Peru, the country best known for its Incan heritage, llama’s and the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, is a popular tourist spot. But Peru is more than just what is plastered over Instagram, it is little wonders of this vibrant nation that will have you living like the locals and experiencing their culture.
- Ollantaytambo— A quaint town nestled into the Sacred Valley, just over two and a half hours from Cuzco, is one of the most in-tact Incan towns to date. It was once both a fortress and a temple during the 16th Century where the stairs would lead to the perfect vantage point of the Sacred Valley. Today, hiking up these steps to the temple takes a lot longer than expected but the view from above is practically unchanged from the Incan times. Across from the temple, if you look hard enough, you will notice a carving in the rock face of another mountain. This is Wiracocha, a diety they believed to have created all, carved into the mountain cascading over the small town.Once you reach the top of these stairs, you have the perfect vantage point of the Sacred Valley and the face of Wiracocha–a deity they believed to have created all–carved into the mountain.
Venturing through the ruins of the temple atop the mountain, there is a small door amidst the rubble. It looks like an ancient gateway into the 16th-Century, complete with views of the snow-capped mountains just behind it, and the lush vegetation all around. A door- perfectly fit for an Incan!
2. Huayna Picchu–So we all know that Peru is famous for Machu Picchu, but what about Huayna Picchu? Huayna Picchu is the mountain that towers over the ruins on Machu Picchu and sits idle in the background of most tourist photos. But little do you know, that the view from the top of this mountain ins magnificent. Its about a two and a half hour hike up a mountain, at almost vertical angles at some points forcing you to stop and take a break after every turn, but it is totally worth it! From the top of this mountain, there is a 360 degree view of the whole province, including the ruins of Machu Picchu.
3. Lake Titicaca— In ancient Incan mythology, it was believed that Lake Titicaca was the first place to ever be created, as one of the highest lakes in the world. Situated between Peru and Bolivia, the lake is home to hundreds of people who live on little islands or on floating islands made out of reeds. Take a ride on a boat made out of reeds, and walk into the small reed homes of the Peruvians who live on these floating islands, many using just fish as their main source of diet.
4. The train to Machu Picchu–This is no ordinary train, this is a train equip with windows everywhere so that you don’t miss a thing whilst zooming through Peru. This train ride is a substitute for those not game enough to do the vigorous Inca trail and so instead absorb the ruins and beauty of Peru from the comfort of your chair. The highlight of this train ride, was on the way home when what seemed to be a Peruvian Jester started dancing in the walkway, picking travellers to join him. Then the high pitch screams of the Peruvian women filled the carriage as they announced the fashion show where they would display cultural clothing. This is a must-do, it gives you a little down time before hiking to the high altitudes of Huayna Picchu, whilst meeting other travellers from around the world.
5. Sacsayhuaman— Or pronounced, sexy woman, is a fortress built above the old Cuzco, which at the time was built in the shape of a Puma. Sacsayhuaman sits atop a mountain which now overlooks the old and new cities of Cuzco and is made up of large stones that each perfectly fit with one another,without mortar or form of concrete, miraculously withstanding the pressures of time. It’s vast size is magnificent, with underground sections, plains of grass and mazes of stones, many of which are five times the height of myself!