• Image about Peru
Plaza Mayor, known as the birthplace of the city of Lima, at dusk.

The Incan site may be Peru’s best-known reason to visit, but it’s certainly not the only one.

Clara Luz slips her hand into mine as soon as I reach down for it. For me, the aunt of two nieces, taking a 4-year-old’s hand is a natural movement. But Clara doesn’t need any assistance getting around. There’s no road to cross, and if anybody is going to slip and fall, it will be me.

If You Go

Consider hiring a guide for your visit to Candelaria. Guides can secure seats for you in the stadium and in the streetside seating. They can also help make arrangements to visit the Uros Islands and for a home or lodge stay in Llachón.

Prom Peru


Doubletree el Pardo by Hilton Lima
Independencia 141 Miraflores

 Libertador Lake Titicaca

Isla Esteves, near Puno

 Llachón Tur

Contact Valentín Quispe — who owns the lodge and Pepe — at 011-51-1-182-1393 or llachon@yahoo.com


 La Mar


Outside Lima
Pachacamac Archaeological Project

Contact Domiruth to set up a boat trip on Lake Titicaca and to the Uros Islands and Llachon.
The surface beneath my feet feels like a padded but uneven gym floor. Very uneven. We’re walking across one of the Uros Floating Islands in Peru, where Clara lives. The Uros, a group of more than 40 islands anchored on Lake Titicaca, are manmade; thick beds of totora reeds are piled on top of cubes of earth lashed together. The islands have been home to the Uros people — a pre-Incan culture — for hundreds of years. Clara is the youngest child of one of the seven families who live on the island I am visiting. Two older girls, 11 and 14, are also part of our little pack. The girls are short on English. My Spanish — their second language — is weak, and I don’t know a single word of their first language, Aymara. But, as I know from my nieces, there are far more powerful ways than the spoken word to connect with kids.

I have an iPhone.

The phone’s camera puts us all on the fast track to friendship as the girls take to the technology instantly. Though some of the reed houses on the island have solar panels on their roofs, there don’t seem to be many smart phones around. As soon as I show the girls where to touch the screen to snap a photo, they lay claim to my toy and start shooting.

It’s an intensely quiet and peaceful experience. After all the drums and horns and bells I had heard just a few days before, it sounds like the world has been put on mute.

“You going to Machu Picchu?”


“Then what are you going to Peru for?”

That question, asked predeparture by pretty much everybody who knew about my trip to Peru, quickly bored me. Few countries are as closely linked to just one place — marvelous place it is, or so I’ve been told — as Peru is to the Incan archaeological site. Each year, more than 700,000 people head to Machu Picchu.

But, just as there’s more to France than the Eiffel Tower and more to the United States than Manhattan, Peru isn’t just a landmass around Machu Picchu.

My Machu Picchus, my reasons for going, were to see the capital city of Lima; to attend the Virgen de la Candelaria festival, a part-solemn, part-wild, 60,000-dancer- and 20,000-musician-strong celebration; to travel on Lake Titicaca to visit the Uros Islands; and to stay the night in the village of Llachón. And, yes, my desire to eat lots of ceviche, Peru’s national dish of citrus-marinaded seafood, and cancha, the toasted corn that always accompanies it, may also have had something to do with my desire to wander Peru.

After the quiet of an airplane flight, Lima, the fourth-largest city in Latin America, sends the brain swirling. Cars swamp the streets and jam the intersections in ways that would make New York City cabbies weep. As a guide bus drives my friend and me through some of Lima’s 43 districts on the way to our hotel, I keep trying to understand what I am seeing. But it seems impossible. As soon as I get a handle on the look of an area, it gives way to something completely different. The districts don’t seem to blend into one another; they just … get left behind.

Casinos. Fast-food joints. Industrial areas. Hustle. Bustle. And intense morning light flooding it all. And then we arrive in the Miraflores district, with its parks and shopping and cafés and paragliders that launch from cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Now my mission is clear: It’s time for ceviche.