I participated in global learning International Fellows research project through the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire that sent me to Lima, Perú during the 2016 summer.

During my six weeks abroad, I had the opportunity to meet some remarkable people and travel to several incredible places in Perú.

Table of Contents

1. Chaclacayo
2. Miraflores | Barranco
3. Downtown Lima
4. Callao
5. Paracas | Las Islas Ballestas
6. Ica | Huacachina
7. Arequipa
8. Colca Canyon
9. Cusco
10. Sacred Valley of the Inca
11. Machu Picchu

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 9.30.36 PM.png


1. Chaclacayo | Colegio Mayor Secundario Presidente del Perú

As part of the research we spent 12 days in a school for highly-motivated, high achieving students that is located in the Chaclacayo district of Lima province.

img_6669
Chaclacayo, Lima, Peru
img_6766
Colegio Mayor

The school, Colegio Mayor Secundario Presidente del Perú, is the original school in what is now a network of 23 Colegios de Alto Rendimiento (Schools of High Achievement). The publicly-funded, boarding school serves 900 of the country’s best and brightest high school students and provides a far more rigorous, individualized, and progressive educational experience. If you wish to learn more about Peru’s “super schools” and these amazing kids, please see: Colegio Mayor.


2. Miraflores | Barranco

IMG_7124During our time in Lima, we stayed in the district of Miraflores and spent some time in Barranco, as well. Miraflores is among the most popular destinations within Lima for tourists. Larcomar (pictured) is an open-air, shopping mall where I ate several of the best meals I have ever had in my entire life. Lima is known as having some of the best culinary experts in the world, and after two weeks of living there I can understand why!

miraflores21-300-700-600-80-c-rd-239-238-171

Close to the Pacific coast, Miraflores was a beautiful place to stay, although the traffic in the city of Lima is horrific. Our daily drive to the University – located just 7.5 miles up the cost in the district of San Miguel – rarely took less than an hour. With a population of nearly 10 million, Lima is the third largest city in Latin America (behind just São Paulo and Mexico City).


3. Downtown Lima

El Centro de Lima is not necessarily known for being a tourist site, but there are certainly neat places to see, including El Parque de la Reserva, El Catedral de Lima, and the Monasterio de San Fransisco to name a few.


4. Callao

Callao is the chief seaport of Peru and home to a historical fortress – Castillo de Real Felipe – which overlooks the harbor. The fort served the Peruvians in 1886 as they defended a Spanish naval fleet sent to Lima to “reclaim” South American colonies for Spain.


5. Paracas | Las Islas Ballestas

One weekend, we ventured south along the Pacific coast to the city of Pisco and the Paracas National Reserve, which incorporates the Ballestas Islands. Our four hour drive offered us the same view the entire trip: desolate desert and the occasional poor, run-down community. It is extremely dry along the coast of Peru.

Upon arrival in Paracas, we enjoyed breathtaking views of the Pacific Coast and had the opportunity to travel 30 minutes by boat to the Ballestas Islands, where we saw “El Candelabro” – a 2000 year old geoglyph etched into the steep, rocky side of an uninhabited island. From the harbor in Pisco, we observed pelicans and dolphins, and as we got closer to the Ballestas Islands, we were able to see Humboldt penguins (too small for my camera), seals, and sea lions.


6. Ica | Huacachina

Just an hour south of Paracas lies the city of Ica and one of the amazing places I have ever visited in my life: Huacachina – a village built around a small desert oasis. Although Huacachina is home to just 100 permanent residents it is a haven for tourism, where travelers like us can take exhilarating dune buggy rides through the desert and have the chance to “sandboard” down massive mountains of sand.  Huacachina is one of the few places I’ve seen that is truly deserving of being described as awesome.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


7. Arequipa

IMG_8040
Arequipa

Following the completion of our experience in and around the Lima area, we had the opportunity to do more traveling and sight-seeing. Our first flight from Lima lasted about an hour and a half and took us to Arequipa, a city of just over 800,000 people. Located in southern Peru, Arequipa sits at an elevation of 7,600 feet and is surrounded by several enormous mountains and volcanoes. Among them is Volcán Misti, an active volcano with an elevation of over 19,000 feet.

IMG_8084
Volcán Misti overlooking Arequipa

The influence of the Spanish is very evident in the city of Arequipa, which can be seen below in the images of the city’s Plaza de Armas. The most prominent building in the square is the city’s Basilica: La Basilica Catedral de Arequipa.

Among the most interesting parts of our trip in Arequipa was a tour of Monasterio de Santa Catalina.  Built in 1579, the monastery is home to some truly amazing murals, architecture and artifacts, and is well worth a visit. Today, more than 30 nuns live at the Santa Catalina Monastery.


8. Colca Canyon

From Arequipa we traveled by bus for three hours through the Andes, negotiating switchbacks and high evolution en route to the village of Chivay. We made several stops along the way, to observe llama, alpaca, and vicuña. The vicuña, an ancestor of camels and llamas, is the national animal of Perú and its’ wool is considered among the finest and most valuable clothing materials in the world.

We reached our highest elevation (16,100 ft.) when we stopped briefly at Mirador de los Andes. Our bus parked about 50 yards (see picture below) from the lookout, which meant we had a bit of a walk before we could enjoy the view. We had stopped periodically during our three hour journey to walk around and get acclimated to the altitude, but rising 16,000 feet within two days (just 48 hours prior, we were in Lima), including a 9,000 feet jump in about two hours, is not advised. Needless to say, we were feeling it: shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, headache – you name it. I stopped several times along the 100 yard walk and even dropped to my knees a couple of times from feeling faint or nauseous. It is amazing to me that there are populations of people who actually live in that environment ever single day.

We stayed overnight in the village of Chivay (population: 5,000 people). We were there in July, and due to Chivay’s high elevation (over 12,000 feet), we experienced temperatures in the low thirties. However, it felt much colder because it was far more humid than a typical Midwestern winter day. The indigenous roots are very strong in Chivay and the nearby town of Yanque, where locals perform traditional dances for tourists every morning. Just a month after our return to the States, a 6.0M earthquake struck the area killing almost a dozen people and destroying many buildings in Chivay. It’s crazy to think we were so close to this catastrophe.

Our final stop of this journey was the Mirador El Cruz del Condor, where we enjoyed breathtaking views of the snowcapped Andes mountains and the immense depth of Colca Canyon. Plunging more than two miles into the Earth (12,750 feet), Colca Canyon is the world’s second deepest canyon. It is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The most popular feature of this attraction, however, involves looking up into the sky. Massive Andean condors swooped and soared right above our heads.

On our drive back from El Mirador we passed through the Colca Valley, stopping to take in views of the agricultural terraces, which have been in place for thousands and thousands of years.  At this high elevation, the locals are limited in what they can grow and rely upon varieties of potatoes, onions, corn and other crops. The Colca Valley receives 120,000 tourists per year (3rd most visited site in Peru), and for this reason many local artisans set up shop at lookout points along the switchbacks, selling alpaca wool hats, sweaters, socks, and all kinds of other knick-knacks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


9. Cusco

plaza-de-armas-huacaypataOur final few days in Perú were spent around Cusco, a city that was once the capital of the great civilization of the Inca.  At the height of its’ reign in South America around year 1600, Cusco was home to a population of over 1 million, although today just 400,000 people inhabit the historic city. The name means “center” in Quechua, the indigenous language of the Inca. Today, Quechua is still recognized as an official language of Peru and there are still over 8 million Quechua speakers in Perú. The city sits at 11,000 ft., but gave me no trouble as we walked all over visiting historical sites. Among the places we visited were: Sacsayhuaman, La Catedral de Cusco, and El Convento de Santo Domingo. 

IMG_8530Sacsayhuaman is an ancient Incan fortress built over 1,000 years ago overlooking the valley and city of Cusco. As seen in the pictures below, the builders built the walls simply by forming and shaping massive stones to fit perfectly when stacked on top of one another. No kind of mortar was needed.  These walls can be seen in various locations throughout the Sacred Valley of the Inca.

IMG_8131
Twelve-Angled Stone

When the Spanish arrived and took control of Cusco in 1536, they destroyed much of the Incan city, and simply built their massive basilicas and cathedrals around the remains. Within many buildings, you can still see evidence of Incan existence. Due to the architecture, many of the original walls remain intact and can be seen throughout the city. Most notable among them is the 12-angled stone, pictured on the right. The Spanish simply built right on top of the Incan walls, as you can see below in the image taken from the interior of the Santo Domingo Convent.  You can clearly see the different styles of architecture. The white, plaster arches and small brick walls were clearly constructed by the Spanish, where as the big-blocked walls on the right were constructed hundreds of years prior by the Inca.

IMG_8563
Mix of Spanish/Incan Architecture

The fact that these original walls have withstood over a thousand years of earthquakes demonstrates the incredible care taken by the Inca during the city’s construction.

The final picture below offers an image of La Catedral de Cusco, which was completed in 1654 after over 100 years of construction. Unfortunately we were not able to take pictures of the interior, which was absolutely incredible.  Complete with hundreds of gigantic murals, huge marble pillars, and dozens of sanctuaries crafted with tremendous detail.  To the left of the Cathedral in the picture below, lies the city’s Plaza de Armas. 

 

IMG_8571
La Catedral de Cusco

10. Sacred Valley of the Inca

Everyone’s trip to Perú involves getting to Machu Picchu, but in order to get there one must travel through El valle sagrado de los Inca – The Sacred Valley of the Inca. From Cusco, we traveled by bus (more switchbacks) through the valley, making stops at historical sites including Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and other lesser known spots. From the town of Ollantaytambo, we took a two hour train ride to Aguas Calientes, which sits just 20 minutes from the world-famous Machu Picchu.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


11. Machu Picchu

You could write a book about Machu Picchu – and many people have done just that! One of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, Machu Picchu was “rediscovered” by American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911. There are many theories regarding its’ history, although we do not know exactly how the Inca used this great citadel.

Machu Picchu was truly spectacular. It is truly a struggle to describe the energy and atmosphere to someone who has never visited the site. It’s as if you can feel the collective excitement, curiosity, and wonder of everyone in the park. Truly awesome.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Huayna Picchu

We had the opportunity to summit Mount Huayna Picchu, which is the mountain in the backdrop of the most famous images of Machu Picchu. Although the hike is less than a mile, it took us nearly two hours to complete, as it involved climbing more than 2,000 stairs. This trek is definitely not for the faint of heart, but my 56 year old professor made it successfully… and if you are active I have no doubt that you can, too! Having said that, we passed many people along the way up that had decided it wasn’t for them. It’s worth mentioning that while 2,500 visitors enter Machu Picchu National Park each day, only 200-400 are permitted to climb Huayna Picchu.  If you want to do it (and I highly recommend you do!!!) be sure to buy your tickets several months in advance.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


¡Gracias!
Traveling to Perú? Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions!

Advertisements