“Few romances can ever surpass that of the granite citadel on top of the beetling precipices of Machu Picchu, the crown of Inca Land.”
— Hiram Bingham
Who hasn’t dreamt of travelling to an exotic location? Lush jungles, tropical cocktails, canoeing down a lazy river surrounded by colourful birds, mysterious ruins peeking through the trees as you walk down a narrow trail. The thought of this brings to mind images of the “lifestyles of the rich and famous” cigarette ads of the 80s! Could it possibly be as incredible as it sounds?
Location, local, loca
Certainly, the continent of South America is, by definition, exotic and exciting. And say Peru to most people, and that description fits the bill. Added to that, the walking trail to Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca city, is on many people’s bucket list, but with a flight of more than 17 hours, the question is, is it enough?
Lima, the capital, will certainly set you straight on that one! Known as the City of Kings, it is an ethnic melting pot, featuring pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern elements. The metropolis is also surrounded by every aspect of nature: sea, islands, mountains, desert and plant life. Its various quarters feature a city of more than 8 million residents, with an active nightlife and well-endowed cultural scene, as well as plentiful public transport and non-stop activities.
A two-hour flight from Lima brings you to Iquitos and the Amazon River. The city was founded in 1757 and features buildings such as the old Hotel Palace built in Art Nouveau style with materials brought from Europe, and Casa de Fierro, designed by French architect Gustave Eiffel. These constructions contrast with rustic homes that line the Belen quarter, where all constructions rest on pilings due to the fact of the river rising several meters during the rainy season.
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve located in the department of Loreto covers an area of 2,080,000 hectares and is the largest national reserve in the country. It is considered the jewel of Peru’s northern Amazon jungle and is home to an abundant and varied wildlife, including myriad fish species, the main source of food in the region. The countless lakes, swamps and water holes area, is a refuge for 130 types of mammals, 330 bird species – and an as-yet-unknown number of reptile and amphibians.
Some of the attractions of the area include the huge river turtle, the manatee, the pink river dolphin, the giant river otter, the black cayman and the paiche-the largest freshwater fish species on Earth.
“It’s an irritating reality that many places and events defy description. Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, for instance, seem to demand silence, like a love affair you can never talk about. For a while after, you fumble for words, trying vainly to assemble a private narrative, an explanation, a comfortable way to frame where you’ve been and what’s happened. In the end, you’re just happy you were there — with your eyes open — and lived to see it.”
— Anthony Bourdain, The Nasty Bits
The longest mountain chain on Earth
A one hour flight brings you to Huaraz in Ancash and the Andes Mountains. It is a land where time appears to have stood still. Wedged between two soaring mountain chains, Ancash, however, is a vast territory that includes not only the highlands but also stretches as far as the coast where one can find cities like the fishing port of Chimbote or Casma, a tranquil town by the shores of the Pacific. Possibly Ancash’s geographic and climatic diversity has made it one of Peru’s premier tourist destinations.
Machu Picchu I choose you!
However, no trip to Peru would be complete without visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu! Inca walls, colourful costumes, churches built on top of palaces, citadels lost in the Andean heights, legendary roads-all the beauty of a glorious past that enfolds the visitors who arrive in Cuzco, the sacred city of the Incas and archaeological capital of the Americas. Ever since US archaeologist Hiram Bingham discovered the citadel of Machu Picchu for the world, Cusco has fired the imagination of millions of travellers from all over the world who explore the Inca Trail every year, headed for the summit of one of the world’s most extraordinary monuments. Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, both cultural and natural, and is limited to 2,500 visitors per day.
More accessible than before
With Latam’s recent return to South Africa, South America and places like Peru are suddenly accessible like never before! Perhaps it’s time to step out of your comfort zone, and try something a little more exotic…
Beautiful Destinations – Let’s Go – Peru