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A Rothschild Safaris Guide to Traveling to Peru

{Our lovely Caren Banks recently traveled to Peru on a fact-finding mission.
She returned with all the important ‘have to know’ tips.)

Lima

Most international flights arrive at night and if at all possible we advise that you begin your trip to Peru with a Friday or Saturday night arrival into Lima. Traffic is lighter in the city on the weekend, and this makes Lima easier to navigate and can mean the difference between a 30-minute and a 90-minute drive to reach your downtown hotel from the airport.

If the spa life is for you, then Peru will deliver, deliver and deliver again. Every hotel has massages, steam rooms and pools available and indulgent treatments are extremely popular. Of course, this also happens to be a particularly excellent way to deal with jetlag- and so it is possibly the most practical thing you can do on arrival.

Lima is a destination that will keep you entertained for a minimum of two or three days.

Did you know that Lima is one of the gourmand centers of the known universe? A top-tier culinary tour will start at the food market.

Caren in Lima fruit and vegetable store

What better way to acclimatize and immerse yourself in a country than learning to recognize the exotic fruit and vegetables you will enjoy throughout your trip? Our market excursion is followed by lunch at a family style, traditional eateria that is small, bustling and absolutely fabulous.

Did someone say Pisco Sour?

It isn’t only the spa experience that is ubiquitous; most hotels also feature a cooking and pisco drink experience. I think we can all agree that Peru is living its best life!


Let’s get Cultural

Starting with my favorite: the Larco Herrera Museum. Housed in an 18th Century colonial mansion amongst magnificent gardens, the museum features over 5,000 years of original pre-Columbian finds, all organized chronologically. It is a private collection and one of the top 10 museums in the world. It offers an incredible orientation to the history of Peru that will infuse the remainder of your Peruvian tour with understanding and added value.

At the San Francisco Monastery, you may visit the Catacombs.

Visit the chief seaport of Peru from Lima. A half day trip to Callau will present you with a host of important historical sites, but the very best part about this seaside city is that the residents have only recently reclaimed their town from crime gangsters, robbers and drug addicts. This miraculous renaissance has resulted in an artsy area that is reminiscent of Soho complete with original galleries, shops, and cafes. Street artists arrive from all over the world to create magnificent graffiti art. A resident acts as your very expert guide.

Callau graffiti 3 D man

If you have a little more time, you can take a half day boat trip to see penguins, sea lions and blue-footed boobies at the nearby Ballestas islands. You may even swim with the sea lions.


Sleeping in Lima

San Isidro Suburb
(the embassy enclave)

Country Club Lima Hotel

Expansive marble bathrooms and over 300 pieces of original artwork set the tone in this stately hotel. With a golf course across the street, the ocean running from the end of the links and a few high-end shops in the area.

For big celebrations book the Dom Perignon suite that comes with a bottle of 2009 DP and various other luxuries every day.

Barranco suburb
(a Soho type area with lively nights for bar hopping, many museums, and a nearby beach)

Hotel B

In this area, the Boutique hotels have been converted from gorgeous old mansions dating back to the 1920s. Hotel B is owned by eight friends, all art collectors, housing the most amazing art collection. The rooms are all unique and most with private patios or gardens. Do plan to eat-in as the restaurant is phenomenal, serving traditional Peruvian ingredients and Mediterranean flavors. Famous chef Oscar Valerde oversees a menu inspired by and infused with produce from his farm near the pre-Columbian pyramids at Pachacamac and, of course, fresh from the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Villa Barranco

Only two years old, this lovely, unique hotel has only nine rooms, most with patios or garden and also a rooftop bar.


The Sacred Valley

This is a destination on its own, and you can easily add three days in the Sacred Valley to your travel plans. Ancient ruins, villages, and towns are dotted throughout the area, and you can start enjoying the valley as soon as you drive out of Cusco. This road trip is an all-day event while you stop at many lovely and interesting places. We certainly came away feeling like we have hardly scratched the surface.

All alpaca and llama dreams can come true in Awanacancha where you will meet and even feed them. Take your lunch at the private hacienda of one of Cusco’s most prestigious families. One minute you are driving through villages and the valley, you turn up a tiny little “street” surrounded by farmland, and then, hey presto, you arrive at this magnificent home at the top of the hill, overlooking the valley.

In Maras, the saltpans are still farmed in the Incan tradition. The salt farmers continue to wear their traditional dress, down to the color of their hats denoting their lineage.

Moray is the ancient Inka site of agricultural research. A veritable laboratory for the Incas where medicinal plants were grown on different levels and in different ways… it reminded me of a herculean amphitheater of fields.

And then. Before the day is over, you find yourself delivered to a little field, complete with a picnic tent (and a toilet tent) for a spot of surprise dining. Our Peruvian picnic also came with a shaman and a musician playing an ancient flute and somehow in this magical spot, the idea of receiving a blessing out in the middle of nowhere came across not as a contrivance, but instead, everyone found it a lovely soul-healing experience. Maybe we should blame the happy acceptance of our bliss on the superb four-course picnic?


Sleeping in the Sacred Valley

Belmond Rio Sagrado

Lovely rooms are spread out across the property, all with a view over the Urubamba River and the sprawling green garden complete with llamas. To enjoy that view, each room has a balcony. This hotel is situated very close to the Ollantaytambo train station.

Sol y Luna

This might very well now be my favorite hotel in the whole world. The incredible Sol y Luna Foundation, run by owner Pettit benefits kids in need in the Sacred Valley. She moved from France to the Sacred Valley about 20 years ago. And her philanthropy allows guests to feel like they contribute merely by staying in this incredible hotel. The rooms are sensational, the atmosphere is spot on, and the activities are too many to mention.

I would love to tell you more about the tasting menu in the wine room, but I am very much afraid that words fail me entirely.

All of this comes at a price but it is oh, so worthwhile. We suggest two nights here and saving money somewhere else along the journey.

Sky Lodge

When you dream of nothing more than climbing a mountain for two to three hours to stay in a glass-capsule room suspended from the rock, only to zip line down the next day… do I ever have the perfect hotel for you?

While you are at one with the condors, you will be served a gourmet dinner with wine and breakfast. Every capsule has four beds, a dining area, and a bathroom.

Apparently, people love it. 🙈🙉🙊


Machu Picchu Puebla (aka Aguas Caliente)

 

Getting there

A lovely way to get to Machu Picchu is by train (there are various luxury trains Belmond Hiram Bingham, First Class Train, and Peru Rail’s Vistadome, as well as ordinary trains. Lunch is served on the way to Machu Picchu, and dinner on the way back to Sacred Valley.

NB  One needs to take an overnight bag to get on the train (no room for big bags).
Your driver will take suitcases to the next hotel and get them checked in.

The town at the bottom of the hill from Machu Picchu used to be nothing more than a mark on a map until about ten years ago. Now it is a bustling center, with trains and buses and buildings and markets and cafes and, and…

Quite large and very chaotic it is known as Aguas Caliente but is officially named Machu Picchu Pueblo, and it is all about supporting tourism at Machu Picchu. You don’t have to get to the mountain to start going up and down steps all the time. The large market is very fun,  the entire town and all its organized chaos work very well and it is also completely safe to walk around here.

In fact, you will walk from the train station to your hotel or from your hotel to the bus to Machu Picchu.  Everything is entirely walkable and no vehicles are needed here.

From Aguas Caliente, everyone has to take the bus (about a 20-minute ride) up the hill to Machu Picchu.



Sleeping in Aguas Caliente– Macchu Picchu

Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel

Very rain foresty and spread out along the hill with a river racing through. The hotel boasts 372 native orchids, 200 species of birds, 111 types butterfly and hot springs in the middle of the moodily atmospheric rooms.

El Mapi by Inkaterra

A hip type hotel with words printed on the walls and rooms facing the town which does not start getting ready for sleep until after 10PM.

Belmond Sanctuary Lodge

The hotel at the entrance to the Machu Picchu ruins can only be reached by bus, and it is ideal for guests who do not want to go out at night. There are two restaurants (one which is open to the public) in this Grand Old Dame of Machu Picchu.

Sumaq Hotel

Very close to the buses that leave for Machu Picchu, the Sumaq Hotel delivers incredible service and the gorgeous Junior suites with a river view were a firm favorite.


CUSCO

Cusco was a fabulous surprise.  There is so much to see and do here, including great restaurants, museums, churches, galleries, and all pretty much around a town square.

From Lonely Planet —the best description

Welcome to the belly button of the world. The undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas, Cuzco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city and the gateway to Machu Picchu. Cosmopolitan Cuzco (also Cusco, or Qosq’o in Quechua) thrives with a measure of contradiction. Ornate cathedrals squat over Inca temples, massage hawkers ply the narrow cobblestone passages, a rural Andean woman feeds bottled water to her pet llama while the finest boutiques sell pricey alpaca knits.


Sleeping in Cusco

Inkaterra La Casona

Twenty beautiful rooms around a stunning courtyard. There is no reception area, and with registration in your suite, it feels more like staying in a beautiful old Peruvian Mansion.

Belmond Nazarenas

Fancy staying in a former palace, next door to the Monasteria with convent located on the town square. It is the newest, absolutely stunning Belmond Hotel in Cusco.  Many of the stone walls are still those from the ancient Inka times. (Fun Fact:  the Belmond hotels in Cusco include the cost of oxygen being pumped into their rooms to counteract the effects of high altitude). It also boasts the best restaurant in Cusco, stunning courtyards and an original chapel.

Belmond Hotel Monasteria

This is the original Belmond hotel in Cusco, built in a former Monastery. (Fun fact: they tried to connect the two Belmond Hotels underground, but all plans for a tunnel had to be abandoned due to all the Inca ruins lying under the buildings.) At the Monasteria the rooms are large with smaller windows. It has a beautiful chapel that can be booked privately and would be the perfect location should you wish to surprise a certain someone with a romantic meal in an ancient, holy and storied space?

Casa Cartegena

Twenty Suites, each with a butler. The Presidential Suite is very ostentatious but unfortunately does not deliver on privacy between bathroom, bedrooms, and kids bedroom upstairs. The serene dining room offers excellent food and the hotel has Pisco Sour lessons every afternoon.

 


 

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