My first taste of Latin America was in 2007 when I went on a research trip to Peru. I quickly found that the country is bursting with variety, colour, wonderful sights, welcoming people, fascinating wildlife and handsome architecture – the perfect mix for never ending photo opportunities!
I started in Lima and explored Plaza de Armas (the main square) which is flanked by the historic center, the Government Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace and the magnificent City Hall. The old streets with colonial mansions and Moorish balconies are striking and incredibly beautiful. Another popular site which I didn’t get the chance to see on my last visit is Santo Domingo Convent, an icon of colonial architecture, which was completed in the late stages of the sixteenth century and has been restored recently.
Next I headed for Trujillo which is still relatively undiscovered. In Trujillo you don’t feel like you are on holiday, more as though you are on an adventure. The archaeological sites of Huaca Sol y Luna and Chan Chan are still being excavated and but are none-the-less impressive and fueled my interest in archaeology. Another interesting place is Chiclayo, which is situated close to some further impressive archaeological sites including Tucume and the Brunning museum, which houses gold artifacts. They date from Moche times and some archaeologists consider them to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the world as the main tomb was found intact and untouched by thieves.
Further south I visited the Chaucilla Cemetery. This is the only archaeological site in Peru where ancient mummies can be seen in their original graves. The bodies are buried along with ancient artifacts which date back to 1000 AD. This is an eerie but incredibly fascinating insight into Peru’s history.
Another place I would recommend to anyone planning a trip to Peru is the town of Yura, the National Reserve of Salinas/ Aguada Blanca and Pampa Cañahuas. Here you can see South American camels as well as many bird species in their natural habitats. Another highlight in the Arequipa District is spotting a Condor flying free in the immense Colca Canyon. This species is the largest flying land bird in the Western hemisphere. These massive birds are so heavy that they live in windy areas, such as the Andean mountain ranges, as the wind currents here allow them to glide with little effort.
Nobody visiting Peru for the first time would want to miss out on Machu Picchu. From the Sacred Valley I went to Aguas Calientes on the Vistadrome train. The Vistadome has panoramic windows that give you a superb view of landscape and great photographic opportunities. I then took the bus up to the ruins of Machu Picchu for a guided tour with time to explore on my own. The site was much larger than I expected but just as awe-inspiring. I returned by bus to the town of Aguas Calientes a lively market town that has grown up around the railway. This is a great place to get to meet the locals and see their way of life firsthand.