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Peru Travel:Rainbow Mountain,Cusco to Puno

Updated: Oct 20, 2023




The 11th day of my Peruvian exploration found me both physically exhausted and spiritually invigorated. My limbs ached from the unforgettable trek to Machu Picchu, but a mystical allure pulled me to a new adventure: the legendary Rainbow Mountains of Peru, locally known as Vinicunca.



With a heart full of anticipation, I secured my spot through Peru Hop's guidance, and the date was set for December 29. As the clock struck the ungodly hour of 3:30 am, a van, filled with similarly spirited travelers, picked me up from my lodging in Cusco.


The early hours were graced with a delightful breakfast in Quiquijana, a taste of local cuisine that prepared us for the day ahead. Our journey continued through scenic landscapes until we reached Llaqta and then Phulawasipata, where the real adventure awaited.


Guided by our knowledgeable and encouraging leader, we began our trek towards Rainbow Mountain. It was then that we were presented with a choice: to walk or to ride a mule guided by the locals. These mule handlers, often elderly women, left me in awe of their strength. Clad in colorful attire, they maneuvered the challenging terrain with ease, an astonishing feat given the mountain's formidable reputation.


With my trusty trekking poles in hand, I joined my fellow adventurers on the trail, marveling at the breathtaking surroundings. Snowy peaks teased our vision in the distance, while wildlife adorned the rugged landscape. Periodic rest stops offered unique touches, including a Rainbow Mountain passport stamp.


The ascent was arduous but the view from 5,036 meters above sea level was a reward beyond description. A plethora of colors splashed across the mountain and the imposing Ausangate Mountain watched over us, confirming our insignificant presence in the face of nature's grandeur. Decorated llamas added a whimsical touch, as locals offered aid to the weary. My camera and heart worked overtime to capture the magic.





The descent marked the end of this vibrant chapter, leading us to a satisfying lunch at the same spot where our day had begun. The tour's conclusion saw us back in Plaza Regocijo by 4:30 pm, and I wandered back to my hotel, a heart richer with memories.


In retrospect, the day was not just a trek but a life lesson. The mountains taught resilience, the locals exemplified humble strength, and the entire journey was a reminder that the world is full of hidden splendors, waiting to be discovered by those brave enough to seek them. The colors of Vinicunca weren't merely shades on a mountain but a palette of human experience, painted with every step, every smile, and every breathtaking view.






As the penultimate day of the year dawned, December 30 found me nestled within the historic embrace of Cusco. The city, rich with tales of the past and thrumming with modern life, beckoned to me with promises of adventure.



The day began with a culinary escapade, diving into the heart of Peruvian culture. I dared to challenge my taste buds, sinking my teeth into the renowned local delicacy: "cuy" or roasted guinea pig. Blogs I'd pored over during my trip planning had teased this peculiar dish, and it would've been remiss of me, the intrepid traveler, not to partake.


After my culinary adventure and the whimsical discovery of the city tour, my morning wanderings led me to the Museo de Arte Precolombino. Nestled within an old colonial mansion, this museum is a treasure trove that speaks of Peru's ancient civilizations. With every artifact, from intricate pottery to ornate jewelry, I was transported back in time, tracing the footprints of the cultures that thrived long before the Spanish set foot on these lands. The dim lighting and the evocative displays created an atmosphere of reverence, urging visitors to not just look, but to feel the essence of each artifact. Alone, in the company of these ancient masterpieces, I felt an intimate connection to the rich tapestry of Peruvian history, making it a memorable and introspective pit stop in my Cusco exploration.





Moving on, after the museum visit, my feet carried me down Cusco’s charming cobblestone pathways , with each turn revealing the city’s age-old secrets. It’s fascinating how the most serendipitous moments happen when you least expect them. While I indulged in a bit of souvenir shopping, a signboard caught my eye. A half-day Cusco city tour – just what I needed to further immerse myself in the city’s spirit.





Without a second thought, I booked the tour. Time was on my side, with my journey to Puno set for 9 pm. Gathering with fellow travelers, our meeting point was just a stone’s throw from the bustling main plaza. Soon, our chariot for the afternoon – a double-decker bus – arrived. Although the heavens drizzled upon us, our spirits remained unquenched.



As the bus navigated Cusco's alleys and avenues, landmarks stood testimony to the city's storied past. Soon, the urban canvas gave way to the sprawling countryside. A notable highlight was the archaeological marvel of Saqsaywaman, observed from the comfort of our bus. Later, we delved deeper into the local culture, observing a priest ceremoniously use coca leaves, an integral ingredient in their rituals. Nearby stalls showcased intricate woolen crafts, each spun from the fleece of llamas and infused with local artistry.





But it was the statue of Christ, overlooking the twilight-kissed city of Cusco, that stole the show. Cloaked in my poncho, the drizzle adding a touch of magic, the panorama was nothing short of poetic. The city below began its luminous transformation, while the skies painted a canvas of purples and blues.



Darkness encroached as we returned to Cusco's heart. The cathedral, in its radiant splendor, seemed to bid me farewell. With a heart full of memories and a backpack of souvenirs, I retreated to my hotel. A brief respite awaited before the next leg of my Peruvian journey began, off to the enchanting landscapes of Puno.






As the sun set on my time in Cusco, I felt a blend of anticipation and nostalgia. Ahead of me was Puno, a city cradling Lake Titicaca's vast expanse, which was my last Peruvian stop. With my luggage in tow, I navigated the iconic cobblestone streets, feeling the weight of history beneath my feet. The brief taxi ride to the Avenue Alameda set me back a mere 3 USD. Awaiting there was a representative from Peru Hop, a constant support throughout my journey.


Venturing on my first-ever overnight bus journey was an experience in itself. Outside, the landscape transformed with every mile, though hidden in the cloak of night. Inside, the plush bus seats cradled me, making sleep easy. My pocket Wi-Fi, a traveler's lifeline, helped me stay connected, keeping track of time and location.



Dawn in Puno broke with a soft embrace. The shuttle, organized by Peru Hop, ferried me to my chosen accommodation: Suite Independencia. This quaint hotel, nestled amid the heart of the city, felt like a home away from home. It wasn't just the early check-in that endeared the place to me but the warmth of the local hosts. Their keenness to make my stay comfortable was evident. An offer for a laundry service, a reasonably priced one at that, was the cherry on top.


What truly defined Suite Independencia was its roof deck. It was here that I found myself countless times, losing myself in the panoramic view of Puno, with Lake Titicaca stretching endlessly. The tranquil waters of the lake mirrored the vast sky, making me feel infinitesimal yet connected. And as night descended on New Year's Eve, the sky lit up with fireworks, painting a picture that would forever be etched in my memory.



Location-wise, Suite Independencia was a traveler's dream. A stone's throw away from the Puno cathedral, a marvel of architecture, and surrounded by eateries, there wasn't much left to desire. And yet, it was my conversations with the hosts that truly enriched my stay. Learning about their unique customs, like hanging fake money at the entrance for prosperity, gave me insights into their way of life. From the roof deck, the distant silhouette of the Condor statue beckoned. It reminded me of the trinity of Inca beliefs: the condor, the serpent, and the leopard. Each element told a tale of a culture rich and profound.


As I stood there, absorbing the tales and sights, I realized that this trip, this adventure, was not just about the places but the stories they held and the people who shared them.





The magic of Puno is best captured from the waters of Lake Titicaca. Having already admired its vastness from the city's vantage points, I was eager to experience it up close. As the afternoon sun painted the town with a golden hue, a taxi promptly arrived at Suite Independencia, ready to whisk me to the docks.


Upon arrival, the hustle and bustle of the dock was palpable. Visitors from all over the world gathered in anticipation of their own Lake Titicaca adventure. Despite the crowd, there was a sense of shared excitement. Everyone was there with the same goal: to experience the magic of the world's highest navigable lake and the enchanting islands it cradled.




Our boat, a modest yet sturdy vessel, awaited us. As we boarded, each step on the creaky wooden deck increased our anticipation. The boat's engine rumbled to life, and we set off, cutting through the crisp waters of Titicaca. The wind was sharp, but the sun's warmth provided a comforting balance. All around us, the azure waters stretched infinitely, meeting the horizon where the sky took over.


The journey to Uros Island was surreal. Known as the "Floating Islands," Uros is a group of man-made islands constructed entirely from reeds. The very idea of a community living on such islands had intrigued me since I first heard of them. Now, as our boat neared the islands, I could see the ingenious architecture and the way of life of the Uros people. The floating reed huts, boats, and even the ground beneath our feet, everything was made of reeds!



The inhabitants of Uros greeted us with warm smiles, their colorful attire contrasting beautifully against the neutral tones of the reed structures. Their way of life, deeply connected to the lake and its resources, was both humbling and fascinating. I learned how the islands are constructed, maintained, and even how they can be moved if necessary!

The visit to Uros was not just about witnessing a unique living arrangement; it was about understanding a culture that has thrived for centuries, harmoniously coexisting with nature. As our boat began its journey back to Puno, I sat back, letting the beauty and stories of Uros sink in, a testament to human ingenuity and the spirit of adaptation.



My adventures on Lake Titicaca, especially the unique experience on Uros Island, had filled my heart with stories and my camera with countless pictures. I couldn’t believe I had set foot on an entire floating community, and the marvels of their ingenious ways of life kept replaying in my mind.


The fading evening sun cast a soft golden glow on Lake Titicaca as I walked back, passing by the iconic 'Lake Titicaca' lettered statue. Standing there, the enormity and beauty of the lake seemed even more pronounced. This lake, a haven of stories and legacies, was the very soul of Puno.



For dinner, I was drawn to a quaint restaurant nestled right next to the imposing Puno Cathedral. The ambience was warm, with dim lights and soft music playing in the background. The menu was a delightful spread of local flavors. The staff, with their ability to converse in English, made the experience smoother. As I relished my meal, I couldn't help but admire the architectural brilliance of the cathedral from my table's vantage point.


After dinner, the allure of the cathedral's grandeur was irresistible. The Plaza de Armas, usually buzzing with tourists and locals, had a different charm under the moonlight. The cathedral stood majestic against the night sky, a testament to Puno's rich history and cultural significance.



As the clock ticked and the square gradually emptied, I decided it was time to retreat to my cozy room in Suite Independencia. Tomorrow would be the start of a new year and, for a traveler, a fresh page of experiences waiting to be written.



The first day of January was earmarked for relaxation, reflection, and some meticulous planning for my subsequent travels. The journey had been intense, brimming with new experiences at every turn. While Puno would be my last Peruvian stop, my adventure was far from over. Copacabana, a beautiful town on the Bolivian shores of Lake Titicaca, awaited me on January 2nd. As I cozied up with my travel journal, a mix of nostalgia and excitement for the next chapter filled me. Peru had been kind, mysterious, and endlessly fascinating, setting a high bar for all my future travels.







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I'm Archsael, i am an architect and a passionate traveler who finds joy in exploring the world's wonders. This site is a tapestry of my adventures, offering unique insights and inspirations from my journeys.

 

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