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Make like a modern-day Hiram Bingham and delve into the Peruvian undergrowth. Who knows what you might find. From ancient Incan ruins to smiling caimans and sleeping capsules, Peru is one big, brilliant adventure.
1. Bike through the Sacred Valley
Your legs and lungs will be in for a jolly good burn, but cycling Peru’s Sacred Valley will be one almighty big reward for your retinas. Peddling at altitude is without doubt, an endurance test, but seeing the Peruvian communities that most roads don’t access will grant you entry into authentic Peru. From Inca remains to fields of quinoa you’ll weave through remote villages and local Andean communities, mixing fast downhill rides with steep uphill climbs. The tracks are dusty, the landscape’s dramatic and your finish line looks (and feels) like a colossal achievement – but one that your freshly toned buns will thank you for.
2. Head down to the salt mines in Las Salineras
When talking about the Incas, it’s safe to presume they were a sharp bunch of revolutionaries. While the salt mines of Las Salineras were more than likely constructed by a civilisation predating the Incas, it was they who saw the salt pans as an economic opportunity. Strategically dug into the mountainside, more than 6000 pans have been collecting salt crystals - and making money – for centuries. Book a tour of the Inca salt mines and take a look at this man-made wonder for yourself. Each pan is still owned and mined by a local family of the community, while collectively they make one helluva visual splendour.
3. Visit the ruins of Ollantaytambo
Ruin, ruins and more ruins – oh and what a sight they are to behold. Both fortress and temple, the remnants of Ollantaytambo are so steep, and so huge, not even the Spanish could penetrate this beautiful stone beast. Not at first anyway. To this day, the enormous terraces stand somewhat stubbornly on the outskirts of the Sacred Valley and look quite spectacularly across it. Even the views from the bottom are tittering dangerously on overwhelming, with most terraces overshadowing the average man. Combine your exploration with a trip to the quarry; a six kilometre hike away on the opposite side of the river. It is here where the large stone blocks are believed to have been sourced. Quite the feat. It seems the Incas had both brains and brawn.
4. Hang off a cliff. Literally.
Climbing into bed takes on a whole new meaning at the Skylodge Adventures Suites.
Suspended 400 metres above the Sacred Valley in Cusco, Skylodge is a series of cliff-attached pods that you can sleep in overnight. The only catch is you have to climb up to them first. Once conquered you'll be rewarded with a bed, dining area and bathroom. We hear the views from the toilet are phenomenal.
5. Hike the Inca Trail
But of course.
Look up and embrace the formidable sights that up until 1911, lay completely undiscovered. The trek isn’t solely about the penultimate ruins, you’ll pass many more en-route, entwined within rolling mountainside and dense jungle. The first day is unnervingly easy; a false sense of illusion before the back-breaking second day. It’s a constant, unwavering uphill ascent, followed by a very steep decline which takes every ounce of concentration to re-stabilise wobbly legs. You’ll sweat and you’ll curse, in equal amounts, but man alive you’ll feel invincible.
HOT tip: Remember, the trail is closed throughout February, and whenever you choose to go, book well in advance as permits are always limited.
6. Go on a caiman-spotting cruise in Tambopata
Caiman, a close relative of both the alligator and crocodile (hence the snappy jaw and suspiciously beady eyes) hang out in South America. With six species in total, four reside in the rainforests of Tambopata in Peru. Commandeer a canoe and head out on an oxbow lake to find one. Notably shy, you’ll have to closely scan the other plants and wildlife with a certain degree of patience. And we recommend you head out with a guide, because you know, teeth. Albeit timid, and prone to eating insects, crustaceans, and fish, we don't suggest you go sticking your fingers in the water.
7. Kayaking excursion on Lake Titicaca
With so many awesome sights, let alone the Incan splendours, Peru is replete with tourists (those old pesky things) but don’t curl your lip, we have a solution. Get off the beaten track with a kayaking excursion on Lake Titicaca. Famed for its communities and reed islands, you can pay for the assistance of a kayak guide and glide across on a cool lake breeze. On a clear day, the high snow-capped mountains of Bolivia will frame the horizon, while local children look on captivated. Dock at a reed island, meet the locals who live there and stop for lunch on a secret sliver of sandy beach. No previous experience is required but you’ve got to get some oomph behind those oars, so good physical condition is a bonus.
8. Lake Titicaca homestay
Bet you wish you lived on a Titicaca reed island; when families and/or neighbours disagree, they simply cut their islands in half and drift apart. How’s that for getting rid of a bad ex?
Partaking in a Lake Titicaca homestay may be popular but it’s still one of the most authentic experiences in Peru. Varying in size, small islands may have three families whereas larger ones may accommodate ten. You can decide to stay somewhere very basic, or in the lap of luxury – complete with outdoor toilet and limited electricity. Meals will be simple yet satisfying, combining fried cheese, boiled potatoes and plenty of quinoa, and as night falls you’ll probably be encouraged to don traditional Peruvian dress and partake in a sing-song. You might think that sounds corny, but when you’re amongst it, encircled by genuine Peruvian hospitality, it’s just what the doctor ordered. After your party at the communal hall you’ll return to bed for the best night’s sleep of your life. Zero noise or light pollution makes great shut-eye.
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