Chicago, Illinois Travel Agent
Peru: Land of Contrasts
Peru was the first international destination I visited, and it is still one of my favorites. It is an amazing land of contrasts. It has the Andes Mountains and the Amazon River; rainforest and desert; ancient pyramids and vibrant modern cities, lively seaside towns and remote beaches. And Arequipa’s Colca Canyon is one of the best places to see condors in the wild.
Many people come to Peru to see Machu Picchu, a wonder of the world, and the Sacred Valley, a gorgeous region filled with luxury hotels and opportunities for hiking, river rafting, horseback riding, and cycling. One of my favorite ways to see both is to use explora Valle Sagrado as a base. Tucked into a secluded corner of the valley with only 50 rooms and a spa, it offers an exclusive way to experience the Inca civilization, both ancient and present. Another favorite in the area is the locally-run Sol y Luna hotel, a Relais & Chateaux property. You could spend a day just looking at the flower gardens and the whimsical Peruvian art that decorates the hotel.
Another Relais & Chateaux hotel, the 18-room Titicaca Lodge juts out over Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake on earth. There are a lot of activities that connect guests with local life and benefit locals as well. You can visit floating reed islands where Indians live and sell their pottery. The lodge also offers fishing expeditions and boat trips around the lake to villages in Peru and in Bolivia, which also borders the lake.
Cusco, the gateway to the Sacred Valley, is fascinating for its combination of Incan, Spanish Colonial and modern architecture, often built on top of each other. I often suggest people stay at Belmond Hotel Monasterio, a converted monastery furnished with antiques in the heart of the city.
Most people fly into the capital, Lima. It is one of the ugliest cities in the world but offers lots of fun activities. I recently went to a street art workshop where they teach kids to do graffiti. Lima is also a great culinary destination. Peruvians do great things with spices, so it’s a great place for a cooking class. Its Gold Museum is world class, showcasing pre-Incan and Incan works from the region. And the markets are wonderful; locals wear brilliant colors, and you can buy quality hand-woven textiles and unique jewelry made from beads and precious metals.
That’s just the start of what Peru has to offer. The northwest region has spectacular, less-visited pre-Incan pyramids that are still being uncovered and wonderful museums interpreting the finds. Nearby, the Pacific Coast has some of the most remote and beautiful beaches in the world. On a recent visit, I walked along a stunning stretch of beach for 90 minutes without passing a single person. I’ve been visiting Peru since I was 17 and I keep making new discoveries and finding new ways to enjoy the places I love. If you’re interested in going to Peru, I’d love to help make your visit extraordinary.