When your flight descends in Lima, you can gaze upon a city that touches the Pacific
Ocean and stretches to the distant hills. At its core, the city holds the historical cultures
of Peru inside a mixture of urban streets and colonial architecture. The city was founded
in the 16th century and labeled “the King of Cities.” The church and monastery of Santo
Domingo have roots dating back to 1540. A tranquil colonnade encircles the interior
courtyard. The interior contains mosaics depicting the life of St. Dominic, founder of the
The city embodies both the past and the energetic presence of modernity, from the
historic center of the Plaza de Armas to the contemporary seaside neighborhood of
Miraflores. Walkways line the cliffs, providing marvelous views overlooking the Pacific
Ocean. The scent of lemon juice emanates from celebrated restaurants specializing in
ceviche. Old colonial homes mix with pockets of verdant parks. Surfers ride the waves
stretching across the coastline. The ocean mists into the air after crashing against the
cliffs. You watch the abundance of hang gliders catching the sea breeze, drifting across
the sky. Lima embraces its past and delights in the present.
In the morning, the aroma of freshly pressed Peruvian coffee emanates from cafes, a
staple left over from the Spanish colonial era. Restaurants specializing in empanadas
and breakfast sandwiches stuffed with Peruvian ham and a spicy sauce open their
doors to locals en route to work. After breakfast, you travel by plane into the Andes,
where your private transfer is waiting at Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in
Cusco. North of the city, at an altitude averaging more than 8,600 feet above sea level
is the Sacred Valley.
The fertile landscape tucks into the tawny foothills of the Andes’ mountaintops, filled
with verdant grasses nourished by the Urubamba River. The landscape can be
breathtaking in of itself when you first gaze upon the rugged mountain summits hovering
over your hotel. The greenery is vibrant and encompassing. You have your first
encounter with the traditional culture of the Andes, seeing women dressed in colorful
clothing woven with intricate patterns.
When you reach your hotel, you settle into the luxurious accommodations that assist in
settling you into the higher altitude and rural surroundings. The gardens have more than
35 species of birds fluttering in the haven of the Sacred Valley, including varieties of
hummingbirds. Hydrangeas blossom in the gardens with purple and blue petals. Visitors
do Tai Chi in the vast spaces to help acclimate to the altitude, learning to move with
careful intention and deep breaths. In the tranquility of your hotel, you have already
found the beauty of the Andes.
In the morning, the sweet aroma of hydrangeas drifts from the gardens. The
hummingbirds pollinate the flowers and flutter their wings at an average of 50 times per
second. You sip your morning coffee, enjoying the heat emanating from your mug, and
take in the view. Your guide meets you in the lobby ready to escort you into the beauty
of the Sacred Valley, beginning with the Incan ruins at Pisac. Climbing the hillside
above the town are magnificent terraces that look more like aesthetic decorations than
agricultural levels that were farmed on the irrigated land. Strong and sturdy stones hold
the mountainside walls in place.
A stairway ascends the hillside, rising diagonally around the terraces with flagstones,
and leading you from the edges of town to the top of the citadel. 15th-century Incan
ruins go beyond the agricultural tiers of the landscape. Massive stone doorways defend
the heart of the plateau, overlooking the terraces and expansive valley. Your heart
races with excitement as you discover the temples and baths of the ceremonial center.
The air is crisp in the shade and warm in the sunshine. Clouds pass by the
mountaintops, close enough to feel like you could touch them. The temples are made
with precision; the stones are stacked tightly together showcasing impressive intuitive
In the morning, the sun casts light over the lush landscape of the Sacred Valley. Your
private transfer escorts you to the train station at Ollantaytambo, where you settle into
your comfortable seat in the Vistadome. The glass dome of the train car allows you to
look out upon the bordering mountains before giving way to encompassing forests. You
pass the Urubamba River at a bend, following the concourse of the foothills carved by
the water over time. You reach the town of Aguas Calientes where your guide leads you
to the entrance of Machu Picchu.
You climb the stairs from the hill’s base until the view opens up to the terraces of hidden
site once forgotten with the ages. The buildings and terraces cascade down the hillside
looking over steep cliffs. At the edge of the site, you can see the towering form of
Huayna Picchu. Your guide leads you through the remains of the ancient city, pointing
out the temples, homes, and walls utilized by the Inca. The intihuatana translates to
“Hitching Post of the Sun.” The carved rock pillar was used as an astronomical tool to
help the Inca predict solstices. It stands at the top of the city, open to the elements
where priests could watch the movement of the sky.
In the morning, you can hear Urubamba River rushing past the town of Aguas
Calientes. The sunlight glances over the mountaintops and spreads across the valley.
After breakfast, you venture back up to the hidden city of Machu Picchu and to the gate
of Huayna Picchu, the mountain lingering over the plateau. The best time to ascend is in
the quiet morning, when there are fewer tourists looking to ascend the mountain. Thin
steps wind along the mountainside, accompanied with a chain barrier lining the
walkway. The soil is lush. The stairs are rugged. You don’t look down until you reach
the top. You could have never imagined a better view.
The clouds pass beneath you. You have an entire panorama of Machu Picchu, from the
terraces to the Sun Gate at the top of the distant hill. You feel at the same height as the
surrounding mountain summits. You can even see the winding waters of the Urubamba
River at the bottom of the valley. When you descend the mountain, you can continue
following the trail to visit the hidden Temple of the Moon. The ceremonial shrine is
located on the far side of Huayna Picchu, and was constructed as a cave carved into
Cusco sits at an altitude of 11,152 feet above sea level. The city has an abundant
mixture of Spanish colonial architecture and Andean culture. Shadows of the Inca wind
through the streets, cast by hidden architectural elements of the city and the lingering
walls of the monolithic Sacsayhuaman fortress situated on the hillside overlooking the
plateau. After breakfast, your guide meets you in the hotel lobby. You are eager to
venture out into the city to discover the lingering wonders of Cusco that enchant visitors
and locals alike. Neighborhoods rise up the encircling hillsides. Restaurants offer
Andean-fusion cuisine, blending local cooking techniques and flavors with reminiscent
Spanish and even international tastes.
Qoricancha, otherwise known as the Temple of the Sun, was considered the most
sacred site in the Inca religion. The original complex was erected in the 15th century
with elements traced back to a pre-imperial structure in the 12th century. The site
resembles a sun with rays shining out from all directions, and was erected in with
massive stones cut together without the use of mortar. Your guide points out that the
large stones are still visible in the foundation of what is now the Church of Santo
Domingo. The foundation wall is nearly 20 feet tall. The courtyard was once decorated
with more than 120 pounds of gold. Today the small Inca rooms around the courtyard
have gray stones and sharp angles, which contrast the rounded arches of Spanish
The scent of Peruvian coffee drifts out of the chic contemporary cafes of the
neighborhood of San Blas. The meandering cobblestone streets wind around the hills
and offer views to the rooftops of Cusco’s low-lying buildings. After breakfast, your
private transfer escorts you to Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport for your
flight to Lima. You can see the rapturous mountain tops of the Andes fade behind you
as you glide closer to Lima. The ocean and desert landscape around the city comes into
view. Your guide greets you at the airport to begin your tour of Peru’s celebrated capital
city. You can easily recall the Spanish colonial décor of the city’s central neighborhood.
The Government Palace and City Hall border Plaza Mayor.
Your guide leads you through the halls of the 17th-century San Francisco Convent. The
library on the upper level houses thousands of rare antique books. The monastery has
an impressive mural painted by Marcos Zapata in the 18th century. The work is a
recreation and reimagining of the Last Supper, depicting Jesus and the Apostles dining
on traditional Andean dishes, which was meant to help locals associate with European
traditions. The sounds of mass reverberate through the catacombs beneath the church.
The cool air sweeps through the niches of the cave-like structure, taking you through a
maze of narrow hallways lined with the city’s impressive history.
The stores in Miraflores almost hide on narrow side streets next to historic residences.
Surfers take to the morning break to catch the waves before work. Hang gliders take to
the air basking in a moment of freedom overlooking the edge of the city. The streets
come alive in Lima with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and the sounds of people
heading to work. The brightly blossoming flowers in the gardens of the Plaza Mayor
decorate the forecourt of the Government Palace. After breakfast, your private transfer
meets you at the hotel. Your ride to the Jorge Chávez International Airport is quick and
comfortable. You will soon board your flight home, taking a piece of the eclectic cultures
of Peru back with you.