Walking up to see the wonder that is Machu Picchu was on the top of my list when I backpacked South America. The history, the town, the distance and lengths to go to get there, the pictures – there is no doubt that visiting Machu Picchu is a must-see for every traveler. But, once you get to Peru I challenge you (highly encourage) you to check out these two Peru attractions too. Who doesn’t want more than just one amazing travel experience to add to their memoir?
Flickr photo via Christopher Crouzet
Located four hours south of Lima and 10 minutes from Ica, Huacachina is a desert oasis, composed of a small lagoon surrounded by miles and miles of sand dunes and enormous palm trees. Most travelers hop aboard a dune buggy for an afternoon of sliding down some epic sand dunes. There are many options for tours – while walking the streets one out of three vehicles I saw was a dune buggy. A beginner sand boarding, I chose to lie flat on my stomach – the more expert riders in my group rode down the sand like it was snow, slicing through the fine ground below them. The dunes range in height and length, most tours saving the most daring for last. An added bonus? Running up sand, while carrying a board, is quite the workout.
Visiting the Poor Man’s Galapagos
Flickr photo via Martin Garcia
Located four hours from Lima is the small-town of Paracas. A lesser known travel destination, Paracas became one of my favorite destinations of Peru. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, fresh Ceviche and locals who enjoy showing you around, Paracas is an easy boat ride to the Isla Ballestas, also known as the Poor Man’s Galapagos. For $11, my travel mates and I rose early to view warm-weather penguins, sea lions, seals, pelicans and boobies. Jutting out from the ocean are giant rock formations completely covered in these exotic animals. Cruising around the formations before heading back to land is an experience that left a lasting impression, it was spontaneous, foreign and it didn’t feel like something everyone else was doing – which is something I hope any traveler is longing for.
These two cities have more to offer than just sand boarding and penguin sightings. The food, the Pisco sours, and bike rides to the Paracas National Reserve are also experiences to explore and indulge in while visiting.
But don’t take my word for it, book a ticket and wander for yourself!