When a lot of people think of Peru, if they think of it at all (let’s face it, we’re Americans, we think the world revolves around us) they probably envision getting that perfectly art-directed selfie at Machu Picchu. And with good reason; Machu Picchu is an extraordinary place, one that words and pictures can barely do justice.
But after taking Brand g’s Amazon river cruise and Machu Picchu Discovery trip, I can attest to the fact that there is SO much more to the amazing country of Peru than just that one UNESCO World Heritage site. This trip included so many wow moments that I can’t even wedge them all into this blog, so I’m breaking it up into two posts.
Sidebar: even if you don’t go with Brand g, ask anyone who has traveled there, and they’ll say the same thing: DO go with a group tour. The amount of planning and potential pitfalls that can befall anyone trying to travel to multiple parts of this country make the hand holding of a group tour Worth. Every. Penny.
Example: upon leaving Cusco (the final stop on our tour) to return to Lima to fly home, two friends discovered that LATAM Airlines had cancelled their tickets. They needed to buy new ones on the spot – but LATAM’s computer system wouldn’t accept any of their credit cards. And they didn’t have $300 in cash. Brand g’s ground transfer host (who accompanied us into the airport to ensure that all went well) used her personal Peruvian credit card to pay for the tickets, and the boys promised to Venmo her the money. Within 15 minutes, what could have been a disaster was solved.
First, some general information about Peru:
Peru is a relative bargain for Americans. ($1 buys you roughly 4 Peruvian soles.) Whether you go on your own or with Brand g, you’ll discover that on a per-day basis, a Peruvian vacation is an extraordinary value.
Here are some examples:
At the 5-star Tambo Del Inka lodge in the Sacred Valley, we had room service dinner. Total cost (all in): $35 for the two of us. (That will barely get you one continental breakfast in NYC.)
At the 5-star Palacio Del Inka hotel in Cusco, one of our friends traveling with us had three hours of massages. Total cost: $77.
The exchange rate is so amazing that you’ll be tempted to buy all manner of gifts and souvenirs. Baby alpaca scarves, incredible pieces of pottery, and even little woven baubles from street vendors are all priced absurdly low. We left with an entire suitcase full of gifts (some of which were even for other people). Our friend’s backpack was so loaded down that she staggered through the airport like Charlie Sheen on a bender.
Peru was hit very hard by the drop in tourism due to Covid. Its people – who, as Brand g co-owners Jeff and Brian have always said are some of the world’s most welcoming – were frequently tearful with gratitude (a feeling I keep trying to instill in my husband, to no avail). You’ll fall in love with them.
An example: a street vendor named “Kevin Costner”, who sold sterling silver jewelry outside the Palacio del Inka in Cusco. He was so lovable that many of us bought trinkets we didn’t even need because he was so charmingly persistent, endearing and grateful.
Now, some specifics about the various parts of Peru:
Lima is a modern, seaside city with an abundance of incredible street art. Artists like Jade Rivera have taken this art form to a new level, and the streets bearing his (and others’ work) are an Instagram influencer’s wet dream. You can buy Jade’s work at the museum and shop bearing his name, and the prices for signed originals are only in the hundreds!
Peru’s capital city is also known for having an amazing number of restaurants that top the World’s Best lists every year, all in a city with that cray-cray exchange rate.
Having a Nikkei experience (multi-course tasting menu) at ultra-sophisticated Maido (on the World’s Best restaurant list for both 2018 and 2019). It was $90 per person, including one drink and the tip – a meal that, in LA, would have cost at least $300.
To feel like you’ve covered the highlights, plan to spend three nights here.
Getting to the Amazon isn’t a snap – you have to fly to Iquitos, then take a two-hour private bus ride to Nauta, where the 5-star Delfin river cruise ships depart from. (Brand g, of course, handles all this.) But cruising through the rainforest is an experience you will remember for the rest of your life – not to mention the fabulous bragging rights that come with it. (I plan to be dining out on these stories for years.)
Now personally, I am not a “let’s get raw with nature”-type person (my idea of camping is a Hyatt without 24-hour room service), but even I was fascinated by the wildlife, here. Luckily, you don’t have to get any closer than you want to, since for many of us, snakes and tarantulas are best viewed from the safety of a skiff loaded with beer and champagne. If you DO love creepy crawlies, you can do a nature walk where you’ll encounter poison tree frogs and anacondas and Peru’s largest tarantulas up close and personal. Or you can take a mud bath instead. Ladies’ choice.
Fishing for red-bellied piranha. (Yes, really.) Our naturalist guides showed us how to cast a fishing line into the water (baited with red meat). Within a minute or two, we each hooked a piranha and pulled it into the boat. They were very pretty – until the guides pried open their mouths, and we saw the razor sharp teeth that can rip an animal to shreds. Interestingly, because the Delfin river ships cruise the Picanya Samyra nature reserve, the fishing is “catch and release”; so these little killers were returned to the waters.
Coming back – after a hard day of picture taking – to the Delfin III cruise ship with its teak showers, incredible beds, gourmet cuisine and staff that wait on you like you’re an Incan god. It was all the reward we needed for roughing it. (The passenger-to-staff ratio is one to one, more than nearly any other 5-star cruise in the world.)
Trust me, it’s four PRICELESS days. Ask anyone who’s done it.