Peru is at the top of its travel game right now. It conceals one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, its cuisine wows chefs worldwide and it packs in adventure treats from the peaks of the Andes to the depths of its Amazonian jungles. Let’s not forget its desolate deserts and 2,500 km of Pacific coast. From pyramids to palaces, historic Lima to magnificent Machu Picchu, Peru is waiting to envelope you in epic. Prepare for broad smiles in a narrow country as you hit Peru with your like-minded culture-seeking crew courtesy of FFX Adventures.
Living large in Lima
Seen from the sky, Peru’s capital Lima is a sea of skyscrapers with the Pacific Ocean its western perimeter. It’s home to over 12 million people and hidden amongst them are treats such as the Plaza Mayor, the Convent of San Francisco and the Huaca Pucllana Pyramid. This magnificent ceremonial complex was built in the 4th century and gives Egypt’s pyramids a real run for their money. Once the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 1500s Lima started to thrive and their presence remains in its historical center.
Find yourself in an impressive archaeological sandwich with the City of Caral to the north (home to the oldest civilisation in the Americas) and the ruins of Pachacamac to the south. From catacombs and Corinthian columns to cliff-edge malls and a modern metropolis, Lima is a city of contrasts that needs to be seen – and its street food tasted – to be believed.
Culture clash in Cusco
A picturesque flight links Lima with Cusco, Peru’s historic heartland and gateway to the world-renowned Inca Trail. The former Incan capital is perched at 3,399m (11,152 ft). Sneak in plenty of ‘Instagram stops’ to acclimatise in subtle style. As you explore narrow alleys and quiet courtyards, uncover Colonial buildings blending into their Incan stone foundations. This elegant culture combination has gone on for centuries, for Cusco is South America’s oldest continuously inhabited city.
Marvel at the Incas’ unparalleled stonemasonry in the Twelve-Angled Stone and at Coricancha, the Empire’s most prized temple. Tuck into as much history as you can handle before a delicious local lunch – and perhaps a pick-me-up at the ‘Museo del Pisco’ – before hiking up to the artisanal district of San Blas. Meet makers and artists and sample its cafes and bars, from classic Cusqueño style to American, Irish and everything in between. (Take your time and don’t cram Cusco in all at once. You’ll enjoy another full day here before your Peruvian adventure’s out.)
Sacred Valley of the Incas
Nothing puts your sense of adventure (or taste buds) to the test quite like total immersion in Cusco’s San Pedro Market. Have faith – and copious small notes at the ready – and just throw caution to the wind. Stock up on tangy local cheeses and velvety Amazonian chocolate and challenge your FFX crew to buy the weirdest, most exotic fruit and vegetables you can find. Will you dare sample the locals’ infamous Mystery Soup? From herbal remedies to unique handicraft souvenirs, this is where it’s at. In the afternoon, have your mind blown by the bricks and blocks of Sacsayhuaman. This formidable citadel allegedly took 10,000 workers 50 years to build. Those Incas certainly didn’t do things by halves. While in the region enjoy a tour of Wilcamayo, the lush and fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas. Hypnotic maize crops line the river while steep terraces are carved high into the valley walls overhead. It takes creativity and innovation to farm in the Andes. The Peruvians (and the Incas before them) have this licked. Plus, it all looks incredible on your Facebook feed so it’s a double whammy.
Market snacks will by now be wearing off so chow down with a local family and enjoy a sociable communal meal. Get your language App out and search ‘Q’ for Quechua. Good luck with that – just remember to keep smiling and nodding. Finish your day with a tour along the Urubamba river to Ollantaytambo, a textbook example of Incan urban planning and the only spot where they defeated the Spanish invaders. Up the Incas!
Mystical Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu was only discovered by the West in 1911. Can you even imagine being that person (he was an Indiana Jones-esque explorer called Hiram Bingham, in case you’re wondering)? Popping out for a cup of sugar, taking a wrong turn and coming home having discovered one of the new wonders of the world? Today, get to see what the fuss is about because wow, just wow. Jaw, dropped. Machu Picchu smashes the hype out of the park.
Our picturesque approach is via railway up through the fertile Urubamba river valley and the mystical cloud forests. A bus then crawls the rest of the way up a steep, switch-back road to reach the expansive ruins of around 200 houses and temples that make up Machu Picchu.
Get those group shots and selfies secured before descending to the buzzing local town of Aguas Calientes where exotic butterflies flutter and hot springs steam (it’s not called ‘Hot Springs’ for nothing). Enjoy some friendly banter with local artisans showing off their Andean curios before retiring to show yourself off on social media while you prepare for a night on the town. Regroup in a local bar for craft beer and Peruvian cuisine.
High-altitude Humantay Lagoon
Sometimes you’ve got to get high to see the highlights of a country. In altitudinal terms, of course. For those at leisure in Peru, the five-day Salkantay Trail is a world-class hike that winds up at Machu Picchu. With our compact FFX itinerary, designed to bring you the very best within one short week, we’ve singled out an unmissable trek highlight just for you: an adventure up to the exquisitely coloured Humantay Lagoon. You’ll start your trek from Soraypampa (3,850m) and forge up to the lake at 4,200m above sea level. Dress warm folks, that’s almost twice as high as Machu Picchu!
Keep an eye out for native Andean flora, fauna and bird life en route and around the lagoon’s unique ecosystem. With its dramatically different coast, mountain and jungle regions, Peru is truly super abundant on the natural stage, containing 84 of the planet’s 117 different ‘life zones’. Not bad for a slip of a country that would fit inside Mongolia, eh.
With scenery like this it’s no surprise Morocco has been the backdrop for so many films, from the Prince of Persia to The Mummy. It’s even believed to have certain environments so similar to those on Mars that scientists have set up research stations here. Otherworldly indeed…
On the go in Cusco
Cusco has so much going for it that, following our mountain escapades, another day in its presence is a gift. Go with the flow, storm round on a mission or chill over a bottomless brunch with your new-found FFX friends. With your Tourist Ticket (Boleto Turistico) you’ve got free access to a wealth of museums, churches and historical sites. Save the Museum of Pre Columbian Art for the evening, as it’s where we’ll gravitate for our final group meal. The MAP cafe’s contemporary courtyard setting offers ‘art, color, flavor and perfection’ in both artistic and foodie senses. Think Andean tortellini, the Amazonian catch-of-the-day, rosemary-seared alpaca or the house speciality, creamy mushroom capchi (a rich, pastry and quinoa-topped soup).
Wrapping up a week of history-soaked hedonism with such innovative contemporary cuisine feels like the perfect way to conclude your tour of Peru, a country of contrasts on an epic scale. The dinner table discussion is going to go one of two ways. Which Cusqueño bar to seek out first, or which FFX adventure to book next? The night is long. Your flights home aren’t until tomorrow. There’s plenty of time for both.
Is Peru ready for you? That is the question…Book today
That is how you experience Peru, FFX Adventures style. You get up close and personal with Peru’s historical highlights and bucket-list crushing archaeological and natural sites. You immerse in epic Andean mountain scapes, old Colonial cities and the ancient Incan way of life. You explore the markets, eat street-food like a local, share an authentic meal with friendly local folk plus dine out on some of the country’s finest foods in Cusco. There’ll be down time and free time (for spa time and ‘you time’) as part of this small-group adventure experience for like-minded people in their 30s and 40s. And it’s all underpinned with high-quality accommodation and safe, reliable and trained local guides and drivers. To secure your spot on an FFX Adventures departure to Peru in 2020, get in touch today.