Monday, January 25, 2016

Peru and Bolivia: A Brief Photo Tour

So look, I know this is a book blog and not a travel blog. And I also know that some people love travel writing, and some people can get easily bored with it (I am in that second category). But our trip to Peru and Bolivia over Christmas break was just kind of too incredible not to share. I promise I will try to keep this as brief as possible, just the highlights (although it was super hard to narrow down pictures to share, especially of the incomparable Machu Picchu.)

First, a little background. We spent ten days total on the trip, leaving very late on Christmas night and returning to the States on January 4th (my parents watched our boys while we were gone). We traveled with most of the adult members of my husband's family: my mother- and father-in-law, my husband's older sister and her husband, and his younger brother and youngest sister (another sister and brother-in-law did not come with us, and we missed you Melanie, but I've got to say, this would've been a terrible trip to make being first-trimester pregnant).

This trip has been in the works for years. Both my mother- and father-in-law served LDS missions in Bolivia, and as long as I've known my husband he's talked about going on this trip to visit his parent's mission areas with them, and throw Machu Picchu into the mix because, hello? It's Machu Picchu.

I was the reason for the timing of this trip. I have two stipulations for international travel: 1.) I cannot be pregnant, and 2.) I cannot be nursing (inherent in that last stipulation is that I don't want to travel internationally with babies or small children, I just personally would not enjoy that). When we were looking at long term planning a few years ago, I realized this Christmas break would be the only window where international travel would be possible for a while, so we pitched the trip idea to the rest of his family. It took a lot of planning (traveling with eight people takes serious coordination) and a lot of prep, but in the end we all had a fabulous time. Here are some of the highlights:

Peru: Cusco

You guys, Cusco is such a beautiful city. Much of it felt very European, thanks to those Spanish conquistadors, but they built on top of older Incan sacred sites, and much of that underlying stonework is still very visible (see below). It gives the whole city a beautiful look. I wish we could've spent more time here, because it was one of my favorite cities of the whole trip. But obviously we were pretty excited to get on to our second location which was...

Aquas Calientas/ Machu Picchu
There are two ways to get to Machu Picchu. You can either hike in along the Incan Trail (which sounds like an incredible experience, but it takes four days and involves strenuous hiking, so this is not the option we chose), or you can take the train in to a town at the base called Aquas Calientas (a little tourist trap of a place, but it had it's charms, like the views). From there we took a bus to the top and got our first glimpse:

 These pictures do not even do it justice. Can I just say how absolutely beautiful Peru is? I mean, the ruins are incredible in and of themselves, but what makes Machu Picchu truly a wonder is the surrounding environment. Those green mountains are just jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I just couldn't even take in all the beauty, because it's just everywhere you look.

Llama! They were all over the place. 

It was very cool to be able to walk around and climb all over these ruins. They are really quite generous with how up close and personal you can get, and it was a lot of fun. Although, the stairs! (I mean, it is a city on a mountain). My calves were so sore. 

Puno/ Lake Titicaca/ Floating Islands

After a couple of days at Machu Picchu, we hoped on a train back to Cusco, and then an overnight bus to Puno, a little town on the border of Lake Titicaca. This is the highest (elevation-wise) navigable lake in the world, at over 12,000 ft. above sea level. Half the lake is in Peru, and half is in Bolivia. While still on the Peru side, we hopped on a boat for a tour of the floating islands. 

 I did not know much about the floating islands before this trip, so in case you are wondering, yes, these are man-made floating islands. And yes, people actually live on them. They make them out of the reeds that grow all over the lake, and they literally just thatch these islands together by laying down layers and layers of the reeds. It feels quite interesting to walk on these islands, where the ground is just soft layers of reed, and it seems like a very difficult life, but certainly a beautiful one.

Bolivia: Sun Island/ Copacabana

We drove around the lake and crossed the border into Bolivia. Our first stop was Copacabana, which is a fun, touristy, back-packer kind of town. From there we took another boat out to La Isla del Sol. At this point in the trip, I was pretty exhausted and gross (we'd been sleeping on a bus, hadn't showered or even used a real flushing toilet in a few days). But hiking across this little island made me so happy. I don't know if it was the elevation (elevation makes me happy) or just the scenery. I mean, it was just a beautiful little spot of earth. 

The church and market in Copacabana. 

La Paz

We spent New Year's Eve in La Paz, and took a guided tour of the city the next day. This is the Valley of the Moon park. What's interesting about Bolivia is that topographically, there were so many places where I felt like I was back in Utah. 

The city of La Paz itself was crazy and overwhelming. This picture doesn't convey the madness of humanity that is sprawled over 2,000 feet of elevation. Don't be fooled, there are actually no flat surfaces in this city. You are either going up, or you are going down. Their public transportation is a ski lift system. 


We finally made it to my in-laws mission areas. Coachabamba is not a usual tourist destination, but it was a beautiful city. They have a temple now, and this day was the highlight of the trip.

In the market. 

Santa Cruz

This was our last stop. We didn't get to see much of Santa Cruz except the central square, because we didn't actually spend the night here, just a brief layover before we caught our flight home. All in all, in was a pretty incredible trip. But I'm also going to be okay if I don't have to fly anywhere on an airplane again for a very long time.

There is so much I left out here (I tried to show restraint, it was hard), but let me know if you have any questions (those of my readers who weren't actually on the trip with me :). In case you are entertaining the idea of travelling to Peru or Bolivia yourself, all I can say is go! Do you whatever you can to get there! It's fabulous and definitely worth the trip.

P.S. - Episode 3 of the Book Blab will be airing THIS WEDNESDAY, January 27th, at 8 PM Central. Live stream will be right here on the blog, so join us if you can!


  1. This looks like such a fun and amazing trip! I didn't mind the travelogue break. :)

  2. I wish we could have seen more of Cusco! (And it was the Incas). I'm very impressed you summarized our trip so well! My 1000 pictures overwhelm me, but it really was a trip of a lifetime!

  3. It all looks so amazing and beautiful--such a neat experience! Too bad we couldn't join you all in person, but you're right...it would have been quite the challenge seeing as I was just barely coming back to the land of the living at that point!

  4. Wow! All I can say is wow!! For a not travel blog you've done an amazing job of showing us a whole nother world!!