My first time in Peru was like the first time I fell in love: intense, beautiful and overwhelming. So incredible I want to talk about it, so pour yourself a drink and sit down, dear readers: here we go, destination South America, the huge Andes and the mystical history of the Incas! My first Impressions of Luxury Travel in Peru.
My first stop took me by surprise: Lima. The cosmopolitan city is such a metissage (melting pot) of culture, color and style. Here the stylish, modern buildings overlooking the ocean dance with some impeccable colonial-style houses. In Lima you can either decide to spend your day surfing or, my favorite, running around art galleries and museums. I expected to visit a huge capital and did not realize the place is a living museum! The Spanish built Lima as the capital of their colonial empire, but they were not the first in doing so; pre-Inca civilizations had already constructed an important commercial center here long before. As the result of this, Lima is a living archaeological site! Everywhere you can see testimony of ancient times and a perfect introduction to understanding the importance of those vestiges is to take half a day to visit Larco Museum. The place is so charming and the visit cleverly done—it’s a must! As my guide said: Peru has too much to offer! Sculpture, incredible fabrics and of course jewelry…ladies, let’s face it, Cartier has not invented anything, they made it all before—here! After the visit, I enjoyed a delicious lunch in their terrace below the shade of magnificent tree…what a way to start my first day!
My first afternoon was ideal, wandering around the BoBo (Bougeois Bohemien) area of Barranco; I felt at home here: art galleries, the contemporary art museum (MAC) and boutiques of exquisite taste, Dédalo, Las Pallas...I lived for years in Barcelona in the trendy area of El Born, and I could feel the same energy here.
My first night was purely divine, spent at Hotel B. I am still jumping up and down at the thought of it with more excitement than a kid in Toys ‘R’ Us with a no-limit credit card. This brand new boutique hotel is going to rock Lima. It’s chic and trendy, and I adore the style, using the best of both worlds: they have kept the charm of the classic mansion with wooden floors and high ceilings and have cleverly inserted contemporary art. I loved the Sanderson in London and must admit I even prefer Hotel B as it has more of a luxury feel to it!
As a French person and somewhat of a foodie, it pains me a little to admit that food is simply delicious in Peru. When you come to Lima, try Amaz or any of Aracari’s recommended restaurant list. Another nice surprise is that the price of an exquisite meal is comfortable—you don’t have to run to the bank for a loan to pay the bill, which is refreshing. Speaking of refreshment…I tried the mate de coca (herbal tea made out of coca leaves) that helps the body to cope with altitude side effects, and I tried chicha (a drink made from corn), which is nice and reminded me of “grenadine” without the extra sugar, color additives etc… in fact, it is a much healthier version of it! The king drink here is the Pisco Sour. The best one I tried was prepared at the Bar Inglés at the Country Club Lima Hotel; go and try them there—delicioso! The hotel is a masterpiece of elegance and perfection, and if you are a golf player, stay and enjoy the magnificence of the Golf Club.
After Lima, my next move was to the Sacred Valley. Just the name is a giveaway! I felt so intimidated by the magnetism of such nature and grandeur. My lovely guide had so much fun taking me to Awanakancha—guess what that is? A South American camelids farm. Oh yes! There I was, feeding llamas, praying for none to spit on me while my friend was filming… I laughed so much; I felt 5 years old again!
We then drove to Pisac, enjoying the beauty of the nature as it dazzles like a Broadway show in front of me (I can almost hear some music to dramatize it…). We accessed the incredible archeological site of Pisac, and I was amazed by how easily I got in the heart of the site and enjoyed a pure moment of delight discovering the ingenuity of the Inca organization. To complete this perfect moment, we had lunch at the superb Hacienda Huayoccari. Exquisite food in an amazing hacienda with a private art gallery. The host, Mr. Lambarri, is a perfect gentlemen and took time to explain the history of his family house and the fantastic collection. I will treasure this lunch forever and strongly invite you to experience it, too.
I had the pleasure of staying in Sol y Luna Lodge and Spa! I just adore the colorful garden, even if I have to admit I felt so cozy in my little casita at Sol y Luna. The fireplace was lit and the candles, music was playing while I enjoyed a bath just like when I stayed in the Regent Beverly Wilshire. The magnificent bathroom looked more like a private Spa to me, and I just LOVED it. I slept like a baby in my extra comfortable bed and got all the rest I needed for the big day….
…the day when I go to Machu Picchu! I went there in style on the deluxe Hiram Bingham Train. Yes I did, and I can tick another box on my list of “things I dream to do one day”. When I arrived, my guide was waiting for me, holding a glass of champagne. The orchestra was playing charming songs. I knew I was going to enjoy the ride. Onboard the service was impeccable—it was as good as a lunch in the Paris Ritz. The Trio Sabor y Sentimiento are playing a mixture of songs, jazzy, classical, and it transported me into another world. The landscape is glorious, we danced along the flow of the river. Time stopped running its crazy race, I could have been a duchess travelling the world in the 1900’s. The party finally arrived to Aguas Calientes where we were transferred to an “ecological bus”. And up we went!
Maybe because I was hypnotized by the powerful river and the majestic mountains, I felt OK in the bus. This was the first time in my life that I was not scared a bit, nothing, nada, niente, interesting really…
And then, we arrived, I thought, “this is it!” We entered the Sacred Sanctuary, and it was an out of body experience. I was there in the Inca Sacred City. I saw with my own eyes the various areas that I had read about and watched on specialized TV shows. My guide was passionate about his heritage and transmitted the same energy to me. We walked along the path enjoying every single step. Go there once—it is important, it makes you realize that mankind is fabulous and as a species, we can be proud of what we have achieved. I am blessed a second time when I later meet archaeologist Alfredo Mormontoy, who has worked for decades on the site and told me some of his discoveries and insider secrets. It was amazing to get so close to what really was Machu Picchu.
Going back to Aguas Calientes, I imagined I was going to enjoy a quiet night in the hotel, and to my greatest amazement, my hotel Inkaterra was pure follow-up of what I had just experienced. The bungalows are dispatched in the fantastic gardens along the Urubamba River. The natural ambiance made me feel 100% in connection with the surroundings. The common areas are welcoming and my bungalow so cozy. The fireplace was lit, and I could relax and sleep tight with so much to dream about. It reminded me of the time I stayed in Pankort Laut in Malaysia—pure pleasure. In the morning I had the most agreeable walk around the gardens, admiring orchids and all the birds. I particularly enjoyed the Inkaterra Eco Center because I do believe that tourism has to respect the environment and encourage resorts with sustainable attitudes. I give a huge thumbs up to Inkaterra Machu Picchu!
My next stop in the journey was the city of Cusco. My taxi drove along tiny paved streets that reminded me of Carcassonne streets, and I was surprised that we made it to the hotel without a single scratch on the huge car. My new refuge: Casa Cartagena near the Plaza Nazarenas. Casa Cartagena is an elegant, trendy hacienda in the most peaceful area right in the historic center. I could have gone for a walk around the narrow paved streets, but I preferred to enjoy the amazing spa, why not? I was on holiday and had begun getting used to being treated like the Queen herself. The hotel has even more charm at night, all the fancy sculpture are in fact lights, the “mélange des genres” (mixture of genres) is spot on if I may say so! My dinner was at La Lune, and I could shout out loud, “VIVE LA FRANCE,” because this French restaurant was fantastic and the concept brilliant. The owner, Arthur, was such a nice person, making the evening really enjoyable.
The next day, I visited Cusco with one of the most kind people I’ve met, my guide, Adrianna. We visited the outskirts of the city to see the site called Sacsayhuamán (they say to just pronounce it as if saying ‘sexy woman’ because it is easier to remember). We also visited the Cathedral. What I can say about the religious monument is that it is definitely different to European ones. It’s not just the gold and silver leaf everywhere but the feeling of mixed religions, of syncretism. Here sculptures were dressed in real clothing and had realistic hair…it made it very, very, very real! In the Cathedral you will also find the “El Señor de Los Temblores” sculpture, which gets worshiped and dressed up every day in different clothing. It became clear that in Cusco’s Cathedral the line between Catholic religion and popular belief is blurred. In Cusco I did a fair amount of shopping, especially buying the salt of Maras, a gourmet salt extracted at 4,000 meters above sea level in the same traditional way as the Incas (and those before them) used to do hundreds of years ago.
After Cusco, I visited the second temps fort (high point) of my trip: Lake Titicaca.
I did not expect such beauty! The Titilaka lodge is part of the Hotel B family. To me, the rooms are as marvelous and modern as in Saint Martin’s Lane luxury hotel in London, but with views of the magnificent lake. As Charles Baudelaire said, “Ici tout est luxe calme et volupté” (here everything is quiet luxury and voluptuousness). I can’t help but think he probably prepared this verse expressly for me to explain the feeling of such beauty! The hotel is a tribute to the lake: you can just sit in any room and enjoy the sight. In the morning the hotel had a private boat take us to Taquile, one hour away by water, which was a perfect time of enjoying fresh air and meeting lovely locals, glimpsing their way of life and their weaving art. I will organize next time to visit Uros Chullini Islands, which are amazing and have charmed all those who have visited them. I feel so positively about Titilaka that I strongly advise anyone visiting Peru to stay here.
The end of my trip arrived, and I always like to divide my holidays into three parts: culture, sports/adventure and relax time. By this point in my trip, I had done quite a bit of cultural exploring, I had climbed more steps than I thought I would in my entire life, so I had to do the relax time.
So to Paracas! I remember when I arrived in Angsana Ihuru in the Maldives, what I needed to do was throw my bathing suit on and dive into the emerald waters. Here I just did that and dove into the incredible pool of “my little Marbella” as I like to call La Hacienda Bahia. If you like Southern Spain, then stay at la Hacienda Bahia. The white walls, the bougainvillea, the enormous olive tree! I slept with the window open to be rocked by the soothing sound of the Pacific Ocean lapping against the shore. In the morning, my guide took me for a two-hour excursion along the Ballestas Island. I do love nature and adored seeing the sea lions, penguins, pelican and all sorts of birds whose names I cannot recall now. On the way there, we stopped to admire the Candelabra on the mountainside. No one really knows who did it and for what purpose—Peru definitely has a mysterious je ne sais quoi (I don’t know what) about it. Before enjoying another dip in the fantastic pool, my guide showed me the desert and the amazing red beaches. The drive was easy and nice; the mountains of sands are captivating. Now, I am a big fan, so go there, for it is magnífico!
Having properly worked on my tan, I was ready to pack up and go home. But first, I wanted a final glance of Lima. I spent my last night in Barranco, in a very precious guest house: Second Home Lima. I am an Art amateur and loved staying at the bed and breakfast of renowned artist, Víctor Delfin. I appreciated all the original sculptures and paintings and met the artist himself! What an experience! I popped out on the street for my last shopping at Las Pallas, which has the best selection of native arts and crafts. The owner, Mari, will explain the origin of the goods, and she has an impeccable taste, believe me!
On the plane I thought of that extraordinary journey I had just lived. Peru is an incredible country full of art, architecture, history and culture, but the biggest treasure by far are the people I met: Marisol, Raul, Vicky, Nora, Guillermo, Naguib, Sofia, Carlos, Mary Carmen, Adrianna, and the entire staff of ARACARI— you’re simply the best!
I’ll be back!