Peru: Essence of the Andes

Peru offers the ancient city of Machu Picchu, gorgeous craft markets, stunning cathedrals, and a vibrant, warm community.


Peru: Essence of the Andes

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by dcdc75 on July 18, 2006

Be amazed at the Floating Islands in Lake Titicaca and appreciate the magnificent craftwork created by the islanders on Taquille despite their almost primitive lifestyle. Imagine the hustle and bustle of ancient civilisations as you walk among the ruins of Machu Picchu and experience a warm home stay with a local family in Chinchero. Watching children play at Plaza de Armas as Peruvian music wafts through the evening , being squashed like sardines with villagers and their goods in a share taxi in Puno and listening to local boys singing to Elvis!!! in a public bus were also highlights of the trip.${QuickSuggestions} A little Spanish/Quechua/English phrase book will add so much fun to your daily interactions and help make delightful conversations with the warm and friendly locals especially after they have successfully convinced you to buy their wares!! Bring a really good raincoat and waterproof shoes when you visit Machu Picchu. We saw many tourists with their expensive loafers destroyed by the instant mini-floods caused by a sudden downpour. Have your Pisco Sour (national drink)at a higher end restaurant and not at the mom -and-pop ones. My husband suffered severe abdominal pain for 2 days. One of the drink ingredients was raw egg white; otherwise stall foods were generally fine.Same goes for the 'ceviche'- a dish of raw fish served with lime and onions.${BestWay} Most hotels in Peru include airport pick-up although we were given a password to confirm the authenticity of the driver. We were asked by the local cab drivers in Lima to lock all doors and even hide our waist pouches at our feet or to sit on them to prevent people from jumping into the cab to grab your stuff. Cusco was the exact opposite. Cabs were cheap and abundant even in the wee hours of dawn. Also make sure you know your fares for cabs, shuttles and confirm them before getting in. We saw a couple get charged double the rate because they ASKED what the price was at the END of the ride.

Machu Picchu

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by dcdc75 on July 18, 2006

Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas, is actually a royal retreat and sacred center that was built by the great Inca ruler Pachacuti. Apart from Quechuas,the indigenous people living there, nobody knew of Machu Picchu's existence until American historian Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911. As ther are no roads leading to the site, the only way to get here from Cusco is by the Peru Rail. You can check them out at www.perurail.com.

Of course, the rail prices are about one third more for foreigners, even in the "backpacker" train, but the fancy tourist train is not really worth the price, as it is not that much different from the backpacker train and the journey is only about 3-4 hours. Rail workers actually went on strike the day we were supposed to depart. This is a common occurrence, so just don't plan to fly back home on the same day!! Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, is a small town at the base of Machu Picchu where you will find affordable lodging, restaurants, and souvenirs.

Machu Picchu Inca Archaeological Site
Above The Urubamba Valley
Cusco Region, Peru

Chinchero

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by dcdc75 on July 18, 2006

Chinchero is almost 400m higher than Cusco, so make sure you have your Diamox if you are prone to altitude sickness. There is wonderful Sunday market here, almost rivalling the one in Pisac in scale, but with fewer tourists. Prices here are lower too, as tourists are still a novelty here and the villagers are more interested in talking to you than selling their wares. There are the smaller scale Inca ruins here and a colonial church. There is also a small museum displaying local artifacts.

We did a home stay here (about $5 per night),which we arranged through a nonprofit organisation. Despite its bare-bones level of comfort, proved to be an amazing experience and definitely the highlight of our trip. Bring a dictionary so that you can communicate with the families in Spanish or Quecha. For more information about the home stay, visit their website at andeantravelweb.

Chinchero
28 kilómetros Cusco
Cusco, Peru
N/A

Exploring Cusco

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by dcdc75 on July 18, 2006

Cusco is an amazing introduction to the wonders of Peru. Its role as the archaeological capital of the Americas is evident as you walk up and down the twisting cobblestone streets that look as they have not changed in centuries. Words cannot really describe the feeling of awe and amazement that hit me as I wandered among the massive Inca walls, mingling with descendants of the Incas as the musical lilt of Quechua is heard everywhere. It is easy to get around even at night, as it is much safer here than Lima and you can find cabs, which are pretty cheap (about $0.50 per ride), anytime and anywhere. There are also many hostels, hotels, and all sorts of lodging to suit your budget. The same goes for the restaurants, too. You must try the "quy", fried guinea pig, which is a local delicacy. More tourist information can be found at www.cuscoperu.com.
Exploring Cusco
Cusco, Peru
Cusco, Peru, 00 51
0051 84 273693

Isla Flotantes

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by dcdc75 on July 18, 2006

Isla Flotantes, or Uros islands, has got to be one of the most spectacular sights in the world. These islands are purely built from the many layers of "totora" reeds that grow in Lake Titicaca. The reeds also provide the islanders with food, building material for their homes and boats, and also handicrafts for tourists. The Uros, who are no longer pure-blooded, due to intermarriage with the Ayamra Indians, and speak Aymara these days, began their unique floating existence centuries ago to isolate them from the aggressive Incas. It is easier to get here via one of the many tour operators in Puno. We went with AllWaysTravel, at www.titicacaperu.com, one of the more responsible agencies that funnels some profits back to the islanders. They also enticed us with a faster "speedboat" option with a covered sitting area, which, for a few dollars more, is a fantastic deal, as the sun is scorching and you will get to spend more time on the islands.
Uros Floating Islands (Islas Flotantes)
Lake Titicaca
Puno, Peru

Isla Taquille

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by dcdc75 on July 18, 2006

Taquille has been inhabited for thousands of years, and time does seem to stand still here. Islanders still weave and use natural dyes to make their clothes (no machines here), and their workmanship is amazing. Due to the quality of their work, souvenirs here are much pricier than ones you find elsewhere, but they are definitely worth the price. As part of out tour with AllWaysTravel, at www.titicacaperu.com, we paid a little more for an in-depth cultural tour, where the islanders demonstrated how they cultivate and store food, weaving, and a song-and-dance session.

This "speedboat" also comes in from the south side of the island of Taquille, which spares you the steep climb of over 500 steps from the usual dock to the center of the island. Totally recommended!!

Taquile Island
Lake Tititcaca
Puno, Peru

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