96 Hours in Peru covering as much territory as possible

Carlos Melia in Machu Picchu
96 Hours in Peru covering as much territory as possible  |  Peru  | A few weeks back, invited by LATAM Airlines Business Class, Belmond Journeys and Hotels Peru, Rubin and I decided to come for 3 nights / 4 days – ha ha ha yes you read right 96 hours, to explore to main higlights of the marvelous country and intriguing culture. This wasn’t my first time in Peru – for work or leisure – I have been many times, but indeed was Rubin‘s first visit, and I mastered a well curated itinerary, that would take us from Lima, to Cusco, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley, in a natural flow enjoying the services of all our hosts… Well, unfortunately not all came along as planned. For more photos and videos on my journey in Peru, visit my Instagram Photo Gallery of Peru.

LATAM Airlines Business Class

Our journey began in New York City. There we boarded our non-stop flight, approx. 7 hiurs and minutes, with LATAM Airlines ( the new South American merge between two leading airlines LAN Airlines from Chile and TAM Airlines from Brazil ). Have flown them both, separately before, but I must say that together they have become stronger. Not only are they the top choice to connect North America to South America, throught their multiple hubs in the region, but also they compete in the global airline business as one of the best in terms of aircrafts and service. Members of the OneWorld Alliance. We flew on the brand new Dreamliner Boeing 787, on their new and super comfortable Business Class. LATAM’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners are configured in a two-class layout, with 247 seats in total. There are 217 seats in economy, and 30 forward-facing business class seats in their “Premium Business Class Cabin” in a 2-2-2 layout. Dreamliner cabins give a sense of space, complimented along with the mood lighting. The 2-2-2 layout offers a fully flat bed which is 74″ in length (23″ width). Well the rest you can see by yourself on my photos. We also flew LATAM for our domestic flights from/to Lima to/from Cusco. On this flights they only offer one class or service ” Economy Class “. To learn more visit www.latam.com
 

So right on schedule – 6AM – we landed in Lima, Peru. Well rested after a lovely flight, we were ready to began our short but intense exploration of the many wonders of Peru. Excited for the next four days ahead…

Belmond Journeys Peru
As we cleared immigratons and collected our luggage, the team of Belmond Journeys Peru, was awaiting for us. Our lovely host and private driver, seamlessly swift us on our way to our hotel for the night, the Belmond Miraflores Park in the district of Miraflores.

As we arrived, our suite was ready. And as we walked into our Ocean View Club Level Junior Suite, this was our view of the coast of Lima and the Pacific Ocean. SPECTACULAR right ? Miraflores is an exclusive residential and upscale shopping district south of downtown Lima. It is also one of the most affluent districts that make up the city of Lima. It has various hotels (including Belmond), restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and department stores. Miraflores is one of the main tourist attractions in Lima.

Belmond Miraflores Park

Set in one of Lima’s most fashionable areas, the Belmond Miraflores Park hotel takes you straight to the heart of all that’s best about this great capital city. Renowned for its beautiful garden location beside the Pacific Ocean, it has breathtaking views out to sea. This luxury hotel combines personalized service, exceptional dining and indulgent facilities to create the perfect base from which to explore. Colonial architecture, superb museums with Inca gold and Pre-Columbian antiquities, and glamorous shops, bars and restaurants are all just moments from the hotel. Enjoy a refreshing swim in their heated rooftop pool, with breathtaking views of Lima and the Pacific Ocean. We were hosted at one of their Ocean View Club Level Junior Suites, with sweeping views out to the ocean, a separate sitting space and a work area with a desk. along with access to their Club Lounge facilities – these include complimentary breakfast, snacks and beverages throughout the day at the stylish Executive Lounge exclusively for use by guests staying on the 3rd, 8th, 9th and 10th floors. IMPORTANT Book this hotel with me and enjoy the following VIP Amenities: Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability + Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests served in The Observatory + Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability + $100 USD Equivalent Spa Services credit, to be utilized during stay.

Belmond Journeys Peru
We took our time to relax at the hotel, enjoy a lovely breakfast – actually our second breakfast of the morning, since the first one was served 30ft up on the air aboard LATAM Airlines – at the rooftop restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean. By 10AM we were at the lobby, ready to meet our guide and driver, to begin our full day private tour of Lima and surroundings. During this trip, we didn’t have time to visit the Ruins of Pachacamac ( which I have visited in the past ). If you have the time, I strongly recommend it. So off we went…

First stop, conveniently located close to Miraflores, was the district of Barranco. Considered to be the city’s most romantic and bohemian, being the home and working place of many of Peru’s leading artists, musicians, designers and photographers.  I would even risk to call it the SOHO of Lima. Barranco has many houses in the colonial and Republican style (called “casonas”), flower-filled parks and streets, and appealing beachfront areas. Lima’s contemporary art museum, the MAC, is located in Barranco, as well as the Museo Pedro de Osma. One of the main highlight of Barranco is the Puente de los Suspiros, or Bridge of Sighs. I would return, to Barranco, later that evening for cocktails and a walk-around Hotel B Peru, a charming boutique hotel in the heart of Barranco.

Plaza Mayor or Plaza de Armas of Lima

Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. characterized by its historic center, archeological sites, nightlife, museums, art galleries, festivals and traditions. Lima is home to restaurants and bars serving local and international cuisine. The Historic Centre, made up of the districts of Lima and Rímac, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988. No visit to Lima is complete, without a visit to the Plaza Mayor ( photos above – also known as Plaza de Armas) and the the Cathedral of Lima (photos below).

Catedral de Lima

The Cathedral of Lima,  Roman Catholic cathedral located in the Plaza Mayor of downtown Lima. Construction began in 1535, and the building has undergone many reconstructions and transformations since. It retains its colonial structure and facade. It is dedicated to St John, Apostle and Evangelist.

Museo Palacio Arzobispal de Lima

As we walked along the Plaza Mayor, my eyer got caught into this marvelous and massive staircase, part of the Museo Palacio Arzobispal de Lima – residence of the Archbishop of Lima, and the administrative headquarters of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lima. Must visit.

Bar Cordano Downtown Lima

Time for a break… of course Peru style, over Pisco Sour at Bar Cordano, right in the Downtown District of Lima. One of the oldest bars in the country, Cordano is a Lima institution. Other option I have tried in the past, was Maury Bar – where Pisco Sour began. For those of you not familiar with Pisco Sour, is Pisco liquor and the addition of lime (or lemon) juice, syrup, ice, egg white, and Angostura bitters.

Casa Aliaga

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of our day, along with our later visit to LARCO Museum, was the private visit to Casa de Aliaga – House of the Aliaga Family, the oldest Colonial mansion in Lima. Amazing wooden art work, luxurious interiors. The ideal venue for a private or groups lunch/dinner.

And talking about lunch, off we went to our first Peruvian gourmet experience. Recommended by our local guide, we took a break from our tour, at LA MAR Restaurant Cevicheria Peruana. Peru is know by its cuisine, visiting Peru and not over indulging in ceviche is literally considered a crime. La Mar is the seafood creation in Miraflores, by chef and TV star Gastón Acurio.

LARCO Museum

After our lunch, with our stomachs full and more Piscos than we should have had, we entered the last part of our tour, perhaps the most interesting one, at LARCO Museum – one of my favorite in South America. The Larco Museum ( Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera) is a privately owned museum of pre-Columbian art. The museum is housed in an 18th-century vice-royal building built over a 7th-century pre-Columbian pyramid. It showcases chronological galleries that provide a thorough overview of 4,000 years of Peruvian pre-Columbian history. It is well known for its gallery of pre-Columbian erotic pottery.

Belmond Journeys Peru
Time to head back to our hotel, Belmond Miraflores Park, to rest and get ready for our evening. In a few hours, thanks to our knowledgable guide, we managed to see the top highlights of the city and understand better the nature and paradigm of the Limeños – of or from Lima, Peru. 

The evening was upon us, and just across the street from the Belmond Miraflores Park, we’ve enjoyed this marvelous sunset over Miraflores and the Pacific Ocean. Lost of people walking by the promenade and seating at the parks, sharing this moment with us.

Hotel B Peru

Was time to head back to Barranco, invited by Hotel B Lima, to sample their cocktails and famous pizza, at the Bar. A place for traditional service and excellent Peruvian cuisine in a light informal presentation with a feeling of Old Lima. The menu is a blend of traditional Peruvian ingredients and Mediterranean avors. Hotel B Lima, upscale boutique hotel, set in a Belle Époque style mansion in the heart of the district of Barranco. Tradition and eclectic art represent the soul of this charming property, inspired from the bohemian atmosphere of the surrounding district.

MAIDO Restaurant

Dinner that night was at MAIDO Restaurant, in Miraflores, walking distance from our hotel. Nikkei: the delectable meeting between Peru and Japan by Lima-born Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura. An impressive rope installation covers the entire dining room of the restaurant, which appears as both the Peruvian and Japanese flags, depending on the guest’s position. MAIDO is ranked as #02 of Latin Americas’s 50 Best Restaurants. During my previous visit to Lima, a few year ago, I have also visited CENTRAL Restaurant by Virgilio Martínez, ranked as #01 of Latin Americas’s 50 Best Restaurants. Our time in Lima came to an end with this dinner, and off we headed back to our hotel, following morning, was an early one, onwards to our next destination – Cusco.

And off we went, once again aboard LATAM Airlines, on our short flight connecting Lima with Cusco. Upon arrival, again we were treated by the professional staff of Belmond Journeys Peru, where we met our guide for the next 3 days, the amazing Walter.

We Checked IN at our magical hotel, the Belmond Hotel Monasterio, Grande Dame and quintessential Cusco (  this was my second stay with them – here you can see my first stay ). Right beside the lively Cusco central square is Belmond Hotel Monasterio, a former monastery and national monument dating from 1592. One of the most unique hotels in Cusco, this delightful retreat combines centuries-old charm with luxury hotel service. Discover inspired restaurants and boutique rooms and suites, all clustered around a tranquil central courtyard. The ideal hotel from which to discover the delights of Cusco, its doors open to a vibrant scene of old and modern architecture, markets, galleries and restaurants serving ‘new Andean’ cuisine. We were hosted at a lovely Deluxe Room, featuring colonial interiors with additional space to luxuriate. Windows look across the courtyard or over the cobbled streets of Cusco. Elegant bathrooms offer shower only. IMPORTANT Book this hotel with me and enjoy the following VIP Amenities: Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability + Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests + $100 USD Equivalent Spa Services credit, on services only (not valid on Spa products, not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full) + Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability.

Belmond Monasterio

Stay at Belmond Hotel Monasterio, Cusco, and uncover the rich past of one of the most historic hotels in Peru. Originally built in 1592, Belmond Hotel Monasterio sits on the site of Inca Amaru Qhala’s palace. Six years later, the Spanish took it over and founded the Seminary of San Antonio Abad. An earthquake seriously damaged the building in 1650, and upon restoration the beautiful Chapel was added. In 1965, the building was remodelled as a hotel. Belmond Hotel Monasterio is now a national historic landmark, protected by Peru’s National Institute of Culture. In the past I have also stayed at sister and next door property Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, which I also strongly recommend.

Cusco Peru

So excited to be back in Cusco, and share it with Rubin. Cusco is located in the Peruvian Andes – elevation is around 3,400 m (11,200 ft). Was once capital of the Inca Empire, and is now known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. Plaza de Armas ( photos above ) is the central square in the old city, with arcades, carved wooden balconies and Incan wall ruins.

Limo Restaurant in Cusco Peru

For lunch, before starting our private tour of Cusco, I booked us at my favorite restaurant, with a table on their balcony overlooking Plaza de Armas, from the second floor of the authentic Cusqueña mansion at LIMO Restaurant. A true Peruvian gourmet experience for the sybarite at heart.

Exploring Cusco by Belmond Journeys Peru

After an amazing lunch, our exploration of Cusco officially began. A bit affected by the altitude, our pace was slow, but Walter our guide, knew exactly how to manage. Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO  in 1983.  It has become a major tourist destination, hosting nearly 2 million visitors a year. Our fist stop was Qurikancha – the remains of the palace of the Incas, (the Temple of the Sun) and the Temple of the Virgins of the Sun.

Templo Qoricancha

Qurikancha – also known as Coricancha – the remains of the palace of the Incas, (the Temple of the Sun) and the Temple of the Virgins of the Sun. dedicated primarily to Inti, the Sun God. It was one of the most revered temples of the capital city of Cusco.  We also visited the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, but no photos were allowed.

Saqsaywaman Archeological Site in Cusco

Next we visited Saksaywaman Ruins. The indigenous Killke culture built the walled complex of Saksaywaman about 1100.  A citadel on the northern outskirts of the city. The scenery is impressive, and it makes you wonder, how the Incas were able to build dry stone walls constructed of huge stones. Expect close encounters with Llamas and Vicuñas.

Women of Cusco

My photos of the local ladies of Cusco on their daily routine, wearing their traditional Andean Clothing.

Cusco Peru

Back to Cusco town and to our gorgeous hotel the Belmond Hotel Monasterio, we were ready to see Cusco by night… unfortunately from here on, our trip would take a unexpected unfortunate turn…

Cusco

So before dinner we took a stroll around Cusco, and Plaza de Armas, mingling with locals and tourists. The city is breathtaking both during the day and night.

Cicciolina Restaurant

The team at Belmond Journeys Peru, had recommend and booked us at Ciccolina Restaurant. Indeed a lovely option, very lively at the front bar, and a hard to get table at the the back for the formal dinning. But when we looked at the menu, and realized that it was mainly Italian flair, despite we liked the restaurant, Rubin and I look at each other, and decided we were in the mood to traditional Peruvian food – particularly ceviche. Well that one was the worst decision we could have made…

La Feria Restaurant

We both wanted to go back to LIMO Restaurant for dinner, but in my spirit to discover new options to share with you all, we decided to go with this other option I have heard about… well that did not go well AT ALL. If you visit Cusco, please be aware of our own experience at La Feria Restaurant, located at Plaza Mayor. I am not going to go much into detail, but we had dinner there, food did not look too fresh ( Reason why several times we asked and brought to the attention of our waiter that food did not look fresh. And the table behind us complained that their food was uncooked ). We left, and without even know what would happen next, when we walked back into our hotel, the Concierge asked us how was our dinner and we both said at the same time ” Terrible don’t ever recommend that restaurant “. Well at 3AM in the morning the nightmare began. We were both taken by ambulance to a local clinic, where we remained for over 8 hours connected to IVs. The diagnostic: severe case of food poisoning aggravated by the effects of altitude.  I literally felt I was going to die in Cusco ( and I am not an hypochondriac nor a dramatic person, so imagine how serious it was ). Not only we’ve got food poisoned, with all that this implied, but out plans of our 4 days visit to Peru, were totally and absolutely disrupted, to the point that we had to cancel our day trip to Machu Picchu and our tickets about the Luxury Train Hiram Bingham. A mention should be made to the local team of Belmond Journeys Peru, who took great care of both of us, and stayed with us, and assisted us till the moment we left Cusco.

Yes our Machu Picchu experience, was ruined. I felt terrible for Rubin. I have been there before. So we tried every way to reschedule this for him, but quite frankly neither of us was feeling with the energy to take over this tour. Upon being released from the clinic, we went back to the Belmond Hotel Monasterio to rest for a while, and Walter, our tour guide had a great idea. He said ” Why don’t we pack you guys and take you by car to the Sacred Valley to the town of Ollantaytambo, there you can spend the night at Belmond Rio Sagrado, and tomorrow when you feel better and with more energy, we can enjoy a day exploring the Sacred Valley, and drive you back to Cusco in time to make your flight back to New York…. that way you can continue enjoying Peru, and it wont take much energy from you. Belmond Rio Sagrado is very relaxing and Sacred Valley is located at a much lower altitude than Cusco… ” So trusting his expert advise, and feeling like we wanted to see more of Peru and snap out of this horrible experience, we agreed… and her was SO RIGHT. !!!! We drove for over two hours, which I think we slept half of it. We arrived around 8PM and we went straight to bed, hoping the following day we will feel better. AND WE DID.

Belmond Rio Sagrado in Urubamba

As we opened our eyes, we woke up to this spectacular and breathtaking scenery. So relaxing and the perfect atmosphere to get our energy back. The Sacred Valley of the Incas or the Urubamba Valley is a valley in the Andes of Peru, close to the Inca capital of Cusco. The valley is generally understood to include everything between Calca and Lamay, Písac, and Ollantaytambo. The valley was formed by the Urubamba River ( river bordering our hotel ).

Belmond Rio Sagrado in Urubamba

In the Sacred Valley of the Incas, among verdant fields and towering mountains, lies Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado. Set on the banks of the rushing Urubamba River, this is one of the most serene hotels in Peru. It is built in natural materials to resemble an authentic Andean village. Situated at a lower altitude than nearby Cusco, the hotel provides the perfect environment in which to acclimatize, and is an ideal base to explore the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. So savour fresh produce in the restaurant, enjoy a local Sacred Valley massage or spend a few soothing minutes feeding the hotel’s baby alpacas. Slip into the spirit of Peruvian life. IMPORTANT Book this hotel with me and enjoy the following VIP Amenities:  Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability + Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests in El Huerto + $100 USD Equivalent Spa Services credit, to be utilized during stay (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full) + Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability.

Belmond Rio Sagrado in Urubamba

Our tour of the Sacred Valley was scheduled to start at 11AM, so we had plenty of time to enjoy the hotel, have a relaxing breakfast by the Urubamba River and do nothing but recharge and unwind. I have been to the Sacred Valley before, and have done some sightseeing like visiting Pisac and the outdoor MarketAwanakancha ancentral Andean weavingWild River Rafting at Urubamba River, drinking CHICHA at the Markets of Ollantaytambo, Horseback ridding and lunch at HUAYOCCARI, among other….So this time we planned to explore other options…

Belmond Rio Sagrado in Urubamba

After a long nap enjoying the soothing sounds of the Urubamba River and the birds, we were ready and feeling stronger to take over the Sacred Valley, and later that evening head back to New York, with a connection in Lima. We checked out Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado off to our last day of exploration, counting to leave Peru on a very positive note, despite what had happened the day before…

Women of the Sacred Valley

Maras Salt Ponds

First stop, the Salt Ponds of Maras. Maras is a town in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, 40 kilometers north of Cuzco. The town is well known for its nearby salt evaporation ponds, in use since Inca times. The salt-evaporation ponds are up-slope, less than a kilometer west of the town.

Moray

Next was a visit to the ancient amphitheater of Moray. On a high plateau at about 3,500 metres (11,500 ft) and just west of the village of Maras. The site contains unusual Inca ruins, mostly consisting of several terraced circular depressions. As with many other Inca sites, it also has an irrigation system.

Panoramic Lunch at Sacred Valley by Ciccolina Restaurant

After a lovely scenic drive, our driver suddenly stopped by the Huaypo Lake to an incredible surprise in the Sacred Valley. We were being hosted to an outdoors lunch experience, at the most incredible location…. Funny enough, the catering was organized by Restaurant Cicciolina, the same one we decided to walk out two nights before, in search of true traditional Peruvian Cuisine. If we would have only known…. Well Ciccionlina, proved to us they can do Peruvian flair as well or even better that Italian, and well what can you say about the location – just BREATHTAKING and the best last supper of our visit to Peru.

Weaving ladies of Chincheros

Last stop before heading back to Cusco, and onwards to New York, was the AWAY Alpaca Weaving Foundation in the town of Chincheros. I had planned this experience, specially for Rubin, perhaps as a future inspiration for a high fashion collection. The town’s weaving co-op is an effort to preserve these ancient ways passed on to new generations.

LATAM Airlines

Back in Cusco, we were ready to head back home. A journey that will take us back to Lima, and a four hours connection to fly back to New York. Our 96 Hours in Peru covering as much territory as possible came to an end. So many experiences and amazing destinations, only in 3 nights / 4 days. I will be coming back to Peru next June 2017, invited by Belmond Hotels, for the opening of their new luxury train Andean Explorer, which will connect in full luxury, the cities of Cusco, PunoLake Titicaca and Arequipa. So stay tuned for more Peru and Rubin will be coming along, to this time make sure he will get to see Machu Picchu and experience the Hiram Bingham Luxury Train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. Hope you have enjoyed my chronicles of Peru, till next adventure…  Carlos Melia Luxury Travel Curator – www.carlosmelia.com

(*) To book your own travel experience, do not hesitate to contact me either by email carlos@carlosmelia.com or phone # 917.754.5515. Also check our scheduled Travel Groups. I am an experienced Travel Agent with over 25 years of experience, member of LGTNetwork, VIRTUOSO, First in Service Travel, TZELL Travel Network. www.carlosmelia.com

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carlosmelia

Carlos Melia global bespoke Travel Agent, Travel Blogger, Concierge, Hospitality Consultant and Wedding Planner. Member of VIRTUOSO. Has earned, after over 25 years of Mainstream and Gay Travel experience, the mote of "Little Marco Polo". Jetsetter, bon vivant curates the world of luxury travel & lifestyle by experience, one destination at the time. Associated to First in Service Travel and Tzell Travel Network. Founder of LGTNetwork - Luxury Gay Travel Network. Follow, read and share my travel experiences worldwide at www.carlosmelia.com