After hiking the Inca Trail outside Cuzco and exploring the museums in the bustling city of Lima, many travelers agree they crave nothing more than a relaxing setting and a beautiful beach. If you're making your way north, a worthwhile stop is Mancora, thought by many locals and tourists to feature Peru's best beaches.
If you'd like to make the journey in style and comfort, my recommendation is to take the Cruz del Sur bus company. Backpacking six countries in South America, I definitely had my fair share of questionable bus rides; however, Cruz del Sur was the best company I traveled with on the entire continent. Not only do they check bags and do body scans for safety reasons, they feed you a delicious hot meal, show movies in English or Spanish with subtitles, have comfortable reclining seats and provide you with a pillow and blanket. And, the bathrooms were clean and stocked with toilet paper and soap, something almost unheard of on bus transportation in South America.
If flying, the closest airports are in Piura, Tumbes or Talara. When flying internationally, you'll need to travel to Lima first, and then take a national flight to one of the three cities.
Luckily, there are many typical Peruvian restaurants in town. This means you'll be able to easily find and enjoy local, affordable eateries. The most I ever paid for a meal in Mancora was 5 nuevo soles (about $1.80) on a set menu, which includes a starter, entree and refreshing glass of juice. A usual lunch would be a large bowl of chicken noodle soup followed by either baked chicken with rice and potatoes or goat or beef with rice, salad and beans.
Mancora is also a great place to sample some fresh ceviche, or cebiche, as you'll see it written on restaurant signs.
markets To Do
When in Mancora, the best thing you can do is absolutely nothing. The town is very different from many of the popular tourist spots in Peru, and has an amazingly laid-back vibe and stress-free atmosphere. Walking down the main street, you'll see people browsing beach-inspired markets, locals relaxing with a newspaper, playing cards or enjoying a delicious meal, and travelers with dreadlocks and baggy pants twisting each others' hair and weaving bracelets in the sun. At the hostel I stayed at, many of the staff were backpackers who had simply fallen in love with the lifestyle of the area and didn't want to leave.
Still, there are things to do if you so please. Most importantly, spend time on the beach. Here you'll not only be able to sunbathe and go swimming, you'll also be able to partake in a range of water sports and adventure activities, like surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, kitesurfing and horseback riding. I'd also recommend watching the sunrise or sunset at least once while you're there, as the beach is such a peaceful place to watch the colorful show of nature.
whale watching If you're in town during August, September or October, it's definitely worth it to book a whale watching tour. During that time, humpback whales swim from Antarctic waters to breed during reproduction season. Participants have an 80 percent chance of seeing the whales diving, breaching, swimming and playing.
In Mancora, there are also many places to partake in yoga. You'll pay about S/.20 for 90 minutes, and will feel invigorated for the rest of the day. To find a center, just walk along the beach near the hotels and you'll find signs advertising the service. I recommend checking out Samana Chakra and Mancora Yoga: A Center for Radiant Living.
To help you relax even further, getting a massage is an option in this chill beach village. The most reputable spa in the area is Origenes Spa, which offers holistic and specialized treatments – like cooling cucumber for sunburn if you're like me and forget how strong the sun is in Mancora. Depending on what you get will depend on the price, but some examples include a 60-minute aromatherapy massage (about $58), a honey and cucumber facial (about $52) a 2-hour fertility ritual (about $112) and a 30-minute floral bath (about $52). To see the complete menu, click here.
There is also a woman named Sarah Lane who was recommended by my hostel, who gives massages on the beach from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You can find her near the Quebrada entrance of the beach – email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website.
ernest hemingway Day Trips
Located about an hour out of town is Cabo Blanco. Here, you'll find the charming fishing village where Ernest Hemingway used to hangout and drink Pisco Sours while writing brilliant text like "Old Man and the Sea." The location is also where the author caught a 700-pound Marlin fish. If you'd like an informational tour, Pacific Adventures offers a "Hemingway Route" trip that visits all the spots that inspired this legendary writer. For surfers, Cabo Blanco is also known as one of the best places in Peru for the sport.
Another day trip option is to travel about 30 minutes northeast to Poza de Barro, where you'll find a natural hot spring and mud bath. Not only is it relaxing, a soak in the bubbling, sulfurous water is said to be good for your health, curing skin ailments, mineral deficiencies, rheumatic conditions, stress and eliminating toxins. The trip costs about S/. 35 (about $13) round trip.
Most of the nightlife scene revolves around the hotels and hostels. Loki Mancora is the most notorious party spot in the city, and visitors should get there before 10:00 p.m. or risk being charged an admission fee. The Point Mancora Beach also puts on regular theme parties, including their monthly Full Moon Party, which features a live DJ spinning near the pool (shown right). After 2:00 a.m., head to Cocos Beach Club or Charlie Brown's in town to finish the night.
Peru has its fair share of awe-inspiring sights, but most visitors skip right over them and head for the grand finale, Machu Picchu. And though the ancient city is certainly worthy of your time, there is much more to this vast country than a litter-ridden Inca Trail. Dine with the Peruvian elite, walk a manmade island, or raft a canyon that requires a mule to get to; but whatever you do, don't beeline for the Andes then skip town.
Here are five really good reasons to go to Peru that don't include Machu Picchu.
It's no longer the secluded surfer retreat that it once was, but the town of Máncora on Peru's northern coast is a must-do for anyone who likes to drink their cervezas barefoot. The former fishing village sports a classic South American beach vibe where you'll hear the Macarena perhaps a few too many times and dodge Americans practicing their best 7th-grade Spanish. But even with the crowds that come with cult popularity, Máncora retains the charm that initially attracted the carefree lot. Sandy beaches stretch for miles, dotted with beach chairs and plush resorts (plus the random hostel), while waves fit for Kelly Slater await offshore. Hut-like restaurants offer the Pacific's freshest seafood and the coldest beer south of Ecuador. When the sun goes down, so does the level of what's morally acceptable. Known for its raucous nightlife, Máncora transforms into a South American Cancun during the summer months (December to March). Your options of getting here from the capital city of Lima include a somewhat pricey but relatively short plane ride into the cities of Piura or Tumbes (followed by a taxi ride on in), a 16-hour bus ride up the coast, or renting a car and going at it alone.
Tourists visiting the South American country of Perú will now have a new way to tour while in town: the Llama Taxi. Visitors will now be able to see local attractions while being ‘driven’ by a llama. Tours will begin in Chivay as well as the Sibayo district.
Fred Barrios, the manager of Autocolca, said to Peru This Week, “On board Llama Taxi, tourists can get to know areas near Chivay, such as the La Calera hot springs, the colonial bridge, and other natural tourist areas.” The service will create jobs for local residents and so far 6 llamas will be available for use touring the Colca valley.
According to La República, plans are in the works for expansion of the service to other regions within Perú.
Due to its characteristic sunshine and wide range of historical, cultural and culinary offerings, travel to Lambayeque is always an enjoyable and unique experience. It is one of those regions in which you always find something new to be discovered. This time, we are diving into Chaparrí (two hours from Chiclayo), where there is an ecp-lodge from which you can take a walk to appreciate a wide variety of birds and a number of endemic animals, most notably the spectacled bear, fox and white-winged turkey.
Another point of our journey was to visit Los Horcones, which is located just a few meters from the towering pyramids of Tucume, which was the bastion of the Sicán culture between 1000 and 1370 AD
Chapparí: A lodge with natural charm
To reach Chaparrí from Chiclayo, take the road to Chongoyape and turn left at Km. 65 (no road signs). From this point, follow a dirt road to ascend to the lodge, from which you can appreciate the full extent of the impressive Chaparrí mountain, which was considered sacred by the Mochica and continues to be considered as such by local shamans.
The reserve, considered the first private conservation area in Peru, has protected 34,000 hectares of dry forest, where you will find the lodg, composed of twelve cabins (each named after an endemic species) and built in the Moche tradition, with adobe bricks and stone.
The manager of this important project was the renowned photographer Heinz Plenge, who, along with the rural community of Santa Catalina, decided to maintain the natural character of the area and promote ecotourism starting in 2001.
Thanks to the work of Plenge, Chaparrí now features on the map of the favorite destinations of the world’s birdwatchers, who come to spot their favorite birds, and the site has been published in prestigious international journals such as "National Geographic".
Chaparrí offers tours with specialized guides for those who want the adventure of spotting the popular spectacled bears, coastal foxes, Andean condors, Peruvian thick-knees, peccaries and 46 species of endemic birds, all in their native habitat. During this tour, you will also have opportunity to visit Cuto, a charismatic spectacled bear held in captivity after being rescued from a circus, and their colleagues Cholita and Pierre, who are soon to be released into the wild.
In the reptile center, you will meet a variety of poisonous snakes like the coral snake and sancarranca, as well as some amphibians and reptiles that inhabit the area.
Along the way, you will also have opportunity to learn about the properties of the dry forest trees, such as the chaquirón, whose seeds are used to make earrings and necklaces, the sapodilla, which is used to manufacture crafts, or palo verde, which produces rubber.
The route also includes a stop at a replica of a shaman's house, where all of the characteristic ritual objects are displayed.
To maintain equilibrium with the environment, the lodge is supplied with power via solar panels, and has an artisanal water purification system using reeds.
For the convenience of guests, the lodge features a swimming pool, and there are hammocks on each of the terraces, as well as rooms with jacuzzis.
Los Horcones de Túcume is a rural hotel that maintains the essence of the ancient civilizations that dominated the northern Lambayeque Valley, with a construction made of adobe and carob.
Los Horcones de Túcume (Omar Carbajal/PromPerú)
While the site offers comfortable rooms, swimming pool, horseback riding and the possibility of homemade bread fresh from clay ovens, the great appeal of the hotel is to be the neighbor of one of the largest architectural complex of America: the pyramids of Túcume.
On the Incas’ “sacred lake”, Lake Titicaca, 12,500ft above sea level in the Peruvian Andes, lies a remarkable piece of British engineering: a Victorian ship called Yavarí.
She is 150ft long and moored alongside a pontoon behind the Hotel Sonesta Posada del Inca in Puno Bay. Open to visitors every day, she now offers the unique experience of B&B in nostalgic 19th-century surroundings, floating on the world’s highest navigable waterway.
The Yavarí, along with sister ship the Yapurá, was built in England in 1861-62 by James Watt & Co in Birmingham and the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company, who constructed her iron hull.
The two ships were ordered by the Peruvian government as gunboats-cum-tramp steam-sailers to defend the country in case of war with Bolivia. They were also used to collect natural resources such as minerals, wool and precious metals from around the lake for delivery to a mule trail-head and onward transport down to the coast.
The two ships were “pin-built” in their entirety in the Thames yard; bolted together and each piece inventoried before being disassembled and packed in crates for dispatch to what was then the Peruvian port of Arica. From there the boxes travelled 35 miles by train across the Atacama – the world’s driest desert – to Tacna, 1,800 ft above sea level in the foothills of the Andes, to be unpacked and the 2,766 parts carried piecemeal by mules and porters up to Lake Titicaca, where they were riveted back together again. The journey took six years, the Yavarí being eventually launched on Christmas Day, 1870.
As the lake is above the tree-line, the craft began her life either sailing or steaming around the lake on taquia, llama droppings, of which 1,400 bags were required to circumnavigate the lake, measuring 100 miles by 30 miles.
The steam engine was replaced in 1914 by a Swedish Bolinder four-cylinder hot bulb semi-diesel engine which is the largest and oldest of its kind still working in the world. The evocative sound, smell and sight of this collector’s piece in operation can reduce grown men to tears.
It was popularly thought that the Yavarí was built by my great grandfather, Sir Alfred Yarrow, who moved his shipyard from London to Scotstoun on the Clyde in 1906-08. Although that turned out not to be the case, when I found the abandoned hulk in Puno port in 1983 I had to act. She needed rescuing so I bought her from the Peruvian navy and, although considerably altered since 1862, thanks to the Peruvian crew, British benefactors and the donations of international visitors, we have managed to restore her to her former glory.
The Yavarí is easy to reach. Many visitors choose to fly from Lima to Arequipa (one hour) to acclimatise to the altitude before continuing their journey to Juliaca, Puno’s nearest airport. Arequipa, which is 7,661ft above sea level and overlooked by the snow-capped volcano of El Misti, is rich in colonial buildings, particularly churches, all of which are built in white volcanic stone called “sillar”. The central plaza and cathedral earned Unesco World Heritage Site status in 2000 and are well worth a visit. Of particular interest is the 17th-century Convent of Santa Catalina, which is the most important religious monument in Peru. Today, anyone visiting Arequipa should allow time to visit the Colca Canyon. It is the deepest canyon in the world and the only place in Peru to see condors. The drive from Arequipa is about three and a half hours over the altiplano (high plateau) and a mountain pass of 15,800ft.
Visitors should be aware of possible altitude headaches but the rewards are the magnificent landscape and the herds of llamas and alpacas, and often small groups of shy vicuña. The vicuña is the most delicate of the four South American camelids, which include the guanaco more commonly found in Argentina. The trip is also a must for bird lovers as the road passes high-altitude salt lakes, alive with ducks, waders and sometimes flamingos, before descending into the Colca valley which is itself a bird paradise. Such trips can easily be arranged in Arequipa, although pre-booking is best.
From Arequipa it is possible to take a bus or taxi to Puno, a six-hour journey, or to fly to Juliaca and take a minibus to Puno. The flight is 20 minutes and the drive 40 minutes.
In Puno there is a five-star, and several three-star, hotels, both in the town and on the shores of the lake, the latter being the more tranquil option. The cuisine is excellent in these hotels, as well as in the many restaurants along pedestrian-only Calle Lima and its side streets. There is also a huge choice of smaller hotels and hostels.
Besides visiting the Yavarí, a popular excursion is by launch to the Uros floating islands about 30 minutes from Puno or further, to the islands of Taquile, renowned for their weavings and knitwear, or the less visited, Amantani.
The journey time there and back is approximately seven hours, which can be done in a day but it is possible to stay overnight with the islanders. For visitors with more time, Suasi island, on which there is only the home of its owner and a hotel, is a haven of unimaginable peace and beauty.
The Sillustani chulpas, or Inca and pre-Inca burial towers, can be visited on the way to or from the airport.
From Bolivia to the Yavarí involves either a spectacular bus or taxi ride from La Paz to Copacabana or to Desaguadero via Tiahuanaco, built between 400BC and 650AD and one of the most important archaeological sites in South America.
If travelling by bus, ask to be dropped at the relevant turn off and from there it is a 15-minute walk. In both cases there is a pause at the frontier for passport control and changing money and buses, and be aware of the change of time zone. The most direct journey time is approximately seven to eight hours.
From Cuzco, access town for the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, to Puno there is a good bus service which takes about six hours. But I recommend the train run by Orient Express’s Peruvian company.
It takes approximately eight hours and is one of the most memorable rail journeys in the world, running through a landscape of snow-capped mountains, swathes of olive green altiplano dotted with splashes of the psychedelic colours worn by bowler-hatted Indian herdswomen – always spinning as they tend their llamas and sheep – and the lively hamlets along the way.