From the Incas to the Amazon
|Open Arms: A statue in Cusco, outstretched as if to embrace all that's grand about the surrounding landscape (Corel)|
Peru's official tourist office (1.866.661.PERU/1.866.661.7378; www.peru.info) has information that covers the spectrum of travel, along with links for lodging, domestic travel, and other resources.
Flights to Lima depart daily from Los Angeles and Miami on LAN Peru Airlines, part of the LAN Airline Alliance (866.435.9526; www.lan.com). In August, round-trip flights from Los Angeles were $519 plus airport tax ($67.15) for air travel occurring from August 15 to December 10. From Miami, fares run around $00 plus airport tax during certain restricted times. Check into LANs special promotional offers for best deals.
Tourist Visas and Vaccinations
Most international visitors are not required to secure a visa upon entry, and are granted a 90-day stay, which can be extended.
Altitude sickness is typically the most common illness to plague travelers in Peruif you don't plan on heading into the Andes, you'll be alright, but if you are hitting the Inca Trail, be sure to give yourself time to acclimate before engaging in physically-exhaustive activities, remember to drink lots of water, and when possible sleep at lower elevations. Visitors to Peru should also have vaccinations for yellow fever and follow safe practices (filtered water, avoiding dirty dining establishments, etc.) to avoid hepatitis and cholera. The U.S. State Department (www.state.gov) and the Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) both have copious information on both the overall safety of the country and the most prevalent diseases, as well as preventative measures. Those visiting the lowlands should also consider taking anti-malarial medication.
LAN Peru also has domestic flights servicing Lima, Cusco, Puerto Maldonado, and other major cities. To get to Machu Picchu, you can either trek in on the Inca Trail; access the ruins through a combo of highway/rail transit from Cusco to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes); or arrive exclusively by train on Peru Rail (+84.23.87722; www.perurail.com). Three train services are provided from the Poroy Station outside of central Cusco: the luxury Hiram Bingham ($476 round-trip only); the panoramic Vistadome ($101.15 round-trip/$41.65 one-way); and the economical Backpacker ($65.45 round-trip only). You can also eliminate about half the rail distance by boarding at the Ollanta train station, roughly 47 miles north of Cusco. Once in Aquas Calientes you can hike the last two-kilometer segment of the Inca Trail to the ruins, or board any of the buses provided by the six different agencies that depart near the train station.
Lodging and Packages
Lima has scores of lodging options, including major hotel chains and boutique properties that you can access from the Peru Tourism website. A good preview of Cusco lodging options comes up on Cusco's online guide at: www.cusco-peru.org. For unadulterated Amazon adventures, the incredible Reserva Amazonica Lodge (1.800.442.5042, www.inkaterra.com) east of Puerto Maldonado cannot be beat. Rates are unusually affordable (four-day "Expedition Down the River" lodging excursion is $330 per person/double occupancy) and includes local transfers, meals, and necessities. Find all the information by contacting Inkaterra (800.442.5042; www.inkaterra.com). For a cushy base camp near Machu Picchu, the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel (1.800.442.5042, www.inkaterra.com) serves up a great combination of affordable luxury (daily rates start at $187 per person/double occupancy). The woodsy rooms and suites are inconspicuously tucked into the shady cloudforest hillside. Meals and on-site eco-activities such as guided orchid, hummingbird, and butterfly walks through the sprawling cloudforest estate are offered, and you can schedule educational tours to the ruins with top-notch professional guides. Contact Inkaterra (800.442.5042; www.inkaterra.com) for more information.
If you'd rather not sweat the DIY details, you'll find that there's no shortage of guides offering awesome packaged Peru adventures. Based on personal experience, my vote goes to Big Five Tours and Expeditions (800.244.3483; www.bigfive.com), which with 30 years under its belt is consistently ranked among the top ten tour providers by notable travel and adventure magazines. Their trip menu is extensive, and a couple standouts include the 14-day Peru Explorer ($4,499 per person/double occupancy) and seven-day Best of Peru ($2,299 per person/double occupancy). You can also create your own Peru a-la-carte itinerary that can take in, among other sites, the Nazca Lines, an Amazon jungle cruise, the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, Arequipa and the Colca Canyon, Lima, and more.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication