s tent. The camp ground is actually very conveniently located just by the Urubamba river and at the base of the steps that we need to climb tomorrow morning at 5:00 am...

    The on-site restaurant was unfortunately closed (disadvantages of off-season travel ;-)) but we found good dinner in town and will soon be going to bed so as to be ready for Machu Picchu!
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  • Day65

    Having tried (in vain) to repair our apparently leaky mat during the nights, we did not get much sleep and got up at 04:30 to climb up to the gates of Machu Picchu. With us were some 100 other early birds who marched up the stairs.

    The resulting pole position at the beginning of the queue to enter at 06:00 did not incredibly pay off as the mountain remained misty and in clouds until ~08:00 :-) Therefore, we first hiked to the Inka bridge, a very narrow path on the cliffs which culminates in a bridge made of a couple of planks to cross a gap in the stonework. Again, we could see how the Inka were very skilled architects and built their empire based on skillfully connecting the remotest parts.

    Coming back to the main compound, we made our way quickly through the houses, temples, and yards to get to the entrance to the Huayna Picchu Park area, the “smaller peak” overlooking the ruins. We decided to do the full circle, first climbing the peak of Huayna Picchu and then descending on the back to pass by the temple of the moon and back via some cliff stairs again :-) despite the many warnings, the way is actually in really good shape and as long as one is not afraid of heights it’s a doable and worthwhile hike! And we were lucky that the clouds parted as we were at the top!

    We then exited and re-entered (stupid Machu Picchu one-way circuits do not allow for going back...) to enjoy the by now sunny view over the ruins and even meet the one or other llama grazing on the terraces.

    At 12:30 we started to hike down, needing to pack our tent and backpacks and catch the train back to Ollantaytambo.

    Sitting on the train, eating some expensive icecream the legs started to feel tired and heavy. But we were glad to have seen Machu Picchu - a truly extraordinary site.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Peru, Peru, ፔሩ, Perú, بيرو, Piruw, Перу, পিরু, པེ་རུ།, Perou, Perù, Periw, Peru nutome, Περού, Peruo, Peruu, پرو, Pérou, Pèrou, Peiriú, Pearù, પેરુ, פרו, पेरु, Պերու, ペルー共和国, პერუ, ប៉េរូ, ಪೆರು, 페루, Pēru, پیروو, Peruvia, Péru, ເປລູ, Peroa, പെറു, पेरू, ပီရူး, Incatlān, Pheru, Peró, ପେରୁ, پيرو, Perüu, පේරු, Peruja, பெரு, పెరూ, ประเทศเปรู, Pelū, پېرۇ, پیرو, Pê-ru, Peruvän, פערו, Orílẹ́ède Peru, 秘鲁, i-Peru

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