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Samantha Hartman

Roseland, New Jersey Travel Agent

The Many Treasures of Peru

Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, putting Peru on many travelers’ wish lists. It is wonderful, but it is only one of the reasons to visit this fascinating land. Lima is a sophisticated capital with a great food scene, lovely colonial buildings and a lovely setting along the Pacific. Lake Titicaca, thought to be the birthplace of the Inca, is the largest lake in South America. Here, you can get a glimpse of traditional life in indigenous villages, some located on floating islands on the lake.

For nature lovers, a river cruise on the Amazon is incredible. As you cruise along, you will see pink river dolphins, which can be more than eight feet long, and sharp-toothed piranhas. I always suggest clients bring good binoculars because along the shores, you may spot capuchin monkeys playing in the trees as well as three-toed sloths, jaguars, caiman, and other endemic species.

Most cruises visit at least one Amazon village. When I went, our river guides were local, and you could see that they had a good relationship with the villagers. They took us to a small village where the children welcomed us with a song. 

Another wonderful area where you can encounter Peru’s timeless traditional culture and nature is the Sacred Valley of the Incas. One of my favorite ways to enjoy all the valley has to offer is to stay at Sol y Luna, a Relais & Chateau hotel, where you can stay in colorful casitas tucked into gardens, and enjoy incredible locavore dining. From here, you can explore the valley on guided horseback, bicycle and kayak expeditions and visit remote villages. You might also watch weavers or potters demonstrate their craft and see performances of traditional music and dance. And you can feel good about the fact that your stay helps to support sustainable work options for locals and educational opportunities for local children.

Peru’s biggest draw is Machu Picchu, and rightly so. The scale and remoteness are awe-inspiring. The ultimate place to stay is the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge Machu Picchu. It is the only hotel anywhere close to the entrance to the site. The hotel can arrange top-notch guides, and its location means you can easily be among the first to enter the site. Back at the hotel, you can relax and enjoy the views with a cup of muña tea and dine on Andean specialties. The hotel also offers the chance to take part in a traditional shaman ceremony or enjoy a yoga or meditation center or soak in a hot tub in its garden. 

Another good option is the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, styled like an intimate Andean village with terraced hills, waterfalls, stone pathways, and 83 whitewashed adobe casitas tucked away in the cloud forest. A member of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, it delights birdwatchers with the 214 species that can be spotted there, including the golden-headed quetzal and the Andean cock-of-the-rock. It also has one of the world’s largest native orchid collections with 372 species. After a day of exploring Machu Picchu or the cloud forest, guests can enjoy the Unu Spa, which adds a mystical Andean twist to classic treatments using local botanical extract.

There are many special ways to explore Peru, depending on your passions and how active you like to be. It’s also important to factor in altitude when making plans. It’s one of my favorite destinations to share with clients, and I have wonderful contacts throughout the country to help make your trip seamless and unforgettable.

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