Sometimes a backpacker has had enough of high-demanding treks. The Ancash region of Peru has so many trails to offer the trekking enthusiast that he might get dizzy just trying to decide which he wants to tackle. After going on a few of the quick treks, or even after hiking a long one like Santa Cruz, perhaps you’ll want to chill out and enjoy a breezy tour. Perhaps you’ll just want to take a drive to some beautiful lakes.
Laguna Llanganuco – Huaraz
This is where the Lagunas Llanganuco become very a attractive option. These lakes lay within the Parque Nacional Huascaran just west of the town of Yungay. Yungay is known for having been the sight of many fatalities in a 1970 earthquake, that same one which destroyed much of Huaraz, so be thoughtful when passing through a town that is known as hallowed ground.
The minivan that takes you up to the lagoons from Yungay costs around 20 sols for a round-trip ride, but you can also jump on a tour from Huaraz. Any way you swing it, the cost will have to include the 5 sol entry to the park as well.
The lagoons are incredible. The road goes right by them, so you can even stop and get out if you were so inclined. It’s a great way to see the beauty of glacial lakes without having to spend money and energy on a hike. Once you get there, you could decide to hike around the lakes. The trail takes between one and two hours to circumnavigate, and brings you to great positions for some vistas over the lakes.
These two lagoons are perfect examples of glacial water bodies, as their blue turquoise surface glistens under the sky. You better get back on that tour van if you don’t want to be caught sleeping in the alpine cold.
Cusco opens up to your eyes as you arrive from the east over the Andes, the valley city careening like a meniscus from its slopes down to the airport and city center. You might just get that feeling in your chest; you know, the feeling of excitement to get out and see it all.
Once checked in to Pariwana Cusco, you’ll start planning for that ever-important trip to see one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Pichu. You could opt to get to Machu Pichu by road and foot, but if you’re not so inclined, perhaps a much faster train ride sounds enticing.
PeruRail operates the trains that bring several thousand tourists per day to Aguas Calientes and on to Machu Pichu. You can visit their website to book online, or you can opt to buy tickets in any number of travel agencies throughout Cusco (though, it might cost a bit more!).
Trains leave from Cusco from the Poroy station some 20 minutes from downtown. Trains depart early in the morning and generally return in the evening. The journey takes about 3 hours. You can opt to hang out in Aguas Calientes for a day or two, or you can book your ticket for a same-day return, but that is not recommendable as you’ll want to spend as much time as possible in the citadel.
There is also the option to jump aboard or debark at Ollantaytambo. To Machu Pichu the trip takes 1.5 hours. Departing from Ollantaytambo, you can have a Sacred Valley adventure travel along with the Machu Pichu experience. There are more options for you to board trains at Ollantaytambo in the morning and early afternoon than in Cusco. Just check out the website.
You have a choice of trains. There are three types that go to Machu Pichu (the Andean Explorer train goes to Puno). Your cheapest option is the Expedition. At around $60, this will generally be the backpacker’s choice. You’ll be seated at tables, two chairs on each side facing each other. The panoramic windows allow you to watch the jungle as it shoots by. They also play Andean music the whole trip.
The Vistadome costs around $70. This train offers panoramic glass windows and the roof is dotted with glass skylights to enjoy a 360-degree view of the natural environment you’ll be passing through.
Finally, an option that generally does not convince backpackers to hop aboard is the Hiram Bingham luxury line. You’ll have to throw down a whopping $300 for this one, but it might just be worth it if style is your cup of tea. The upholstery is elegant, and the 4 wagons hold a suitable 84 passengers only. The trip is said to be one of the best train journeys on the planet. That price also includes the entrance to Machu Pichu, a guided tour, the bus to the citadel, afternoon tea at the Sanctuary Lodge, and brunch and dinner aboard the cars.
Keep an eye out for packages and special offers on PeruRail’s website. Also, if you can organize a group from the hostel, you can get a 5% discount for 10 passengers, or a 10% discount for 15!
Maybe you’ve already heard that Peru is South America’s gastronomic marvel. Indeed, Peru boasts some of the most diverse food in the whole world. This means that a Peruvian backpacking trip entails a culinary experience that will leave you hungry for more. You could travel to all reaches of Peru, which is a recommendable plan. However, if you’re strapped for time, then plan your trip to coincide with Lima’s Mistura food fest.
Mistura has been going on now for 3 years. Every year it’s attracting bigger and bigger names from around the globe. Mistura is a massive food festival where all the best food joints in Lima and from around the country gather to offer portions of their grub for a fraction of the normal price. It takes place in September just before springtime. The gray skies mean the sun won’t be blasting your neck all day while you walk to and from different food kiosks.
There is an entry fee to get in, but Pariwana has its own stash of tickets to make things easier for backpackers. Not all hostels in Lima can offer the same convenience. Pariwana already offers tours on a semi-daily basis, but this is one tour you’ll enjoy beyond expression.
You’ll arrive to the gates of the Parque de la Exposicion, the giant blown up yellow fork making you feel small. After walking under the fork entrance, you’ll purchase the tickets with which you procure your food. You can get full portions of dishes for 12 soles, but you should opt for portions at 6 sols so that you can try more food. Go with a friend to split the portions in half, that way you can try even more tasty treats!
There are a lot of things to see and do in Mistura. Over the 9 days that it’s held, over 300,000 people enter. There is a giant bazar to buy kitchenware, and an enormous market with products from all over the country. There are live cooking demonstrations by some of the country’s best chefs, and the restaurants everywhere you look.
You might prefer to arrive at the opening hour of 10am so that you can make the best of the 12 hours you have before closing time. There are too many dishes to try. You can read about all the restaurants on Mistura’s website. Just make sure to try a few of the staples. Ceviche, above all, will please you, as Mistura hosts some of the best cebiche restaurants.
In fact, you might very well choose to spend all your time in Mistura, returning day after day. It’s the perfect way to centralize a necessary Peruvian experience. Sweets, jungle food, rustic kitchens, juices, anticuchos and any other food you’ve seen on your Peruvian tour you should expect to see again here.
Want to travel off the beaten track? Then check out Peru’s northern heritage! In these majestic Northern Highlands you find yourself on a challenging and deserted backpackers track. Covered by cloudy mountains in the middle of the mysterious jungle there is no end to its natural beauty while you stay in basic hostels. Top this up with one of the worlds’ greatest waterfalls and amazing ruins equalling Machu Picchu and you can see the adventure.
This not often visited area was once home to a civilization referred to as the Warriors of the Clouds (The Chachapoyas). That is, before they got conquered by the powerful Inca civilization. These ancient civilizations left some gems of culture behind in a gorgeous environment, to be explored by the adventurous backpacker. And believe us, it will be worth your while!
Starting point: Chachapoyas, capital of the Amazonas
The relatively small capital of the Northern Highlands was founded in 1538 and appropriately called Chachapoyas (or Chacha, as called by the locals). This city functions as starting point to move on to all the smaller villages and cities around the region. You might find it here a bit cooler than other areas in Peru, with an average of 18 degrees on the meter. In some areas it even gets down to freezing point, so don’t forget to bring some warm clothes!
There are plenty of things to do in Chachapoyas and around. Start off on one of the many breath taking mountain tracks through the region, stop by the legendary Cuyana fountain or explore one of the many caves just outside the city.
Around Chachapoyas are some of Peru’s best hidden gems; the fortress of Kuelap, better known as the undiscovered Machu Picchu of the north and the amazing Gocta waterfall, one of the biggest ones in the world.
Kuelap, the Machu Picchu of the north
The city of Kuelap is only a few hours away from Chachapoyas and is known as the archaeological hot spot of Peru. The excavation of Kuelap’s fortress continues on a daily basis, revealing an amazing sight in the mountainous Northern Highlands. This sight receives few visitors on a yearly basis and is considered the “Machu Picchu without the crowds”. In comparison, this site receives some 20,000 visitors on a yearly basis against 1 million per year in Machu Picchu. And with a variety of basic backpacker hostels around, you don’t need to worry too much about planning out your entire trip, just go with the flow!
No matter how many ruins you may have seen along your travels, Kuelap should be on your to-do list when visiting these Highlands, as the combination of a stunning environment combined with an adventurous trek and ancient building structures is a unique experience!
The huge Gocta Waterfall
The amazingly tall Gocta waterfall has been kept a secret until only a few years ago and astounding backpackers ever since. With its 771 meters in height, this waterfall ranks amongst the highest in the entire world.
The sound on the bottom of the waterfall displays an amazing thundering sound and clouds of rain in your face. Check out our video and article about the Gocta Waterfall.
There are also other amazing sights, like an ancient fortress, burial complexes, caves, more waterfalls and so on. Below we compiled a short list of great stops along the way that are worth visiting, depending on your time schedule.
Visit the cultural burial sight of “Sarcophagus of Kirajía”
Take a trek to the unforgettable Lake of Condors
Be amazed in the wilderness of the Gran Vilaya Valley
Levanto, Jalca Grande & Yalape
Revash (painted burial site in the cliffs)
You will find the Northern Highlands around 1,000 kilometres north of the capital Lima. You can either take a bus (16 hours from Lima) or plane to Chachapoyas (1 hour, although they don’t run that often).
The modern cosmopolitan Lima proudly shows itself along robust cliffs and a rough coastline of the Pacific Ocean. Under a nice mild climate with sunny summers, Lima is becoming the new must-see stop for all backpackers.
Lima is a flourishing city packed with thrilling outdoor activities and a very active nightlife, providing for a young energetic crowd. But at the same time it keeps its nostalgic touch through its beautiful old towns, museums and market places. Pariwana is your experienced Peruvian guide and host, on and off the beaten track, letting you explore Lima inside out!
Day and night entertained
If you are looking for an active day or exciting night, Lima can offer you the lot! Start to learn surfing in intermediate waves, hang back in a paraglide along the city’s coast or get up and active touring on one of our hostel bicycles. For economical shopping you don’t need to look far, as the cheap centric touristic areas of Miraflores, Barranco and Larcomar or just a stone throw away from our hostel. Or just relax, enjoying the water park in downtown Lima or one of the many cathedrals with antique building styles from Europe and South America.
As the evening falls, complete your day with a romantic sunset along the coast, sipping away on a Pisco Sour or a nice local wine in one of the many pubs and bars. Then get ready for Lima’s non-stop nightlife, starting in our hostel bar with activities and entertainment, cheap spirits and beers, before heading out to a variety of concerts, clubs and pub crawls. For every budget we can point out some great places for an unforgettable night.Don’t want to stop partying? No problem there, as our friendly international staff knows the right place to continue partying 24/7, every day, until the crack of dawn!
Culture, sights and satisfying your appetite Although Peru is still considered a developing country, it has no limit in its rich cultural sights that take you back to the ancient times of the Inca’s and Spanish colonisation.
Lima provides a rich mixture of different building styles, has unique local products from all over Peru and is continuously improving its facilities to provide for the increasing stream of backpackers visiting Lima.
And what if you want to get out of the city for a little bit? Just take one of the many popular and exciting day trips outside Lima, to for example Caral, the valley of Lunahuaná or Mamacona. We gladly help you on your tour with our hostel tour counter!
After all that sightseeing one gets hungry as well, so where to go? Not to worry with Peru’s rich and varying cuisine available. Lima is the place, where food from all over the country comes together, a genuine delight for the mouth. Read here more about our great cuisine.
Peru is especially renown for its must-try ceviche, amongst many other great seafood dishes. Trying great other local dishes and delicacies, either from our own hostel kitchen or on the streets, like Lomo Saltado, Aji de Gallina, and sweets like Alfajores and Mazamorra Morada, show you why Peru has such a great culinary reputation! We also have some great articles on where to eat in Miraflores and some very practical pointers to eat safe in Lima.
Getting around safe and sound Lima is centrally located, functioning as an international travel hub. Lima’s modern international airport is just a 20 minute ride away from the centre (55 soles private taxi to Miraflores). If you are travelling over land by bus you will definitely be able to stop at our hostel in Lima, as all main highways in Peru cross through the capital Lima.
All places around our hostel are very safe, accessible and well accommodated for backpackers. All facilities, like public transportation, security, points of information and bus departure hubs are close by in either bus or taxi. Also the major bus companies are continuously improving their service and security to ensure you can go around safe and sound!
With other words, Lima is a must visit on your trip with all its great features. Let our international staff show you around in our great city soon!