Written and Travelled by Alexandra Bergstein
Listed as one of the seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is an extraordinary experience even for seasoned travelers. I just returned from a trip to Peru with my 12 year-old daughter and our dear friends (also mother-daughter). We all love adventure and this trip set a new bar!
Our goal was to see Machu Picchu but also to experience the culture and natural beauty of the country. Peru has an unbelievable 82 micro-climates– from the desert that runs along the Pacific Ocean (where Lima, the capital is located), to high altitude mountains, Amazonian rain forests and even cloud forests (a distinct ecosystem in which Machu Picchu is located). In one day you can experience multiple climates and incredible biodiversity. The landscape is raw and beautiful in some places, rich and teeming with life in others. But it is never boring!
We had many memorable experiences and fantastic meals but the highlight of the trip was our pre-dawn ascent of Huana Picchu mountain. Called one of the “most treacherous hikes” in the world, it is a heart-thumping 50-minute climb up impossibly narrow and steep stone steps laid by the Incas over 700 years ago. The morning we went was rainy and foggy, so we gripped the side walls with our fingers to keep our footing. In parts, we had to duck our heads and crawl under boulders. Descending was even more treacherous because the stones were slippery, there are no guard rails, and below the trail is a free fall. For anyone concerned about heights, injury or liability, this is NOT a good choice. But for thrill-seekers, buy your ticket in advance because only 400 people a day get access to this natural high.
Machu Picchu city with Huana Picchu peak behind it. Photographs don’t convey how steep these mountains are. And as skiiers we are used to steep slopes!
Sacred Valley – The Inkaterra Hotel opened about a year ago and is stunning. It’s a cross between an Aman resort and an eco-lodge. Food and service are great. Day trips can be arranged through the hotel or agencies. We dida day trip which included paddleboarding on a pristine mountain lake, visiting Inca ruins, and then biking on dirt rounds in the foothills of the Andes.
Cusco – Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire and is now a bustling city with many interesting sights. The Belmond Rio Sagrado Hotel is located in a converted monastery and is stunning. It also has the best breakfast buffet ever. Located on the same plaza, is the Inkakerra, which is also a recently restored Spanish Colonial building. It is historic, rustic and luxurious all at the same time.
Lima – Matria, located in the Miraflores area
Cusco – Huaringas, located in the same square as the Belmond and Inkaterra Hotels. The restaurant is new, hip and cool. But the food is the attraction – all locally sourced ingredients in mouth-watering combinations that will make your tastebuds swoon!
The incredible and colorful abundance of locally-grown produce at the market in Cusco.