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The route to Machu Picchu has gotten smoother, thanks to two hotels outside Cuzco. Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel and Wellness resort is built on a 17th century hacienda and has one of Peru’s largest spas. Treatments feature coca leaves and camu camu, a fruit from the Amazon. To prepare for a trek, check into the Hotel Rio Sagrado and book an altitude acclimatizer massage at Spa Mayu Wilka. Photo courtesy of Aranwa Hotels. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.
By Mariana TschudiEveryone in Lima knows Canta Rana—some consider it the best cevichería in the city. The owners’ son has a spot in the main market called Canta Ranita where the ceviche is just as good, and even though it’s a stall, the place has tons more personality. I especially like their sudado [a fish dish made with lime and tomatoes]. Mercado el Capullo, Jr. Unión 147. Photo by David Nicolas Giraldo. This appeared in the July/August 2012 issue.
Cap your trip to Machu Picchu with a pisco sour on the Orient-Express train ride back to Cuzco. After boarding this luxury train for dinner and the return journey, everyone meets in the bar car for a drink. Live music, the rocking of the train, and the excitement from just experiencing Machu Picchu is a buzz to remember. Soon all the passengers are dancing as they travel through the steep mountainsides under the stars. —Lauren Maggard This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image: courtesy of Orient-Express
Trek through the Andes to the 15th-century Incan ruins of Machu Picchu on the lesser-traveled Salkantay Trail. Four luxurious lodges—three with outdoor hot tubs at the foot of craggy peaks, the last in a lush avocado orchard—will serve as your accommodations. At the first, Salkantay Lodge, men from the Quero area give offerings to Pachamama (Mother Earth) to ensure your safe passage. Along the 39-mile guided hike, you pass icefalls and glacial lakes, climb up mountain passes circled by Andean condors, and walk through coffee plantations and orchid-filled forests. Then, from the Incan archaeological site of Llactapata, you’ll spot mystical Machu Picchu in the distance. —Kelly Lack Mountain Lodges of Peru, (877) 491-5261. From $2,560 for a seven-day trip, including meals and lodging. This appeared in the July/August 2011 issue. Photo by Alex E Priomos. See more hut-to-hut hikes.
The legendary Pisac Marketplace on Sundays. Just a short taxi ride from Cusco, this place is filled with everything you can imagine. It is split into two areas, one being the art, textiles & souvenirs, and the other side being a food market where the locals bring their produce to sell/trade. There are vendors who serve boiled or fried corn with seasoning, which is excellent! Don't be surprised to see a cow head sitting next to a bowl full of fresh fish. You can easily walk away from this place with all of the gifts you would want to bring home for your loved ones. After visiting the market, check out the ruins of the old fortress & terraces which overlook the town.
This store is just a little ways off the main street of the San Blas arts district in Cusco, but definitely worth the diversion. Inside, funky, modern jewelry and handbags are mixed with neatly hung vintage dresses, shirts, and jackets. The walls are covered with artistically placed magazine pages that reflect the style of the wares for sale. It's one of those stores where you go in thinking "oh I could get a souvenir here" and end up buying one or more of the beautiful bobbles for yourself.
In the San Blas district of Peru, was the restaurant Pachapapa. This was by far the best meal we had in Peru. It was nestled in a courtyard and all the dishes were prepared in an oven next to us. Quite spectacular. DELICIOUS!
On the way from Arequipa to the Colca Canyon, the road traverses the altiplano--an average of 4000 m/12000 ft above sea level. Wild vicuña and their domesticated llama cousins kept us company in the thin air, with snowcapped volcanoes on the bright, cold horizon. To know who belongs to whom, the Quechua-speaking herders adorn their llamas with red-yarn 'earrings.' Vicuña wool, once the exclusive property of Inca royalty, is gathered only once every few years; each animal produces only about a pound of wool a year. A few decades ago, only a few thousand were left in the wild; fortunately, they've recovered and still thrive on the Andean plateaus.
By Mariana TschudiAmorAmar is by far the chicest spot in the neighborhood. Part of the dining room is open-air, and an art gallery and a florist shop are on-site. The menu is half Peruvian classics and half fusion-y dishes. Their pisco sours with aji amarillo (yellow chile peppers) and milhoja puff pastries, layered with chocolate and lúcuma, a local fruit, are fantastic. Jr. García y García 175, 51/(0) 1619-9595, amoramar.com. Photo by David Nicolas Giraldo. This appeared in the July/August 2012 issue.
When I decided to go to Peru, I knew there would be plenty of handicrafts to capture my attention. I even packed a collapsible tote bag to lug my purchases back home. In Lima, I stayed at a hotel in Miraflores. On my first venture out into the city, I hadn’t even walked a couple of blocks before I stumbled upon a huge open-air native Peruvian arts and crafts market—the Miraflores Arts and Crafts market, the largest of its kind in Lima. Vendors, all dressed in native costume, had spread out their goods and wares all over the plaza area. On the periphery were vendors selling from stalls. Each of the stalls had a sign indicating where the vendor was from, so it was good place to start learning about the craft specialties of the various regions of Peru. I’m not good with rummaging through a thousand items to potentially find the one thing I like, so I was just about to leave the market when I heard the sound of music. I was in Lima on Peru’s Independence Day, which is a national holiday, so the market was extra festive with music and dancers performing in the plaza. I quickly left the vendors behind, found a spot to sit down and listen to the music, and watched the world go by. If you’re not in walking distance to the market, you can easily get there by taxi.
By Mariana TschudiSome of the best bands in Peru play at this dive bar. It also holds an annual film festival. This year, I’m applying to screen my short film about the Peruvian sea, Madre Mar [Mother Sea]. Avenida Bolognesi 307, 51/(0) 1247-1012, lanoche.com.pe. Photo by David Nicolas Giraldo. This appeared in the July/August 2012 issue.
One of my favorite places when I visited Peru in April was the famous Lake Titicaca in Puno. At 12,500 feet above sea level and nestled between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. The lake has a fascinating history: Incan mythology cites it as the place from which the rest of the world emerged. On any trip to Peru a visit to Lake Titicaca is a must-do, and make sure to wake up early enough one morning to catch a beautiful sunrise over the lake.
Mancora, a tiny fishing village in northern Peru near the border of Ecuador, is one of the most beautiful beach towns I've ever visited. Walk the beach and you pass fancy boutique hotels, old wooden fishing boats, vendors hawking coconut water and jewelery, and kite surfers gearing up to fly over the waves. At the end of the day, locals of all ages gather on the beach to play football (soccer).
Cusco's Choco Museo did not disappoint. Although the aromas are a bit overwhelming upon entry, the place itself is simple and inviting. There is a kitchen in the back where you can pay to learn how to make your own chocolate treats. There is plenty to buy and a room of educational tidbits about chocolate's origins. We ended up buying out half the gift shop and then staying for the best mocha and hot (Mayan) chocolate. We couldn't find it anywhere else so naturally, we returned a few days later to enjoy another cup on the balcony overlooking the plaza. (If you don't want something heavy or containing dairy, I highly recommend trying their chocolate tea! Delicious.)
While visiting Peru last year, my husband and I were lucky enough to be in Pisac for the weekly farmer's market held every Sunday. During the market, local Peruvians meet to buy and barter produce, bread, and other supplies they need for the week. The market also caters to tourists as well, offering handmade crafts, food, and drinks that are fun to try. I was struck by the variety of products for sale, probably the most surprising of which was this powdered dye. I loved the bright colors, which I thought perfectly summed up the color and liveliness of the Pisac market and Peru generally.
With limited time, we had to forego hiking the Inca trail to get to Machu Picchu. The alternative? Taking the train down the Urubamba river valley. The ride from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes, at the base of the mountain crowned by the ruined Inca citadel, has got to be one of the most scenic train trips anywhere. You start at a frosty 12,000 feet, dropping almost 6,000 feet by the time you arrive at the end of the line a few hours later, chugging past terraced farms and mountain fortresses. Bromeliads and orchids along this tributary of the Amazon let you know: you have arrived in the jungle. Perched above, at about 8000 feet, is Machu Picchu.
By Mariana TschudiMari Solari is one of the foremost authorities on native folk art. She has the most amazing showroom. It’s part shop, part museum. If you’re lucky, she will show you some of her private collection. Jr. Cajamarca 212, 51/(0) 1477-4629. Photo by David Nicolas Giraldo. This appeared in the July/August 2012 issue.
Orient-Express has turned an 18th-century convent into a hotel, preserving the courtyards and frescoes. Native experts designed bath products that use coca leaves and white sage from Lake Titicaca. From $595. 51/(0) 16-108-300. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
When you're in Cuzco, one of the best ways to spend a day is to visit the picturesque Andean village of Pisac, especially on a Sunday when the town holds its weekly farmer's market. Villagers from miles around travel to the Sunday market to barter and sell their produce and handmade goods, everything from fresh vegetables and pungent cheeses to colorful dyes and handmade alpaca goods. You can also enjoy delicious snacks like this freshly-baked bread that's so hot it burns your fingers, and it tastes even better than it looks. The easiest way to get to the Pisac Sunday market is to hire a taxi in Cuzco, which costs around $15 each way; those on a budget can take the local bus for only $2 each way. The road to Pisac travels through the Andes and looks out over the beautiful Urubamba Valley, so make sure to stop along the way for a birdseye view of the region's fertile farmlands surrounded by the glorious Andes mountains.
...watching condors soaring on morning thermals over the Colca gorge, deeper than the Grand Canyon...one of the highlights of Peru. This area is becoming more visited, but it's still a bit off the beaten path--no airport or train station near here--you have to take a 4x4 or a bus from Arequipa, several hours away over the llama-strewn altiplano on a rough road, surrounded by snowcapped volcanoes and an almost lunar-landscape. At the highest point, you go over Patapampa pass, about 16,000 ft./4910 m. above sea-level--be careful if altitude sickness has been an issue for you...
An easy 25-minute flight from Cuzco and you can be in the river town of Puerto Maldonado, the start of a truly unforgettable experience in the Peruvian Amazon. A stay at the amazing Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica ecolodge was my first jungle experience and one of our best memories from a trip to Peru. You'll begin your Ikaterra stay with a relaxing 45-minute boat ride down the Madre de Dios River to the ecolodge. The lodge offers plush accommodations, delicious food, and a wide range of activities for all interests and fitness levels: guided rainforest tours, either by day or by night; a relaxing canoe ride to the one-of-a-kind Lake Sandoval, with its howler monkeys, anacondas, macaws, and giant river otters; a day trip to a traditional Peruvian Ese Eja village; or a twilight boat ride to watch the daytime animals head to bed and the nighttime ones come alive. But by far my favorite activity at the Inkaterra was a canopy walk through the treetops 100 feet off the ground. Never one to fear heights, I found the climb to the top of the first 100-foot tower exhilarating. As I traipsed through the canopy on gently swaying bridges, I couldn't believe I was eye to eye with howler monkeys and exotic birds, seeing them first-hand in their natural habitat. If you visit the Peruvian Amazon, I highly recommend a stay at the Inkaterra, and if you do nothing else while you're there, make time for the unforgettable canopy tour.
We were among the first 50 or so people into Machu Picchu in the morning and the fog completely set the scene. It really made you feel like you were in a lost city and helped you understand how it could have been lost for so long.
By Mariana TschudiLucia de la Puente is the gallery where every up-and-coming Peruvian artist wants an exhibition. Some of the top modern artists in the country, such as Ramiro Llona and Mariella Agois, show here. Paseo Sáenz Peña 206, 51/(0) 1477-9740, gluciadelapuente.com. Photo by David Nicolas Giraldo. This appeared in the July/August 2012 issue.
In Lima, Peru, near the National Stadium, is a huge, magically lit, water park where everyone goes to play in the water on hot summer nights.
It kind of smells like a butcher shop, but it is a real study in life in Cusco. People sell everything from wool hats and scarves to cheese and potatoes.
Its location on the edge of Lima’s financial district makes this hotel a magnet for business travelers. But fashionable locals gather at its bar, Insitu, for inventive pisco-spiked drinks mixed by Abel Castañeda. $565. 51/(0) 1201-5000. Photo courtesy of The Westin Lima Hotel & Convention Center. This appeared in the May 2013 issue.
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