An August 2005 trip
to Peru by xine
Quote: My husband and I took a 10-day trip to Peru and visited Lima, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Puno and Lake Titicaca, Cuzco, and Machu Picchu.
Café-hopping and people-watching in the Miraflores section of Lima.
Visiting the Monasterio Santa Catalina in Arequipa.
People-watching from the balcony of our hotel, the Sonesta Posada del Inca, and overlooking Plaza de Armas in Arequipa.
Taking a private guided tour of Colca Canyon.
A boat tour on Lake Titicaca to visit the Islas Flotantes and Taquile.
Hiking up from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.
Roaming around the vast grounds of Machu Picchu.
A romantic dinner at the Hotel Libertador Restaurant in Cusco.
A typical tourist path, which helps with acclimation to higher altitudes, is to spend time in Lima and Arequipa before going to the Colca Canyon and Puno.
A private guided tour of the Colca Canyon is a good way to see the canyon if you have only one day or lack the patience to travel in a large group. Tours can be arranged through tour agencies in Arequipa -- we recommend Illyar Travels -- for about per person.
The Menu del Dia is great bargain for lunch, as it includes a drink, soup or salad, main course, and dessert. Our favorite lunch was at El Gaucho Parrilladas on the Plaza de Armas in Arequipa. For 20 soles each, we got a glass of sangria, salad buffet, large steak, french fries, and dessert. Very tasty!
Combis are a cheap way to get around Peruvian cities.
Taxi rides within the cities are very cheap (except for Lima). Remember to bargain with your taxi driver!
When visiting Colca Canyon, hire a driver and private guide. A car rental is not recommended, as roads can be treacherous and have many potholes.
There are a limited number of trains, which leave early in the morning from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the closest train station to Machu Picchu. Reserve trains in advance if you want to be guaranteed a round-trip fare during the peak season.
Save yourself the round-trip bus fare from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu by hiking up the trail. It's great exercise and offers some breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
Hotel | "Sheraton Lima Hotel & Casino"
The hotel has a karaoke lounge where you can take your complimentary welcome drink, the Pisco Sour, and listen to the staff attempt old tunes translated into Spanish and Portuguese.
There is free Internet for 30 minutes at the Business Center, but as there are only three computers, you may have to wait awhile.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 14, 2005
Sheraton Lima Hotel and Casino
Paseo de la Republica 170
+51 (1) 3155000
The hotel staff is very friendly and attentive and will go out of their way to make your stay pleasant. Immediately upon walking into the hotel, we were greeted by several staff members. While checking in, one of the hotel staff brought us each a cup of tea to sip as we took care of the registration paperwork.
We stayed in a suite overlooking a tastefully decorated courtyard of the hotel. The king-size bed was extremely comfortable and had an intricately carved wooden headboard. Rooms were equipped with a hair dryer, cable TV, and minibar.
The hotel has a Business Center, sauna and Jacuzzi, beautiful lounge/bar area, and a first-class restaurant serving international cuisine.
Official room rates begin at over $300, but the hotel sometimes offers specials where you can get a suite for less than $200. The price includes a delicious buffet breakfast that is served from 4:30 to 9am, early enough so that you can eat breakfast before catching the 6am train to Machu Picchu.
If you are returning to the Hotel Libertador after an overnight trip to Machu Picchu, you can store your luggage at the hotel and they will deliver it to your room when you return. We took advantage of this service and were impressed with how organized the hotel was and how quickly they were able to deliver our luggage to our room.
Take advantage of all the hotel has to offer and relax with a drink in the bar/lounge and have dinner at the hotel's restaurant. It will be an experience that you will always remember.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 15, 2005
Plazoleta Santo Domingo 259
+51 (84) 23 1961
Hotel | "Sonesta Posada del Inca Arequipa"
The Sonesta Posada del Inca in Arequipa is located right on Plaza de Armas and is the best hotel location in town. It is right in the heart of everything and an easy walk to all the sights in Arequipa.
We stayed in a suite with a balcony overlooking Plaza de Armas. The room was very clean and smartly decorated, although not luxurious. The suite had a living room with two couches, a minibar, and a dining table. We enjoyed having the extra room to spread out into. The suite would also be a great choice if you are traveling with children.
The highlight of the room was the balcony overlooking Plaza de Armas. After a long day of touring around the city, we had a great time sipping beers on the balcony, people-watching and taking in the architecture of the buildings surrounding the Plaza. The view from the balcony has to be the best view in town!
The rate for a hotel suite is $118, pricey for Peru, but worth it for the unbeatable location and view. Room rates include a buffet breakfast at the hotel's Inkafe, but a 10% service charge is added each night's stay. Non-Peruvian citizens are not charged the 19% government tax on the room rate.
Room service at the hotel is reasonable, and you won't break the bank if you decide to order in, as meals range from 8 to 20 soles, inclusive of tax and service. Minibar drinks are also reasonable for a hotel at $1.50 for beers and $1 for sodas.
Sonesta Posadas Del Inca
Portal De Flores 116
+51 54 21 5530
The Sonesta Posada del Inca is 5km from the center of Puno and sits right on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Our room had a wonderful view of Lake Titicaca and the Yavari steamship.
The room was comfortable, with two double beds and a clean, spacious bathroom. The ceilings in the bathroom were very high and made soaking in the bathtub very enjoyable.
The room rates were reasonable at $70, with a 10% service charge added for each day. Rates include a breakfast buffet at the hotel's restaurant, which was quite good.
The hotel staff is friendly and accommodating. The front desk is a good place to change your larger 100 soles bills to smaller bills.
Although the hotel is 5km from the center of town, it is a nice respite from the craziness of the center of Puno. A cab ride from the city center to Puno is only 5 soles. While cabs are not lined up in front of the hotel to take guests to Puno, you can walk out to the main road and catch a combi to the center of town for only 1 sol per person.
The only drawback of the hotel is that the walls are very thin, and you can hear the conversations of the people in the room next to you. However, the rest of our stay at the hotel was very pleasant, and we would recommend staying there if you are in the area.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 15, 2005
Sonesta Posada Del Inca Puno
My husband had booked a double, but to our dismay, we received a room with two twin beds. The staff told us that a double in Peru meant two twin beds and did not try to accommodate us.
The lighting in the hotel was virtually nonexistent, and in the evening, the place felt rather spooky.
The buffet breakfast included with the room rate was not very palatable. Pancakes were dry and there was no maple syrup to make them taste better. Toast was dry and stale.
We left our luggage at the front desk to pick up after we visited Machu Picchu. However, when we came back to pick up our luggage, the staff had trouble finding it and eventually found it laying on a couch in the lobby. We were appalled that they had just left it out in the open and were so disorganized.
There are some positive aspects of the hotel. The hotel is located outside of the center of town in a quiet place. However, it is a short walk to the train station and the Plaza de Armas. We were pleased with the location because it allowed us to get a head start on our hike up to Machu Picchu and cut down our walking time by about 10 minutes from other hotels. The bus to Machu Picchu also picks up and drops off right in front of the hotel.
Our room also had a nice view of the mountains and the Urubumba River, which allowed us some additional photo ops.
Overall, Hatuchay Tower is not worth the hefty price tag of the room, but offers some conveniences with its location.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 15, 2005
Av. Hermanos Ayar M-24
+51 (84) 211-201
Restaurant | "Inti Raymi"
The service at Inti Raymi is superb and the food is delicious. The waitstaff is very formal, dressed in tuxes and address each guest by "Mr." or "Mrs." The waitstaff is very attentive and pleasant.
My husband had one of the specials, roasted lamb, and I had the "Mar and Tierra", which was a sirloin and trout combination. The entrees were beautifully presented and were very tasty. Portions were more than adequate, and were accompanied vegetables.
The cuisine is probably best described as internationally-influenced Peruvian. The restaurant does serve typical Peruvian dishes, such as guinea pig and lomo saltado. Desserts include apple crisp with ice cream and chocolate torte.
The atmosphere was very elegant and romantic, with a candle at each table. Our table had a view of the courtyard.
Live entertainment is provided by musicians playing traditional Peruvian music.
Inti Raymi is also where the breakfast buffet is served. The breakfast buffet is first-class and is the best breakfast buffet I had in Peru. The French Toast and Pan Au Chocolat were particularly tasty. The buffet also included sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, corn tamales, an array of fresh fruit and juices, yogurt drinks, cereal, granola, a variety of breads, cheese and cold cuts. Cafe con Leche is particularly good at the restaurant and is a great way to start off the day. Best of all, breakfast begins at 4:30am, allowing guests who are going to Machu Picchu on the 6am train the opportunity to eat before taking off.
Inti Raymi Restaurant
Hotel Libertador Cuzco
Restaurant | "El Turko"
I had a traditional Turkish chicken dish that was delicious. The chicken was tender and full of flavor. The entree was accompanied with Turkish rice and mixed vegetables. Very filling and very tasty.
My husband had the penne arrabiata. It was unliked other penne arrabiatas either of us had tasted before, but was still spicy and had a little kick to it. My husband was pleased with it.
To end our meal, we each had a cafe con leche and split a piece of baklava. The cafe con leche was quite good. The baklava was very syrupy and small, but satisfied our sweet tooths. Not the best baklava we've had, but it was good enough.
For such a tasty meal, the damage done was only 40 soles (~$12) for both of us, including two entrees, two drinks, two coffees and one baklava. We would go back in a heartbeat if we are ever in Arequipa.
San Francisco 315
For lunch, we took advantage of the Menu del Dia at El Gaucho and thoroughly enjoyed our meal. For only 19.20 soles each, you get a glass of sangria or wine, all you can eat salad, large steak, french fries, and dessert. It is definitely a bargain and you will not be disappointed.
The steak is marinated in a special sauce and grilled to perfection - tender, juicy, and flavorful. They do not skimp on portions here so come hungry.
The atmosphere of El Gaucho is very lively. The decor is nice, and there is lots of wood.
Be sure to make reservations if you are coming for dinner. The place fills up quickly, and is a popular spot for both tourists and locals.
We opted to try typical Peruvian dishes at El Viñedo. I had the suckling pig and my husband had the lomo saltado. Both were ok, but we also decided that we preferred other cuisine over Peruvian.
The menu also has an extensive drink list, including fruit juices, daquiris, and coffee drinks. The hot chocolate here is particularly good as was the specialty cappucino with chocolate and cream.
El Viñedo had a romantic atmosphere, with candlelight dinners. We sat in the smaller upstairs portion of the restaurant, but could hear the musicians performing Peruvian music downstairs.
A great place to end the day after touring Arequipa or the Colca Canyon. However, I'd recommend sticking with the grilled steak rather than sampling the typical Peruvian dishes at El Viñedo.
Restaurant | "La Truffa"
As this was one of our first days in Peru, we opted to sample the local cuisine. I had the rocoto relleno, which was stuffed peppers filled with spicy meat and cheese. It was very tasty and filling.
My husband had the trout in garlic sauce, which was nicely done, and served with salad and french fries.
We sat outside the restaurant, which was a good place for people-watching and listening to local musicians. The drawback of sitting outside is that you will be the target of persistent locals wanting to sell you things, but I suppose that's life as a tourist in another country!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 15, 2005
Pasaje la Catedral 111
+51 (54) 242-010
Make train reservations from Cuzco to Machu Picchu in advance if you can. We arrived in Cuzco around 6:30pm the night before we wanted to go to Machu Picchu without making reservations. The train station had closed at 5pm, so we went to the station at 5am to see if there were any tickets available.
There are a limited number of trains going from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes. Usually there is a 6am Vistadome train that leaves Cuzco for Aguas Calientes and a 6:45am backpacker train. During peak season, Perurail may add additional trains. Return trains are likewise limited in time, and most trains from Aguas Calientes to Cuzco leave in the late afternoon.
We were able to snag two Vistadome tickets from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes on the additional 7am train. The tickets were pricey at $50 one-way, and we were informed that there were no seats available on the Vistadome for the following day, so we had to suck it up and pay the one-way fare for the backpacker's train, which was $33. The Vistadome is more modern and cleaner than the backpacker train, and you are served breakfast on the train. There are also windows on the top of the train, which bring in more light and come in handy when you are in the canyon. The backpacker trains are older and less comfortable than the Vistodome, but take about the same amount of time to get to and from Machu Picchu.
From Aguas Calientes, there is a bus that takes you the remaining 8km to the entrance of Machu Picchu, which costs $6 each way and takes 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can hike up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes or down from Machu Picchu. The hike up took us over an hour from the start of the trail to get to Machu Picchu, and we stopped several times along the way. The hike can be steep at times, but is well marked. The advantage of hiking up is that you are able to take in the views of the surrounding area.
The entrance fee to Machu Picchu is steep. It is 77 soles per adult and 38.90 for students with a valid ISIC card for one day. There are no discounts for multi-day passes or if you arrive at Machu Picchu one hour before closing. You can only pay in soles, so be sure to have plenty of soles with you before you leave Cuzco, as the exchange rate in Aguas Calientes is worse and the money-changers do run out of soles.
Bring sunblock with you, as the sun can be very strong. Also, bring food and drinks with you, as the snack bar at Machu Picchu is severely overpriced.
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