There are many diverse places to visit in Peru, so instead of flying - and seeing nothing of the country - we decided to take the PeruHop bus through southern Peru from Lima to La Paz in Bolivia. To experience more of the Peru landscape and tourist attractions.
In our first trip to Peru we'd flown into Lima, taken a flight into Cusco, done the Inca Trail and flown back to Lima.
In speaking to other people we realised that there was a lot we'd missed in Peru.
We spent a few days in Paracas, Huacachina, Arequipa and Puno before crossing the border to Bolivia. They all had their own unique attraction and character,
Places to Visit in Peru
Paracas is the first night stop south of Lima for the PeruHop bus. Here we visited two of the many Peru sightseeing highlights … the Paracas National Park and the Ballestas Islands ... also known as “Poor man’s Galapagos”.
Like many beach side resorts we've seen around the world it's scarred with half started housing developments. Perimeter walls without any, or with very few, houses.
In addition like many tourist attractions there's an total lack of creativity of the offerings of goods and services. Restaurants and excursions, all the same items, all at the same prices. The only difference being the enthusiasm of the salesman.
The next of the Peru attractions we visited was this oasis village. Surrounded by massive dunes makes it an ideal spot for wild dune buggy rides and sand skiing or sand-boarding. On offer is a cheap, few hour evening sand buggy tour which includes sand-boarding and watching the sunset over the desert.
The sand-boarding involves lying on a snow board with handles added to the front and launching yourself down a series of steeper and steeper dunes.
The last one was a monster. It was so steep that as I stood at the top it felt like I was going to tumble head over heels to the bottom. It was an exhilarating, adrenaline pumping ten second explosion down the face of the dune.
Arequipa - The White City
The overnight bus ride from Huacachina arrived in Arequipa very early morning. The chilly weather matched the frosty reception from the hostel staff - with no coffee and no other option everyone huddled around waiting for the day to start.
“Free” walking tours are a feature of many Central and South American cities and towns. We had met the owner of the Inkanway Walking Tour in Lima so decided to do their tour in Arequipa. It was different but didn’t disappoint.
The following day we did the one day tour to another of the spectacular places to visit in Peru, Colca Canyon. There are also 2 and 3 day hikes on offer. On reflection the 3 day hike might have been a more immersive experience.
Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru and has a lot to offer. It's one of the cities where we would have liked to stay longer.
Puno is another of the iconic places to visit in Peru.
As we arrived at lunch time we made our way to one of our favourite eating venues for “almuerzo” – a limited option lunch menu which includes an appetiser, often a soup or salad, a main course, sometimes a desert (postre) and a glass of juice – the more expensive include a bread starter and a “dip” of onion, tomato and various with varying herbs. Almuerzo’s vary in price and selection but many of the cheaper ones we’ve eaten have been delicious ... and as good as the more expensive ones!
From Puno we had an overnight stay on Lake Titicaca. Visiting the Uros Islands, spending a night on Amantani with a local family and visiting Taquile Island.
We were forced to have an extra night in Puno as there was a transport strike and no public transport was available around Puno for a day.
The next day we left for next part of our adventure in Copacabana in Bolivia.
Peru has a lot more to offer than Machu Picchu. Cusco is a centre for many other hikes and activities and there are also Amazon excursions from Peru.
When planning long vacations allow time and have some flexibility to reschedule for unexpected forced delays and also bad weather days.
Bolivia visas for Category 2 visitors (includes South Africa) are free if you get them at an Embassy and USD95 (make it USD100!) at the border. US citizens pay USD160 wherever they get their visa.
When taking tours look for locally owned and managed companies. The guides have added passion and local knowledge that makes these more engaging and unique.