Prepping for Peru: How to Make the Most of Your Holiday, Part I

There is no single image that can capture the essence of Peru; it’s more than llamas.

I’m soon heading out on what I’d call the “starter tour” of Peru. Ten days visiting some of the high spots: Cusco, Sacred Valley, Manchu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and, of course, Lima.

I’m going with Yampu Tours, an excellent travel company I’ve used before, traveling to Argentina. 

With Yampu, I experienced  Buenos Aires, the incomparable wine country around Mendoza (and a wonderful city in itself), and the magnificent, awe-inspiring Iguazu Falls.

The Peru trip promises to be special as it’s the home country of Jose Irauzqui, founder and president of Yampu. So when I say they really put their heart into it… I’m looking forward to great, great experiences.

But 10 days is barely enough time to scratch the surface of Peru.

Start with the country’s almost incomprehensible geographic diversity.

Just a bit bigger than Alaska, Peru boasts the world’s highest city (the mining town La Rinconada, at 16, 700 ft), a 1500 mile Pacific coastline, sand dunes of the Huacachina desert oasis, glaciers and dense jungles, and the soaring the Andean peaks surrounding Manchu Picchu.

Kingdom Compass on Unsplash

And the Amazon rainforest. In fact, this region covers over 60% of Peru, the second-largest chunk within a single country. (Brazil has the most).

Zachary Spears on Unsplash

Literature as insight into Peru’s cultural diversity and rich history.

Any of the guidebooks — FodorsEyewitnessLonely Planet, or for that matter, Wikipedia — will take you through the drill, but what’s the larger context?

It’s found in stories.

Mario Vargas Llosa, a prolific Peruvian whom the New York Times dubbed the “elder statesman of Latin America literature.” He is an essayist, novelist, and political activist.

He has the soul of his country in his heart.

His skills brought me to the fantastical reaches of Peru’s Amazonian tribes in the 1950’s: The Storyteller.

His Lima-centered Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is something I’m saving for the plane.

Then there is the grim tale depicting Peru’s grinding stand-off with guerilla Maoists of the Shining Path in the 1980’s: Death in the Andes.

The novel gives us a quick brush stroke, a tiny keyhole glimpse of conflict through the eyes of the characters, both noble and not so much.

I’ve found a probing intellect in Vargas Llosa’s Notes on the Death of Culture.

While not meant to be a “travel book” per se, I find thought-provoking for the serious traveler in our “post-culture” world.

He laments a global sameness, an aspirational materialism stoking the world’s economic engine, the primacy of image over the word. All, he posits, have contrived to change what it means for a society to have a culture.

Culture has little to do with quantity, everything to do with quality. — Mario Vargas Llosa

In travel, culture matters. A lot.


Other Must-Reads for Peru

These provide an insight into Peru you won’t find in travel guides, on Trip Advisor, or even the most informed travel itineraries.

It’s the work you’ve got to do to get behind the brochures.

• The Peru Reader

If you have the time or inclination for just one book before traveling to Peru, make it this one. A collection of essays, short stories, legends and biographies, this provides a look at the diversity that makes Peru so fascinating.

• Turn Right at Machu Picchu

This one is on every list of must-reads on Peru. Focusing on the history of the Incas, it retraces the steps of Hiram Bingham, the early 20th-century explorer who claimed to “find” the lost traces of the remarkable Incan civilization near modern-day Cusco.

• The Lost City of the Incas

The seminal work of Hiram Bingham. You might as well read his first-hand account, written soon after his 1911 exploration that made him famous.

The Upshot

‘If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.’  – James Michener

 

This article was first published on Medium.com

Featured photo credit:  Alexis Huertas on Unsplash


N.B. Purchases on Amazon from links herein will generate a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

Copyright 2018 Jane Trombley All rights reserved.

Best of the best: 5 favorite destinations in 2017

US Passport cover

2017 was a banner year for my travel.  Some destinations were carefully planned but others were just serendipitous, popping up out of the blue. Either way, believe me, the travel gods cranked  it out on my behalf.   During this remarkable stretch of travel and exploration, the trips were chronicled in this space.   And now, as the year winds to a close, here are my 5 favorite destinations for 2017.  I hope you’ll find some ideas and inspiration for your 2018 travel plans.

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Magical Mendoza: How to catch the best of it

Mendoza is often associated with the other Argentinian M-word: Malbec. The region is indeed the heart of Argentina’s  prodigious wine production and the focus of many a trip. The wine tasting was certainly high on my list and I did plenty of it.

But there is more to explore: Mendoza is sophisticated yet laid-back; beautiful parks reflect the regions’ rich history and Spanish heritage. Culinary expertise pairs nicely with the renown wine. Traveling with the expertise of Yampu Tours, here’s how two friends and I caught the best of Mendoza, from Malbec to aflajores.

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First time in Buenos Aires? 5 Things I loved!

Magnificent corner building in Buenos Aires

Ah, Buenos Aires. The first time you visit any city,  you can’t do it all. Sometimes budget constraints limit options, or the allotted time slips away. Thanks to a great itinerary put together by Yampu Tours, I experienced some of the best of Buenos Aires in a way that made me want to return.  I’m sure I’ll go back for more…. Continue reading “First time in Buenos Aires? 5 Things I loved!”

What is the best secret hotel in Uruguay? Probably this one.

Casa Zinc in La Barra across the small wavy bridge from Uruguay’s famed costal hot spot, Punta del Este.

IMG_1959

It’s part of the Tablet Hotel collection, which hints at its exclusive, uber-cool nature.

Casa Zinc is a small hotel, a hipster’s dream; an unassuming collection of six rooms in a quiet residential neighborhood off the main thoroughfare.

Don’t let the trompe d’oeil facade and Casa Zinc’s consciously  rumpled public areas fool you. The illusion masks attention to detail in all creature comforts, wrapping modern conveniences in luxurious, carefully curated bohemian chic with just a whiff of intrigue.

Want to conjure up a mysterious past?  Cafe Zinc is the perfect setting.

See if you don’t agree in the following slideshow or Casa Zinc’s online gallery, here.

Continue reading “What is the best secret hotel in Uruguay? Probably this one.”

Why you will love a day at Argentina’s amazing Iguazu Falls

Say “Argentina” and wine – especially Malbec – comes to mind. But the world’s largest waterfall system, the dramatic Iguazú Falls, lies along Argentina’s border with Brazil. “Amazing” doesn’t really do them justice.

The Iguazú National Park (Parques Nacionales Iguazú (AR) y do lguaçu (Br)) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  After a few days in the sun-parched wine country of Mendoza, seeing – and occasionally feeling – water drop 270 feet (82 meters) is, well, refreshing.

Yampu Tours booked the day’s tour to Iguazú Falls, as part of a larger trip to Argentina. A high point was an unforgettable boat trip to get up close and personal with water flowing at a rate of 62,ooo cubic feet (approximately 1800 square meters) per second.

Yes, it’s humbling. Take look….
Continue reading “Why you will love a day at Argentina’s amazing Iguazu Falls”