Got some spare time in Cuzco but seen enough Inca monuments to last you a lifetime? Visited more churches and museums than you’d thought possible? Think outside the box and take advantage of the surrounding Andes mountains. Opt for a half day paddleboarding adventure on Lake Piuray located outside of the ancient capital.
When the residents of Puno decided to go on strike and bring transportation to the city to a grinding halt, our Trails to Titicaca tour group had little option but to spend an extra day in Cuzco and take the night bus to Puno instead. After almost three days in the Inca capital, we’d toured the Inca ruins, marvelled at the colonial churches and swotted up on history at the museums – we’d done all that Cuzco had to offer.
Or so we thought.
Researching what else we could do, we came across SUP Cusco, a local outfit that runs paddleboarding excursions to the remarkably scenic Lake Piuray, just a 40 minute drive from the city.
We signed up immediately.
Met at our hotel the next morning by the charismatic Alberto and accompanying driver, we were transferred to the lake. We passed a local fruit stall for the “most delicious watermelon in all of Cuzco” (that claim would be put to the test later in the day). Driving through the outer suburbs of Cuzco and further on past typical Andean farming communities, it was clear that we were escaping the tourist circus and heading for peace and quiet. As the shores of the lake came into focus, this become even more apparent. No motorised boats are allowed on Lake Piuray and there was barely another person in sight.
The premises owned by SUP Cusco were well set-up for our impending adventure with changing rooms, toilets and shower facilities as well as all the equipment you could need, all of excellent international quality. Of the four in our group, two opted for paddleboarding while the others chose kayaking instead. Once changed into our wet suits, we headed down to the shore where we were given a safety briefing and a short tutorial on how to operate our gear properly. It was then time to hit the water, or more specifically, the perfectly still water that make such water-based activities an absolute delight.
And my, what a view you enjoy – backed by the dramatic snow-capped peaks of Salkantay (6,271 metres above sea level) and the pyramid-shaped Nevado Veronica (5,911 metres) with trees and agricultural fields tumbling towards the shores, it’s easy to simply glide along on your paddleboard just taking it all in.
However, Alberto, our instructor, had other ideas and wanted to teach us some techniques to have us doing 180° spins like the pros would do. We tackled a pivot turn that requires you to jump back along the board to land in a wide-legged surfer stance with the paddle primed for some quick movement to get you facing the other direction. Needless to say, as someone who’d only been on a paddleboard once before, I was quick to fall into the water. And make no mistake – it was ‘mas freyo‘! But under the fierce high-altitude sun up in the mountains, those frequent dips become a welcome way to cool down and only adds to the fun.
We spent a good few hours out on the water, learning more techniques, taking pictures (waterproof bags provided by SUP Cusco) and leisurely floating out on the lake, chatting to Alberto about his time spent surfing in Bali and living in Denmark – a man of the world. Once our time was up, we headed back to shore where, after a shower and change out of our wetsuits, we were treated to some watermelon (and yes, it was pretty delicious), sliced fruit, roasted corn and drinks. There was ample time to soak up the beautiful views from the hammocks and enjoy the feeling of a worked body before it was time to return to the hustle and bustle of Cuzco.
This unexpected day would become one of the highlights of my trip to Peru. It just goes to show that sometimes it’s the events that you didn’t expect or even welcome at first that turn out to herald some of the best experiences you’ll have.
We include free time in Cuzco on many of our Peru group tours so if you want to try your hand at paddleboarding you’ll have the chance to do so with us.