On June 12, 2013, we were visiting Machu Picchu. This was part of an extensive visit to South America that began shortly after we got married in April 2013.
Visiting Machu Picchu is a terrific experience that we would heartily recommend. For anyone wanting to make this trip, it’s probably best to do so with an organized tour company since the logistics can be tricky. We used the city of Cusco as a base for getting to Machu Picchu. Cusco is the foremost city of the Inca Empire and holds the claim as the oldest continuously inhabited city in South America.
After returning to Cusco, we then made another trip from there, this time to the rain forest in an area called Puerto Maldonado in the southern Amazon zone of Peru. Once we returned again to Cusco, we finally left the city to head south to the town of Puno and Lake Titicaca where we had the opportunity to explore some of the fascinating native groups living on the lake.
This time in southern Peru was a particularly memorable portion of our time in South America.
Leaving from Arequipa, we wanted to get to Arica, Chile, just across the border from Tacna, Peru. This meant first taking a bus from Arequipa to Tacna. When we arrived in Tacna, we walked “across the street” to the international bus terminal. From there we would join a “collectivo” which would take us across the border, making the stops to get us stamped out of Peru and then into Chile.
In general, a collectivo is some type of vehicle that collects passengers until it’s full before leaving. In this case, the collectivo was a passenger car with 5 passengers. Once we had our 5, the driver took our passports and had our Chile tourist cards prepared.
Following the relatively uneventful border crossing, the driver delivered us to the international bus terminal in Arica. The trip from Tacna, Peru, to Arica, Chile, is about 40 miles, took a little over an hour and cost us about $11.
It stretches for 120 kilometers and is one of the deepest canyons in the world. Depending upon which reference you use, you may find that Colca Canyon (photos) is the second deepest or perhaps the fourth deepest. At any rate, one of the most recent measurements has set its depth at just over 4,000 meters (13,200 feet). The depth is measured from the top of mountain peaks that line the edges of the canyon so Colca is helped by nearby Andean mountains.
With a population of 865,000 people, Arequipa (photos) is Peru’s second largest city. Arequipa manages to bridge coastal Peru and Andean Peru, both geographically and sociologically. It sits at an elevation of 2350 meters (7,750 feet) above sea level giving it a consistently pleasant year round climate. The city enjoys a dramatic setting, guarded by three volcanoes including the nearly perfectly cone shaped and snow topped El Misti, topping out at 5825 meters.
As a traveler, such as us, there is very little reason to visit Puno other than to explore Lake Titicaca (photos) and some of the unique island communities that are a part of it. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable body of water in the world by virtue of the fact that it has a ferry service that provides regular island transportation. The lake surface is at about 12,600 feet above sea level.