The barren desert known as the Altiplano has indigenous Indians that still preserve their ancient tongue of Quechua (and Aymara), while shepherds with their traditionally colourful ponchos herd llamas, alpacas and vicunas across the open plains.
Peru has a number of local markets, in fact every major town in country has them so wherever you go you will see them. The best though is a place called Pisac market which also holds a mass. The Mass is attended by the ‘mayors’ of the neighbouring villages, complete in typical dress and carrying their traditional ‘varayoc’ or staff of office
The Peruvian Amazon has three areas to explore. In the far north is Iquitos, a place where sleeping on a boat and exploring on smaller craft is the way. In the south you have immediate lodges around Puerto Maldonado (1 hr flight from Cuzco) making it easily accessible and then Manu, a 7 hour motorised canoe ride deep into the jungle
Machu Picchu is the obvious one, but it is the smaller, lesser known ancient ruins that bring Peru to life. Ending the holiday at Machu Picchu is a must, as it allows you not only to see places like Ollantaytambo, the ruins of Pisac, Quenko, Tambomachay, Sacsaywaman but also learn about the Incas and the pre Inca civilisations first.
The Sacred Valley is a 90 minute drive from Cuzco and is lower in altitude, making it a great place to acclimatise, but it is also the adventure centre of Peru. Here you will find; white water rafting, zip-lining, mountain biking, horse riding, trekking, cooking classes, local markets and ancient ruins.
The Colonial towns of both Arequipa and Cuzco deserve at least 3 nights. As much to rest from the extensive amount of travelling this country demands, as to appreciate its turbulent past. They both have a number of plazas lined with churches and cathedrals as well as cobbled streets, ideal for exploring on foot
There are several day walks you can do in the Sacred Valley, but the best trekking can be found in the Andes around Machu Picchu. There are 3 or 4 ways to walk the Inca trail from the short 3 night trek to the longer 5 night, whilst the 7 night Salkantay trek goes round the sacred mountain of Salkantay to Machu Picchu.
WHEN TO GO
The official dry season is from April to October, though the Amazon rainy season is March to May. For us the best time to visit is at the beginning and the end of the seasons as this is when you will find fewer travellers. In March and April the orchids along the Inca trail are in full bloom and the rivers are ideal for white water rafting. From the middle of September to October the altiplano is at its most majestic with dried out plains contrasting with the snow-capped Andean peaks that look over them.
Manor Cottage, Papermill Lane, South Moreton, Oxfordshire, OX11 9AH
Just returned from a fantastic 3 weeks holiday to Peru, Galapagos and Ecuador organised by Latin Odyssey. Everything went like clockwork. Hotels were excellent.