I recently returned from an 11-day tour of Peru. This destination has been on my travel list for decades. This excursion was my first non-working trip to South America. The top attraction for me was Machu Picchu. We decided to add a three day Amazon river cruise to round out the adventure.
We started our trip in Lima with a city tour. Lima is a massive city with many associated problems. The traffic from the airport was particularly bad. It is clear Peru needs to invest in more infrastructure. I was told a new highway from the airport is in the works. We stayed in Miraflores, which is a well-known tourist area.
The city tour went well; we saw beautiful examples of Spanish architecture. We also visited the catacombs, the burial place for wealthy citizens of Lima. The catacombs were a bit claustrophobic and full of bones. I would say it was an okay visit, but I don’t need to return.
Our trip was arranged with G Adventures and advertised as a National Geographic adventure. G Adventures arranged all of our logistics in Peru and did an excellent job. We joined our group of 13 co-adventurers and flew to Cusco.
Cusco is located at an altitude of over 11,000 feet. Don’t underestimate the impact of traveling from sea level to this very high altitude. Also, there is a big difference between briefly visiting an elevation over 10,000 feet and staying there for a few days. About half of our group suffered from some form of altitude sickness. Cusco is the historical capital of Peru and the center of the Inca culture. There is plenty to do and see in Cusco. The shopping is endless, and there are many historical sights, such as the Inca Museum.
The Inca culture was impressive. The Inca’s were master builders. Many of their buildings and roads not only still stand today but look as though they are brand new. The Inca Empire met its demise at the hands of the Spanish conquistadors through disease and conquest. Around Cusco and the Sacred Valley, many elements of the Inca heritage are alive and well. Many people still live a similar life to their ancestors. The folks in this area are very friendly, and I enjoyed interacting with them. We visited one unique location called the Potato Park. One of the objectives of G Adventures is to work with local people to develop a special tourist encounter that provides a financial benefit. Visting the Potato Park was one of the highlights of our trip. We learned about the many different types of potatoes and their importance to the Inca history. We also watched these folks making clothing out of Alpaca wool. The locals taught us the unique way they used natural items to create vivid color.
Finally, the day arrived for our visit to Macchu Picchu. I read a lot about Macchu Picchu but was still unclear on what to expect. Macchu Picchu has many visitors every day. The process of visiting is regimented and controlled. You can only visit at a pre-arranged time and only stay for so long. You must have a valid passport to visit Macchu Picchu. There are so many people moving around this place; at times, it seemed like Disneyland. Despite the crowds, Macchu Picchu is a magical place providing insight to an ancient, advanced civilization. In addition to the beautiful scenery, the architecture and construction were profound. If you visit Macchu Picchu, be sure to hike up to the Inca Bridge, the views are spectacular.
Our time in the Andes Mountains came to an end. There was much more to this part of the trip as I have only hit the highlights. This is a link to some additional photos for those who are interested. My next blog will cover our time in the Peruvian Amazon.
Make the most of this day!