Summertime in the Southern United States calls for a trip to a Winter climate in South America. Peru is that destination to escape the heat and humidity. I traveled around to a few cities, with each one a completely different landscape. I had no idea how diverse one county could be. Along with traveling, I spent a week volunteering at an After-School Program in a small village. This trip almost didn’t happen for myself since I tore my meniscus a month prior to leaving, but not wanting to miss out on this amazing county, I bought a knee brace, RockSauce, and RockTape and headed to Peru.
And without further ado … Peru through the eyes of the Wanderlusting Yogi …
I flew in and out of the capital city of Lima. Unfortunately, I did not get to explore any of the city, but from my short stay, I can say it is extremely crowded and the sun never made an appearance, which I think was from all the pollution.
I stayed at the SM Hotel and Business, about 20 minutes from the airport. Upon arrival, they had a driver with our groups names waiting for us, which was very efficient. The hotel could not exchange money, so definitely do that at the airport. The room was teeny tiny, with only a double bed. There was barely any room to put our luggage for two people.
Breakfast was included, choice of egg, bread basket, juice, and tea/coffee. The cost was $48.75 USD a night. If you just need a place to sleep, I would recommend this hotel, but there is nothing near by to walk to for food or nightlife. Luckily, Pizza Hut does deliver, which we took advantage of. We also found out that a large pizza in Peru seemed to be the size of a personal pan pizza in the United States, so order accordingly.
From Lima, the first stop on the itinerary was Huachachina, the desert oasis. We had arranged for taxis to take us from SM Hotel to the Peru Bus Station ($10 USD). It was recommended leaving 2 hours before the bus leaves due to the insane amounts of traffic.
Our taxi driver was awesome, and he had his friend meet us outside of a bank to exchange money for us. He told us it can be dangerous to exchange money at a bank, so throughout the whole trip we asked the taxi drivers and they all knew people to safely get us money. I also learned that Peruvians will not take any ripped American Dollars, so make sure your money is in good condition, or it will be worth nothing. The Peru Bus line was actually very comfortable for the 4ish hour drive to Ica (one way ticket $11 USD). The bus had reclining seats, better bathrooms than the bus station (had to pay to use a bathroom with no toilet seat), and gave out free snacks and drinks.
Once in Ica, you have to either take a taxi ($10 PEN) or a tuk tuk ($5 PEN) to Huachachina. There are plenty of taxis and tuk tuks waiting as soon as you disembark the bus, so no need to schedule transportation. Huachachina is a very small town, with a lagoon in the middle and then surrounded by restaurants, bars, and hotels. Behind all the attractions are massive sand dunes, towering over the town. It truly is a unique natural wonder.
We stayed at the Hotel El Huacachina and I enjoyed my time at the hotel. The room was large, and water pressure was amazing, which I found surprising since we were in the desert. The hotel had a restaurant on site, which was okay and a nice pool area. Breakfast was included and they had eggs, cereal, bread, muffins and fruit. Nothing to write home about, but always convenient. The town is so small, you can walk everywhere so no matter where you stay, you will be accessible to everything.
Favorite restaurants/bars around Huacachina …
- Bananas Hostel – It had a cool outside bar area and pretty decent food. We had tried the burger, crepes, and veggie pizza.
- Huacafuckingchina – A fun bar that is also apart of a hostel. Our waiter was hilarious and he made the experience there … and can you really beat the name? It’s obviously going to be a good time!
- La Casa de Bamboo – This is another hostel with a cafe area. We wanted something different to eat for breakfast, which they offered. We tried the french toast, breakfast sandwich, and their specialty coffees ($ 40 PEN for two people).
Huacachina activities …
- Dune Buggy Rides – Obviously the main attraction in the desert oasis is the sand. The dune buggies hold 10 people and take you up the sand dunes, driving all around the desert.
The driver stops at different locations for everyone to get out and take pictures and one of the stops you can go sand sledding or boarding. Mostly everyone laid on their stomachs and slid down a steep sand dune.
My favorite stop for pictures was at the sand dune above Huacachina for sunset, and you could really see how small the town was from this view. It was $15 USD, which I was told was cheaper than normal because we booked multiple excursions. The dune buggy was an awesome experience and a must do!
- Nazca Lines – This was an expensive excursion, that I didn’t know a lot about. I watched a few documentaries about the Nazca Lines before going and that seemed to help me understand the possible formation of these historic geoglyphs. We booked the Nazca Lines for $250 USD, plus a $10 USD airport fee. The price included hotel pickup/drop off and about a 30 minute plane ride. The plane holds 12 people and everyone has their own window.
If you get motion sickness, you may want to take medicine before the plane ride because when the pilot loops around for the other side of the plane to see the geoglyphs, you can feel it. One of our group members did get sick to their stomach on the plane. All and all, I enjoyed the scenery from above almost more than the actual Nazca Lines.
The astronaut geoglyph was my favorite, but also the easiest one to see.
They are harder to see than I thought they would be. When you land, you do get a certificate saying you went up and saw the Nazca Lines. I am glad I did it, but I would not pay to do it twice.
- Isle Ballestas – This is a boat ride to Isle Ballestas, which has the nickname “Poor Man’s Galapagos.” You get to see different animals, and the main one being penguins. I was very excited to see penguins in their own environment but our trip was cancelled due to high surf. This excursion would have been $30 USD.
Huacachina was a relaxing way to start my Peruvian adventure. We left Huacachina on Peru Bus and went back to SM Hotel and Business for the night before flying south to Cusco. I would have liked to explore the more touristy areas of Lima, but time wasn’t on my side. I may just need to go back and do some more exploring!