If this post is a little shorter than usual, it is because I am currently somewhere in the Caucasus. I’ll be back next week (provided I don’t die in the interim) with a full report on my doings. In the meantime, here are five cities in Peru that are perfect for a staycation.
For most travelers, Lima is nothing more than a stopover on the way to other destinations in Peru. This is a shame because while the city isn’t exactly pretty, given time, it can really grow on you. For starters, Lima has world-class restaurants where you can sample such Peruvian delicacies as ceviche and chifa, a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese cuisine. It is also home to some rather impressive ruins, including the pre-Inca site of Pachacamac just 40 km south of the city.
There is no finer example of colonial architecture in Peru than Cusco, and while it can get crowded with as many as 2 million visitors treading its well-worn cobblestone streets, it still retains its charm. Once the center of the Inca Empire, much of its indigenous architecture was destroyed by the conquistadors. Nevertheless, the surrounding countryside is littered with archeological sites, many of which are situated in the beautiful Sacred Valley of the Incas. Not to mention the fabled Machu Picchu is just a day-trip away. And yes, it lives up to the hype.
Undoubtedly, one of Peru’s most interesting places, the island city of Iquitos is only accessible by boat or plane. A metropolis in the heart of the rainforest, Iquitos is Peru’s gateway to the Amazon. Like Lima, travelers tend to spend only a day here before jumping on a boat to head into the jungle. But from its markets stocked with rainforest products to an entire iron house built by Gustave Eiffel, Iquitos is chalk full of history and culture.
Situated at the foot of the Andes, Arequipa has a dry, pleasant climate. After an earthquake in 1868, most of the city was reconstructed following its own unique school of architecture. Arequipa makes for an excellent base for weekend hikes, including up the 6000-meter high Chachani mountain or down the Colca Canyon, one of the world’s deepest. Condors can also be spotted frequently in the area most of the year.