Whether you prefer to soar way, way above or just a bit-above the canopy, here’s how to do it in Peru!
By Carla Bragagnini
How to soar like a condor! You’ve probably seen some stunning aerial shots of Peru’s landscapes via drone — well, Peru offers exquisite opportunities for you to see them in the same way via paraglide.
In Miraflores, the cliff-side shoreline district on the west coast of Lima, you’ll be treated to a display of colourful dots floating across the sky. That’s because the Costa Verda (Miraflores’s ocean-side) is one of the country’s best spots for paragliding. (Cruise over the ocean and skip Lima’s crazy traffic at the same time!)
Just south of Lima (about an hour’s drive) is the incredible Pachacamac pre-Inca/Inca archaeological site—and yes, it’s spectacular from the air (though don’t miss exploring it from the ground later; it’s one of Peru’s most stunning sites and tells a fascinating story of the ancient people who lived here).
In fact, Peru’s coast provides several spots for paragliding, including in Pasamayo (just north of Lima), and further south in Pisco, Chincha, Paracas, and even Nazca (can you imagine a bird’s-eye view over the Nazca Lines?). You can also channel your inner condor at Callejon de Huaylas (outside of Huaraz), as well as in the Sacred Valley just outside of Cusco—all for some breathtaking views of the alpine lakes, peaks and valleys of the Andes.
Ziplining and Bungee Jumping
The Amazon Rainforest is a fantastic place to try ziplining, or “canopy” as it’s known in Peru. At the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Reserve, where you can glide across tropic treetops at 100 feet in the air, catching speeds that’ll have you out-flying every living creature! In the forest in northeast Peru, Iquitos has a zipline park ranked as having some of the most exciting courses in the world, as well as the longest zipline in the Peruvian Amazon. You can glide from canopy platform to platform, taking breaks along route to observe the jungle’s incredible birds and wildlife.
At the Tahuayo Lodge, again in the Amazon, you can zipline to your heart’s content — there’s unlimited access for guests. And the Wasai Lodge near Puerto Maldonado can organize a zipline and wildlife tour for you in Tambopata National Reserve. (Learn about birdlife on a jungle trek, then join them in the trees for an up-close look!) This immersive experience is the definition of eco-tourism.
Closer to the coast, the adventure hub of Lunahuana has some spectacular ziplining across the Cañete River. Look below and you might see fellow adventure-lovers rafting down the town’s river. I’ve been known to pair this activity with pisco sampling — but follow my lead with discretion! Few zipline courses in the world let you play around as much as in Peru (though maybe I’m biased), and there’s enough freestyle poses to try that it’ll leave people wondering if you’re a bird or a plane.
In the south Andes, there’s a zipline near the Colca Canyon at Chivay, in case you’ve always wanted to fly alongside condors. Trekkers along the Salkantay Route to Machu Picchu have the option to zipline on the fourth day of the trek (don’t forget to ask about it) going into mountain jungle territory in Santa Teresa, where a vertigo-inducing suspension bridge is part of the adventure but there are enough lines to help you gain confidence.
On the Jungle Inca Trail, there’s also the option of ziplining at Santa Teresa; it claims to be the highest zipline in South America. Cusco has several zipline adventure operators, and if you read the reviews you’ll see oodles of people raving about what a spectacular way is to see the city and its valley. You can also zipline above the Sacred Valley on the outskirts of Cusco, even ziplining-to-your-hotel options.
Equally adrenaline-inducing, Cusco has a bungee platform near the city center on the road towards the Sacred Valley. The platform, at just over 120 metres, provides the opportunity to see Cusco and its magical landscape, and to metaphorically salute both Inti (the Inca Sun God) and Pachamama (Mother Earth) in a matter of seconds.
Way, Way Out There: Cliffside & Treetop Lodging
If you’ve ever wanted to sleep on a rock-face, the Skyline Lodge — the see-through, sky-high capsules hanging at over 100 metres on the side of a mountain in the Sacred Valley — is just the ticket. Even if sleeping at such a height gives you night terrors, the starry skies and spectacular daytime views of the valley below are worth the effort. To get to the pods, you can either climb a steel ladder, hike or zipline. Spending the night in one of the most unique hotels in the world will cost you, but trying to call for room service will be priceless.
There are plenty of funky ecolodge accommodation options in the Amazon, with many functioning in collaboration with local indigenous groups that give priority to sustainable development, self-sufficiency and organic agriculture – the hardest part will be picking one! As just one of many examples, deep in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve (between Iquitos and Tarapoto), you can spend the night in the treetop rainforest canopy, sleeping in one of several tree-houses at its Treehouse Lodge. Who needs an alarm clock when you can wake up to the soothing sounds of the rainforest? You won’t exactly be roughing it – each bungalow comes equipped with showers and toilets.
It will be difficult to reach the Refugio Amazonas, also in Tambopata, because its access means an action- and wildlife-packed three-hour paddle journey (plan accordingly to not miss your check in time). The ecolodge is home to a large scientific initiative, with scientists working onsite to track and study species in the region. Put your explorer vest on, as you’re encouraged to participate.
Further upstream, you can reach the Tambopata Research Center, a lodging for travellers and researchers alike. With absolutely no human settlements nearby, you don’t have to go very far to spot the elusive jaguar, and it holds one of the world’s largest clay clicks for macaw gatherings – just a hop, skip and jump from your comfy bed for the night.
- Carla Bragagnini, a Canadian-Peruvian, is associate editor of infromtheoutpost.com PERU