As I outlined in my previous post, I recently finished up my three month “sabbatical” between jobs, and I spent one of those months traveling around Peru with my two younger brothers.
I’ve wanted to go to Peru since I was in 8th grade. One of my teachers, himself an avid traveler, said it was his favorite place he had visited. But 15 years later, I still hadn’t gone! Even though I had been looking forward to this trip and building it up for so long, Peru still didn’t disappoint.
Here’s a quick rundown of how we spent the month, where we stayed, and of course, some restaurant recommendations. If you’re looking for what we spent, check out the original sabbatical post — that breaks it down a bit more.
Lima – 3 Days
We flew into Lima from Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the Kokopelli Hostel in Barranco. We spent 3 full days exploring Lima. During that time, we took a street food tour, wandered around the historic center (including the Plaza de Armas), drank pisco sours, walked along the Malecon, went surfing in the Pacific, and ate a lot of delicious food.
The highlight of these first few days of the trip was definitely surfing. Despite the water being quite cold, the waves were perfect, the views of the cliffs towering above were incredible, and I finished the session feeling exhausted in the best way possible.
Doing research before my trip, a lot of blogs said that Lima was a pretty skippable city that most people only stayed a day or two in and only because most flights fly in or out of Lima. I disagree, I loved Lima and could have spent much longer than we did there. Honestly, I would consider living there if the opportunity presented itself. The weather was perfectly cool and breezy, the views along the coast were stunning, it felt historical and modern at the same time, the people were friendly, and the food…the food.
Lima has an amazing food scene, and this is where we spent some extra time and money. Some favorites were the pork buns in Barrio Chino during the street food tour, a fancy dinner at Merito, and a big family style lunch we shared with some new friends at Isolina.
I really enjoyed getting to share long meals with my brothers during these first few days, it gave us time to talk, catch up, and joke around.
Huacachina – 2 Days
Next up, we took a 5-hour bus to Huacachina to see the sand dunes. While Huacachina itself isn’t much more than a tourist town, the surroundings are truly breathtaking. I was honestly surprised at how majestic the towering sand dunes were in person — it really does feel otherworldly. We didn’t have much time here, but we stayed at Bananas Adventure Hostel, so it was easy to book activities and make the most of our short time.
We took a dune buggy ride, went sand boarding, and watched the sunset from the top of a dune. And in case it just looks majestic to you — walking up a sand dune is an incredible workout (I was crawling at the end). I’m also still finding sand in my shoes two months later — a free souvenir if you will. It all added to the magic, though.
The region of Ica, where Huacachina is located, is also a major grape growing region in Peru. Because of this we also chose to go on a wine and pisco tasting tour. All of the hosts at the wineries thought it was hilarious that my youngest brother, who is 20, couldn’t legally drink in the US and so they kept giving him extra samples. The wine they make there is very sweet and not much like the wine we’re used to drinking back in the US. Pisco tastes a bit like tequila but it is actually made by distilling fermented grape juice — which is why a lot of the wineries also make pisco and pisco creams. Our favorites were the coffee and coconut pisco creams.
Unfortunately, on our last day I left the wallet with all of our passports in it in the taxi we took on the way back to the bus station. Oops.
Lima – 3 Days
The original plan was to spend just one night back in Lima before catching a flight to Cusco. However, because of the aforementioned lost passports, we had to extend our stay by a few days so that we could get our new passports.
On the bright side, we did get to see the inside of a US Embassy (big DMV vibes on the inside), found the Curayacu Tiki Bar to get us back into vacation mode, and listened to some great street performers.
Shockingly, getting our temporary emergency passports was pretty easy and quick. On the other hand, transferring our entry stamps ended up being a much longer and unnecessarily stressful experience — but it all worked out in the end.
Cusco – 6 Days
We arrived in Cusco a few days later than planned, but we still had almost a full week here before leaving for the Inca Trail. Cusco was also the last stop that my youngest brother, Brian, joined us for (sad). Because we enjoyed our stay at the Kokopelli hostel in Lima so much, we stayed at their hostel in Cusco as well. It was walking distance to the main plaza, had comfortable rooms, and a nice bar with balconies.
We spent the first few days acclimating to the elevation (Cusco sits around 11,000 feet above sea level — so we were huffing it up the stairs those first couple days), exploring Cusco, and eating. One of the cooler things we did was visit the Cusco Planetarium where we received a lesson on Inca astronomy followed up by some outdoor stargazing and looking through big telescopes.
We also took a tour of the Sacred Valley to soak up some knowledge about Andean history and a bean to bar chocolate making class to soak up some deliciousness.
Honestly, when in Cusco, it’s tough to beat just sitting on a balcony with a cold drink or hot coffee enjoying the views. One of the things I loved most about this trip was how much time I spent outside. Whether sitting on a balcony with a drink, hiking the Andes, or walking along the coast I got to enjoy so much beautifully cool weather while knowing I was getting to miss the peak of Florida summer heat.
Some food highlights were Green Point, which serves plant-based Peruvian food, KION Peruvian Chinese, Jack’s Cafe (the best french toast), and the trout at Yaku.
Originally we planned to also do either the Rainbow Mountain or Lake Humantay hike but between taking time to acclimate, wanting time to rest before the Inca Trail, and the timing of Brian’s flight, it just didn’t happen.
It’s good to have an excuse to go back anyways.
Inca Trail – 4 Days
Finally, it was time for me and Liam to start the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu.
The hike is just over 26 miles split up over 4 days, but involves a decent amount of inclines and declines. Honestly, I was a little (very) nervous about how I would do coming from flat, sea-level Florida. I ended up not needing to have worried so much — while day two was a little challenging due to the elevation increases and many, many many steps, it was all very manageable and I ended my days tired but feeling good.
The views throughout the hike were incredible (including at night – you could see the milky way!), the people in our group were great, and the trail wasn’t crowded – at times, you could go a couple hours without seeing another group. All-in-all, the experience was even better than I expected, and I definitely recommend it. You feel super accomplished when you get your first peek at Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate, and the four days being completely unplugged from wifi and cell service is something I’m already eagerly planning to replicate.
We booked our guided trek with Alpaca Expeditions and while they are pricier than many of the other companies, I would definitely recommend booking with them. The guides and porters were amazing, they pay their people well and make sure they are outfitted with the appropriate gear, and they have strict weight limits for what you can bring.
Plus, the food they prepared for us was truly delicious (though I forgot to take pictures – see unplugged!). I’m still thinking about the corn cakes and chicken soup from Day 2.
Cusco – 3 Days
When we arrived back in Cusco we stayed in an Airbnb so that we could ensure a long hot shower and a quiet night’s sleep after going four days without a shower and sleeping in a tent.
We really took it easy during this leg, walking around town, taking naps, reading, and picking up some gifts for family and friends back home. Nothing too exciting, just enjoying the weather and wandering. Liam also treated himself to a massage to work out the Inca Trail muscle tiredness.
Arequipa – 5 Days
We flew from Cusco to Arequipa, where we stayed in a Selina Hostel. Arequipa is a super unique city that felt different from the other places we visited, largely because of its architecture. It’s surrounded by volcanoes, has a river running through it, and is near Colca Canyon. We didn’t visit Colca Canyon on this trip, but we did go white water rafting in the Rio Chili. We also visited the Andean Sanctuaries Museum and explored the historic center.
Otherwise, we spent a lot of our time eating and drinking – the city is known for its craft beer scene. However, before we hit the breweries we’d usually start our day with breakfast at Eco Brunch, which had delicious waffles, coffee, and breakfast sandwiches. Then, we’d sit and play some cards.
We love games, so we also checked out a place called Baraunda which was a cool board game bar that had a good selection of craft beers and big variety of board and card games to play. 7 Vidas taproom had good beer and some tasty appetizers as well, but the true standout was a place called Nowhere. They had a great selection of unique beers, including some great sour beers, and their burgers and Peruvian poutine were both incredibly delicious. My brother and I may or may not have gotten quite drunk here, bought t-shirts, and drunkenly called my wife and parents afterwards to request various streaming logins in an unsuccessful attempt to watch Shanghai Noon. Don’t judge.
As for food, Pasta Canteen was a super cozy little place where we found ourselves having dinner one night. The pasta is made fresh daily, you get to customize it with your favorite ingredients, they serve you a salad in a cute little jar, and you can’t beat the value.
Lima – 2 Days
We ended our trip back in Lima to catch our flight back home. We spent our last couple days walking around the Museum of Contemporary Art and sipping fancy cocktails at a fancy beach bar/restaurant overlooking the pacific. Liam went surfing again, enjoyed some arepas and ice cream, and found more homemade pasta at a tiny place called Manduco (a small family-owned restaurant down an ally in Barranco with truly some of the best past I’ve had in my life).
All-in-all, the trip was amazing. I loved getting to explore a new place and meeting new people, I loved getting to spend time with my brothers and getting to know them better as the adults they now are, and I loved that even when I was flying home, I had another trip planned just a few days later.
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