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Peru in May 2012 - Trip Report

I owe a big THANK YOU to the active members of this forum. You helped me figure things out and plan out an amazing trip to Peru. I wrote this itinerary so people who haven't been before get some information, but hopefully I don't give it all away either. :) So if you've been, bear with some of the explanations.

Husband and I are in our mid-twenties, moderately active, love adventure. We went to Peru in May for just over three weeks. This trip report is going to be long. I'll be replying to this post with continuations of the story.

Overall impressions: We LOVED Peru. Loved the people, the culture, and all the history. We are hoping to go back some day to explore the northern part of the country as we only saw the southern half.

Original Itinerary:
1 – Travel to Lima
2 – Travel to Paracas
3 – Paracas + Nasca
4 – Nasca (overnight bus to Arequipa)
5 – Arequipa
6 – Colca Canyon tour
7 – Colca Canyon tour (bus to Puno)
8 – Lake Titicaca tour (overnight on Amantani)
9 – Lake Titicaca tour (overnight Puno)
10 – Inka Express to Cusco
11 – Sacred Valley tour (overnight Cusco)
12 – Sacred Valley tour (overnight Cusco)
13 – Inka Trail Hike
14 – Inka Trail Hike
15 – Inka Trail Hike
16 – Inka Trail Hike / Machu Picchu
17 – Machu Picchu (overnight Ollantaytambo)
18 – Sacred Valley tour (overnight Cusco)
19 – Cusco on our own (overnight Cusco)
20 – Sacred Valley tour (overnight Cusco)
21 – Fly to Lima / Lima
22 – Lima / Fly home

Unfortunately a turn of events led us to change our itinerary last minute to cut out Arequipa. The trip we took was very similar but we had to change days 4-7:

4 – Nasca (overnight in Nasca)
5 – Nasca – extra day (overnight bus to Cusco)
6 – Bonus day in Cusco (overnight bus to Puno)
7 – Bonus day in Puno

Now let's get into it!

>> Day 1 – Travel to Lima <<

Hotel: Albergue Miraflores (in Miraflores neighborhood) - Recommend.

We flew Chicago – Houston – Lima. Smooth flights, no issues. When you go through customs in Lima, each person pushes a button. Green light = Enter Peru. Red light = Customs officer looks through all of your stuff. Two green lights for us! We heeded the advice of our hotel and other travelers and used Taxi Green to get to Miraflores. We got to our hotel after midnight and went straight to sleep.

>> Day 2 – Travel to Paracas <<

Hotel: Brisas del Bahia - Recommend
Transportation: Cruz del Sur (bus) - Recommend
Restaurants: Juan Pablo (dinner) - Recommend

The next morning the hotel owner sat down with us over breakfast and gave us a very thorough overview of Miraflores and central Lima. Sights to see, where to eat, store locations, where not to go, etc. After breakfast we walked down the street to a supermarket to purchase toiletries we hadn't wanted to carry on the plane including contact solution, sunscreen and toilet paper (very necessary to carry with you in Peru). We spent the rest of the morning walking around Miraflores. We ate a light lunch of churros and chocolate before heading to catch our Cruz del Sur bus to Paracas at 2:00PM.

We opted to head to Paracas in the afternoon instead of 4AM the next morning to catch up on sleep. (We also had almost two full days in Lima built into the end of our trip.) The bus was great - very comfy seats (we were in "first class" on the lower level), decent food, movies... a great way to get around.

We got to Paracas around 5:30 PM. The bus station itself is highly amusing - just an open-air stand on the grounds of a hotel. We walked about half a mile down the main road to reach our hotel, Brisas del Bahia. We got the feeling we were the only guests that night (we never saw anyone else). After dropping our stuff in our room we walked along the water front area and tried to book a tour for the next morning to the Islas Ballestas, but they were closed. We ate dinner at Restaurant Juan Pablo on the main strip. Husband had tradito, I had arroz con camerrones. Before dinner, we were given free tasting portions of pisco sours and Peruvian "popcorn" (toasted corn kernels). Yum! The town was mostly deserted - most people take day trips from Lima and don't really stay the night.

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