Next stop Cuzco, once the capital city of the Incan Empire and the oldest inhabited city in Latin America. This absolutely breathtaking city sits at an elevation of more than 11,000 feet and is nestled nice and snug in a valley that is surrounded by mountains in all directions. If you are looking for a colonial city that is just begging you to get lost in the maze of streets and alleys, then here is what you have been searching for. Cuzco is amazing and gets better around every corner. Explore the many shops, galleries and eateries, step inside century-old cathedrals and be astonished by the grand architectural detail. At night, enjoy dinner on a balcony overlooking Plaza de Armas, Cuzco’s main square which looks stunning as the plaza comes alive. Visit the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, the most important structure during the Incan Empire. Take notice of the size and how precisely these massive blocks of stone fit together. If you happen to be in Cuzco on June 24, celebrate the winter solstice also known as the Inti Raymi Festival. Witness thousands of Peruvians dress in traditional pageantry as they parade in the streets and give honor to the Sun Gods. Can’t make it? No worries. Remember, we mentioned there are 3000 festivals in Peru each year, that amounts to eight festivals a day that you can revel in!
Halfway between Cuzco and Machu Picchu you will discover the Sacred Valley. Fertile farm lands, steep mountains and the life-giving waters of the Urubamba River carving deep gorges into the countryside, have created a picture perfect backdrop, an absolute must for a night, or two or three! Explore the agricultural terraces of Moray, and the salt terraces of Maras in the morning, before shopping among the locals at the traditional market of Pisac where villagers buy and sell anything and everything. There are many ruins to be seen in the Sacred Valley, however the ruins of Ollantaytambo are worth the effort to climb the many sets of stairs to the top where you can see the majestic Mt. Veronica and the quaint village of Ollantaytambo below. If some adventure is what you need then the Sacred Valley is the right place. Here you can whitewater raft down raging rivers, mountain bike on great single tracks, horseback ride between small villages, scale the side of a rock face and zipline to the bottom. There are also plenty of hiking trails and many of the multi-day treks through the Andes begin from points in the Sacred Valley.
Machu Picchu is perhaps the most beautiful and inspiring place you will ever visit in your lifetime. For us to try to describe Machu Picchu in words is impossible as there are no words in any language that provide this place justice. We would rather leave that to you, however we can give you this to ponder. The morning has finally arrived, the last leg of the journey and how and what pushed you here no longer matters. You board the shuttle bus in the charming little town of Aguas Calientes, and after a fifteen minute ride up the mountain you begin to take notice of your surroundings. Steep green mountains in every direction, maybe the sky is shrouded in mist, maybe the sky is brilliant blue, however the weather is this day is only going to make what you’re about to witness even more spectacular. The shuttle stops and off you go in the direction of the entrance. Your anticipation builds as you are finally here, the first vantage point. You move closer to the edge and stop, a chill moves over your body, tiny hairs stand at attention, the pupils of your eyes begin to move into focus and you gasp for breath. What you see and feel next is something you are going to have to experience for yourself. Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is completely unfathomable in its allure and mystery. Your time is now!
After Machu Picchu it’s hard to imagine that there would be any place still worth visiting but this is Peru, a country so rich in history, culture and beauty. The next stop is Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake and the largest in South America. Visit the floating islands, and learn how the Uros have built islands out of reed grass, aquatic vegetation and mud. These man-made islands are anchored into the lake bed so they don’t float away, and are self-contained communities that families have inhabited for decades. Learn how they cook, work, grow food, educate their children and maintain the constant upkeep of the islands by replacing the rotting vegetation with new materials. There are also several natural islands on the lake that are worth visiting. Taquile, Isla del Sol, Isla del Luna and Amantani Island all offer unique glimpses into the traditional culture of life on the lake. And just for fun, ask a local Peruvian who has the better side of the lake, Peru or Bolivia?
Heading back east you will discover the “white” city of Arequipa. This UNESCO World Heritage city has buildings that are constructed of Sillar, a white volcanic stone that provides an amazing contrast to the three large red volcanoes of El Misti, Chachani and Pikchu Pikchu that surround Arequipa. Spend the day visiting the Santa Catalina Monastery, La Catedral, which dates back to 1656, the main plaza and the streets with their fascinating archways. A day trip or an overnight outside of Arequipa you can visit Colca Canyon, a canyon twice the size of the Grand Canyon! Besides the sheer size and the rugged landscape, Colca Canyon is best know for the condors. Be amazed as you watch the world’s largest flying bird soar high above the canyon as they ride the updraft.
Speaking of flying, no trip to Peru would be complete without a chance to see the mysterious Nazca Lines. A series of ancient geoglyphs located in the desert of southern Peru has puzzled archaeologists and anthropologists since they were first discovered. From the ground the lines do not appear to be much more than just lines, however from the sky hundreds of lines or geometric shapes, along with more than 70 shapes of animals become visible. Some of the most popular images are the monkey, spider, hummingbird, the astronaut and what many believe to be a runway. Not sure what to think about that? Well seeing is believing, decide for yourself.
Want a little jungle action? Peru has no shortage of jungles, in fact the majority of Peru is jungle. There are two main sections of jungle for you to explore. The first is the northern section of Peru near the town of Iquitos, or better known as the gateway of the Amazon River. Here you will find great opportunities to cruise through the jungle on small and mid-size ships. There are ships for every level of traveler; you have the Kate Winslet first class all the way to Leonardo, bring your own hammock, and everything else in between. The second area is southern Peru. This is also considered the Amazon Jungle, but here you will find more land-based excursions. Either section is a great launching point to explore the greatest jungle on Earth.
Peru is a land that is colorful, unique and spectacular. Don’t put it off any longer, let us help plan your Peru vacation package today!