In order to make our way from Puno back up to Lima we decided to travel with PeruHop, which is a hop on, hop off bus system that travels between Cusco and Lima. Included in the ticket is all the journeys from start to finish, discounts on activities and hostels, and some free activities. PeruHop is fab – you can read my review of it here.
Day 1 and 2: Arequipa
We arrived into Arequipa around 5am, and were dropped off at the hostel we had booked with our PeruHop guide – the Flying Dog. Luckily for us our beds in the dorm were free so we were able to head on up and get some kip before breakfast. The hostel was really pretty and we got to have breakfast out in the courtyard in the sun – bread, meat, cheese, cereal and tea/coffee, all you could ask for really!
After breakfast we headed out into the town for a wander and a bit of sight-seeing. After the dusty, dirty, half-built buildings of Puno, Arequipa was a Godsend – it is a BEAUTIFUL town. The building and streets are immaculate and stunning looking, everything’s so clean and nice, it’s a world away from Puno. We first went and booked river rafting for the next day, and then armed with a city map, went to see the sights. The Plaza de Armas is clearly its pride and joy – with a large decorative water fountain in the centre, and the cathedral looming over one side. While walking through the plaza we came across a school band playing “I Will Survive,” and other songs, they were great! Peru loves a good band! After that we went into the Iglesia de la Compania right as a service was ending – it, like every other church in Peru, was stunning, and included in the decorations was the massive gold alter and murals on the walls.
Our search for the meeting point for the Arequipa walking tour proved fruitless, but we did stumble across a craft beer place where we got to try some Peruvian craft beers – a Double IPA and a Session IPA – both of which were strong, but grew on us after a while. That pretty much decided the day for us, and so we went in search of other pubs to try. Having spotted a British pub on the map I was determined we should go there and I’m so glad we did! The Red Lion was covered in posters and pictures of tube signs, british singers and bands, and a mural of a red telephone box. There were more craft beers on offer here, so I tried a papaya flavoured beer while AJ tried a mint flavoured beer. Both were very tasty, but I still prefer my beer non-flavoured. After that we grabbed some lunch and then headed to the park…while was closed. At 4 in the afternoon. Even funnier/stranger was that across the road there was a dog park which had a sign outside saying no dogs allowed…
We ended our day in Chelawaski, a really nice small pub, getting some beers and “the best burgers in Arequipa,” as they say, which is definitely not wrong!
The first thing we did the next day was to head off rafting down the River Chilli. It was AMAZING! We went down clas 1, 2, 3, and 4 rapids, had an absolute blast, and our guide was lovely, kept getting us to give high fives using our paddles. I absolutely loved it, would definitely do it again!
After that we grabbed a sandwich for lunch and then met up with people for a walking tour with “Free Tour Downtown Arequipa.” It was really interesting – we ended up going to places I wouldn’t have thought/known of, such as a bank courtyard, a narrow street, and an alpaca and llama farm. Some fun facts I learned on the tour:
- There’s a type of icecream that’s a speciality of Arequipa called cheese icecream. However, it doesn’t have any cheese it at all; it’s called cheese icecream because the people who made it thought it looked like cheese.
- The Jesuits who built some of the churches in Arequipa included both European and native/Inca symbolisms on the decorations of the churches to make them more inclusive.
- Misty Mountain, which can be seen from Arequipa, is a dormant volcano. It erupted 600 years ago, and the natives at the time were so annoyed that they erased her original name from history – for 400 years she had no name, until she was called Misty Mountain.
- Arequipa is called the “white city,” originally because it had more Europeans than any other city in Peru, and is continued to be called the white city because of the white volcanic rock that a lot of the buildings in the city are made of.
At the end of the tour we went for a taster of Pisco sours and had a little quiz. Yours truly won a regular Pisco sour for answering a question! 😀
After the tour we went for dinner in a tiny hole-in-the-wall Chifa place before heading back to the dorm to pack and go to bed as we were up EARLY the next day.
Days 3 and 4: Nazca Lines and Huacachina
We were up at 4.30am and downstairs just after 5am to wait for our bus, which would be arriving sometime between then and 5.30am…UGH. THANKFULLY the bus was super comfortable, so I just fell right back asleep after I’d been given my bag of breakfast goodies. Turns out to be a damn good thing that the bus was super comfy because we were on it for a total of THIRTEEN HOURS – with two stops:
- We stopped for lunch in a small beach town, and had fried fish with chips and a tonne of chopped onions covered in a lime chilli dressing – delicious!!
- We stopped in Nazca to drop off people who were staying there and then to climb up a viewing tower and see some of the Nazca lines. It was really impressive to see the lines and the scale of the drawings, even if it was difficult to know exactly what they were meant to be.
Once we got to Huacachina, we were only fit to grab a bite to eat before collapsing in bed.
The next day we started off with a tour of a Pisco vineyard. It was really cool to see the different areas of production; the area where to this day they still extract juice from the grapes by stamping on them, the large vats where they are stored for fermentation, and the distillation area. The juice from the grapes is fermented for a short amount of time to make wine, and then distilled to make pisco; out of 1500L of alcohol that goes into the distillation area, only 400L of drinkable Pisco. We got to try samples of the wine and pure Pisco – the wines are really sweet, nothing like wine back home, and while I like Pisco sours, it turns out that pure Pisco is DISGUSTING – I nearly threw up trying it!
Back to Huacachina where we went for a wander around the oasis to enjoy the sun before lunch. After that it was off to sandboarding and dune buggying, which was honestly one of the most fun things I’ve ever done! Our dune buggy driver was INSANE and drove all over the dunes at insanely high speeds; it was like being on a painful rollarcoaster, like I’m shocked we didn’t flip at one point! Getting to board down the dunes was brilliant fun, and a little scary at first because you get up to some decent speeds! The walk back up…not so much fun…At the end the guys begged the driver to let us go down one more dune, so he takes us off to this crazy high dune which had a name that basically translated to “Hill of Death.” It was unbelievably steep, we went SO fast down it!! Ended up covered in sand and with a sore throat from all the wooping, amazing experience!
We were taken on an even crazier drive around the dunes; my whole life flashed before my eyes, etc…AMAZING! Then it was back to wipe off as much sand as possible, collect our bags and get on the bus to Paracas
Day 5: Paracas, Chincha and Arriving in Lima
We started our day in Paracas by taking a boat tour of the Ballastas Islands, which are described as “the poor man’s Galapagos.” To be honest, it was mainly the prospect of seeing penguins that made us sign up for the tour, and we were not disappointed – they were so cute! Along with the penguins we saw a LOT of sea birds and a lot of sea lions, and a large geoglyph on the side of one of the islands, similar to the Nazca lines, called ‘El Candelabro.’ It was FREEZING, especially when we got moving, so I was really glad to be bundled up in my jumper and coat. Note to anyone going on this tour – sit on the left hand side of the boat; that’s the side that faces the island most of the time, so you get the best view there.
After the tour we were left to our own devices for a few hours so we decided to wander around the town. There is really not much to see – some cool graffiti, pelicans on the beach and diving into the water, market stalls along the beach, and that’s about it. Paracas is a very small town, so unless you’re going to the beach, theres’s not much else.
The tour of the nature reserve was…okay. We saw massive desert landscapes that bled onto the coast, got to look out over the beach and take some photos of it and see the interesting sand that was there. After that we went into the museum on site, which was really interesting to check out; there was lot of information about the different plants and animals and marine life that used to exist in the area hundreds of thousands of years ago. The Peruvian tourists there however, didn’t really seem to be interested in reading any of the information and only wanted to take tonnes of selfies beside the exhibitions, despite the numerous signs saying that photographs weren’t allowed…honestly. It’s not that what we did or where we went to was bad, it’s just that we could have done so much more on that tour; the reserve is really big, there’s a fossil section and other places, and we were left with two hours of dead time before the bus to Chincha which could have been used. We just went back to the Kokopelli hostel where we had stayed and chilled out in the back garden, while there was a guy there getting a tattoo like it was no big deal…love how chilled out that hostel was, really would have liked to have stayed longer!
The Chincha slave tunnel tour was fascinating, from the stunning house and church, to the interior full of old paintings and furniture, including a giant wooden altar which had been originally carved as three separate pieces by slaves and then put together. The tabernacle door is actually an entrance to the tunnels that run for kilometres under the house, land and all the way down to the port, to be used if the family was ever attacked. The tiles on the floor are exquisite, and everywhere you can spot antiques, from machines in the hallway, a bathtub in an open space, and a billiard table out the front of the house. We walked only through the bit of the tunnels that were under the house – they were dark, cramped, and the ceilings were covered in black soot from when they had to bring candles down there. It was a really fascinating look at a piece of history that’s not really known about Peru.
Afterwards, we were dropped off at a gas station to grab some food and wait for the bus to Lima – tried out some chicken empanadas and pizza rolls; super tasty! Then it was on the bus to sleep all the way to Lima and the Kokopelli hostel.