My first South American traveling experience was to the incredible country of Peru! I was so excited to get to travel to a place with such pristine, beautiful scenery and deep rooted history. My time in Peru is one I will always look back on with fond memories, mostly attributed to the warmth and kindness of the people.
MUST SEE: the Archbishop's Palace of Lima, Government Palace, Huaca Pucllana ruins, Cristo del Pacifico, Cathedral of Lima.
MUST EAT: After viewing the Huaca Puclanna, we ate lunch at the restaurant overlooking the ruins. I tried ceviche for the first time and it was delicious!
MUST STAY: We stayed in the Mira Flores district in a hotel near the mall, giving you lots of dining options within walking distance. The ocean was to our right as we drove from the main part of Lima back to Mira Flores, and we watched surfer's catching waves as the sun set.
The magnificent 37 meter tall statue of Jesus Christ, Cristo del Pacifico.
MUST SEE: Centro Historico de Cusco, Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, Iglesia San Francisco, Pisac Market, Sacsaywaman, Ollantaytambo, Qorikancha.
MUST EAT: Cusco is full of colorful and accessible markets and restaurants full of traditional cuisine. You can order everything from alpaca to guinea pig, but I chose to stick with soups and meals made with one of my favorite local grains, quinoa!
MUST STAY: There are tons of hotels in the downtown area that are close to the historical center of Cusco and easy to access from the airport!
Baby alpacas! Heaven help me!
Even though he doesn't look too happy, I was super stoked to make friends with all the kids we came across. So cute!
I would recommend hiring a taxi to drive through or doing a tour of the sacred valley. It is full of the most beautiful, scenic ruins and views!
Guinea pigs are raised to be eaten in Peru. If you're brave, you can order it at pretty much any restaurant!
Urubamba ruins! I think I was told to kiss the stone for good luck or something...? Maybe home boy was lying to me...
MUST SEE: If you make the trek out to Machu Picchu, you HAVE to hike Huayna Picchu. The view from the top is AMAZING! You can see the whole ancient civilization from the peak. Make sure you bring good hiking shoes, and lots of water and food. You have to leave the monument itself in order to use the bathroom and eat, so it's better to just bring things with you when you go inside. If you're wanting to bring film equipment or cameras, you have to pay to have a special permit so make sure you do that in advance! It really is the most incredible sight to see, we had a wonderful guide who helped enrich our experience so much by teaching us about Inca traditions and legends.
MUST EAT: We ate our meals at the hotel, but did enjoy dinner at a restaurant in Aguas Calientes called The Tree House. It was literally up in a tree! So cool!
MUST STAY: We stayed in Aguas Calientes for 2 nights, and took shuttle buses up to the Machu Picchu ruins. Finding a place to stay should be super easy since so many tourists visit this amazing place every year!
The view from Huayna Picchu's peak is magnificent!
It was hard to believe that these stairs were thousands of years old...people used them SOOO long ago! The entire hike up to the peak of Huayna Picchu is ancient stairs like these!
Temple of the Moon. If you hike Huyana Picchu with a guide, you can ask them to take you to these ruins down the opposite side of the mountain. They are a quite a few hours out of the way so be sure to prepare accordingly. I didn't and really struggled through the heat on our way back!
The most beautiful sight!
THE AMAZON, IQUITOS
MUST SEE: Neighboring Amazon tribes with the cutest kids in the world, Sloths, Crocodiles, Pink Dolphins, Birds, Butterflies, giant Ants, giant Spiders, giant everything! Don't close your eyes for a second- you might miss something! The Amazon Rainforest is like another world where everything is larger than life. I have to say that my time spent there was my favorite part of the trip!
MUST EAT: Fresh juices, fish, and everything native to the Amazon tribes and villages.
MUST STAY: We stayed at the Heliconia Amazon River Lodge and I did not want to leave! It's small enough to where you know everyone there, and you eat all your meals together at specific times. You're given the chance to be guided by an Amazon local on excursions to neighboring villages and through the rainforest, getting to see wildlife and local traditions that are memorable and so unique! My favorite part by far was getting to play with the kids and their pets in the nearby villages. I loved getting to be there long enough to make a personal connection with the kids, seeing them smile and making them laugh even though we didn't speak the same language was so sweet! It's my dream to go back one day and see them again!
Our tour group! Our guide, Iaco, was born and raised in the Amazon and could make any animal sound you could think of! He used his jaguar impression to scare another group of tourists in the rainforest when he took us on a hike!
Look MA! I caught me a Piranha! The cook at the lodge even fried it up for me and I got to eat it for dinner!
The cutest kids ever! And the sloths...SLOTHS. I totally researched whether I could have one as a pet in the USA when I got home. Not possible. So that just means I have to go back!
One of the chiefs of the local Amazon tribes let us blow his blow dart gun! I was a poor shot but it was super cool to try something I'd always read about.
Anaconda SQUEEZE. So scary!
A peaceful and beautiful morning on the Amazon.
MUST SEE: We had a short stop in Panama before returning home, and it felt like I was back in America! Everything was very familiar. We loved getting to visit the Panama Canal, taking a historical tour of the main parts Panama City, and finding an LDS Temple so far away from home!
MUST EAT: Panama was full of familiar food, we actually ate Greek food downtown and gelato at the Canal, so you can pretty much find anything you feel like eating!
You can check out the tour I went on here.
Have you been to Peru?! I'd love to hear about your experiences! Such beautiful places and lovely people. I can't wait to go back!