Alpaca My Bags For PeruLocation: Peru • 26 Jan
In late October and early November, I visited various regions in Peru for 2 weeks from Lima, to the highlands, to even Machu Picchu, the scenery was simply majestic. I was able to visit so many places on a budget thanks to the travel company, Contiki that’s available to 18-35 year olds worldwide. Plus, Contiki is a very safe and affordable way to see the world. I did the Inca Panorama Contiki tour with the one day Inca Trail hike to Machu Pichu.
If you’re looking for an international destination where you can get the biggest bang for your buck, then you should look into going to Peru.
Tips to know before you go:
Only drink bottled water. Avoid tap water at all costs, so you don’t get sick. Make sure you don’t eat any raw veggies or fruit that was washed under local tap water. Also, brush your teeth with bottled water. I was really careful when I was in Peru, and I still managed to get sick with a stomach infection for 4 days, where I couldn’t keep food down.
Since the plumbing is so bad in Peru, flushing toilet paper is not permitted. All toilet paper has to be disposed of in the trash can next to the toilet.
Cocaine leaves are legal in Peru and are a remedy to prevent altitude sickness. I wasn’t a fan of chewing on the leaves (which is recommended at high elevation), but I recommend using them in a cup of tea by putting them in hot water along with some mint. You can also buy coca candy as well.
Miraflores was one of my favorite areas of Lima. I felt really safe walking around the area by myself as a female, who can hardly speak any Spanish.
If you continue on the walking path for a couple of miles, you’ll arrive at the beach.
I really loved the Government Palace, where the President of Peru resides. It was so cool to watch the changing of the guards at noon.
It was such a treat getting to see the fountain light show during The Magic Water Circuit.
After Lima, it was off to Arequipa, which is considered “the desert” because it’s so dry and humid. It was so hot in Arequipa that I even wore shorts while I was there.
While we were in Arequipa, we toured the Santa Catalina Monastery, which had beautiful white and red clay buildings that were adorned with either beautiful flowers or cacti.
I’m all the way up… 16,500 ft in elevation to be exact. It was so windy that we had to dress in layers. I highly recommend eating some coca leaves or coca candy before going to a high altitude like this.
In the highlands, embroidery is a way of life and indicates status level. The more embroidery a woman has on her skirt, the wealthier her family is perceived to be. Women also wear embroidered vests, blouses, and hats. When I visited the town of Maca, the locals invited me to dress up in their clothes so I could blend in.
The women also wore a cloth on their back to carry a child or goods. Most of the women in the highlands wore a floppy hat as well.
One of my favorite regions was Lake Titicaca, the highest elevated lake in the world. It’s comprised of many small islands, each with its own diverse culture and lifestyle.
The first island I visited was Uros, the floating islands, where women are in charge. As Beyoncé would say: “Who Run the world? Girls!” Different families occupy each island individually. Apparently, the best part about living on a floating island is if you don’t get along with your neighbor, all you have to do is lift up the anchor securing your island, and float right down the lake to a new spot of your choosing!
When I arrived on Uros, I was greeted by singing, smiling women dressed in bright, cheerful colors. I loved all of their colorful midi skirts, vests, and knit hats. I later found out that these women wear 7 other layers under their bright skirts—I couldn’t imagine how they do this in the Summer, since I was already hot in the 70 degree weather. Additionally, married women wore black pom poms in their hair, while single girls wore colorful pom poms in their hair in order to attract suitors from one of the other floating islands. The locals were so welcoming that they even let me dress in their clothes, so I could feel at home on their island.
My second stop on Lake Titicaca was the island of Taquile. Taquile is known for being a large farming and fishing island. Taquile may sound familiar to you because this community is internationally famous for knitting and embroidery thanks to UNESCO, who named the island a world heritage site to protect its culture. There are no cars or commercialization on the island. In fact, you have to walk everywhere. Men take on a lot of roles that women usually do, such as knitting and embroidery. Hats are the center of this culture’s style—a married man carries the hat his wife makes for him everywhere. In other words, he carries his wife everywhere with him. In order for a man to get married, they must prove to their girlfriend that they can knit a hat that can hold water. If the hat holds water, then that means the man is a good worker and suitor.
While I was on the island of Taquile, I had the pleasure of listening to native flute music and dancing with some of the locals. The women on the island wore 10 layer skirts—yes, you heard me right: 10 layers! I thought it was interesting that each layer was a different color, which was especially beautiful when the women spun around while they were dancing.
Cusco, The Sacred Valley, & Machu Picchu:
One of the last places I visited was the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, which were even more spectacular in person than I could have ever imagined. During my trek through the Sacred Valley, I stopped at an Alpaca factory and learned all about the weaving and dyeing processes of the fur. They use a lot of materials from nature, such as insects for the dyeing process. They even use a human baby’s urine to maintain the dye color, which was surprising to hear.
Unfortunately, I’m not able to give you any tips on where to go in Cusco because I was sick the entire full day I was there. A doctor even had to pay me a visit at my hotel.
The one day Inca Trail hike was one of the hardest things I’ve ever signed up for in my life. We hiked 8 miles, which would have been day #3 of the 5 day Inca Trail hike. I kid you not when I say that we hiked up 150 flights of stairs and down another 150 flights of stairs. The stairs uphill were so steep in certain sections that I was practically rock climbing. Ok, more like crawling because I didn’t want to fall backwards and die (slight exaggeration) lol. The worst part about the hike was that I didn’t have enough water. I packed 3.5 liters of water. Luckily, a friend gave me some water who had enough to spare. I drank close to 6 liters of water that day. I was in pretty good shape before the hike. I trained for the Inca Trail by walking up and down all 31 flights of stairs in my high rise building. The hardest part about the hike is that most of the downhill stairs are in the last 45 minutes of the hike, which was very difficult on my left knee after already hiking close to 7 miles.
I wanna be forever young. Wiñay Wayna means “forever young” in quechua (Incan language). The picture below shows the Inca ruins of Wiñay Wayna, which were along the Inca Trail.
I highly recommend hiking the Inca Trail from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. The views alone were incredible. The pictures don’t do it justice.
I had this post card llama-nated for you!
Machu Picchu was such a magical place, and it was everything that I could have ever imagined. A few of my friends and I loved it so much that we even hiked the ruins twice in one day to find all of the best angles (like the ones you see in magazines or in textbooks). If you don’t do the Inca trail hike, the only way to get to and from Machu Picchu is by bus (which you have to purchase a ticket for). You take the bus from Aguas Calientes, the closest town to Machu Picchu. The town is very hilly and is packed with tourists. To give you an idea, most of the narrow alleys and streets are for foot traffic only.
I highly recommend leaving for Macchu Picchu as early as possible in the morning. I remember we left the hotel around 6:30 or 7 AM to wait almost an hour in a bus line that was 5 city blocks long. The later you get there in the morning the longer the line will be. Same goes for getting into Machu Picchu and going through security.
After exploring Machu Picchu, we returned to Cusco for the night just in time to celebrate Halloween. It was a great last hoorah with the Contiki gang. The city squares were packed because of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which is celebrated over 3 days with trick or treating, festivals, and Mass.
Before I left for Peru, I read an article online from Condé Nast that Cusco and the Sacred Valley in Peru is one of the worst destinations for women solo travelers. After reading this article, I was very cautious and aware of my surroundings. Unfortunately, 4 out of 25 people my Contiki group got their phones stolen from pickpocketers. Another girl almost got her wallet stolen, but luckily the bouncer at the bar caught the pickpocketer just in time.
Back to Lima:
The next morning two of my friends (Chris & Dani) and I hopped on a flight back to Lima.
We decide to treat ourselves to a night’s stay at the luxurious, Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel.
We had lunch at a restaurant close to the hotel, La Bonbonniere. Alpaca my bags for their empanadas and burgers.
The next day, I went on a city tour of Lima, where we came across this cool street car in front of The Electricity Museum. After the tour, I went to dinner at one of the restaurants close to the hotel before catching a red eye flight back to Atlanta.
The Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel:
The location of the Belmond Miraflores Park could not have been any better. The hotel boasts fabulous views of the coast. Plus, it’s in walking distance of Lovers Park and the outdoor shopping mall, Larcomar that also has some fabulous restaurants too.
TheBelmond Miraflores Park had a mix of modern and traditional decor. Some of the more modern design elements are located on the hotel’s exterior blue glass facade, the spiral staircase in the lobby, rooftop pool, and abstract art found throughout the hotel. Although a good portion of the furniture was primarily traditional in style, some of the chairs had a more mid-century modern feel due to the slight curvature in the wooden legs. I loved all of the pops of turquoise and orange in the hotel lobby… Plus, isn’t the hydrangea display in the lobby to die for?!?
Our hotel room was located on one of the club levels. Our room was a junior suite, which fit 3 people comfortably. We could even see paragliders passing by our window, which had a fabulous view of the coast. We had a large sitting room area, king size bed, desk, and a pretty big bathroom. The bed was so comfortable that I didn’t want to get up in the morning. I loved the elegant white marble counters and floor in the bathroom.
The Belmond Miraflores Park had a spa, bar, two restaurants (one near the lobby and the other on the rooftop), and a rooftop pool. Watching the sunset from the rooftop pool was a fabulous way to end a great trip. Plus, the pink flowers around the pool were so pretty. Since we were only there for a night, we didn’t get a chance to use the other amenities during our stay.
Breakfast in the morning was served buffet style. The buffet literally had everything that you could ever want: a cereal bar, omelettes cooked to order, pastries, cheese, and charcuterie, to name a few. The pictures above only show a few of many selections that were available. This was hands down the best breakfast buffet I think I’ve ever had.
The service at the Belmond Miraflores Park was exceptional. The hotel went above and beyond to make sure that we had a great stay at the hotel from ordering a Papa John’s pizza for us in Spanish (we were exhausted from the other 13 days of our trip) and accommodating last minute requests for a good tour company in Lima. The hotel even surprised us with a nice fruit basket delivered to our room. Plus, the hotel stored my luggage for 12 hours before I had to leave for the airport.
I highly recommend staying at the Belmond Miraflores Park if you visit Lima. The location, luxury accommodations, food, and service are unbeatable.
Until next time, Peru!