Lake Titicaca, in addition to being incredibly fun to say, is the highest navigable lake in the world and home to some incredibly unique cultures. This large lake spans Peru and Bolivia in the Andean Highlands. It is believed, by the Andean people, to be the birthplace of the sun. The Peruvian side of the lake includes the ingenious Uros people who live on man-made floating islands and the pre-Inca inhabitants of the beautiful Taquile Island. One day is all you will need to visit the mysterious and charming islands in Lake Titicaca and the sights around Puno.
The mighty Inca Empire stretched along the west coast of South America, spanning 6 countries. The empire was divided into four regions, all of which met up at the Incan capital of Cusco. Cusco and the nearby Sacred Valley of the Incas is filled with centuries-old ruins. While one might immediately think of Machu Picchu, this area has so many more impressive sights that might even rival the great lost city of the Incas. This list ranks the 10 best Inca ruins in Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
Going from the Sacred Valley to Lake Titicaca (or vice versa) is a common route for most travelers in Peru. Puno is the gateway to the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. With car travel often discouraged in Peru, it is often difficult to figure out the best way to travel across the country. Here we outline the different ways to get between Cusco and Puno and each ones’ benefits.
The Titicaca Train from Cusco to Puno is not only the most beautiful train ride in Peru but also one of the most scenic in the world. Also known as the Andean Explorer train, this route goes between the city center of Cusco and Puno. This train ride is so much more than transporting you from A to B. This luxury train is styled after a 1920s Pullman train and goes through the Andes Mountains, reaching over 14,000 feet of elevation. The total journey takes 10 hours and includes 2 gourmet meals, traditional Peruvian dancing, and endless panoramic views. As a sucker for train travel, our expedition through the Andes Mountains by train was a highlight of our trip to Peru.
Likely one of the first things you’ll notice upon landing in Peru, besides the reduced oxygen in the air, is the prevalence of unfinished homes everywhere. You think: these cities have around for centuries, is it possible that they are still expanding? A quick google search will reveal that it has looked unfinished for decades. With exception of the wealthy neighborhoods in Lima, this problem is widespread throughout Peru. But why?
A visit to Peru would be incomplete without a trip to the Lost City of the Incas. Machu Picchu is the perfectly placed hill-top Inca city in the middle of the jungle. Many travel books and guides advise spending a night in Aguas Calientes prior to visiting Machu Picchu – this is completely unnecessary. Machu Picchu can be visited as a day trip from the Sacred Valley or Cusco, saving time and money without sacrificing your experience in Machu Picchu. This is a guide for visiting Machu Picchu as a day trip from Ollantaytambo: how to get there, when to visit, where to eat, and what to know before you go.
If you are going to Machu Picchu, you will most likely have to go through Cusco. Cusco is much more than just a gateway to Machu Picchu. This alluring city has beautiful architecture, abundant history, vibrant culture, and delicious food. The city’s buildings are a mix of Inca and Spanish colonial styles and there are many Inca ruins just outside the city’s hub. The strong Catholic faith and history in this area means frequent colorful festivals and parades. Hopefully, these 11 things to do in Cusco encourages you to extend your stay beyond Machu Picchu.
Peru is not known for being vegetarian-friendly. Most of their cuisine centers around meat – a nice large slab of meat with some carby vegetables on the side. Even something labeled as vegetable soup will likely still have large chunks of meat attached to the bone in it. However, with a little bit of prior planning, it is actually quite easy to eat a vegetarian diet in Peru without starving. Most touristy cities now cater to vegetarian visitors, producing incredibly delicious food. Even if you are traveling off-the-beaten path in Peru, this guide can help you identify what you can eat that is still traditional Peruvian.
With most visitors beelining to the incredible bucket-list destination of Machu Picchu, the rest of Peru’s Sacred Valley is often forgotten. To fully experience this area, spend a few days outside of Cusco in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This river valley in the Andes Mountain range is less than an hour drive from Cusco and spans 60 kilometers from Pisac to Ollantaytambo. It is full of Inca ruins, Spanish colonial villages, fertile farmland, and colorful local markets. While most of these sights can be visited as day trips from Cusco, staying in one of the towns along the Urubamba river as a base saves you time, eases altitude sickness, and lets you enjoy the breathtaking views all day and night.
Figuring out what to pack for Peru can be challenging. South America is very geographically diverse. You could be at the beach on Monday, high up in the Andes Mountain range on Wednesday, and then trekking through the Amazon Jungle on Friday. Oh, and don't forget that weekend excursion to the desert. Additionally, with all that traveling around, lugging large suitcases on and off trains, planes, or buses can be a nightmare. You need to be strategic with your packing.