“Great things never came from comfort zones.”–Unknown
Hopefully, you’ve read my earlier blog post: 5 Sites To See In Peru Besides Machu Picchu
That will give you the first 5 sites I 1,000% recommend not missing. Here are 5 more, plus tips on how to get there and reasons to see them!
1. Lake Titicaca
What: Lake Titicaca has a huge role in the Andean belief system. The lake itself is shaped like a jaguar, which has a major role in the Incan belief system. (Do some research on it. It’s extremely interesting and worth the effort). It is the highest navigable body of water in the world as well as one of the biggest lakes in South America.
Where/How To Get There: It is located on the border between Peru and Bolivia so it is possible to visit from either country. We booked a kayaking tour and left from Puno. We took an overnight bus to Puno, which was very easy from Arequipa. The tour picked us up in a taxi and took us back to the hotel at the end of the day.
Cost: $40 per person. We used Andean Ways as our tour company. Highly recommend!
Why: The kayaking trip included not only a 4 hour kayaking trip around a portion of the lake, but also an extremely well-informed and fun guide, a trip to the Uros Islands which are made entirely of reeds and the whole community is floating on these reeds (you get a tour of these and a demonstration of how they are made), a trip with a fisherman who shows you how to fish traditionally, and you can also visit Taquile as an add-on.
The water is pretty trash-filled when you first start the kayak tour, but the water becomes crystal clear the further from Puno you are. The views are breathtaking and I do not say that lightly. My pictures came out looking like the water was a mirror and seeing an entire community living on a floating reed mat was pretty dang incredible. Prepare to take a whole day for this trip. You can go at your own pace, but I recommend being in decent health. Bring sunscreen!
Guide or No Guide: You can only take a kayaking trip with a guide. The price is well worth everything that is included. It was one of the highlights of our trip. I cannot recommend this day trip enough! Book this trip a few days in advance!
2. Moray and Maras Salt Mines: (Pronounced More-Eye and Mah-Ras)
What: Moray is an agricultural experiment conducted by the Incas. There are a series of three circular terraces (one large and two smaller). Each level on the terrace has a slightly different temperature and climate allowing the Incas to grow crops/plants that would not normally be able to be grown in the Andean mountains.
Maras is a salt mine that has been in operation for over 2,500 years. I include these two sites together because most people, myself included, visit both sites in one day and they are very close together.
Where/How To Get There: There are several ways to take the half day trip to Moray and Maras.
- Collectivo– These buses leave whenever they are full and come back whenever they have a full bus at the other end of their destination. They are the cheapest option, but if you need to have your whole day planned down to the minute this might not be the best option for you.
- Book a tour with a company. This is probably the most expensive option, but the day trip should not be too expensive, to begin with. Look around and ask your hotel for a reputable company.
- Hire a taxi. We used this option and it ended up coming with a guide.
Cost: The taxi cost about 120 sol. They drove us there from Cusco and waited while we toured the sites, which take about an hour each. A guide was included in this price. Moray costs 70 sol to enter if you don’t have the tourist ticket. It is included in the tourist ticket (I highly recommend it). Maras costs an additional 10sol per person.
Why: Moray is extremely unique. We visited over 10 sites and never saw anything remotely similar. It is an engineering work of art and was really neat to visit. Maras was impressive in that it was absolutely massive and has been running non-stop for thousands of years. Each square is fed by one of two streams. The locals have called them male and female streams and both have different properties and originate in the Pacific Ocean. The salt and water change color depending on the season. There are different kinds of salt and you can buy all of them onsite.
Guide or No Guide: I liked having a guide because we learned so much more about the two sites. However, we didn’t get to linger or stay as long as we would have normally. We didn’t feel rushed but wished we could’ve walked around without a guide for some of it especially the Moray site.
Pro tip: Make sure you tell your taxi to wait for you to come back and to not leave. Some will automatically wait for you, but it is not guaranteed unless you ask.
What: Once the seat of the Incan empire and later invaded by the Spanish, Cusco is a vibrant city and one of Peru’s largest, however it does have a more homey feel to it. You will be constantly bombarded with people trying to sell you things however there is so much to see and do. Making Cusco a base during your Peruvian travels is a fantastic decision.
Where/How To Get There: You can fly directly into Cusco and buses run there many times a day.
Cost: Depends on the activity. There are many free things to do and nearby sites you can explore. You can buy your tourist ticket here as well.
Why: The architecture alone is a great reason to visit. The Spanish demolished the Incan temples and replaced them with the European style architecture while using the Incan foundations. Many Incan artists were commissioned or forced to paint paintings for the churches and included many of their own culture’s motifs. We spent a week in Cusco and were never bored. The food is also fantastic and there is a great variety. Here’s a list of what not to miss in Cusco:
- Choco Museo– You get to make your own chocolate!
- Qorikancha (spelled many different ways)–Museum and a great example of Spanish and Incan architecture in one building.
- Sacsayhuaman is a 10-minute drive from the center of town
- Plaza des Armas
- Tambomachay is a short distance away
- Pisac is a great day trip
- Puka Pukara–Nearby ruins
- Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus
- Iglesia de Santo Domingo
- San Blas market and shopping district
- Museo de Arto Precolombiano
- Museo Inka
As you can see there is something for everyone. You can do as many or as few as you’d like in a day or however long you have there. Do some research and make sure you don’t miss out on the things you want to see most!
Guide or No Guide: It is very easy to get around the city without a guide. There is always someone nearby such as a shop owner who can give you directions if you get lost. Taxis are always around as well.
4. Quenko (Pronounced Ken-Ko)
What: A little off the beaten path site most tourists miss.
Where/How To Get There: A relatively short walk or taxi ride from Sacsayhuaman. If you’re already visiting Sacsayhuaman it is worth going to see.
Cost: Included in the tourist ticket
Why: The Inca used this site as a ceremonial and religious area. Llamas were sacrificed here and taken to Sacsayhuaman for the next part of the ceremony. There is also a site called Little Quenko and is located in between Quenko and Sacsayhuaman.
Guide or No Guide: We opted for no guide because we brushed up on the history beforehand and received a lot of information about it at Sacsayhuaman.
What: The third largest city in Peru and one that is not crowded with tourists.
Where/How To Get There: Buses run here multiple times a day. We traveled from Ica to Arequipa by bus and then on to Cusco.
Cost: Depends on the activity, but many things are free
Why: This city is full of charm and welcoming people. We learned so much there from going to the museums, talking to the locals and visiting the archaeological sites nearby. Some places you can’t miss are:
- Plaza des Armas–Go during the day and night! It’s two different kinds of beautiful.
- Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa
- Monasterio de Santa Catalina
- Colca Canyon day trip
- Museo Santuarios Andinos
- Whitewater rafting day trip
- Hiking Mount Misti volcano day trip
Guide or No Guide: This city is so easy to walk around. You don’t even need to hire a taxi! Maps are provided at hotels and hostels. Loved every second here!