First in Service News

Just Back From: Cusco + the Sacred Valley

  • Changing of the guards in Lima
  • The Sacred Valley
  • Classic Peruvian Paso Horse demonstration
  • Maras Salt Mines
  • Trout tiradito
  • Ollantaytambo
  • Machu Picchu
  • Llamas at Machu Picchu
  • Beautiful Cusco
  • Cusco's Plaza de Armas
  • Poolside at Belmond Palacio Nazarenas
  • Belmond Palacio Nazarenas courtyard, Cusco
  • Palacio del Inka in Cusco
  • Coca tea helps acclimatize
  • Dinner at amaZ

Peru had always been on my bucket list for two reasons. Machu Picchu for one, and more recently the exploding food scene in Lima. I had no idea how much more there was to appreciate before my week’s visit to Lima, Cusco and the Sacred Valley.

Seven nights is really the minimum to get a taste of classic Peru. From gazing at one of the Seven Wonders of the World, to exploring the capital of the Inca civilization, to tasting cutting-edge Amazonian-sourced cuisine, I gained a richer understanding of the complex history, culture and beauty of the country and its people.

Arriving in the capital Lima in the late afternoon gave me enough time to check in to the elegant Belmond Miraflores Park (an F1S Wonderwall property), take a quick stroll through Larcomar, the nearby upscale mall, and retire early.

I normally avoid malls. However, Larcomar, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, offers one-stop shopping for top quality alpaca goods from Sol Alpaca and Kuna (as well as popular international brands). Peru is famous for its baby alpaca clothing and accessories, and even finer vicuna. Throughout the country there are plenty of markets selling colorful alpaca goods, at varying degrees of quality and price.

Because we were flying to Cusco early the next morning, I followed all of the recommended altitude acclimatizing tips the night before. Cusco sits at 11,000 whopping ft. above sea level. The sudden change in altitude can cause discomfort or worse. So the night before travel, I drank plenty of water and coca tea (which every hotel offers), had a very light, easily digestible meal of tomato soup, and relaxed. It all paid off.

The flight from Lima is only 55 minutes. A window seat ensures an impressive views of the Andes. The thin air in Cusco hits you hard, so just slow down your pace. Thankfully, we drove directly to the Sacred Valley, which sits at a lower altitude, for a few days before returning to Cusco.

The Sacred Valley, or Urubamba Valley, was named by the Incas for its fertile lands. The views are nothing short of breathtaking. Rows and rows of perfectly aligned stone terraces dot the majestic landscape, relics of the Inca master engineers and agriculture experts. While in the Valley, visit the historic village of Pisac and its bustling town market. Also visit the ruins of Ollantaytambo, where the Incas defeated the Spaniards in one of the greatest battles of the Conquest. If you enjoy hikes, the one leading to the 6,000 year old Maras Salt Mines is scenic and fascinating.

Find time for lunch in the gorgeous Hacienda Huayoccari, followed by a private Peruvian Paso horse demonstration. There are a variety of luxury hotel options in Urubamba. Charming Sol y Luna and the sprawling Tambo del Inka were my favorites.

Tambo del Inka even has access to the trains to Machu Picchu on premise. The day of the big visit, we boarded an Inka Rail First Class train for the scenic 1.5-hour journey, which includes a delicious three-course lunch.

All trains arrive in Aguas Calientes, a tiny town at the bottom of the valley next to Machu Picchu. From there, the final ascent is an exhilarating 20-minute bus ride, with heart-stopping twists and turns as you begin to understand how remote this sacred place really is. A few top hotels including the eco-friendly Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo and Sumaq Machu Picchu are located in Aguas Calientes. Belmond Sanctuary is the only hotel at the summit of Machu Picchu mountain, offering the easiest access to visits at sunrise. If time allows, it is highly recommended to overnight by Machu Picchu so you can visit it in the afternoon and then again at sunrise.

Our last day in Cusco we toured the most beautiful city in Peru. As the capital of the Inca Empire at its peak, the town is still full of Inca remains. Our hotel Palacio del Inka even has original walls throughout the complex. With blocks of red rooftops and historic, cobbled streets, it reminded me a lot of Florence. Even touring hotels such as Belmond Monasterio and Belmond Palacio Nazarenas (Wonderwall property) was a lesson in history.

Back in Lima, our final night of celebration included a special dinner at amaZ, one of Lima’s best restaurants. amaZ is famous for sourcing its ingredients from the Amazon rainforest, helping push Peru to the forefront of today’s culinary world. Then lights out at the very chic Hotel B, an arts boutique property in lovely Barranco.

Sekita Ekrek, our marketing director, visited Peru in October.

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