Dates: 19th August to September 3rd

Visited: Lima, Cusco, Maras, Moray, MachuPicchu, Lake Titicaca, Amazon (Iquitos)

Overall: Historic Sites, New Culture, High Altitude Andes, Rain Forests of Amazon, Air/Train/Boat/Van- all modes used. Amazing country- great sights, great food, great culture, nice people, safe. Recommend *****



Day 1 (19th August, 2016): Seattle to Lima

  • Four Flights : Seattle -> LA -> El Salvador -> Lima. Long journey, though none of segment was long, so manageable. Reached late at night around 2 AM on 20th.
  • Stayed at Terra Viva Hotel in Miraflores, Lima.

Day 2 (20th August, 2016): Lima (Miraflores – Larcomar, Malecon, Huaca Pucllana)

  • AM: Started in afternoon after catching up on sleep. Decided to check the Magical Fountains, however there was at least  1 mile long line to enter. Apparently a Pokémon Go event was in the park.
  • PM:
    • Came back to Miraflores and went to Larcomar Shopping area. Shopping area built like overhang on Pacific. Pretty neat concept. Seattle should have it for Pike Market.20160820_220246757_iOS
    • Walked on boardwalk (Malecon) for a mile afterwards. Fabulous views, especially in night. Reminded me a little bit about walking on Marine Drive in Bombay.
    • Then went to Huaca Pucllana. Archeological site with pre Inka culture (dating around 500 AD). Pyramids using adobe and clays. Took the guided tour and it was great to learn about the culture.
  • At night, I went for a long walk on Malecon. It was so vibrant even late in night. Very safe and there were security personnel every so short distance. This is one interesting thing I saw at Lima. Police very visible. Every mile or so, you could see an officer.20160820_234753103_iOS
  • Miraflores, can be a place I can live. Feeling of class, vibrant, ocean views…and Yes there is an Indian restaurant (where we went next day).

Day 3 (21th August, 2016): Lima (Day tour – Parque del Amor, Barranco,City Center)

  • AM: City Tour:
    • Parque Del Amour (Love Park) Statue in Miraflores. It’s on Malecon walk. Inspired by similar statue in Barcelona, Spain. Sculpted by Vicor Delfin, highlight is the statue “El Beso” (The Kiss).20160821_141552563_iOS
  • Barranco neighborhood: artistic, bohemian neighborhood on Pacific ocean. Famous for being home once to Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. Crossed Bridge of Sighs while holding breadth and wishing.20160821_143458410_iOS
    • Center / Playa de Armas: Presidential palace, Justice palace, Lima Cathedral.
    • San Francisco Church: Baroque style impressive church. Saw catacombs which has estimated 25,000 bodies.
  • PM:
    • It was Sunday and apparently Sports Day being celebrated. So the main throughway was blocked and people were outside – running, biking, skating and fun stuff. It was fun walking and seeing people having a great time.
    • Evening we went and enjoyed the Magic Fountain. Seems a very popular destination for local Lima citizens.20160821_233038822_iOS

Day 4 (22nd August, 2016): Lima to Cusco

  • Fight to Cusco. At airport you can start seeing the rush for Cusco. Mostly young adventure loving crowd. Folks with big hiking-bags.
  • PM:
    • In evening walked around Center of Cusco. Grabbed dinner.
    • Next to Church in Playa De Aramas is hub of Pokémon go players. Spent some time catching Pokémons. Everyone on this picture is playing Pokemon.20160830_004630463_iOS
  • Stayed at Casa Ananda Hotel.


Day 5 (23rd August, 2016): Cusco Tours

  • AM – Walking Tour:
    • San Pedro Market (local market with shops for fruits, vegetables, spices, breads, meat etc);20160823_135613099_iOS
    • Qoricancha – Sun temple. Most important location of Inka empire. Very few original structure remaining. Most was destroyed by Spaniards.20160823_143246459_iOS
    • Cusco Cathedral: very impressive church. Saw the statue of Black Jesus (story about how that statue stopped earthquakes of 1650, why its black – different myths- made from llama skin or from smoke over years etc). Originally site of Inka palace.
  • PM – Open Bus Tour:
    • Lots of stops and pretty good overview of whole of city
    • Notable stops: Sacsayhuaman, Blanco Christo (while Christ)- gift from Palestine people.
  • Enjoyed some great local cuisine @ Morena Peruvian Kitchen.
  • Learnt:
    • Peruvian cuisine has surprising great Vegetarian component. While they enjoy their fishes, cuy (guinea pig), chicken etc; Quinoa, Potatoes, Corn and Vegetables are pretty mainstay. Nowhere (except in Amazon area) did we had issue finding vegetarian options. All restaurants had pretty clearly identified Vege options. Some of top restaurants were Vegan focused.  General conception about thinking South American cuisine is beef steaks- however that is more Brazil / Argentina. Super impressed with quality of Peruvian cuisine- very healthy and tasty – surprised its not more popular with health aficionados.
    • Andes area is home to some of the most popular foods- potatoes, tomatoes, quinoa etc.


Day 6 (24th August, 2016): Cusco to Aguas Calientes (Moray, Maras, Ollantaytambo, Train to Machu Picchu / Aguas Calientes)

  • Moray: Circular terraces. 7 layers of terraces representing each type of habitat identified by Inkas. Inkas had divided their realms into seven habitats depending on altitude. There is temperature difference b/w layers and Inkas used original soil from the habitats. That way they created a mock environment for each habitat and did agriculture research or performed agriculture related rituals. Good hike down to bottom.20160824_152554034_iOS
  • Maras: Salt mine terraces / pans. Four layers of salt production -white, pink, medicinal, scrapped layers. One stream of salty water coming from mountain and is distributed to different beds.  Evaporation leads to salt production which is scrapped. Beautiful looks.20160824_164708226_iOS
  • Lunch at local house at Maras.
  • Ollantaytambo: walked through lower city streets. Did not go to the temple ruins. This is an important city from Inka time and wished had more time to explore.20160824_195623043_iOS
  • Train (Vistadome) to Machu Picchu. The journey is beautiful but nothing very spectacular. Train is the only option (besides hike) to go here.
    • Learnt:  Train line was constructed for Rubber boom time.
  • Aquas Calientes (Hot Springs): Touristic one street town, full of hotels and restaurants. Lots of young tourist on way to Inka trail and that made the city very vibrant.

Stayed at El Mapi Hotel.

Day 7 (25th August, 2016): Machu Pichu and Back to Cusco

  • Started in morning at 6:30 by taking bus to the Archeology site. Luckily not lot of rush and not big lines and could get bus after 15 min wait. The bus ride starts giving a flavor of things to come. High vertical cliffs that are so awe-inspiring. How did the Inkas find this location!!!!
  • Machu Picchu:
    • It is truly as inspiring as is generally thought. What a place! Definitely a Wonder of World.
    • Hiked up to Sun Gate (90 mins return trip). Inkas apparently did not knew the concept of switch-backs 🙁 ! So the hike is straight line up. Also Inka Trail is made from rocks, so lots of stairs. ((Regret: not doing the Inka trail. For sure could / should have done easily the one day trip-  which starts from milestone 104. It will remain as pending in my bucket list))
    • Climb up Waynna Picchu looks so cool. Not for me. But for brave-hearted folks definitely recommend.
    • More tourists than rocks at the site. Definitely can see why this is such a popular destination. The site is very well managed.
    • Impressive part is not only the site buildings but the construction at that location.
  • PM: Train (Expedition) back to Ollantaytambo. It was night and so no views. Rest after a long day at Machu Picchu. Reached at 8:00. Van ride back from Ollantaytambo to Cusco. Reached around 9:30.
  • Overnight at Casa Ananda Hotel.

 Day 8 (26th August, 2016): Cusco to Puno on Bus (Andahuaylillas, Raqchi, La Raya, Pukara)

  • Andahuaylillas church: apparently called “Sistine Chapel of America”. Floral roof, murals…20160826_132856805_iOS
  • Raqchi: Important Inka city.  Very visible ruins of temple (Temple of Wiraqocha), circular store houses, Inka trail, houses etc.
  • La Raya: High mountain pass at 4334 mts.    20160826_180540199_iOS
  • Pukara: Pre-Inka city ruins. Visited the Museum which has few pieces of pottery and statues excavated from the site.
  • Stayed at Casona Plaza Hotel at Puno.
  • Dinner: Lucky to be able to walk-in at Mojsa. Right on the main square.

Day 9 (27th August, 2016): Lake Titicaca ( Taquile Island, Uros Floating Reed Island)

  • AM Boat Tour on Lake:
    • Taquile Island: Tranquil, quaint island. Visited a local community / co-operative. Our guide gave lots of information on their culture (on how people date, gets married, their beliefs..).
    • For lunch went to Capachica peninsula for a “pachamanca” lunch, the traditional Peruvian dish baked in an earthen oven using hot stones. It had bananas, potatoes, beans, chicken.20160827_182841945_iOS
    • Uros / Reed Islands:  Floating islands made of Reed where people live. Around 50+ islands with 5000 population. Speak Aymara. Very tough live. People moving out and likely this would not survive many more years. History is that around 500 years back, when Inka conquered this area, the Uru people hid under the reeds in the lake in defense. Took a small boat ride around the reeds. The island is made of reeds, houses are made of reeds, boats are made of reeds, they eat reeds, serve it to cattle – its all about the reeds. (**CALL-OUT: Amazing thing to see.). Unique thing to see before the culture vanishes.
  • Thought: Is it a right thing that this culture is vanishing, the young generation is refusing to live this life and want to move to cities?  People currently living there because a)they can’t afford anything else like buy land on mainland b)want to live the way their ancestors lived and c)are used to it. It is brutally hard life. The young people refuses to accept this. As a tourist this looks such a romantic living –  you have a hut on a floating island in an alpine lake.
  • Dinner: At Casona on the Lima Blvd.
  • Fun Thing: Auto-rickshaws in Puno. 20160828_000659277_iOS


Day 10 (28th August, 2016): Puno to Cusco

  • Nothing today as we were just going back to Cusco. Staying at JW Mariott. Very rich history behind this location / building:
    • Originally site of Killke civilization (800 AD)
    • Subsequently an Inka Palace (around 1500 AD). The original Inka walls are still there as window view and we had that in our room (see picture)20160830_133136540_iOS
    • Pizarro gave this site to Augustine Order and chapel for St Augustine came up. The lobby of hotel used to be Chapel. The original gate to Chapel acts as hotel entrance.
    • Earthquake in 1650 destroyed chapel.  Then earthquake in 1721 destroyed again.
    • During Peru war of independence, Bolivar’s army bombarded the location and Augustine order was expelled (as they were loyalist to Spanish kings).
    • Subsequently building went into dis-array. For some time there was a Chocolate factory, impacted again in earthquake of 1950.
    • Current hotel got built on this site in 2012 (after 6 years of construction).20160828_225912814_iOS
  • Went to see a Cultural Show at Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo (Cusco Center for Native Arts). 1 hour show with traditional dances from different areas of Cusco region. Dances has strong confluence of Spanish and Indian traditions.20160829_001952908_iOS


Day 11 (29th August, 2016): Cusco. Chill Day.

  • Today just relax, walk around, played lot of Pokémon Go.
  • Visited the Inka Museum. Limited information in English. Its dis-heartening to see such limited material for a society with such old, vast and rich history.
  • Learnt: Definitely as you see artifacts and talk to locals you get a feeling of pride among people of their past. Also nationalist fervor, with not fans of Spanish conquest. As one of our tour guides explained to me that there are two type of people in Peru (he meant two schools of thought) – 1)those who accept it as history. With each new empire destroying old. Inka did to previous ones; Spanish did to Inka. These people also think that Peru is not just Inka. Peru has very rich history before and it’s the Runas (sub-ordinates to Inka) that actually built most of things 2)Those who have strong nationalistic feelings and feel that Spanish destroyed their culture. They thing that while they are Catholics and go to Church on Sunday, but inside they still revere Pacha-Mama (Mother Earth) or other native traditions.
  • Dinner: Been long days eat Indian Food, so we had to go and try the only Indian Restaurant in Cusco – Koma Sutra.


Day 12 (30th August, 2016): Cusco to Iquitos (biggest city in the world that can’t be reached by road)

  • AM relax at Hotel.
  • PM flight from Cusco to Lima to Iquitos. Reached Late night at 11 PM at Iquitos. Had a hotel for night there. First impressions looking at city at night on way form Airport to City Center- Iquitos looks much impoverished compared to Lima  or Cusco region. It really looks like back-waters.
  • Stayed at Epoca Hotel.


Day 13 (31th August, 2016): Iquitos to Amazon Lodge

  • Morning dive to dock to take boat to the Lodge. The lodge is around 80 km deeper into Rio Amazonas from Iquitos and took us around 90 min. On way stopped at a Family center which had alligator, piranha fishes etc.
  • Afternoon from Lodge went for a couple of hour tour of local distillery. Small family business where they grow sugarcanes and then produce rum and other drinks from it.20160831_204917748_iOS
  • Late in evening went for a night walk in the jungle- tons of spiders (incl tarantula), frogs, crickets etc.
  • Learnt:
    • The difference in level of river from rainy season to dry season. We are in dry but could clearly see the level (say 10+ ft) that river would go to in rainy season. Everywhere you see the signs of difference.
    • The jungle is extremely dense. Swampy.
    • Almost all the life in jungle is small animals (spiders, frogs, crickets, leeches, ants, cockroaches, mosquitoes…). This is so different from the jungle thinking of say Africa where you have huge animals. The largest animals here are jaguars, anacondas, alligators, fishes..
    • All the human habitat is on banks of river only. River is the life line of civilization here. You go 500 mts inland from river and there is nothing. Only hunters go.

Day 14 (1st September, 2016): Amazon Lodge

  • AM: went on a tour to local village. Some signs of indigenous culture. The area gets supported by Rotary Club from USA (Utah) and has clinic, proper footpath, kids driving bicycles, and plastic trash everywhere. The village was little dis-appointing to me (purely from tourist perspective) as it neither gave the authentic feeling of a native village not a feeling of properly developed village
  • PM:
    • Afternoon went to a local hunters house who had an Anaconda, turtles, alligators etc.
    • Evening went for a sunset boar ride. It was so peaceful and sky has gazillion stars to see. Though with mosquitos and bats buzzing around, we did not stay long.        20160901_231823552_iOS
  • Thoughts: There is such a stark difference b/w Cusco / Puno area and this amazon area. Cusco are was flooding with tourist. Here very few. Facilities are far well developed in Cusco. Lot of history in Cusco area. Iquitos area reminded of Calcutta somewhat (from times when I visited in late 1990s). Life is extremely tough in this area -with no road connectivity, river and jungle is all that life revolves around.
  • Two questions come to mind:
    • Which area comparatively is better suited to human life – Puno (lake, 12000+ ft altitude…) or Iquitos (River, far from all)?
    • What attracted humans in first place to these area? Also what leads humans to continue living here?

Day 15 (2nd September, 2016):Amazon Lodge – Iquitos – Lima

  • Am: went dolphin watching – saw a couple of Pink Dolphins. Also tried hand at fishing.
  • Fun Thing: MotoTaxis in Iquitos. 20160902_225552197_iOS
  • PM: Long arduous Journey back. Boat to Iquitos: 1:20 hrs. Wait for flight 5:00 hrs. Iquitos to Lima Flight: 1:30 hrs. Lima transit time: 6:00 hrs. Lima to San Salvador : 4:00 hrs. San Salvador to LA: 5:00 hrs. LA transit time: 6:00 hrs. LA to Seattle: 2:00 hrs.

Day 16 (3rd September, 2016): Back to Seattle

  • Home sweet home @ 9:00 PM!

This entry was posted in Intl Travel

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