Second Stop: PERU
One thing that surprised us: Lake Titicaca
Must stop: Uros
Peru, a country that feels so far behind yet you can find any luxury you need. Peru is one of those countries that everyone speaks about. It is usually in the majority of peoples bucket lists and once your here you understand why. For me it wasn't so much for Machu Pichu that made it great but because of all the other things that one doesn't see in books or pictures.
I flew with Avianca airlines (ps. check out prices below on side note button) and it was a good and fast flight. For some reason I wasn't affected by altitude at all on the trip but beware, there are many people who it is very hard to acclimate to it. I recommend taking an aspirin to thin out blood and that way you don't get dizzy or nauseous. The first stop in Peru was the Lima, the country's capital and one of the biggest cities. I stayed in an airbnb in the San Miguel area (20 minutes from the city). I don't recommend staying as far as I did, what you save on stay you spend it on taxis. The traffic is terrible but welcome to the capital.
One of my favorite ways to discover the city was by taking the "Free walking tours". The guide takes you for about 1.5 -2 hr. trip around downtown and although you don't really enter everywhere you figure out where everything is. You should tip them at the end though so it's not completely free. Check out the Cathedral at the time of mass so you don't have to pay an entrance fee. Also you should check out the Plaza del Gobierno, La casa de la gastronomia peruana (more for the architecture than the actual museum). Go to the restaurants on the balconies of the Plaza de Armas, although they are touristy they have good "aji amarillo de gallina". Visit Torre Tagle Palace, it is an old home for "royalty" many years ago and the architecture is beautiful and the wood sculptures are mesmerizing (although nothing is centered). Check out the houses next door, they always have free art exhibitions.
In Lima check out Miraflores, it is their fancy pants area haha! It has a spectacular view of the coast and along the coast there is Lacromar mall with a bunch of American stores but the restaurants are worth the overpriced coffee just for the view. Visit Bomboneria Cafe and sit in their terrace. If you keep walking on the sidewalk with the view of the coast you will arrive to a park and across you will see Parroquia de Nuestra Senora de Fatima which you must must enter. Around the corner you will not see but it's there, Central, the San Pellegrino's list #5 best restaurant in the world. You need to make a reservation way in advance but if your lucky like me you can squeeze into the bar. Chef Virgilio Martinez is the owner and creator of this gem. Check the restaurant out for more info because I could go on for like 20 pages of the food, experience, and things learned during the visit. If you are interested in hearing more though just contact us.
Another area of Lima is Barranco. It is the Brooklyn of Lima, super hipster and you will see everyone lighting a joint. There are many people selling awesome stuff on the street, check out the bars and just hang out. Go have drinks and food at Isolina Cantina, everything is delicious and they treat you like family.
I took a plane to Cusco, just to save time and honestly it wasn't expensive at all. Stay at Hostal Kokopelli, you won't regret it. By far the best hostal I stayed at. Visit the city of Cusco it is beautiful, instead of scheduling so many tours stay one full day and walk around. Check out Antojitos restaurant: super cheap, super delicious, and a lot of food (25S).
Machu Pichu was a huge chunk of the trip. Of course it is a must go if your in Peru, but there are a lot of rumors that aren't true. For example I bought my ticket to go up the day before and there was plenty of room. So don't buy in advance, I saved a lot of money compared to what others I met. Also if you forget your passport it isn't the end of the world. Hopefully you have a picture of it on your phone. There are many ways to go up to Machu Pichu, but I wasn't staying long so I took a bus to Ollantambo, then the Inca Rail to Aguascalientes and finally a bus up to the entrance of Machu Pichu. All of those tickets are included in the price. It is crazy to be there but there are so many people it gets kind of crazy. I completely recommend going to "the sun's door" even though its far, and a lot of walking it is pretty breathtaking (literally and visually). Don't do it if you have/get vertigo!!!
Sacred Valley is another of the tours that everyone tells you to do, but if you don't have much time I would tell you to do the Rainbow mountain instead. Sacred valley is very interesting but it is like an extended tour and information about the Incas and Machu Pichu.
I took an overnight bus to Puno and this day was one of my favorites on the whole trip. Not so much for Puno but for Lake Titicaca. It is one of the most picturesque lakes I've ever seen. It is one of the largest lakes in South America and the highest lake in the world (12,507ft.). One of the main stops is the Uros. The Uros are floating islands (90 total) made with totora reeds, a plant that grows abundantly in the lake. Their traditions and passion shows with everything they do and say. I probably cried a lot and I even was invited into their homes to dress in their clothes. It is crazy to see indigenous groups that continue to live that way and won't change a thing. The lake is between Peru and Bolivia so if you want to continue to Bolivia keep going. Another stop on the lake is Taquile Island, which is named by UNESCO as a world heritage town. From the tour I went back to Puno and took an overnight bus to Arequipa.
Arequipa is a town surrounded by three volcanoes and it is full of history. I stayed in Hostal Bubamara de San Lazaro, which is super central and cute. One of the main reasons I visited this city was to see the Monastery of Santa Catalina. The colors and size of this monastery make it one of a kind and a perfect place for the best pictures you will take. Check out the most important streets: Santa Catalina (Main st.), Bolivar (shops), Francisco ( restaurants and bars). Pay a visit to the Cathedral and take the tour, the history, museum and bell towers are a must. Have dinner anywhere you want but order Rocoto Relleno and Ocopo. While your walking on the street buy some helado de queso (I had like 4 from girls selling it in buckets and its awesome).
From Arequipa I took an airplane to Tacna, a city on the border of Chile, so I could cross to Chile by car. This experience is quite a different one to crossing any other border in the world. Check out the side notes page to know more.
Next stop was Chile