Travel Log – 16 Days in Peru

Peru is awesome. No, Peru is epic. As our guide on the trek to Machu Picchu so aptly put it,”Everything is bigger in Peru, except the people.” The land is just so lush and diverse, the waves so long and abundant, the food so fresh & good everywhere, and the people are so friendly and hospitable. For a surfer (especially a goofy footer) or anyone who enjoys the great outdoors for that matter, Peru should be on your bucket list. My recommendation would be to divide the trip up (regardless of duration) into surfing and the mountains – specifically a guided trek to Machu Picchu, and a trip to the rainforest if you have enough time. After spending only a couple weeks there, I barely scratched the surface of rad stuff to do in this amazing country, but here are some highlights from my journey to the land of lefts and a few recommendations along the way.

Peru is a truly epic place. As our guide on the trek to Machu Picchu so aptly put it,”Everything is bigger in Peru, except the people.” The land is just so lush and diverse, the waves so long and abundant, the food so fresh & good everywhere, and the people are so friendly and hospitable. For a surfer (especially a goofy footer) or anyone who enjoys the great outdoors for that matter, Peru should be at the top of your bucket list if it’s not already. My recommendation would be to divide the trip up (regardless of duration) into surfing and the mountains – specifically a guided trek to Machu Picchu, and a trip to the rainforest if you have enough time. After spending only a couple weeks there, I barely scratched the surface of rad stuff to do in this amazing country, but here are some highlights from my journey to the land of lefts and a few recommendations along the way.

Chicama

Home to the fabled longest left in the world, going to Chicama feels like you are heading to the end of the earth. Stay at the Chicama Resort Hotel, it is located on a cliff at the end of the desert overlooking the top of the point (the beginning of the wave). The hotel will pick you up from the Trujillo airport, which is about an hour away and there is no real reason to leave the resort unless there are no waves at Chicama.

It’s a great place to splurge, decompress and get pampered a little. There is a pool and hot tub overlooking the machine-like lefts rolling in below. You can sip on Pisco Sours and grind on fresh ceviche poolside in between sessions. You can get massages, chill in the steam room or sauna. They even offer a boat tow service back to the top of the wave after each ride for guests only. It sounds ridiculous, but trust me, it’s worth it if there is swell – the wave is over 200 yards long. These are serious, leg-burning, marathon lefts. Being on a wave for minutes at a time is a pretty trippy (and exhausting) sensation. Prepare yourself.

Huanchaco

If Chicama isn’t working, or if the town is a little too sleepy for your liking, head to the nearby beach town of Huanchaco, which is closer to Trujillo. The waves are usually bigger and way more consistent here and there is a lot more culture and stuff going on in general.

Stay at the Oceana it’s conveniently located right in the middle of town, right on the beach in front of the waves. We showed up on their doorstep, with no reservations and Carlo (the owner) hooked us up big time. It is definitely no frills, but clean, friendly and the best deal we found in Peru by far! It is family owned and operated. Carlo is awesome, he speaks great English and has a terrific sense of humor and is also very accommodating.

Lima

We didn’t spend too much time in Lima, but here are some highlights. First off, we stayed in Miraflores. There are lots of waves and great places to surf in Lima, but I stuck to La Herradura, which is a pretty heavy, rocky left point break to the south of Miraflores. It’s a pretty intense wave when there’s swell and there is also a big local crowd there, so be humble and respectful. Remember, smiles, shakas, and of course knowing a little Espanol goes a long way.

If you want one of the best meals of your life, go to Astrid Y Gaston. Gastón Acurio has helped put Peruvian cuisine on the map and offers typical Peruvian meals in a modern and attractive style.

I also had a pretty gluttonous lunch at La Lucha, which is kind of like Peru’s equivalent to a Katz’s or Canter’s Deli. They have the most unique club sandwich I’ve ever had. It’s so good, but you’ll probably need a nap afterward.

For some more sight-seeing and rad touristy stuff to do around town, check out this handy 3-day guide to Lima.

Also, if you are traveling to the rainforest or mountains (away from the coast and waves), you can leave your surfboards in storage at the airport in Lima pretty cheaply.

Cusco

After spending over a week in goofy foot heaven, I thought the best part of the trip was behind me. I was wrong. Dead wrong. The mountain town of Cusco is like immersing yourself in the pages of National Geographic magazines. At an elevation of about 11,000 feet above sea level, you can feel the altitude from the second you get off the plane. Luckily locals are there to greet you with plenty of coca leaves to chew or sip in tea. In addition to giving you a nice little buzz, the coca leaves really do cure altitude sickness and are a must to get acclimated.

Cusco is the jump off to a lot of really cool hikes and treks – most of which lead to Machu Picchu, so the town is bustling with a diverse mix of locals, expats and adventurous tourists from all over the world. There is so much culture and incredible history here, it’s hard to list just a few recommends, but here goes:

The JW Marriott in Cusco is an amazing place to stay, it’s walking distance to everything, plus they have an incredible free breakfast buffet every morning. If you are willing to shell out a little more dough for a really unique experience, try the Belmond Montasario, it’s an old monastery converted into a beautiful hotel.

Walk to the San Pedro Market in the center of town, it is intense. Lots of fresh foods that you will never see anywhere else.

Get warmed up and acclimated to the altitude with a day hike to the ancient ruins overlooking the city at Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “sexy woman,” well basically).

There are definitely tons of great places to eat, but a few of my favorites were Limo and Chicha for dinner (Chicha is another Gastón Acurio restaurant), and Organic Greens for lunch (a nice healthy, low key spot that won’t break your travel budget).

From Cusco, you can also take really cool day trips to the following places:
Pisac Ruins to see some incredibly dramatic terracing (ancient agricultural technique).
Pisac Market, a huge open air market with all sorts of gems to discover.
Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary, where they have rescued some really amazing wild animals.
Lamay, where they sell guinea pigs (cuy) on sticks roasted on an open fire. Just try it.
Ollantaytambo, a really cool old town. From here you can take the train to Aguas Caliente.

Machu Picchu

There is a reason Machu Picchu is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, it’s nothing short of mind-blowing. However, the journey there via a hiking & camping trek is even more incredible.

We took the Lares Inca Trail, which is a little less intense than the Classic Inca Trail (from what I’ve heard), but it is definitely the road less travelled. We didn’t see a single other tourist or backpacker in the 5 days spent along the trail. For a guided trek, we used Amazonas Explorer and I would highly recommend them. They bring tents and most of the camping gear for you, set everything up every night, a mule carries all your gear during day hikes, and they even cook all your meals for you. Yes, the 6 hour a day hikes over passes almost 15,000 ft. high are intense, but you’re not exactly roughing it either. Be prepared for huge temperature and weather swings though, we would wake up to sunny skies and summer heat only to be bundling up the layers in a hail storm hours later.

If you happen to be a fast hiker, make sure your guide takes you to the natural, geothermic hot springs along the Lares trek. It is like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. There are pools with varying water temperatures and constantly flowing water coming from stone shower spouts into them. This is one of those hidden gems in the middle of nowhere that you would not be able to find without a local guide.

When you stop in Machu Picchu Village / Aguas Caliente, make sure to eat at Indio Feliz. This was one of the most unique and eclectic restaurants I have ever been in my life. Just go there, it will blow your mind with intrigue and your belly with awesomeness.

Once you get to Machu Picchu, be sure to reserve a hike to Huayana Picchu, which is the sharp peak that overlooks the sacred ruins. They only let 400 people do this hike per day, which sounds like a lot, but you need to book in advance, Machu Picchu is crawling with tourists. If you book a trek with Amazonas, it is included in your trip. Warning: if you get vertigo or are scared of heights, you may wanna pass on this one.

There are way too many rad experiences that you will have along the trek to list here, you just have to get out there and experience it for yourself. Peru is one of those really magical places that will make you feel more like a human being who is connected to this incredible planet. For me, I just can’t wait to go back someday soon.

/ Photography by Matt Titone

For more photos from this Peru trip, please visit my Tumblr site and scroll down:

Matt Titone Photo

Matt Titone

A goofy-footed graphic designer who hails from the first state, Delaware. After attending Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL then graduating from SCAD in Savannah, GA with a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration, Matt moved to NYC and found work as a freelance designer and art director. In 2006 he moved west to Venice, CA where he co-founded ITAL/C Studio, constantly seeks left hand point breaks, and tries very hard to avoid crowds & traffic.

Related Stories

Our Seas of Plastic

August 23, 2009

Yimmy Yayo

August 25, 2009

Tiny Vices Re-launch

October 10, 2009

Jeff Divine

October 20, 2009

Sydney's 50 Year Dust Storm

September 23, 2009

Indoek Promo Image

Pre-order our new “OnSurfing” book today.
Buy Now