Visit Peru off the beaten path – Part 1 – Titicaca and Cusco
Peru is one of the countries with the largest variety of micro-climates in the world; 84 to be specific. This means there’s something for everybody, be it beach, mountains, desert, jungle, Peru has it all.
There are very famous spots in Peru that serve as a touristic flag. This has been amazing for the country’s economic growth but also brings crowded locations that nobody really loves. As a consequence, some areas have also lost their roots as they started to evolve and adapt to tourism as their main revenue.
Lake Titicaca is a big example of this and one of the reasons why we tend to suggest other options for people looking to experience the real Peru.
History tells us the first 2 Incas came from lake Titicaca. The floating islands are also quite famous and make this a very common option. However if you do go to Puno looking for a very real experience, we are afraid to say that we think quite a lot of the culture has been lost. It is common to hear the locals sing in several languages as they were taught this is what pleases tourists. So yes, the lake is indeed beautiful. There are a few very nice options such as Isla Amantani – spending the night with a local family. So Puno and it’s famous Inca lake is worth consideration but we feel there are much better options.
The famous Rainbow Mountains have also become a massive flag for Peru. With its popularity rising, so does the number of visitors. It is said anywhere from 1000 to 3,500 people can be accounted for in one single day. Massive groups and thousands of picture visiting one single mountain, leads to a very chaotic experience and not really one where you feel immersed in nature.
As an alternative to this route, we recommend visiting “the Alternative Rainbow Mountains”. There are a few good reasons to drive one extra hour and see this location. First, you don’t visit one rainbow mountain, you can visit 3. Way less people choose this option, meaning it’s common to have the place for yourself with no one around or very few tourists in sight. There’s also the rock forest, a beautiful area of fascinating rock formations with an overlook over the 3 rainbow mountains.
The red valley can be seen on this reasonably easy trek (the circuit is not that elevated, making this quite a doable trek). On the way into the top of the Alternative Rainbow Mountains, you’ll also see beautiful Andean landscapes, cross paths with lots of llamas and alpacas and go through a few small beautiful quechua villages.
The Alternative Rainbow Mountains are clearly one of the most unique places on earth.
There are quite a few famous treks into Macchu Picchu. The Inca trail is marketed as the original Inca way there, but the truth is, there are over 17,000kms of Inca trails connecting a huge area of South America together.
Salkantay is definitely one of the hardest but most beautiful treks. But it’s been getting busier every year. The so called “original inca trail” is packed to the limit every single day. Yes it is beautiful. But also yes it is crowded.
The Lares trek has been growing as an option, but that doesn’t actually let you walk all the way to Macchu Picchu.
Lastly, you have the chance to go by train from the Sacred Valley into Águas Calientes and then climb Macchu Picchu. This is the most comfortable way to travel to the lost city of the Incas, but also one of the most beautiful as the train travels the valley alongside the famous Urubamba river.
If photographing Macchu Picchu is a priority, we recommend you go up on the first possible hour to have the best light and least amount of people – 06h00 am.
At Andean Photo Expeditions we offer an off-the-beaten path 3D/2N option to visit Macchu Picchu.
On day 1, you get to visit beautiful locations in the Sacred Valley, including a beautiful view point in the middle of the Andes mountains where some Quechua farmers and shepherds usually go about their daily lives. There’s also a visit to the Maras Salt Mines, Huaypo Lagoon and the Chinchero textiles town. You end this day in the beautiful town of Ollantaytambo hopping on a train to Aguas Calientes.
On day 2 you visit Macchu Picchu with one of the best local guides. the knowledge and love that the locals have for the Inca culture is impressive. Our local guide is often said to be very passionate about “Mapi” and the ancient culture.
Day 2 is reserved for Macchu Picchu so no running from crowds here. Go early, enjoy the light, visit the Inca bridge for free and get to photograph on an original Inca trail as well as the classic Macchu Picchu shots. By the end of the day, you hop back on a train to the Sacred Valley and spend the night.
Day 3 takes you completely off-the-beaten path and visiting a local Quechua community. This is also a one day tour from Cusco that we call “The Faces of Peru”.
You’ll have the chance to visit the school and play or photograph the kids during their recess. You’ll also be hosted by a local family of 7, of which 5 are children.
Lunch will be prepared by our host Bernardino and you’ll have the afternoon to photograph the family as you please.
We’ll finish the day with a visit to some beautiful local lagoons and have the chance to photograph some beautiful landscapes with our quechua hosts joining us for the ride.
This 3rd day finishes at the door of your hotel or any other location you desire either in Cusco or the Sacred Valley.
A truly off-the-beaten-path quechua experience for 3 days.
Stay tuned for part II and III where we will explore the options around the coastal area of Lima, Paracas and Huacachina and later on some jungle options such as Iquitos, Pucalpa, Manu and Puerto Maldonado (Tambopata).
The Andean Team.