In June 2015 I set out on an amazing trip to Peru & Bolivia in South America. I’d always wanted to see Machu Picchu, that was the main reason for the trip, but I found there was a lot more to see!
I flew from Los Angeles to Lima, then had to wait about 8 hours for the twice daily flight to Juliaca, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, which is the world’s highest navigable lake, roughly 12,500 feet elevation. The elevation was definitely bracing, I’d be out of breath after only a couple short flights of stairs at my hotel and hiking a long distance was pretty much out of the question!
I took a couple day tours on the lake, so beautiful! I visited the floating Urus islands where the native people live on manmade islands in the lake built out of reeds. My second day I went to the Bolivia side of the lake and took a tour of the gorgeous Sun Island, birthplace of the Incan empire. It was so amazing to stand at 12,500 feet looking at white mountains towering thousands of feet above the lake (some reach 21,000 feet high).
My third day I spent riding the bus from Puno down to Cuzco on the Route of the Sun. We stopped at several archaeological sites and a high mountain pass over 14,000 feet high at the base of the mountain which sources the Urubamba River which eventually becomes the Amazon.
Cusco is a very beautiful, clean city with a lot of history. My hotel was right by the main square and I enjoyed walking around shopping in the evenings when I was free. I took a day tour to the Sacred Valley of the Inca including the amazing ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
Finally the day arrived around which the whole trip centered! I left about 3am for the train station in Ollantaytambo, then rode a couple hours down to Aguas Calientes which is much lower at only about 6,500 feet elevation (Cusco is over 11k). I was met by an archaeologist guide who hiked with me to the sun gate overlooking Machu Picchu and spent a couple hours taking me through the city explaining many amazing features I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise! I had some free time as well to wander through the ruins. It was so amazing to be there, almost didn’t feel real! What a photographer’s paradise!
After Cusco I flew up to Iquitos in the far north of Peru near the borders of Brazil & Columbia. Iquitos is on the Amazon river, so the climate was completely different! It had been as cold as 22 degrees on Lake Titicaca but Iquitos was 90 and very humid! After spending the night with some friends who live near the airport there I was picked up by the friendly folks from Muyuna Lodge and took a four hour boat ride upstream. The lodge is very far from any city or civilization, right along the river with prime animal habitats all around. My last couple days in Peru were spent riding on the river and finding macaws, monkeys, river dolphins, piranha, toucans, sloths, and caiman!
The first evening at the lodge I experienced probably the most amazing sunset I’ve ever seen. Then after supper we went back out in a canoe after dark. The sounds of the jungle were all around, brilliant stars overhead, and flashes of distant lightning at the edge of the sky–an experience I’ll never forget!
If you ever have a chance to go to Peru it’s highly recommended! It is probably the most beautiful trip I’ve ever taken, I would go back in a second if I ever get a chance! Oh, and the alpaca wool sweaters down there are cheap and so amazing! I brought back five and wished I’d brought a whole suitcase full back!