Our travel company patiently worked with us on several iterations of our itinerary prior to the one we ultimately agreed to. We appreciated their suggestions and valuable insights. A minor but noteworthy suggestion that we agreed to was to fly from Pisco to Cusco after seeing the Nazca Lines, rather than returning by bus (four hours) back to Lima that a competing tour company had suggested. Overall, the itinerary was well thought out and logical.
With one exception, the logistics could not have been handled any better. At each destination, we were met by a representative from the local travel agency to take us to our hotel. Tour guides showed up to our hotels as promised. And the tour guides were uniformly outstanding. This cannot be overstated. It seemed like each was better than the last. Each was sensitive to the possibility (a reality, actually) that we would be negatively affected by the altitude and were therefore extremely patient. This is a testament to the local tour companies that our travel company selected. Also, we appreciated their being with us at each airport counter to make sure that we got on the intended flight.
The only logistical hiccup occurred as we departed Puno. We were met in the morning, as expected, but did not have an English-speaking representative to explain what we were to expect. We traveled for a few minutes, then stopped. Soon, a large bus pulled up and our bags were transferred. The bus had two destinations: Arequippa and Chivay, with passengers whose destination was Arequippa changing buses at a designated stop. I asked the guide where we should go. She said we should stay on the bus to Chivay where we would be greeted by our guide. At the stop, we were eating a snack with all the other passengers in our bus when a representative from the tour company that we were supposed to meet approached us and informed us that we would be transferring buses with him and others in a 12-passenger van. It would have been nice to know that we should have been on the lookout for him. It seemed random and we felt fortunate that the handoff came off as it did.
Machu Picchu was probably the most impressive and memorable part of the journey. The Nazca Lines will be an enduring memory too. It's not that they are not well known, but a visit should rise to the top of any visitor wanting to experience a true wonder of the world.
Ours was a 14-day tour hitting the highlights of Peru. We provide this summary in hopes that it will benefit future travelers. Our flight to Lima arrived near midnight, so we were not keen on an early morning wakeup at our hotel in Miraflores. We caught an early afternoon bus for a 3 1/2 hour trip to Paracas where we stayed at a hotel for two nights. The next morning, we toured the Ballestas Islands. Highlights included a view of the "Candelabra," a 600-foot tall prehistoric geoglyph on the northern face of the Paracas Peninsula only visible from the water, and the islands themselves, home to thousands of seabirds and sea lions. In the afternoon, we were transported to the Pisco airport where we boarded a 10-passenger, single engine plane for an over-flight of the Nazca Lines. This was truly an unforgettable experience, unlike anything we had ever seen. That night, we were treated to an attention-getting short earthquake, 4.1 on the Richter Scale.The next afternoon, we caught a 1-hour flight to Cusco (there are only two weekly flights out of Pisco) and were transported (1.5 hours) to our hotel in Urubamba, the Sacred Valley for a single night. This beautiful hotel is worthy of a longer stay, but our plans called for a morning tour of Ollantaytambo, followed by an afternoon train (2 hours) to Machu Picchu Pueblo where we were met by representatives from our hotel, our destination for a single night. The following morning, we toured Machu Picchu with our personal guide, a most excellent resource on the history of this amazing destination. That afternoon, we returned by train to Ollantaytambo and then 2.5 hours to our hotel in Cusco, our destination for two nights. The hotel is simply stunning. Originally built as a private residence in the 16th century, the self-described hotel/museum lives up to its billing. The morning after our arrival, we toured the city on our own. We chose to visit the Museo de Machu Picchu de la Casa Concha, which houses many pieces from Hiram Bingham's collection of archeological artifacts from Machu Picchu, returned by Yale in 2007. We were joined by a private guide in the afternoon to explore a few more sites in the city, and then to the outskirts to the Inca sites of Qenko, the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, and the Inca Temple of the Sun.An early morning pickup transported us to the airport for our flight (1.5 hours) to Juliaca Airport and subsequent transfer to the hotel in Puno, our destination for two nights. Our all day tour of Lake Titicaca began in the morning. It included stops at the Islas Los Uros and Taquile Island. The former is home to the Uros people who reside on floating islands made of reeds in Lake Titicaca. With respect to Taquile Island, be aware that the destination lunch comes only after a rather steep ascent that was very challenging given the thin air. Once we reached our destination, the lunch was nice and we did meet some native people and learned about their production of textiles for which they are known. The following morning we boarded a bus for Colca, total travel time about 6 hours. Along the way, we stopped for panoramic pictures, one memorably marking an elevation of 4910 m above sea level, and in small towns. In Chivay, it was our good fortune to witness the tail end of a wedding ceremony and the beginning of what we were told is a three-day celebration for the newlyweds. Our final destination was a Colca hotel. Regrettably, since our stay was but for a single night, we were unable to take advantage of the hot springs and spa for which the resort is known. The next morning, we headed toward the Cruz del Condor to view the canyon and the magnificent birds. At the Cruz del Condor, we were treated to the sight of six or seven condors, a couple of which soared only a hundred feet or so overhead to the delight of the gathered masses. After stopping in several small towns and for lunch, the afternoon was taken by a 3 1/2 hour van ride to our hotel in Arequipa, the next to last destination of our journey. The next morning, we were led on a half day private city tour of Arequipa, including the Santa Catalina Monastery. In the afternoon, we explored on our own, visiting the Museo Santuarios Andinos , home to the Ice Maiden Juanita, the frozen remains of a victim of human sacrifice to the mountain gods, dating to the late 1400s. Her discovery by a volcanologist in 1995 prompted additional investigations that have uncovered at least 18 other victims of this Inca ritual. An early morning pickup transported us to the airport for our 2-hour flight to Lima, the final leg in our journey. We again stayed that the same hotel in Miraflores. The following morning we toured historic and modern Lima, including the Plaza de Armas, Plaza Miguel Grau, Santa Domingo Monastery and Church, the temple of Huallamarca, El Parque del Amor, and the Larco Museum. The Larco's collection of ancient pottery and other artifacts is not to be missed. We were also treated to a rather large street demonstration that impeded traffic that was to precede an even larger demonstration that evening. Good to see peoples' voices being freely expressed! That evening, we survived a harrowing ride to the airport from our hotel in Miraflores. The traffic/drivers in Lima are like none we have ever experienced. A thrilling ending to a great trip.
We enjoyed the visit to the Colca Canyon and were fortunate to have seen several condors. The remoteness and consequent long travel time make us question whether our time may have been better spent on other legs of the journey. An extra night at some of the outstanding hotels we stayed at would have made for a more leisurely pace and would have been a good thing. Also, although we enjoyed having the undivided attention of our personal guides, we find that small (<10) group tours combine the best aspects of personal tour guides with the added benefit of the camaraderie of fellow travelers from around the globe.
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