VIP Peru Trip Report – Lima, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Cuzco and Lake Titicaca
We arrived in Lima early so there was enough time for a cooking class and a visit to the Larco Museum which is a must to learn about Inca and pre Inca art, history and culture, so the rest of the trip makes more sense.
If there is a city that gathers everything necessary to offer an unforgettable gastronomical experience, it is Lima. Since its foundation and throughout the last 500 years the natives of Lima have been incorporating all the customs of the different people of the world that were settling their lands which has contributed in making the cuisine of Lima a delicious fusion that mixes a balance of Chinese, Japanese, Inca, Spanish,Italian, and African influences. This has also been possible due to the variety of ingredients that you can find in Limaâ€™s markets. We visited a local market where we found an array of exotic fruits and vegetables. Then, we visited SeÃ±orio de Sulco restaurant for a Cooking demonstration followed by lunch.
After lunch, we drove to the Pueblo Libre district to visit the Larco Herrera Museum, housed in an 18th century colonial mansion that hosts the most extensive collection of pre-Columbian art in Peru. It contains fine examples of textile work, one of which has a world record-breaking 398 threads per inch, as well as the tools ancient Peruvians used to produce metals, huaco ceramics and gold and silver pieces with semiprecious stones.
In the evening, we flew to Arequipa and stayed in the Casa Andina Private Collection Hotel, a chic 4 star option, but our suite was very simple. Sufficient and well located close to the colonial sites it was fine for us. In the morning we took a walk through the Historic Center, built mostly with a local sillar, a pale volcanic rock, affording Arequipa its glorious architecture and its appropriate nickname, “the White City”.
We visited the Convent of Santa Catalina, where the first-born daughters of the local elite were cloistered for life, since the mid.16th Century until 1970.
Then we continued with a trip to the awesome Colca Valley to the Orient Express Property of Las Casitas del Colca. The 3.5 hour drive across Pampa CaÃ±ahuas within the Aguada Blanca National Reserve, the habitat of vicuÃ±as was quite an experience. Admire beautiful pre-Columbian terraces still being cultivated by native Collaguas. This area seems to be at the top passes of the andes and very much like being on the moon but with alpacas, llamas and vicunas. In the morning, we visited the towns of Yanque, Maca, Achoma and Pinchollo, then we proceeded to the “Condors’ Cross”, observation point from where you can view these great Andean birds.
Impressive panorama of the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world (9,800 ft). In the afternoon, we returned to Arequipa where we stayed again in Casa Andina to fly to Cuzco in the morning.
We reached Cusco and took a short drive out to the Urubamba Valley in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, This area really requires 2-3 nights to see all the ruins, experience the culinary side, and see the local artisans and experience the culture; Itâ€™s best to come on a Sunday. Then the markets are much better when all the real craftswomen bring their best, the rest of the week tends to have just touristy souvenirsâ€™ and weavings that are more massed produced. We visited Awanakancha, where South American camelidae are bred. Learn about the superb llama, alpaca and vicuna fibers as well as the ancient weaving techniques that are still in use. Continued to Pisac for an opportunity to bargain with vendors at its handicraft market.
We ate lunch and inspected the Hotel Sol y Luna and their amazing restaurant Wayra. We witnessed a spectacular equestrian exhibition, where the horses amazed us with their graceful gait and with their elegant stature. The presentation was be led by the rhythm of live marinera music, plays and danced by a group of artists. After lunch, site inspection to Sol y Luna Hotel. Later, visited the Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo. The site was built just as the Spaniards arrived, and evidence of how it was constructed is still visible. After admiring the site’s magnificent past stroll through the quaint streets of today’s town. We stayed overnight at the Orient Express Rio Sagrado Hotel, which was perfect for honeymooners and couples, but for families Sol y Luna may be more appropriate.
We transferred early in the morning to Ollanta station and then 40 minutes drive to Piscacucho station to board the Vistadome train to Machu Picchu. Upon arrival at Aguas Calientes, we took a 25-minute coach ride to “The Lost City of the Incas”, discovered by American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911.
We had a guided tour of the marvelous citadel, an awe-inspiring experience visiting the Main Square, the Temple of the Three Windows, the Circular Towers, the Sacred Sun Dial and the Burial Grounds.
Later, feel free to stroll around the archaeological site. We lunch at Sanctuary Lodge which was overpriced but really the only place to eat at the top that allows you to sit and rest and go over the pictures that you took. On a clear day, itâ€™s impossible to take a bad picture because at every turn there is a great angle or perspective. We inspected the Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel and stayed overnight at the Sumaq, which had a great private class to teach us about making saviche and a pisco sour the right way! Then we had a great dinner.
In the morning, we took the new backpacker train to Piscacucho station. 40 minutes drive to Ollanta station and return to Cusco city. We toured of the city, starting out at the Santo Domingo convent monastery. This former Colonial monastery was previously the Koricancha temple, one of the most important temples devoted to worship of the sun. According to the chronicles, it was covered in gold Leaf and filled with golden representations of nature. Also stoped at the Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral. After touring the most interesting sites of the city, we visited the cult centre of Sacsayhuaman, the temple and amphitheatre of Kenko, and the Red Fortress of Puca Pucara. We had a wonderful dinner at Map with Mr. Peter Frost one of our special VIP guides that does only the most unique itineraries for our clients; he is a leading expert and author of many books about Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and the Inca trail and culture.
In the morning, we visited the markets and squares of Cusco for a photo safari, Caroline and I took almost 400 pictures this day and by far had the best opportunity to shoot some amazing people, architecture, and Indigenous market vendors in all their regalia. I highly suggest you spend 2-3 days in Cuzco as it is the best city for culture, food and walking around and exploring.
We flew to Juliaca and transferred to Puno and to the Titilaka lodge, which was an amazing property.
In retrospect, we should have done 2 nights to have 2 morning tours. But time was short so we fit it all in one day and at this altitude it was tough. Titicaca Lake, the highest navigable lake in the world. Departed early in the morning for sailing to Taquile Island for a 30 minute hike towards its small town inhabited by Quechua speaking natives who have, over the generations, developed both an efficient and original social system as well as a refined handweaving technique.
We explored the island and you can appreciate the magnificent views of Lake Titicaca. In the afternoon, we visited the floating islands of Uros, where the inhabitants still live as they did centuries ago, on floating islands they make with the totora reeds that grow on the lake.
We transferred out and flew back to Lima, we had an open day so we had a fabulous lunch at Rosa Nautica right across from the Miraflores Park hotel on the beach level of Miraflores, which is below the cliffs. After lunch we drove to the small town of Barranco where we met a local modern artist I admire, named Federico Bauer; We found him both charming and accommodating to our clients who love art and want to meet a local Peruvian artist that is gaining notoriety for his Modern hotel friendly art; especially the bulls, weaving tapestries, murals and vases with amazing dried Peruvian flower arrangements. His work was seen along our route at Sol y Luna and Titilaka, who work closely with the artist to paint murals and display many of his pieces for the lobby, restaurant and rooms. Day use at the Hotel Miraflores is a good idea to shower and relax before you return flight, we had dinner with friends at Edo a supurb sushi restaurant in Miraflores. A perfect farewell dinner to the city that remains foggy half the year but excels in culture and culinary experiences.
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