In late March I had the opportunity to visit Peru and Machu Picchu for the first time. It was truly a land of surprises! I was surprised to love the Sacred Valley as much as I love Napa (and that the resorts were just as fabulous) and I was surprised to love the food as much as I did. I knew I would be awe struck 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 (pretty much typical Latin America big city – pollution, traffic, congestion, poverty/wealth, etc) AND the smell of a fish processing plant immediately upon departing the airport-Miraflores looked like heaven when we arrived to our seaside hotel. Hotel Miraflores and The Country Club are my favorite city hotels (both have a very ‘resort” feel and provide an oasis in the middle of some nice shopping streets).
But the real “gem” in Lima is the Rafael Larco Herrera Museum…..this is a must see for first time visitors. It provides a wonderful education in all the Inka cultures and the history of the place. Their art/artifact collection is amazing! And it provides a wonderful lunch/dinner venue in it’s Café Del Museo-the garden setting and wonderful authentic menu makes you want to spend a leisurely afternoon or evening enjoying the alfresco experience. I loved it!
Another nice way to spend lunch/dinner is enjoying Huaca Pucllana (these ruins are a short walk/ride from Miraflores) and give you another glimpse into the Inka culture and their building skills. This site also has a wonderful lunch spot frequented by the elite business clientele of Lima. The Pisco sour wasn’t bad either…..
Shopping is best in Miraflores for the upscale designer duds, while the Mercado Indio (Indian Market) was perfect for finding those handmade curios and souveniers. The tapestry items (belts, purses, table runners, sweaters, etc) are funky and very fun. I brought home 15 belts, 10 pillow covers, and enough table linen to last a lifetime. The prices are definitely right!
I was scheduled to fly into Cusco on the first flight of the day (weather sometimes gets worse as the day progresses) however, midflight in our 1 hour trip-I felt a sudden turn and we were headed back to Lima….several hours later we arrived in Cusco.
Cusco, at 11,000+ feet is a very tough destination for lots of folks. My recommendation is to head straight to the Sacred Valley (9,000 ft.) – spend a couple of nights here and then ascend into Machu Picchu and Cusco. This helped me avoid altitude sickness and a miserable couple of days……many were not so lucky!
The Sacred Valley is filled with luxury resorts – but I have a favorite – 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 their beautiful horse stables to their 5 star restaurant – every detail is well conceived and well delivered. Their new villas are as romantic as anything I have seen anywhere!
On my next trip, I plan on a trip to the Pisac market with the chef to select our produce and meats and then return to the resort to learn the way the Peruvian chefs prepare their cuisine….
I only lament I was not here long enough, but I have places to go and cultures to explore….so it’s off to Machu Picchu (via Ollantaytambo) and the Vistadome train. This is a 2 hour journey that is filled with sights of the local farms and people of Peru. It looks like a picture postcard to watch the Peruvian women carrying their children, foods, 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. They are lovely.]
We arrive in Agua Calientes (the base town for Machu Picchu) and are whisked off to our tour bus for the climb to the top of the ruins. Our luggage is taken directly to our hotel – nice touch! We dine at The Sanctuary Lodge on a bountiful buffet of all kinds of local dishes (food was wonderful) and are ready to begin our hike. It was fun to see all the true hikers (those that have trekked the Inca trail for4 days) arrive at the lodge ready for a shower, warm food, a massage, and COCKTAILS! What an experience that must be….
My first sight of Machu Picchu (on this clear sunny day) was one of amazement and awe. It looks just like the pictures, only more grand and more inviting. I want to explore every inch of this place and our wonderful guide knows how to bring us into his world of Inca culture. Being an Inca man, he recants stories told by his ancestors with feeling and emotion, only someone of that culture can do. Lucho, you are amazing and I will always remember our time at Machu Picchu. If you are looking for a spiritual or cultural journey- then he is your man!
After 10,000 photos from every angle and quiet meditation I see two rainbows as I leave this magical and mystical place-quite fitting I must say. I am not saying I left Machu Picchu a higher “evolved” person, but I certainly left with a different perspective on life and the importance of place.
Machu Picchu did not disappoint.
I was lulled to sleep by the sound of river rapids running directly under my patio at the Sumaq Hotel. This place offered the best views and sounds in all of Aqua Calientes (not to mention the best entertainment).
I was lucky enough to enjoy a birthday celebration of the owner of one of the best pizza restaurants in Aqua Calientes (The Springs) and we danced and drank the local wine well into the wee hours of the morning…..what a treat!
After a fabulous lunch at Inkaterra (another great lodge in Aqua Calientes) we are back on the train for our return trip to Cusco.
This time we are ready for the altitude (as much as any flatlander can adjust to 11,000 ft) and we embark on 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 understand the process of making silver jewelery and artifacts plus we got a firsthand look at artisans at work. Of course I had to buy a “bauble” to bring home…”when in Cusco”…..
The Monasterio gives an authentic option for staying in Cusco. This hotel actually boasts a chapel on site. The courtyard with it’s ancient trees and surroundings is a delightful place to enjoy afternoon tea or cocktails in a quiet setting (hard to find in the middle of this bustling city). Inkaterra also has an authentic hotel in it’s La Casona property.
2 nights is perfect in Cusco to enjoy the fine dining and see the sights of the city.
The flight back to Lima was uneventful, albeit the take off was a visual treat because it was a clear morning and we could see forever….
A last night in Lima was spent dining under the stars at Hotel Miraflores and hitting the rooftop disco for a bit of dancing before calling it a night. I am back on a flight to Miami in the morning and I must say “goodbye” to this wonderful country and it’s charming people.
I will return and perhaps add an Amazon adventure to the next trip.