My Travel to Peru & Bolivia | Itinerary and Experience

I traveled through Peru, visiting the its main cities and attractions, seeing what is most interesting in that country. In this trip and long itinerary, I included Lima, the capital city, the entry point to visit Peru, Cusco city, Ollantaytambo, the village and ruins of Machu Picchu, the Lake Titicaca and cities on its lakeshore. In the same trip I also included La Paz City, the capital city of Bolivia, because some attractions on the shores of Lake Titicaca are very close to the border with Bolivia. Moreover, getting to Titicaca and not knowing La Paz and the archaeological sites like Tihuanaku and Puma Punku would not make sense.
Machu Picchu, when the travel reachs its peak, literally and figuratively

Why visiting everything in one journey?

This itinerary is for the strong ones and determined travelers! :) For those who want to visit and experience the best of Peru and Titicaca region at once. I did my entire travel in 23 days and I can say that I enjoyed every minute and I visited everything I would like to see. What is more tiring is the altitude effects and not the journey between the cities.
As an alternative to my long itinerary, you can split your travel into separate journeys in diferent times or even consider more days at each location. It depends on your time availability, budget and planning :) Anyway, it is somewhat expensive and  tiring to get to the higher parts of Peru and Bolivia, and maybe you or I, we will not do this more than once in a lifetime, mainly due to problems of altitude. So for me, the best choice it was to do it all at once. Do you know why? Because of the altitude where Cusco City is, the region where the lake Titicada and La Paz are. It is between 3600 and 4000 meters high. If you are only thinking about going to Cusco and Machu Picchu, when you feel the effects of altitude, you may be discouraged to return someday to the highlands of Peru and Bolivia to see the other attractions that you did not included in your first trip. So I decide to visit everything I wanted to see at once, in one journey. I felt considerably the bad effects of hight altitude, but it was worth every minute!

Itinerary and the cities

My itinerary, cities and regions that I visited

Lima, the beautiful capital of Peru

Many people who go to Peru have only one thing in mind, Machu Picchu. Yes, the ruins of Machu Picchu are one of the main tourist destinations in the world, but many people do not know that in Lima there are numerous attractions. So, within my vision of traveler, it would be a waste to pass through Lima just to get a flight connection to go to Cusco. So, I firstly stayed 2 nights in Lima exploring part of the attractions of the progressive capital of Peru, which mixes a beautiful and well preserved Historic Center with its shore facing the Pacific Ocean and modern neighborhoods like Miraflores, San Isidro and the bohemian Barranco. But see, in the total of my trip, I stayed 6 nights in Lima, as I describe below.
Lima seaside in front of Miraflores District

Nazca and Ica

One of the greatest icons of Peru, and also one of the greatest mysteries of the world, are the so-called Nasca lines, described in the famous book "Were the Astronaut Gods?" by the Swiss writer Erik Van Danniken. Whatever those mysterious lines are, I made it a point to go and see them. When getting to Nazca, I saw that there was lots of interesting attractions, such as Inca ruins and underground aqueducts of an ancient civilization called "People of Nazca". There there is also an archaeological site with pyramids built about 2 thousand years, another heritage of the same People of Nazca.
Well, I went by bus from Lima to Nazca, traveling during the day because I wanted to see the scenery of the coast of that country. I also describe this trip or short journey in another post.
Myself and my wife stayed two nights in Nazca, enough time to fly over the lines and to visit the main sites and archeological attractions in the local. I also have a thorough post about Nazca.
Nasca lines can be seen from towers and miradores, or seen from small airplanes.
Why go to Nazca before Cusco-Machu Picchu? Because Nazca are not at high altitude, so I divided the trip in highlands and lowlands, to avoid problems.
On the return from Nazca, we took another bus and stopped at Ica, a city whose biggest attraction is a lagoon in the middle of sand dunes. It is a kind of oasis in the desert. We also visited the city center of Ica, and then took another bus and returned to Lima.
On this trip, we stayed two more nights in Lima, and visited other attractions in Lima city.

Cusco

After returning to Lima and staying there for two more nights, we went by plane to Cusco, which is at an altitude of 3400 meters. This city is the former capital of the extinct Inca Empire, having later become the most important city of the high plateau or highlands of Peru during the Spanish rule. Today is also one of the most important city of the country.
Many people think that Cusco is just an obligatory passage way to go to Machu Picchu. It is wrong to think it. Cusco has a beautiful and well preserved historical city centre from the colonial period, and numerous ruins and Inca archaeological sites around it. There are also ruins of a pre-Inca civilization around.
In addition, if you wanto to know the Cusco treasures, you should join three tours, the so-called City Tour which actually shows the main Inca ruins around Cusco. The second most important tour is called the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which goes from Cusco to Ollantaytambo where you can see not only amazing and super interesting Inca ruins but also beautiful landscapes. There is also the third tour, less known than the other ones, it is the South Valley tour. If you join the South Valley tour you will not only explore more Inca ruins, but you will see other treasures and curiousities like a humanoid skeleton in a museum (some people says it is an E.T. skeleton) and a very interesting colonial-era chapel.
Cusco | Plaza de Armas

Ollantaytambo

This ancient Inca city is the last stop of the Sacred Valley of the Incas tour before taking the way back to Cusco. Ollantaytambo is a small town, with small alleys and stone houses, many reminiscent of the Inca era. So the tip is to plan your trip to stay one night in Ollantaytambo. Yes, many travellers, like me and my wife went to Ollantaytambo by joining the Sacred Valley tour. Once in Ollantaytambo,  we stayed there to take the train to Machu Picchu the next day, early in the morning. We stayed the rest of the afternoon there, and at night we went to dinner in the main square where there are many restaurants and good typical food.
Ollantaytambo | Inca's narrow streets

Machu Picchu Pueblo, the ruins and archaeological site of Machu Picchu

The next day, very early in the morning, in Ollantaytambo we took the train to the Pueblo of Machu Picchu, the closest point to the ruins of the city of Machu Picchu. The trip is beautiful, with beautiful and stunning landscapes, countless valleys surrounded by ravines, streams and lots of green. We went by Peru Rail, belonging to the group of hotels and luxury journeys called Belmont, that till some time ago it was name the Orient Express group.
Before leaving your country, wherever you come from, you should have booked the train to the a small and lively village of Pueblo Machu Picchu, which is the closest place to Machu Picchu.
I do not know exactly why, but guide books refers to Pueblo of Machu Picchu as "Aguas Calientes", anyway, when I was in Peru I did not see any plaques or sign plate with the words "Aguas Calientes". Moreover, no one referred to that place by another name, but Pueblo Machu Pucchu. You do not need to stay overnight in this Machu Picchu village, unless if you want.
Train arriving in Machu Picchu Pueblo or Machu Picchu Village
Upon arrival to the Pueblo of Machu Picchu, you need to take a microbus that takes you to the ruins of Machu Picchu City ruins. The microbus ride takes about 20 to 30 minutes going through an equatorial forest, following a winding and steep road, surrounded by jungles and cliffs. Eventually, we arrive there, and we can see the great archeological site and visit it on foot. I and my wife hired a guide to explain it to us. There are many guides on site that they offer their services.
Around 15:30, we took the microbus back to the Pueblo of Machu Picchu, that one that some guide books insists on calling "Aguas Calientes" which means "Hot Waters". It is because theres are baths or hot springs there. Once in Machu Picchu Pueblo again, in the late afternoon, we took the train to Poroy, near Cusco. From Poroy to Cusco we used a taxi, taking about 20 minutes to get to Cusco. Needless to say we had our train ticket booked and and travel planned in advance.
Machu Picchu ruins seen from a high point fo the old city

Cusco to La Paz by plane

We arrived in Cusco at early night, when returning from Machu Picchu. We spent the night there, and in the next we joined the South Valley tour. We slept again in Cusco and in the next day we took a flight to La Paz. Again, needless to say, everything was previously booked and scheduled. We booked the flight on the internet, while we were still in our country.
Why go straight to La Paz before traveling around and along the Lake Titicaca? Because the flight ticket from Cusco to La Paz is much cheaper than from La Paz to Cusco. Buying the round trip would not make sense in our case. We wanted to go overland only once, passing through Copacabana in Bolivia and Puno in Peru, both cities on the shores of Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.
Lake Titicaca and its islands seen from airplane | Flight Cuzco La Paz

La Paz | Tiahuanaco & Puma Punku

Getting to the shores of Lake Titicaca and not visiting the Bolivian side would be a waste, the trip would not be complete. Consider that all those places are at high altitude and also require some altitude acclimatization. Being at that altitude is a kind of difficult experience for a lot of people, because you always get tired when you have to go up hill or upstairs, and sometimes you even feel bad. So it was my and my wife´s choice to plan a trip to see the best of the highlands of Peru and Bolivia at one time, that is, the stretch between Cusco and La Paz.
Colorful buses are typical of La Paz | Street in Historic Center
La Paz is an amazing city, there is a certain chaos in the traffic, but the La Paz we saw in 2016 it was in general a progressive city, with tourist infrastructure and many attractions.
Modern cable car station
The city has a modern network of cable cars that is still expanding, connecting different parts of the city, with passenger cabins that slide on the cables at great height, often more than 70 meters high from the ground. While some cities are looking for a transportation solution in the subway, Bolivian city planners have found another solution to connect the different parts of the city.
The Valley of the Moon in La Paz
The Valley of the Moon, a park where different mountainous and pointed formations are concentrated, is located in the southern part of La Paz, a very modern sector of the city.
Interesting bars and shops in the Historic Center
We stayed in La Paz 4 nights. On one of the days we were there, we joined an excursion to the interesting archaeological sites of Tihuanaco (or Twanaku) and Puma Punku. Tihuanaco is considered the cradle of Inca architecture and culture. In fact, Tihuanaco was a pre-Inca culture and civilization, but was absorbed by the Incas.

Way back traveling by roads on the Andean Plateau or "The Altiplano"

La Paz -> Copacabana -> Puno -> Cusco

On the way back by land, we traveled by bus. The trip between La Paz and Copacabana, a small Bolivian town on the shores of Lake Titicaca, presents beautiful surprises when we see the Lake Titicaca from the bus. Long stretches of the road goes along the shore of Titicada.
Alpacas or Llamas ? | Reed boat | Lake Titicaca
Above, scenes of Titicaca Lake, seen from a port, before getting on board of a boat to crossing the narrower point of the lake to reach Copacabana city.
Buses are carried by ferry across the Titicaca
Buses, cars and vans are ferried, and the its passangers have to get off. Passangers cross the lake in a small boat. This photo was taken from the boat's waiting area.

Copacabana City, Bolivia

In the bolivian Copacabana, an interesting town with lake views and boat rides, we arrived in the afternoon and stayed only until dusk, when we took a bus to Puno City in Peru. Some travelers passing through Copacabana take a boat to visit the Isla del Sol, famous because of an Inca legend, for its landscapes and some ruins. However, for us it would be a long and unnecessary trip, since we would have to spend at least one night there on the island, otherwise it would be impractical. We had already seen numerous Inca ruins in Cusco and Machu Picchu, and see Lake Ticaca through the bus trip, having seen the city beaches by the lake and views of the lake from the window of a hotel where we only stayed for an afternoon, It was enough to us. Everything there it was interesting, a simple city, where one does not spend too much money and can see everything on foot.
Lake Titicaca and beach in Copacabana | Bolivia

Puno

In the evening we continue our travel to Puno, a city that is on the Peruvian side, also on the shores of Lake Titicaca. We where already in the night we went through the customs or checkpoint on the Bolivian side and then crossed to the Peruvian side and obtained our second entry visa in the country.
Puno is an interesting city, and just like Copacabana in Bolivia, are cities where we do not have to spend much money. Actually, are places to save money and having the best you can in term of accommodation and food.
Casa del Corregedor, crafts, bar and restaurant | Puno
Puno has good tourist infrastructure, good hotels and a charming historical center. It was pleasurable to spend some time in Puno, and there we stayed 2 nights. In addition to touring the city on foot and meeting interesting places, we went on a guided tour by boat to the Floating Islands where communities build their dwellings on reed islands.
Puno | Uros | Floating houses and islands made of reeds

Journey crossing the Altiplano | Peruvian Andean Plateau

To return to Cusco, we chose to travel during the day, to see the landscape of the Peruvian High Andean Plateau. We took a bus with comfortable armchairs and air conditioning. It was an international bus line that took the route La Paz - Cusco, which we took at Puno bus station, buying the ticket when we arrived at the station.
The trip is a bit long, lasts about 7 hours and we arrived in Cusco at night . The landscape we see during the travel is interesting, an immensity of continuous flat valleys surrounded by some mountains considerably far from the road. Next to and going along with the road, we always see the train railroad, used by Peru Rail, the same company that also offers the train transportation between Poroy (20 minutes from Cusco) and Machu Picchu city passing through Ollantaytambo. The trip by Peru Rail is very expensive and it is sold as a panoramic and scenic journey. Although the landscape is interesting,  due to the long hours in a bus, some moments and stretchs can be boring, but I do not regret it. It was worse if I had regretted not taking this route.
The Altiplano in Peru | Travel between Puno and Cusco

Cusco, the Return

We arrived in Cusco at night. After having checking in in an inn, we went to dinner and take a quick stroll in the beautiful Plaza de Armas. The next day we strolled around the city observing the beautiful colonial architecture of the historic center, visited some museums, and spent the second night in Cusco after our return.
Cusco | Plaza de Armas and colonial houses
Can you tell me if it's not worth to return to Cusco? Interesting and lively city, with a beautiful and well preserved buildings in the colonial architecture style. Moreover, the city has many nice places to visit, bars, charming and interesting restaurants, etc :)

Back again in Lima and then heading home

Next day, early morning, we took our flight back to Lima, where we would spend two more nights, to relax and feel the immense pleasure to be back in low altitude or sea level! If you have been to Cusco or La Paz, you will understand what I mean!
Lima is a city with lots of attractions. In total we spent 6 nights in that city, and if we had more time, we would have even more things to do. We did not take a boat trip that leads to some nearby islands, because few days before our return to Lima there was an earthquake threat, and some small tremors happened. So we did not want to risk trying a tsunami at sea :)
Anyway, on the whole, everything went very well, and the trip was cool and we had lots of fun.
Plaza of Arms | Historic Center of Lima


Is there a problem with altitude?

Lima and Nazca are at sea level or few meters above. You feel good, nothing to disturb you or make you feel sick. All easy.
However ... Cusco, Puno, Bolivian Copacabana and La Paz is another story! Walking there is tiring as working in a quarry breaking stones with a hammer! :) Yes, an adaptation day is required to begin with. The ideal is to stay at rest the day you arrive in Cusco. To someones adaptation is never complete. Because of the altitude, you feel a lot more tired when climbing hills and stairs. Cusco has slopes, but few compared to La Paz. One needs to be restrain himself, and it is necessary to know that join tours by bus in Cusco is a necessity. It is impossible to visit the ruins around the city on foot, even because the distances are long. In La Paz, it is possible to walk through the center and historic center on foot, but it is tiring. To get a broad view of the city, going to the very distant parts of the city, you need to use taxi to move to different districts of the city, as well as it is necessary to join a city tour.

However, according to some reports, after the eighth day at that altitude (between 3400 and 4000 meters), many people can feel or get adapted to altitude. Some people begin to practice sports, such as biking and climbing, usually by going on tours offered in La Paz. But do not get too excited, I think this applies only to the very young guys and girls, or probably to people who are already somewhat accustomed to high places. My wife and I never got completely adapted to the high altitude. Although the trip in the highlands was beautiful, it was a relief when we landed in Lima. I had the feeling of freedom, even the will to jump from so much relief :)

What currency should you take to this travel?

In Peru, the currency is the Nuevo Soles (New Sun), which value little more than the Real, though the cost of living in Peru is much cheaper than in Brazil. And in Bolivia it's the Bolivian Pounds that is worth less than the Real, about 3 or 4 times less. The best thing to do is to take dollar with you and exchange it for the local currency of each country. I also suggest carrying your credit and debit cards if you do not want to carry all the money for safety reasons. There are ATM's everywhere, but remember there are taxes and fees to withdrawal, and you may pay taxes in your country of origin. So if you have to withdrawl some money, do not get few money each time you use the ATMs because the fee charged for each service is not paltry.

And this coming and going, could not it be avoided?

Oh yes, you say the back and forth to Lima and Cusco? Let's talk about it by steps.
To go to Nazca, I had to arrive in Lima by plane, a city I also wanted to visit and explore. So going to Nazca, to me it was a personal whim as well. It does not work to go to Nazca and return in the same day, although some people swear they went and returned by car or shuttle in the same day, departuring at dawn and arriving at night. Sorry, but this is nonsense. You will not have time for anything. Two nights in Nazca is the very minimum and also enough amount of nights, even to feel like coming back some day. So, it is best to take the reasonably scenic route from Lima to Nazca to travel during the day on a comfortable Cruz del Sur bus company. After visiting Nazca, I opted to do a pit stop in Ica before arriving In Lima thus reducing the fatigue of the bus travel. From Nazca to Ica, we traveled during the day, and spent part of the afternoon in Ica, until the night. At night, we traveled again by bus, by the same Cruz del Sur bus company that we took to get to Nazca.
In fact, there was no other way out, except if we went on a continuous bus ride from Nazca to Puno or Cusco or to whatever ... it would not be worth it. Too many bus hours would be added to 14 hours from Nazca to Puno or another 13 or 14 hours between Nazca - Cusco! The best option, in terms of itinerary, it was to return to Lima.

Well, in the highlang part of the travel, could not have been a one-way route, Cusco to La Paz? Yes, it would be possible to go from Cusco to La Paz by land, then finish the travel in La Paz and take a flight to my country from there. The problem is, if you take a flight from La Paz to other other countries, there will be always flight connections in Lima or other capitals cities, and you have to pay a much more expensive flight ticket. Meaning, there is no direct flights.
If there was no direct flight to Brazil, and I would have to make a connection in Cusco and Lima, then my travel strategy was satisfactory for me. More interesting to enjoy two more nights in Lima in a good hotel instead of having long flight connections if I had come from La Paz in a flight with 2 or 3 stops and paying even more expensive for the flight ticket. That is, I went from Cusco to La Paz by plane and made the journey La Paz - Copacabana - Puno - Cusco by land, exploring Lake Titicaca region, the Altiplano and its cities.

Peruvian Food and Our Daily Chicken Dish! :)

Almost getting to the end of this account of my travel, I can not help talking about the delicious Peruvian cuisine. Yes, the food is very good with many interesting dishes. They also use the "avocado" with salt in the salads.
In general, the food there is not expensive. Moreover there is always entree and main course even in very popular restaurants. The entree is usually some salad or some broth.
In terms of curiosity, in Peru and Bolivia, at least in La Paz, they like jellies and flans, which are sold by street sellers or in groceries.
Chicken is the main type of meat consumed in Peru and also in La Paz. There is the Pollerias or the place where you eat chicken. Some venues are exquisite and have live music.
An interesting juice that is worth taking is the "Chicha Morada", made of a black corn, a local type of corn found in Peru.

What was left out? Paracas, Arequipa, El Misti and Colca Canyon

Near the city of Ica, there is another city called Paracas, where there are the Ballestras Islands and ecological reserves. Many travelers or tourists with more time spend some days there. But we did not have all the time in the world. We plan our trip to last for 3 weeks and 2 days. Then we discarded Paracas. Beautiful certainly it is, but not essential for us. We are from Brazil, and there we have many beautiful beaches. Anyway, if you have enough time, why not visiting it. If you have never seen a sea lion, there are many over there.
Another well-known place is the city of Arequipa and the Colca Canyon.
Well, if you have never seen a big canyon, then maybe it is indispensable to visit it. Arequipa City by the descriptions is interesting. It has the nearby El Mist, an extinct or dormant volcano, but many of its historical attractions can become somewhat redundant if you have visited the entire historic center of Lima and Cusco.
Arequipa and Colca Canyon
One of the attractions of the Canyon are the condors that can be seen from a belvedere of Colca Canyon. But to get to the Canyon you first need to go to Arequipa, much further south of Peru. Count 8 or 9 hours by bus from Nazca to Arequipa! Then imagine having to wake up at 4 in the morning to get a van that will also take a long time to reach a belvedere, then stop by there for half an hour to see the canyon and the condors (if they appear, because the movement of many people scares them). Then you have to get the van again to get back to Arequipa. Well, it would need a lot of disposition. For many it's worth it, a lot of people go there. At last it depends on your time and what you have already seen or have not seen in your life! :) If you have seen other canyons, as it is my case, I ended up discarding it. Anyway, ultimately, we only know if something worth a visit if we actually have visited it.

I would love if you left your comment ! Any question? Ask me !


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