Top 5 places to visit in Peru

5. Arequipa central market – Arequipa is often only glanced over by tourists visiting the surrounding hiking trails and volcanoes, but in the city itself are a number of fascinating places to visit.

My favourite thing about the city was the colourful and bustling market occupying the large central square. It’s not massively highlighted in local guides but that just means that it’s mainly visited by locals and seemingly only the odd tourist.

Highlights here are the food areas with numerous stands selling crispy pork with local corn and potato. If you’re not comfortable in Spanish then a smile and some low key pointing will usually end in a generous portion of the day’s speciality for only a few dollars.

Finish off your meal with some local fudge.

 

       4. Huanchaco – It’s not quite so beach picture perfect as Brazil or Panama but Huanchaco is laid back surfer cool.

Plenty of beach space with endless surf schools to help you practice your skills, plus a good enough wave to keep the experts happy, Huanchaco has something for everyone on the backpacker circuit.

Equally it’s not quite the full on party scene of Mancora further north but it has cool hostels with a relaxed drinking vibe and handful of bars to party into the night.

 

      3. Ollantaytambo – Ollantaytambo is usually just a pass through point for people getting the train before the final Machu Picchu descent but it is beautiful in it’s own right.

Full of Inca ruins and surrounded by cloud laden mountains it’s particularly spectacular. Also, after mid morning when all the minibuses have rushed past, you’re likely to get the whole place virtually to yourself.

 

 

      2. Huacachina – Desert oasis Huacachina is hidden amongst the dunes near Ica. Known for it’s parties  there’s endless activities to do like sand boarding, dune buggies and boating on the lake.

Huacachina has some pretty cool hostels too, with happy hour offers all round before you head to the top of dunes to watch the sunset.

 

  1. Machu Picchu – Magnificent Machu Picchu is possibly the most awe inspiring place I’ve ever visited. The photos I’d seen before visiting didn’t even begin to prepare me for sitting there and looking out across the Inca city in the clouds.

The site itself is huge and the rolling clouds only add to the mystery and magic of the place. Despite the hoards of tourists heading there every day it still manages to feel like a place that you’ve discovered first. Truly unforgettable.

 

 

 

 

5 unbelievable landscapes you’ve just got to visit!

Machu Pichu, Peru
Despite being photographed thousands of times every year, Machu Pichu’s magnificence can’t even begin to be captured in a picture. The sheer size of the settlement, combined with the clouds rolling over the mountain tops are something I’ll never forget seeing for the first time.

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Suru Valley, India
A lot of the surrounding area appears baron and wild, then out of nowhere appears Suru Valley, reminiscent of Swiss scenery the valley is picture perfect from the bright flowers to the tiny fluffy clouds dotting the sky.

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Tayrona National Park, Colombia
On the Northern coast of Colombia, Tayrona is firmly on the Gringo trail, but this natural wonder takes some hiking to get into, believe me it’s worth it.

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Dal Lake, Kashmir
The spectacular lake, over 15km in circumference in Srinagar, Kashmir has changing beauty throughout the day. Rise early to catch the floating vegetable/flower market or take a painted shikara to view the flora & flora and wooden houseboats.

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Ubud, Bali
Bali is famous for it’s ideallic landscapes and after Eat, Pray, Love then Ubud became an even more famous fixture on it’s map. However, Ubud does deserve the attention. The rolling rice paddies of Tegalalang are really quite stunning

 

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Beautiful Ollantaytambo, your must-visit place before Machu Picchu.

The main railway station that serves Cusco and therefore on to Machu Picchu is a small town called Ollantaytambo about 1 hour 45 from the city.
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As such, throughout the morning minibuses and taxis rush through the narrow streets towards the station and most tourists don’t give the town a second thought. However, Ollantaytambo is a beautiful place in itself, a site of great importance in the Inca empire and also the location of many hugely impressive ruins, it’s unique in Peru as well as it was built by the Incas over 500 years ago and has been inhabited to date.
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We took a collectivo from Puente Grau for 10 soles (3 dollars) at around 4am after getting off the night bus from Puno and headed straight there. The minibuses go straight through the main square so we hopped out and headed to our hostel. Most hostels allow early check is as so many visitors get up super early to head on to Machu Picchu.

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You can spend a few hours just wandering around the town and it’s cobbled streets. The main square itself is lovely and lined with little cafés where you can sit and take in the view.
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There are 6 or 7 alleyways leading off the square that have retained a very old timey vibe and we came across some quite picturesque scenes.

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Ollantaytambo was originally a pretty effective fortress and in 1536 the Spanish were defeated here when Manco Inca flooded the plains with previously prepared channels. The very well preserved terraces and fortress walls sit high up on hills either side of the town and combined with the clouds sitting on top of the mountains, Ollantaytambo is a magnificent place to spend a day and perhaps an evening on a rooftop as we did, watching the sun go down with a beer.
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There’s a few nice eateries in town including a tiny ice cream shop on the street leading down to the station. For 5 soles ($1.50) you can get some great flavours including local chocolate, black corn/maiz & passionfruit.
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Obviously if you do want to explore Machu Picchu, which if you’re in Peru then you probably do, then you’re perfectly located ready for an early morning train and you can avoid the rushed collectivo alongside all the other tourists and leisurely stroll from your hostel to the station whilst leaving your bags to collect later in the day.
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Delicious Peruvian food at San Camilo Market

I love eating street food. For many reasons, firstly in some countries I’ve found that the local specialities are often better bought from a friendly woman on the street are packed full of flavour more than in an expensive restaurant (bun cha, pad thai), secondly it saves a lot of money and thirdly, I want to try what the locals eat and often you’re more likely to find this while sitting on a tiny plastic stool than in an air conditioned place aimed at tourists.

Peru hasn’t presented quite as many options so far for super cheap eats but then we arrived in Arequipa. Arequipa is known for it’s food, in particular spicy peppers and for the humble potato.

We headed straight to local favourite, food market Mercado San Camilo. It’s a large market easily reachable from the main plaza and has a whole host of food from delicious snacks right up to filling meals that won’t break the bank.

There’s rows and rows of fish and meat vendors, hacking away at various parts, plus all the fruits you could name plus some you’ve probably never tried or even heard of.

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Plus there are dozens of types of potato. Don’t ask me to name them…I’d struggle in English nevermind Spanish.

After wandering for a while we came to a selection of eateries mainly serving up another Peruvian speciality, roasted salt pork, usually served with corn, possibly sweet potato, onion & tomato and optional spicy sauce! (Go for it!)

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The whole meal cost around 2/3 dollars and was absolutely delicious. The pork was some of the nicest I’ve tried and the salty corn really complimented it.

For a dessert there are plenty of options. I tried Dulce Arequipa which is a bit like a soft fudge made from condensed milk followed by a Strawberry pastry for 50 cents which was popular with the locals.

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Finally we headed to the fruit aisles where dozens of smiling ladies serve up smoothies and juices (Juga). Pick your fruits then either select condensed milk, orange juice or water as a mixer and enjoy!

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