A 14-Day Peru Itinerary
Written by: Ricky Strauss
Printed on: September 8, 2022
“Piranhas don’t eat human flesh. That concept got here from Hollywood,” our information Marcos advised us as we crossed the Amazon River in our small skiff to hunt for anacondas alongside the shoreline.
On our first day within the jungle, the air was moist and the solar was excessive. I used to be with my associates Patrick and Jordan—we’d all needed to journey to Peru for a very long time. And whereas the star attraction was the celebrated citadel of Machu Picchu, we had been additionally eager to go to the Amazon and expertise the serpentine community of tributaries that wind by the Peruvian jungle.
Our journey agent labored with the clothes shop Almaz Journeys to assist plan our journey. It was the proper itinerary: In 14 days, we traversed the fascinating nation, absorbing the spectacular Incan historical past, consuming marvelous pan-continental delicacies, and consuming many a pisco bitter alongside the best way. And we felt so welcomed by the Peruvians we met.
Days 1–3: Lima
We started our journey by flying on to Lima from Los Angeles on LATAM Airways on a straightforward in a single day flight.
Upon our arrival in Lima at 6:30 a.m., our pleasant English-speaking driver took us to Barranco, a vibrant neighborhood identified for its artwork.
We had an early check-in at Resort B, a luxurious seaside boutique lodge housed in a former colonial mansion. Vestiges of its earlier days embody tiled flooring, excessive ceilings, and transom home windows to seize the crosscurrent of ocean breezes. There’s a well-liked restaurant and rooftop bar on the property, and the room charge covers a bountiful buffet breakfast. (You can too order à la carte dishes off a menu that highlights the native delicacies.) Whereas Resort B is positioned at a considerably busy intersection, the home windows are double-paned, and its intimate décor offered a cushty respite for our brief two days within the metropolis.
Lima is a sprawling metropolis, and its western districts are positioned alongside the shores of the Pacific Ocean. However in contrast to the Atlantic coast of South America, these waters are frigid and never a spot you’ll discover sunbaked revelers buzzing bossa nova hits and splashing within the surf. The town’s historic middle is the place you’ll discover the grand Seventeenth- and 18th-century colonial structure it’s well-known for: The Spanish conquistadores—who ravaged many of the nation, destroying centuries-old cultures and forcefully changing Indigenous folks to Catholicism—created grand European-style squares and church buildings that rival these discovered of their homeland. There are two grand plazas right here—one that permits protests and rallies (Plaza San Martín) and one other that doesn’t (Plaza Mayor). Plaza Mayor was closed to vacationers on the time of our go to.
Two of the world’s greatest eating places are positioned in Lima. However in case you’re constrained by finances or lack the lead time to safe a reservation at Central or Maido (each extraordinary), there are numerous lesser-known spots that spotlight what makes Peruvian delicacies so particular. Within the elegant Miraflores district, there’s a restaurant known as La Mar that serves native seafood and specialty cocktails with distinctive Peruvian fruit juices.
Days 3–7: Iquitos
After a beautiful two days exploring Lima, we flew as much as Iquitos, a distant port city on the shores of the Amazon. Iquitos is reachable from Lima solely by boat or aircraft, as there are only a few roads within the jungle. There’s a paved roadway that connects Iquitos to Nauta, one other small river city on the shores of the Amazon. The journey from Iquitos to Nauta by automobile is 2 hours, versus a three-day boat journey because of the winding nature of the river.
I bought a style of essentially the most coveted jungle fruits offered within the markets: aguaje (from native palm timber), camu camu (which accommodates extra vitamin C than an orange), and maracuya (a spicy ardour fruit).
Our dwelling on the Amazon was the gorgeous Aqua Nera, a riverboat constructed to glide alongside the speeding river and discover its extra serene “blackwater” rivers, the smaller branches of river that derive their identify from the decaying leaves of vegetation that leach tannins into the water. Regardless of the identify, the water may be very clear. In response to our information, the alkaline nature of the water makes it good for the pores and skin and retains you wanting youthful and recent.
There are numerous species alongside the shoreline, together with elusive pink river dolphins and not-so-elusive faculties of fish. It took a while to grasp that the river isn’t a lethal soup of toxic creatures; upon our arrival, you couldn’t have gotten me to leap in for all of the camu camu on the earth. However after being educated over the subsequent few days, all of us loved a refreshing splash. (I admit this was earlier than our nature hike on dry land, the place I noticed some tiny toxic frogs and a tarantula as massive as a grapefruit.)
Aqua Nera has 20 visitor suites. A phenomenal fundamental gathering house on the highest deck has floor-to-ceiling home windows, a totally stocked bar, and an out of doors deck with a swimming pool and chaise longues. There’s a mini screening room and a recreation room with a billiard desk. The eating room is intimate and chic—breakfast is a day by day buffet, whereas lunches and dinners are served family-style at your desk. That is the place we first skilled an area delicacy known as paiche: an infinite river fish with a fragile texture and a wealthy, buttery style.
The sunshine alongside the Amazon modifications with the passing of clouds and solar. It’s not unusual for a fast torrential rainstorm to be instantly adopted by a rainbow after which good heat sunshine. We had been warned about mosquitoes, and any out of doors journey had us lathering on repellent, which helped tremendously. I emerged unscathed, with out a lot as a chew. Every morning and every afternoon, our unimaginable guides took us out on small electric-powered skiffs to discover numerous components of the river. Our actions included fishing for piranhas, bird-watching (there are over 575 species of birds within the Peruvian Amazon), and retaining our eyes peeled for sloths, caimans, and the fearsome anacondas.
Alas, regardless of our pursuits, we didn’t catch a glimpse of the latter aquatic predator. However we definitely tried and had a grand time alongside the best way assembly folks and studying about their lives alongside the fabled river. Within the evenings, again on the boat, we sipped pleasant pisco sours (a easy concoction of lime or lemon juice, sugar, and pisco blended with a single egg white and drizzled with Angostura bitters). The guides launched us to machin, which is a potent native beverage distilled from numerous jungle roots. It packs a punch and tastes moderately like cough syrup and Jägermeister.
All of the facilities aboard Aqua Nera, together with the bedding, are luxurious. The employees is accommodating, pleasant, and heat. After 4 nights on the ship, the visitors start to really feel like a household, and there was a goodbye celebration on our final night that felt like the tip of summer season camp. I couldn’t think about a extra intimate and particular journey. We left Aqua Nera feeling educated, energized, and enlightened.
On the morning of our departure, the vans took us to a manatee rehabilitation reserve on our means again up the street towards Iquitos airport. Manatees at one level thrived within the river and ate the plentiful water lettuce that accumulates on the tops of the bogs, serving to maintain the pure atmosphere in steadiness. However sadly, as a consequence of overfishing and poaching, these light creatures are in danger.
Days 7–10: Sacred Valley
From Iquitos, we flew again to Lima after which boarded one other flight to Cuzco, the previous capital metropolis of the Incan Empire. It takes a little bit of time to get used to the altitude, however most lodges have oxygen accessible for individuals who may want an additional increase. Our itinerary had us solely passing by Cuzco, as we had plans to spend a number of days within the Sacred Valley, a fertile farmland within the Andean highlands that encompasses a number of vital Incan websites, together with Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
Our dwelling right here was Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, a sprawling property with particular person casitas overlooking the spectacular mountain vary and the valley flooring under. Inkaterra is a lodge chain in Peru dedicated to sustainability—we stayed at a number of of its lodges throughout this leg of the journey. I notably loved the wood-burning range in my casita and the non-public out of doors terrace for sipping coca tea within the morning and stargazing at night time. Coca leaves have historically been brewed there to assist with altitude adjustment. Some folks advocate squishing the leaves collectively and letting them dissolve in your mouth to get a extra rapid impact, however I didn’t discover that obligatory.
We met our information Ramiro early the primary day and traveled means as much as Chinchero, a small city believed to be the legendary birthplace of the rainbow. We visited a women-run textile cooperative and discovered about their weaving strategies, which have been practiced for a whole lot of years.
After Chinchero, an journey information named Cesar took us on a mountain biking expedition by the Andean again roads into gorgeous nation. Snow-capped mountains framed the distant horizon (“The glaciers are melting,” Cesar sighed). Native farmers with herds of sheep and grazing llamas shared the street.
Quickly we discovered ourselves on the entrance of Moray, an Incan archaeological web site on a excessive plateau near the spectacular salt mines of Maras. We took lengthy a stroll alongside the terraced round depressions as soon as used to develop crops. It was a welcome respite after the bike journey—I’d needed to cease a number of occasions whereas driving uphill (keep in mind the altitude!)—and I used the chance to breathe within the crisp mountain air and catch my breath. (Placing the macho in Machu, I do know.)
We had been definitely prepared for our three-hour, eight-course lunch at Mil, a culinary expertise conceived by husband and spouse Virgilio Martínez and Pía León of Central fame. The couple makes use of components sourced from native environment, and it’s a panoramic culinary journey. The meals was phenomenal, and the presentation equally so. We elected to have the alcohol pairing, which actually elevated the meal, with Peruvian liquors and drinks distilled and fermented in-house. The choreography of the meal was spectacular, and we left lunch near 4 p.m. Suffice to say, nobody ate dinner that night, and I used to be greater than content material to relaxation within the room and get a superb night time’s sleep.
Our subsequent day within the Sacred Valley started with a kayak exploration on the placid waters of Waypo Lake. Apart from the geese, we had been the one ones out that morning exploring its mirrorlike floor. Following our kayak journey, we drove to a good looking grove beside the Urubamba River, the place we met a shaman, José, who helped information us in an providing to Pachamama (Mom Earth within the Quechuan dialect).
For our ritual that day, José ready a variety of choices to Pachamama, together with sweet, savory meals, liquor, artificial cash, and different treats that had been wrapped in a small fabric and buried within the floor. We recited a blessing and made needs. Afterward we had our futures learn within the coca leaves. Fortunate for us, all of us obtained a studying with the promise of excellent well being and prosperity. I requested Ramiro if the shaman all the time offered excellent news from the coca leaves. He stated not all the time, however that the shaman provides knowledge to assist soften the blow.
Quickly we had been toasting Pachamama and our shaman whereas consuming a picnic of recent greens and roast rooster, chased down with a chilly Cusqueña beer.
The spotlight of our journey to the Sacred Valley and our start line for Machu Picchu was our go to to Ollantaytambo, a village identified for its ruins encompassing a large stone fortress. As soon as the royal property for the Incan emperor Pachacuti, it’s a marvel of Incan stone engineering.
On the town, there’s a prepare station that connects you to Aguas Calientes, the city (and vacationer hub) on the entry level to Machu Picchu. We had dinner at El Albergue, an inn and restaurant proper off the tracks. On the prepare to Aguas Calientes, which hugs the Urubamba River, we watched the panorama change from drier mountainous terrain right into a verdant jungle. The views are spectacular—attempt to go whereas the solar continues to be up.
Days 10–11: Machu Picchu
It’s a good suggestion to spend the night time in Aguas Calientes earlier than trekking or driving as much as the citadel within the morning. Inkaterra has a beautiful lodge right here: Constructed on a former tea and occasional plantation, it’s made up of 83 whitewashed adobe casitas nestled within the cloud forest. My junior suite had a wood-burning hearth and a small deck overlooking the speeding Vilcanota River, which feeds into the Urubamba under. I sipped pisco sours hearth on the bar as we met with our information Rodrigo to plan for the subsequent day’s tour to Machu Picchu.
There are a number of methods to succeed in the doorway level to Machu Picchu. The well-traveled Inca Path, which begins at kilometer 82 (midway between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes), features a four-day trek by mountainous terrain, with elevation reaching 13,000 ft. We selected to take the sooner route by driving one of many ticketed passenger vans up the steep mountain street (though I perceive why the previous possibility could be in your bucket listing).
Machu Picchu is magnificent. No quantity of planning or anticipation can put together you for the way magical it’s. To stroll among the many historical Incan ruins and study life on this sacred metropolis, whereas gazing on the towering mountain peaks and majestic vistas, is a once-in-a-lifetime expertise.
Nonetheless buzzing, we made our method to lunch on the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, an unique lodge outdoors the gates of Machu Picchu. The Belmond is the one place to remain on the prime of the mountain, and it comes with a corresponding price ticket. If you wish to be the primary in line to the location within the early morning, that is the spot for you. And, for what it’s value, the meals was nice.
After lunch, we drove again to Aguas Calientes, and we caught ourselves within the labyrinth of memento stalls. The tour guides joke that even sweaters marketed as “child alpaca” are in all probability “possibly alpaca.”
Days 11–14: Cuzco (and again to Lima)
We quickly boarded the Belmond Hiram Bingham, a luxurious prepare that will get you to Cuzco. Count on a welcome drink on the station, Nineteen Twenties-style automobiles with comfy cubicles, elegant meals (poached paiche with camu camu!), ever-present pisco sours, and dwell music.
Our trusted driver Victor picked us up from our cease in Cuzco and took us to the Inkaterra La Casona lodge for our final two nights in Peru.
Whereas in Cuzco, a metropolis included on the UNESCO World Heritage Record, we noticed extra Incan websites. Cuzco was the seat of energy for that mighty civilization. Spectacular remnants embody Sacsayhuaman, a citadel within the northern outskirts of town (additionally constructed by the very industrious Emperor Pachacuti), and Qorikancha, arguably essentially the most vital temple within the empire. I might by no means develop uninterested in trekking by all these ruins.
Cuzco additionally has unimaginable artisans and outlets—naturally, I left with a hand-loomed poncho produced from child (possibly?) alpaca. Whichever it’s, I used to be grateful for it on the chilly journey to the airport early the subsequent morning.
We spent our final day in Peru again in Lima, touring vintage outlets and meals markets, having fun with native delicacies like lucuma ice cream. Lucuma is a delicate-flavored fruit that tastes virtually like butterscotch. It’s additionally a superb car for sugar and cream.
Our dinner that night was at Maido. Chef Mitsuharu “Micha” Tsumara, who was born in Lima and studied in Japan, is a grasp of Nikkei meals: Peruvian components ready with Japanese strategies. Whether or not you go for the tasting menu or order à la carte, you’ll have essentially the most unimaginable feast. We lingered on the desk sipping digestive muña (mint) tea and buying and selling tales in regards to the journey.
You possibly can go to Peru for the meals alone—it’s that good. You possibly can go to simply to see Incan websites and hidden citadels. You possibly can go to solely to swim within the Amazon among the many pink dolphins or trek the Andean highlands cloaked in comfortable alpaca.
And in case you’re very fortunate, you may spot an elusive anaconda, checking off a tourist-in-Peru bucket-list merchandise for you, because it slithers down the shoreline. I didn’t—and I wouldn’t change a factor.