In Search of the Forgotten City… Machu Picchu

“Journey through varied terrain both challenging and awe-inspiring.”

From the adventure seeker that prefers roughing it to the luxury traveller, there is something for everyone on an excursion to Perú. Some sights reign in no matter whether you lay your head down at night in a hotel or a tent. Machu Picchu is the jewel of a rich archaeological heritage. It is one of the symbols that identify Perú in the world. If you are on a quest for the Lost City of the Incas, the Peruvian Andes will lead you to the ruins of an ancient city hidden among clouds and vegetation. There you will find the impressive citadel of Machu Picchu, the most famous archaeological encounter of the twentieth century. After one hundred years of discovery, the mysteries surrounding the ruins is joined by the controversy surrounding the figure of its discoverer, who is accused of taking illegally numerous objects of inestimable value and keep to himself is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.

Perú might be known as the land of the Incas but over 50% of the country is carpeted with majestic Amazonian greenery and national reserves. After a 40-minute flight from Cusco, the historic Inca capital, you will find your starting point for hiking the Inca Trail. Up-close views of glacier mountain peaks, mysterious fog surrounding fields of boulders, and cattle drives through the most remote of mountain areas are sights that will only enhance the spectacular topography, lush vegetation, and intriguing archaeological areas that you will encounter. Locals, still proudly attached to their Andean heritage, will greet you along the way and give you a glimpse into their rarely seen world. From this point on, you will magically be transported into the steamy jungle surrounding Puerto Maldonado. This tranquil slice of the Amazon is particularly rich in birdlife and butterflies, and a visit to Rainforest Expeditions’ you will find three riverside eco lodges to learn about the colorful jungle inhabitants. Although hiking might be first and foremost on your list, you can experience a night-time river cruise, sunset kayaking, foot safari or a pre-dawn trip to watch rainbow flocks of macaws and parrots gather for morning feeds on the clay riverbank. One of the many accommodations available is to sleep side-by-side with the wildlife in bedrooms that have one wall completely open to the jungle. With a traditional pisco sour or a local beer, Cusqueña, in hand, relax on one of many hammocks strung up around the wooden lodges where you will be enveloped in lush greenery. At one of the lodges, Tambopata Research Center, you will meet a team of researchers that monitor the area’s macaws where you can learn about the project with after-dinner lectures and join daytime excursions into the jungle to weigh and measure the macaw chicks for a once in a lifetime experience.

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Overlooking Cusco is the impressive Inca complex of Sacsayhuaman. The 45-minute walk up the hill is worth it for the surrounding grandiose views, while an easy day trip from Lima is the awesome archaeological site of Buena Vista. The sandy remains of this ancient 8-hectare settlement are situated in the Chillon River Valley, and feature the newly discovered 4,200-year-old observatory Temple of the Fox. A little further from the capital, in the Barranca province you will find the most ancient settlement in the Americas, Caral. Peppered with fascinating examples of housing, plazas, pyramid temples and an amphitheater, Caral delves far into Perú history; with some elements dating right back to the time of the Egyptian pyramids. One of the most impressive sites in northern Perú is Chan Chan, the largest pre-Colombian city in South America. Also worth a visit are the extensive Cerro Pátapo ruins near Chiclayo.

Part of the fun of travelling around Perú is that you can expect that it to involve hours spent on rickety buses. However, there are always luxury trains and first-rate bus services make getting around Perú a pleasure. Gliding through the mountains between Puno and Cusco on the luxurious Andean Explorer rail service run by Perú Rail is truly a pleasure. With a three-course lunch, live entertainment including traditional panpipe music, and fantastic views from the observatory carriage at the rear of the train, will make the 10-hour journey fly by. As an extra bonus, you can even learn how to make the perfect pisco sour at the observatory carriage bar.

Sample ancient culture throughout Perú as it is brimming with ancient ruins and historical sites. Machu Picchu may be Perú’s iconic landmark but the country has much more to offer. A special treat is viewing a series of giant motifs and animal images known as the Nazca Lines, which are etched into the floor of southern Peru’s Nazca Desert; the geoglyths were created between AD400-650, and can be viewed today via light aircraft trips over the area.

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When planning your trip to Perú, make sure to discover the fabulous cuisine. Perú’s main cities are awash with international staples, however, if you are eager to delve into Perú’s more traditional flavors, you can sample such ingredients as fried plantains, an array of exotic fresh fruit, quinoa, huacatay (aromatic Andean herb), sweet potatoes, cerviche (strips of raw fish marinated in chili and lime), yucca and sweet corn. For delicious trout ceviche yards from Lake Titicaca, head to Puno’s main square and take a seat at Mojsa. You might even come across Guinea pig (cuy), which is a Peruvian delicacy, typically reserved for special occasions. Traditional Peruvian dishes are given the fine dining treatment at several restaurants run by celebrated Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio. Follow Lima’s hip crowd to Astrid y Gastón for high-design dishes.

For a spectacular adventure, Machu Picchu and beyond, will take you from the soaring peaks of the Andes and the lush Amazon Rainforest to pre-Columbian ruins and Spanish colonial mansions. Perú beckons with the allure of the ancient and mysterious.