Thursday, 2 March 2017

Six destinations you must visit in Peru

From ancient Inca civilisations to the rainforest jungles of the Amazon, to the desert wilderness of high-altitude Andean villages and the colonial European-style architecture in cities like Lima and Arequipa, Peru is a world in one country.

Lake Titicaca

Well worth a long trip, this huge lake straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia in the Andes and is one of South America's largest lakes. It is regarded as the world’s highest navigable body of water.

Take a charter boat from Puno to The “Floating Islands”, as the Uros Islands are known. These are man-made islands constructed out of reeds where villagers take the many visitors on short canoe rides and try to sell them locally-made goods. Further into the lake you'll find the small hilly island of Taquile, where there are no cars and people still live a traditional lifestyle.



Machu Picchu

The spectacular and well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most famous icons of the former Inca Empire. Dating back to the mid-15th century and completely awe inspiring, it is one of the most famous and spectacular sets of ruins in the world.

It is best to arrive early in the day (stay overnight in Cusco to be just a short bus ride away) to avoid the crowds and to come well prepared as there is a considerable amount of walking and climbing involved.




Cusco

This spectacular city, high in the Andes, is one of South America's treasures with its many colonial buildings and Inca treasures like the Temple of the Sun and Sacsayhuaman Fortress.

A tourist hotspot, Cusco is packed with high-quality hotels like the fabulous JW Marriott, recently named as one of the finest on the continent.

The RailPeru Vistadome train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, gateway to Machu Picchu, is a lovely experience with great views and fabulous service, which included an impromptu fashion parade by train staff on our return journey.


Arequipa

Peru's second city is often overlooked in favour of more tourist-oriented destinations. That's a huge pity as Arequipa is a wonderfully cosmopolitan and elegant city with colonial buildings reminiscent of some the finest cities of Europe.

There are superb squares and alleyways with influences of Spain and Paris, excellent eateries (try ChiCha and La Benita) and magnificent viewpoints. A great city for strolling and/or chilling out for a few days.


Pisac Market

Every Sunday, members of the tribes of the Sacred Valley of the Incas descend on the small, dusty town of Pisac for the regional market. Many walk long distances to reach the market, and still wear traditional costumes.

The market specialises in fruits, vegetables and meats, along with ceramics and items made of alpaca wool. It is a riot of colour and well worth a visit.



Colca Canyon

A couple of hours' drive outside Arequipa, this is one of the world's deepest and most spectacular canyons and one of the best places on earth to observe condors and other birds of prey, which use the thermal currents to soar and dip. The Cruz del Condor is where we saw five condors and several hawks.

En route, you'll see wild vicunas, the siblings of domestic alpacas and llamas, and will pass several traditional villages, as well as Lagunillas, a lagoon packed with Andean flamingos.



THE FACTS

With 40 years of experience, Contours Travel is Australia’s most experienced and longest running Latin American travel wholesaler and agency, specialising in tailor-made, small group itineraries and special interest tours in Mexico, Cuba, Antarctica, South America, Central America and the Caribbean Islands. Learn more at: www.contourstravel.com.au


LATAM operates daily flights from Sydney to Santiago, Chile, via Auckland, with onward connections to Lima. LATAM also offers non-stop flights between Sydney and Santiago four times per week in a codeshare partnership. Call LATAM reservations on 1800 126 038, visit your local travel agent or go towww.latam.com

# This is an edited version of a much longer story that appears in Nourish Magazine

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