10 Travel Destinations In Peru Besides Cuzco And Lima

mancoraWhen planning a trip to Peru, many people focus on the two popular cities of Cuzco and Lima, unsure of what else to include on the itinerary. The reality is, adding some lesser-known yet worthwhile cities into the mix can really enhance a trip to this Andean country.

Mancora

You can easily waste weeks in this laid-back beach town without even noticing it. Mancora is a great place to visit if you enjoy surfing, beach sports, morning yoga on the shore or just doing nothing. The town is also an excellent home base if you’re interested in visiting the fishing village of Cabo Blanco. This is where the famous author Ernest Hemingway used to hang out, drink Pisco Sours and pen classics like “The Old Man and the Sea.”

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Visiting Pisco will allow you to visit one of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse places in the world, the Islas Ballestas. Commonly referred to as the poor man’s Galapagos, these small islands feature seals, penguins, blue-footed boobies, guanay guano birds and other marine wildlife. Additionally, Pisco is close to Paracas National Reservation, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only marine reservation in Peru. Often considered one of the richest yet most bizarre ecosystems, you’ll find animals like penguins, sea lions, marine cats, black ostrich, dolphins, purple crabs and chita fish. For a bit of history in Pisco, make sure to visit Tambo Colorado. It’s an ancient adobe-style Inca fort that’s been well preserved, with mazes and various rooms to explore. You’ll also see the red, yellow and white painted walls from Inca times.

Trujillo

This city in northwestern Peru is full of history and culture. Visit the well-preserved ruins site of Chan Chan, which is considered the largest pre-Hispanic mud brick settlement in the Americas. Its origin dates back to the beginnings of the first millennium A.D. When in Trujillo, there is also an interesting archaeological complex called El Brujo. It dates back to the Moche culture from 100 B.C. to 650 A.D., and is thought to have been used for religious ceremonies. There is also an interesting museum about the site worth checking out. For more Moche history, travelers to Trujillo can also visit the Moche Pyramids, Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna. Literally translating to “Pyramid of the Sun” and “Pyramid of the Moon,” this is where it is believed priests carried out bloody human sacrifices.

puno Puno

While there isn’t too much beauty in the actual city of Puno, you will find a lot of culture. Indigenous markets, authentic eateries serving three course meals for $1 and an array of unique transportation modes like go-karts and tuk-tuks abound. The main reason to go to Puno, however, is for the boat trips to the more beautiful areas of Lake Titicaca. Visit the man-made floating islands of Uros, made entirely out of reeds, while meeting the indigenous Uru people. You can also take a boat ride out to the traditional collectivist island of Taquile, known for its untouched beauty and locals who make handwoven textiles and clothing. These handicrafts are said to be of the highest quality in Peru. Moreover, the island has a unique method of tourism where cultural programming and homestays are the focus, which allows you to really get to know the people and their way of life.

Huaraz

Huaraz is a hiker’s paradise, and if you love unusual landscapes, this is a city you must visit on a vacation to Peru. It’s in the Cordillera Blanca region, an area of Peru’s Northern Sierra. Trekkers can go to the “House of Guides” for complimentary trail information. If you’re looking for a lengthy hike, go from Santa Cruz to Llanganuco. This four- to five-day excursion reaches 15,583 feet and allows you views of Huascaran, Peru’s highest peak, beautiful valleys and crystal lakes. Along with hiking, visitors can enjoy mountaineering, rock climbing, biking, markets, archaeological sites, museums and parks.

Chivay

The main reason to visit the town of Chivay is to take in the natural beauty of “the world’s deepest canyon,” Colca Canyon. At 13,650 feet deep, it is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Hike the volcanic landscape, view ancient cave art and take in the unique scenery of the area. In Chivay, you’ll also be able to enjoy natural hot springs, an astronomical observatory and cultural markets.

Huanchaco

If you love surfing, the beach town of Huanchaco is the perfect place to add to your Peru itinerary. Surfers of all levels can enjoy the good wind and swell direction, with swells ranging from 3 feet to 8 feet or more. It can also be interesting to learn about the ancient fishing tradition that is still practiced today. You’ll notice numerous “cabalitos de torta,” or “little reed horses.” They get their name from the way they are straddled by fishermen when taking their nets into the water to catch fish. Interestingly, these boats are made of the same reeds used by the people of the Uros Islands to create their man-made floating islands. For a bit of culture, visit the town center of Huanchaco with colonial architecture, historic churches and peaceful squares.

amazon jungle Iquitos

Located in the Amazonas region of Peru, Iquitos offers opportunities to visit the largest tropical forest in the world, the Amazon Jungle. Adventurous travelers can take boat rides to view wildlife such as crocodiles, anacondas, monkeys, boas and more. There’s also trekking, visiting indigenous communities and bird watching on the Amazon tours. Other experiences to have in Iquitos include visiting butterfly farms, monkey sanctuaries, manatee orphanages, animal rescue centers and national reserves.

Nazca

The main reason people visit Nazca is to see the famous Nazca Lines, the ancient geoglyphs in the Nazca Desert. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was believed to have been created by an ancient Nazca culture between 400 and 650 A.D., can be enjoyed on land or by viewing the site overhead from a helicopter. The Nazca Lines, however, aren’t the only reason to visit this city. There’s also hiking, sandboarding, a vibrant Sunday market, the Pardeones Ruins and Chauchilla Cemetery, which is full of mummified bodies.

Arequipa

The second most popular city in Peru, Arequipa lies in the Andes Mountains with excellent views of El Misti Volcano, which you’ll be able to climb if you wish. Walking around, you’ll notice Spanish-style buildings from colonial times made of pearly-white volcanic rock. Because of this unique architecture, Arequipa’s historical center was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2000. Other activities of interest in the city include visiting the traditional neighborhood of Yanahuara, exploring the Santa Teresa Convent & Museum of Colonial Art and trekking through the Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve.

[Above images via Jessie on a Journey; Gallery images via Big Stock, AgainErick, and Jessie on a Journey]

Relaxing In Peru’s Best Beach Town: Mancora

mancoraAfter hiking the Inca Trail outside Cuzco and exploring the museums in the bustling city of Lima, many travelers agree they crave nothing more than a relaxing setting and a beautiful beach. If you’re making your way north, a worthwhile stop is Mancora, thought by many locals and tourists to feature Peru‘s best beaches.

Getting There

If you’d like to make the journey in style and comfort, my recommendation is to take the Cruz del Sur bus company. Backpacking six countries in South America, I definitely had my fair share of questionable bus rides; however, Cruz del Sur was the best company I traveled with on the entire continent. Not only do they check bags and do body scans for safety reasons, they feed you a delicious hot meal, show movies in English or Spanish with subtitles, have comfortable reclining seats and provide you with a pillow and blanket. And, the bathrooms were clean and stocked with toilet paper and soap, something almost unheard of on bus transportation in South America.

If flying, the closest airports are in Piura, Tumbes or Talara. When flying internationally, you’ll need to travel to Lima first, and then take a national flight to one of the three cities.peruvian foodFood

Luckily, there are many typical Peruvian restaurants in town. This means you’ll be able to easily find and enjoy local, affordable eateries. The most I ever paid for a meal in Mancora was 5 nuevo soles (about $1.80) on a set menu, which includes a starter, entree and refreshing glass of juice. A usual lunch would be a large bowl of chicken noodle soup followed by either baked chicken with rice and potatoes or goat or beef with rice, salad and beans.

Mancora is also a great place to sample some fresh ceviche, or cebiche, as you’ll see it written on restaurant signs.

markets To Do

When in Mancora, the best thing you can do is absolutely nothing. The town is very different from many of the popular tourist spots in Peru, and has an amazingly laid-back vibe and stress-free atmosphere. Walking down the main street, you’ll see people browsing beach-inspired markets, locals relaxing with a newspaper, playing cards or enjoying a delicious meal, and travelers with dreadlocks and baggy pants twisting each others’ hair and weaving bracelets in the sun. At the hostel I stayed at, many of the staff were backpackers who had simply fallen in love with the lifestyle of the area and didn’t want to leave.

Still, there are things to do if you so please. Most importantly, spend time on the beach. Here you’ll not only be able to sunbathe and go swimming, you’ll also be able to partake in a range of water sports and adventure activities, like surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, kitesurfing and horseback riding. I’d also recommend watching the sunrise or sunset at least once while you’re there, as the beach is such a peaceful place to watch the colorful show of nature.

whale watching If you’re in town during August, September or October, it’s definitely worth it to book a whale watching tour. During that time, humpback whales swim from Antarctic waters to breed during reproduction season. Participants have an 80 percent chance of seeing the whales diving, breaching, swimming and playing.

In Mancora, there are also many places to partake in yoga. You’ll pay about S/.20 for 90 minutes, and will feel invigorated for the rest of the day. To find a center, just walk along the beach near the hotels and you’ll find signs advertising the service. I recommend checking out Samana Chakra and Mancora Yoga: A Center for Radiant Living.

To help you relax even further, getting a massage is an option in this chill beach village. The most reputable spa in the area is Origenes Spa, which offers holistic and specialized treatments – like cooling cucumber for sunburn if you’re like me and forget how strong the sun is in Mancora. Depending on what you get will depend on the price, but some examples include a 60-minute aromatherapy massage (about $58), a honey and cucumber facial (about $52) a 2-hour fertility ritual (about $112) and a 30-minute floral bath (about $52). To see the complete menu, click here.

There is also a woman named Sarah Lane who was recommended by my hostel, who gives massages on the beach from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You can find her near the Quebrada entrance of the beach – email her at sarahlanetherapies@gmail.com or visit her website.

ernest hemingway Day Trips

Located about an hour out of town is Cabo Blanco. Here, you’ll find the charming fishing village where Ernest Hemingway used to hangout and drink Pisco Sours while writing brilliant text like “Old Man and the Sea.” The location is also where the author caught a 700-pound Marlin fish. If you’d like an informational tour, Pacific Adventures offers a “Hemingway Route” trip that visits all the spots that inspired this legendary writer. For surfers, Cabo Blanco is also known as one of the best places in Peru for the sport.

Another day trip option is to travel about 30 minutes northeast to Poza de Barro, where you’ll find a natural hot spring and mud bath. Not only is it relaxing, a soak in the bubbling, sulfurous water is said to be good for your health, curing skin ailments, mineral deficiencies, rheumatic conditions, stress and eliminating toxins. The trip costs about S/. 35 (about $13) round trip.

dj Nightlife

Most of the nightlife scene revolves around the hotels and hostels. Loki Mancora is the most notorious party spot in the city, and visitors should get there before 10:00 p.m. or risk being charged an admission fee. The Point Mancora Beach also puts on regular theme parties, including their monthly Full Moon Party, which features a live DJ spinning near the pool (shown right). After 2:00 a.m., head to Cocos Beach Club or Charlie Brown’s in town to finish the night.

[Images via Jessie on a Journey, Jessie on a Journey, Jessie on a Journey, Pacifico Adventures, JFK Library, The Point Mancora Beach]

Budget Travel’s ‘Cheapest Place in the World’ Not So Cheap

When my news feeder gave me the headline “Cheapest Places in the World,” I clicked excitedly on the link, anticipating a new traveler’s hot spot, a place where I might travel on $30 a day at the most.

I was wrong. Budget Travel’s “cheapest place,” Mancorá, Peru, may be inexpensive for someone who can afford a vacation, but it’s far beyond my backpacker’s budget. Usually when I buy a plane ticket to somewhere far, far away, it means I’m going to be gone a good long while. And if that’s the case, there are no $40/night hotel rooms — my budget ranges from $60-100 a day (Europe) to $20 a day (India). If I’m headed to Peru, I’m going to be shopping for the cheapest possible accommodation, and I have a feeling it can get a lot cheaper than $40 for a bed. Ditto for eating — Budget Traveler suggests that a $6 meal is a bargain, but the writers obviously haven’t looked to street food for their culinary delights. As we’ve written about the merits of eating street food many times here at Gadling, I won’t say more than this: Street food is generally less risky, much tastier, and a lot cheaper than restaurant food, especially if said restaurants are anywhere near tourist hot spots.


Get more tips for enjoying budget travel!

So, who is Budget Travel catering to? I’m guessing it’s the demographic I’m increasingly less a part of: the unattached, DINKs (Double Income No Kids), 20- 30-somethings who have the same travel bug in their veins from studying or volunteering abroad when they were younger, but who can afford to class up their travels just a notch. But for now, Budget Travel’s recommendations are a bit out of my budget.

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