Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Peru

DCIM101GOPRO Robert getting up close and personal with a baby alpaca © Robert Diaz

Robert Diaz, eCommerce Coordinator for the Americas at Lonely Planet, is just back from Peru.

In a nutshell… Peru definitely has a little something for everyone, and even three weeks wasn’t enough time for me to touch on it all: beaches, hiking trails, volcanoes, Machu Picchu, hot springs, fantastic cuisine, cathedrals, museums and wonderfully friendly locals all surpassed whatever sense of expectation I had going into the trip. It will take me a second or third trip to see and experience all that I want to check out.

Defining moment? Watching the fog lift after getting to the entrance of Machu Picchu in a pure white out. The slow but gorgeous unveiling of the Incan city couldn’t have been scripted more beautifully. I’d seen the pictures a thousand times before, but it still didn’t prepare me for seeing the site first-hand.

You’d be a muppet to miss… Machu Picchu is the holy grail for most travelers to Peru, and it certainly is breathtaking, but there is so much more to see. My personal highlight was gazing over the vast landscapes of the Sacred Valley and the Colca Canyon. Miles of farming terraces were built on these beautiful hillsides and valleys, and it’s pretty magical seeing them still in use to this day. Along the valley’s winding roads there are several lookouts where, if you’re lucky with the weather, you can spot Andean condors soaring over the Colca Canyon – sadly, due to regular January fog, I was not so fortunate.

DCIM101GOPRO Breathtaking views over the Colca Canyon © Robert Diaz

Good grub? Peru has some of the best cuisine in the world, and the tastiest flavors I’ve ever eaten. Traditional Peruvian fish and mixed seafood ceviche (caught that day!) was delicious, but the vegetarian plantain ceviche, from an Amazonian-style restaurant in Lima, was one of my favorites – I’d never had such a variety of spices and flavors in a single meal. But whilst everything I ate was delicious, I couldn’t bring myself to venture as far as the roasted cuy (guinea pig) that many restaurants offer.

Get any souvenirs? I got a kiss from a baby alpaca, who was admittedly there just for travelers’ photo ops, but it was worth the tip of a few soles to the local who had dressed it up with colorful accessories to match her traditional attire.

Fave activity? Dune buggy adventures and sandboarding just outside the little oasis town of Huacachina in January – a time when I would usually be snowboarding back home – is something I’ll never forget. I also enjoyed the Peru Hop bus that took me out of Lima with an open-ended ticket, allowing me to hop on and off in various cities at my own pace. I met dozens of fellow travelers from all around the world and saw a number of amazing sights including a glimpse of the famous Nazca Lines. If I had had more time I would have taken it all the way through Bolivia as well.