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Peru

Peru

By Mskalny
Trip Plan Tags: 
adventure,
peru
Destinations: 
Central + South America,
Lake Titicaca,
Machu Picchu,
Peru

Planning a ten day trip to explore Peru and Machu Picchu, the "Lost City of the Incas" this August. Our small organized group of eight will become immersed in the culture and history of the region. We are looking for anyone that has advice on the region, from Lima to Cusco to Lake Titicaca. If you know something we should before we head down love to hear from you. Mark

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See + Do

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Remote and high enough to elude the ravaging conquistadors, this vast Incan complex was most famously rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. Locals had long since known about it, however—not least Melchor Arteaga, who led the Yale archaeologist to the ruins. Having made UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1983, followed by the New Seven Wonders of the World list in 2007, Machu Picchu has seen epic tourism growth over the last few decades—and the centennial of the rediscovery promises more throughout 2011. While authorities contemplate how best to avoid damage to the palaces, temples, fountains, and residences, visitors generally contemplate how best to avoid each other. The most strenuous—and arguably the most rewarding—way to sidestep the crowds is the two- or four-day trek along the fabled Inca Trail. On the last morning, you start walking before dawn in order to reach Machu Picchu's Sun Gate (Inti Punku) by sunrise, after which you can expect a crowd-free couple of hours before the buses start to roll in. Good Inca Trail operators include Gap and Myths and Mountains, or Intrepid Travel; book as far in advance as possible, as trail permits are limited. Alternatively, you can stay at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, where you'll be among the first nonhikers to enter the gate at 5:40 am, if you so choose. Or stay in Machu Picchu Pueblo (a.k.a. Aguas Calientes) and catch one of the first buses to Machu Picchu: Buses start leaving at around 5:20 am and take you on a 20-minute, zigzagging ride up a thickly forested mountain. Even if you see Machu Picchu on a day trip from Cuzco or the Sacred Valley—and even if the ruins are at capacity—rest assured that you will still be humbled and amazed. A final note: The tallest peak you see in the backdrop of every Machu Picchu shot is Huayna Picchu, and you can hike to the top for some of the most amazing views of the complex. But you'll need to get to the entrance early and pick up the free Huayna Picchu trail ticket (limited to 400 people daily).—Updated by Abbie Kozolchyk

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See + Do

Lake Titicaca, Peru

Lake Titicaca, Peru

At 12,500 feet above sea level, this natural border between Peru and Bolivia is the fabled birthplace of the Incas, and the world's highest-altitude commercially navigable lake. The 40-odd floating islands on the Peruvian side were established centuries ago by the Inca-fleeing Uros, whose descendants still populate (at least part-time) this ever-shifting reed flotilla. Whether you're staying at the Libertador Puno or one of the other hotels in town, the staff can arrange a trip to the islands—and to the traditional textile-producing terra firma islands of Taquile and Amantani—or direct you to an agency that can. The Islas del Sol and de la Luna, which you'll find on the Bolivian side of the lake, have Inca ruins and agricultural terraces that warrant the long day trip from Puno (or an overnight). As for Puno itself, the greatest show in town—and the apex of the local religious/folkloric calendar—is the Festividad Virgen Maria de la Candelaria (or simply Candelaria, as this festival at the beginning of February is commonly known). An ode to the region's most venerated image of Mary, in the form of solemn processions and wild, colorful dance competitions, this two-week extravaganza draws celebrants and observers from all over the country and the world. If you want to attend, check out the annual schedule at Punofolklore.com or Punomagico.com, and book as early as possible.—Updated by Abbie Kozolchyk

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.