Exploring Peru’s fascinating contrasts

June 13, 2016 4:04 PM

Peru is known as the land of hidden treasures offering thrilling adventures and cultural explorations to global travellers. While the cities reflect modern development of the country, the trekking trails lead you on a transitional journey. This issue of Express TravelWorld explores the 10 best activities you should not miss in Peru

Peru is known as the land of hidden treasures offering thrilling adventures and cultural explorations to global travellers. While the cities reflect modern development of the country, the trekking trails lead you on a transitional journey. This issue of Express TravelWorld explores the 10 best activities you should not miss in Peru


Mountaineering in the Andes

The Andes mountain range is the second highest in the world, after the Himalayas. With its high, medium and low difficult peaks, the Peruvian Andes is a perfect destination for both beginners and experienced climbers. In 1975, Huascarán National Park was created with the aim of preserving the area’s natural resources, archaeological sites, geological formations and beautiful landscapes, promoting scientific research and establishing sustainable tourism. The area was awarded UNESCO Biosphere status in 1977, and included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1985. The Peruvian Andes present an unrivalled setting for mountaineering. As a result, Peru is a real magnet for fans of mountaineering in the Americas.

Trekking trails of Peru

It is a magnificent experience to trek glaciers and snowy peaks, forests and waterfalls, beautiful towns and, above all to meet the hospitable people. There are roads that are so steep that they get lost in abysses that take your breath away; zigzagging trails that stretch across the mountains; long, flat tracks that seem to lose themselves in the immensity of the desert; hidden and imperceptible paths in the dense vegetation of the Amazonian forests. Peru’s trails are perfect for all levels of difficulty and experience.


Sandboarding along the dunes

Sliding face-down on a board along the great sand dunes is the unique pleasure offered by sandboarding, an adventure sport that has spread to several destinations in Peru. The sport began in Ica, before spreading to Nazca, in Cerro Blanco (2,078 masl), the highest dune in the world, which is just for experts. In many desert zones on the Peruvian coast, there are dunes in which sandboarding can be enjoyed, including Sarapampa (Lima), Camaná (Arequipa) and Acarí (Arequipa), with the second highest dune in the world (2,068 masl). Boarding styles have been almost entirely copied from snowboarding techniques and include slalom (zigzagging between poles), boarder cross (a competition across an obstacle course between two or more riders), slopestyle (tricks and movements using rails and ramps) and big air (massive leaps from a ramp). The equipment consists of a board (a sandboard) with handles for the feet, a helmet, elbow and knee guards and special fall-resistant sand goggles. Comfortable clothing and specialist advice is recommended, and many specialists are linked to the companies that rent out the boards or travel agencies that prioritise adventure sports.

Hang-gliding and paragliding

Soaring through Peruvian skies and seeing the sea, mountains and valleys is a truly gratifying experience. It is also a different way to appreciate Peru’s immense geography. Paragliding in Peru offers a series of settings with beautiful landscapes in Lima and the country. There are companies that specialise in giving visitors the experience, with instructors registered with the Peruvian Free Flight Association (Asociación Peruana de Vuelo Libre). Hang-gliding really took off around the world in the 1970s, when it became a universal pursuit. There are hundreds of fans of the sport in Peru, and, although it has lost ground to paragliding, it is a daring way of combining tourism and sports. The gliders currently used are five metres long when folded and 10 metres long when extended, weighing approximately 35 kgs. They are immensely strong, and advances in aerodynamic technology have made the gliders stable and maneuverable, with broad safety margins.


Cave explorations

Tourists travel for many reasons, they love history and want to see great civilisations, they are attracted by nature, or because they are passionate about extreme sports. However, there is another group, the explorers of caverns or caves, who are able to enter a mysterious world through potholing. In Peru, the Huagapo Caves (Tears of the Mighty), close to Tarma City (Junín), are those that allow the inquisitive to enter a world of stalagmites and stalactites, with subterranean rivers of up to 2,000 metres deep. The cave has a 20 metres high access portal, and neighbouring people attribute a series of names to certain rock formations, including the Weeping Virgin. The Lechuzas Cave (Owls Cave) in Huánuco, 545 km north-east of Lima, unfolds its mystery at the base of the hill known as the Sleeping Beauty, and is considered one of the main attractions of the Tingo María National Park. The cave is thus called because it is the habitat of the guácharo bird, otherwise known as owls. Inside the cave there, inhabit a wide range of fauna, flora and rock formations, particularly bats, swallows, enormous spiders and various species of flowers. Only 400 metres of the cave has currently been explored.

Mountain biking along ancient routes

Cycling along ancient routes Ancient Inca and pre-Inca roads, archaeological sites, picturesque towns and passages, and the opportunity to pass through several ecological areas in just a few hours are the attractions of riding a bike around Peru. There are places like Olleros (to the south of Lima) where there is a descent of 3,600 metres in just 70 km of road. The activity known all around the world as mountain biking is the fastest growing adventure sport in the country. Thousands of mountain biking fans use lightweight bikes to cycle through ravines and along trails throughout the country. Almost every corner of Peru, with the exception of the coastal desert and the Amazonian plains, is suitable for mountain biking. Biking trails can be grouped into three main categories, defined by their difficulty and logistical requirements. First is considered suitable for beginners, these trails include gentle slopes and compact, hard earth. Second for cyclists with a certain level of experience, these trails include moderate slopes and contain a degree of risk for those that travel them. And lastly for experts only, characterised by steep slopes and soft soil. These roads are highly risky and will often reach high altitudes.


Kitesurfing and windsurfing

Wind is the main fuel for these two adventure sports in which man faces the sea at great speeds. The best winds for both kitesurfing and windsurfing can be found in the Paracas Bay area (Ica) and in Máncora (Piura), two important tourist destinations with a developed hotel infrastructure and services. From April to November, the Máncora beaches, with winds of up to 30 knots or more, become real vertigo-inducing racetracks. Tres Cruces and Lobitos have a strong and steady wind, while El Golf has beach break style waves. La Laguna, two km north of the surf point in Máncora, right next to the sea, is ideal for practicing jumps. The landscape is beautiful and the sunset unforgettable. In Paracas Bay, south of Lima, the winds are reliable (up to 10 knots), the sea is relatively shallow and the climate is pleasant as it is sunny all around the year. With lateral winds moving towards the shore, return to one’s point of departure is guaranteed. With good on-shore winds, you are sure to return to your point of departure while the u-shaped formation of the bay guarantees that, regardless of any mishap that may befall you, you will always be close to the coast.

Gravity defying extreme jumps

Bungee jumping is one of the most extreme adventure sports due to its level of risk. In Cuzco, close to the city centre, in Poroy, on the road to Urubamba, a special 122-metre tower has been built, with gravity-defying travellers in mind. Bungee jumping is the challenge of leaping into thin air. It entails jumping from a considerable height, with an elastic rope securely tied around the body. Participants can choose whether they want the rope tied to their ankles, waist or chest. After a few seconds, the elastic rope fires the suspended body into the air, rising and falling various times, until stopping, after several minutes, just metres from the floor.

Rafting the great rivers

Peru has more than a dozen rivers that cover its varied coastal, hill and jungle regions. Its five longest rivers cover more than 7,000 km within the country’s borders. The power of the water in some of these rivers makes rafting possible, a sport of pure adrenaline. Rapids are classified according to an international scale from I to VI, according to their difficulty. The best-known rivers for rafting are the Apurímac (Class II and V), the Cotahuasi (Class V) and the Tambopata (Class III and IV). Rafting arrived in Peru from Poland, thanks to adventurer Yurek Majcherzyck and his travelling companions who, after various attempts, managed to conquer the torrential Colca river and its 300 rapids in one of the deepest points of Arequipa. The sport uses inflatable boats or rafts, which are powered by oars and generally steered from the stern, carrying the raft and its crew along the turbulent waters of the rivers.

Surfing the waves

Peru’s beaches are considered by experts to be among the best in the world. There are permanent surfing opportunities throughout the year, as well as a large quantity of waves that break closely one after the other. The central coast has permanent surf during winter (April to September), while the north coast offers its famous swells between the months of October and March, turning it into a surfers’ paradise. The best beaches are: Cabo Blanco, Lobitos, Chicama (with the longest left wave in the world), Huanchaco, Pacasmayo and Los Órganos. There is a theory that states that it was in ancient Peru rather than in Polynesia or the South Pacific where the oldest evidence of men riding the waves with the help of rafts exists, as testified by textiles and ceramics from various pre-Hispanic cultures. Surfing, which is a 2,000-year-old practice in Peru,  continues to be popular among fishermen in the northern coves of Huanchaco, Santa Rosa and Pimentel, in La Libertad and Lambayeque departments, where local inhabitants ride the waves on reed rafts searching for their daily catch.

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