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TRAVEL: Your Guide to Seeing Peru

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TRAVEL: Your Guide to Seeing Peru

One of my specific travel goals is to visit every baseball stadium in the United States and another is to visit all the New Seven Wonders of the World. I currently have hit a plethora of the stadiums and reached three of the New Seven Wonders to include Petra (Amman, Jordan), The Colosseum (Rome, Italy) and Chichen Itza (Cancun, Mexico). This year, I decided to add another Wonder to the list and head off to Machu Picchu, Peru. Here is my guide to seeing Peru.

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Guide to Seeing Peru: Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption, Cusco

Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption, Cusco

The city in the mountains with spectacular cloudy views has made the location, discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, a tourist destination for years. I decided to make my way there by way of Lima, Cusco and then Agua Calientes. With each city, there were different things to discover, explore and learn.

Guide to Seeing Peru: Lima

For the start of my journey, I flew into Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima. The airport is large but dense and seemingly not overwhelming. I would suggest hiring a driver ahead of time that way if you are not fluent in Spanish, you can skip negotiating with a taxi or any other car service that is located at the entrance/exit of the airport. Lima is a bustling city with a downtown that features modern perks and tons of things to get into.

Guide to Seeing Peru

La Rosa Nautica

I would suggest staying in the Mira Flores District (Costa Verde) where there are modern hotels, the coastline, and numerous restaurants. Lima has been rated one of the best cities in the world for cuisine and restaurants so you can’t lose anywhere you go. However, a few suggestions are Moye’s Rooftop (the best views of the city center/Plaza Mayor) Javier’s (great drinks, outside seating, views of the ocean), La Rosa Nautica, (a dining experience on a pier in the ocean) and Don Belisario (some of the best grilled chicken).

Plaza Mayor, Lima

Plaza Mayor, Lima

For those that love a cocktail like me, the Pisco Sour is the local staple along with Cuzqueno beers. I preferred to drink my pisco straight up or pure. There are plenty of museums, shops and outdoor markets in Lima that you can explore for days. If you have time, check out the Mali Museum.

Guide to Seeing Peru: Cusco

After spending a full day and night in Lima, I flew over to Cusco. The flight is about an hour and 20 minutes over the Andes Mountains. The flight in offered some of the most amazing views of the Central Andes you can imagine. Once you land at Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport, you can instantly tell that the elevation of the city can leave you tired, sick, breathless or all three. With an elevation of 11,200 feet, you will need to pace yourself and utilize prescribed medication for altitude sickness or use the local remedies. I preferred to use the local concoction of coca tea or simply eating the readily available coca leaves.

Guide to Seeing Peru

Cusco is one of the many first stops for those traveling to Machu Picchu so naturally, it is filled with hotels, hostels, Airbnbs and short stays. You can find accommodations very easily depending on your needs and personal desires. Places for food are everywhere in the Plaza de Armas along with some awesome Spanish cathedrals. 

The kicker for me, the opportunity to take a picture with a llama! On pretty much every corner, there is a young girl or two with the soft and gentle animal. You can take a picture for about 2-5 soles (about 60 cents to $2) [you want to tip accordingly, they aren’t doing it for free.] A great place to grab a beer is Cholo’s. It is on a side street back in the cut but worth it. At night, the Plaza comes alive with celebrations and elaborate firework displays to honor patron saints. The market place is a great open air space where you shop for fresh meats, vegetables, precooked meals or souvenirs.

Guide to Seeing Peru

 

Guide to Seeing Peru: Machu Picchu

After spending the day in Cusco, the next step is to take the train to Machu Picchu/Aguascalientes. You can hop on the Peru Rail for a three-hour ride through the mountains with tour guide, food, and wine. The views are amazing and I would suggest opting for the Vistadome ticket.

Guide to Seeing Peru

Peru Rail

Once you make your way to the last stop on the train to Machu Picchu, you are surrounded by mountains and lush vegetation. Depending on the time of year you go, be prepared for rain and consistently changing climates. The weather in June/July was warm (60s-70s) during the day but dropped down to the 50s at night. So, bring layers! The area leading up to Machu is heavy in tourism so be prepared to pay a little extra for things including food. If your stomach is up for it, I would suggest trying to local cuy (basically a farm raised guinea pig). It is considered a delicacy and tastes like pork, from what I’ve heard. 

Guide to Seeing Peru: Machu Picchu

Guide to Seeing Peru: Machu Picchu

Once you make your way to the last stop on the train to Machu Picchu, you are surrounded by mountains and lush vegetation. Depending on the time of year you go, be prepared for rain and consistently changing climates. The weather is June/July was warm (60s-70s) during the day but dropped down to the 50s at night. So, bring layers! The area leading up to Machu is heavily touristy so be prepared to pay a little extra for things including food. If your stomach is up for it, I would suggest trying to local cuy (basically a farm raised hamster). It is considered a delicacy and tastes like pork, from what I’ve heard. 

Guide to Seeing Peru

To get to the summit of Machu Picchu, you will need to hire a guide in advance and purchase tickets to enter. The small bus winds its way up the mountain for about 30 minutes until you reach the visitor’s gate. Before entering, use the only public bathroom available for 1 sole. Then let your adventure begin. I had always seen pictures of Machu Picchu but they do not compare to seeing it for yourself. The clouds would disperse and you can just stand there in awe of this magical place. Hearing the history of the city and how the Incas utilized the space was enlightening. If you are feeling up for it, then a 45-minute hike up to the Sun Gate is worth it. You will see the entrance from which the Incas entered from the mountains. I was out of breath but it was so amazing.

Guide to Peru

Heading Home

Once I experienced the wonder that is Machu Picchu, it was time to head home. I basically did the trip back in reverse. Staying one night in Cusco and one night in Lima before flying back Charlotte. Trips like these are eye opening. I felt a lot like Indiana Jones making my way through South America attempting to find the lost city! If you have the chance or the desire to see Machu Picchu, do it! You will not be disappointed. And have an empanada and pisco on me! Cheers.

Your Guide to Seeing Peru

Want to see other travel suggestions from Keith? Click here for more.

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Keith Cradle is a community engagement specialist, cultural arts advocate and a nonprofit strategist with over 25 years of experience. Cradle is currently on the Board of Directors for Carolina Voices (www.carolinavoices.org), The Bechtler Museum (www.bechtler.org), Inspire the Fire (www.inspirethefire.org) and the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council for Mecklenburg County. He has previously served on the Knight Foundation CLT Advisory Board, the Board of Directors for Hands on Charlotte and the Ada Jenkins Center.

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