A fantastic 2 weeks visiting the different regions of Peru including Lima, Amazon Jungle, Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Puno, Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon and Arequipa
An extremely educational and cultural experience. Having been only to Lima, Machu Picchu and Cusco 23 years ago it was great to revisit these places to refresh my memory, see the changes and visit the other areas I hadn’t been to before.
An extremely long trip (34-38 hours door to door) MEL/SYD/AKL/SCL/LIM. Try to book MEL/AKL non-stop flight and avoid SYD.
We flew economy class on the Dreamliner Jet. Service was OK and food average. Alcoholic beverages served are only red & white wine, beer and whiskey with coffee! Although I did ask for a Gin & Tonic and they brought me one from business class! Movies were a good selection. On the flight home we had the 1st 4 rows in economy, exit and extra leg room which does make a huge difference in the comfort.
Very busy traffic, mad drivers, ignore rules, weaving in and out. The public transport is only busses and combi vans where owners pick up people anywhere and drop at a certain location. The government is soon to make the combi vans illegal and put on more public buses. There is no rail system which makes the roads busier. There are more cars than ever now. 10 million people in Lima, 30 million in Peru.
Miraflores area along the foreshore has been redeveloped since I was there in 1993. It started just after. Lovely gardens, parks, paths. Many good quality restaurants & shopping.
Lima is very dry, cloudy & overcast from April to November. No sun or rain.
It is recommended not to take taxis as not safe or reliable. There are still slum areas in Lima.
We stayed at El Parado Doubletree by Hilton, business hotel near Miraflores. Great beds, good breakfast.
There is not much to see or do in Lima, really only for a stopover if need be to connect with onward flights. Suggest maybe stay at airport as it takes up to an hour or more to transfer especially in peak times.
PUERTO MALDONADO – AMAZON JUNGLE
A small bag is packed for the short stay at the lodges to reduce the weight etc on the Long boats. The rest of your luggage is kept safely locked at their headquarters in Puerto Maldonado.
20Km drive to Port and 45 mins long boat ride to Posada Amazonas Lodge. Simple rooms, beds with mosquito nets, private bathrooms. Rooms are open air and to each other at the top of the walls. So not really any privacy. You can hear everything that goes on next door!! Electricity is by generator and only operates at certain times of the day. Wi Fi was pretty good for being in the middle of the jungle!
We did a Jungle Walk at night and saw a snake & triantella spider. The next day was an early rise at 4.15am to do a Catamaran ride on Tres Chimadas Oxbow Lake. We saw Giant River Otters, Caiman, birds, capybara and fished for Piranahs! We also went canoeing and swimming in the river.
The 2nd night we stayed at Refugio Azamonas Lodge. There were more people staying here and it had a better vibe. The accommodation is exactly the same as the other lodge and the meals at both are buffet, limited choice but very good, ie. 1 choice only of each course, soup, main and salad and dessert.
THE SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS
Inkaterra Hacienda Urumbamba: We spent t2 nights at this hotel which is only 12 months old. An absolutely stunning property, gorgeous individual huge casitas (rooms), beautifully decorated, excellent service and cuisine.
Full Day tour of Sacred Valley visiting the Pisac Market, Tasted Guinea Pig which is sold on the street. Tour of Chincero and weaving demonstration. We visited the village of Misminay which is a community of 500 families, 3700 metres above sea-level. Saw the traditional Andean way of life, a ceremony, lunch. We gave donations of books, pencils, water filters etc, however this village did appear quite comfortable and self-sufficient now. I would have preferred to give to a more deserving community or cause.
Machu Picchu; We travelled by Vista Dome Train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes then bus to Machu Picchu arriving approx. 11am. It was extremely busy with way too many tourists compared to my last visit 23 years ago. I felt the serenity and ambiance of the place compared to back then has now somewhat been lost. They are talking about limiting it to 500 people in the morning and 500 in the afternoon. This will probably mean booking way in advance.
I would suggest spending the night before in Aguas Calientes and arriving at MP as soon as it opens at 7am to try and beat the crowds.
They are also building an international airport in the near future in The Sacred Valley. This may alleviate the need to fly via Lima & Cusco.
We had 2 hotel inspections in Aguas Calientes:
Machu Picchu Pueblo: Traditional Spanish style hotel, has a spa. (I stayed here in 1993).
El Mapi by Inkaterra: Funky modern small rooms, good central location.
We stayed at the JW Marriott Hotel in a 16th century convent. Rooms were what you expect of a Marriott with all the mod cons etc. The hotel was somewhat traditional in the public areas.
2 Hotel Inspections:
Belmond Monasterio: A beautiful Hotel built in an old Monastery. 5 star traditional. Loved it, highly recommend for our clients.
Casa Cartagena: Public areas were decorated a bit too funky/retro for Cusco. Rooms were quite nice and large and hotel has a spa. 3-4 star.
El Mercardo: 3 star, Courtyard was a bit run down and needed sprucing up. The rooms were lovely.
We did a half day city tour and archaeological sites/ruins. In the evening we had a Pisco Sour making lesson which was fun followed by a lovely dinner at Map Café, one of Cusco’s top restaurants.
Full day private bus sightseeing transfer from Cusco to Puno: A long 10 hour day with a couple of stops along the way. The other option is the 12 hour train trip which is finishing soon to be replaced with a luxury overnight train a couple of times a week, or flight to Juliaca Airport then transfer to Puno.
Jose Puno Antonio Hotel: We spent 2 nights here, very basic 3 star hotel on the outskirts of town overlooking the Lake. Lots of tour groups. Food not good quality. There is nothing to do in Puno it is purely the gateway to Lake Titicaca.
Lake Titicaca Full Day Tour Taquile Island & Uros Islands: By boat out to Taquile Island. The Islanders still live according to the traditions & beliefs of their ancestors, renowned for their outfits and textiles. Visited a community for a traditional lunch and saw their handicraft and farming activities. They sang and danced for us. The Uros Islands are a set of man-made floating islands in the middle of the Lake Titicaca National Reserve. We met the islanders, hunters and gatherers and descendants of the first altiplano inhabitants, who still live on totora reed platforms. We went into their primitive houses and dressed up in local dress which was quite fun!
Colca Canyon: Drove most of the day from Puno to Colca Canyon. We stopped at some Thermal Pools for a swim. They were very hot and couldn’t spend too long in the water. The surrounding scenery was spectacular.
Las Casitas Del Colca: Our hotel for 1 night was amazing. Individual Casitas, large room with couches, open fire, huge bathroom with indoor & outdoor showers, tiled bath, outdoor patio with chairs, table, banana lounge and private thermal pool. The food and service was amazing. We wished we could have spent 2 nights here to be able to enjoy the property and its facilities. Highly recommend for a few nights luxury retreat.
Colca Canyon, Day 2: We viewed the Condors (birds) gliding around the canyon. The canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon but not as wide. This area is quite dusty as its desert.
Casa Andina Private Collection: Our hotel situated in a 222 year old building. Lovely public areas however rooms quite standard and don’t fit the feel of the hotel although a great location. Arequipa is a must for food-lovers and we dined at the top end restaurant Chicha, by the celebrated chef Gaston Acurio. The meal was nice although a little below my expectations after reading about if on-line probably due to us having a set menu.
I loved Arequipa. The city has many colonial-era Spanish buildings. It has a great vibe and many restaurants and night life. Not as touristy at Cusco.
We visited the main square, churches, Santa Catalina Convent which is more than 500 years old and still has nuns living there.
We viewed the 3 Volcanoes, Mount Misti, Mount Chachani and Mount Pichu-Pichu. We visited the Museum which displays the mummified remains of a teenage Incan girl who was sacrificed. She was discovered a few years ago on Mount Ampato after resting underneath layers of snow for nearly 500 years.
We were told USD is basically the 2nd currency and accepted everywhere which is not always the case. Many places in Cusco would not accept it. You need to change some to the local currency Soles which can be done at the hotels but you need to change it back to USD before leaving Peru.
In Arequipa the only credit card many places accepted was Visa Card. I only had a Mastercard and Amex which I thought would be sufficient. I left my Visa card at home!!
ATM’s are available in most cities and you can withdraw either USD or Soles.
Peru is reasonably priced to eat and drink. There are some great restaurants and food. The specialities are Ceviche (raw marinated fish) which was delicious. We tried Alpacca & Guinea Pig which were “different”!! The local cocktail “Pisco Sour” consisting of Pisco (spirit made from grapes with high alcohol content), lime juice, sugar syrup, egg white & ice was a favourite with our group! Peru has also made some nice wines.
Take Toilette paper with you as not always available. In many places you can’t flush paper, it must be put in the bin!
Take Insect repellent and sunscreen as sun can burn in high altitude.
I took Diamox for Altitude sickness. I didn’t suffer this time like I did last time I was there. Only shortness of breath when ascending stairs. However the altitude does knock you around a bit as difficult to sleep through, very drying on skin, eyes and nose. You need to drink at least 2-3 litres of water a day which results in frequent visits to the bathroom!
You need to have a fairly good level of fitness and mobility to visit Peru. There is quite a lot of walking (in high altitude too which makes it more difficult), walking up hills and stairs often over uneven and rocky terrain.
Overall this was an amazing trip. A very interesting and diverse country with ever changing landscape and scenery, the interesting people and the basic way of life they live. Their everyday dress is normal wear and not just costumes. They have enough to get by and really don’t know any different and appear happy.
Contours land operator Condor Travel were excellent and ran a smooth professional operation with their guides and vehicles.