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Find Yourself on the Journey
Find Yourself on the Journey
Why Pokhara is The Shit
There are several places you can go to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city, but the most common is Pokhara, and for good reason. Once you arrive in this gorgeous lakeside town you cannot help but think you are in a different country altogether. Pokhara is not only a pleasant respite from Kathmandu, but a location with a plethora of activities including, kayaking, mountain biking, getting tattooed, and people watching; however, the most popular activity to do, and the reason most people go to Pokhara, is for some of the best treks in the world!
For more information about Pokhara and activities to do while you are there, click here
Top 4 Treks from Pokhara
What if I told you in just five days or less you could see vibrant jungle, watch fluffy llamas, experience culture that is over 5 centuries old, walk through an ancient city in the clouds, and see one of the seven wonders of our world? Would you be interested?
Well, lucky for you, you can do all of this and more by visiting Machu Picchu in Peru. Furthermore, if those reasons are not enticing enough for you, Machu Picchu also has impressive architecture, unsolved mysteries, an array of ways to get there, and a unique landscape that will help you build your social media and retain serious bragging rights over your friends and family.
Accolades of Machu Picchu
History and Mystery
By the 1570s, Francisco Pizarro and his crew of Conquistadors had destroyed and pillaged all the Inca empire, or so they thought. Hidden high up a sacred mountain in a sacred valley stands Machu Picchu: the Inca city that was never discovered by the Spanish.
Fast forward hundreds of years and historians knew little of the Inca Empire, except the tale of a secret lost city of gold that many historians and adventurers unsuccessfully searched for. Other than folklore, certain aspects of who the Incas were seemed to be lost forever, until one fateful day when Hiram Bingham, an American historian and adventurer “accidentally” rediscovered Machu Picchu. Bingham, like many before him, was searching for the lost city of gold when he learned from the Peruvian locals of an ancient city high in the mountains. Though the city he found was not in fact the city he was searching for, what he found may well be worth more than he could have hoped for.
Though Machu Picchu helped Historians understand more about the Inca people, it left many questions about the purpose of the site itself. Was it an education center for religious officials? Was it a religious retreat for the Emperor and their family? Was it a religious site for special occasions? Furthermore, why was it undiscovered by the Spaniards and many others for so many years?
These may be questions that will never have an answer, however, isn’t it worth it to grab your magnifying glass, your best Sherlock Holmes hat, and a ticket to Peru and try and solve the case yourself? (or at least go marvel at its beauty)
Architectural Genius of the Inca
When you think of beautiful bathhouses and aqueducts, you probably think of somewhere in Rome or Greece or Turkey, but did you know the Inca had these too and their technology rivaled the more well-known Eurasian predecessors? Along with sophisticated water transportation technology and Romanesque amenities, the Incas had a great understanding of agriculture and the importance of terraces. Terraces carved into the side of the mountains where the citadel stands not only assisted with farming but helped prevent rock falls that could have wiped Machu Picchu from existence long before Bingham discovered it.
What is more impressive, is how these structures were designed. The Inca people only seldom used any form of mortar to keep their stones together during construction. Instead, the indigenous peoples relied on geometry.
Many Inca buildings are built with polygonal shaped rocks instead of rectangular stones. The reason for this, is so that the Inca could shape the stones to fit together perfectly. Due to the unique shape of the stones and their weight, these structures have survived the test of time in many places, including Machu Picchu. In fact, these stones were lined up so perfectly that one could not fit even a knife edge in between two stones.
Breathtaking in More Ways Than One
Not only is the site full of colorful history and unique architecture, the views from the site are spectacular, and they will take your breath away, even if the altitude has not done so already.
Standing on the citadel looking outward you can see the gorgeous Andes Mountains almost magically disappearing and reappearing in the fog. With the clouds lower than you in most places, you feel as if you are standing at the top of the world on Machu Picchu – home of the original skyscrapers.
Not only is the site incredible, but the journey to get there is gorgeous as well. No matter which route you take, you are almost guaranteed to see amazing beauty. You may be hiking and see the beautiful orange head of the Tinku, AKA “the cock of the rock,” Peru’s national bird; or you may see a condor soaring around the great Andean mountains. From a train or bus, you can see the beauty of the northern Amazon as it pours into the rapid Rio Urubamba, that only the most dauntless people raft. Whether you are standing at over 7000 feet or marveling at the beauty, Machu Picchu is guaranteed to take your breath away.
Hiking, Buses, and Trains Oh My!
One of the coolest things about this trip, are the different options to get to Machu Picchu. If you are an adventurer, you would most likely prefer one of the several hiking options. However, if you want a more relaxing trip, you may prefer the train and bus route.
From Aguas Calientes you can take one of the many inexpensive bus rides to Machu Picchu. Keep in mind, there are many options for trains and buses. Basically, the more money you are willing to spend on these transportation units, the more comfortable you will be.
Another hiking option that is much less crowded than the traditional Inca Trail route, is the Salkantay Trek. This trek is 5 days instead of four days so you can better acclimatize yourselves to the elevation difference however the peak elevation is nearly 2000 feet higher than the aforementioned option. Additionally, Salkantay trekkers will be able to experience more local culture in villages that many tourists never have the chance of seeing. Furthermore, this trek focuses more on nature and demonstrates a wide variety of natural biomes and waterfalls in the area. After hiking for four days in the jungle and atop high mountains, you arrive in Aguas Calientes where you can take a much-deserved shower before your bus ride to the citadel the next morning. You will see one other archaeological site but not as many as you do on the traditional Inca trail.
Now, if archaeology and history are the main reasons that you decided to travel to Machu Picchu, you need to consider the Choquequirao trek with Machu Picchu extension. This nine-day trek is not for the inexperienced hiker. The trek is arduous, long, and you will come out stinking to high heaven, but you will see some incredible archaeological sites with basically no crowds in sight. Not to mention, due to the lack of crowds, the site is more preserved and intact then the more commonly visited Machu Picchu. As I mentioned before, this trek is a difficult one to say the least. It includes over 8 full days of hiking up and down mountains sometimes at altitudes higher than 4000 meters (over 13,000 feet), but if you are up for the challenge, the opportunity to see both of these incredible sights, is difficult to pass up. Unfortunately, my father and I have already planned our trip to Machu Picchu in 2021. Due to the time constraints and previous itineraries, we will not have time to do this trek when we go. I will say, however, this is my favorite trekking option and I guarantee that one day I will take it and I hope you guys are here with me when I do!
My Favorite Part - Food!
No matter how you decided to get to Machu Picchu, one thing is for certain, you cannot miss out on the food. Whether you are acclimatizing your body in Cusco, relaxing after a long hike in Aguas Calientes, or enjoying a nice stop in a local village during your trek, you must take time to try the local cuisines. Let me tell you what, Peru has some good food! Here are just a few options to get your mouth watering:
Other Incan Street Foods
If you really want to experience the local culture, you must do what the locals do and eat as the locals eat. There are many street food vendors in Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes and other Peruvian cities and villages. You can try Many local favorites, including: anticuchos (Andean kabab-type dish dating back to ancient Incan time), rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy peppers), and alpaca jerky.
Drinkin' like an Incan
Do you enjoy alcohol and trying new drinks? Then Peru may be the place for you. Peru is well known for several sweet, fruity cocktails made with pisco, a popular liquor from the Pacific Coast of Peru. However, if you are looking for a truly unique drink, you must try chicha, a low ABV corn-based alcohol like beer.
What makes this drink so fascinating, is how it is traditionally made. Now, most places make chicha with barley for fermentation, but the drink was originally made and is still made in some places to this day with fermented saliva. Swapping spit with older Incan women just might be the highlight of the trip.
Long ago, the Inca would enjoy this drink that was essentially corn chewed up and spit out, then fermented and finally enjoyed with some nice cuy and yuca frita – sounds delicious. Like I said, most places do not make the drink traditionally anymore. However, this does not mean that you cannot find somewhere that does. In fact, in rural towns along some of the hikes to Machu Picchu, you may see houses with red flags or red bags attached to their doors. This is a common symbol that shows that these locals serve chicha. Drop in, support the economy, enjoy the added effects of alcohol at high elevation, and try not to focus on the teeth that chewed and spat your beverage.
Instagramable as a Mofo
Instead of making you read more about all the vistas and ruins and food that will push your social media accounts to new levels, check these out:
But, probably not!
For these reasons and more, Machu Picchu has earned the place at the top of my bucket list; and I urge you to reserve a spot for it on yours as well. Please comment below some of the top places you want to see before you die and/or your personal experiences at Machu Picchu.
I believe that no trip to Italy is complete without making a stop at this serene little Island on the Amalfi coast. In fact, my father just put out a blog detailing the best itinerary for traveling to Italy. See link here. Capri is organized as a day trip in his plan, but, if you have the time, I recommend staying 3-5 days as there is plenty of fun and relaxing activities to do on this little island gem.
If your schedule is tight and you can only stay for a day or so, you must spend some of your time experiencing these can’t-miss spots on this paradise island.
Boat Tour Around Capri
If you are only here for one day, you MUST take a ride on the Capri boat tour with the Blue Grotto extension package! The water is a beautiful crystal blue color, and the view of the coast is breathtaking. The captain will circumvent the island while pointing out local landmarks and historically significant locations. Along the journey you will see several natural grottoes, learn history, and maybe share a smooch in one of the most romantic places in the world.
One of the coolest parts about the tour is the history you will learn along the way. The skipper will point out several historically significant places on the island. One such place is the 300 ft cliffs where the late Roman emperor Tiberius the Tyrant would enjoy watching his enemies being thrown from. Another historical stop is the world-famous Casa Malaparte, a uniquely designed adobe home constructed for the late Curzio Malaparte, a world-renowned Italian writer, filmmaker, and diplomat. The house is quite a site to see. It resembles an orange cube with a triangle back side where stairs are built into the foundation for access to the roof. I would not necessarily refer to it as beautiful, but it is worth marveling at its idiosyncrasy from below.
Phoenician steps and Memorable Chair Lift to Monte Solara
There are a few ways to get to Anacapri, the nearby city just above Capri. If you are a fan of hiking, you have to take the Phoenician steps from Marina Grande to Anacapri. The hike offers some of the best views of the island and the history behind this ancient route is intriguing. The steps are thousands of years old and long ago scala fenicia was the only trail that connected Capri to Anacapri. In order for the people of Anacapri to have freshwater, they had to collect it from a spring that is close to the current day marina. Before the carriage roads were built in the late 19th century, the only way for them to get the water was for the women to take large vases for water and walk back and forth on the nearly thousand steps balancing the vases full of water on their heads. Its incredible to think how tourist now walk it for enjoyment and relaxation, when long ago it was a tedious task necessary for survival.
Due to its location, the bay is almost always warm, even in the dead of winter. Also, the bay is located very close to the gorgeous Faraglioni rock formations which makes for some great Instagram pictures. Furthermore, the beach and marina are far less crowded, making it perfect for relaxing on the Amalfi coast.
More Things To Do
This island has plenty to do and if you have a few days to spend here, reserve a cute little Airbnb and take some time to experience more that this island has to offer. Here is a list of a few more things I recommend that you do while in Capri:
*Pro Tip: if you do rent an Airbnb and they have a glass cover for their stove, do not cook on the glass surface. Trust me Turtle and I learned the hard way. There was glass everywhere! *
People Watching in the Piazzo
Beach Combing the Coast
You may not think it, but the Amalfi coast is a great place to beach comb. While walking the beautiful shores, you can find cool sea glass, pottery shards and some pretty shells if you are lucky. Even if you find nothing, it is well worth a stroll on this gorgeous coastline.
More Hiking Trails
If you love hiking, like my dad and I, you will love Capri. There are some beautiful hiking options on this island, many of which I had no prior knowledge of and will have to try when I revisit Capri. Here is a list of a few:
Villa Jovis Hike
Another cool hike on Capri is the moderate uphill 45-minute hike from the Piazetta to Villa Jovis, the ancient vacation home of the infamous Emperor Tiberius. The villa is over 2,000 years old and nearly everything is still intact. The architecture is impressive including the large cisterns used to collect rainwater. There once stoop a primitive lighthouse that showed visitors where the villa was. Also on the property is a famous cliff where Tiberius would gleefully watch as his enemies were pushed off to their deaths. Additionally, remember to do some research to find out when the site is open to the public.
Sentiero dei Fortini
The longest, but arguably coolest, hike on the island is the Path of the Little Forts. This trail is three hours long and spans from Grotta Azurra to the lighthouse of Punta Carena. The trail hugs the coast showing some gorgeous views of the coast. Along the way, the trail intersects with three old forts built by the British in the early 1800s. The first fort is the Orrico Fort, located 300 meters from the blue grotto. The fort has thick stone walls in a semicircular shape. There are places where two cannons once stood ready to defend the area. The second fort is the Mesola Fort. This fort is circular in shape and similar in construction to the other forts. However, the most unique thing about this area are the traces of primitive man that have been found such as primitive bone utensils and remnants of an ancient stairway. I think it is worth taking a look around and seeing if you can find any artifacts on the surface. The final fort you will see is the Pino fort. This fort has a circular outer ring with a rectangular inner ring for added protection.
Instagramable as a MOFO
I love people and animals and lust after adventure. I am always up for the next trip, something I find to be integral to my soul. Sharing my love of cultures and nature is foremost in my aspirations, and I look forward to sharing them with you.