Photographer Sofi Pechner made her way around Peru, capturing the magnificent country’s most photogenic sites.
PERU – There is so much to love about Peru. Yes, Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail, and Cusco are magnificent, but if you head away from the crowds, you'll find even more treasures. You can hike Lares Trek to visit remote villages deep in the Andes Mountains, where the shining spirit of the local Quechua people will warm your heart. The country is filled with mystical landscapes, though my favorite vista appeared at the end of a four-hour hike to the magical Rainbow Mountains. As I ascended an astounding 16,500 feet above sea level, the surroundings took my breath away — literally.
Formerly the capital of the Incan Empire, Cusco is now a bustling town with beautiful Spanish architecture and friendly people. It is also the gateway to Machu Picchu.
The best way to beat altitude sickness is with a cup of tea made from the leaves of a coca plant steeped in hot water. Ask for it as mate de coca.
Peru is home to more than 3,800 varieties of potatoes. I spotted just a few of them outside Mercado Central de San Pedro, an outdoor market in the heart of Cusco, a great place to visit to immerse yourself in local culture.
Freshly squeezed orange juice at Mercado Central de San Pedro. Possibly the sweetest I have ever had.
Cusco's many striking architectural details include brightly painted doors like this one.
On my way to Machu Picchu, I spent three days hiking the Lares Trail, where I spotted this beautiful mountain range high up in the Andes.
You never know who you will run into when trekking in Peru. Llamas and alpacas look similar, so it can be hard to tell which is which. I'm 99 percent sure this is a llama.
This was our home base for the first night of our trek. We had a guide and chef, as well as four horses to help transport our gear. It was surreal to sleep under a dark night illuminated by millions of stars.
After we finished our trek on Lares Trail, we hopped on a train and made the two-hour journey to Aguas Caliente, the nearest town to Machu Picchu. It was a nice treat after all those miles on foot.
Arriving at Machu Picchu was a moment I had anxiously been anticipating. We woke up at 4 a.m. to catch the first bus up the hill so we’d have a chance to see the site before the crowds arrived.
Once at Machu Picchu, I did an optional hike to the top of Huayna Picchu, the tall peak so often see in photos. It is a steep one-and-a-half hour uphill hike, and the views are incredible.
If the altitude sickness gets to you, you might feel better going by horseback. One morning, when we woke before dawn for a four-hour drive to hike the Rainbow Mountains (at a whopping 17,000 feet), I rode the horse for part of the way. And I am very glad I did.
Although the trek was challenging, ending our journey with the breathtaking Rainbow Mountains was well worth the magical views. As soon as I arrived, all pain was forgotten.