Peru really is a hidden gem, from the Amazon to the Andes to the Atacama, full of wonderful food and more wonderful people. Machu Picchu tends to take the spotlight, having been named one of the new seven wonders of the world, but as I find myself constantly in awe at the beauty throughout Peru, I thought it could fill its own list of wonders. The seven wonders of Peru:
1. Of course, Machu Picchu, but not just the famous view of the Huyana Picchu peak, as picturesque as it is. Believe it or not my favorite views here were in all kinds of other directions.
Walking down the same paths Inca ruler Pachacutec once did, looking through the windows so perfectly aligned with the solstice sun. Each rock is exactly sanded to fit into the next, each window sloping in five degrees, all hoisted up the mountain by the Incas and held together by gravity.
The hike in the altitude (even up the three bus stairs) were not the only thing to take my breath away. Reaching the top in time to see the rays of the sun rise above the mountains made waking up before five completely worth it.
2. The turquoise lagunas in the mountains of Huaraz
The glacier melt forms pools of this brilliant blue hue. After hours of hiking through mountain landscapes and past waterfalls to Laguna 69, why was I the only one who wanted to swim?
3. The marvels of the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon contains over half the world’s rainforest, and thousands upon thousands of plant and animal species. It was incredible to get a taste of its richness in Iquitos, but also reminder of where our changing climate hits hard.
Our tour guide Rey clearing the way with his machete. From this tangle of vines he finds branches with drinkable water, sloths and monkeys hiding a hundred feet away, and the exact spot to turn off our flashlights to see the glow of bioluminescent mushrooms in the pitch black of night. Want to see a caiman crocodile? He’ll pluck one out of the water for you. And he’ll make sure the piranhas you catch don’t eat you.
4. That this oasis is not a mirage
Huacachina, outside the city of Ica, is a naturally formed oasis, although the water is now pumped into the lake in the middle. Legend has it that a mermaid in the lake takes one man every year.
Even more awesome is the Atacama desert surrounding the oasis, where a dune buggy takes you on a mildly terrifying roller coaster ride through the dunes, and comes to collect you and your sandboard after sliding down. This alone might be worth the trip to Peru.
5. Who came up with these awesome park ideas?
Monkeys, leopards, and kangaroos of Parque de las Leyendas hop around by day, and the fountains of Parque de la Reserva put on a show by night. On a run I found that all the parks overlooking the ocean connect to one another through Miraflores. Parque Kennedy’s hundreds of cats are within petting distance as we snack on smoothies and papas fritas at La Lucha. As cloudy as the city is sometimes, these parks make Lima shine with color.
6. The floating islands of Lake Titicaca
The Uros islands float on the largest lake in South America, and the highest navigable one at 12,500 feet (3,800m) in elevation. The islands are made of floating reeds and are squishy to step on. This one is home to five families.
There are around 40 of these islands on the lake. The Uru people who live here make and sell beautiful embroidery representing everyday life and traditions dating back before the Incas. Though they are no longer necessary to escape from dangers, the islands can still hoist up the anchors and float away from annoying neighbors.
7. The ancient city of Cusco
Cusco was once the capital and center of the Incan empire, and was taken over in 1534 by conquistadores led by Francisco Pizarro. The Spanish built their churches on Incan temples and houses on Incan foundations. This is why the lower levels of buildings are stones tightly fitted together, and upper levels have beautiful Spanish balconies added on in the next era.