Mountain promontories keep watch over verdant green jungles below, as they taper gradually to the coastline. Adventure, mystery, and ancient civilization punctuate this majestic land. Our private Peru tours are this and more. Take one of the world’s most breath-taking train rides through the Andes mountains. Enjoy a music workshop in Cusco, a UNESCO World Heritage site built some 3000 years ago, known for its warren of cobblestone alleys and vibrant markets. And why not head east into the Amazon, stay on an ecological reserve, and hear stories told by indigenous people who have lived in this lush, leafy world for countless generations.
The mystical country of Peru stretches from the northwestern coast of South America over the spine of the Andes and into the dense tropical jungle of the Amazon basin. From its eternal coastal deserts to the highest navigable lake in the world, Peru’s landscapes are as diverse as they are spectacular.
Similarly, its rich and ancient cultural heritage, with great civilizations stretching far back in time, make for a fascinating journey. Peru may be synonymous with Inca remains and Spanish colonialism, but much of its mystique derives from the legacy of those who made Peru their home long before.
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Lima is intimidating at first glance. It’s gigantic and noisy, with a population of nearly 10 million. But if you know where to go and what to see, Lima is one of South America’s best-kept secrets. Take Barranco: once home to the famous Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, its cobblestone streets, beautiful ocean views and inspired wall murals are the perfect scene for Peru’s gastronomic boom. Sophisticated restaurants and bars have given new life to many buildings. Miraflores is popular with tourists for its excellent shopping and business district. Home to the elite of the city, Miraflores delivers terrific nightlife at bars hugging the coast. Spend some time strolling its seaside cliff banks at sunset and you might just decide to move to Lima. Then there’s Centro, the beating heart of Old Lima. This historic neighborhood is full of energy and boasts stunning colonial architecture, the government buildings and loads of history. San Isidro, downtown, flourishes with Peruvian Café culture and one-of-a-kind designer stores. On the urban outskirts lies Chorrillos, a rustic fishing village port where informal restaurants serve fish freshly caught meters away. Savor Lima with these cuisine musts: Anticuchos, Peru’s signature peppery, grilled beef-heart brochettes. Chifa Peruvian-Chinese food that combines local cuisine with traditional Cantonese cooking. Cuy, or guinea pig that are best barbecued; Lomo saltado, a delicious mash-up of sliced beef, onions, tomatoes, and peppers paired with french fries and rice; Leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk, the colloquial name for ceviche marinade. Wash it down with a pisco sour, Peru’s ubiquitous cocktail made with lime, egg white, and pisco brandy. Add a shot of leche de tigre, and you have Peru’s hangover remedy.
In Cusco, your touchdown city, descend through the steep cobblestone streets to the dazzling Plaza de Armas – magnificent at day or night. Take in the Virgin Mary-Pacha Mama in the Cathedral, built upon an Ancient Incan temple. Sip coca tea and delicious quinoa soup and rest in preparation to take in the stunning Sacred Valley prehistoric Temple of the Sun and Sacsayhuaman. Haggle with the Quechua speaking women of the market over exquisite artisan crafts and llama-wool accessories. In Cusco, your touchdown city, descend through the steep cobblestone streets to the dazzling Plaza de Armas – magnificent at day or night. Take in the Virgin Mary-Pacha Mama in the Cathedral, built upon an Ancient Incan temple. Sip coca tea and delicious quinoa soup and rest in preparation to take in the stunning Sacred Valley prehistoric Temple of the Sun and Sacsayhuaman. Haggle with the Quechua speaking women of the market over exquisite artisan crafts and llama-wool accessories. After you have acclimatized to Cusco’s altitude, be whisked away to the mysterious land of Incan splendor, Machu Picchu. This dramatic maze of ancient plazas, temples, and palace ruins, that were re-discovered by Yale professor Hiram Bingham in 1911, is situated 2000 feet (610 meters) above the windy Urubamba River. Scholars are still mystified by Machu Picchu – what was its original function and reason for being abandoned in the 16th century? Marvel at the Inca-constructed buildings of massive stones fit so tightly together without mortar at such a high altitude. Explore landmarks that align with astronomical events such as the solstice sunset. Be amazed by a water-distribution system that conserved water and limited erosion on the steep slopes - engineering feats from over 500 years ago! The majestic peaks of Machu Picchu are a splendor to be witnessed.
Relax in a number of eco lodges and enjoy dry trails along the Pacaya Samiria reserve. Or, our favorite way to experience this amazing corner of the world is to leisurely cruise down the Amazon River in a comfortable cabin while taking excursions near the rivers of this reserve. Bask at the lush jungle, home to the stealthy black jaguar and tiny squirrel monkeys playing amidst the ancient Ficus trees, strangler vines and brightly colored bromeliads. Hear the parrots caw throughout the dense tree canopy. Glimpse the endangered pink Amazon dolphins, slow-moving three-toed sloth, titan Gladiator Tree Frogs, Yellow-Spotted Amazon River Turtles, neon-colored Tanagers, Kingfishers, Orioles, Channel-Billed Toucans, Scarlet Macaw, Orange-Backed Troupial, Ringed Kingfisher or Yellow-headed Caracaras. The magical Tambopata National Reserve offers an astonishing selection of activities led by local explorer guides who share first-hand knowledge of the Peruvian Amazon. Excursions include a visit to Lake Sandoval, a water mirror inhabited by Howler monkeys, caimans and giant river otters. Take in the verdant beauty of the jungle through dry land hikes with the flexibility of being able to roam on trails on your own. Relax in one of the many lodges in the Reserve. But for those looking for something special, we recommend the Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción, a private luxurious lodge deep within the heart of the Amazon – where the story of Inkaterra first began. This hacienda is located between the Tambopata National Reserve and 4 hours downriver by canoe along the shores of the Madre de Dios River. Relax in one of the nineteen private cabanas sitting majestically on stilts or in the six-room casa grande with high ceilings and a rustic thatched roof are peppered around the property. You will not be disappointed! The Manu reserve is arguably the region that is most untouched by human population and the most pristine. The logistics to get here are arduous but worth the trip if you are seeking to be deeper in the Amazon with more access to view primates, wide variety of untouched Amazon jungle. This option is ideal for those willing to sacrifice comfort for being in Peru’s most pristine part of its Amazon.
The people of Peru are warm, friendly and welcoming. With about 29.5 million inhabitants, Peru is the fourth most populous country in South America and home to 43 native languages. Spanish is the official language yet Quechua and the Aymara are heard around the countryside. The rich tapestry of Peruvian culture comes from the unique blend of this country’s rich multiethnic population of Amerindian, Spanish, African and Chinese. The Incan Empire lost their stronghold across modern day Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador in 1572, but their cultural influence remains deeply embedded throughout the country – be it in the local dialects, cooking and facial features of the locals, the ruins of many temples, or the spiritual birthplace of the first Inca, Lake Titicaca. The great culture of ancient Peru is also expressed by a beautiful mix of Hispanic and native traditions, with traditional Peruvian women’s bright skirts, polleras, layered up or vivid designs and embroidered belts and homewares. Peruvian ponchos, often made of llama wool, are a practical fashion again the harsh, cold highlands. Traditional male outfits are accessorized by straw hats to shade from the intense sun and wet winters. Peruvian Cuisine Comida Peruana (or Peruvian food) is an experience unto itself. Light, tart, citrusy flavors give way to heavier spiced comfort food, making Peru a gastronomical paradise. Peruvian gastronomy includes the cuisines of the ancient Incans, Europeans, and Chinese. The country is also home to the aji chile, the high protein grain quinoa (the secret of the Incans), a variety of corn, along with their own whiskey (Pisco), and chife, Peru’s Chinese food! Ceviche, a tart cold-cooked seafood dish that is Peru national dish. Spike the remaining ceviche marinade, know as the leche de tiger (tiger’s milk), with pisco and shoot it down! Or, have the following morning as leche de pantera (panther’s milk), or hair of the dog after a late night out! Arroz con Pato (Rice with duck) is a signature Spanish Criollo Peruvian recipe. Featuring flavors of cilantro and dark beer in the rice, the roasted duck thigh or leg is crisply seared. It has been adapted with chicken or other poultry and is found in every restaurant. Pollo a la Brasa (roasted chicken) is a rotisserie chicken marinated with garlic, herbs and spices and served with a mouth-watering huacata (Peruvian black mint) sauce, which is often a secret recipe containing creamy cilantro, garlic, chili mayo base. Lomo Saltado, stir-fried beef, is a fusion of Chinese stir fry and classic Peruvian ingredients: soy-marinated alpaca (beef), onions, tomatoes, aji chiles and spices in a robust gravy served over rice with French fries on top. Aji de Gallina (creamy chicken) is a Peruvian staple. Topped with black olives and hard-boiled egg and served with rice, this shredded chicken stew with cream, ground walnuts, cheese and tempered aji amarillo chile boasts a warm, piquant sauce. Papas a la Huancaina (potatoes in spicy cheese sauce) is exactly what it sounds like – a tasteful, spicy dish of yellow potatoes drenched with a scrumptious puree of queso fresco (fresh cheese), aji amarillo, garlic, evaporated milk, lime juice with saltine crackers. It is topped with cooled hard-boiled eggs. The recipe originated in Huancayo, a city high up in the mountains, and is often served as a side or as an appetizer with crackers. Rocoto Relleno (stuffed spicy peppers) features the red aji rocoto chile stuffed with a blend of ground beef, onions, garlic, olives, raisins, herbs and spices and topped with queso freso before being baked in an egg-and-milk sauce. While it looks like a tomato, be warned, it is doubly spicy then the yellow aji chile and features a fruity tropical berry essence. The dairy in the recipe cools your palette. Causa (potato casserole) is an Quechuan dish with European flair. Spicy aji and lime-infused yellow Peruvian potatoes, shredded salmon, tuna or chicken mixed with mayo and layers of avocado, olives and hardboiled eggs creates a bright, mild, lasagna-like dish. Fancier restaurants have served this Peruvian classic as a terrine, casserole or as a cake roll. Cuy (guinea big). Yup. Roasted cuy is the Andean region’s most popular meat source next to the alpaca. It’s dark, smoky meat is similar to poultry in its tenderness and its crisp skin similar to a roasted pig. Traditionally, cuy is stuffed with local herbs and roasted over an open wood fire. It is served with whole potatoes, also baked on the open fire. Dip it in a spicy aji sauce, as you would a chicken wing. Other restaurants have adapted to deep-fried or braised cuy. Anticuchos de Coraozón (grilled beef or alpaca hearts) is a lean, boldly flavored grilled dish with a marinade of vinegar, cumin, aji chile and garlic. The meat is served medium-rare with delicately singed edges. It is served on skewers often with sliced onion or potato and drizzled with lime. It is found as a street food or appetizer across the country.
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“Latin Excursions was a pleasure to work with. Their experts made the planning process so accessible and easy; they tailored the trip to meet the needs of our family including two teenagers, booked everything for us from start to stop, and they were able rebook our entire itinerary once Covid restrictions lifted–something I never could have done on my own. Our experience in Peru was rich and meaningful thanks to our excellent guides in the country. Their professionalism and knowledge allowed us to really enjoy and sink into the cuisine, history, people, culture, landscape, flora, and fauna from Lima to Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu to the Amazon, rather than worry about logistics and details. Our on the ground family really brought the country to life! We are grateful!