The Wonders of Peru

We arrived in Lima after a very long flight via Amsterdam with KLM. It is a real shame that there are no direct flights from London, since so many of the passengers were British. There was a very long wait for luggage in Lima, and we were met on arrival by Marcelo who was our driver in Peru at the beginning and end of our fabulous Peru trip which was so well organised by Tucano Peru.

Our first hotel was Los Girasoles in Lima which is just a few blocks away from the craft markets and bars of lively Miraflores. This hotel has a really nice cosy restaurant with plenty of light and the food is really good. After a late dinner with Stuart we were definitely ready for our bed.

An early start in the morning for our city tour starting with a tour of some of the highlights and then we did a short walking tour to include Museo Banco Central de Reserva which had some interesting Inca artefacts but also a couple of huge bank vaults.

The main square in Lima is actually very pretty with the Cathedral being the focal point and the gardens are neat and tidy. There always seems to be some sort of demonstration or festival going on wherever you are in Peru. The riot police. already in the square were quite happy to pose with the tourists while getting ready for whatever it was that afternoon. We enjoyed the Monasterio San Francisco which has a fantastic ancient library full of books hundreds of years old from floor to ceiling and there are catacombs in the basement, morbid but very interesting.

We had a couple of hours to wander round the market in Miraflores, the first of many enticing shopping sprees. There are so many bargains to be had, jewellery, woollens and woven goods, hats, belts, rugs, wall hangings, dolls, reed crafts, really good quality at such low prices.

In the evening we had a tour of Larco Museum which has literally thousands of Inca and Pre Colombian clothes, pottery and jewellery which were really interesting and then afterwards we had a meal in their own lovely restaurant, Cafe del Museo. The meal was tasty and beautifully presented and this was to be our first sample of the famous Pisco Sour.

Time to leave Lima at 3.15 in the morning for a very early flight to Cusco and our relaxing overnight stay in the fabulous Aranwa hotel and spa. This is a beautiful hotel surrounding by mountains and fresh air and we had a relaxing massage included.The reception has a beautiful stained glass window of Machu Picchu. At certain times of the day it reflects onto the floor. It is so amazing. There happened to be a wedding while we were there. It is a real fairy tale setting, The little chapel is lovely and surrounded by a moat and bridge. The bride and groom had a white coach and horses and a Pinata at their reception. The flowers throughout the grounds are familiar but seem to be be bigger and more vibrant somehow than here in the UK. Our room was gorgeous as well, a real treat

Sadly time to leave the Aranwa for our first tour of the Sacred Valley and the ancient Inca site of Pisac. We also had time to visit the colourful craft market at Pisac where we couldn’t resist a few more bargains

We had a typical Peruvian lunch which was very nice, accompanied by Pan pipers before a short visit to the village of Ollantaytambo with its narrow streets and its quaint square.

We had a couple of nights in the Inkallpa near Ollantaytambo which was a lovely little hotel with nice gardens and a beautiful view of the mountains. Another tour of the Sacred Valley with Dennis, starting with the agricultural terraces of Moray, the spectacular salt flats of Maras and finally the Inca site and museum of Chinchero where we also had a very substantial Peruvian lunch with locally grown vegetables and watched the local women in their uncomfortable and bulky looking skirts, spinning and dyeing sheep and alpaca wools and transforming them into beautiful woven and knitted jumbers, rugs and bags.

Another early start and the highlight of any Peruvian tour and definitely a very memorable birthday. We took the train journey from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu past the rapids of the Urubamba river. Most of the hotels including the Sumaq, deliver the luggage directly to the hotel. Our guide for that day was Saul who met us at the station and walked us through the market to the buses up to Machu Picchu. The coach journey up to Machu Picchu is a very hairy 20 min bus ride round hairpin bends

However many pictures you see of Machu Picchu or however you imagine it. it is still a truly awesome sight as you turn the corner up the top of a mountain to see an entire ancient city that was abandoned and overgrown known only to a few local farmers until Hiram Bigham changed all that in 1912. He was looking for Vilcabamba which he never found, that was discovered later and work is ongoing,  but he certainly helped to share Machu Picchu with the rest of the world.

Hotel Sumaq was lovely and the food is really good there but a day and a half is defintely too long in Aguas Calientes otherwise known as Machu Picchu town. It is very small and there really isn’t much there so we were pleased to finally get our evening train

Cusco is a lovely city but the only place we had difficulty breathing, not because of the altitude but because we were staying on the main road which has a lot of traffic. We did a tour of Cusco with Silvia. The cathedral is amazing with so many unique features, the wooden chapel that took one man 28 years to carve, the huge silver Virgin Mary, the Inca srtone and the Jesus Christ blackened by candles over the years. In the afternoon we went to the Temple of the Sun and to the Inca sites of Saqsaywaman, often pronounced Sexy Woman to make it easier to remember

Cusco has a huge market and we managed to completely fill a suitcase for next to nothing. We discovered Paddy’s Pub, the highest 100% Irish owned pub in the world. The food is pretty good there too.

Time to leave Cusco for the 10 hour journey on the Andean Explorer to Puno and Lake Titicaca. The Andean Explorer is one of the world’s classic rail journeys with comfortable armchairs and white glove service. There is a platform at the back and a bar with music and entertainment throughout the day. There are two short stops in La Raya where there is another opportunity to shop and Juliaca which is pretty grim but at he same time interesting as they sell absolutely everything at the sides of the railway lines.

We arrived into Puno at sunset where our Puno guide, Bertha met us. Our hotel was right at the lakeside and we were lucky enough to get a spacious lake view room. We had another early start for our boat trip across Lake Titicaca to Uros, the strange floating islands made from reeds. This has to be one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done, pretty much like walking across a mattress. There a lots of separate little islands each with 2 or 3 families living in tiny reed houses, but they do have electricity. They get around in reed boats with twin panther heads and the children to a floating school in the centre of a cluster of islands. We also went to Taquile which is further out and very steep. Having been told about our limitations with walking and climbing they arranged for us to eat in a restaurant about halfway up where we had a traditional meal and learnt about the quirky ways of the island including their hat hierarchy system. The chiefs wear the most colourful hats, and single men and boys wear hats that are white at the top. On the way back, we saw lots of different birds in amongst the reeds.

On our last full day we hoped for a nice day by the lake but unfortunately it was cloudy and overcast which was disappointing but we were so lucky with the weather with only a few spots of rain in the whole two weeks. We discovered that there was a ship museum at the back of the hotel. Yavari was originally a British steamship. It was taken in pieces by men and donkeys over the Andes and renovation work is ongoing to bring it back to its former glory.

On the last morning we were taken up to Sillustani which is full of burial towers. It is a long way up and a really exhausting climb for us but it is interesting and you get a lovely view from there. Our flight was with TACA from Juliaca back to Lima and we spent our last night in the San Ysidro area of Lima, totally different from Miraflores, it is very smart and hotels are geared towards business travellers.

Peru has the most stunning scenery and genuine warm, friendly and very hardworking people who are very self sufficient. The hotels are a good standard and we had some good food made with fresh, local produce. The markets are cheap and colourful, the history is fascinating and there is a lot of culture as well as birdlife and nature. We never felt unsafe, even in Lima and it is definitely one of the loveliest places I have visited

If you are intested in Peru or South America please feel free to give me a call on 0845 058 7458 for a quote

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2 responses

  1. Correction: There was no Hiram Bigham looking for Vizcaya in 1912, unless he was in Spain. Hiram BINGHAM was looking for VILCABAMBA in 1911. By the way, bargains are also to be found in the smaller towns of the Sacred Valley, and maybe even in Colca Valley towns. A member of our tour group, a jeweler who knows quality when she sees it, helped me choose some nice jewelry in Pisac. I nearly bought an alpaca sweater in Yanque in the Colca Valley, but now wish I had. You wrote an interesting article.

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