Epic places to photograph in Southern Peru

Since a small kid, I’ve always wanted to see the mystical Machu Picchu in Peru.

Back then it was the only thing I knew about this country. But in the last few years, my Peru fever has been very high, thanks to Social media and all the epic photographs coming from so many exotic destinations in Peru.

So in September 2018 we packed our bags with my girlfriend and flew to South America to travel across this huge continent. 6 months and thousands of kilometers later, we finally arrived in the country of Peru!
We arrived at the city of Arequipa as our first destination in Peru after spending an epic month in Bolivia.

arequipa black eye pro portrait tele

These two countries are similar in many ways. Fantastic sceneries everywhere you go, huge snowcapped mountains, indigenous people with colorful traditional clothes and bustling markets.

But in my opinion, Peru has something even more. The people are more friendly, the food is absolutely amazing and also very cheap, it’s a bit more modern and well there’s Machu Picchu and so many more epic destinations!

After relaxing a few days in the beautiful city of Arequipa, we took the long night bus back to the mountains and high altitude. To the ancient capital city of the Inca empire, Cusco.

Cusco is a beautiful city to explore, but it’s mostly used as a base from where to explore the region and the wonders it has to offer. It’s located in a valley at more than 3000m altitude, so when you arrive here, have a few days to acclimatize to the altitude.
Rainbow mountain peru black eye pro portrait tele
rainbow mountain black eye tele lens

Our first trip was to the newly discovered rainbow mountain. We chose to pay a bit more and take the early tour with a promise to be one of the first people to be up at the mountain. We woke up at 02:30 and hopped on a van and drove around 4 hours to the base of the hike. From there it was a 1h 15 min hike in high altitude and cold temperatures up. The walk starts at 4300m and ends up at Rainbow mountain which is at 5000 m altitude. So be prepared for a small hike that will really take your breath away!

Once we reached the famous mountain, it was covered in a thick blanket of fog. But thankfully after 10 minutes, the fog started to clear up and we got the perfect view of this stunning place! Be sure to hike up the hill opposite of Rainbow mountain to get the best views! I found out that the Black Eye Pro Portrait lens was my favorite lens to use here, as the zoom allowed me to get more detailed shots of the colorful mountain.
rainbow mountain peru black eye wide angle lens
machu picchu black eye cinema wide lens
After rainbow mountain and a few days of relaxing, we started our 3-day trip to the place we’ve been waiting for. Machu Picchu. We chose to take the cheap way, which was 7 hours in a very sketchy minivan driving ridiculously dangerous roads like a rally driver and then a 10 km hike to Aquas Clients, the Machu Picchu town. We survived our trip and made it to the village just before dark, had dinner and went to bed. The next night we woke up at 3:30 as we planned to hike 1,5 hours to the top of Machu Picchu. But it had been raining the whole night and kept on raining as we woke up, so we decided to take the easy way up and got a bus. Once we got to Machu Picchu, we were actually very happy that we took the bus, because our main activity of the day was going to be walking up and down a lot of steep steps!
Machu Picchu black eye Pro Portrait tele
The first two hours we explored the ruins and watched the fog and rain clouds move away. We got brilliant sunshine and that sure made us happy! It was time to hike the Machu Picchu mountain to get a beautiful view of the city from 500 meters higher. It was a steep and sweaty hike, but the views were absolutely amazing. One of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. I definitely recommend hiking this mountain if you ever get a chance to come here.
Machu picchu Mountain view black eye pro tele lens

Then it was time to hike back down and go explore the ancient city of Machu Picchu a bit more. This place really is as amazing as I thought. So many questions came into my mind when looking at the ruins. How did they pull it off and who had the idea of building it in such a crazy place!

It was a fun day exploring and hiking, taking loads of photographs and getting sunburnt too. We soon realized that we had been here for 8 hours and that we’re super hungry so it’s time to get back to the village and get some lunch. If you make a trip to Machu Picchu, be sure to get the early morning ticket to beat the crowds and to most likely see some very cool mist around the mountains. Once again, the Tele lens was my favorite lens to use here as the zoom came in very handy. But also with the Cinema lens, I got some wider shots of Machu Picchu.
black eye pro fisheye
Back in Cusco, it was once again time to relax for a few days, because our legs were seriously done after all the walking at Machu Picchu. As soon as we had the energy, we went on a day-trip to explore some of the gems in the Sacred Valley. This day didn’t require waking up super early or walking ridiculous distances, so it was perfect after the other hikes.
moray peru black eye cinema wide
First, we visited the visually beautiful Inca ruins of Moray. These circular shaped terraces are thought to be an agricultural laboratory used by the Incas. The different levels of the terraces had their own microclimate so they would use this to test crops and to experiment with them. How smart is that? Maybe this is one of the reasons Peru has more than 2000 different varieties of potatoes? Well anyways, nowadays it’s just a tourists attraction. It looks very interesting at makes for some great photographs too! The only problem with the tour was that we didn’t have enough time to explore this place so I would recommend you to hire your own driver or take the taxi, so you can explore and photograph this place with as much time as you want. Here the Pro Fisheye G4 was the winner! You really need a super wide lens to be able to fit the whole terraces in a single photo and that’s why that lens was in good use here.
salineras de maras black eye cinema wide
From there we continued driving for half an hour to the nearby ancient salt mines, Salineras de Maras. This incredible place is made up of thousands of small pools on the side of the mountain used to dry the salt water. The people somehow realized that under the mountains here, lie huge amounts of super salty water and that they could harvest it by this technique. I tried the salt water and yes it was very salty! As it was still rainy season, the salt flats were not yet in the most photogenic stage, as the salt was just beginning to dry. Apparently, during the summer months, all the salt pools are dry and the whole area is completely white! Just a little tip if you’re planning to come here to get those epic shots. My favorite lens to use here was the Cinema lens. But if you hike up on the road, it’s possible to get some pretty epic shots looking down at the mines and there you’ll definitely need the Tele lens!
huacachina black eye pro tele
Now it was time for us to move on and go explore other regions of Peru. So we took a 17-hour long night bus on the extremely windy roads through the Andes mountains. Our destination was Huacachina, a desert oasis near the coast in Southern Peru. I remember seeing photos of this place and thinking how cool that place is, so why not go there! It was also time to get to lower elevations and to warmer climates, as the past 1,5 months we had been staying mostly over 3000 meters and I can tell you it’s not that warm over there.
black eye cinema wide
Once we arrived in Huacachina, the hot and dry air sure felt good. We relaxed a few hours during the mid-day heat and then left to watch the sunset on top of the massive sand dune just on the side of the oasis. It took us about half an hour to climb on top of this sand mountain, but the views from the top were mind-blowing! The Huacachina oasis really is a beautiful destination and it’s no wonder it’s becoming very popular with tourists. It’s also possible to rent a snowboard and ride down the sand dunes after watching the sunset! I chose to go on a dune buggy tour and take a board with me, so I didn’t have to walk on top of the dunes. It’s actually very hard work if you’ve never tried climbing up a sand dune before. Otherwise, there’s not much else to do in this place rather than relaxing and enjoying the sun in the hostel pool. I climbed the sand dune to watch the sunrise too, which was even better than the sunset. There were only a few other people watching the sun come up. It was way more peaceful. Photographing here, I used all of the lenses and they all came in very handy to get different types of shots of the oasis. Just be careful not to drop anything in the sand, because it will be lost very easily!
machu picchu black eye tele lens
After just a few weeks in Peru and seeing so many epic locations, it really is a travel photographers dream country to photograph! And this was just the South of Peru. I can’t wait to see what else this country has to offer as we keep on going up north! Hasta Luego!