Machu Picchu is only the beginning of the many exciting ways in which you can explore Peru, from boat rides around Lake Titicaca’s floating reed islands to e-biking in the spiritually blessed Sacred Valley.
WALK THROUGH HISTORY IN CUSCO
With its rich history and startling mix of architecture, Cusco holds some of the best experiences in Peru. Start at the Plaza de Armas facing the beautiful renaissance-style Cathedral. Take to the smooth cobblestone roads again towards the Temple of the Sun, a fine example of Inca craftsmanship buried under the Santo Domingo Monastery. San Pedro Market bustles with vendors selling fruit, potatoes (there are some 4,000 varieties grown in Peru) as well as traditional healing remedies used by shamans in their rituals. Round off with sprawling views of the city from the Inca archaeologist site of Sacsayhuaman featuring tightly hewn huge boulders, some up to nine metres tall.
LUXURY TRAIN RIDE TO MACHU PICCHU
Travel to Machu Picchu in Pullman-style train carriages evocative of the Golden Age of Travel. From the city of Cusco, this train journeys you 57 miles across plunging gorges and rugged peaks into the cloud forest once inhabited by the Incas. This is no ordinary mode of transport with polished wood and gleaming brass, a three-course brunch and music played by live bands. Sip on pisco sours as you admire the changing views from the observatory car with front-row views of the evolving scenery. Arriving at Machu Picchu Town, an expert guide will take you for your first glimpses of the ancient citadel. You can remedy the excitement with a decadent afternoon tea.
TREK TO MACHU PICCHU IN A DAY
While the masses choose the five-day Inca trail, a one-day trek strikes the perfect balance of luxury and adventure. Disembark the local train at Km104 while the rest of the passengers continue to Machu Picchu Town. As the rumble of the train drifts off into the jungle, the sweet singsong of birds becomes louder and louder. Start your trek alongside a railway track heading towards the citadel’s Sun Gate passing the famous Incan terraces cascading down the slopes, vestiges of what was once Inca territory. At the top, when the clouds burn off, you can marvel at Machu Picchu with a view so expansive and transcendental it can never be captured in pictures.
BOAT RIDE TO THE ISLANDS OF LAKE TITICACA
At an elevation of around 3,800 metres high with deep blue water as far as the eye can see, Lake Titicaca and its sun-drenched islands lie embedded in history. Take a boat ride to the Uros islands crafted entirely out of totora reeds hewn into chunks to form a floating base, their houses, boats and lookout points swaying in the gentle breeze. Spend time with the Uros peoples whose ingenious weaving methods have been practised since their ancestors first sought refuge from the Incas on these floating islands. The weavers welcome you as per tradition sharing stories about daily life on the water and the history of their family lineage.
DISCOVER THE SACRED VALLEY’S INCA SITES
Traverse the altiplano and mountain summits of the Sacred Valley, where the twists and turns of Inca trodden paths lead to remarkable archaeological sites. Head first to Pisac, a wonderfully preserved site of residences and watchtowers. Next visit Moray and marvel at its beguiling circular stone terraces, reminiscent of Roman amphitheatres. To this day, the dazzling salt pans of Maras are harvested in the same way they were during the time of the Incas, yet another feat of manmade engineering. As is the steeply sided fortress looming above the cobbled town of Ollantaytambo, intricately carved from stone and one of the few places where the Incas defeated Spanish conquistadores.
DELVE INTO THE AMAZON RAINFOREST
Trek through the Amazon jungle in the early morning when the intermittent sounds of capuchin monkeys break the natural silence. They’re just one of the many monkey species you might see on a walk from howler monkeys to the mustached tamarins that live in the jungle canopies. Your guide, a naturalist expert and part of the local community, will unveil the indigenous flora used by the Amazon’s residents for traditional healing purposes as well as for food, clothing and building materials. These hours are also the best time to see colourful birdlife such as the hundreds of vividly hued macaws flocking en-route to the nutrient-rich clay licks.
LEARN TO COOK IN LIMA
Discover the scenes behind Lima’s worldwide culinary reputation on a fun cooking class inside the walls of a Limeño home. Your personal chef is a local who’ll help you navigate the jostling city markets for the freshest seasonal ingredients. Back at her ocean-facing house in the artsy district of Barranco (where artists like Mario Testino reside), join your chef at the kitchen table as she prepares a mix of traditional recipes that have survived the test of time. This could be a ceviche, considered a fine art in Peru, or a perfectly balanced fish stew. Accompanied by a pisco sour or two of course before devouring the entirety.
E-BIKE IN THE SACRED VALLEY
Effortlessly explore the ancient Sacred Valley on a modern e-bike riding on trails through pastoral hinterland. One of the most unique experiences in Peru, you’ll traverse even more scenery and without the crowds that tend to stick to the well-trodden paths.You’ll pass tiny villages where rural life unfolds, its farmers working fields of potatoes, tall crops of corn and towering purple quinoa. Stop for a glass of chicha (local beer) before setting off again where the track takes you through green valleys, over meandering rivers and long-stretching golden plains. Refuel with a pachamanca - meat and vegetables cooked in an earthen oven - or a picnic for simpler pleasures as you admire the surrounding sacred mountains.