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Insiders Guide to Peru

Rainforest, coastal desert and high altiplano — Peru’s landscapes are spectacularly diverse and alive with colour, wildlife and natural wonders.

There’s a 3,000-year-old history to match, just waiting to be discovered. Remarkable archaeological relics and ancient treasures fill the museums while mysterious Incan ruins dot the countryside and scores of towns and villages teem with coloured textiles piled high in market squares while colonial churches and terracottarooved houses frame the views. For a unique snapshot of this mesmerising country, be guided by the following favourite recommendations. 

Lima

Peru’s vibrant capital, the “City of Kings”, is awash with preColumbian ruins and relics, Spanish colonial cathedrals and grand residences as well as a lip-smacking cuisine that owes much to its multi-cultural influences. Its unique position sandwiched between the Andes and the Pacific Coast gives it its unusually mild, and dry, climate – perfect for days of exploration. 

Do

Bike and tapas

Pedal your way through the barrios of Miraflores, San Isidro and Barranco soaking up the street vibe along the way and discovering the flavours, colours, aromas and stories behind Peru’s renowned cuisine. Taste local seafood and traditional dishes like causa peruana, lomo saltado and picarones for a sweet finish. Wash it down with a craft beer or a pisco sour.  

Dine

Central

A regular on the world’s top restaurant lists, Central is steeped in Peru’s culinary heritage. Chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pía León, an extraordinary husband-and-wife team, have a deep commitment to sustainable dining and focus their menu on the finest ingredients from land and sea. Imaginatively plated dishes and innovative flavour combinations add to the drama of the degustation experience here. Be sure to book and settle in for a feast to remember.   

Stay

Hotel B

The arty vibe of the Barranco barrio envelops Hotel B, Lima’s only Relais & Châteaux accredited lodging. The thoughtfully restored Belle Époque mansion has been tastefully converted from a glamorous summer residence to a palatial boutique hotel where hundreds of artworks adorn the walls. Boasting just 17 rooms, the décor is sophisticated and welcoming and is the perfect base for exploring nearby boutiques, museums and churches on foot.  

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Las Pallas

Artisan handicrafts and one-of-a-kind Peruvian artworks are at the heart of British expat Mari Solari’s gem of a boutique in Barranco. Working with some of the best artisans in the Andes and Amazon basin, Mari brings beautiful, colourful pieces of folk art and jewellery to the world at the same time showcasing the intricate techniques practised by native artisans.  

Amazon 

Representing a staggering 60 per cent of the Peruvian landmass, the Amazonian rainforest is an area of extraordinary biodiversity, some of the most biodiverse on Earth. Hundreds of species of birds, mammals, butterflies, reptiles, fish and flowering plants occupy this rare natural wonderland and local naturalists will share their fascinating insights on rainforest explorations. 

Do

Canopy Walk

Thirty metres above the forest floor, stroll the canopy walk at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica and discover a perfect vantage point for sighting the resident wildlife – colourful toucans, woodpeckers at work, the beautiful trogon with its irridescent hues, monkeys and the three-toed sloth. As you wander, learn from your guide about the interaction between flora and fauna at the various levels of the forest and their importance in the rainforest ecosystem.   

Dine

Flavours of the Amazon

Inspired by the tropical flavours of the Amazon, meals and beverages at Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica are prepared with fresh local ingredients. A breakfast speciality here is tacacho, a popular dish in the Amazonas region, which consists of grilled plantains mashed with salt, lard and tiny pieces of pork rind served up with vegetables and chorizo on the side. Muy delicioso!

Stay

Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica

Pristine, remote and yet easily accessible, Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica is located on the banks of Peru’s Madre de Dios River, a tributary of the Amazon near the borders with Bolivia and Brazil. A slow boat ride through the rainforest delivers you to this unique eco-lodge where you bed down in thatched wooden cabañas which exude a rustic luxe vibe. Beds are draped in soft mosquito nets and a hammock beckons in your private siesta lounge.

Sacred Valley

Once the epicentre of the Inca Empire, Peru’s Urubamba Valley is still considered sacred by the locals. Dotted with spectacular ruins and archaeological sites, remote farming communities and weaving villages which have changed little in generations, the valley also boasts a rich heritage of ancestral customs and traditions. Its terraced hills and valleys are beautifully scenic and provide a playground for both adventurous and cultural travellers.  

Do

Trek with llamas

Discover ancestral trails in the Sacred Valley on a hike with a difference. Meet your specialist guide at Chinchero, a cultural heritage site, and accompanied by llamas and alpacas you’ll hike through the countryside along ancient paths capturing impressive mountain views along the way. An alfresco lunch set against a stunning background of mountains and glaciers is a well-earned reward.

Dine

High altitude picnic 

Huaypo Lake is a crystal-clear high altitude lake surrounded by breathtaking mountain scenery – the perfect spot for a picnic. Recline on locally woven cushions and savour the ultimate alfresco lunch before being visited by a local shaman, or witchdoctor, who will read your fortune in the coca leaves.

From on high

Hike or zip-line to a high-adrenalin lunch at Sky Lodge where you perch in a transparent pod that clings to a granite slope 600 metres above the Urubamba Valley. Dine on local delicacies as you gaze over the stunning mountain landscape, down into the raging Urubamba river below and in the distance the Hiram Bingham train as it winds its way towards Machu Picchu. Those prone to vertigo should reconsider.

Stay

Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba 

Inspired by Peru’s history and local traditions, this charming boutique hotel is peacefully positioned against a breathtaking backdrop of the Andes mountains. Interiors richly inspired by the country’s Spanish colonists and its pre-Columbian roots, the hotel is reminiscent of a grand hacienda with high ceilings, wooden beams, terracotta floors and antique furniture with splashes of colour in the soft furnishings. The restaurant dishes up tasty fare sourced from the hotel’s own organic farm and the all organic Mayu Spa offers welcome respite with Andean hot stone massages and treatments infused with freshly picked herbs from the garden.

Cusco 

Gateway to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, and at an altitude of 3,400 metres, Cusco is a place to take things slowly. Discover its rich tapestry of Spanish and Quechua influences as you wander the cobbled streets and alleyways through the Plaza de Armas, into the atmospheric San Blas neighbourhood whose streets are lined with artists’ studios and beyond to the Incan fortress of Sacsayhuaman.

Do

Photo tour with photographer

Want to get the most out of your holiday snaps? Join a professional photographer in Cusco and wander through the Cusco streets receiving technical advice along the way and gaining a unique insight into the city through the lens of a local. You’ll be taken to some of the most photogenic spots in the city, the most colourful markets and instructed how to frame the perfect shot. 

Dine

Kion Peruvian Chinese

Kion Peruvian Chinese has become one of the country’s favourite cuisines, taking its influence from the Cantonese who came to Peru in the mid-late 19th and early 20th centuries to work the sugar and cotton plantations and mine guano. The interiors of elegant Kion invoke 1950s Hong Kong while the menu showcases unexpected highlights of this popular cuisine.

Stay

Palacio Nazarenas, A Belmond Hotel 

Built on Inca foundations, this elegant hotel is set around cloistered courtyards within a restored 17th-century palace and convent. Original Inca stonework is cleverly blended with colonial frescoes and Spanish-inspired artworks to deliver a stylish bolthole in this remarkable city. Oxygen-enriched rooms, an outdoor heated pool and Hypnôze Spa all make this a welcoming haven after days of discovery.  

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San Blas 

Stroll uphill from Cusco’s main square and you’ll discover the artisan’s quarter of San Blas. Full of galleries and handicraft stores, watch artists at work and seek out sculptures of religious icons as well as handmade musical instruments, jewellery, art and beautiful hand-knitted alpaca garments. 

Machu Picchu

Synonymous with Peru, the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu perched high on an Andean peak continue to inspire awe from all who visit. Said to have been the summer retreat of the Inca emperor Pachacutec, the site was famously rediscovered by American archaeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911 and the construction of its sophisticated dry-stone walls remains a mystery even today.  

Do

Locally-led Inca Trail

Gain a unique understanding of life in a local village as you are joined by ladies from Chinchero on a one-day walk along the Inca Trail. Marvel at ruins, cloud forest and mountainscapes along the way and hear, via your guide, what life is like in this magical part of Peru. Your experience empowers these local women and in turn gives them a unique view of the outside world.  

Dine 

Dinner on the rails

After a memorable day of discovery amidst the ruins of Machu Picchu, return to Cusco in old-world style aboard the elegant Hiram Bingham train. Sit down to dine on classic local flavours amidst gleaming wood-panelled interiors and shiny brass fittings as the stunning Sacred Valley scenery passes you by. And celebrate the vibrant South American spirit as local musicians and artists perform along the way. 

Lake Titicaca

Tucked between snow-capped mountains along the border of Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca is not only the world’s highest navigable lake at an elevation of 3,812 metres, it’s also one of the most beautiful. The lake is surrounded by reed beds and dotted with many islands, each of which has its own unique history. Visiting the colourful communities living on the islands provides a rare insight to the age-old traditions and customs practised by the Quechua-speaking locals.  

Do

Islands of Titicaca

The floating islands of the Uros Titino lake communities are an extraordinary phenomenon peculiar to Lake Titicaca where totora reeds are skilfully used to construct the islands using ancestral techniques. During a visit, meet the skilled craftsmen and expert weaver women who keep their islands afloat.  

Stay

Titilaka

Tucked away on a remote peninsula on the shores of Lake Titicaca is the superb Relais & Châteaux accredited Titilaka. 18 lake-facing rooms provide a sophisticated base for exploring the lake and its surroundings. Lofty interiors and floor-toceiling glass maximise the magnificent views with textiles from the local area injecting a splash of colour. The food here is topnotch with reimagined traditional and contemporary offerings inspired by the lake and its surroundings as well as an excellent wine list. 

 

See our Explore Peru itinerary or take a look at our range of Peru luxury holidays for more inspiration.

Eleven days from £7,315 per person based on two sharing and includes economy flights