Think of Peru and you immediately think of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Machu Picchu. However after a recent visit there, Katie one of our South America Consultants, knows that the country offers so much more…
There are few places that produce such a sense of awe and wonder as Machu Picchu in Peru. Originally built by the Incas in the mid 1400s the citadel of Machu Picchu was abandoned by the time of the Spanish Conquest and lay undiscovered until 1911 when an American historian Hiram Bingham achieved his quest to find the ‘Lost City’. As a current day visitor to Machu Picchu, whether you decide to take on the physical feat of hiking the legendary Inca trail, or sit back in one of the comfortable trains that travels from Cuzco or the Sacred Valley, there is an enormous sense of anticipation and when you eventually reach the site which clings to the top of a mountain, sheer sides dropping away to the Urubamba river thousands of feet below, there is a sense of incredulity and bafflement – how on earth did the Incas build this place? Thankfully our expert local guides are on hand to unravel the mystery!
While for many Machu Picchu is the ‘must do’, there is so much else to Peru; from the gorgeous Spanish colonial cities of Arequipa and Cuzco, the soaring Andes and the rich waters of its Pacific coastline. Peru can lay claim to being the source of the Amazon, boast the world’s highest navigable lake and the world’s deepest canyon, the Colca Canyon. Plus you certainly won’t have to slum it, Peru has some pretty unique hotels, lodges and boutique cruises to ensure comfort in these diverse destinations and some of the world’s top chefs to tantalise your taste buds!
‘Aqua’tic Adventures on the Amazon
An hour’s flight from Lima brings you to Iquitos which was one of the world’s richest cities at the peak of the rubber boom and today is one of the embarkation points for Aqua Expeditions boutique luxury river-cruisers; the Aqua and Aria.
With just 12 and 16 suites respectively, the Aqua and Aria have been designed to take guests along the Amazon River and some of its tributaries in ultimate comfort. As you look out through the floor to ceiling windows from the comfort of your king-sized bed you have to pinch yourself to remember that you are in one of the earth’s most remote places! Over the course of a 3, 4 or 7 night cruise, the expert guides bring the forest alive organising jungle hikes, piranha fishing, community visits and water-based wildlife safaris, all the while educating guests about the remarkable flora and fauna and way of life (most of the guides are from the region and are passionate about conservation). Food on board is overseen by one of Peru’s top chefs Pedro Miguel Schiaffino who creates inspiring dishes using unfamiliar ingredients from the rainforest.
Titilaka – A Shore Thing
Shared between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca at a dizzying 3,812 m is the highest navigable lake in the world. Its shores and islands are home to rural communities whose customs and traditions have changed little since ancient times. Here you find the unique Uros islands which are floating islands constructed entirely from reeds and Taquile Island, whose inhabitants are renowned for their exquisite weaving and knitting techniques. An hour on from Puno, the main lakeside city, is the stunning Titilaka Hotel. The hotel’s position on a headland means water-views from almost every angle with snow-capped Andean peaks in the background. Titilaka is not just about a comfortable stay in stylish surroundings – guests are encouraged to interact with the local communities, meeting the weavers, visiting markets where bartering is still common place, learn about the Aymara constellations and ancient burial techniques.
Condors and Canyons – the Colca Canyon
While the USA has the grandest, Peru has the deepest – we’re talking canyons (and Peru’s comes with Condors to boot). From Arequipa, another Spanish colonial gem, you drive up onto the desolate beauty of the altiplano past vast herds of alpacas, wild vicuna (a relative of the llama), snow-capped peaks and onto one of the picturesque villages Chivay or Yanque – with their gorgeous main squares and cute churches. Go at the right time and you’ll catch a local celebration when the ladies outdo each other with their exquisitely embroidered dresses.
One of the highlights is to drive out to the Cruz del Condor (Cross of the Condor) where, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch sight of these enormous but graceful birds riding the thermals. If it’s not your lucky day then it isn’t a wasted journey, the landscape is incredible – beautiful valleys, a kaleidoscope of green fields, farmers herding their animals and much more. The Colca Canyon has some incredible hiking and at the very comfortable Colca Lodge you can rest wearing limbs in their thermal springs with humming birds flitting about.
For more information on our tailor-made holidays to Peru, call one of our Travel Consultants on 0203 603 3555 or visit scottdunn.com.