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LIST OF MAPS.
1 THE BEST OF PERU.
2 PERU IN DEPTH.
3 PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO PERU.
4 SUGGESTED PERU ITINERARIES.
5 THE ACTIVE VACATION PLANNER.
7 THE CENTRAL COAST & HIGHLANDS.
9 MACHU PICCHU & THE SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS.
10 SOUTHERN PERU.
12 NORTHERN PERU.
13 FAST FACTS.
14 USEFUL TERMS & PHRASES.
Peru is legendary among world travelers looking for new experiences. Stunningly endowed in both natural and man-made attractions, Peru offers much more than most short trips can hope to take in: charming Andean highlands towns with colonial architecture, remote jungle lodges in the Amazon basin, soaring snowcapped mountains and volcanoes, a 3,220km (2,000-mile) Pacific coastline, and, of course, the legacies of the Incas and other sophisticated pre-Columbian civilizations. The following lists are some of my favorite places and activities, from hotels and restaurants to outdoor experiences and festivals. But the fun of traveling to a fascinatingly diverse country like Peru is compiling your own unforgettable list.
1 The Most Unforgettable Travel Experiences
Soaring over the Nasca Lines: One of South America's great enigmas are the ancient, baffling lines etched into the desert sands along Peru's southern coast. There are giant trapezoids and triangles, the identifiable shapes of animal and plant figures, and more than 10,000 lines that can only really be seen from the air. Variously thought to be signs from the gods, agricultural and astronomical calendars, or even extraterrestrial airports, the Nasca Lines were constructed between 300 B.C. and A.D. 700. Small-craft overflights dip and glide, and passengers strain their necks against the window to seemysterious figures such as "the Astronaut." See "Nasca" in chapter 5.
Gazing at Machu Picchu: However you get to it-whether you hike the fabled Inca Trail or hop aboard one of the prettiest train rides in South America-Machu Picchu more than lives up to its reputation as one of the most spectacular sites on earth. The ruins of the legendary "lost city of the Incas" sit majestically among the massive Andes, swathed in clouds. The ceremonial and agricultural center, never discovered or looted by the Spaniards, dates to the mid-1400s but seems even more ancient. Exploring the site is a thrilling experience, especially at sunrise, when dramatic rays of light creep over the mountaintops. See "Machu Picchu & the Inca Trail" in chapter 7.
Hiking the Inca Trail: The legendary trail to Machu Picchu, the Camino del Inca, is one of the world's most rewarding ecoadventures. The arduous 4-day trek leads across astonishing Andes mountain passes and through some of the greatest attractions in Peru, including dozens of Inca ruins, dense cloud forest, and breathtaking mountain scenery. The trek has a superlative payoff: a sunset arrival at the glorious ruins of Machu Picchu, shrouded in mist at your feet. For those looking for less popular ruins treks, Choquequirao looms. See "Machu Picchu & the Inca Trail" in chapter 7.
Floating on Lake Titicaca: Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable body of water, straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia. To locals, it is a mysterious and sacred place. An hour's boat ride from Puno takes you to the Uros floating islands, where communities dwell upon soft patches of reeds. Visitors have a rare opportunity to experience the ancient cultures of two inhabited natural islands, Amantaní and Taquile, by staying with a local family. The views of the oceanlike lake, at more than 3,600m (12,000 ft.) above sea level, and the star-littered night sky are worth the trip. See "Puno & Lake Titicaca" in chapter 8.
Marveling as Condors Soar over Colca Canyon: The world's second-deepest canyon (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon), Colca is the best place in South America to see giant Andean condors, majestic birds with wingspans of up to 3.5m (11 ft.). From a stunning lookout point nearly 1,200m (4,000 ft.) above the canyon river, you can watch as the condors appear, slowly circle, and gradually gain altitude with each pass until they soar silently above your head and head off down the river. A truly spine-tingling spectacle, the flight of the big birds might make you feel quite small and insignificant-and certainly less graceful. See "Colca Valley" in chapter 8.
Plunging Deep into the Jungle: However you do it, and in whichever part of the Amazon-basin rainforest you do it, Peru's massive tracts of jungle are not to be missed. The northern jungle is most accessible from Iquitos, and the southern Amazon, which features two phenomenal national reserves, Manu and Tambopata, is approachable from Cusco and Puerto Maldonado. You can take a river cruise, stay at a rustic jungle lodge, or lose yourself with a private guide, making camp and catching dinner along the way. See chapter 9.
2 The Most Intriguing Ruins & Other Historical Sites
Cantalloc Aqueduct & Chauchilla Cemetery: An incredible necropolis dating to around A.D. 1000 and a sophisticated irrigation system in the area around Nasca are two of the south's most interesting archaeological sites. Of the thousands of graves at Chauchilla, 12 underground tombs have been exposed. What they hold is fascinating: the bleached bones of children and adults with dreadlocks, and some of the garments and goodies they were buried with. Close to town, nearly three dozen aqueducts represent a spectacular engineering feat of the Incas and their predecessors. The canals have air vents forming spirals descending to the water current and are still in use today by local farmers. See "Nasca" in chapter 5.
Colonial and Inca Cusco: Vibrant Cusco is a living museum of Peruvian history, with Spanish colonial churches and mansions sitting atop perfectly constructed Inca walls of exquisitely carved granite blocks that fit together without mortar. Streets still have evocative Quechua-language names that date back to Inca times, such as Saqracalle ("Where the demons dwell") and Pumaphaqcha ("Puma's tail"). See "What to See & Do" in chapter 6.
Qoricancha-Templo del Sol: The Inca Temple of the Sun is an exceptional example of the Incas' masterful masonry. Dedicated to sun worship, the greatest temple in the Inca Empire was a gleaming palace of gold before the Spaniards raided it. During the summer solstice, the sun still magically illuminates a niche where the Inca chieftain held court. A sensuously curved wall of stone is one of the greatest remaining examples of Inca stonework. See p. 213.
Sacsayhuamán: On a hill overlooking Cusco, the monumental stonework at Sacsayhuamán forms massive zigzagged defensive walls of three tiers. Built by the Inca emperor Pachacútec in the mid-15th century, some blocks weigh as much as 300 tons, and they fit together seamlessly without mortar. The main pageant of the splendid Inti Raymi festival, one of the greatest expressions of Inca and Quechua culture, is celebrated every June 24 at Sacsayhuamán. See "What to See & Do" in chapter 6.
Pisac Ruins: At the beginning of the Sacred Valley, just 45 minutes from Cusco, are some of the most spectacular Inca ruins in Peru. Equal parts city, religious temple, and military complex-and perhaps a royal estate of the Inca emperor-the ruins enjoy stunning views of the valley. A hike up the hillside to the ruins, beginning at Pisac's main square, is one of the most rewarding climbs you're likely to take. See "Pisac" in chapter 7.
Ollantaytambo's Fortress Ruins: Even though the Incas never finished this temple for worship and astronomical observation, it is still extraordinary, perhaps the greatest evidence to be found of their unparalleled engineering and craftsmanship. On a rocky outcrop perched above the valley, dozens of rows of incredibly steep stone terraces are carved into the hillside; high above are elegant examples of classic Inca masonry in pink granite. See "Ollantaytambo" in chapter 7.
New "Lost" Inca Cities: Archaeologists keep unearthing fantastic Inca ruins in and around Machu Picchu. Most are still being excavated and documented, but Choquequirao, to which hard-core trekkers put off by the crowds and regulations of the Inca Trail are now hiking, and the recent discoveries Corihuayrachina, Cota Coca, and Llactapata are all envisioned as new Machu Picchus. See "On the Trail of 'New' Inca Cities: The Discovery Continues" on p. 266.
Huacas de Moche: On the outskirts of Trujillo, this complex of mysterious Moche adobe pyramids, the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon, dates to A.D. 500. The Temple of the Sun (Huaca del Sol), today sadly eroded, is still mammoth-it was once probably the largest man-made structure in the Americas. The smaller Temple of the Moon (Huaca de la Luna) has been excavated; revealed inside are cool polychromatic friezes of a scary figure, the decapitator god. See "Trujillo" in chapter 10.
Chan Chan: A sprawling city of adobe in the Moche Valley, just beyond Trujillo, Chan Chan was the capital of the formidable Chimú empire. Begun around A.D. 1300, it is the largest adobe complex of pre-Columbian America. Among the nine royal palaces, the partially restored Tschudi Palace has unusual friezes and is evocative enough to spur thoughts of the unequalled size and sophistication of this compound of the Chimú kingdom, which reached its apogee in the 15th century before succumbing to the Incas. Chan Chan includes three other sites, all quite spread out, including a modern museum. See "Trujillo" in chapter 10.
The Ruins of Kuélap: The remote site of Kuélap, hidden by thick cloud forest and more than 800 years old, is one of the manmade wonders of Peru waiting to be discovered by visitors. The ruins are still tough and time-consuming to get to, but the fortress complex of 400 round buildings, surrounded by a massive defensive wall, rewards the efforts of adventurous amateur archaeologists. See "The Ruins of Kuélap" on p. 389.
Chavín de Huántar: About 110km (70 miles) from Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca are the 3,000-year-old ruins of Chavín de Huántar, a fortress-temple with excellent stonework constructed by the Chavín culture from about 1200 to 300 B.C. These are the best-preserved ruins of one of Peru's most sophisticated and influential ancient civilizations. In a subterranean tunnel is the Lanzón, a huge and handsome stone carving and cult object shaped like a dagger. See "Huaraz & the Cordillera Blanca" in chapter 10.
3 The Best Museums
Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera, Lima: The world's largest private collection of pre-Columbian art focuses on the Moche dynasty (A.D. 200-700) and its extraordinary ceramics. Packed shelves in this 18th-century colonial building hold an incredible 45,000 pieces. And it wouldn't be a proper presentation of the Moche culture without a Sala Erótica, dedicated to the culture's shockingly explicit ceramic sexual depictions. See p. 134.
Museo de la Nación, Lima: The National Museum traces the art and history of the earliest inhabitants to the Inca Empire, the last before colonization by the Spaniards. It's sprawling but very well designed, with scale models of major archaeological sites and great carved totems and textiles. See p. 136.
Convento y Museo de San Francisco, Lima: The capital's best colonial-era church, the Convent of St. Francis is a striking 17th-century baroque complex with gorgeous glazed ceramic tiles and carved ceilings. The museum holds excellent examples of religious art and a splendid library, but deep beneath the church are some creepy catacombs, dug in the 16th century to house the remains of tens of thousands of priests and parishioners. See p. 131.
Casa-Museo María Reiche, Nasca: One of Peru's best small museums, named for the German woman who dedicated herself to the study of the Nasca Lines, displays a good collection of Paracas textiles, Nasca ceramics, mummies, and colonial art. Outside of Lima, it's one of the best spots for a primer on southern Peru's rich history and archaeology. See p. 168.
Museo Antonini, Nasca: A private archaeology museum with a mission, this Italian initiative presents artifacts from the sophisticated Nasca culture and details the process of excavations. In the museum's backyard is the Bisambra aqueduct, an ancient Nasca stone irrigation canal. The museum is in possession of the world's greatest collection of painted textiles, from the huge adobe city of Cahuachi nearby, but as of yet has no place to display them. See p. 169.
Museo Inka, Cusco: This fine collection of exhibits and artifacts from pre-Inca civilizations and Inca culture poses an excellent introduction to the Incas. The handsome colonial-era mansion that houses the museum, built on top of an Inca palace, is one of Cusco's most important. Women weave Andean textiles in the courtyard. See p. 211.
Museo de Arte Precolombino, Cusco: This new and handsomely designed museum of pre-Columbian art possesses some pristine pieces representing the whole of Peru's history, all taken from Lima's overwhelming Larco Herrera museum.
Excerpted from Frommer's Peru by Neil E. Schlecht Excerpted by permission.
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Posted August 25, 2011
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Posted December 25, 2011
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