In the interest of making the most of my time here in South America, I headed south to check out Peru last week. My tireless and trusty travel buddy Olga and I spent ten days exploring the country on the well-traveled gringo trail, hitting all of the major sightseeing stops. Here are my top five:
#1 Machu Picchu
Ever since one fateful episode of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” back in the 90’s, it’s been a life goal to check out these Inca ruins. Perched between two mountains (Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu) in the cloud forest, this incredible city actually left me speechless. And we all know how rare that is. I still really don't have adequate words to describe it; all I can say is that it's absolutely worth seeing.
I was expecting the Peruvian coast to be similar to what I’ve seen in Ecuador – green and humid. Huacachina was anything but. We headed there to try sandboarding in the giant dunes of the Peruvian desert – I’m surprised I wasn’t detained at the airport for the amount of sand still lodged in my clothes and body after a week. Watching the sun set over the dunes was an experience I’ll never forget.
When I first heard about giant lines in the desert hundreds of kilometers long that appear as animals when viewed from the air, I was skeptical. After all, what ancient culture was advanced enough to pull off something like that? The Nazca, that’s who. Olga and I rented a tin can – errrr hired a plane – to check them out for ourselves. Definitely didn’t disappoint.
#4 Lake Titicaca
Aside from making me laugh every time I say the name, Lake Titicaca is a breathtakingly beautiful place (not just the scenery – it’s the world’s highest navigable lake at 12,500 ft). We visited the floating islands of Uros, which are built on layers and layers of tortora reeds and spent the night with a family on Amanti Island where we were treated to live music and dancing. We also toured Taquile Island and took in some amazing views of the lake and the snow-capped mountains of Bolivia.
#5 Iglesia de San Francisco
We only had a day in Lima for sightseeing, but the highlight was checking out the catacombs below the San Francisco church. Said to be Lima’s first cemetery, there are thousands of bones and skulls arranged in creepy patterns lying underneath the church. Lucky for me it’s open to the public and I was able to get my fix of South American Strangeness for the day.