High Altitude and Pisco Sours: Adventures in Ecuador and Peru

5 years ago
27 July 2014

It took 27 years, but I finally adventured south of the equator. While I only had a short three weeks to explore, I wish I would have had months to wander deeper into Ecuador, Peru, and beyond. Here are a few highlights of my trip.

Cuenca, Ecuador

The starting point for our adventure, and a city I would love a chance to live in, this mountain town in southern Ecuador is full of beautiful architecture and a great jumping off point for many beautiful areas nearby.


Overlooking Cuenca on an overcast afternoon

El Chorro de Girón, Ecuador

We took a quick hour bus ride from Cuenca, Ecuador to the town of Girón before grabbing a pickup truck up to the lodge at the base of the El Chorro de Girón. Instead of doing the quick 100 meter hike to the lower falls, we opted to wander into the jungle a bit and adventure to the upper falls on a strenuous two hour hike up the hillside (with some friendly horses and cows along the way). It was well worth the extra adventure.


View back down towards the city of Girón


Approaching the Upper Falls


Cascade at the base of the upper falls

Parque Nacional Cajas, Ecuador

Another day trip from Cuenca, this national park is known for its hills and lagoons that average between 10,000 and 15,000 feet above sea level. The day we visited as a good example of the typical climate in the area: cold, misty, and grey. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful area that I wish we could have had days to backpack deeper into the lagoons hidden by the mist.


Into the mist


Trail over marshy ground


One of the hundred of lagoons


My favorite photo from the whole trip

Lima, Peru

Erin and I are not city travelers at all. That being said, Lima was an experience within itself with its crowded streets and delicious food. We found ourselves spending most of our time in Miraflores down by the sea. On the checklist for next time, surf lessons.


From dawn until dusk, the city is wrapped in an eerie white haze


Lima, 20 hours a day it seems…


Pacific Ocean in Lima


Um, so this is a statue in ‘Love Park’

Ollantaytambo, Peru

Our jumping off point into the Sacred Valley, a quick 90 minute collectivo ride from Cusco, and one of my favorite places on the trip. Full of small B&Bs, quaint coffee shops, and clean, cold mountain air. Once the tourists clear out in the evening and morning hours, a great place to sit back and think. Instead of the crowed Ollantaytambo ruins, we picked the higher up (and free) Pinkuylluna ruins.


Pinkuylluna ruins over the city


Ollantaytambo from the ruins

Machu Picchu, Peru

The name explains itself, one of the seven wonders of the World. Even back home I still can’t believe I actually got to visit there. Even better, we had the chance to hike Huayna Picchu, the mountain that stands as a backdrop for many of the ‘postcard’ photos.


No time to do the Inca Trail, we took the train


This is not a postcard


The entrance to Huayna Picchu while it lingers in the background

The hike up (and down) Huayna Picchu is an experience in itself. With groups of 200 only allowed to access the mountain everyday, its much less crowded than the rest of Machu Picchu. However, with thousands of stairs needed to hike its face, a small summit, and a small cave to crawl through, I can only imagine if they allowed more people to hike it.


Machu Picchu from the top of Huayna Picchu, a view only a few see!

Cusco, Peru

The entrance into the Sacred Valley, this tourist town has amazing food, a busy nightlife, and plenty of markets to buy gifts for back home… or alpaca sweaters to keep you warm during the cool mountain nights.


At 11,200 feet it really does take your breath away

Quito, Ecuador

The last stop on our trip left us at the 2nd highest capital in the world, and at the base of many magnificent volcanos in bustling city. There we adventured around El Centro (the Old City) viewing all the beautiful old buildings (the entire old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and then spent our last day wandering taking the telefériQo and hiking the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano.


Looking out from the Basílica del Voto Nacional


2.6 million people look small from 15,000 feet


Volcan Pichincha. Just a quick hike up to 15,700 feet. Oh yeah, and it blew up in 1999.

This is just a peek at the dozen of photos and hundreds of stories that I accumulated over my trip in Ecuador and Peru.

If you are headed that direction and are in need of advice, feel free to contact me. I’d be more than happy to share all of the little advice I accumulated, between where to eat dinner to what ATMs don’t charge a free.

While I take dozens of trips each year, this is one of the few that I didn’t want to end.