It’s already been a little bit more than 3 months traveling and living in Peru as an exchange student. I’ve been to various cities already and explored a little bit of this incredible country that never ceases to amaze me.
My boyfriend and I arrived from Stockholm (Sweden) to Lima on the 23rd of July, around 5:00 pm. When sitting in the back of the taxi, in the middle of the rush hour, both of us had the same feeling of absolute panic. Peruvians drive like crazy and you will get used to it, but at first, it can be very surprising!
I’m here in Peru for a year, doing an exchange student program, and my boyfriend decided to follow me for 6 months to join the adventure and discover the country with me. We met in France, in the small city of Dijon, and took the decision to travel to Peru because we both wanted to see something different from what we had experienced our whole life in Europe. He lived in France, I’ve lived in Sweden most of my life, and both of us were urging to discover a new culture, a new way of life, discover new cities, and have new adventures to tell.
Our first trip: the traditional city of Huaraz
We decided to start our journey by visiting the city of Huaraz, in the heart of the White Range of the Andes. Apart from the incredible treks we did and the magnificent views we saw, just walking around the city was very nice. The local market was impressive, with the vendors dressed traditionally, and the Peruvians always charming and extremely helpful.
Moreover, we were lucky to be there during the celebrations of the National Day, the 28th and 29th of July. Together, these two days are called Las Fiestas Patrias and honor the creation of Peru. The 28th of July commemorates the liberation of Peru from Spain by José de San Martin, and the following day celebrates the establishment of the Republic of Perú. The parades of youngsters dressed in different traditional clothes and performing all kinds of dances were very pleasant to look at.
Paracas, quite a special beach town
On our second trip, we spent a few days in Paracas. Located 5 hours south from Lima by bus, this little coastal town has a lot of things to offer. We did, of course, the must-do activity: visiting the Islas Ballestas, where you can observe a highly diverse wildlife of seabirds, sea lions and penguins.
During the second day, we rented bikes and we cycled 20 km in the National Reserve, where we were amazed by the different landscapes Peru offers. When being at the top of a sand dune, we could see on our right side the endless ocean and the snow-covered mountains on the other side. I really recommend taking a day to go through the National Reserve, which is possible by car or a booked tour on a bus, and by bike (a personal favorite).
Cusco, the city of mountains
When visiting Peru, whether it’s for 2 weeks, 3 months or one year, it is absolutely mandatory to visit the amazing city of Cusco. Apart from the city itself, the ancient Inca Capital has a lot to offer, such as incredible rafting sessions, impressive treks, and of course, the Machu Picchu.
Trekking lovers beware when doing the Rainbow Mountain (or Vinicunca Mountains): walking up to 5,000 meters can be extremely difficult, especially for those who, like me, feel very sick in altitude. The positive thing with needing to stop every 10 meters when getting up to the top, is that you simply turn around, and can enjoy breathtaking views.
Want to know the various possible activities to do in Cusco? Check out this article from Two Scots Abroad: “21 cool things to do in Cusco for every budget”.
Máncora, the city of relaxation
For my birthday in October, we decided to go to a sunny place with beaches, and good vibes. Máncora, a city in the north of Peru, in the region of Piura, was the city that we got recommended to go to. It took 20 hours by bus to get there, but luckily, the service in the bus companies in Peru are often very good, with a stewardess always at your disposal, and movies to keep you entertained.
We spent two weeks relaxing in Máncora, enjoying the beach, the hot weather, and the super view we had from the terrace of our hostel, Kontiki Bungalows.
I strongly recommend this hostel to any couple that wants to have a romantic holiday at the beach: it is very affordable and it’s on a dune behind the city of Máncora, which offers you an extremely nice view of the whole city and of the ocean.
If you decide to go there, who knows, when reading in the hammock of your terrace and looking up from your book every once in a while, maybe you’ll have the chance to see whales passing by during their long journey of several thousand kilometers from the cold waters of Antarctica.
Out of all the cities I visited, I have to admit that Cusco was a personal favorite: the possible activities around the city are infinite, and the city itself is absolutely amazing. If you want to have a little drink enjoying the view of the entire city, I recommend you to go up the Mirador de San Blas, close to which you can find nice bars like the famous The Limbo Resto & Bar, or a little more private terrace hold by a very nice lady in her mid-60’s right next to the Euro Hostel on the Kiskapata street.
What about the food traveling in Peru?
Now, the last recommendation I want to share with you is about the food. Something I’ve learned when traveling around is that street food is often the best food you can find (unless you are in a coastal city where fish is the specialty). In Cusco, try the anticucho de corazón de res, which is marinated beef heart, or skewers of alpaca.
Anticucho should be found in most of the streets of Peru, as well as the papas rellenas (or “stuffed potatoes”), which is a baked potato dough stuffed with a filling made of beef, onions, olives, hard-boiled eggs, cumin and other spices. This popular dish that I discovered in Máncora is definitely my favorite, and I strongly recommend you to try it!
By Julia Natri