Please click on the links below to see my pictures from my Peru Experience
The South American country of Peru is at the top of many of our clients bucket lists. Everyone hopes to one day take on the high altitudes of the Andes and see the magnificent Machu Picchu. This trip has also been high on my list and this last month I took a trip of a lifetime with my husband to Peru. We visited the amazing Inca sight of Machu Picchu but also discovered how much more this country has to offer.
We flew LAN Airlines from San Francisco to Lima. The government of Peru is encouraging visitors to spend more time in their capital city so most flights both International and Domestic arrive late and require an overnight.
From Lima we flew to Cusco, with an altitude of 3300m. As recommended we took it easy our first day and enjoyed our hotel the Orient Express Montasterio. Steps away from the main Plaza del Armas, this former monastery dating back to 1592 is now a five star hotel providing guests with unique rooms, beautiful art and delicious cuisine. When booking this property with Vision 2000 guests receive complimentary upgrade upon arrival, daily buffet breakfast, bottle of wine and cheese tray and 50% off one spa service of their choice.
We spent our two days in Cusco strolling the streets, visiting the museums and enjoying great meals and cocktails on one of the many balconies overlooking the Plaza. Cusco is a very historical city in the Inca culture that was conquered by the Spanish. There are few original Inca ruins and walls beneath the colonial style buildings that now fill the city.
High above the city of Cusco is the White Jesus that lights up every night. Beside it is the Sacsayhuman National Park. There is a fee to enter the park and a bit of a steep climb to get there, but all well worth it for the amazing views from the top.
The Sacred Valley was the next stop on our journey and is a one to 1.5 hour drive from Cusco.
This was my first hostal experience and we stayed at the Hostal Iskay located in Old Town Ollantaytamo, where there are no cars only maze like stone roads and buildings.
THe Hostal Iskay offers the best views of the ruins and the people and staff who run it are incredible hospitable. Being my very fist experience in a hostal I did not know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised with our own private cabin with bathroom and porch overlooking the ruins. The amenities were obviously basic including no heat, but the view was worth every cent of the $38 a night.
Ollantaytambo is full of culture and we could sit for hours in one of the many cafes watching the people and their everyday lives. The town is located in the valley surrounded by ruins on each side, the main sight being the Cerro Bandolista which is maintained and requires a small fee to get into. We also visited the Inca ruins opposite the Cerro Bandolista, which are not preserved or maintained. The path was a little more challenging but we had the mountain to ourselves and it made for a very peaceful trek.
I would highly recommend a stop in the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo for a day or two for any clients on their way to Machu Picchu by train or prior to hiking the Inka Trail.
From Ollantaytambo we boarded the Vistadome train and headed to Aguas Caliente. I personally was concerened about doing the Inca Trail in rainy season, and was very content to instead check into the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. First I must stay that I did not realize that this area, only an 1.5 hour train ride from the dryer and cactus filled Sacred Valley was such a lush and green cloud forest. The vegetation, especially at our property was abundant.
Inkaterra is a natural oasis that covers 12 acres. This is a fully inclusive experience including all your meals and nature tours of their property including their private orchid garden with over 372 orchid species, their hands on tea tour that involves picking your own tea leaves from their plantation and create your own tea bag or visiting their three spectacled bears that they have onsite. The rooms are spectacular with your own wood burning fire place, in which they provide dry wood for you every night. Being a proud member of Virtuoso when you book this property with Vision 2000 you will receive an upgrade upon arrival and for suite categories a complimentary foot massage.
Machu Picchu is a 20 minute bus ride from Aguas Caliente. I highly recommend getting on the first bus at 530am which allows you to be one of the firsts in the park before the crowds arrive. Remember also to purchase your entry ticket before departing Aguas Caliente.
We arrived at Machu Picchu very early in the morning on a very rainy day. My heart sank when all we could see were a few ruins poking out from the heavy white cloud cover. We decided to do a short trek around the mountain to the Inca Bridge in hope the clouds would clear in the meantime. This trek turned out to be a great adventure as we walked on the highest and narrowest paths I have ever been on in my life. Being terrified of heights this was a significant achievement for me.
Following our adventurous hike, we returned to the main sight to see nothing but white. I wanted to cry. Then, within five minutes the clouds separated and the famous and picturesque view of Machu Picchu appeared. Again, I wanted to cry. I knew this would take my breath away but I did not expect myself to be as emotional as I was seeing it. Machu Picchu deserves a prominent spot on any travelers bucket list.
Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world was our next stop on our journey to Peru. The altitude here is 3800m. This beautiful lake is believed by the Incas to be the point of their creation.
We enjoyed three nights at the exclusive and secluded Titilaka Lodge by Andean Experience. This stunning 18 suite lodge is located 90 minutes from the airport, far from the hustle of the city and amongst local farms and villages.
The property offers an inclusive experience including all meals and beverages as well as inclusive tours of the area including Uros Islands, Taquile and sailing excursions to mention a few.
We visited the Uros Floating Islands along with our guide Armando, who was born and raised on these man made islands. We were very fortunate to visit his family whose lifestyle on reeds is unlike anything I have seen before. The community of Uros is made up of 50 islands and with over 1600 people. The family introduced us to their way of living, cooking and rebuilding their homes every 15 years.
Braving the altitude we also took a 3.5 hour Mountain Bike ride through the local farms and villages near our property. The views were amazing and the people so kind and friendly as we passed by. This was quite a challenge though, especially with the altitude and strong sun, but a wonderful and unique way to see the countryside.
After making the decision to go to Peru, I read the novel The Lost City of Z by David Grann. Based on true facts this is the story of the explorer Percy Fawcett who in 1925 went missing in the Amazon while searching for an ancient lost city. After reading this book, adding the Amazon to our itinerary was a must as I became fascinated with the challenges, wildlife and culture he experienced.
Aqua Expeditions offers 3, 4 and 7 night expeditions onboard the M/V Aqua. This beauitful boat is the best in the Peruvian Amazon and features 12 suites with floor to ceiling picture windows, award winning cuisine, kind and attentive staff and beautiful public spaces.
While this 5 star accommodation may seem enough, this is not what Aqua Expeditions is really about. The true experience happens every day when you board your skiffs and go out to explore the Amazon, face to face with the wildlife and river life that awaits. The only way I can describe this experience is that it is the “Safari of the West”.
Aqua’s guides and their passion for the Amazon was the highlight of the trip for me. All very different, Daniel has been with Aqua from day one, and was born on the river. He knows the area like the back of his hand and gets personally excited when guests experience seeing a monkey or anteater for the first time. Roland speaks the language of the Amazon and can make any bird call there is, his eyes are always searching for the next toucan or canaries and he can hear them from miles away. Victor is the most adventurous and willing to grab an Anaconda out of the river for a little excitement. They are all passionate about the people of the river and really help guests understand their situation and means of life.
Every day we took the waters spotting more than 7 species of monkeys, 100’s of birds and other mammals including anteaters, sloths, fresh water dolphins, reptiles and more. We ventured at all times of the day to see the wildlife at different moments including squirrel monkeys at sunrise, pink dolphins at sunset and even in the dark of the night while we caught caimans and spotted night owls and bats.
We also had the opportunity to visit villages and homes of the locals gaining a better understanding on their lifestyle and providing us the opportunity to give back to the community. The children are so beautiful and happy, their excitement over receiving paper and pencils for school is something that we as North Americans should not take advantage.
Aqua Expeditions is one of the best companies I have ever travelled with. Their adventures can easily be a trip on their own for 7 nights, or a great combination with Peru or the Galapagos.
Peru is now and will forever be one of the best trips I have taken and I am so happy I was able to experience these moments with my husband. The variety of the history in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, the wonder of Machu Picchu, the culture in Lake Titicaca and the wildlife and nature in the Amazon made for a vast and unique adventure that I hope all of my clients can cross of their bucket list!