Peru: Lima, Nazca Lines, Huacachina, Arequipa
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
This trip to Peru was very much customized by us, similar to our Nicaragua trip. We wanted to see so much but since everything is spread out quite a distance and due to the fact that at the time of booking, each tour company did not accommodate everything we wanted to do. So we split our itinerary into two: Lima and coast all the way down to Puno and we chose View Peru and Signatures to do that portion with. The second part was Cusco, The Sacred Valley, the Salkantay Hike and Machu Picchu and we chose Alpaca Expeditions tour company for that portion. It took quite a few months of research and organizing but eventually we got an itinerary that we were happy with. We decided to go with a private tour which means you are not placed with a ton of other people, you have your own driver and guide and your own transportation. There is no better way to travel in my opinion and the cost really isn't that much more.
April 14-16, 2018 - We had the craziest storm of the season this weekend while we were getting ready to leave. Ice, ice pellets, freezing rain, snow.. everything possible! All weekend long and it hit all of Ontario and many States. 250 flights were cancelled Saturday night. We were really nervous about our own flight with was on Tuesday the 17th. Many, many people were without power this weekend but luckily we still had ours.
Monday April 16th – we headed out and drove down to Alliston for the night. Luckily the roads were clear and we got down without any issues but we left with mega snow in our yard and driveway. We got 40cm’s of snow!
Jerry Rhodes, who climbed Kilimanjaro with us and who lives in Colorado was joining us on our entire tour of Peru, including the hike. He was not so lucky today. He was leaving today but his flights got delayed due to the same weather issues and he ended up with a 10 hour layover in Dallas. He ended up not arriving in Lima until 5:30 am the next day. And so our trip had already become an adventure :)
Tuesday April 17th – we upgraded our seats to business class (really inexpensive with Copa Airlines). Super nice as we also got lounge access. We had no issues getting to the airport and taking our time leasurely as our flight was not until 9:50 AM and it was on time.
We had a great flight to Panama, big comfy seats, great food and drinks. 6 hours and 15 minutes, then a 1 ½ hour layover in Panama and then a 3 hour flight to Lima, again business class on Copa Airlines. We got to Lima at 7:15PM where our guide Yoel picked us up from View Peru and Signatures tour company. We had a 1 hour drive into the center of the city (crazy busy traffic!) and we checked in to our hotel; Casa Andina Select. Jerry was eagerly waiting at the bar with drink in hand! It was great to see him after 5 ½ years.
Peru has 31,000 million people. 7% are poor mostly living in the high sierra and the jungle. The rest of the population is amongst the cities with the two biggest being Lima and Arequipa. The Andes mountains are the longest chain of mountains in the world, going from Chile all the way up to BC in Canada.|
Wednesday April 18th: Lima City Tour
Lima has 11 million people. It is the busiest and craziest city we’ve been to when it comes to traffic and noise and the ways of driving – no rules it seems! Traffic goes on ALL DAY. We had a city tour with Julia today. We drove and walked to various parts of the city: The Miraflores section (where we are staying) and which is mostly filled with hotels, restaurants and tourists – the more upscale part of the city. We drove around to various sections of the city but were caught up sitting in traffic most of the time. Then we walked the Malecon and the famous lovers park – an imitation of Gaudi’s Park in Barcelona.
We lunched on a patio and then re-packed for the next couple of days. Dinner was near some famous excavated ruins at a large popular tourist Huaca Pucllana Restaurant and we ended the night early, around 9pm.
Thursday April 19th: Ballestas Islands, Ica, Huacachina We were up at 3:15 to get ready as today’s pick up was at 4AM by Yoel! Yes that early. We had a 3 ½ hour dive down to Ballestas Islands (also known as Poor Man’s Galapagos), near the town of Paracas. It was a great 2 hour boat tour driving around the islands seeing the wildlife, mostly sea lions, a million different birds like blue footed boobies and even some penguins! The same type we got to see in the Galapagos. We also got to see one of the oldest prehistoric Geoglyph’s called The Paracas Candelabra. It has been carbon dated to 200 BCE. The design is cut 2 feet into the soil and is 595 feet tall, large enough to be seen 12 miles at sea.
After the boat tour we drove to Paracas Nat’l Reserve and wandered around the expansive desert cliffs overlooking the ocean below. I had to dip my feet into the cold Pacific ocean! It felt kind of surreal being here like you were somewhere in the sahara desert.
Then final part of the day: dune buggying in the sand! I was a bit nervous about this as I have never done it before and did not know what to expect. We continued further south to Ica, where we were introduced to our dune buggy driver. We were strapped in and off we went over the massive mountains of sand. The dune buggy reminded me of the buggy’s in the movie Road Warrior!
I was screaming like a fool but all in all it was a lot of fun and no one got hurt. The driver even convinced us to do some sand body surfing down the steep hills. I had sand in every crevice of my body but what a riot. We all had such a blast.
The tiny village of Huacuchina is an actual desert oasis with a lagoon thought to have therapeutic properties. The lagoon is surrounded by palm trees, bars and clubs and the massive sand dunes surrounding the village.
These sand dunes are the largest in South America. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves here and ended it with a delicious lunch and some beverages to cool us off.
We were then taken to our hotel for the night, called Las Dunas. Wow!! Huge surprise as it was absolutely gorgeous here. Very Greek influence in architecture and a beautiful resort with pool area. We decided to hang around the pool for the rest of the day as we were all extremely beat.
As the sun went down we chose to hang at the pool restaurant and after a couple of margarita’s we got our second wind. We stayed there and chatted and had some finger foods for our dinner.
Such a fantastic day!
Friday April 20th: Nazca Lines Flight
Today was a sharp 8AM pickup by Yoel again. Checked out and headed out through Ica. Crazy morning traffic with a million tuk-tuk’s whirling around the round-about’s, scooting in and out of vehicles, going about their morning business. The view was pretty drab with lots of desolate desert and poverty. Kinda reminded me of sections in Africa. We arrived in Nazca around 10:30 am. I was even more nervous today then the buggy rides yesterday. Today we were flying over the famous Nazca lines in a very small plane. The smallest I have ever been in so far. A 6 seater Cesna 206. We had two very nice and friendly Argentinian pilots who made me feel pretty comfortable in the end. It was just the 3 of us and two other young Argentinian girls.
We flew over an hour in total, flying over a whole bunch of different drawings in the earth; the famous hummingbird, the monkey, the alien, the condor, etc and so many straight lines that looked like landing strips.
Look carefully to see how many drawings you can see. The road with the building below gives an indication of how large these drawings are.
It was quiet amazing for sure. We were all grinning from ear to ear. Another fantastic experience to check off our bucket list!
We then stopped at a pottery shop where a young man and his grandfather make replica nasca pottery from the way they did the technique 1200-1500 years ago. He makes the paint from natural materials. He makes the pottery by hand and dries it naturally via sun. Everything is made the way it was traditionally. Jerry was in seventh heaven as he makes pottery as a hobby. We each bought a few small pieces to take home with us.
After such a great day, we had a long 7 hour drive back directly to Lima. My fault for that as I did not feel comfortable doing a night bus ride of 10 hours to Arequipa, so I had previously arranged with our tour company to take us back to Lima and we would fly out in the morning. Coming back into the city was a nightmare. We literally played chicken with transport trucks & buses all day and then in the city he took side streets but all the while zigzagging around cars as we crossed intersections narrowly missing cars by inches. It took us forever to get through the core of city and we were all severely stressed by the time we made it back to the hotel. We basically headed straight for the restaurant downstairs and had drinks and stayed in for the night!
Then we heard about the horrible accident that had happened today in Colca Canyon (where we will be heading on Monday). A mini van with 12 people went off a cliff and 2 German tourists died – the rest were very badly injured. Some more stressful moments for me to worry about but that is typically me!
Saturday April 21st: Arequipa: 2335 m = 7661Feet
Joel picked us up at 9:30 AM and took us to the Lima airport. Peruvian Airlines - smooth and easy flight. Left at 1PM and arrived at 2PM. At Arequipa airport, we were picked up by a new guide Ramiro. Very outgoing, informative, friendly guy who spoke English quite well. It was a short drive right down into the city square, where we were staying at the same chain of hotel, at Casa Andina Select.
What a difference this city is compared to Lima! So much smaller & subdued. The city had a very colonial Spanish influence and did remind me a lot of Cuenca, Ecuador. It has the same vibe too.
We got situated and changed, then went out and wandered around for while checking out the sites and stores. We ended up back at our square and went to a rooftop patio and restaurant called La Plaza Bar & Grill... beautiful view of the city. The food was great and the waiter was very friendly and informative. He provides ponchos in the evening to help fight off the chill. The town is surrounded by 3 large snow capped volcanoes – very beautiful. We all really liked it here right away. But it’s the start of entering altitude - at 7660 feet, so we shall see how I make out. We met two girls from Australia who chatted with us for a couple of hours and we traded travel stories. They are backpacking through all of South America – lucky them!
Sunday April 22nd: Morning Tour of Arequipa & Rest day We had a relaxing, leisurely morning wakeup, them breakfast at the hotel patio and during breakfast we were entertained by a morning parade of sorts, with marching military bands right below us. This happens every Sunday morning supposedly.
We were then picked up by Ramiro around 9AM for our morning city tour of Arequipa. We drove around and saw various points of interest and he drove us around the city square explain all the buildings & the history to us. We went to the outskirts of the city where we got incredible views of the volcanoes around us and the fertile crop valleys. Explanation of the varuous crops, fruit and coca of course. Then we went to the oldest square in town with beautiful palm trees a really old significant church.
After that we were handed off to another tour guide who took us to the Monasterio de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Convent). It was founded in 1579, less then 40 years after the Spanish arrived in Arequipa. The building constructed from white volcanic stone quarried locally is considered the most important and impressive colonial structure in the city. It is over 20,000 square meters in size and nuns still live there. Since its inception, women from all sorts of backgrounds went to the convent to serve as cloistered nuns, never to return to their homes and families again. The second born girls of prominent wealthy families were automatically sent to the convent without choice but were expected to pay a decent dowry. I absolutely loved the various colors of the walls and corridors.
The nuns constructed private cells within the convent where they could lead isolated lives, protected by the high walls sheltering them from the surrounding city. It is located right in the historical center of the city. Blessed Sister Ana was a nun who lived in the convent up until her death in 1686. Various miracles and predictions are attributed to her and she currently has a cult following. Her cell and personal effects still exist inside the convent and demonstrate how she led her life. This is her bedroom.
We wandered around the convent for over an hour and were in our glory with the photographic opportunities of the beautiful colours of the various areas of the building. It was like a city within a city. Mind boggling.
Our tour was done and then we went off on our own. Found a nice patio where we had cold beers and awesome nachos with homemade Pico de Gallo (salsa). Had a couple of local guys serenading us with Andean pan flute music which was very good and fit the mood perfectly.
We then wandered around some more and checked out the Market in Arequipa: San Camilo Market. Wow – again these markets are amazing - so full of everything you may need. The fresh produce and fruit never ceases to amaze me. So plentiful and inexpensive. We found a juice bar and had a massive fresh smoothy made with individual choice of ingredients.
We then went to the Museo de Juanita – where the famous Juanita mummy is. She is also known as Lady of Ampato. It is a well preserved frozen body of an Inca girl who was killed as an offering to the gods sometime between 1450 and 1480 when she was approximately 12-15 years old. She was only discovered in 1995 and is considered as one of the world’s top 10 discoveries. Quote from Wikipedia: “Juanita was wrapped in a brightly coloured burial tapestry (or "aksu"). Her head was adorned with a cap made from the feathers of a red macaw, and she wore a lively woollen alpaca shawl fastened with a silver clasp. She was fully clothed in garments resembling the finest textiles from the Inca capital city of Cuzco. This, in addition to evidence of excellent health, suggests that she may have come from a noble Cuzco family. These were almost perfectly preserved, providing valuable insight into sacred Inca textiles and how the Inca nobility dressed”.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia To our massive disappointment we found out that Juanita herself was not at the museum and was temporarily moved so we didn’t bother going in. Big bummer.
Jerry went off to try and find a sim card for his phone at Claro and John and I found another hole in the wall but on a rooftop with a great city & volcano view. We enjoyed a couple of drinks there.
Met up with Jerry later and we found a nice pizza place called Las Gringas wood fire pizza. Very nice setting with shops all around it but it was hidden off the street.
We ran into our Australian girls there and had a nice couple of hours chatting & exchanging more travel stories with them.
Had to have an early night as we have a very early wake up call again – at 3AM! Click here to read about our next journey - Colca Canyon, Puno and Lake Tititcaca!