It has been a few years since my last trip to Peru, in fact it was long over due. It is really important for all our staff to keep up to date with their specialist countries as things do change, as is the case in Peru. This time I travelled with my colleague Alison, who will now also sell Peru.
I was delighted to see that Lima was a much cleaner city & looked a lot more prosperous. I stayed again @ the wonderful Country Club de Lima but the next day did all my hotel inspections & was pleasantly surprised with the Orient Express Hotel, the Miraflores Park, I think this may be my favourite now in Lima, the coastal view was stunning… Not that I recommend spending too much time in the city as outside Lima is where the adventure really starts.
This time I did something new (for me) & headed north to Chicalyo, visiting pre-Inca sites. This was a really long day as we then drove the 4 hours south to spend the night in Trujillo. I would not recommend that our clients do it this way as it is too tiring. A night @ the Grand Hotel in Chiclayo would be best & then drive down the next day, making stops en route. From Trujillo we visited Chan Chan, which was fascinating. As we were still @ sea level it seemed only right that we partook in some of our duty free gin, but in Trujillo tonic water seems to be a scarce commodity. It ended up us going in a taxi with the hotel’s concierge in search of tonic water. We had all but given up hope when in the 6th place we saw a lonely bottle in the window. That was a strange evening!
We then flew back to Lima for a night before heading off on the flight to Cusco. Cusco is the most amazing city in Peru & I love it. As we had a morning flight, we did not stay in Cusco but was met by Harvey, our guide, & we went straight out to the lower altitude of the Sacred Valley, stopping @ Pisaq market, had a fabulous buffet lunch en route before getting to the Sonesta Yucay Hotel for our 2 night stay. The next day we did our hotel inspections & my favourite is still the Sol y Luna, but it was full, which is the norm unfortunately!
I really think that 2 nights in the Sacred Valley is a great idea. This gives enough time to visit the tourist market, a local market, Ollantaytambo ruins as well as the Maras Saltpans & Moray. Then another advantage is that you can take the train for Machu Picchu from the Sacred Valley either having a later start or you can take the earlier Vallee train to get you there before the Cusco train.
The big advantage of having a private guide is that you can take the tour at your own pace but also the guide can change the order of the visits to avoid the groups.. This is what we did at Machu Picchu, rather than going straight to the top we started @ the bottom & worked our way to the top – going in the opposite direction to the groups. We spent the night @ the really lovely Machu Picchu Pueblo, which was wonderful. But I do think that staying at the Sanctuary Lodge, located right by the ruins, is such a logistically good place to stay. It is however extremely expensive but if your budget will stretch to include a stay here you can get out of bed & walk right into the ruins with no need to queue for the bus from Aguas Calientas etc. We did do the hotel inspections for all the different standard hotels available in Aguas Calientas so we can recommend the best option to suit your budget.
Aguas Calientas has vastly improved & to be honest it needed to! There are also new buses up to the ruins which are 100 times more comfortable than the ones I travelled on last time..
The train back to Cusco was long but we had a hoot when the fashion show started! We got off the train @ Poroy, before Cusco, as this saved more than 1 hour & by then we were keen to get off the train! It is also possible to get off @ Ollantaytambo & have a private transfer from there to Cusco, which is much quicker but a more expensive option. There is also the luxury Hiram Bingham train option, which is very comfortable & includes a 3 course meal.
So we are now in Cusco & it is as wonderful as it had been the first time I visited. The history & story of Cusco is fascinating & I was as impressed & awestruck by Sacsayhuaman as I was before.. the size of the perfectly fitted stones is mind blowing.
Before heading back to the UK I did all the Cusco hotel inspections & met up with our Inka Trail people. I would never have the time to walk the Inka Trail myself (phew!) so it is important for me to keep up to date with the operational guys etc. As time is always an issue on these trips I flew from Cusco to Lima the same day as my International departure. It does save having the final night in Lima but unless you are flying Business Class (which I unfortunately was not!) it can be a tiring journey back to the UK.
Alison stayed on @ went to Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon & Arequipa. I went there last time & someone had to get back to work!!