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.
Cusco (or Cuzco, photos) is the unquestioned capital of the Inca empire, both during the heyday of the Inca civilization just prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500’s and today. Legend has it that the city was founded in the 12th century and reached the pinnacle of its importance for the Inca world during the 100 years prior to the arrival of the conquistadors in 1532.
The Lonely Planet guidebook calls Peru’s Amazon basin “the best-protected tract of the world’s most bio-diverse forest.” Puerto Maldonado (photos) is in the southern Amazon zone of Peru, due East of Cusco near the border with Bolivia. It sits at the confluence of Rio Tambopata and Rio Madre de Dios. The Rio Madre de Dios continues through Bolivia and into Brazil where it joins with the Amazon. There are a series of jungle lodges along the banks of this river downstream from Puerto Maldonado. We chose to spend 3 nights at the Eco Amazonia Lodge.