EPISODE 3: Discover Peru

Machu Picchu

Any first-time visit to Peru would be incomplete without a trip the country’s undeniable symbol, Machu Picchu. This 15th-century Inca site sits 7,970 feet above sea level, against the iconic backdrop of a moss-covered peak, Huayna Picchu, rising into the clouds. It is Peru’s most visited attraction and a bucket list item for any avid traveler.
 
Machu Picchu is an epic sight to behold as travelers literally step back into time to discover this ancient wonderland. Perfectly preserved stone structures lay history out in front of your eyes as you wander the rooms and farming terraces, all with the magnificent setting of the towering Andes around you. Built on a mountain ridge overlooking the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu is just 50 miles from Cusco. Travelers wishing to explore its secrets have a wealth of options for getting there, depending on fitness level and how long they wish to stay.
 
For visitors who wish to see Machu Picchu in a day, there are trains that leave from Cusco, Urubamba or Ollantaytambo, either as a day trip or with an overnight in nearby Machu Picchu Pueblo. After arriving in Machu Picchu Pueblo, travelers have the option to get to Machu Picchu by bus, for about $20 roundtrip, or on foot along a 5-mile walking route. Note: The walking route involves mostly stairs and is recommended for physically fit travelers.
 
But one of the most popular, and rewarding, ways to visit Machu Picchu is to hike the Inca Trail, a historic mountain trail that leads from Cusco into the heart of the Andes. Travelers hiking the Classic Trek will spend four or five days traversing valleys, hills and mountain passes with plenty of archaeological sites along the way. After spending your days connecting with nature, and nights sleeping under the stars, it is pure magic to arrive at Machu Picchu as the sun peeks over Huayna Picchu, welcoming you back in time.

Click on the Agent Insight icon now to listen to a veteran agent's PRO tip about another stunning vantage point for Machu Picchu, in addition to Huayna Picchu.
 
Travel Essentials
For rail tickets visit http://www.perurail.com or http://incarail.com.
Tickets are $40, or $46 to include a hike of Huayna Picchu. Students are entitled to a 50 percent discount.

Please remind your clients that Passports are required for entry into Machu Picchu.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

There is no greater build up to the majesty of Machu Picchu than hiking the Inca Trail. The historic link between the city of Cusco and the “Lost City of the Incas” slips you out of this world and entirely into another, along a journey deep into the heart of the Andes, the culmination of which is a magnificent entrance through the Sun Gate on Machu Picchu Mountain.
 
The Inca Trail as it exists today consists of three overlapping trails; the Salkantay, Classic and One-Day. Most tourists will hike the Classic Inca Trail, a four-day trek that traverses through local settlements, Incan archaeological sites and into high altitudes with nothing but sweeping views of iconic, moss-covered peaks. A shorter option is available over two days and one night. The Salkantay Trek is the longest of the three routes, and by far the most challenging with the highest mountain pass. But whichever path you choose, it is sure to sweeten an already epic experience at one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
 
The Facts
The Classic Trail is about 28 miles in total.
To protect the trail from erosion only 500 people are allowed on it per day, 200 of which are trekkers, the rest being guides and porters.
 
Hikers do not have to be avid adventurers to complete the trail, but it helps to be in shape. The trek has several challenging sections and reaches an altitude of 13,600 feet. It is a good idea to arrive in Cusco a few days prior to your trek in order to acclimate to the conditions.
 
Travelers must have their passports to entire the Inca Trail. Have cash on hand to tip porters and guides, as well as purchase snacks along the way. Dress in layers, as temperatures change throughout the day and can become quite cold at night and at higher altitudes.
 
Please note that the Inca Trail closes every February for maintenance.

You can click on the Slideshow icon to see more majestic vantage points.

Lake Titicaca

At Peru’s Lake Titicaca, it’s almost as though you can touch the sky. Known as the world’s highest navigable lake, this gorgeous Andean paradise rises at 12,500 feet above sea level, and sitting on its shores makes you feel as if you’re bathing in the clouds.
 
Lake Titicaca rests on the border of Peru and Bolivia and is fed by five major rivers.

Visiting the lake from Peru, the best place to start is the town of Puno. Puno itself is steeped in Peruvian folklore, as Lake Titicaca was a sacred spot for the Incas. Legend has it the first Inca ruler, Manco Capac, was born here, and that this was the spot from which the world was created.

Today Puno has many places to explore and travelers will want to start with the Uros Islands, a group of about 80 islands made from floating reeds. The people of Uros formed the islands from reeds that grow along the banks of the lake. The islands themselves move and can often be seen floating along the surface.

Taquile is another must for visitors to Lake Titicaca. This hilly island, about 28 miles from Puno, was used as a prison during the Spanish Colony. In 1970 it was handed over to the Taquile people. Archaeological sites that pre-date Inca times can be found on Taquile, and life on the island is relatively unchanged from how it has existed over the centuries.

A stop on the island of Amantani will also fascinate travelers, as it is populated by Quechua speakers. The six-square-mile island has two mountain peaks and roughly 4,000 inhabitants. There are no hotels on the island, but some families will open their homes to tourists for overnight stays and meals, which can be arranged through local tour guides.
 
Getting there
There are many ways for visitors to reach Lake Titicaca. There are daily flights from Arequipa, Cusco and Lima. Travelers can also take the Andean Explorer train from Cusco. Regular buses also make the trip from Cusco and Arequipa. The trip is between seven and nine hours by bus.  

Peru's Amazon

While the spotlight of Peru shines brightly on Machu Picchu and Cusco, travelers would be remiss to gloss over the Peruvian Amazon, which covers more than half of the entire country. In fact, Peru has the second largest portion of the Amazon after Brazil, making it one of the most important and identifying features of the country.
 
There are many ways to explore the Peruvian Amazon, but one of the most popular and unique ways is to cruise the Amazon River aboard a small ship. There is much to see during the region’s two seasons, and both offer rich diversity in terms of plants and animal life, including the Amazon River’s rare and beautiful pink dolphins.

  • From December through May is high-water season
  • Low-water season lasts from June through November.

Many companies offer small-ship cruising down Peru’s Amazon River, but most itineraries will have similar offerings.

Click on the Agent Insight icon to listen to another travel pro share her thoughts on how an Amazon cruise is perfect for those with only a week to spend.

Most cruises will depart from the city of Iquitos, which is a port city and the gateway to the villages of the northern Amazon. You will also have the opportunity to explore the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, which spans more than 5 million square acres. The Reserve is locally known as the Mirrored Forest for the stunning reflections of the surrounding jungles in the glass-like water.

Many ships allow for kayaking the Pucate River to explore the wildlife that flourishes in the towering trees, like parrots, macaws and monkeys. Some itineraries will take travelers to the Yacapana Islands, or the Islands of the Iguanas, which are aptly named for their natural residents. Other itineraries include explorations and interactions with local tribes deep within the forest. Learn about medicinal plants from a local Shaman and immerse yourself in Peru’s mystic culture.
 
Whichever cruise company you choose, you are sure to have an unforgettable experience sailing Peru’s Amazonian arteries deep into the heart of the country.

Click the Client Insight icon to understand why this is a special place for many.

 

The Colca Canyon

Peru’s Colca Canyon, is one of Peru’s top attractions.  Located in the southern Arequipa region, about 100 miles from Arequipa, Colca Canyon is one of the world’s deepest, reaching a depth of 13,640 feet, more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The Andean valley is a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, peppered with pre-Inca history and towns founded in Spanish colonial times. These towns are still inhabited by members of the Collagua and Cabana cultures, who still practice the centuries-old traditions of cultivating the pre-Inca stepped terraces.
 
Tourists will typically arrive in the town of Chivay at the beginning of the canyon where there are hotels, hostels, handicrafts, restaurants and the not-to-be-missed hot springs. You can explore the valley while staying in various accommodations along the way, which range from high-end luxury like Las Casitas del Colca , to more budget like the Casa Andina Classic. The Colca Lodge is another great place, which has its own thermal baths and a small bar.  Adventurers can trek to the bottom of the canyon, as well, passing through mountains, valleys and thermal springs while camping at night.
 
While exploring Colca Canyon, be prepared to catch sights of breathtaking wildlife, from herds of vicunas, which are similar to llamas and alpacas, hummingbirds, eagles, and, of course, the Andean Condor.
 

The Nazca Lines

“Other worldly” may be the perfect way to describe Peru’s famous Nazca Lines, a series of hundreds of ancient geoglyphs that etch the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. This UNESCO World Heritage Site lies between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana, about 250 miles south of Lima. The Nazca Lines span an area of about 250 square miles of desert. 
 
The origin of these mysterious markings are said to have been created by the Nazca culture, a Pre-Incan civilization, somewhere between 500 BC and 500 AD. Their exact purpose has never been discovered. The designs range from simple shapes to detailed depictions of monkeys, fish, sharks, birds and other animals, as well as trees and flowers. The largest of the figures are more than 660 feet across.
 
To visit the Nazca lines, travelers can fly from Pisco Airport to Nazca. Pisco is about 30 minutes from the town of Paracas, where there is ample accommodation.
 
The only true way to appreciate the size and scope of the Lines is to see them from the air. Flights can be booked through a tour operator. If terra firma is more your speed, there is also an observation tower along the Panamerican highway, which overlooks three of the figures.
 
Though the Nazca Lines are the star attraction of the area, should you have time to kill consider exploring the Cemetery of Chauchilla. The cemetery was looted of its treasures over the years, but the grave robbers left behind mummies which can be seen today all over the ground. It is the only archaeological site in Peru with ancient mummies in their original graves. 
 
 

Lima - Cosmopolitan Adventures

Though Peru is steeped in centuries of tradition and history, Lima, the country’s capital is as vibrant and energetic as any top cosmopolitan destination of the 21st century.
 
Lima will without a doubt be your first stop in modern Peru. The city has a population of almost 10 million, making it the third largest city in the Americas after Sao Paulo and Mexico City. Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, Lima is naturally chock full of historic sites and architectural marvels as well as world class museums, but its gastronomy, hotels and nightlife allow it to compete on a scale with Latin America’s other major urban destinations. And with its location overlooking the Pacific Ocean, travelers have a taste of both city and sea.
 
Lima has rose through the ranks of the culinary world, gaining attention from publications like Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveler and the Economist, all of which have named Peru a rising star in the world of gastronomy, at which Lima is the epicenter. Whereas in the past, travelers would head straight for Cusco to begin their historic journey, now thousands of travelers visit Lima every year purely to explore its cuisine.

Click on the Agent Insight icon to hear from another experienced agent share why spending time in Lima is one of her top-three recommendations to her clients, and why.
 
Like other Latin American cities, nightlife sizzles in Lima. Lovers of jazz, criollo, Latin or rock music will find a venue to fit their ears in Lima. For the best after-party scenes, visit neighborhoods Miraflores or Barranco, which become electric well into the wee hours, whether your scene is a high-intensity all-night club or a more authentic peña performance at a criollo music club. 
 
The neighborhood of San Isidro is Lima’s financial world. This district has some of the best boutique shopping, hotels, international restaurants and sophisticated cocktail bars. It also houses the “Olivar Park”, a colonial olive tree plantation dating from colonial times.  It is a green lung for the city where a wide variety of birds reside.
 
Checking in in-style is easy in Lima, as well, with a wealth of modern and youthful hotels that cater to the next generation of traveler. Neighborhoods to consider are Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro, where popular names like Hilton, Westin, Belmond and JW Marriott doting the skyline. Going boutique is also a great way to see Lima, as well. Consider hotels like Hotel B and Quinta Miraflores.
 
Whatever fits your cosmopolitan style, you are sure to find it on the streets of Lima. Though Peru is steeped in centuries of tradition and history,

Lima, the country’s capital is as vibrant and energetic as any top cosmopolitan destination of the 21st century.
 
Lima will without a doubt be your <_italic>

first stop in modern Peru. The city has a population of almost 10 million, making it the third largest city in the Americas after Sao Paulo and Mexico City. Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, Lima is naturally chock full of historic sites and architectural marvels as well as world class museums, but its gastronomy, hotels and nightlife allow it to compete on a scale with Latin America’s other major urban destinations. And with its location overlooking the Pacific Ocean, travelers have a taste of both city and sea.
 


Lima has rose through the ranks of the culinary world, gaining attention from publications like

Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveler and the

Economist, all of which have named Peru a rising star in the world of gastronomy, at which Lima is the epicenter. Whereas in the past, travelers would head straight for Cusco to begin their historic journey, now thousands of travelers visit Lima every year purely to explore its cuisine.

Click on the Agent Insight icon to hear from another experienced agent share why spending time in Lima is one of her top-three recommendations to her clients, and why.
 
Like other Latin American cities,

nightlife sizzles in Lima. Lovers of jazz, criollo, Latin or rock music will find a venue to fit their ears in Lima. For the best after-party scenes, visit neighborhoods

Miraflores or Barranco, which become electric well into the wee hours, whether your scene is a high-intensity all-night club or a more authentic peña performance at a criollo music club.
 


The neighborhood of San Isidro is Lima’s financial world. This district has some of the best boutique shopping, hotels, international restaurants and sophisticated cocktail bars. It also houses the

“Olivar Park”, a colonial olive tree plantation dating from colonial times. It is a green lung for the city where a wide variety of birds reside.
 
Checking in in-style is easy in Lima, as well, with a wealth of modern and youthful hotels that cater to the next generation of traveler.

Neighborhoods to consider are Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro, where popular names like Hilton, Westin, Belmond and JW Marriott doting the skyline. Going boutique is also a great way to see Lima, as well. Consider hotels like

Hotel B and

Quinta Miraflores.
 
Whatever fits your cosmopolitan style, you are sure to find it on the streets of Lima.

Cusco Up Close

High up in Peru’s Southern Sierras sits a time capsule of a city, perfectly presenting a snapshot of the cross-section of indigenous, colonial and contemporary Peru. Known as the jumping off point for tours to Machu Picchu, the city of Cusco is a destination all its own, worthy of a dedicated visit.

Click on the Agent Insight icon to understand why Cusco is 'not to be missed' .
 
In addition to being the epicenter of Peru’s indigenous Quechua culture, Cusco is also a perfect example of the Spanish influence that pervades the country, as well as a burgeoning modern city with lots to offer the 21st-century traveler. Colonial buildings sit side by side with contemporary restaurants and bars, all built atop Inca walls that line the plaza as Inca descendants walk by still dressed in traditional garb.

Click on the second Agent Insight icon now to understand why the opportunity to 'walk the streets the ancients walked' is worth planning for.
 
Near Cusco travelers can find a wealth of archaeological sites, the most well-known is Sacsayhuaman, the site of a 1536 battle where Pizarro’s men met the Incas head-on. There is also a wealth of hotel options in Cusco that covers all budgets, from five-star luxury to backpacker hostels. And night owls will have their share of late-night playgrounds from which to choose, as Cusco is known for its energetic and nightly scene around the Plaza de Armas.

Fast Facts
Cusco sits at about 11,000 feet above sea level, so altitude sickness can be a concern. The best way to beat altitude sickness is transferring to the Sacred Valley immediately after arriving to Cusco Airport and acclimatizing for a couple of days there. If travelers are planning to hike the Inca Trail from Cusco it is best to arrive in the city a few days prior to acclimate.
 
There are daily flights to and from Lima, Arequipa and Puerto Maldonado. LATAM Airlines have the largest fleet of aircraft. Other domestic airlines include AVIANCA, Peruvian Airlines and LC Peru among others.


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