We started our two-week trip to Peru along the Pacific Coast. The country welcomed us with excellent seafood, a shower of bird poop and a private jet ride.
Flying into Lima at the end of June implies Peruvian winter. This time of year, the capital is covered in a persistent blanket of fog. It gets up to the point where the fog has a name: La Garuá will make your stop in Lima a brief one.
Luckily, you can hide from La Garuá in Lima’s amazing restaurants. From prawn ceviche to jungle food with a twist, Lima has a unique culinary game going on. One name that’s inseparable from Lima’s food scene is Gastón Accurio. We had a delicious lunch in La Mar, Accurio’s hip cebichería in Miraflores. Another gem is Amáz, where culinary art is created out of Amazon ingredients.
Non-culinary stops in Lima include the Larco Museum, which houses an impressive collection of pre-Colombian art. The ancient Peruvians were no prudes, as proven by the entire room devoted to erotic art. You can sip a glass of wine surrounded by pre-Incan statues in the museum’s beautiful garden. Head to Parque de la Reserva after dark to witness the Magic Water Circuit, a colorful fountains and light show.
After the blanket of fog, we rode the night bus to a blanket of birds. Four hours south of Lima, the Islas Ballestas are often referred to as ‘the Poor man’s Galapagos’. The 2:00 AM night bus from Lima drops you right in front of the ticket shop in Paracas, well in time for a morning boat trip to the islands. Before sailing off, the owners of the shop prepared us a tasty breakfast.
It takes about half an hour to get to the islands by speedboat from Paracas. Out of nowhere, a bird mayhem emerged.
Be prepared to take a bird poop hit. The best part of the excursion are the sea lions and their excellent posing skills.
Ica & Huacachina
Back on the mainland we jumped on the bus to Huacachina, a small desert oasis. Huacachina is very touristy, even by Peruvian standards. What draws people in are the sand dunes surrounding the village. Our stay at the Banana Adventure Hostel came with a free buggy and sandboarding adventure. If you go for the afternoon tour, you get a beautiful sunset in the dunes as a bonus.
Pending our fun in the sand, we went on a pisco tour and tasting in El Catador. It didn’t come as a surprise that the distillery was packed with tourists, but the tasting was fun nonetheless. Pisco is a type of brandy distilled from grapes, and qualifies as Peru’s national spirit.
Holiday or not, our alarms went off at 5:00 AM the following morning. This left us with enough time to climb the sand dunes surrounding Huacachina before sunrise. When sliding down on a sandboard the day before, the dunes had been much more cooperative. We found ourselves fighting the steep wall of sand, afraid we’d roll all the way down into the oasis. But the view at sunrise was completely worth it.
After our morning exercise in the sand and a well deserved breakfast, we got on the bus to Nazca. In the plains around Nazca, a series of geoglyphes in the form of animals can be found. Why, how and by whom they were formed continues to be a mystery. What’s for sure is that you need to board a plane to get a good view of the lines. We booked a 35-minute flight from the Nazca Airport through Huacachina.com. The group that was supposed to join us on the plane didn’t show on time. A lot of waiting and negotiating later, we were ready to board our private jet.
We had some time to kill before catching the night bus to Arequipa. Planetario Maria Reiche provides interesting background on the Nazca lines. After a good meal and a couple of Cusqueñas in restaurant La Encantada, we could lie back and relax on the ten-hour ride to Arequipa.