i left Peru for last and longest on this trip for a couple reasons- one, it was the farthest south (so, ya know, geographically speaking it just ‘worked’). two, it was the largest. three, Peru is arguably the ‘touristy-est’ of the three countries visited on this trip, and thus everyone has a strong opinion about what I ‘had’ to do while I was there (the list got long). I couldn’t pick between the recommendations, so I just took them all. And 5.5 weeks, 10 hostels, way too many bus rides and a whole lot of listening to other people’s snoring later, I am ready to provide you with a (somewhat) reliable idea of where you should stay in Peru.
It was super hard to leave Cuenca (the last city I visited in Ecuador)- I met some amazing people, hung out with my adventure buddy Val, made some great new friends, and ate more pan de yuca con yogur than I could have ever thought possible. So one sad Friday night, against strongly worded arguments that I should stay, I hopped on a bus to Mancora, Peru.
***side note: if you do this trip, DO NOT LOSE the tiny piece of paper that is your immigration card- they will give it to you at the border, and you may assume that since it isn’t stapled into your passport -like I assume all important documents should be- that you can just forget about it. yeah.. don’t.***
- Mancora: some of you may have read my post on Montanita vs. Mancora a while back- the hostel I stayed in definitely played a part in my deciding that Montañita won that debate. Kokopelli Mancora had nice enough amenities- the shower was hot (though about as forceful as a teeny tiny dehydrated baby peeing ever so softly on your head), the beds were comfortable, the internet kind of almost worked, and there was coffee and eggs for breakfast. All sounds good on paper, right? Well, in reality, the staff were mostly volunteers who were only interested in what kind of drink was being offered at happy hour, and the eggs had been cooked into a grayish, blobby mess of dry play doh. All jokes and mean jabs aside though, the hostel itself is in a great location (pretty much across the street from the beach), they have a pool, fun bar area (albeit totally disinterested bartenders), and cheap drinks, and if you stay in more than one Kokopelli location across Peru (there are 4), they’ll give you a little discount. (approx. $11/night with breakfast)
- Huanchaco: after escaping Mancora, I was ready for something a little mellower. I had heard rave reviews of the mellow beach town of Huanchaco, about 12 km outside of Trujillo (Peru’s 3rd largest city) and was ready to relax a little after the overstimulation of Mancora. We stayed at Surf Hostal Meri, a bright, sunny space with probably the best breakfast I ate during the whole trip (unfortunately not included in the price of the room, but totally worth it) just across the street from the ocean. Huanchaco is a great place to go hang out for a few days- the beach isn’t as clean as Mancora, but the mellow atmosphere totally makes up for it. After a traumatizing surf experience in Montañita, I wasn’t up for it again, but Huanchaco has some great surf if you can handle the strong current, and the hostel offers pretty much any type of board you can offer as well as cheap-as-hell lessons. In fact, I would have stayed here for longer, but I was rushing to get to and through treks in Huaraz before meeting my Dad in Lima for his birthday! (approx. $9/night)
- Huaraz: Huaraz was one out of only 2 places in all of Peru where I didn’t stay in a hostel recommended to me by someone else- I found Hostal Alpes Huaraz on Hostelworld, and I figured that I could always find a new one if it didn’t work out! Luckily, my powers of online hostel review analysis prevailed, and it was great. I arrived at 6 am on an overnight bus from Trujillo, and the hostel owner (its family run- the owner will check you in in the middle of the night, his wife will get you breakfast, and their son will sell you a tour) immediately let me into my dorm room (a lot of hostels make you wait until ‘check in time’ to enter your room- SUCKS when you get off a 10 hour bus ride only to be told, yeah, you can hang out on the couch for the next 6 hours). Since it was low season when I was in Huaraz (most travelers head there as a jumping off point for trekking, and there are usually heavy rains through the end of February), the hostel was only about half-full, and I ended up having my own room for 3 out of the 4 nights I stayed there. The spot is located a bit outside of the city center, but at $7 a night, you can suck it up and walk a few extra blocks. I would definitely recommend this place-it is quiet, but not TOO quiet (always someone to talk to) and you can book tours through them too, although I would recommend going straight through the tour operator to avoid any mis-communication. ($7/night for a dorm and breakfast)
- Lima: instead of heading towards the ever-trendy Miraflores, I opted to stay in Barranco, Miraflores’s mellower, more bohemian neighbor. I got a great recommendation from one of the girls on my Santa Cruz trek to go stay at Kaminu, a converted family home right in the middle of Barranco’s happening Bajada de Baños. The hostel itself is pretty small- the first time I stayed there (they have since added another room for 4) there were 18 beds. For backpackers accustomed to giant party hostels with people coming out of the walls, this might seem a little too cozy, but I loved it. So much so, in fact, that I stayed there again (and brought 5 people with me) when I headed back to Lima to wrap up my trip. Definitely not a party hostel, but the beds are great, the morning juice is ice-cold, and the employees are all super colorful characters, not to mention super helpful with things like booking bus tickets and giving recommendations of places to eat and hang out in Lima. Not to mention, they offered me a job the second time I stayed there- which I totally would have taken had my flight not been leaving in less than 24 hours! (approx $10/night for 10 bed dorm with breakfast)
- Paracas: Paracas was my little taste of “what traveling is like when you aren’t trying to live as cheaply as possible.” Thanks Dad, for making it possible for me to have a pisco sour every night and stuff my face with ceviche. We stayed at Hotel Mar Azul, a mid-range hotel in the middle of the tiny tourist oasis that is Paracas. The highlight of this place was the rooftop where we ate our meager breakfast- other than that, this place had zero redeeming qualities. No ambiance, internet didn’t work, and the shower temperatures were spotty at best. After hanging out at the Kokopelli Paracas bar our second night, we agreed that we should have stayed there! Long story short, eff hotels, viva la hostel! (approx. $40/night for breakfast and private double room)
- Ica: Another unremarkable hostel stay. We spent a night in Ica Wasi Hospedaje, a decent enough, yet pretty much uneventful spot about 8 blocks from the Plaza Mayor of Ica. Ica isn’t really a travel destination in itself, and although I did enjoy the city-unpretentious and very much just a big city- the only sign that tourism is a big part of the economy is a few travel agencies in the main Plaza. Honestly, I was pretty neutral about this place in general, but it was pretty funny explaining to the hostel owners why my dad and I were not going to share a bed. (not actually sure how much it was- I think $18/night for a private room?)
- Huacachina: Although a bunch of people recommended Desert Nights hostel, they didn’t have private rooms available, and I didn’t want to submit my aged (but still in great shape, no walker needed yet!) father to sharing a room with a bunch of degenerates for his birthday, so we booked beds at Bananas Hostel. Huacachina in general is a bit expensive- it is literally a desert oasis and tourist destination for both locals and international travelers, so budget a bit more for this destination than others. There are limited eating and sleeping locales, but it is close enough to Ica for a day trip if you’re on a tight budget. Don’t expect too much luxury though- when we arrived there was no water, and we weren’t able to shower or flush the toilet for 2 days. I can’t say I slept too well here either- the revolving fan in the 4 bed dorm emitted a high pitched squeaking noise every time it turned and one of my roommates snored like he was about to die, so in the middle of the night I took my blanket and pillow and made a bed on one of the couches in the courtyard. Bananas wasn’t bad though- the staff are nice, the food is great (and not too expensive) and they offer great dune buggy tours in the evenings (seriously SO MUCH FUN). (approx. $12/night for a 4 bed dorm)
- Arequipa: When I first arrived in Huaraz, I met an Australian guy who had spent the last 6 months working as a bar manager at Wild Rover Hostel in Arequipa. Although my natural tendency is to steer clear of any hostel with the reputation of a ‘party hostel’ (and Wild Rover has one of the worst reputations of them all) I took his recommendation and booked a bed there. Yes, Wild Rover is pretty much party-party all the time- you will see the first beers cracked around 9 am, and any night of the week you can expect people dancing on the bar and returning to their beds towards dawn, but the beds are SO comfy, the hostel itself is super safe, the people I met were amazing, and its in a central location only 2 blocks from the main Plaza. I definitely think – as mentioned in previous posts- that the people you meet have a great impact on how you feel about a place, and this was no exception. There was no air of clique-y-ness at all here; everyone had a smile for everyone else, and I got to hang out with some great existing travel buddies as well as meet some new favorites!
- Chivay: this only gets an honorable mention, because not a single one of us can remember the name of the hostel we stayed in!
- Oasis de Sangalle, Colca Canyon: again, can’t remember the name of where we stayed, but it had a pool, little cabanas, and delicious meals- check out my post on the Colca Canyon for more info.
- Cusco: the day I got to Arequipa, someone planted this idea in my head that I was going to go to Cusco, rent a car, and drive into the jungle. The second two things didn’t exactly happen. The first one did. I arrived in Cusco with two Argentinian friends, no hostel booking, and the goal of finding the cheapest place possible. We didn’t end up staying in the cheapest option, but we did find a decent place (Sumayaq) for about $6 a night. While basic, it was clean, the beds were comfortable, and they had a kitchen (that for some odd reason you were only allowed to use once a day), but it was lacking feeling- whether it was the fact that there just weren’t a lot of people staying there, or that the guy running the place was kind of a dick, I’m not sure, but either way I packed my stuff up after one night and headed for somewhere a little livelier. Although I wasn’t exactly smitten with Kokopelli Mancora, I decided to give the chain another try and moved into Kokopelli Cusco. This Kokopelli seemed to be what you would call a bit of a tighter ship- the people at the front desk were super friendly and organized, the breakfast was delicious (fluffy scrambled eggs), and the bar was the best kind of shitshow. And of course, it helped that I met some amazing new friends (as well as got to spend more time with friends from Arequipa!). I would highly recommend Kokopelli Cusco- yes, you can find cheaper and quieter places to rest your head, but I bet you can’t find hotter showers with better water pressure, super friendly volunteers and staff, and more beanbags that kindergarten.
- Back to Lima: if it ain’t broke, why fix it. My second time in Lima, I went right back to Kaminu without even thinking twice about it.
The next place I slept was on my Jetblue flight home, but I didn’t take a picture of that, and wouldn’t recommend it if you’re over 5 feet tall. I gotta say though, kudos to Jetblue for figuring out how to maximize the hell out of your floor plan- anyone larger than me must be absolutely effing miserable on these flights. My tiny legs were a-ok though.
Although I’m back and losing my tan more rapidly than I gained it, I am going to milk this trip for as many blog posts as I possibly can- keep an eye out for my take on llama treatment in the Andes, why I bought a fake alpaca sweater, and how to make people from other countries stop talking to you. Kidding, I won’t write about any of those things. Back to the drawing board for some better ideas.