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Archive for the ‘South America’ Category

Pucusana, Peru – A Must Visit

Peru is absolutely packed with amazing towns, cities, sites, history, culture, food, and truly interesting people. There are probably innumerable “must sees” in the country. Most of them are rather obvious – Machu Picchu, the rain forest, Cusco, for example. One town, though, that you probably won’t find on any tourist map is Pucusana. You need to go. It’s that simple.

Pucusana is a fishing village, about 45 minutes outside of Lima. We went on a private tour with Pax on Board, a Lima-based tour company that specializes in unique tours that you won’t necessarily find with your standard tour company. Our guide, Nilton, was absolutely phenomenal, and his passion about his country made the tour that much interesting – when the person taking you around for the day exudes passion for the places that he/she is showing you, the day elevates from a tour to an experience.

The first stop in Pucusana was a blow hole, quite a treat and not something we’d seen anywhere else during our time in Peru. Watching local kids wade and play in the water, running away every time the blow hole “erupted”, offered up an image of what life on a Saturday afternoon in Pucusana is like for these residents.

We then headed over to the fishing boats, where we boarded a very legitimately local boat with a very legitimately local fisherman. There was no question that this man fished for his livelihood. This wasn’t some touristy excursion, this was a couple of hours on an authentic Pucusana fishing boat. First off, the color and culture in the town is a photographer’s dream. Watching the boats wander out into the water, the fisherman bringing their catch back to the active fish market, the families and dogs (yes dogs!) working aboard the boats. It’s an ideal place to catch a cultural “action shot”.

Once we got out of the harbor area, we started to experience wildlife viewing more prolific than we’d seen even in the rainforest. Who knew this little fishing town was full of seals. Or penguins! Our boat “captain” stopped to feed some pelicans (cranes? I might not have the name correct), and they were so close I thought they may somehow manage to get into the boat. We saw endemic birds that we hadn’t spotted anyone else on our trip. It was truly an incredible example of the ecological scope that the country offered, right here in this small fishing town.

I can’t recommend this tour enough. To add to it, we also got a private tour of parts of Lima that traditional city tours don’t go to, where we say “real” Lima life, not just the downtown areas, also by Pax on Board, and highly recommended as well. I also can’t thank Nilton and his company enough, and I need to mention Donovan at Ideal South America, who connected us with Pax on Board in the first place. I would be 100 percent confident sending my Peru-bound clients on this tour, and hope to do so in the near future. Thank you, gentlemen, for a wonderful experience!

PS Let me make it very clear, I reached out to both Nilton and Donovan to ask if I could write this blog and mention them. They in no way hired or even requested that I write this. I just had to share my one-of-a-kind experience with my readers, and I couldn’t do so without mentioning those that made it that possible.

Surprising Cities – Urubamba, Peru

It’s day four of Surprising Cities. I’m cheating on this one slightly. It wasn’t just this city that surprised me, but the whole area. The town of Urubamba was quite interesting, and the Sacred Valley as a whole was even more intriguing.

Why I went: As a jumping off point to visit Machu Picchu.

What I expected: Nothing of the town/valley itself. Truly, at least when it was first included in the itinerary, it was a means to an end.

What I found: In addition to discovering one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed at (Tambo del Inka), Urubamba and the surrounding area have more culture and history in a few miles than some countries have between their borders. Without the hotel, you’d never know that a tourist has ever visited. I could have sat and watched people going about their daily life for hours – farmers walking cattle down the street; local diners going in and out of eateries that have probably been run by the same family for generations; three wheeled taxis (think tuk-tuk style) traveling down the main road just as impatiently as they would in any North American city; mothers carrying their babies, wrapped in traditional Peruvian blankets, on their back. Colors abounded everywhere – the houses, the clothing, the cars, the signs were all in bold color. Scenery wise, the valley is tough to beat. The mountains rise to one side, while the Urubamba river runs, and sometimes races, along the other. It truly looks like something you’d see in a movie about authentic life in Peru.

How much time to spend: You must give yourself at least two nights. While it’s not particularly difficult to access, you do fly into Cusco and then get a transfer into the valley (the transfer takes just over an hour). Take this first day to get adjusted to the altitude – even though it’s a Valley, it’s still at about 8,000 feet. If you’re heading to Machu Picchu, which is why most people visit, you’ll need a full day for that. Getting there involves a train to the equally fascinating town of Aguas Calientes, and then a van transfer for approximately 30 minutes, so the day trip to Machu Picchu is a busy one. You can also add another day to spend time seeing the rest of the Valley. Though not as famous as Machu Picchu, the region is known for its salt flats, which travelers that have some extra time like to visit.