Discovering five facets of Peru
The legacy of the country’s complex history and Peru’s welcoming spirit really linger, discovers first-time visitor, A&K’s Faye Hoskins
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Peru offers a vibrant culture, a heritage of Incan ruins, a rich ethnic diversity, world-renowned food scene, and gorgeous guesthouses, along with exceptional artisan-made goods.
Moray and Maras are often referred to as Peru’s hidden gems. The beautiful circular Inca terraces of Moray are located 3,500 metres above sea level and off the tourist trail. Built from stone and in immaculate condition, Moray was believed to have been an experimentation space in which Incas could test various crops at different levels (each layer has its microclimate). Alternative theories suggest it was the site of a water temple. Whatever happened in this amphitheatre-like site, spend time walking around the enormous earthen bowl before moving onto Maras. On a hillside, near the town of Maras, are thousands of pre-Incan salt pools (pictured above, each now owned by local families), from which Peru’s famous pink salt is harvested. This trek yields spectacular rewards in terms of views, Instagram opportunities, and encounters with locals – not to mention salty snacks.
A&K experience: Explore Chinchero, Maras and Moray
Inca Terraces of Moray
Peru’s capital, Lima, is South America’s culinary capital. Lima’s food scene is diverse – the result of Incan heritage, Spanish influence, and Japanese immigration – but the cuisine produced is always big on flavour and driven by sustainability. Three of the city’s eateries – Central, Maido, and Astrid y Gaston – regularly appear in the world’s best restaurant lists. Most foodies have a love affair with Peru’s national dish, ceviche – raw fish marinated in citrus and salt – and its typical accompaniment, pisco sour cocktails (pisco with lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, and angostura bitters). While in Lima, travellers can learn how to prepare ceviche and pisco sours with Peruvian chef Penélope Alzamora – who has worked with Gastón Acurio of Astrid y Gaston fame – in her elegant kitchen in Barranco.
A&K experience: Learn how to make ceviche
For peace seekers
Rural, remote, and among ruined Inca terraces, Explora Valle Sagrado is set in Peru’s Sacred Valley, en route to Machu Picchu. The sultry natural scent of wood seduces travellers upon entrance to the Scandi-chic accommodation. It brings to mind the cosiest of ski lodges with its roaring fires and butterfly chairs. The hotel’s spa – now called the Pumacahua Bath House – was once a 17th-century manor house, owned by a local freedom-fighting hero, and will have you unlacing your hiking boots for a while. But at this explora, which is located at 2,900 metres above sea level, it’s all about the views and surrounding valleys. On duty, there are more than 20 guides who lead expeditions into the wilderness, guarantee captivating treks into the landscape, and facilitate opportunities to engage with local people and their customs.
Explora Sacred valley
A peaceful place once the Machu Picchu-bound tourists on the Inca Trail have passed through each morning, the town of Ollantaytambo is full of vibrant textiles and friendly locals. It’s the best surviving example of Inca city planning and has been inhabited since the 13th century. The narrow cobblestone streets are framed by irrigation channels, which carry water from mountaintop to town, and quaint buildings. Locals welcome travellers into their homes, where women weave naturally dyed colourful cloth made from llama and alpaca wool. Although it’s mesmerising to watch the weavers at work, the town’s ruins are also must-sees: there’s a massive Inca fortress, a temple, and a towering edifice known as the Wall of the Six Monoliths.
For modern-day Hiram Binghams
No trip to Peru would be complete without a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu. For a rolling journey that nearly outshines arrival at the royal Incan retreat, travel in style aboard the Belmond Hiram Bingham rail service. However, the more adventurous can trek the Inca Trail to get to Machu Picchu, traversing the countryside, enjoying the wild Andean view, cut-stone ruins, and herds of curious llama. Shrouded by mist, flanked by foliage, and perched above the Urubamba River in a narrow saddle between two peaks, Machu Picchu has been on most travellers’ wish lists since the moment Yale-sponsored explorer Bingham stumbled upon it in 1911. Visits are enlivened by knowledgeable guides, who’ll take you off the very beaten track to discover the best photo-spots.
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