An Adventure in Peru
A Wisconsin couple is planning an adventure-filled pre-wedding trip to Peru—with hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking.
A great option for mountain biking is Colca Canyon, in southern Peru. It's twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and has narrow roads that take you past soaring condors, hot springs, and villages. The closest airport is in Arequipa, about four hours' drive from the canyon. Colca Trek leads three-day bike trips and provides transportation from the airport (011-51/54-20-6217, colcatrek.com.pe, three days from $195). If you decide to hike the canyon on your own, catch a ride on a public bus (Turismo Milagros, 011-51/54-29-8090) or rent a car from Hertz (011-51/54-28-2519, hertz.com).
"What's the best way to get from Cuzco to Puno?"
Besides Titicaca, the southern city of Puno doesn't have many tourist attractions. If you fly to Juliaca, the closest airport, you'll be stuck figuring out how to fill the whole day. Instead, take the train or a bus so you can spend the time admiring Peru's dramatic mountain scenery. PeruRail's luxury train, the Andean Explorer, is designed like a 1920s Pullman coach and serves complimentary lunch and tea (011-51/84-23-8722, perurail.com, Andean Explorer from $148). Inka Express runs buses that stop at major historic sites between the two cities (011-51/84-24-7887, inkaexpress.com, from $45). The trip takes nine hours, whether you go by bus or by train.
"We've heard a little about Islas Ballestas, off the southern coast. Are they worth a trip?"
The islands' famed sea-lion and bird populations are most active around 9 a.m., but to see them you have to join the crowds on an early-morning motorboat ride. You may be better off exploring the Ica desert, on the mainland, where you can see fossils of birds, like a five-foot-tall penguin, or of prehistoric marine life, like sea sloths and whales. Or head to Nazca to climb Cerro Blanco, one of the world's tallest sand dunes. To visit the desert, book a tour with mining prospector turned guide Roberto Penny Cabrera (011-51/56-23-7373, icadeserttrip.com, two- to three-day tours from $100 for groups of three or four). In Nazca, guide Edmundo Watkin leads dune treks (011-51/56-52-3212, eight-hour group tours from $22).
"Anything else we should know?"
When you leave, you'll need $30.25 in U.S. currency to pay the airport's international exit tax. Lima has ATMs where you can get U.S. dollars, but you're on your own for the quarter!
Peru has no shortage of creative cocktails, many made with fresh fruit and pisco, Peru's white brandy. The pisco sour is the old-time favorite, but keep an eye out for sours made with passion fruit, coca leaf, and goldenberry.