Lake Titicaca Photo Diary



Lake Titicaca Photo Diary

We spent a weekend visiting the Peruvian Islands in Lake Titicaca, and as usual in Peru, the photos were too good not to share. During our two days on the lake, the landscape changed dramatically from a cloudy and gray climate over Puno’s city to a green and sunny escape on the the Amantani and Taquile islands. See it all in our Lake Titicaca photo diary and explore more of the landscapes, people, and culture we found on the high altitude lake!





















by Sep 22, 2017

The Top 3 Peruvian Islands in Lake Titicaca



The Top 3 Peruvian Islands in Lake Titicaca


Lake Titicaca is a popular tourist destination because it’s the highest navigable lake on earth, and the Peruvian islands in Lake Titicaca are a popular tourist destination. Like hiking Colca Canyon, visiting the Peruvian islands in Lake Titicaca is an iconic and essential stop while vacationing in Arequipa. While there are plenty of likes that sit at higher elevations, Lake Titicaca is the highest that people live on and that boats can navigate. So, how high is Lake Titicaca? It sits at 12,500 ft. The lake also straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia, which means that half the coast line and islands are on Bolivian soil, and the other half are in Peru.

Because Bolivia requires a $140 visa entrance fee for Americans, unfortunately this time around Daniel and I only chose to see the Peruvian islands in Lake Titicaca. We only had a weekend, and there was plenty to do just in Peru to fill that time. If you choose to see the Bolivian side also, definitely budget four or five days to see it all.


How To Get There

To visit the top 3 Peruvian islands at Lake Titicaca, you will need to start off in Puno. Puno is a small city on the edge of the lake, and the jumping off point for most of the tours to the islands. The best time to visit Puno is when traveling between Arequipa and Cusco. If you take a bus from one destination to the other, it will stop in Puno which lies between them, and is about a 6 hours bus ride from each city. So, when planning your trip to Peru, make sure you add in a few days between your visits to Arequipa and Cusco to stop in Puno to see Lake Titicaca.

Puno actually doesn’t have much to see, so it’s best to get in at night, and start your tours of the lake the next day. When you get to Puno, there will be tons of different tour options for you to choose from. Lake Titicaca is huge, at over 3,000 square miles, and has a depth of almost 9,000 feet! There are plenty of islands on the lake, and there is a LOT to see and do in the area. So what should you plan to visit?


The Top 3 Peruvian Islands in Lake Titicaca.


1. Amantani Island

Amantani Island just started to become a part of the tourist circuit five or six years ago. The island is small, at only about three and a half square miles. It has about 800 families on it divided into 10 small communities. Amantani Island is a three hour boat ride from Puno.

Why you should visit: The unique thing about Amantani island, and my favorite part of the visit, was the homestay we were given. We ate lunch, dinner, and breakfast with a local family and were invited into their houses to sleep. Flora, our “mother”, was extremely kind and her house was very comfortable. It even included a large balcony with a stunning view of the lake. That night, we were all invited to a local fiesta where we were given traditional outfits to wear. Musicians from across the island came to play and they taught us the traditional dances of the community. It was a really fun experience.

What to do: While on Amantani, don’t miss the climb up to the highest point on the island. there are two small mountains that each have a temple on top of them, the temple of the moon and the temple of the sun. We climbed to the Pachatata temple. The climb is fairly easy. It’s on a paved path and though it goes up for 45 minutes, it’s not very steep. There are also vendors selling souvenirs, snacks, and even cold beers along the climb if you need a break. Once you get to the top of the mountain, the 360 degree view is stunning. You can see the sparkling blue water, surrounding islands, and even into Bolivia. While up there, just make sure you walk around the temple three times – once for health, once for money, and once for love – and then place a rock at the gate for good luck. My tip: climb up in the afternoon to enjoy the sunset over the water!




2. Taquile Island

Taquile island is another popular destination on the lake. Like Amantani Island, Taquile island is also a three hour boat ride from Puno, and about a one hour ride from Amantani. However, Taquile island is about double the size of Amantani in both square milage and population.

Why you should visit: The most unique thing about Taquile island is the community of knitting men. These men do exactly what it sounds like… they knit. Their products are beautiful, thick, and high quality, and they are all made by hand. There is a large market in the central plaza de armas where you can buy scarves, headbands, gloves, and traditional belts and hats from them. They’re expensive (some of the hats take up to two months to knit!) but unique and make great souvenirs and gifts.

What to do: We docked on one side of the island and walked an hour to the main square. The walk was high up along the coast line, and had amazing views the whole way. In the square, we visited the marketplace. Afterwards, we enjoyed a lunch of baked fish and potatoes with a view of the island farmland and blue sparking water. Finally, we walked back down tot he other side of the island to a second port to meet our boat again. If you visit Taquile, make sure you walk across the entire island to enjoy the many different beautiful views of the lake!





3. Uros Floating Islands

The Uros floating islands are the easiest island to visit from Puno, because they are only a 20 minute boat ride away. These islands are manmade by the Uros community thta lives on them. Mud, roots, and reed plants make up the base of the island, which float precariously on top of Lake Titicaca’s calm waters. The Uros community has built more than 85 inhabited islands.

Why you should visit: The Uros Floating Islands are incredibly unique because they’re just that: man-made, floating islands. When you visit the islands, you will meet community members who will show you how they build the islands and anchor them down. The islands, their homes, and all the crafts they sell are all made out of the reeds that grow in Lake Titicaca. They’re edible too, so you can even try a bite!

What to do: While on the islands, you can take a $3 ride in their traditional boats (that they used to live on before they began building more permanent islands). Check out their unique hanging mobiles and handicrafts, and visit the Uros Capital Island, which has hostels, restaurants, markets, and even a hospital and school built on it.




Amantani Island, Taquile Island, and the Uros Floating Islands are the the top 3 Peruvian islands in Lake Titicaca. Buy a $30 tour, and spend two days and one night visiting all of these unique sites on the highest navigable lake in the world!

All my love,



by Sep 18, 2017

Hiking Colca Canyon: The World’s Second Deepest Canyon



Hiking Colca Canyon: The World’s Second Deepest Canyon

Hiking Colca Canyon is the most popular tour from Arequipa, Peru, and the reason why many tourists come to this city. It’s the world’s second deepest canyon, reaching 11,400 ft deep at its greatest depth. (The deepest canyon is in Tibet, and the Grand Canyon ranks 4th). Daniel and I of course decided to check it out! Here is my review of the two day, one night trek hiking Colca Canyon.

The Stats

Cost: $30 per person, plus another $21 pp for the tourist ticket for entrance into the canyon. These costs include transportation, breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the first day, breakfast on the second day, a place to sleep, and a guide. Extra costs include buying water on the trek, a tip for the guide, and lunch on the last day. The tour is easy to book in any tour agency in the city center.

Time: We were picked up at 3 am in Arequipa on the first day, and returned to the city at 5pm on day two.

Distance: The first day hiking Colca Canyon we walked 13.5 miles, and the second we walked 9 miles. That meant about seven hours of walking on day one and four hours on day two.

Altitude: The trek started at 10,700 ft. From there, we descended into the canyon down to the oasis at 7,300 ft. Just remember, the next day you will have to climb right back out of it!


Day One: Descent Into the Oasis

Day one of hiking Colca Canyon started at 3am, just like most tours in Peru. The van picked us up and then made its rounds to the hostels slowly filling up with fellow travelers. Once we were done, we started the drive out to Chivay, the gateway into Colca Canyon. On the way, we passed the highest altitude we would reach on the trip at 15,700 ft. Three hours later, we stopped in Chivay for a quick breakfast, and then continued another hour to our first stop at 8:30am – the Cruz del Condor.

Cruz del Condor

The Cruz del Condor is a popular lookout in Colca Canyon. The high point offers stunning views of the depth of the gorge, and is a perfect place to spot the giant condors who live there. Condors are a species of vulture, and they’re HUGE. They’re the largest flying birds in the western hemisphere, and you’re all but guaranteed to spot a couple at the canyon lookout. Watching the giant birds glide over the depths of the canyon was a stunning experience, and definitely a must for any birders.


Start of the Trek

Next, we drove another hour to the starting point of the trek outside the town of Cabanaconde. Here, we were split into new groups of about ten each and were introduced to our tour guides. We walked to the edge of the Colca Canyon and began the 2.5 hour descent to the bottom.



The descent was hot and sunny, but the views were beautiful. Once we reached the bottom, we had a rest next to the rushing Colca river, and then it was another 30 minutes of up and down hiking until our lunch. Lunch was in a cute restaurant with plenty of green space, flowers, and beautiful views, and was a perfect midday rest. Afterwards, we walked another 2 hours up and down the side of the canyon until we finally descended into the oasis.


Sangalle Oasis

The Sangalle Oasis has to be seen to be believed. The small circle of greenery is like a lush Garden of Eden. Flowers bloomed in every color and multiple pools sparkled in the sun while waterfalls rushed into them. It was like another world, a true oasis tucked away between the high stone walls of Colca Canyon.



Unfortunately, we arrived around 5pm, so we couldn’t take advantage of the pools in the hot sun. We had a few hours to relax, and then it was dinner, a beer or two, and bed time by 8pm. Before we passed out in the basic (but comfortable) bed, Daniel and I took a minute to stargaze. The night sky was absolutely stunning. I’ve been to 25 countries in my life, but I’ve never, ever been somewhere with stars like this. Millions dotted the night sky, and the milky way glowed brightly through the middle of it, outshining them all. Just seeing the stars was actually my favorite part of the trip!


Day Two: The Climb and Return to Arequipa

Day two of our trek began at 4am. We met the rest of the group at 4:30 and started the uphill hike back out the Canyon. We returned by a different and shorter route than we came in, and it took about 3 hours to climb it. We began in the dark. The temperatures were cool, and the headlights of the groups ahead of us bobbed in the night like shining stars. Soon, the sun began to rise and the canyon lit up. The hike was timed perfectly, and we reached the top just as the heat of the sun began to reach us.

The climb itself wasn’t too strenuous, and despite being only uphill, the switchbacks were nice and wide, and the temps were nice. The hike was really pleasant. Hiking Colca Canyon was just difficult enough to feel like an achievement, but easy enough that we weren’t completely wiped out by the time we reached the top (unlike our harrowing experience on Misti Volcano!) Once we completed the climb, it was another 20 minutes back to Cabanaconde, where a hot breakfast of bread, eggs, and some much needed coffee awaited us. At 9am, we began the long drive home, with a few stops in between of course.

Stop 1: Pre-Incan Terraces

The first stop was to take photos at a part of Colca valley filled with pre-Incan terraces. The view was stunning, and there was even a small bar selling pisco sours for those really trying to relax after the climb!


Stop 2: Hot Springs

The next stop was at the optional hot springs. The springs run into pools along the Colca River, and for a $5 entrance fee you can use the changing rooms and take a dip in pools of all temperatures. We stopped at the springs for about an hour to soak after the long hike.

Stop 3: Chivay

The third stop on the way home from hiking Colca Canyon is again in the town of Chivay. Here there is the non-included lunch buffet for $10. However, there are other restaurants to eat at around the town, but Daniel and I can’t recommend any because we chose to pack a lunch instead. Chivay is also where a lot of travelers split from the group, and continue on to Puno to see Lake Titicaca rather than backtrack to Arequipa. Combining your Colca Canyon tour with Lake Titicaca is efficient and cost effective if you’re planning to visit them both.

Stop 4: Volcanos Views

Our final stops were just quick 10 minute stops to take photos. The first was at a volcano lookout. We could see different volcanoes in every direction, including the erupting Sabancaya Volcano. It looked like a martian landscape surrounded us, with gray ash and dust, the smoking volcano, and piles of stacked rocks in every direction. Spooky.



Stop 5: Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve

For our last stop, we pulled over when we passed through the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve. Pools of water and herds of alpacas and llamas dominated the landscape. We were even lucky enough to spot some flamingos and wild vincunya on the drive through as well. It was beautiful!



Finally, we completed the drive back to Arequipa. We got back to the city at 5pm, ready for dinner and a lazy night watching TV in our apartment. Hiking Colca Canyon is an easy weekend trip, and we had a great time. The unique oasis, condor spottings, and trek into the second deepest canyon in the world make it a must visit for any tourist in Arequipa, and one that I definitely recommend!

All my love,





by Sep 11, 2017

Surviving Misti Volcano: A Photo Diary


Surviving Misti Volcano: A Photo Diary

The two day trek to the summit of Misti Volcano in Arequipa, Peru is anything but easy. We climbed over boulders on our hands and knees, teetered on the edges of thousand foot drops, and scaled snow and ice covered rock walls… all after a 1am wake up call in thin air at high altitude. It was the toughest hike I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding, and the views were stunning from start to finish. An epic climb deserves epic photos…




















by Sep 6, 2017

Climbing Misti Volcano, Altitude Sickness, & How Ski Poles Saved My Life



Climbing Misti Volcano, Altitude Sickness, & How Ski Poles Saved My Life


Ok, settle in ’cause this ones a doozy. Daniel and I had NO IDEA what we were getting into when we booked a two day trek to climb Misti Volcano. Climbing Misti Volcano is not for the faint of heart. The volcano sits only an hour outside of the city of Arequipa, Peru, so when I saw a sign for it in the tour agency I was like, “Why not?” Oh man. I can now give you so many reasons why not, but I’ll start from the beginning…



The Stats

Altitude: The peak reaches over 19,000 feet, which means the air had less than half of the oxygen than it does at sea level.

Time: We left Arequipa at 8 am, and returned at 3 pm the next day. Day one had 6 hours of hiking, and on day two we hiked for 13 hours.

Distance: The entire trek covered about 16 miles, most of them straight up or down. We also climbed 8,000 feet and descended another 8,000 on the trek.

Temperature: Temperatures ranged from 75 degrees Fahrenheit at their warmest at the base of the volcano down to 15 degrees at the coldest in high altitude. Pack layers.

Cost: Most tours cost about $70. This includes a ski jacket and ski pants, gloves and a hat, a tent, sleeping bag, mat, transportation, a guide, and dinner on the first night and breakfast on the second. You will need to pay extra for ski poles (absolutely necessary for the climb) and a tip for the guide, pack snacks and food for lunches both days and pack 5 liters of water per person. In total, we paid about $100 each for the trip.

Popularity: Climbing Misti Volcano is not a common tour. There were only four other people on the volcano with us during our 2 day hike

Difficulty: 12/10 I almost died multiple times. Not like, figurative died, but actual fall off the mountain died.


Day One – Base Camp at 15,000 ft.

Our trip began when we arrived at the tour agency in Arequipa at 8 am. All we had in our bags at that point were 7.5 liters of water each. Here, they gave us our ski jacket and pants, gloves and hat, sleeping bags, mats, and tent. Luckily we had planned to only hike in what we were wearing, because all of this and the water completely filled our packs. Keep in mind, there are no horses or porters so we were stuck carrying everything on our backs up the mountain. Even packing light, we still had at least 20 pounds each in our bags.

After we met our guide, we jumped in a car and drove an hour to the trailhead. We started climbing Misti Volcano at 11,000 ft. The trail began with a sloping incline, that steadily got steeper as we walked. The views were beautiful from the start, with the volcano rising in front of us, and the city of Arequipa laid out behind of us. We could also see the Pichu Pichu mountain range on the the right.



We walked for 6 hours on the first day. It was tough climbing 4,000 feet with our bags, but definitely manageable. The trail was clear from the start and required some rock climbing but nothing too strenuous. Finally, we arrived at our camp site at 4:30pm. Me, Daniel, and our guide were one of only two groups climbing Misti Volcano that day. We had the place to ourselves, and we set up our tent at 15,000 feet. The views were spectacular. We ate dinner as the sun set, and we could see the city of Arequipa sparkling below us. It was an absolutely amazing night that I will remember for the rest of my life.


Day Two – 1 am Wake Up Call

Day 2 of climbing Misti Volcano starts out with a 1 am wake up call. Yes, you read that right. So, this whole insane excursion that I’m about to relate occurs on about 4 hours of sleep. We woke up, put on our headlamps, grabbed our bags, and had a quick breakfast of tea, bread, and cheese. One great aspect of this volcano being so sparsely hiked is that we could safely leave everything at our campsite, and only had to carry a bottle of water each up the mountain. Lighter packs made all the difference. I’m confident I couldn’t have made the summit if I had the same weight as the day before.


Altitude Sickness

We set off in the dark and cold around 1:30am. Luckily, we had a full moon so the trail wasn’t too difficult to see. As we started climbing, though, I began to feel sick. Like, really sick. My head was pounding and dizzy, and my stomach was super nauseous. I had been to 17,000 feet before, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t expecting to get hit with altitude sickness, but these were all the warning signs. I began freaking out internally, knowing that if I couldn’t complete the climb I would either be stuck waiting all night alone at our camp, or turn back with the guide and Daniel and ruin his chances of summiting.

However, when you’re in Peru, do as the locals do. Luckily Daniel had thought ahead and brought a bag of coca leaves on the climb. Coca leaves are the dried leaves from cocaine plants, and they’re used to combat altitude sickness and give energy. I took a handful of the leaves and chewed them up even though they have the most bitter, disgusting taste and I almost threw them up right there on the side of the volcano. Thank God I didn’t though, because they did exactly what they’re supposed to do. Immediately, my headache disappeared and my stomach felt fine. I pushed the chewed up leaves into my lower lip and sucked on them for the next thirty minutes. They solved my problems and I didn’t have any more trouble with altitude sickness after that.



Certain Death

I’m not being dramatic here when I say Daniel and I almost died multiple times while climbing Misti Volcano. The first couple hours on day two were fine. We were making good time and feeling up to the challenge. We watched the full moon turn orange, then red, and finally sink behind the mountains in a display rivaling any sunset. The night got darker, the stars got brighter, and the temperatures got colder. Even in my ski coat and pants, I was freezing and my hands were numb. However, I was still enjoying the climb. But when the sun came up, everything changed.

Four hours into our hike it was light again, and I could see just. how. high. we were on the volcano. I could also see that below us on the sides of the trail were sheer drops, running thousands of feet down the volcano with only super sharp rocks to break them up. I was sleep deprived and the air was thin. Not great conditions to be in when a strong gust of wind or a single misstep can mean the difference between life and death. We still had hours of climbing ahead of us, and no choice but to keep going.

As we climbed, the trail seemed to disappear below our feet. There were times we had to put our ski poles aside and climb up boulders and rock piles on our hands and knees. As we got closer to the top, we began reaching patches of ice and snow. I’m not exaggerating when I say at one point, I was climbing a sheer rock wall covered in snow and ice with a 5,000 foot drop below me… and no ropes or equipment. I was terrified. I was fighting back tears and telling myself over and over in my mind something our scuba instructor told us on our first day of diving classes: “If you panic, you die.”

Somehow, by the grace of God, I made it up that rock face intact. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the dangers on our trek. On the final push to the crater, we crossed a path of gravel and sand. It was thin, slippery, and sideways on the edge of the mountain side. I was taking the tiniest, most careful steps of my life, and slamming my ski poles into the sand and dirt as deep as they would go. The only solution was to keep walking, swallow your fear, and don’t look down.


The Summit

Our small group finally, finally, reached the top of Misti Volcano’s crater at 8:30 that morning. We sat down to rest and enjoy the beautiful view of Arequipa and the surrounding valleys. I was dizzy and had absolutely no appetite, but I forced myself to eat a sandwich and some peanuts, because we still had a long day ahead of us, including making the final push to the summit.

From the large crater, it’s still a 45 minute climb to the highest point on the volcano, where a 1,500 year old cross marks the summit at 19,110 feet. We walked up on the gravel and sand trails along the mountainside, avoiding the places where snow and ice still covered the ground. As we climbed higher, we could see inside Misti’s still active central crater. The smell of sulfer was strong, and smoke rose in puffs from her inner core.

Finally, we reached the summit. Now that I’m safe here on solid ground, I can almost say the climb was worth it. We had 360 degree views for miles into every direction. The city of Arequipa, the large salt mines, the Picchu Picchu and Chachani mountain ranges, Misti’s craters, and Peru’s many green valleys and lakes spread out below us. It was absolutely stunning and by far the best view I have ever seen in my life.



Ski Poles, I Love You

All too soon, though, it was time to begin our descent. At this point, my energy was completely depleted, and I was worried because we still had hours of hiking ahead of us. I have to say, as we climbed down from the summit back to the base of the crater, I was the most scared I have ever been in my life. We were on the slipperiest slope, covered in gravel and sand. We were slipping and sliding down it as we descended, and I firmly believe if I hadn’t had my ski poles for balance I would have slipped and fallen… right off the edge of the volcano. I think the tour agency was irresponsible for allowing us to climb the volcano at all, but they were downright malicious to not include or at least insist that we purchase ski poles for the hike. The ski poles really were the only reason I didn’t slide off the path and down 7,000 feet to the base of the volcano. If you are somehow still planning on doing this hike absolutely DO NOT attempt it without them.

The Descent

We reached the crater and began our descent down the volcano at 10:30am. At this point we had already been hiking for nine hours. In comparison to climbing Misti Volcano, though, getting down was a breeze. It took us 15 hours of hiking over 2 days to reach the summit of Misti, but only 4 hours to get down. How? By sliding down the scree.

A scree is a mass of loose dirt and stones that cover the side of a mountain. Misti is a volcano, so a portion of her side is covered in black volcanic sand. We literally jumped off the top of the crater, 8,000 feet off the ground, and onto the sheer mountainside into the thick sand.

Everyone had their own way of managing the scree. Our guide chose to run down it, but I preferred a skiing method. After some trial and error (and a couple falls) I figured out how to move my feet exactly as if I was skiing under the sand, and used my ski poles as, well… ski poles. We went down the mountain in this way for over an hour until we got back to camp. Here, it was time to clean up, pack up, and remove our warmest layers before we continued down to the bottom. Once we were done, we hopped back into the scree again for another hour of sliding down the mountain.

Finally, we reached the sloping walking trails at the base that led back to the trailhead. Each step was like torture and I have never felt more exhausted. We reached our car at 2:30 pm, after hiking for a total of 13 hours that day.


Home Sweet Home

What more can I say? It was an hour drive back to Arequipa, with us finally feeling like we could laugh and joke about the experience after getting our feet back on flat land. We returned our gear to the tour agency, got some tacos, and headed home. I passed out at 6pm and slept for 13 hours to recover from the whole ordeal.

Am I happy we climbed Misti Volcano? Yes. It was the most difficult physical accomplishment of my life, and something I really do feel proud of. Would I recommend it to a friend? Hell no! Unless you are an experienced hiker or truly have no fear of heights, death, or the unknown, stay far away from this trek! There are plenty of less life threatening choices to do in Arequipa, like visiting Colca Canyon or Lake Titicaca, so do yourself a favor and skip this one.

All my love,



by Sep 5, 2017

Pin It on Pinterest