Friday, September 6, 2013

Let Me Tell You About......Peru

Machu Picchu, often called the "Lost City of the Incas" is located on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley near Cusco, Peru and a UNESCO World Heritage Sight.  It was built about 1450 and abandoned a century later and not discovered until 1911 by an American historian,Hiram Bingham.

While Macho Picchu is well known, the country of Peru and the surrounding area on the way to see Machu Picchu are not often spoken about but are filled with amazing sites that should be seen along with visiting the amazing site of Machu Picchu.  How much do you know about Peru and this area?

In almost every case, you will fly into Lima, Peru from the United States and you should take a day or two to discover Lima. The Miraflores neighborhood is a tourist friendly part of the city and much like any urban city - beaches, hotels and nice restaurants. Miraflores has a boardwalk that runs round Pacific cliffs and a stone staircase that goes down to the beach. There is a shopping mall and the Parque del Amor was inspired by the creations of one of my favorite Barcelona architects, Anton Gaudi.

One thing to mention is that you must be in fairly good physical condition to visit this area of the world.  The towns are at extremely high altitudes and many people get altitude sickness. You should make sure you exercise and are in good physical shape before attempting to visit this part of the world.  Machu Picchu is almost 8,000 feet above sea level and Cusco is even higher, at over 11,000 feet.  This is not a trip to rush - you will need to spend several days in towns getting used to the altitude before you'll feel well enough to trek to Macchu Picchu. A tour is your best bet to get the most of out traveling here.

After Lima, your next stop will probably be Cusco, where you'll fly to. Plan to spend at least two days here so your body has time to get adjusted to the altitude. You may feel out of breath - all hotels have oxygen tanks but the best way to handle it is to give your body time to adjust. There is a local remedy called Coco Tea that if offered at many hotels - there are mixed reviews on whether this helps.

Another thing to remember is that due to it's altitude, Cusco is cold. It hardly ever gets warmer than the 60's. A good location for a hotel is the Plaza de Armas which has the main attraction of Cusco, The Cusco Cathedral. Saqsayhuaman is an Incan site just outside of town that you can visit with 200 ton rocks similar to Stonehenge.

The next stop on your trip will likely be Aguas Calientes, the tourist town right outside of Macchu Picchu. It is "only" 6700 feet feet above sea level and a bit warmer than Cusco. This is where you will go to Macchu Picchu from. You must buy entrance tickets to Macchu Picchu at least a month before you are traveling, so make sure that you keep this in mind - and another reason why a tour booked before you leave is a good idea as all this will be waiting for you.

Macchu Picchu was supposed to be a royal residence but was abandoned by the Incas when the Spanish invaded Peru and the Spanish never found it. Buildings have been reconstructed so tourists have a better idea of how it actually looked when it was built. There are gates, chambers, towers, plazas, tombs and temples to see and photograph. A good guide is a must here and can make the visit extremely interesting.

Before you return home, take a tour of the Sacred Valley which was the heart of the Incan empire. Salt was mined in terraced holding ponds. Weavers work at a collective here and you can learn how chica is made.

What do you need to travel here? U.S. citizens need a valid passport for entry and to depart that expires more than six months after their departure date. The government of Peru prohibits removing any type of archaeological artifacts, colonial art and some natural artifacts such as fossils. You should exercise caution when purchasing art to ensure you are not being sold something that you are prohibited from bringing home.

June to August is the dry season, December to March are the wettest months as well as being the hottest and most humid time of year. The currency is the nuevo sol, which has traded at S3.00 to S5.50 per US dollar (US$). U.S.$ are widely accepted but make sure to ask for change (which will be given in local currency) in small bills.

Call us to book your tour to Peru! 516-608-0568

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