WHY IS PERU THE BEST COUNTRY FOR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY ?
(AND THE BEST COUNTRY FOR A PHOTO TOUR)
BECAUSE IT’S GOT ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING!
Peru is just one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. From the Pacific coast, the desert, the mountains, to the rainforest… a trip to Peru will take you to so many different environments!
Let’s start with the PACIFIC COAST :
The Peruvian Pacific coast stretches for nearly 3,000 km. Most of it, as you’ll see from my images, is completely DESERT.
If you land in Lima and you quickly want to experience it, you’ll just have to ride 3 to 4 hours (by bus, private transportation…) to find yourself in one of Peru’s wildest place : the Paracas Reserve.
One of my favorite roads crosses the reserve and goes deep into the arid wilderness until reaching the town of Ica.
I repeat myself : it is wild !
On the way, you will see many amazing pastel colored dunes. I really enjoyed photographing there, even with the harsh midday light.
The colors turned even better in the evening, at the blue hour. I remember stopping there (I was riding my motorbike alone at that time), searching for a perfect flat spot for the night. I took my mattrass out of my bagpack, and slept under the stars…
Once I reached the city of Ica, I remember being stunned! It was kind of unexpected to see a town built in the desert, the architecture was quite unique too. And almost nobody has this image of Peru in his mind before landing in the country. I’m pretty sure you’ve already seen images of Cusco, of Machu Picchu of course, of a few mountains or whatsoever… But not of this desert!
If you keep going south, you’ll encounter on your way even more impressive sand dunes. As you may know, Peru has hosted the Dakar rally for several years…
However, you must know that the WEATHER on that coast is somehow special. Because of Peru’s geography and the desert’s proximity with the Andes, the entire coast is under the clouds during six months non-stop!
If you come to Peru from May to October and travel along the Pacific Ocean, you’ll most likely witness it like this :
Which has, in my opinion, its character too! When I travel, personally, I don’t necessarily feel like having blue skies everyday.
Every type of weather brings its own mood and atmosphere.
When I find myself traveling the coast in July for instance, I even feel more thrills, more goosebumps on my entire body. I feel that I’m truly living an adventure, and experiencing the elements in a different way…
Sometimes, you might come accross local fishermen. I’ve met this one below in Huachaco, near Trujillo, in Northern Peru. Some Huanchaco people still use the traditional “Caballito” to fish and surf the waves.
They have always used caballitos made of totora reeds to go fishing in the Pacific Ocean. These are the traditional boats used by Peruvian people for the past 3,000 years.
But this form of fishing is obviously slowly disappearing as it’s not very profitable, and tourism nowadays represents a more sustainable source of income.
Anyway, there’s a lot to photograph in the desert, and a lot of stories to be told, whether the weather is “good” or not. I think that if you go on a photo tour, or travel on your own for photography purposes, you should be open-minded, and adapt your photography to what you are given.
Then a trip to Peru will necessarily take you to the ANDES :
Ah the Andes… The longest mountain range in the world! It stretches from Colombia to Patagonia for nearly 9,000 kilometers. If I should describe Peru in one word, that would probably be “MOUNTAINS”. They are so beautiful, and so diverse at the same time!
A trip in the region of Arequipa for instance, in Southern Peru, will take you to an arid volcanic mountain range.
But a trip to the Sacred Valley near Cusco will take you to amazing green fields with big mountains in the backgdrop (in March) !
The Sacred Valley actually offers one of the most stunning mountain panoramas in the country in my opinion.
I particularly love photographing there at the end of the dry season (near October) when the sky turns cloudy and dramatic again!
Since the crops are totally burnt by the sun and the lack of rain during 6 months, the landscape looks really golden at the golden hour!
My wife and I used to ride there a lot when we had nothing special to do in Cuzco city.
And overall, this is a great playground for any kind of road trips…
No matter if you’re traveling on your own, in a van, by motorcycle or with local transportations.
What probably most characterizes the Andes of Peru are some COLORFUL MOUNTAINS that have appeared, in the recent years, because of the melting of glaciers around 5,000 meters…
They’re known as “RAINBOW MOUNTAINS” and the one above is certainly the most famous one (called Vinicunca). However, this one has recently been victim of its beauty and originality. Nowadays, about 2,000 people visit it everyday. It has become Peru’s second most visted place after Machu Picchu. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go to visit it…
But it exists several of them in different valleys, like this one here, which are less known so far and as beautiful ! The photographic possibilities are endless there…
Some valleys around are also super colorful ! It defitnely feels like walking on an other planet…
What else? Some of these mountains/valleys are home to some of the most incredible LAGOONS on Earth :
There is an infinite number of lagoons in the region of Huaraz and Cusco in particular. These ones below are simply my favorite ones!
For their colors, of course, but also because of this house and this herd of alpacas. This place seems to come straight from a fairy-tale scenery…
These ones are not so bad neither, are they? I told you, there are literally hundreds of them all around the country, each one more beautiful than the other…
PERU IS SIMPLY THE BEST TREKKING DESTINATION IN SOUTH AMERICA !
Okay… maybe Patagonia could compete with Peru in terms of trekking trails and mountain beauties. Let me know your opinion in the comments. But it simply doesn’t have Peru’s variety of landscapes and environments…
If you should do one trek in Peru only, I would recommend either the AUSANGATE or the HUAYHUASH.
I have just written an article about the Ausangate if you are interested in knowing more : LINK TO THE ARTICLE.
A trip to Peru will obviously offer you some of the most astonishing panoramas in South America on
HUGE SNOW-CAPPED MOUNTAINS :
This country has about fourty 6,000-meter peaks, and Huascaran as its highest one (6,768 meters). It’s neither more nor less the third highest mountain in the entire Americas after the Aconcagua in Argentina and Ojos del Salado in Chile.
If you’re an alpinist, I can’t recommend you enough to try to climb at least a few of these…
The views they offer from the top are from another planet too!
Some of these peaks are legendary, and even considered as the most beautiful ones on Earth (you maybe heard of the Alpamayo?).
But don’t worry if you’re not an alpinist, you will also be able to photograph them from the valleys below, and still get amazing photographs, or from the famous Titicaca Lake for instance.
In the Peruvian Andes, you’ll also find TROPICAL MOUNTAIN RANGES :
I particularly loved photographing near Machu Picchu. Most travelers only go to the archeological site, and don’t spend enough time exploring the surroundings.
There are amazing forest hikes to do with this kind of view on snowy peaks.
In the area, I had the chance to meet two families, with whom I created strong bonds. They live along an unknown Inca trail on a 2,800-meter mountain pass, and have an extraordinary Jurassic-Park-like panorama !
Overall, Peru is unique for its HISTORY AND ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES :
I’ll probably not tell you anything new, but this is in these particular tropical mountains that you’ll visit and photograph one of the most incredible new seven wonders of the world : MACHU PICCHU.
However, these are not the only ruins that are worth visiting, culturally AND photographically speaking. You could go to Waqra Pukara for instance, among so many others…
This is a very surprising pre-incan fortress built on a rock overlooking the Apurimac Canyon, almost unknown to the public.
To conclude with the Andes, they are THE perfect playground for ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY :
There are indeed few other places in the world that can provide as stunning astro opportunities as Peru, trust me…
Last but not least, a trip to Peru can also take you to a total different environment…
THE AMAZON RAINFOREST :
More than 60% of Peru’s territory is covered by the Amazon jungle! It’s the most biodiverse place on Earth. It’s a wildlife photographers’ paradise obviously…
But not only. The way of life of the inhabitants is also super interesting !
I’ve myself been more drawn to photograph the local’s daily life over my several trips to the Amazon.
Everyone will find his own reasons and interests in going to this part of Peru…
That’s it from Peru’s amazing GEOGRAPHY. I hope I’ve convinced you about how INSANE it is.
The second and most important word that describes Peru in my opinion, it’s “people” without a doubt.
Peru is home to a rich culture and amazing traditions, kept alive by the Quechua people of the Andes especially, that I’ve personally come to know well and photograph over the years, but also by all the other indigenous people from Titicaca lake or the Amazon region for instance…
As I said in the intro, I mainly photographed QUECHUA PEOPLE, because I’ve spent most of my time in the Andes…
To me, their way of life is so fascinating! Some villages/community are still relatively untouched, and yet accessible.
Again, I’ve personally come to know some families very well, and got accepted in a few communities who mainly live from pastoralism.
Alpacas are their main source of income. From these animals, they get wool for handcrafts, yarn for clothing, transport for goods and food from their meat. However, this is not an easy nor comfortable life, as you can see from my friend Domingo’s face above…
But that’s how they’ve lived for centuries in these mountains, and these alpacas are their greatest wealth…
In my opinion, Peru is THE PEOPLE PHOTOGRAPHERS’ HEAVEN !
Whether you are into Portraits, Documentary Photography, Street Photography…etc
There is something to shoot for every taste!
But the most important thing in people photography is ACCESS. It can take a lot of time and efforts to create connexions. And it also depends on your ability to speak the local language…
That’s why I always recommend to go on a photo tour if your time is limited.
People will easily open their doors if they know and trust the photographer/guide you travel with, and good photography is always the result of a good understanding/connexion between the photographer and the person being photographed.
Anyway, there are unlimited stories to be told about these societies, which are besides changing fast, adapting to the development of infrastructures, tourism… and facing many kinds of challenges.
Same as for the landscapes, THERE’S AN UNBELIEVALBLE DIVERSITY OF COMMUNITIES which all have different traditions and costumes. Almost every community is different from one valley to another!
Near Palccoyo in the region of Cusco, that’s rather how they live above 4,000 meters, and what their village looks like during the rainy season (November).
The jungle is actually not far away, that’s why once a month, a truck full of tropical fruits comes to supply them with what they can’t grow at such heights.
In the region of Ancash, near the city of Huaraz, this is rather how women dress.
They have different traditional hats and wear vibrant colors on them.
Near Lares in the Cusco region, you’ll encounter this kind of traditional costumes!
I’ve had the chance to visit a school there, and this is how kids get dressed everyday to attend class!
Near Puno and the Titicaca lake, you’ll rather meet Aymara indigenous people, who still live on floating islands made of Totora reeds.
As almost everywhere high in the Andes, they live from agriculture and pastoralism. This won’t really change from one region to the other, but the environment in which they live is always different…
PERU IS ALSO THE COUNTRY OF FESTIVALS !
If you have the chance to come during the month of June in the region of Cusco for example, you’ll witness some of the biggest andean festivals in the year, such as Qoyllur’ Rit’i !
Qoyllur Rit’i is the snow and star festival of Peru. It is considered as the most important catholic pilgrimage in the entire Andes! Every year, around May or June, about 100,000 people come up high in the mountains to pray the “Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i”, at 4700 meters above the sea level in the region of Cusco, Peru.
Thousands of dancers and musicians perform and celebrate Catholic, Incan and other religious beliefs during more than a week. They come mostly for celebrating the stars, honoring Jesus Christ and the local glacier, which is held to be sacred.
Generally speaking, it’s incredible how religion and spirituality plays a huge role in the Peruvian society…
Cities are also an amazing playground for PEOPLE AND STREET PHOTOGRAPHERS !
Especially life around central markets is always amazing to observe…
Generally speaking, Peru is constantly developing and changing. The differences between social classes, generations, or simply between ethnic groups offer countless topics to cover and photographic opportunities…
The last topic that I’d like to develop shortly, that really makes Peru the best country for travel photographers in my opinion is…
Unfortunately, I don’t consider myself as a wildlife photographer, so I have very few images to show you. But I still happen to shoot animals sometimes, when I have my bigger zoom lens mounted on my camera.
You won’t learn anything new if I tell you that the most biodiverse area in Peru is the Amazon rainforest. This is obvious. But the mountains of Peru are also full of nice little creatures to photograph, from the Vizcachas (sort of chinchilas) to the mythical Andean Condor !
From the alpacas, lamas, guanacos to Vicuñas…
And on the coast, you’ll rather find sea lions, or a bunch of other marine birds…
CONCLUSION : Peru is big and even if I’ve traveled and lived for about 7 years in the country, I still haven’t explored everything.
There would also be too much to talk about in one article only.
I didn’t show you for example the Colca Canyon (the second deepest canyon in the world) or the Gocta Waterfalls in Northern Peru (the second biggest waterfall in the world).
I didn’t show you the amazing colonial architectures of Arequipa and Cusco, nor the amazing archeological site of Choquequirao…Etc
I would actually spoil you too much if I show you everything. Maybe you’ll want to come here one day, and be surprised by all these peruvian wonders!
A big THANK YOU if you read the entire article.
If by any chance, you think you could learn from me and would like to know how I make these images, I created a complete TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE that you can find on my website.
You also may be interested in joining me on a PHOTO TOUR that I organize and lead myself in Peru! The next one is in October this year (2023), and you’ll find all the information HERE. I co-lead this trip with a great photographer : TOM BOURDON, and we have only 2 places left !
You can follow my adventures on my social medias. Here’s my instagram account : IG : @nicolascastermans
I also have a 500px account where I mostly showcase my landscape photography : https://500px.com/nicolas-castermans
Thank you for your time and your support. Don’t forget to leave a comment below and share the article if you enjoyed it!