Perú beyond Machu Picchu

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This post is especial, because it is the number 20 since I started writing, woohoo! Also because we Peruvians are celebrating our Independence Day on 28th July. So, I wanted to talk about other beautiful places in Peru, besides the famous and widely known Machu Picchu and of course my gorgeous home city Cusco!

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Roofs of Cusco city

When I studied in London the first time, back in 2009, I took a class on the topic Multicultural London, in which at the end each of us had to make a presentation of cases of multiculturalism, either based on a few papers we had reviewed in class, or based on the experience of our own countries. I decided to make a presentation about Perú, and wasn’t disappointed with the feedback and interest showed by some classmates about the diverse cultures that coexist in Peru.

Most of people who have heard about Peru, know about Machu Picchu, and…Llamas, for some reason those two come together to their mind. Those who have been to Peru know more about Cusco, the Sacred Valley and other cities like Arequipa, Puno and of course Lima the capitol.

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So let’s start from the basics. Peru has coast, highlands and jungle. Our neighbors to the north Ecuador and Colombia, to the East Brazil, to the South Bolivia and Chile, and to the West the Pacific Ocean. About 60% of the country’s area is Jungle (Source: Wikipedia). The Amazon river, the largest river by discharge volumen of water in the world, has its headwaters in the Peruvian Andes. And Huascarán is the highest pick in the country at 6,654 metres of altitude, located in the Cordillera Blanca.

In times of Incas, several cultures were part of the Inca empire, but it would take several posts to talk about them all 🙂 So let’s just keep in mind that given the geographical conditions their customs, art, language and architecture were different from each other, some of those differences remain up to today.

The official languages are Spanish (spoken by 84% of the population) Quechua (spoken by 13% of the population, the language of Incas) Aymara (similar to Quechua, and spoken by 1.7% of the population) and other indigenous languages (1.2% of the population). There are 33 million inhabitants, from several ethnic groups: descendants from Incas as a majority, then Spaniards, Africans, Germans, Italians, British, French, Japanese and Chinese. Most of the laters concentrated in the coastal area, however the mix of ethnicities is widely spread throughout the country.

That mix of cultures had a huge influence in our traditions, society, arts and of course gastronomy. So if you consider yourself a foodie Peru is the place to visit, you can eat your way through the country without ever getting tired of the variety, which goes way beyond Ceviche! Our national drink is Pisco, with which we enjoy good Pisco Sours or Chilcanos, beware though that we Peruvians are used to drink it quite strong, compared to the versions offered in Europe which are much softer and sweeter, genuinely speaking from my own experience 🙂

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Street art in Barranco – Lima
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Pisco Sour at Lima Restaurant in London 🙂

Now let’s go back to the geographical differences of the country. If surf is what you love then the northern beaches of Peru are the perfect spot for you. If you love birdwatching and enjoying wild nature then the rainforests of Iquitos, Manu or Tambopata are your perfect destinations. But if you love the mountains (here comes my favorite part) then of course you have the Peruvian Andes ready to blow your mind, let’s now talk about hiking shall we?

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Sunset in Lima during summer
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Source: Instagram @cinflara
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Sunset in Pucallpa

Besides the well known Inca Trail to reach Machu Picchu, and the stunning city of Cusco, which is nestled in the Andes, there are other hiking routes such as Choquequirao (3 days trek), Salkantay (4 or 5 days trek), other places perfect for a day like Huchuy Qosqo, Rainbow Mountain, or Humantay Lagoon.

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Rainbow Mountain – Cusco

There are also the Cordillera Blanca and Negra (White and Black mountain ranges) options. The former located in the Huascaran National Park in the Ancash region, with hiking routes to Llanganuco lake, Lagoon 69, and treks to Alpamayo or Huandoy mountains. I have only been to Llanganuco Lagoon, but definitely all the rest are on the list. These places might only be known by seasoned hikers and climbers, but believe me they are worth a visit.

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Choquequirao – Source: Lonelyplanet.com
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Llanganuco
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Llanganuco Lagoon

Other place that offers incredible views, and for what I know is beginning to gain attention from Peruvians and foreigners is Kuelap, located in the Amazonas region, it was built by the Chachapoyas culture in the 6th century. Nearby you can also explore and hike to the Gocta cataracts. This area is high on the list of places I am currently dreaming to visit in Peru, since I am from Cusco, and never took much time to explore in depth this side of the country.

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Kuelap – Source: Viajeronline.com

Down to the south of Perú, there is the city of Puno, which is settled at the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world (3812 meters of altitude). There you can hop on a boat and visit the floatable Uros islands, or if you got more time, visit Taquile and Amantani islands, where ancient traditions of textile and life in general have been preserved over time.

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Taquile Island – Puno, Source: Flickr.com

Well, Peru has a lot to see and do, this post might be just a very short brief of some of the places I liked the most, and those I would like to visit the most, but there are plenty more.

Our cultural and natural diversity are so incredibly rich that there would be need of several books, documentaries and other resources to explain and show what Peru has to offer. But to be honest there is nothing better than getting on a plane and visiting this beautiful land, seeing everything by yourself, and experiencing every single minute with its people, food, landscapes, treks, drinks, music and much much more.

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Me and two of my closest friends – we are all passioned about travel and hiking 😉

We are warm people, we like to make jokes, eat a lot, laugh a lot, smile a lot, hug a lot, make friends, dance, love honestly and embrace life with passion and tenacity, those are just to mention but a few of our characteristics. Our country is diverse so as our traditions, accents and sometimes slang. My aim with this post is that next time you think of Peru you think of more than Machu Picchu and llamas, but just because I know llamas are very popular, yes you will be able to hug lots of them when in the highlands!

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We too love Llamas 🙂

 

Until the next post!  In the meantime…Hasta pronto! See you soon! Auf Wiedersehen! A presto! Au revoir! Adeus!