After the mostly boring drive along the coast we headed back into the mountains towards Cusco. Already the first few hundred meters of altitude gain provided fantastic views again.
Southern Peru is very touristic and expensive compared to anything we have seen so far. Obviously this also has some disadvantages. However, thanks to our means of transport we have found ways to escape the masses here and there.
Valle Sagrado de los Incas
Cusco is a nice town. It is also the center of gravity of Peru's tourism industry and therefore totally overcrowded and anything but authentic.
After some lengthy contemplation we finally decided to join the masses and take the expensive trip to Machu Picchu. The surroundings of the site are indeed impressive.
The Sacred Valley has some other highlights on offer though. We spent a night at the Salineras de Maras and had the site to ourselves in the evening and the early morning. These salt ponds have been used for centuries before arrival of the Incas and are still operational today.
We also spent some days in Pisac. The Inca ruins above the little town are huge and the site is bigger than Machu Picchu. Getting the full picture of this impressive ancient city requires to do a beautiful hike that takes a few hours. The typical agricultural terraces are constructed on steep hillsides.
Montaña de Siete Colores
The Instagram-famous rainbow mountain is actually only the icing on the cake in a fantastic landscape at 5000 meters above sea level. Approaching from the opposite side and a little later in the day than all the tour groups (~1500 people per day) made for a quiet and scenic drive.
Across the mountains
The drive to our next destination, the Colca Cañon, lead us again across beautiful mountains passes at 4700m.
Cañon del Colca
The prime reason to come to Cañon del Colca is to see the famous condors at Cruz del Cóndor. And they hardly ever disappoint and fly directly over and along the mirador every morning to the excitement of hundreds of spectators. We spent the night directly at the view point.
The canyon itself, although beautiful, is not the most spectacular but one of the deepest in the world. However, the road from Huambo on the canyon's steep hillside across the mountains to Alto de Majes is very scenic.
In order to reach Titicaca Lake we did not take the main route but the 34C gravel road. We spent the night on the shores of the beautiful Laguna Salinas at 4300m. It got freezing cold. The locals win the salt from this laguna with simple means.
The further drive led along river gorges, lagunas and herds of alpacas and vicuñas until we reached Puno.
Titicaca Lake is shared between Peru and Bolivia and is the highest navigable lake in the world at 3800m. Unfortunately a lot of trash somewhat spoils the experience, such that we ended up only relaxing a couple of days in Copacabana (Bolivia).