Kayaking in Peru 101. A guide for beginners.

Terra Explorer
February 25, 2022

One way (the best way) to seize on the paradisiacal Andean scenery is by donning a life vest and hopping on a kayak; whether you do it over a serene lake or some river rapids is entirely up to you. It must be said, though, that not one kayaker was born an expert—paddling dexterity is something you build over time. 


And so, here, at Terra Explorer, we wanted to save every novice out there from some unwanted splishes and splashes by gathering our outdoor-adoring team to write down the best advice for the perfect first kayaking session among the arresting mountains of Peru. Let’s dive in:


What You Need For Kayaking:

A Kayak Made For The Type Of Body Of Water Of Your Choosing

As we wrote above, kayaking can be done over a tranquil lake or a foaming river. And, no questions about recommending the prior. But since there is a wide range of possible locales for engaging in this sport, there is an equally varying range of types of kayaks


The overall best kayak for beginners (padding over a lake): A sit-on-top kayak. This is the most stable, most easy to maneuver type of kayak because of its wideness. They also don’t have an enclosed seat, so it’s easier to get in and out. Perfect for the uninitiated.


A Paddle Size Proportional To Your Torso With Matched Blades

Yes, there are paddle sizes and a handful of distinct blade shapes to choose from. The rule of thumb for getting the right size is: torso heights over 28 inches (70 cm) will use paddle lengths of 200 cm, and above, torso heights under 28 inches (70 cm) will use paddle lengths under 200 cm.


As for the blades, opt for matched blades. They are easier to learn because the blades run parallel. Even most feathered blades have a plush button in the middle of the shaft. Just rotate it until the blades are parallel, and there you have it, a matched blade from a feathered blade.  


A Life Vest

Accidents can happen, especially when one is just starting to get familiar with the sport. Make sure to get a life vest that fits neither too tight nor too loose, primarily because if you were to fall off the kayak, you might need to be able to do some light acrobatics to get back on. 


A Bilge Pump or Bailer

This is for quickly bailing water out of the kayak. You can’t skip this one. 


Sunscreen, Yes, Sunscreen

This might not be as crucial as a bilge pump. But, most spots where kayaking takes place in Peru are above 9000 feet (3000 meters) above sea level. There, the sun feels less amiable. In fact, depending on where you are, UV rays can intensify up to 10%. Add to that the proximity to the equator, and you have the perfect recipe for sunburn.


If you’re resolving on taking a long day contemplating the sweeping vistas of the Cordillera, definitely pack a nice sunscreen of at least 30 SPF.

The Easiest Way To Get On a Kayak: From The Shore


Getting on a kayak from a dock is way too complicated for a first-timer. So if you don’t have a more seasoned helper around, grab your paddle and your kayak and head towards the lakeside. Once on the shore, hopping onto the kayak is way more intuitive. But here are some tips so you won’t get stuck:


  1. If it’s a rocky shore, go to shallow waters to avoid scratching your hull.
  2. “Park” your kayak parallel to the shoreline. You can place the paddle perpendicular to the boat, behind the seat, with one blade on the shore and half of the shaft over the kayak to stabilize yourself and to have both of your hands available.
  3. Smoothly move onto the seat. Balance is key. 
  4. Use your paddle to push yourself away from the shore.


Best Spot For Beginners: Huaypo Lake

The towering white peaks of the Andes feed a myriad of rivers, lakes, and tributaries; Peru is without a doubt a kayaker’s dream. But one of our favorite locales both because of the swoon-inducing terrains and the quiet waters reflecting it all is Huaypo Lake


The view: Snow-capped mountains in the distance, green mounts covered by feathery foliage nearing the lagoon, and winding paths slicing through eye-pleasing agricultural fields. If you were ever to use the word “bucolic,” this is when. 


Huaypo is a one-stop for birdwatching, biking, kayaking, kiteboarding, and paddleboarding. Its serene waters and its proximity to Cusco—less-than-a-hour drive away from the erstwhile Inca capital—make it the perfect destination to add to your next trip to Peru. We wrote a whole piece, which is honestly more of a love letter to Huaypo. You can, too, be enamored by the lake even before paying a visit. If you were wondering where to kayak in Cusco, this is where.


Don’t Go Paddling Alone from November to March


What happens from November to March? Well, the wet season happens. And to unfamiliar eyes, the weather might be deceiving. The highlands of Peru have a chaotic but predictable weather cycle during the rainy season. Usually, the sun rises as in the most welcoming of summer days but anytime later in the day, as if coming from nowhere, a dark blanket of clouds covers the skies in minutes, and then, a rumbling storm happens. 


So, don’t go paddling unchaperoned. Don’t even think about it. You don’t want to be trapped in the middle of a lake in the middle of a storm. 

And there you have it. Everything you need to know about kayaking in Peru. And if you’re thinking about getting on a plane to this dazzling South-American nation, contact us. We’re the ones to go with for a luxurious trip filled with adventure, art, and the most exquisite cuisine—what a blend!.

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