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There's more to Peru than Machu Picchu

JOAN LAI on 24 Jun 2015

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PERU offers so much in terms of tourism. People usually fly straight to Cuzco to see Machu Picchu, but another option is to travel to Arequipa, then visit Colca Canyon, travel to Puno, and then Cuzco and Machu Picchu, for the best of Peru.


The historic centre of Arequipa city is built on volcanic sillar rock. The city's architecture represents an integration of European and native building techniques and styles.


There were lots of small yellow taxis that look like Malaysia's Kancil car. If you are here when a festive parade is on, there are many vantage points to watch from. This is the city to taste the speciality cheese ice cream known as queso helodo - it is very yummy.


If the timing is right, you can see the Misti Mountain "smoking" as it is an active volcano. I saw snow at the top of this mountain. During the day, it was hot but, at night, it was cold even though it was summertime. I enjoyed visiting the monastery and viewing the sunset here.


There are stunning views on the journey to Chivay, a small town with hot springs, as we passed through the Miracle de Ios Andes (4,910m above sea level). On the way, there was no snow but, after it rained in the afternoon and at night, there was snow along the same road the next day. I passed by a nature park and saw wild llamas running around. Llama fur is among the most expensive in the world.


I stopped in a town before my journey to Colca Canyon, where I saw a snow-capped mountain ahead. Locals in traditional attire could be seen dancing around the piazza.


Colca Canyon is the third most-visited tourist destination in Peru. This canyon of the Colca River, in southern Peru, is located about 160km north-west of Arequipa. At a depth of 4,160m, it is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States.


I walked around this place to try and spot a condor, the biggest bird in this region. There are other birds around, making this an excellent place for bird-watching and nature lovers. Do note that the road to Colca Canyon is rocky, with steep ravines.


My next destination was Puno city in south-eastern Peru, located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake (3,860m above sea level), on the Peruvian Altiplano. 


Lake Titicaca has 41 "floating islands"; many of them are made of reeds grown on the lake. To this day, the Uros people maintain and live on these man-made islands, depending on the lake for their survival. Dragon-boat racing, an age-old tradition in Puno, is very popular among tourists.


It was cold in Cuzco, which is an amazing historical city. My hotel room was right in front of the fountain and within walking distance of Cuzco Cathedral and many tourist spots. The cathedral has many beautiful paintings. I was there when there was a parade going on. There are many museums in this area that are worth visiting. Cuzco is beautiful at night, too, even though it is cold when walking around.


On the way to Machu Picchu, we visited Ollantaytambo. It is a town and an Incan archaeological site in southern Peru, some 60km north-west of the city of Cuzco (2,793m above sea level).


There were many travellers from other countries. I made friends and enjoyed exploring the area together with them. 


A Korean man and a Swiss woman invited me to climb Pinkuylluna with them. We climbed for an hour along a narrow, steep path up to Pinkuylluna, the ruins of an Incan storage site. The traditional chicha drink in Peru is made from the manioc root, yucca root or maize. It can be found here and is worth a try.


We waited for the 7pm train to Machu Piccu. It is the most popular destination in Peru, and was voted as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Incan site located at an elevation of 2,430m.


It was built in the classical Incan style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Inti Watana, the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows. These are located in what archaeologists call the Sacred District of Machu Picchu.


The view from here is stunning. As I passed through a doorway, I came to the conclusion that the Incans must be have been about the same height as Asians. 


There are a few sites which require you to sign an indemnity form first as sites like the Inca Bridge, with its narrow walkway, has its hazards. The view from the top is breathtaking. It is amazing how the Incas built the walkway.


If you have an international student card, you can get a discount but you must produce the card and passport. The ticket counter opens at 6.30am.


Source: My Paper © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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