Splashing about on the Waters of Peru
With 3,000km of coastline and 11 major rivers – including the mighty Amazon – it’s no surprise that Peru is a paradise for those who like to get wet. Add to that some stunning (and secluded) beaches, gorgeous year-round weather and the chance to explore some of the world’s most stunning ancient ruins, and a backpacking trip to Peru can be an unforgettable experience for anyone who loves water sports.
If you’re up for showing off your fashionable sailing clothing on the waters of Peru, full-day trips or longer can be booked in many of the coastal regions. You could see the dolphins and marine birds that inhabit the Pucusana coastline, or spend a relaxing time exploring the islands of Ancon. If you’re lucky, you might spot a whale or two in the Bay of Paracas, as well as the huge sea lion colony that makes its home on San Gallan Island.
Surfers and kite surfers should make their way to Chicama and Pacasmayo in Northern Peru, where two of the world’s longest lefts can be found. When the wind picks up in the afternoons, these world-famous waves offer rides over a mile in length. Both of these coastal towns featured in the 1966 classic The Endless Summer, and backpackers wanting to follow in the footsteps of Mike Hynson and Robert August should definitely add them to the list.
Experienced kayakers and white water rafters searching for a challenge should not pass up the chance to ride the Apurimac river, a class IV and V run that races past enormous granite boulders, shouldered by canyon walls stretching hundreds of metres above. Consistently rated among the top ten rafting destinations in the world, the Apurimac is for seasoned experts only – but it’s a run you’ll never forget.
If it’s a more relaxing paddle you’re after, sea kayaking on Lake Titicaca offers an opportunity to indulge your hobby while taking in the world’s highest navigable lake. With a surface area of more than 8,000 sq km and plenty of local boating and kayaking services, Lake Titicaca is also home to a number pre-Incan civilisations that still inhabit the lake’s many islands. While you’re here, take a trip to Taquile, whose indigenous people are renowned for their weaving and musical skills, or the incredible floating islands where the Uros live.
Of course, at some point you’re going to want to take a break, giving you the perfect excuse to kick back and indulge in some local food. In 2011, the Organisation of American States recognised Peruvian cuisine as part of the Cultural Patrimony of the Americas, meaning it’s one of the Americas’ greatest home-grown art forms. Some of the best restaurants can be found in Lima, although coastal towns do astounding fresh seafood.
A truly eclectic tradition, Peruvian food takes influences from the Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese and West African migrants that have all settled in the country at some time or other. Local dishes like ceviche (a spicy seafood salad) and aji de Gallina (shredded chicken in a nutty cheese sauce) have to be tasted to be believed – especially washed down with the national cocktail, a Pisco Sour.
Five things not to miss in Peru:
- The alpacas. These noble beasts hold a religious significance for the indigenous people of the Andes, and can be found at farms or roaming wild all over the country.
- Lima. The capital of Peru is filled with archaeological sites, museums, stunning churches, vibrant nightlife and some of the greatest restaurants in the Americas.
- The ruins. While Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the most famous, it can take a lot of planning to get to: if you just want a day visit, Sacsahuaman in Cusco is well worth a visit.
- The beaches. Some of the best beaches in Peru are found on the northern coastline. Punta Sal and Mancora are both stunning, but can get busy in summer – the Islas Ballestas offer more secluded sands.
- The Nazca Lines. Another fascinating example of Peru’s heritage, these enormous geoglyphs are best viewed from a helicopter – a number of companies in Nazca offer guided tours.