Peru and Machu Picchu: March 2011 - Brownell Travel

Peru and Machu Picchu: March 2011

Debbie Fairvalley is a leisure travel advisor for Sterling Brownell. Read below for her exciting rendition of her adventures in Peru and Machu Picchu!

In late March I had the opportunity to visit Peru and Machu Picchu for the first time. I knew I would be awestruck by the beauty and spirituality of Machu Picchu, but had no idea of the impact the other areas and cultures in this lovely land would have on me.

We arrived in Lima at the Hotel Miraflores –a beautiful seaside oasis located amid the Lima shopping district. A visit to Mercado was perfect for finding those handmade curios and souvenirs as well as funky and fun accessories. I brought home 15 belts, 10 pillow covers, and enough table linen to last a lifetime. The prices are definitely right!

The real gem in Lima is the Rafael Larco Herrera Museum, which provides a wonderful education in all the Inka cultures and artifacts, a must see for all first time visitors! Lunch was wonderful at the Café Del Museo –the garden setting and authentic menu makes you want to spend a leisurely afternoon or evening enjoying the alfresco experience. I loved it!

At 11,000+ feet, Cusco is a very tough destination for lots of folks. My recommendation is to head straight to the Sacred Valley (9,000 ft.) and spend a couple of nights here, then ascend into Machu Picchu and Cusco. This helped me avoid altitude sickness and discomfort.

The Sacred Valley is filled with luxury resorts but my top pick is Sol Y Luna –this wonderful find truly provides the ultimate experience in the lush valley of the Incas! A week here would spoil me rotten! From beautiful horse stables and romantic villas to a 5 star restaurant where you may watch the chefs prepare authentic Peruvian cuisine, every detail is well conceived and well delivered.

The 2 hour journey to Machu Picchu via Ollantaytambo and the Vistadome train was filled with sights of the local farms and people of Peru. It was like looking at a postcard to watch the Peruvian women carrying their children, foods and supplies on their backs wearing their traditional clothing. The colors are breathtaking and the smiles warm your heart. If people make the experience then Peru exceeds my expectations!

We arrived in Agua Calientes and were whisked off to our tour bus for the climb to the top of the ruins. Our luggage was taken directly to our hotel –nice touch! We dined on local cuisine at The Sanctuary Lodge and were ready to begin our hike.

My first sight of Machu Picchu was one of amazement and awe. It looks just like the pictures, only grander and more inviting. I wanted to explore every inch of this place and our guide was amazing! Being an Inca man, he recanted stories told by his ancestors with feeling and emotion, as only someone of that culture can do. I saw two rainbows as I left this magical and mystical place –quite fitting I must say. I would not say I left Machu Picchu a better person, but I certainly left with a different perspective on life and the importance of place.

I was lulled to sleep by the sound of river rapids running directly under my patio at the Sumaq Hotel –which offered the best views, sounds, and entertainment in all of Aqua Calientes!

After a fabulous lunch at Inkaterra –another great lodge in Aqua Calientes – we were back on the train for our return trip to Cusco and a tour of this historical city. The buildings, cathedrals, and sights of Cusco are lovely. And of course there is shopping and dining as well. I enjoyed a visit to a silver factory to get a firsthand look at artisans at work and understand the process of making silver jewelry and artifacts. Of course I had to buy a treat to bring home!

The Monasterio Hotel gives an authentic option for staying in Cusco. This hotel boasts a chapel on site, as well as a courtyard which is a delightful place to enjoy afternoon tea or cocktails in a quiet setting amidst the ancient trees and tranquil surroundings located in the heart of this bustling city.

After 2 nights in Cusco –a perfect amount of time to enjoy the fine dining and see the sights of the city– we flew back to Lima to spend one last night dining and dancing under the stars at Hotel Miraflores. I am back on a flight to Miami in the morning and I must say goodbye to this wonderful country and its charming people.