Discover Peru’s Treasures: My Top Four Attractions
I once saw a National Geographic TV show about aliens, and if some were to come to Earth (or have already been here) they’d go to Peru, as this South American country has everything our planet has to offer within a relatively small geographic area. Good enough for extraterrestrials, good enough for me.
Peru indeed offers a culture and landscapes unlike any other place. That’s why after the first visit there, I just knew we had to organize a tour and share the adventure with our readers. True, Peru is still more or a less a developing country, however, neither any tour member nor I ever felt unsafe. All of the hotels have secure motorcycle parking, they’re gated, and some quite luxurious. The hustle and bustle of larger cities adds to the excitement of riding a motorcycle. There is a system to the madness (although it may not seem like it at first) and it’s a lot of fun weaving through the traffic. All this happens at walking speeds in first or second gear and makes great practice for the clutch. Peruvians still have time to stop and talk, and no one is ever in a rush. You won’t find a string of chain establishments in Peru, either. That’s why I highly recommend visiting—before the multinational corporations move in.
Here are four attractions of the tour, starting with my favorite.
“The Lost City of the Incas” was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and with good reason. Now I’m not a person who gets easily excited about sightseeing at ancient ruins. But, when the day starts out with a train ride through steep mountains (most of which are covered in fog), followed by a bus ride up countless switchbacks, the walk through the gates of Machu Picchu is almost epic.
The ruins were shrouded in a sea of fog. I couldn’t even see one stone—so much for getting up at 6 a.m., I thought—but then the magic happened. As we were standing there, the fog began to lift and the Lost City of the Incas revealed itself more and more. It was quiet. Everyone felt it. There was something in the air that was difficult to describe. Fifteen minutes later the fog disappeared, leaving us to our guided tour under blue skies.
The Peruvian government is limiting the number of daily visitors to Machu Picchu. Why not go while you still can?
More or less right around the corner from Machu Picchu lies Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incas. Whereas the famous ruins are at an altitude of 7,970 feet (so not very high in respect to the rest of the tour), Cusco is a bit higher at 11,152 feet. That kind of thin air is really noticeable during a city walk. Taking it slow is a better idea anyway, because there is a lot to see. From the legendary Inca walls to the Spaniards’ attempt at it, our knowledgeable tour guide led us to the most noteworthy places in Cusco. And for a big city, this one actually felt the most western-like. No traffic chaos, quite clean, and with lots of great restaurants and bars. These were the two nights where we had even more fun in the evening.
Not one specific place, obviously, but the Andean mountain range is probably one of the most impressive ranges in the world. It stretches for 4,300 miles along the western side of South America. The Andes have three climates: wet, dry, and tropical. At an average height of 13,000 feet, the Andes have some of the highest plateaus in the world, second to only the Tibetan Plateau.
Our first foray into this mountain range became my favorite motorcycling day—ever. We left Nazca, which lies at only 1,700 feet—forty miles later and more than 10,000 feet higher the world looked a whole lot different. I don’t need to describe what type of road it takes for that kind of elevation change, do I? Well, let me anyway. The road, with absolutely perfect asphalt, snakes its way up the mountains offering up exponentially better views as it progresses. It’s a motorcyclist’s dream come true. Best of all—little to no traffic except a truck or bus once in a while, and as you burn through the curves, you might look up and see a vicuña (the smallest member of the camel family) staring back at you.
This tour is mainly on paved roads, with the exception of a few hotel driveways and the way to the Chauchilla Cemetery, which is packed dirt. The outlier is the road to Colca Canyon. It’s a rocky, but wide dirt road. Busses use it, too—everyone wants to see the condors soar!
Taken at a relaxed paced, the dirt road is easy to navigate. The stunning view off to the right gives you an excuse to go slow as well. Just before we reached the outlook platform for the birds, we had to make it through the biggest hurdle of the day. A tunnel without any light (it’s really pitch black in there), a sweeping curve to the right, and sandy ground. On top of it all, busses barrel through the tunnel stirring up the dust. It’s excitement at its best. Every rider made it through albeit white-knuckled. The reward on the other side: condors.
The magnificent birds have their nests in the cliffs on the other side of us. Once it’s warm enough, they throw themselves into the canyon depths and use the thermals to circle high into the air. From here they actually fly all the way to the ocean and back. Impressive!
These are just my four of my favorite attractions in Peru. Of course there plenty more like Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, the Inca Greenhouse, the Nazca Lines, the desert, mountains, the ocean, and the wonderful people of Peru.
Like what you read? Sign up for the 2017 Peru Tour now! The deadline to register is February 7, 2017.