There are many reasons for the mystery and awe that surround Peru’s Amazon rainforest. During the rainy season, the mouth of the Amazon river can reach 300 miles across. The river averages 28 miles across during that time, and will rise and fall 30 feet throughout the year. Small villages disappear from the map as they are engulfed by the rising tides, and locals build permanent houses on stilts. Legends and folklore tell of giant snakes, rare animal and plant species, and even human tribes untouched by time and modern culture. Just two years ago, a lost tribe was spotted in the rainforest along the border between Peru and Brazil. When confronted with the sight of a research plane, they pulled out arrows to defend themselves from intruders. Very few tourists ever get to see this fascinating part of Peru, but with boat tours and small lodges, the options are growing. And although there can be dangers in any area as untouched as the Amazon, experienced guides can ensure you enjoy the incredible sights and experiences safely. Read “Amazon: The Lost World” from National Geographic’s site for a first hand look at this remarkable part of Peru.
From the category archives:
On our recent trip back from Huancayo to Lima, we stopped to take a dip in some thermal spring baths. The baths are interesting and relaxing – the water is heated by sulfur as it bubbles out of the ground, providing a natural jacuzzi effect. There are several areas of Peru that are famous for their thermal baths, including the Colca Canyon, Aguas Calientes, and the Inca Baths of Cajamarca. The Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world, and visitors often relax in the baths there after exploring the area. Aguas Calientes, literally meaning Hot Waters, is located at the base of Machu Picchu, and has become a very popular attraction for people seeking not only relaxation, but also medicinal healing from the naturally warm water. The baths in Cajamarca have remained mostly intact from the time of the Inca Empire, making them a special historical site as well as a place to enjoy the water.
Other areas of Peru are more remote, and not as famous for their hot springs, but can be just as enjoyable. We stopped at one of these spots to experience the baths, and it was a peaceful respite from the long drive back to Lima. The warm water fizzed and bubbled with each of our movements, but was calm and clear when no one was in it. There were two baths in the small building, and privacy for changing into bathing suits. We could smell the sulfur when we first arrived, but quickly got used to it as we relaxed in the water. For just a few soles, we were able to experience what many consider to be a natural healing method that can treat not only stress, but even bone and muscle disorders. Be sure to bring a bathing suit on your trip to Peru, and experience one of these naturally relaxing thermal baths.
In the heart of Lima, you’ll find architecture that is reminiscent of the European influence in Peruvian culture. Balconies like the ones in this photo add to Lima‘s architectural charm, and interesting details on many of the buildings get their inspiration from the streets of Spain. We even saw artisans in the marketplace selling tiny carved wooden replicas of balconies like these, some of which are quite intricate.
I took these photos from the car while driving through the area, but you can also enjoy this part of Lima by joining a bike tour, or just by taking a walk. Some sightseeing opportunities along the way include the Lima Cathedreal, Santo Domingo Church, and many historical monuments that have earned this area the distinction of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Center.
Also near Larcomar in the Miraflores district of Lima is the Rosa Nautica restaurant, sitting on a long pier that stretches into the Atlantic. The restaurant’s location allows for fantastic views, and although the dinner menu has a lot to offer, you may want to stop for lunch to see the impressive waves while the sun is still shining. This area of Peru is also known for perfect surfing conditions, and you’ll see surfers taking advantage of the waves while you eat in Rosa Nautica’s sunny, elegant dining room. On a recent trip, we visited the Rosa Nautica for a birthday celebration. The service is fabulous and the food is too. I tried the classic Lomo Saltado made with Pisco, and finished every last bite. The food is presented beautifully, and it was hard to decide which dessert to choose from the impressive selections. The Rosa Nautica is a “must see” for first time visitors in Peru.
Yet another reason to visit Peru – even other South American countries are now publicly recognizing Lima as a top tourism destination. The Chilean newspaper El Mercurio featured Lima recently, saying that its level of romanticism, gastronomy, and history cannot be found in any other South American city. Neighboring countries around the world may compete with each other to attract attention from tourists, but Peru’s neighbors celebrate its achievements.
As I have mentioned before, Peru is home to many interesting animals. One of the most interesting and also the most endangered is the Andean Bear. These bears are quite different from other bear species, especially since they are mostly vegetarians. They will eat some meat, but it only makes up about 5% of their diets. They are also smaller than grizzly or polar bears, and they are known for running away rather than being aggressive when they feel threatened. In fact, they often climb trees when they are scared, so they can hide in the treetops. These bears are sometimes called spectacled bears because of unique marking on their faces and necks – no two are exactly alike. A recent article from the Union-Tribune’s San Diego news website explains the problems these bears are facing, and discusses The Andean Bear Conservation Project, which is supported in part by the San Diego Zoo. Hopefully this project will preserve one of Peru’s most fascinating creatures, and South America’s only species of bear.
The Northern Central coast of Peru was once home to the Norte Chico civilization, the oldest known civilization in the Americas. Ancient Americans settled there around 3,000 BC, and built a fascinating civilization that lasted for about 1200 years. Recent excavations have shown that the Norte Chico people quickly switched from hunter gatherers to a fairly complex society with impressive architecture, housing, and a barter-system economy. It is amazing to think that this society was so complex, even though they left behind no clues like pottery, writing or art. Apparently, the Norte Chico people never developed ceramics, and they also lacked a central grain-based agricultural system, which are two elements that usually helped ancient societies develop. However, archaeologists have discovered ruins that suggest the Norte Chico people were able to build pyramids and adobe houses despite the inhospitable climate. Researchers believe the society declined as its people moved to more fertile areas and learned about irrigation. For years, the Norte Chico area did not receive much attention, mostly due to its rough climate. However, anthropologists and archaeologists now see these ruins as a stepping stone in the path to modern day civilization. Today, visitors to Peru marvel at the ancient ruins from the first society to develop in the Americas.
Peru is a jewel in the crown of South America. Not only is the country full of history and natural beauty but it has some of the friendliest people on the planet. Tourists once avoided Peru in favor of places with more resorts, but today a rise in the amount of eco-tourism and people interested in visiting archaeological sites has led to a rediscovery of the country of Peru.
There is something for everyone in Peru, even those looking to stay at a luxury resort. A luxury resort, though, will isolate you from all that Peru has to offer. For a taste of the real Peru, stay away from these resorts and stay in smaller accommodations. You will be rewarded by being able to experience the real atmosphere of the people and culture of Peru.
There are some places in the world that offer relaxation, or education. Still others offer shopping and culinary experiences. Peru beckons me for adventure. While it’s true that you could spend your entire time in this country visiting museums and luxuriating in hotels, you would be doing yourself a great disservice if you did not take advantage of what rugged Peru has to offer.
During my most recent visit here, I was able to fit in a trek to Machu Picchu, a stay in the blissful hot springs of Aguas Calientes and a hike to the Sacred Valley. This required a large degree of physical effort, intestinal fortitude (quite literally) and acceptance of the force of nature. But, at the end of each exhausting day, I would gaze up at the mountains and the endless sky and revel in my experience. These are the moments that stay us forever.