I’ve been lucky enough to experience quite a lot of different locations and environments within Peru. The cities, both new and ancient, definitely have their charms, but this country is filled with so much natural beauty that just begs to be seen and explored and there is still so much for me to discover (the Amazon rainforest and the region of Cajamarca, to name just a couple).
In honour of Earth Day today I wanted to share with you some of my favourite areas of natural beauty here in Peru.
THE GLACIAL LAKES
Last year I visited a few of the incredible glacial lakes in the Huascaran National Park; Laguna Paron and the two lakes of Llanganuco. High up in the Cordillera Blanca mountains lie a number of turquoise pools fed by the glacier run off from above and they are honestly some of the most incredible places I have ever visited. The turquoise water is surrounded by mountains, some black, and some topped with snow and along the banks are dotted incredible terracotta coloured trees that can survive the high altitude. One of my ‘must see’ spots here in Peru.
THE NIGHT SKY OVER LAKE TITICACA
This one technically doesn’t belong to Peru, however I saw one of the clearest night skies I have ever witnessed from the island of Amantani. Lake Titicaca is a bit of a natural wonder in itself, but the fact that there is almost no light pollution here means you can see the sky so clearly at night. Whilst walking in the pitch black back to our homestay, I couldn’t help but just stare upwards whilst walking as I was so mesmerised by the sight. I don’t think I had ever seen so much of space with my own eyes before, and I will never forget it.
The flight of the condor is the main attraction here in Colca Canyon, but even the canyon itself is pretty fabulous, adorned with patchwork fields. The Condor is Peru’s national bird and it has one of the largest wingspans in the world. People flock to the Cruz del Condor lookout daily to see the magnificent birds soar over their heads and the experience is pretty magical if you’re lucky enough to see them. Another secret of the canyon is the river’s hot springs. There are natural pockets of heat that warm up the water and places like the Colca Lodge use the water to heat the rooms and to feed their little outdoor pools. Incredible.
THE NORTHERN BEACHES
Well, the coastline of Peru is obviously all natural, but you know how I feel about the beaches around the northern coastal town of Punta Sal. They are so gorgeous and clean, and if you visit at the right time of year (not December to Easter, or any national holidays), you’ll get the amazing Punta Sal beaches basically almost to yourself. We walked along the sand almost every night for sunset and rarely ever did we have a disappointing one. It’s just so beautiful there! Plus, you might even catch a glimpse of a huge sea lion, like we did, as they roam the waters here. Failing that, there are always so many crabs to watch scuttle around.
It’s my dream to see as many species of penguin that I can in their natural habitats around the world, so to be able to see the Humboldt penguins on the Islas Ballestas, off the coast of Paracas, was amazing. They were jumping off the rocks as we sailed in the boat past them and I just watched them for as long as I could instead of taking any photos. My camera at the time had just failed on me and my phone wasn’t going to do them any justice, so I just soaked up the moment in the present, not wanting to miss a single second. There is also lots of other wildlife here, like terns, pelicans and sea lions, so even if you don’t get to see the penguins, there’s still so much more.
HIKING IN THE SACRED VALLEY
The Sacred Valley is huge so there are many ways to explore it and see it for yourself, but my highlight was doing the Inca Trail. Trekking the Camino del Inca was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I highly, highly recommend that you visit Machu Picchu this way instead of by bus, if you can. Seeing the valley at first light, spending the day in it, and then falling asleep to the sounds of silence was amazing. The views are insane, the route is absolutely stunning, and all that hard work and effort just makes the prize of Machu Picchu all that more worth it. My parents experienced it in a one day trek to Machu Picchu and they absolutely loved it, so there are shorter options if you can’t manage the full trail. Obviously the ruins left here and the trail itself were man made, but it’s interesting to see the abandoned stone structures along the route having now been reclaimed slightly by nature. Plus they make amazing vantage points to see the incredible views from.
THE CLOUD FOREST
Visiting the cloud forest (a rainforest but at a higher altitude) of Chanchamyo is a wonderful experience, full of tree covered hills, lots of flora and fauna, and incredible waterfalls. We hiked up to a waterfall called the Catarata de Bayoz, which was completely stunning, and had fun jumping into some natural pools, where we were extraordinarily lucky and found ourselves completely alone to enjoy a little soak in the beautiful surroundings. Everywhere was just so green and lush, and with no people it meant that it was so tranquil and peaceful. An amazing place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
THE SAND DUNES OF ICA
Visiting the sand dunes around the town of Huacachina is an absolute must-do. You can hike up them at the crack of dawn or take a dune buggy up and sand board down them. Whatever your choice, you need to experience the ‘out of this world’ landscape. When you’re out in the middle of them, you feel as if you’re on another planet, with no sign of civilisation anywhere except the odd dune buggy in the distance. It’s amazing. Oh and do the sand boarding. It might look a little scary to begin with, but it’s so much fun and absolutely worth it!