Here is my itinerary for an almost 3 week stay in Peru. It felt very rushed though and was physically challenging.
Day 1: Arrive in Lima – stayed at the Runcu Hotel
Perched on the cliffs above the sea, this capital city features expansive views, lovely city parks with unique statues, a variety of neighborhoods and colonial architecture. I stayed in the residential areas of Miraflores. I took a city tour that was very helpful.
Went to some craft market and the Larco Museum.
Dinner Show – one with a history of Peruvian dance that was very good.
Cusco – 2 nights – stayed at Amaru Hostel
Flew to the colonial town of Cusco, ancient capital of the Incas, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the western hemisphere. See the Cusco’s Cathedral, Santo Domingo Church & the Plaza de Armas. You’ll want to spend the rest of the day adjusting to the altitude – 10,000 feet above sea level. That altitude sickness is no joke. Visited the nearby ruins of Kenko, Puca-pucara, and Tampumachay as well as the Sacsayhuaman fortress. I read somewhere that a great time to go is during the Inca Festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi) – June 24th!
Toured the Andean village of Chinchero, one of the best artisan markets in Peru, and visit with Nilda Callanaupa Alvarez. Her organization is dedicated to preserving ancient textile designs and weaving techniques from all over the Andes. As an accomplished artist she will lead a workshop on traditional back strap weaving techniques. Then visit Pisac, the first settlement outside Cusco, where I shopped in the artisan market and gaze upon the fortress clinging to the cliffs. Try to schedule Pisac for a weekend when villagers stream into the city for the Sunday Market which is a incredible immersion into authentic Peruvian culture with lots of different groups dressed in native garb. We stayed a bit out of town but enjoyed lunch and drinks at the Pisac Hotel and it looked like a good place to stay.
I think i took a bus to Ollantaytambo to see the temple fortress dating back to the Incas. Visited the Sacred Valley, Maras, Moray. Ollantaytambo – I spent the night there.
Day 6: Machu Picchu Town – 2 nights – stayed at the Taypikala Boutique Machu Picchu Hotel
Early wake-up for the scenic train ride along the river, through the Sacred Valley of Urubamba, to the small town at the base of the “Lost City of the Incas.” Formerly called Aguas Calientes, it’s now named for the iconic Machu Picchu soaring above.
Perched 8,200 feet above the valley, this is truly one of the most spectacular sites on earth. Dating to the 1400’s, it was hidden by semi-tropical jungles until discovered by Hiram Bingham of Yale University in 1911. Archaeologists believe that the Incan “Virgins of the Sun” took refuge from the Spanish Conquistadors here. A shuttle bus takes visitors on the 20-minute ride up the steep, winding dirt road. Be sure to schedule a guided tour of the fabled ruins. Most people go there at sunrise but since I am not a morning person I think I went around 10am and missed the crowds. Pray for sun.
Days 8-12 : So when you book your train ticket, be sure to check from Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu and on the way back you can go to Poroy Station instead of Ollantaytambo, because it is 20 minutes from Cusco city. From Cusco I took the nightbus to Puno and did a tour of Lake Titicaca and Uros Islands for 2 days. Took a bus and spent a few days in Arequipa which we used as a base to do the Colca Canyon. Did another nightbus to Nazca where I flew in a 6 seater plane to see the Nazca Lines, then back to Lima.
Days 13- 17 – visited the city where a large community of Afro-Peruvians live, El Carmen Region. It is about a 3 hour bus ride south of Lima to Chincha Alta and then a taxi to El Carmen. I stayed with a prominent family of the late, great maestro, Amador Ballumbrosio, master of Afro-Peruvian music and dance. Today, his adult children are carrying on his legacy. Inside the Ballumbrosio home are frequent music and dance performances. El Carmen is also the center of Zapateo, an Afro-Andino music-dance genre Among other things, drums were banned. Zapateo uses feet for percussion (and violin, brought from the Andes by indigenous workers) for melody.
The town is generally quiet and peaceful, full of friendly people. However, a basic command of the Spanish language is extremely helpful since I did not find one person who spoke English.
El Carmen is cotton and sugar cane country, so the “hacienda” plantations imported lots of African slaves, who were of course treated brutally. The tour of the Hacienda San Jose will show you both the beauty and brutality of the region. A good restaurant, called Africa, on the main plaza of this small town.
(Afro-Peruvians also reside in the northern regions of
Peru such as La Libertad and Ancash, but the larger
populations are concentrated in the northern valley
plantations of the regions of Piura and Lambayeque. I did not get a chance to visit those areas.)
Day 18 – Back to Chincha Alta then Lima overnight and then back home Day 19.
Wish I Had included a visit to one of the sacred spiritual retreat centers.
FYI – In Peru, a Still-Hidden Alternative to Machu Picchu
The pre-Incan ruins of Kuélap share similarities with their more famous cousin. But getting there can be a herculean effort.