Peru recap

Peru was the country on my South America itinerary that I was least excited about, but I was so wrong to have underestimated it. I fell in love with the country. It doesn’t matter what kind of scenery or vibe you’re looking for (lakes, mountains, beaches, rainforests, big cities, history, food) – you’ll find it in Peru.

Below is a summary of the locations, accommodations, and transport from my time in Peru.

Puno (November 24 to 26)

  • Accommodation: Cozy Hostel
    • This wasn’t the cleanest hostel I’ve stayed in, but the owner was friendly. He upgraded me from a four-bed dorm with a shared bathroom to a two-bed dorm with an ensuite for free. The free breakfast was decent (if it’s free, I’m not going to be picky), and the common area had a TV with Netflix.
  • Transport to Puno:
    • Four-hour bus ride from Copacabana, Bolivia, booked through Bolivia Hop. I was worried the border crossing would be confusing, so Bolivia Hop offered peace of mind, although it came at a higher price tag. I didn’t need to worry; border crossing was straightforward and painless. It took less than an hour for a bus of about 30 people. If you speak just a little Spanish (or even if you don’t), you can probably manage the border crossing with a cheaper bus company. The driver will make sure everyone gets through the border.
  • Transport within Puno:
    • Although Puno is a midsized city, it was easy to walk from my hostel to attractions like the main plaza and the central market. I took a taxi from my hostel to the bus terminal.
    • A tour company provided transport for my cruise to Uros and Taquile (see “Tour” section below)
  • Tour:
  • Blog post:

Cusco (November 26 to December 6)

  • Accommodation: Ecopackers
    • I stayed here twice (before and after my Machu Picchu trek) and bounced between three types of dorms (four-, six-, and eight-bed), all of which were clean and comfortable. Each dorm had large lockers with outlets. Each bunk had a small shelf and a blanket that was thick enough for the cold nights in Cusco. Shared bathrooms were constantly cleaned. The common room had a fireplace and TV, and the wifi was OK. The free breakfast included several options that changed daily, and the hostel had a restaurant that other guests enjoyed (I didn’t try the food outside of breakfast). The bar was usually empty, but I still met people in my dorms.
  • Transport to Cusco:
    • Seven-hour bus ride from Puno
  • Transport within Cusco:
    • I walked around the Plaza de Armas and San Blas neighborhood. I took taxis from the Cruz del Sur bus station to my hostel and then from my hostel to the airport.
    • Tours (see “Tours” section below) provided transport outside of Cusco.
  • Tours:
  • Blog post:

Lima (December 6 to 10, December 15 to 18)

  • Accommodations:
    • Hostel Alpes (December 6 to 9 and December 17 to 18). This wasn’t the cleanest or fanciest hostel, but the atmosphere was great. I stayed here twice in two dorms (a four-bed dorm with an ensuite and a six-bed dorm with a shared bathroom). The other guests were social and open to meeting new people. My favorite part of the hostel was the rooftop bar, where guests gathered at night. The wifi didn’t work during my stay, which was problematic, as I wanted to do research and plan for onward travel. A few people (including me) switched hostels to get access to reliable wifi. Even with the wifi issues, I stayed here a second time for my last night in Lima just because I liked the hostel so much.
    • Passport (December 9 to 10). Because of the Internet issues at Alpes, my main criterion for a replacement hostel was reliable wifi, and Passport delivered. The wifi was fast – the fastest I’d experienced at this point in South America – and reliable. The owners were welcoming, and the hostel was literally part of their home. The four-bed dorm with an ensuite was clean and huge.
    • KACLLA (December 15 to 17). Check in was slow, but almost everything was good after that. The main feature of the hostel was Pisco, the hairless dog. Pisco wasn’t the friendliest dog I’d met (he didn’t seek out attention from people and seemed to just tolerate petting), but he was guaranteed to get a reaction from every guest. The six-bed dorm had lockers and individual outlets. The wifi was fast, and the breakfast included tasty bread with homemade peanut butter. Interactions with the staff could be hit or miss, but it was easy to strike up conversations with other guests.
  • Transport to Lima:
    • 1.5-hour flight from Cusco
    • Nine-hour bus ride from Huaraz
  • Transport within Lima:
    • I walked in the neighborhoods of Miraflores and Barranco and took public buses to the city center. I took Ubers and taxis to Museo Larco and the Cruz del Sur bus station.
  • Tour:
  • Blog post:

Huaraz (December 10 to 15)

  • Accommodation: Churup Guesthouse
    • The staff was very kind and organized. I stayed in a three-bed dorm, which was clean and included a couch and desk. The room was cold at night, but the blankets on my bed were warm enough that I could comfortably wear short sleeves. The common area on the top floor of the hostel was spacious, with lots of seating and a fireplace. The free breakfast was excellent, with some variety every day. I ordered a packed lunch from the hostel for one of my tours, which ended up lasting me for two days.
  • Transport to Huaraz:
    • Nine-hour bus ride from Lima
  • Transport within Huaraz:
    • I walked in the city center.
    • Tours (see “Tours” section below) provided transport outside of the city center.
  • Tours:
    • Half-day hike to Wilcacocha, full-day tour to Laguna Paron, and full-day tour to Laguna 69, all booked with Quechuandes
  • Blog post:

Paracas (December 18 to 20)

  • Accommodation: Atenas Backpacker Hospedaje
    • After I booked my stay, Atenas sent me a message with tour and transport options, which was helpful for planning. I stayed in two private rooms, which were both clean. The owner hosted a birthday party on my first night, which I got to crash. I still don’t know who was the guest of honor, but everyone plied me with beer, got me out of my seat to dance, and took selfies. I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome.
  • Transport to Paracas:
    • 3.5-hour bus ride from Lima
  • Transport within Paracas:
    • I walked in the town center, which took about 15 minutes.
    • Tours (see “Tours” section below) provided transport outside of the center.
  • Tours:
    • Half-day cruise to Islas Ballestas and half-day tour to the national reserve, booked through Atenas
  • Blog post:

Huacachina (December 20 to 22)

  • Accommodation: Upcycled
    • The hostel had a charming hipster vibe with many seating areas. The six-bed dorm and shared bathroom were very clean, especially considering the hostel was in the middle of a desert. The dorm was hot, but a powerful fan was provided. The staff was friendly and helped book tours. The food, including the free breakfast, was good, and I ended up having all my meals at the hostel.
  • Transport to Huacachina:
    • 1.5-hour van ride from Paracas
  • Transport within Huacachina:
    • I walked between my hostel and the oasis in Huacachina, which took about 15 minutes.
    • A taxi was provided for a wine and pisco tour in Ica.
  • Tours:
    • Half-day wine and pisco tour and afternoon dune buggy tour, booked through Upcycled
  • Blog post:

Nazca (December 22 to 23)

  • Accommodation: Anccalla Inn
    • The owner was kind and sent me a message with tour options before I arrived. She booked my flight over the Nazca Lines. My private room was basic but reasonably priced and had everything I needed for a night. The free breakfast was filling, and the owner played a documentary about the Lines while I ate; I thought this was such a cute touch.
  • Transport to Nazca:
    • 15-minute taxi ride from Huacachina to Ica and then a 2.5-hour bus ride from Ica
  • Transport within Nazca:
    • I walked in the city center.
    • AeroParacas (see “Tours” section below) provided transport to the airport for my flight over the Nazca Lines.
  • Tour:
  • Blog post:

Arequipa (December 24 to January 2)

  • Accommodation: Arequipay Backpackers
    • The staff was nice and helped book tours. The four-bed dorm and shared bathrooms were decently clean. The hostel contained many common areas, including outdoor spaces, a ping-pong table, and a TV room with Netflix. It was easy to talk to other guests.
  • Transport to Arequipa:
    • Ten-hour overnight bus ride from Nazca
  • Transport within Arequipa:
    • I walked in the city center.
    • Tour provided transport to Colca Canyon (see “Tour” section below).
  • Tours:
    • Three-day, two-night tour of Colca Canyon, booked through Arequipay
    • Half-day chocolate workshop at Chaqchao
  • Blog post:

Expenses

During my 40 days in Peru, I spent about $2,315.71, or $57.89 a day. Peru was one of the cheapest countries during my travels (both in Asia and South America), which was an unexpected – but pleasant – surprise.

My expenses were categorized as follows:

  • Entertainment: $816.56
    • This category includes tours, activities, entrance fees, and spa treatments. My three-day, two-night Inca jungle trek to Machu Picchu was the biggest expense (1,033 PEN/~$319), and my flight over the Nazca Lines was the second largest (231 PEN/~$71).
    • In general, tours in Peru were reasonably priced and/or downright cheap (e.g., 119 PEN/$37 for a full-day tour of the Sacred Valley and 150 PEN/$46 for a three-day, two-night trek through Colca Canyon), but entrance fees were often excluded (e.g., 70 PEN/$22 for entrance to Pisac in the Sacred Valley and 70 PEN/$22 for entrance to Colca Canyon). Tours in Huaraz were a steal: a full-day tour to Laguna Paron was 60 PEN/$19 (plus a 5 PEN/$1.50 entrance fee), and a full-day tour to Laguna 69 was 35 PEN/$11 (plus a 10 PEN/$3 entrance fee). Considering that Lagunas Paron and 69 were the highlights of my stay in Peru, this was money very well spent.
  • Food: $602.49
    • At first, I was surprised to learn that food was my second-largest expense. But, maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised: I spent a lot more time in coffee shops than local markets. The food in Peru was generally fresher and more flavorful than in Bolivia, so I was extra excited to indulge my cravings. Although the total shocked me, my average spend on food was $15.06 per day, which seemed OK.
    • My most expensive meal was 70 PEN/$22 for a quesadilla and two pints of beer in Lima (yikes. In my defense, I didn’t choose the restaurant, and the beers were necessary due to the strange conversation I was having). Sushi and lemonade (56 PEN/$17) and ceviche and lemonade (52 PEN/$16) were among my other priciest meals; both of these were also in Lima.
    • Although I didn’t do a good job of hunting for bargain meals, they’re easy to find. 13 PEN ($4) was enough for three addictive empanadas and a hot chocolate in Puno, while 12.50 PEN (less than $4) got me a sandwich the size of my head in Cusco. Cheap lunch sets are everywhere in Peru and most of the other locations I visited in South America. I got a two-course lunch of trout and quinoa for 10 PEN ($3) in Huaraz.
    • I’ve already talked about the food in Lima, but here are a few other shoutouts:
      • Alpaca and llama are delicious, especially in lomo saltado (a dish with meat, rice, potatoes, and vegetables). I don’t have a particular affinity for alpacas or llamas, so I didn’t feel guilty eating them.
      • I wasn’t expecting to find good pizza in Paracas, of all places, but the margherita pizza at Il Covo was excellent.
      • OK, I’ve already gushed about the sandwiches at La Lucha and the avocado toast at El Pan de La Chola in Lima, but they deserve another shoutout. Can we get locations in NYC, please?
    • Unfortunately, I didn’t try cuy (guinea pig). I meant to, but I always found an excuse (e.g., the restaurant serving the best cuy wasn’t within walking distance). Guinea pigs are a common sight in markets, and they’re huge since they’re meant to be served on a dinner plate. People in Huaraz especially raved about cuy, so I’ll have to try it the next time I visit Peru.
  • Accommodation: $470.74
    • I stayed in private rooms in:
      • Paracas (72 PEN/$22 per night)
      • Nazca (65 PEN/$20 per night)
    • I stayed in dorm rooms in:
      • Puno (PEN 25.20/$8 per night for a two-bed dorm)
      • Cusco (ranging from 47 PEN/$14 to 49 PEN/$15 per night for four-, six-, and eight-bed dorms)
      • Lima (ranging from 35 PEN/$11 to 65 PEN/$20 per night for four- and six-bed dorms)
      • Huaraz (59 PEN/$18 per night for a three-bed dorm)
      • Huacachina (50 PEN/$15 per night for a six-bed dorm)
      • Arequipa (33 PEN/$10 per night for a four-bed dorm)
  • Transport: $341.78
    • This category includes a flight from Cusco to Lima ($109), buses, (including a $31.50 Bolivia Hop package from La Paz, Bolivia to Copacabana, Bolivia to Puno), terminal fees, and taxis/Ubers.
    • Ode to Cruz del Sur: let me take a moment to pay tribute to the bus company Cruz del Sur. Before I even stepped foot in Peru, people enthusiastically recommended Cruz del Sur to travel around the country. It’s one of the most expensive bus companies, but I thought the price was worth it. I was floored when I boarded my first bus in Puno: the seats resembled padded armchairs, and each had its own entertainment screen. I became a loyal customer after that first journey and used Cruz del Sur exclusively. Meals and snacks are provided for longer journeys. Drivers are under strict rules to obey the speed limit and switch shifts every four hours. Service can vary (some attendants are on the ball, while others are indifferent), but the on-board experience is consistent, and you can buy tickets online. Prices ranged from 50 PEN/$15 for a 2.5-hour ride from Ica to Nazca to 140 PEN/$43 for a ten-hour overnight ride from Nazca to Arequipa.
      • To be fair, less expensive buses are probably a better option if you’re going on a shorter, daytime journey. Cruz del Sur might have been overkill for the 2.5-hour ride from Ica to Nazca. However, for an overnight bus ride, I make no apologies for spending extra money. Although I can sleep almost anywhere (as long as no one is snoring), overnight bus rides are more taxing for me than red-eye flights. I’m willing to hand over more cash for a more restful night of sleep.
  • Miscellaneous: $217.43
    • I got a Claro SIM card (10 PEN/$3), which worked well throughout the country. Even after using numerous SIM cards in different countries, I’m still confused about what exactly a top up is. Blame my lack of tech savvy (although this can’t be that complicated) and the fact that Americans usually have yearlong or multi-year cell phone contracts. The data on my phone stopped working a couple of times, so I assumed I had used up my plans. As a result, I topped up twice (20 PEN/$6 for 1 GB of data and 30 PEN/$9 for 3 GB).
    • The rest of this category included laundry, towel rentals, restroom fees, toiletries (including insect repellent), and a poncho.

Below are a couple of noteworthy destinations that I missed:

  • The Amazon. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not a rainforest or jungle person. I get that the Amazon is an important and vibrant ecosystem, but I’d prefer to watch documentaries about it rather than visit. If you aren’t rainforest-averse like me, Iquitos in northeastern Peru is a common base for tours and cruises.
  • Mancora. If you’re looking for a beach destination in Peru, Mancora in the north might be your best bet. I was seriously thinking about squeezing in some beach time before going further south, but I decided that just a few nights in Mancora weren’t worth the money and time to get there.

My general observations from Bolivia carried over to Peru. However, there were a couple of other things I noticed while in Peru:

  • I had met only a handful of American and Canadian travelers in Bolivia, but they were everywhere in Cusco. I’m not complaining; it’s nice to share common ground with other travelers. However, it was a bit of a jolt to hear American and Canadian accents all the time after having met mostly European travelers in Bolivia.
  • If you don’t like pisco, you’ll learn to like it once you’re in Peru. It might taste like rocket fuel when taken straight up, but I was told that Peruvians almost never drink it plain. Pisco sours can be sickly sweet, but it’s your traveler duty to have one – or a few – while visiting Peru.

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