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Peru Destinations Travel Tips What to do

Paracas National Reserve and Ica at Glance

If you are in Lima for more than a couple of days and you want to have a trip nearby to escape Lima’s caos and traffic, one of the main destinations selected by visitors is Paracas National Reserve. This is one of the biggest protected desert natural reserve in South America. This sight is located in Ica region, that is why most of the visitors usually make the most of the day also visiting the town of Ica.

This article aims to give you a sample itinerary that you can do in one or two days, this is up to you and you should see how it can fit into the itinerary you planned. You can come back to Lima late at night on the same day or if you prefer you can spend the night in Ica.

Let’s start then! You have to take the bus to Paracas from Lima very early in the morning, around 4:00 am, just check the timetable of the bus company of your preference. I would suggest you to choose Cruz del Sur, which is a very reliable company and it is also considered one of the safest bus lines in the country. The buses are clean and very comfortable! You can actually take advantage of the comfy seats to have a nap during the 3-hour and half trip from Lima to Paracas. Believe this nap is worth it! Just try to rest before your excursion starts, this is going to be a long day.

Once in Paracas, your tour of the reserve will start from “El Chaco” pier, where you board your boat. So first of all you will have a nice and relaxing tour of the reserve by boat during which you could see the famous ”El Candelabro”, a large prehistoric petroglyph of unknown origin spanning over 150 meters high and 50 meters wide, which is considered a mysterious symbol. There are tons of theories on it, one of them states that perhapsthe symbols was used as guide for sailors many years ago. As we approach the islands, you will see the rock formations from every angle as well as the different species of animals and birds that habitat the island, like sea lions, Peruvian booby, cormorans, penguins and much more. There are more of 400 species of flora and fauna in the area, so if you are into nature and wild animals, this is the place to visit!

Once you finish this tour you will have to go back to Paracas bus station to start your bus trip to Ica. Once again I suggest you to go with Cruz el Sur. There’s nothing better to relax a bit after the boat ride during the 1 hour and half bus ride from Paracas to Ica. Before starting your Ica city tour I would advise you to grab some lunch, food and wine are delicious in Ica region, so you have plenty of choices. A very good spot to have lunch is the Las Dunas Hotel, just that you know. During the Ica city tour you will have the chance to visit downtown Ica and the places nearby, then I suggest to make a stop at the Regional Museum, where you can see archeological artifacts from prehistorical to colonial eras, as potteries, textils, mummies, among others. They are all objects from the ancient civilizations who occupied the area: Paracas, Nasca, Wari, Ica – Chincha and Inca.

After the visit to the city main spots you can also drop by one of the vineyards located in the area. Do not forget that Ica region is where the majority of Peruvian wines and Piscos are produced. You will have the chance to learn how the Peruvian national spirit, Pisco, is produced, learn about the different types of Pisco and of course you will be able to taste them, as well as the wine produced in the area. The virieties depends on the different kinds of grape used in the elaboration process.

At the end of the day you will visit The Huacachina Lagoon, also called “El Oasis de America”, there you will enjoy a beautiful view and a sunny landscapes, which are very hard to forget. Take a good camara, since during this long day you will have the opportunity to take some great shots. The oasis is surrounded by sand dunes, palms, huarango trees and beautiful houses. In the oasis you can choose to simply relax and enjoy the sun and the stunning landscape or if you are into active holidays you can try the dune buggies activity and the sandboarding. Before jumping on the buggy make sure that you are with a professional driver. You will basically go up and down the dunes with the buggy and it is a lot of fun. If you are traveling with kids, Huacachina is the place to go, they will enjoy themselves a lot there. You can also try sandboard, which is a very common activity in the area. It is like the snowboarding but it is done on the sand, so if you fall down, i twill be on the sand … how amazing!

At the end of this long day, you can just overnight in Huacachina and enjoy an additional half day there, which is highly reccommended, especially if you are traveling with kids, but if you prefer you can also take the night bus back to Lima. Another possibility is that you take the bus to Nazca, sleep there so that you can fly over the Nazca lines very early the next morning. These are options that I can suggest you if you are planning to spend 4-5 days in Lima, this is a great plan for a day or a two-day trip to escape Lima’s caos.

Cusco Peru Destinations Travel Tips

New Regulations For Visiting Machu Picchu

I often receive so many emails regarding the new rules to enter Machu Picchu citadel and the different types of entry tickets available; a big change has been made by the Peru’s Ministry of Culture throughout the Ministerial Resolution No. 070-2007-MC since April 2017. The new resolution entered into force in July 2017 and from that moment a bit of confusion arises from this change for Machu Picchu visitors. Here I try to summarize the main new rules for visitors and the entry tickets available in the clearest way possible.

Machu Picchu entry tickets

Before this new law, Machu Picchu received a maximum of 2,500 visitors per day, but in reality the number of visitors each day was much higher considering the different ticket combinations sold to tourists. To overcome this problem and to preserve the integrity of this charming archeological site, it was necessary to implement this new rules. So as of July 2017, there are two entrance times available for visiting Machu Picchu:

1. From 6:00 am to 12:00 pm
2. From 12:00 pm to 5:30 pm

So passengers need to take in account that they have four hours to visit the citadel from the moment of the entrance. For instance if you enter Machu Picchu at 10:00 am you can stay until 2:00 pm, no more than this. Also consider that for the second slot the entrance is allowed until 4:00 pm, after this time you cannot enter the site anymore and you basically loose your entry ticket. The maximum amount of people allowed during the first slot is 1,200 and during the second slot is 1300, for a total amount of 2,500 people per day.

What should you consider when choosing your entrance time to the citadel? Here some factors you should definitely take in account that can influence your decision:

  • Your train’s arrival time to Aguas Calientes.
  • The waiting time to get on the bus to Machu Picchu. Have in mind that you could stay in line for an average time of one hour-one hour and half depending on the season. During high season you most likely will wait 1 hour and half.
  • The bus ride to Machu Pichu, which lasts about half an hour.

As for the bus to the citadel, the first one leaves at 5:30 am, and there’s a bus every 30 minutes leaving from Aguas Calientes. If you want to see the dawn from the citadel, take in mind that people get to the bus stop at 3:00 am to take the 5:30 am bus, so you should be there very early to do your queue.

Another question I usually receive is: “Is it mandatory to visit Machu Picchu with a tour guide?” Yes, it is mandatory for Peruvians and foreigners. There’s also the possibility to get a two-day ticket to the citadel, in this case it is mandatory to visit the site with a guide only for the first day. The second day you can visit Machu Picchu on your own. A guide can be assigned to a group of macxmum 16 people, for instance if you are 20 people you have to opt for two different tour guides. Tous guides offer two different services:

1. Half-day tour, which includes 2 hours or 2 hours and half guided tour.
2. Full-day Tour, which includes 4 horus or 4 hours and half guided tour.

Huaynapicchu Entry Tickets

Also in ths case there are two time slots to visit Huaynapicchu:

1. From 7:00 am to 8:00 am: you are allow to climb the peak of Huaynapicchu, visit the “Gran Caverna”, most commonly known as the Temple of the Moon (Templo de la Luna in Spanish) and enjoy a visit to Machu Picchu citadel. The hike lasts approximately 3 hours, but if you are a pro hiker you can do it more quickly. If you want to visit the Temple of the Moon, consider an extra hour for your visit. Once you hike the Huaynapicchu you have 3 hours available to visit the citadel. This Huaynapicchu entry ticket will allow you to stay in the archeological site for 7 hours in total.

2. From 10:00 am to 11:00 am: this ticket does not allow you to visit the Temple of the Moon, but after the hike you can visit the citadel as well. This Huaynapicchu entry ticket will allow you to stay in the site for a total of 6 hours.

The maximum amount of people for each time entrance is 200, for a total amount of 400 people per day.

Machu Picchu Montaña Entry Tickets

Also in this case there are two time slots:

1. From 7:00 am to 8:00 am
2. From 9:00 am to 10:00 am

This hike is a bit longer than the Huaynapicchu one, you have a total of 5 hours available to finalize it. Just consider that to get there you need approximately 2 hours and then you should consider the same time to get at the bottom of the mountain. This way you have almost one hour to stay on the top of the mountain and enjoy the wonderful view. After this visit you have 3 hours to explore the Machu Picchu citadel, so in total you have 8 hours available. The maximum amount of people for each time entrance is of 400, for a total amount of 800 people per day.

Intipunku Entry Tickets

You can visit the Intipunku, also known as the Sun Gate (Puerta del Sol in Spanish), buying any of the above mentioned  entry tickets (Machu Picchu, Huaynapicchu, Machu Picchu Montaña). The hike lasts aproximately 2 hours-2 hours and half. If you buy the general Machu Picchu Entry Ticket consider that you will have only two hours to visit the citadel after the visit to the Intipunku since you can just stay on the site a total of 4 hours, as I mentioned before. We usually recommend to buy the Huaynapicchu or Machu Picchu Montaña Entry Ticket if you want to visit the Intipunku and after that you have about 3 hours to explore the citadel.

I hope that everything is clear now and that this information can help you choose your entry ticket option for visiting the Machu Picchu citadel and help you understand the new regulations.

Peru Destinations Travel Tips What to do

Six Basic Tips for Hiking Trips

Peru is this place to go on holidays if you love hiking and adventure. There are many different places to discover, some of them located at extremely high elevations. Those are the places where you can be affected by heavy headache, dizziness, hangover, fatigue, shortness of breath and nausea. Altitude sickness, “soroche” as we call it here in Peru is very common for tourist visiting Cusco or Puno, since thoses destinations are respectively located at 3399 and 3827 meters above sea level. But don’t worry, here I give you some useful tips that will help you taking under control altitude sickness or completely avoid it while traveling here:

1. Try to drink “mate de coca” (coca tea) two or three times a day. This hot beverage, very common among Peruvians, tastes good and helps a lot with altitude sickness symptoms. It is made of selected dried coca leaves, which maintain 100% of the properties and vitamins. It especially helps with the shortness of breath and the fatigue.

2. It is necessary on the first days no to make heavy activities so you can enjoy the next days without any problems. So try to rest once you arrive in Cusco or Puno, this is truly the best advice and the most ignored to avoid altitude sickness. I know you guys want to go and have a walk around to discover the place once you arrive, but believe the best thing you can do is to rest for at least a couple of hours. Remember that your body is trying to get used to the least amount of oxygen.

3. Try to avoid heavy food, since your dizziness and nausea can get worse. Your stomach will not tolerate a big amount of food at least for the first couple of days. Also try to avoid fresh vegetables, fresh fruit with skin, fresh cheese and all the food sold on the streets for the first days. Consuming foods that provide energy to your body such as Andean grains (quinoa, kiwicha), fruits, jams, cereals, among others.

4. Drink a lot of liquid during your trip, because the height dehydrates, it is good to drink between 4 to 5 liters of water per day.

5. As for the clothes, it is essential to take with you same hats and glove for the cold, but also a raincoat because the weather can change very often, so it is better to be prepared. Also trekking sticks, preferably two in rainy months so that you can use them as support.

6. Bring sunblock, it helps you avoiding sunburns, that can also bring you headache and dizziness. Remember that the sun is very strong at high altitudes, so do not forget your suncream and good hat.

 

Nazca Peru Destinations Travel Tips

Top Things to do in Paracas and Nazca

Paracas and Nazca are often in touristic itineraries, they are two beautiful towns located in Ica region, approximately 3 hours south of Lima. If you are planning to visit just Paracas you can even embark in a day trip. You can reach Paracas by bus or by private transportation from Lima in about 3 hours. There are plenty of things you can do there, many different adventurous activities and beautiful landscapes to enjoy. Here a list of things you must see once there:

Ballestas Island: Early in the morning motor boat leave to Ballestas Islands, in Paracas National Reserve, to observe sea lions, boobies, pelicans, penguins and other marine birds, among the many other species which converge there looking for shelter. On the boat trip tourists can see the famous “Candelabro”, an enigmatic form that many people believe is related to the Nazca lines.

Paracas Reserve: Paracas National Reserve has been declared World Heritage Natural Side by UNESCO. You can visit the Julio C. Tello Museum, the Cathedral and “la Boyeda”, where you can have a short walk around the sea going in to the cave. You can also enjoy the beautiful landscapes from several viewpoints, such as the Wolves and Lagunillas beach. Due to its geographical location the area has the strangest and richest ecosystems in the world.

Chauchilla Cemetery: the Chauchilla Cemetery, 30 km south of Nazca, consists of several tombs containing remarkably well-preserved mummies from the Nazca culture. This is also a very mysterious and spiritual spot.

Nazca Lines: Located on the plains of San Jose and on an extension of 50 km, the geoglyphs represent figures of animals and plants, some of these figures may reach up to 984,3 feet in length and cover an area of 1000 m². These lines constitute one of humankind’s enduring mysteries, as for some recent studies these lines were made by UFOs. So there is a lot of mystery on their existence.

Cahuachi: This immense ceremonial and pilgrimage centre stands in the middle of the desert, and consists of more than 40 mounds, topped with the remains of adobe constructions, with several intact pyramids, cemeteries and elaborate underground tombs –only partially excavated. A wealth of pottery has been discovered here, as well as graves containing only trophy heads. The sands around the area are eerily littered with ancient pottery fragments as well as human femurs and skulls. Cahuachi is reached via a rough 25 km dirt-and-gravel road from Nazca.

Cerro Blanco: Located east of the city of Nazca, the largest sand dune in Peru; ideal for adventure sports such as sand boarding, boogie and paragliding. Here you will have plenty of fun and you will definitely enjoy wonderful landscapes and sunny days! So bring your sun block and a hat.

Ica region is a very nice place to visit in Peru, where you can embark in many different activities and you can enjoy the Pacific Ocean breeze and the sun.

Peru Peru Destinations Puno Titicaca Travel Travel Tips What to do World travel

Top Things to do While in Puno

Puno is located in the south-east region of Peru, located on the shores of the beautiful and mysterious Titicaca Lake, the highest navigable lake in the world. Once you get to Puno, the first thing you should do is to relax and get some rest, since the altitude could make you feel sick. The “soroche” is very common for tourists in this area. Also have a hot coca tea that is very effective to deal with altitude sickness in local people’s opinion. I can swear it actually helps!

Here some sights you should definitely visit:

Jiron Lima: This is Puno’s main street, where you can find restaurants, pubs and several shops. You should not miss a walk along this vibrant street to have an idea of how local people live. This is a pedestrian street which will bring you to Puno’s main square where you can find the Cathedral, Saint John Church and more.

Sillustani: It is an ancient burial ground near Lake Titicaca. The tombs are built above the ground, and filled with symbolism. The inside of the tombs are shaped like a woman’s uterus. The ancient people in Peru believed in a mother earth that created and regulated life. So, when a person died, they were mummified in the fetal position, just like they came into the world. The doors of the tombs face east, because it is believed that is where the sun is born from the mother earth each and every day.

Uros Island: The residents of Uros Island are the Aimaras who have inherited the way of life of the long-gone Uros. Their livelihood is based on the benefits of a unique plant: the “totora” reed. They use it to build their homes, boats and even the floating islands they live on, periodically adding new layers of reeds.

Amantani Island: This Island has lovely landscapes and a community organized like in the ancient time. It is less visited, making it attractive to those seeking peace, quiet and eager to get in touch with local people ad learn their charming traditions. Here you can also opt to spend the night with the villagers in one of their houses; this is a very nice experience that will allow you to fully get in touch with the local community.

Taquile Island: Thirty minutes away from Amantani Island there is Taquile Island, which inhabitants speak only Quechua. Farmers, fishermen and weavers, they wear distinctive outfits, which are usually very colorful. Taquile has several beautiful hills and many archeological sites; from there you will enjoy stunning views of the Titicaca Lake and its beautiful blue sky.

Week-end Market: if you happen to be in Puno on a Saturday you can also visit the local market, located in the city center. There you can find fruit, vegetables, grains, the majority of the varieties of Peruvian potatoes and much more. This is one of the best way to get in contact with local culture.

Also, do not forget that Puno is one of the richest regions when it comes to folklore and traditions; it is actually known as the folklore capital of Peru. You can often see street parades and other kind of celebration during the week-ends or in November, which is the month of the city’s founding and there are many celebrations going on. If you have more tips on Puno, do not hesitate to share it with me in the comments below.