Machu Picchu’s 15th-century Inca citadel is one of the most heart-stopping attractions in the world and continues to be the main reason why many travelers venture to Peru. But given the recent threats to place the ancient site on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger, as well as the country’s continued efforts to limit daily foot traffic, it’s high time you discover Peru for what it really is: a one-stop-shop for every wonder a traveler seeks. Between the Amazonian rainforest and Andes Mountains — not to mention its deserts, beaches, world-class cuisine, and pisco liqueur — Peru is a superstar destination beyond its Machu Picchu fame.
By Elizabeth Frels for Quest Magazine
Lima used to be the forced stopover en route to Cusco, but it’s now a must-do during any visit to Peru. Beyond the city’s culinary reputation and internationally lauded restaurants (of which there are many), it’s the back-to-tradition Limeñan taverns, cutting-edge museums and galleries, and graffiti artists that are contributing to Lima’s reinvention as a hip, sophisticated hub. Take in Pacific Ocean views from high-rise accommodations at Belmond Miraflores Park. Stroll with the locals along the El Malecón promenade, visit the recently refurbished MALI (Museo de Arte de Lima) and soak up the trendy vibe of the Barranco neighborhood. True adventurers won’t want to miss the transformational street art in Lima’s seaport of Callao.
The Sacred Valley is a prerequisite for anyone traveling through Peru, especially as it helps acclimate travelers to the impending heights of Cusco. But its importance goes well beyond utility. Encircled by the imposing Andes Mountains, the mysterious valley is a feast for the senses. In the morning, feed the resident baby alpacas of Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado before setting out on a quad-biking adventure through the deserted trails of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Stop for a picnic in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the magnetic energy of the mountains. It’s the perfect place to awaken the spirit with a kintu coca leaf reading or an offering ceremony to Pachamama (Mother Earth).
Into the Mist
If Machu Picchu is on your bucket list, there is no better way to travel there than by the glamorous Belmond Hiram Bingham train. If an overnight stay is in order, then Belmond Sanctuary Lodge places you in prime position for being the first in line to experience the morning mists rising over the awe-inspiring ancient city at dawn.
White City Wonders
Volcano-framed Arequipa — known as the White City — awaits down south. This is the land of alpaca wool, condor-filled skies, and epic landscapes. That includes Colca Valley and its renowned canyon, said to be twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States. Travel there by the Belmond Andean Explorer train, South America’s first luxury sleeper train boasting the highest routes in the world. Pisco sour in hand, gaze out the window to trace the shores of Lake Titicaca at sunrise. Make a luxury Casita at Belmond Las Casitas in Colca Canyon your launching point for spotting Andean condors and exploring the valley with its charming villages.
Colors of Cusco
Step out from your luxe accommodations at Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, housed in a former convent, to behold the energetic buzz of Cusco, once the capital of the Incan empire. The town of Chinchero is the place to go for beautiful, quality textiles. A local weaving workshop known as Centro de Textiles Tradicionales de Cusco (Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco) empowers women to preserve the ancestral art of weaving. Health food lovers will be drawn to the bounty of the colorful Peruvian markets, from Andean grains to Amazonian fruits.
Notes from the North
Not to be outdone, Northern Peru is equally rich in living cultures and natural wonders. Don’t miss the mighty Amazon, which contributes to Peru’s ranking as one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. From a resident research center or luxury cruise ship, uncover a plethora of pink dolphins, river otters, jaguar, anaconda and 30 species of primates. The true hidden gems of the north, however, are the untouched beaches of Mancora — perfect vantage points for whale watching and indulging in ceviche.
To explore Peru beyond Machu Picchu, contact your Ker & Downey designer.