Special Offer: Peru Group Tour19.06.18 | Oliver
This tour includes international and domestic flights, visits to Lima, Lake Titicaca, overnight stay in the Andean city of Arequipa, a train ride to the historic city of Cuzco, a tour of the Sacred Valley near Chinchero and of course a visit to the incredible Machu Picchu. See here for full details.
Oliver looks back on his time in Peru…
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to visit Peru and learn about the many different cultures within this fascinating South American country. The people of Peru are very welcoming and although tourism is still a fairly new industry to them, they are grateful that their country has been chosen to be visited. They are very proud of their culture and history, and it shows! From the enthusiasm of the tour guides, to the friendly welcomes you receive from the local people.
As with most tours, I started my Peruvian adventure in Lima. After our flight we were met and escorted to our city centre hotel through the bustling city of Lima. Having a guide to such a destination is vital as you learn many stories and local tales about the city that most visitors would miss. Traffic was heavy and slowed our transfer down, however this was a great opportunity for us to get an inside glance into the city as the driver took us through back streets to avoid the jams. The city is huge and spread across many different districts. Our hotel was based in the Miraflores area, a middle-class suburb, home to an array of beautiful colonial homes.
After Lima, we then travelled to Cuzco. Cuzco is an ancient city full of history and today is the transportation hub for tourists on their way to the Inca trail and eventually Machu Picchu. The city centre is quite compact, and you can enjoy a relaxing stroll around the old squares which offer a glimpse into a more traditional way of life than that of Lima. As the city is based 3,310 metres above sea level, the air is thin, and some suffer from altitude sickness in the first few days. We certainly found ourselves gasping for breath here and there, although we were given instructions on how to avoid the sickness, so we followed these and did not suffer. If you are worried about this, you won’t worry for long as most hotels are equipped with oxygen on delivery or even in your rooms to add some relief, and medication can help with the symptoms. The key is not to rush out and do too much too quickly, and take advice from the locals.
We travelled from Cuzco into the mountains and visited the town if Pisac which was of great importance in Inca times. Today this quaint village features colonial and Inca-influenced architecture and a market where locals travel from afar to sell their handicrafts, food, rugs and other items to locals and tourists. We continued to Ollantaytambo Fortress, the gateway to the Sacred Valley. This was our first encounter with Inca ruins and gave us a ‘warm-up’ to our visit to Machu Picchu later in the week. We could never imagine achieving what the Inca’s did in today’s society. The size of the rocks they used to create their fortresses and settlements were mined from mountains in the far-off distance, barely visible to the eye. These rocks were transported from the other side of the mountain all the way to Ollantaytambo, some being abandoned along the tracks. The trail can still be seen today.
The highlight of any tour of Peru is of course a visit to the ancient city of Machu Picchu. Rail is the only way to access this world-famous site and there are a number of different services that operate on this route, however for a supplement you can do the journey in first class luxury on board the very grand “Belmond Hiram Bingham”. I decided to treat myself to the upgrade and it was truly unique experience that I will remember forever.
All food and drinks were included and the wonderful observation deck at the rear of the train offered superb views as we travelled down the valley. Unlike other Belmond trains around the world, there is no dress code – quite appropriate as you are about to embark on an expedition of a lifetime and climb Machu Picchu, something you would not want to do in your best tux!
On arrival at Aguas Calientes we wound our way through the market stalls of local traders and onto our hotel for the night, the Sumaq – a family-owned hotel in-keeping with Inca designs. The roar of the river can be heard throughout this town which also offers visitors the opportunity to stop at the Inkaterra Pueblo hotel (described by Conde Nast as the Garden of Eden) which offers villa-style rooms and a wide range of activities and tours such as bird walking, orchid garden tours, yoga and a visit to their bear sanctuary in the mountains. Although the main attraction here is Machu Picchu (a 30-minute bus ride up the mountain), this town was a great base and well worth a few days to explore.
We visited Machu Picchu twice, once in the afternoon when the weather was beautifully clear, and again the next morning and at 7.30am, when it was a little damp and misty, which only added to the atmosphere. We climbed through the clouds and a few of us braved the trek up Wayna Picchu. Although it was a good two-and-a-half-hour round trip, with steep steps, rocks to climb and sheer drops, this experience was breathtaking and I would urge anyone to experience this for themselves.
There are so many interesting facts and stories to be told about Machu Picchu that a guide is most definitely recommended. Ours was Alex, who was a specialist in this area of Peru and was able to tailor our tour based on the personal interests of the group, which was fantastic. The scenery was truly remarkable and a second visit the following day is highly recommended to enhance your luxury holiday to Peru.
The final part of our tour took us on a 10-hour coach ride, which sounds daunting, but we stopped every few hours for visits to more Inca sites, small villages, churches as well as the highest point of the journey. We watched the terrain change from lush green fields to barren lands where we wouldn’t see a car for miles. Our destination was Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America, which stretches over to Bolivia. We spent a few days here and enjoyed a day’s boat ride around the lake where we visited the amazing floating lakes of Uros and the Greek-like island of Taquile. Both islands offered a very different experience and it was a long day, although totally worth it.
Peru is a fascinating country and it would be a waste to travel all the way there without exploring everything it has to offer. The country has a wealth of luxurious accommodations to allow a very comfortable journey throughout. I really did not know what to expect from Peru, and I am lucky enough to travel all around the world with my job but this country has most definitely made a lasting impression and is one my favourite all-time destinations.
Please contact us if you would like further details regarding this specific tour or any information on visiting Peru.Peru