High Altitude. Floating islands. Ancient culture. Salt Flats.
Would I recommend? Absolutely but with elevations of 8,000 to 15,000 throughout, I definitely think this is a destination you should enjoy as young, healthy and active as possible.
Arequipa: We started in the White City Arequipa, named because of the white volcanic rock, a great Spanish colonial town with a beautiful square and cathedral. Definitely tour the Santa Catalina convent started in1580. The tradition of the time indicated that the second son or daughter of a family would enter a life of service in the Church, and the monastery accepted only women from upper-class Spanish families. Each family paid a dowry at their daughter's admission to the monastery. At one time, they had over 175 nuns in separate homes built by family. During a reform period in 1870, the Vatican stopped this practice.
From here we went to Valley of Colca, and along the way, we stopped in Chivay, which was celebrating the Festival of Our Lady of the Assumption. Young people dance in the traditional festival of "poncheke" which begins the night after the Sunday of carnival. That evening we stayed at Belmond Le Casitas del Colca, challenging terrain in elevation not faint of heart, but stunning casitas with great views. The Casitas offered a fireplace in the room, enjoyable dining room lovely, a place for relaxing after a busy day.
Condor Cross: The next morning we headed to the Condor Cross, the perfect viewpoint to light in the majestic flight the Condor, the largest flying bird in the world. Andean condor’s wingspan, ranging 9 to 10.17 feet and weigh up to 33 lbs! Wow!
Recommendation: Belmond Andean Explorer
Uros Islands: It's not every day you come across a community living on floating islands. We traveled to Puno where we took a vessel to the floating Islands of Uros, whose people are considered the oldest inhabitants of the Andean Plateau.The 44 or so floating islands inhabitants include the Uros people, and the islands are mainly constructed by reeds. It is a fascinating way of life, with a culture completely unique to Peru's ancient traditions and history.
Titicaca Lake Crossing: thoroughly enjoyed! Lake Titicaca, set in between the border of Peru and Bolivia, is the world's highest lake. Since we traveled in December and very low season, we only had 2 couples in the guide on the catamaran. Not only did we have a snack as we boarded, we were served a complete hot lunch and watched a fascinating Jacques Cousteau Video on the lake and the large fish/toads! (would recommend viewing this video!) We also stopped along the way at the Sun Island, the legendary birthplace of the Inca Empire.
Salar de Uyuni: The only reason to go to LaPaz is to connect to the Uyumi flight that brings you to the Salt flats of Bolivia (Salar de Uyuni) This is probably one of the most unique places you will ever visit. Other than sharing the pictures, it’s truly hard to appreciate the area without visiting. Pictured below are just some the experiences, lunch in the middle of salt flats, the Incahuasi Island, and the beautiful sunset.
Lima: Definitely worth stopping for the day...beautiful Pacific coast, nice day tours, a variety of shops and restaurants, San Francisco’s monastery and catacombs ..very interesting. Central plaza magnificent.