Puno, Arica and Iquique
The Inca Trail was a huge moment for us in our trip, which made it difficult to say goodbye and move on. We had one more stop in Peru before moving on to Chile.
We stayed one more night in Cusco since we arrived back quite late and were completely exhausted. The next morning we took a bus to our last stop in Peru, Puno. Believe it our not, this city next to Lake Titicaca sits at an elevation of 12556 ft. In fact, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable body of water in the world. While the elevation didn’t effect us too much in Cusco and during the Inca Trail, it was a doozy for us in Puno. Megan woke up every night with a migraine and both of us felt incredibly lethargic during the day. The first day we arrived, we didn’t do much. The second day, we walked around a bit, stumbled into an amazing cevicheria for lunch and decided to not do much for the rest of the day. For the third day, we took a tour out onto Lake Titicaca. We visited one of the many floating islands of the Uros and then went to Taquile Island for a delicious lunch of trout and views of the the Bolivian shores–all in all, it was a relaxing day.
The next day we took a bus headed to the Chilean border and to our first stop in Chile, Arica. Our original travel plans took us through Bolivia, however Bolivia has insanely expensive visa requirements for US citizens, at $160. Thus, we decided we’d take our money elsewhere. The border crossing from Peru into Chile, at Arica was really interesting. You go to the main bus terminal in Tacna, Peru and take a collectivo taxi through the border, to Arica. They each cost the same, around $6 per person, and fit 5 people. The driver helps to get your through the border and then continues to drive you to the main bus terminal in Arica. It was one of the least painful border crossings we had so far.
While in Arica, we spent the day enjoying the downtown atmosphere and lounging at the beach. It’s summer in Chile, so despite us being there during a weekday, there were many people out and about. Chile was also our first stop outside of the US where cars stopped for you if you were in a crosswalk, it felt surreal. In general Chile seems to have much better developed infrastructure than the other South American countries we visited before. The downside of this is that everything is also much more expensive here.
After Arica, we continued south to another nice beach city (a welcome change from the high elevations we’d recently been in) to Iquique. Here, we were able to fully grasp the fact that we had entered summer, it appeared that this was a major beach vacation for Chileans and nearby Argentinians. Surrounding the beach are newly developed, or currently under construction, high rise condominiums. The beach was FILLED with umbrellas and people enjoying the sun and warmish water. While we’re not one for crowds, we figured if you can’t beat them, join them. We spent one full day parked under our rented umbrella and lounge chairs. One of the highlights for Megan here was the abundance of sushi restaurants. Having not had sushi for months on end, we splurged and ate it two days in a row.