Spotlight on Peru
It's the multiple layers of great civilizations that make Peru so intriguing. Wander around colonial cities preserving the legacy of Spanish conquistadors, visit the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco, explore the lost city of Machu Picchu and ponder the enigma of Nazca Lines. It also has some of the most spectacular and varied scenery in South America. The Peruvian Andes are arguably the most beautiful on the continent and the mountains are home to millions of highland Indians, who still speak the ancient tongue of Quechua and maintain a traditional way of life. The verdant Amazon Basin, which occupies half of Peru, is one of the world's top 10 biodiversity 'hot spots' - a species-rich area of tropical rain forest that will make your head spin when you start to learn about its ecology. The coastal deserts, with their huge rolling dunes, farmland oases and fishing villages, are underappreciated by travelers but offer the opportunity to get off the Gringo Trail in a big way.
Lima – Lima, "the City of the Kings," became the effective capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru, established 1560. Today, a visit to Lima may serve as a unique Peruvian experience that offers a glimpse into the Andean world, Spanish tradition and the country’s modern aspect. Visit handsome old buildings and baroque churches that testify to the city’s religious background and the Plaza de Armas, shared by the realms of the Catholic Church, municipality and national government. The pre-Inca ruins of Pachacamac lie a short distance south of the city. Once a ceremonial site, Pachacamac has been the most important religious center of the Andean world since before the age of Christ. Stop and admire The Temple of the Sun and the Moon, Lima's outstanding museums, and Machu Picchu - a "Jewel in the Mist."
Machu Picchu – Machu Picchu is a fortress city of the ancient Incas, in a high saddle between two peaks 50 miles NW of Cuzco, Peru. The extraordinary pre-Columbian ruin consists of five sq. miles of terraced stonework link by 3,000 steps; it was virtually intact when discovered by Hiram Bibghan in 1911.
Cuzco - The Cuzco region of Peru combines Inca legacy with Spanish colonial architecture in an atmosphere at once provincial and sublime. The chaotic marketplaces where campesinos barter grain or potatoes for multi-colored fabric belie the mute spirituality of the Lost Cities, where Inca stonework conveys order and balance. Such diversity enhances this inspiring nine-day adventure. The blue sky radiates with an intensity achieved only at high altitudes (the city of Cusco lies 11,150 feet above sea level), while the landscape offers its unique pattern of exacting agricultural grids and tangled jungle masses.
Iquitos – Iquitos is located in Northeastern Peru on the Amazon river. Right at the crux, the city sits at the point where the Marañón River unites with the Ucayali River to form the mainstream of the Amazon. Founded in 1747 by Jesuit Jose Bahamonde, the city is now a blend of indigenous people and European and Chinese immigrants who populated the area in the mid-1800’s. Surrounded by greenery, the city resonates with the energy of the Amazon. Warm, exotic, romantic and seductive, Iquitos is a city with rustic charm and a unique culture.
Trujillo - Peru's most important northern city, is summed up each year during the floral Spring Festival. Barefoot women wearing white lace skirts and blouses, with ornate gold filigree ornaments dangling from their earlobes, spin and whirl through the streets in the traditional marinera dance. Charming, simple, formal and delicate - all are characteristics of this coastal city, making it the perfect spot to explore Peru's gentle but fiercely patriotic north. Trujillo is also noted for its colorful colonial architecture, with building painted in bright blues, yellows, reds and oranges. A circular street called Espana encloses the center of town, and most of the fascinating city sites are within this ring. Trujillo is an excellent place to sample ceviche (a mixture of raw fishes marinated in a lime juice marinade) and other local seafood. On the fringe of Trujillo are the ruins of Chan Chan, possible the world's largest adobe city that was, at one time, home to the Chimu Indian tribe.
Nearby Huanchaco Beach is a great spot for surfers, and an outgoing, friendly fishing village. The fisherman still utilize the handmade totora reed boats, called caballitos (little horses) because of the way they are ridden: riders do not sit on the boats, but straddle them on their knees. The design of these curved, peapod-shaped boats has changed little from the craft used by pre-Inca fishing tribes.
Further north is Piura, Peru, a hot commercial city best known for its folk dance, the tondero, and the black magic practiced by the descendents of black slaves. The tondero is a lively, barefoot Afro-Peruvian dance accompanied by strong rhythmic music and dancers in multicolored outfits. Many Lima business executives travel to this region every year to consult with the area's brujos - witches, folk healers and fortune tellers.