On this 3 month trip of South America I have travelled all the countries (Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Bolivia) pretty fast and faster than what I thought (mainly due to how expensive the likes of Brazil and Argentina were) however I had heard a lot of good things about Peru and knew that there was so much to do and that its budget friendly (yay!) so when I arrived in Peru on Valentine’s Day I had a good amount of places I wanted to see in southern Peru before getting to the capital of Lima and then heading up north.
First I started in Puno which is on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. From here I did a day trip to see the floating islands, this is the only attraction in Puno, it’s a case of seeing the lake and islands and then leaving pretty quickly.
There are about 16 separate inhabited floating islands which are made out of the reed found in the lake, the island itself plus the houses, boats and much more are all made out of this reed. Most of the families living on the islands rely heavily on tourism now which seems a bit of a shame.
When doing an organised trip like I did you arrive early morning onto one of the islands, have a little look around and they explain how they are built and secured so they don’t float away (the lake is shared with Bolivia and they made a joke about not having passports if it floated to the Bolivian side!) and then you can pay extra for a little boat trip in the reed boats which I did and where we got to eat some of the reed (!) and then they have some gifts for you to buy if you want to.
Boats made from the reed.
It was a very strange experience as its so unique and unusual but it’s something I’m glad I did. As part of my trip we went to another island which was an actual island for a walk around and to have lunch and the views were simply stunning, green grass and bright blue sky and water. While we were on the boat going to this island we went past some more of the floating islands where they had a volley ball court again made from the reed which the women were playing on and a football pitch which the men were playing on. This was so crazy to see but I guess they have to make these facilities to save them going too crazy and to live a (semi) normal and active life, they also have schools which are paid for by the government as these people are very much seen as part of the Peruvian society and have access to education and health facilities which is really good. Although some people on the islands speak Spanish so they can communicate with the mainland their main language is keshwa.
Next I headed to Arequipa, I ended up getting a local bus without realising which I wasn’t too happy about because the bus standard is so much worse (I’m a travelling snob I know lol) but it cost 35soles/£7 so at least i saved some money and it took 6 hours.
Arequipa known as the White city and I really liked it here. The central and touristy part of the city is full of beautiful churches and cathedrals, there’s plenty of shops and cafes and the main plaza is always full of people, much of the city really reminded me of Europe and had a strong Spanish feel about it from when the Spanish occupied Peru. I spent 3 days here just wandering, eating some yummy food and taking lots of photos.
Cathedral in Arequipa
In both Puno and Arequipa I stayed in a hostel called ‘Marlons house’ which were 25soles/ £5 a night and I would recommend both these hostels!
After Arequipa I got a 12 hour overnight bus to Cusco. I used the company Excluciva to get there and got a cama seat- basically a big business class type seat that goes back 160degrees and was really pleased with them. This trip cost 92soles/£19.
Cusco is most commonly known as the gateway to Machu Picchu as its the closest city. (I’ll write another post on my trip to Machu Picchu). I didn’t have many expectations of Cusco but I really liked it, like most cities in South America it is based around the central plaza which had beautiful churches surrounding it too, there were many cafes, restaurants, travel shops and souvenir shops. This city however was built by the Incas, the indigenous people of Peru. To them this was also the closest city to Machu Picchu, the sacred valley and many more lost cities that they built up in the mountains so the architecture here was different to Arequipa but still very nice and interesting. The only thing that really bugged me here was the amount of hawkers trying to sell you tours, key chains and souvenirs, massages (although I did get one), and basically anything and everything! I felt like I was constantly saying ‘no gracias, no gracias’.
After these places I needed some heat and low altitude (something I never thought I’d say) so Huacachina and Paracas were on the agenda before reaching Lima.