715. Peru Trip | Ballestas Islands + Paracas National Reserve

Paracas Peru drone
Paracas is a little resort area on the west coast of Peru. Here is a drone shot of the place. It was so windy when we went and we ended each day full of sand in our clothes and hair.

While planning our trip to Peru, we originally wanted to visit Huacachina to experience the sand dunes. After some research we decided to stay in Paracas as our base, since the accommodations there are a lot nicer than actually in Huacachina. They are about an hour drive away from each other.

We were here for 3 nights. One day was spent in Huacachina while the others were in Paracas. There isn't a whole lot to do there, so we were able to have a relaxing couple days. I really enjoyed everything we did. In Paracas, the main things are visiting Ballestas Islands to see wildlife in their natural habitat, and also driving around the Paracas National Reserve.

Paracas Peru drone
Aranwa Paracas Resort
Our resort! It was the Aranwa Paracas Resort & Spa

Aranwa Paracas Resort
Aranwa Resort Paracas
View from our room.

Ceviche Aranwa Paracas
Ceviche at the resort restaurant.

Mancha Pecho Paracas
I wanted to try a local dish and ordered this "Mancha Pecho" which translates to something like "chest stain". I guess that means it's a messy dish. It was pretty good the first few bites but then I didn't like it so much. There were a lot of spices in it.

Paracas boats
Ballestas Islands Paracas
Nazca lines on the way to Ballestas Islands

Ballestas Islands Paracas
Ballestas Islands Paracas
Ballestas Islands Paracas
Ballestas Islands Paracas
Ballestas Islands penguin
We mostly saw a bunch of sea lions and birds there, and only one penguin (if you can find it)

Ballestas Islands seals
Ballestas Islands seal lion
Ballestas Islands crabs
Ballestas Islands Paracas
If you look closely you can see the thousands (or millions) of birds standing on the mountain.

Ballestas Islands Paracas
Xoloitzcuintli dogs
Back on land..some Xoloitzcuintli dogs

Paracas Food
This lunch was really good but I remember it being really difficult for me to eat since it was so windy that my hair kept going all over my face..and the table was super high in proportion to the chairs so I could barely reach it lol.

Paracas Mini Buggy
On our last day we rented a mini buggy and drove around the Paracas National Reserve. I really loved this experience! The landscapes were amazing and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere at times. We also went up and down some hills. It was such an adrenaline rush.

Paracas National Reserve
Paracas National Reserve
Paracas National Reserve
Paracas National Reserve
Paracas National Reserve mini buggy



714. Peru Trip | Amazon Discovery Lodge

Amazon Discovery Lodge Peru
During our time in Peru, we spent 5 nights/6 days in the Amazon Rainforest. That part of the trip was the most different and perhaps required the most research and preparation. We wanted to stay somewhere remote so that we could fully immerse ourselves into the rainforest and be able to see lots of wildlife. As it was both of our first times visiting the Amazon (& it has always been on my bucket list), we really wanted the perfect experience as it seemed like a trip of a lifetime (I say "seemed" because now that we've visited once and loved it, I'm sure we would go back again someday). That was exactly what we ended up having with Amazon Discovery Lodge!

We wanted a nice, comfortable, clean and well-kept lodge with friendly and knowledgeable staff who were passionate about what they do. Ideally we wanted somewhere that offered WiFi since we both work remotely, but we knew that likely wouldn't be a possibility if we wanted a remote location. Also we wanted to visit somewhere south of Iquitos since we heard that was where the most wildlife is. Luckily we ended up finding Amazon Discovery Lodge which fit the entire description perfectly. They are also located in a protected area of the Amazon Rainforest, where no wildlife could be hunted for food (besides fish). So that ensured we would be able to see lots of them in their natural habitat.

We did research on all different lodges south of Iquitos and Amazon Discovery Lodge seemed to be the best by far. Also they are the only one that offers WiFi at the moment which was a big bonus for us. Their website was easy to navigate with detailed itineraries. The accommodations looked clean and comfortable and (at the time of this post) they are fairly new. They first opened in early 2019 so we had the pleasure of being one of their first guests.

Our experience with them from before the trip until after has been incredible. Before the trip, they were super helpful with everything regarding our booking - from answering any type of questions we had to organizing a guide for us in Iquitos.

Amazon Discovery Lodge Peru
A drone shot of the property.

Amazon Discovery Lodge boat
Amazon Discovery Lodge Peru
If you are visiting the Peruvian Amazon, you would first fly into Iquitos. From there, whichever lodge you book will pick you up and transport you to them. We stayed a couple days in Iquitos and arranged a guide through Amazon Discovery Lodge to bring us around certain areas of the city. He ended up being our guide for our time at the lodge as well. That morning, we were picked up at our hotel and driven about 2 hours away to a town called Nauta. From there, we took a speedboat for another 2 hours until we reached our lodge. I really enjoyed the entire journey. The ~4 hours just flew by. From the car ride we passed a lot of villages and observed daily life on the banks of the Amazon. The boat ride was really nice with the wind blowing against us in the Amazonian heat, while gazing out at the scenery hoping to catch a glimpse of exotic wildlife.

Amazon Discovery Lodge Peru
Here are the rooms!

Amazon Discovery Lodge Peru
The common area.

Amazon Discovery Lodge room
None of the lodges in the Amazon have air conditioning (if they are as remote as ours) but each room at ours had a fan. Each room was open-air with mosquito nets enclosing the space. So at times it can get pretty hot, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The most difficult thing to get used to was the cold showers (as there is no hot water). But after a few hours trekking through the hot humid rainforests, a cold shower was the best thing to come back for.

We had cleaning service every day and our sheets and towels were replaced every two days.

Amazon Discovery Lodge Peru

Our schedule each day was something like this:

8am = Breakfast in the common area
8:30am to around 10:30/11:30am = Morning excursion
12:30pm = Lunch in the common area
3pm/4pm/5pm = Afternoon excursion
7:30pm = Dinner in the common area
8:30pm/9pm = Night excursion

One of my favourite things about the lodge was that each couple got their own guide. So each schedule/itinerary could be personalized in terms of timing and which activity you wanted to do.
The morning and afternoon excursions were usually boat rides, fishing or jungle treks, while at night it was usually boat rides or jungle treks to look for nocturnal animals.

Sometimes in between excursions we would lay in our hammocks to relax and read, or play board games in the common area.

Amazon Discovery Lodge food
Amazon Discovery Lodge dinner
All the meals were included in our package and prepared for us at the same times each day. During our time there, we didn't have any repeat meals and everything was delicious. I particularly loved the freshly squeezed juices made from exotic Amazonian fruits. We ate together in the common area with the other guests. It was a nice way to meet the other travellers and talk about our trips, where we were all from, etc.

Amazon Discovery Lodge Carlos
Here is our guide, Carlos! He was bilingual in Spanish and English, and was super friendly. He really seemed passionate about the Amazon and showing us all it had to offer. We couldn't have asked for a better guide. He was also very knowledgeable about all the wildlife and plants. He had a very good eye for spotting any animals high up in the trees and was able to immediately distinguish which species/type it was. He also had a lot of interesting stories to tell us about his past, growing up in the rainforests.

Amazon Discovery Lodge Roger
Here is our other guide, Roger! He was the boat driver and second guide. He accompanied us on all our treks, which a machete to clear the way and keep us safe. He didn't speak English at all so I wasn't able to communicate with him but he always had a smile on his face. He was really friendly and patient (especially when I kept losing my bait during our fishing excursion!). He lives in a village close by the lodge.

Amazon Discovery Lodge boat tour
Here is all of us on our boat! The photo was taken with our drone by the way.

Making this post is bringing back a lot of memories and making me really miss the Amazon! I really hope to go back again someday.

During our time there we were lucky to overlap a few days with when the owners of the lodge, an American family, were coming to stay as well. They were extremely nice and friendly. We were so happy to have met them during our visit. It was clear that they truly had a passion for the Amazon and providing the best place for guests to experience and learn about it. It wasn't just a business for them.

If you are planning a trip to the Amazon someday, we highly recommend booking with Amazon Discovery Lodge! You can view their different itineraries here: Amazon Tour Itineraries.

We did the 6-Day one which was a good amount of time. I would definitely recommend at least 4 nights to get a full experience.

Here are my other Amazon posts with what we did each day:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

We are so happy we went with the decision to book them during our time in the Amazon. It was a truly unforgettable experience!



713. Peru Trip | Dinner at Kjolle, Lima

Kjolle Lima
With Lima being the food capital of Peru, we wanted to take the opportunity to try a nice restaurant for dinner that night. With a bit of research, we discovered the top restaurant there is Central, which is currently ranked 6th in the world! Unsurprisingly, they booked up months in advance. So we went to the next best place - their sister restaurant, Kjolle. They are located within the same building. The owners/co-chefs are a husband and wife team named Virgilio Martínez and Pia León who also live on the property they work. The wife, Pia, opened Kjolle last year. She is hailed as Latin America's best female chef.

Kjolle (pronounced "koy-ay") is named after a tree that grows at extreme altitudes. The tree produces a yellow flower that is fermented to make spirits and sauces. A lot of ingredients in Peruvian cuisine are only found at high altitudes which is what makes them so unique.

The menu at Kjolle features fresh ingredients found all over Peru, many ingredients being indigenous to the country's diverse landscapes and even some from the Amazonian jungles.

The food was incredible and very flavourful. Everything was beautifully plated. The atmosphere in the restaurant was tranquil and elegant, with very minimalist style decor. The staff was excellent. They were very knowledgeable in all the dishes, and knew just the right time to come and retrieve an empty plate or refill our glasses without infringing on privacy.

I loved the whole experience a lot and highly recommend it.

Kjolle drink Lima
Each table was offered this drink before starting. I completely forgot what it was but I really loved it.

Kjolle bread Lima
The bread was delicious! We asked for a second loaf after devouring this one. It was freshly made (we saw them being baked outside in their garden when we entered) from the stone oven/pit straight to our table. It was really soft and light inside.

Kjolle Lima
We ordered several dishes to share. I believe this was the "sea bass and razor clams" and at the top is "squash and crustacean".

Kjolle Restaurant Lima
The bottom dish is yucca. I have to admit I don't remember at all what the top two were.

Kjolle Lima
I believe this was pork belly.

Kjolle Dessert Lima
This dessert was so good!! It was a mixture of cacao, coconut chunks and honey.

Kjolle Lima
Kjolle Lima
Kjolle Lima
On the first floor they have some ingredients on display.

Kjolle Lima
This is the entrance to the restaurants.

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