By Leora Rothschild
Beginning in Lima before venturing to Cusco, the Sacred Valley and, of course, Machu Picchu before concluding her journey in the Amazon, Leora’s Peru vacation was acutely focused on culture. Her adventure embraced the fusion of native and contemporary in Lima, the ancient culture of the Inca, and the unchanged ways of the Amazonian ribereño people.
Escorted by her husband and two daughters, Leora’s Peruvian explorations were both spectacular and inspirational, urging all to reach for their passports and search for the next available flight to the Land of the Inca.
Leora shares reflections of her Peru vacation with us, bringing to light the fascinating potential of this nation that has defied the hands of time:
June 22nd, Lima
We traveled through the landscapes of Peru, from oceanside Lima and Barranca to the lofty heights of the Sacred Valley and Cusco. Our Peru vacation would begin in Lima, exploring the streets and restaurants, and delving into its history.
We just spent three nights in Lima at the beautiful Hotel B – Relais & Châteaux, an old-style, lovingly-restored Hotel in the heart of Barranca. With some of the best guides in Peru, we were able to explore the city in depth.
A highlight for me was learning about the history of the different cultures at the Museo Larco, one of the top 10 private museums in the world. I wished we had more time here but on our whirlwind trips, we have to keep moving, observing the different food stalls, coffee shops, and stores.
Our culinary day took us around Lima, sampling everything from Peruvian coffees to learning how to properly taste and appreciate good chocolate. We had a crash course on cacao beans and the various regions from which they are sourced; it was fascinating to learn the history of cacao and how chocolate originated. Our guide escorted us to the local market where we sampled every type of fruit you could imagine – and some you couldn’t!
Lastly, being vegetarians, we ate at an incredible plant-based restaurant before finishing our stay here with cocktails on the rooftop bar at sunset, although the sun hardly shines in Lima – only months a year maximum, with most days heavily overcast. Because of its location, it is cloudy most days, so sunset was more about the time of day as opposed to watching the sunset.
June 26th, Cusco
We continued on our Peru vacation, flying from Lima into Cusco and onwards into the Sacred Valley where we were to spend the next four nights. Our first stay was at Sol y Luna – Relais & Châteaux, tucked beneath the breathtaking Andes Mountains.
Our days included visiting the sacred heritage sites of the Incas. It has been a treat to learn all about this fascinating ancient civilization, walking along their agricultural terraces, and discovering the great diversity of cultural offerings.
For a little variety, we enjoyed a half-day of whitewater rafting along the Urubamba River which was stunning, taking in the scenery and sites of the Inca people along our journey.
During the month of our Peru vacation, the ‘Festival of the Sun’ was being observed – an annual celebration that takes place in Cusco.
The town was abuzz with locals in fancy dress, and lots of music and festivities. Downtime at our hotel included spa treatments, saunas, a beautiful swimming pool, gourmet cuisine, and a wood-burning fireplace in our casita to lull us to sleep each night.
June 27th, Machu Picchu
Continuing our incredible odyssey through the beguiling country of Peru, we summited ‘the Old Mountain’, Machu Picchu, making the ancient Inca trek to the summit, casting eyes for the first time on the incredible mountaintop citadel.
From Sacred Valley, we took the train to KM 104 to start our eight-mile (13km) hike into Machu Picchu. The accending trail took us past two archaeological complexes where we enjoyed the fabulous views of the Urubamba River Valley below.
There were times when the trail was so narrow we had to hug the mountainside, and then the ‘monkey stairs’ which have to be climbed using both hands and feet! It took us five and a half hours to reach the Sun Gate (a trek that is supposed to take seven hours, so we felt rather proud of ourselves and very proud of the girls), with the highest elevation being 8,600 feet (2.6km).
Our first glimpse of Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate was surreal. This is what we came here for; to witness this natural wonder of the world, the lost city of the Incas, surrounded by gorgeous steep mountains. We made it!
We spent one night at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu. The wonderful staff made us feel completely at ease after our long trek; I had a fabulous, much-needed foot massage and refueled on delicious cuisine!
June 29th, Cusco
Descending from the heights of Machu Picchu, we decided to give our legs a rest and take a luxurious and exciting train ride back to Cusco, happening upon a vibrant, if impromptu, party.
We left Machu Picchu in traditional style on the Hiram Bingham train back to Cusco, a journey of approximately four hours of absolute fun that included fine dining, cocktails, mocktails for my girls, and some really good dancing.
We had quite the party train with a group of trekkers that had just come off a three-day hike, so the train rocked all the way back to Cusco! I can highly, highly recommend the experience.
July 9th, Into the Amazon
Concluding our Peru vacation with a magical cruise on the Amazon, my family and I saw one of the nation’s less-visited areas, finding warm hospitality, delicious food, luxurious accommodation afloat, and a wealth of wildlife.
We were spoiled rotten. Our fabulous Peru vacation ended with five days along the Amazon River aboard the Aqua Expeditions Nera – absolutely first class all the way!
I could write a novel on the experiences but will keep it brief:
We received a rockstar welcome as we boarded the Aqua Nera; the 20 suites are so luxurious you don’t realize you are on a boat. Food was perfection every single day, served with views of the Amazon passing by the window, the lush forest rising from its banks.
Venturing onto land, we explored the jungle. Our guide’s knowledge was phenomenal. We spotted tiny bats, boa constrictors, tarantulas (not my favorite, but that’s part of the rainforest), incredible bird life, monkeys, sloths, and much more.
We stopped at traditional villages and met the warm and accommodating locals, gladly welcoming us into their homes. Our days were spent riding bikes through the rainforest, kayaking, fishing for piranha (not me – I kept asking them to put the fish back quickly!), spending quality time in the skiffs, and enjoying a surprise gourmet lunch on the river. Each evening concluded sundowners on the boat’s luxurious decks, taking in the sunset as it cascaded its golds and reds across the tranquil surface of the Amazon.
Our Peru vacation was absolutely exceptional and one that I’m sure we’ll remember for many years to come.
Peru is often confined to Machu PIcchu in the minds of visitors, but stepping outside the well-read pages of guidebooks and taking the path less traveled will uncover a wealth of fascinating destinations, rich culture, remarkable history and much more.
A Peru vacation is also a superb family destination. Leora’s teenage girls were equally as captivated by the diverse experiences. Though a hike along the Inca Trail to the summit of Machu Picchu may not be suitable for all, there is so much more to discover.
Talk to a Travel Designer for more information on a Peru vacation.