Peru – A Land of Adventures
Peru is the home of ancient cultures spanning from the Norte Chico civilization in Caral (one of the oldest in the world dating to 3200 BC) to the Inca Empire, the largest state in pre-Columbian America. The Nazca Desert in the South is covered by hundreds of ancient geoglyphs, the purpose and origin of which remain a mystery to this day.- Spain conquered the region in the 16th century and established a Viceroyalty with Lima as the capital. Spain continued to rule the country until Peru formally proclaimed independence in 1821, a date which marked the end of colonial times.
Lima The Capital
A visit to Peru begins with Lima, one of the largest cities in South America. This bustling capital is home to the Museo Larco with it’s collection of pre Columbian art, and also the Museo de la Nacion, which traces the anthropological history of Peru. Travelers can enjoy the cosmopolitan Miraflores and San Isidro districts of the city, as well as the magnificent Cathedral of Lima and San Francisco Convent.
Cusco and Machu Picchu
Breathtaking, both literally and figuratively, is the best way to describe the UNESCO world heritage town of Cusco. And there are other amazing sites to see in the vicinity, including Sacsayhuaman and Ollantaytambo. Time to rest is usually needed when you arrive Cusco in order to accustom your body to the 11,000 feet altitude. Machu Picchu, however, is somewhat more comfortable at an altitude of 8,000 feet.
Machu Picchu is considered one of the seven New Wonders of the World.
It means Old Mountain, and its name is derived from the location of the Inca citadel. According to historians, the architectural complex was built in the 15th century by the Inca Pachacutec. Machu Picchu was linked to the entire Inca Empire via the Qhapaq Nan, the most famous of the many roads built by the Incas. The citadel is divided into two areas: the agricultural area consisting of terracing and the urban section serving administrative purposes.
A traveler can access Machu Picchu for a full day excursion leaving Cusco by train in the morning and going to Aguas Calientes. After taking the shuttle bus up to the site, you will spend a few hours exploring the ruins and admiring the amazing architecture and dramatic scenery. Then you will return down to the station to take the train back to Cusco in the afternoon.
Adventurous travelers can spend the night in nearby Aguas Calientes, which offers a large selection of hotels and lodges. There is also a deluxe hotel with a few rooms actually up at the site itself, which would enable you to enjoy a very quiet visit without the crowds. For hikers the trails down to Machu Picchu will provide the experience of a lifetime (especially for your knees!). There are many hiking options available, ranging from one day to nine days. All require professional guides and because of heavy demand the number of permits each year is limited. Arrangements should be planned long ahead of time, especially in peak season when permits could be sold out. Given the altitude and uneven terrain hiking can be quite a challenge, but to many it is well worth it!
The Andes to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa
An interesting way to extend your stay in Peru is by traveling through the mountains to Puno, Lake Titicaca, and Arequipa (White City).
Puno – While it is possible to fly from Cusco to Puno, the most scenic and interesting option is crossing the mountains by bus, stopping along the way to see the glaciers and local merchants selling wares along the road. You will visit the Wiracocha temple in the town of Raqchi, and also in Andahuaylillas stop in to see “The Sistine Chapel of Peru”.
From Puno, one can take a tour on Lake Titicaca and visit the floating islands of the Uros Indians and visit Sillustani, the pre-Inca cemetery on the shores of Lake Umayo. There are tombs built above ground in tower like structures called chullpas. The tombs are vestiges of the Qulla people.
Arequipa is nestled between the coast and the southern highlands. Peru’s ashlar (white stone) city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which combines colonial period architecture with beautiful countryside vistas. Small traditional villages, snow capped mountains, volcanoes such as the Misti, deep canyons (Cotahuasi and Colca), small coves, and beaches all add to the magic of the region.
The Amazon Basin and the Rainforest
In order to visit this area, travelers have many choices and must travel by plane. From Puerto Maldonado, a boat transfer will take you to the ecotourism lodge Posada Amazonas. Another choice is to go to Manu National Park where boats run along the Manu River, passing dense Amazonian jungle that is home to jaguars, black caimans and spider monkeys. Iquitos is the largest city of the Amazon Region with nearly 400 000 inhabitants. Its period architecture from the turn of the 20th century is a reflection of the prosperity enjoyed during the boom years of rubber production.