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Absolute Luxury Peru

Written by  Maxine Albert

SouthAmericaHaving just returned from Peru, it’s easy to echo the sentiments of many visitors I met along the way. I love this destination, and so will your clients.

Peru offers the Amazon, the Andes, Cusco and Machu Picchu. It is a veritable foodie paradise, voted the Best Culinary Destination Award at the World Travel Awards in 2012. This gem of a country offers diverse, gorgeous topography with luxurious havens.

Inkaterra (www.inkaterra.com), a top tour operator in Peru that also owns superb properties, will create custom itineraries and take care of everything from the moment clients arrive until their departure, including accommodations, connecting flights, ground transportation, dining and all excursions. Their expertise, taste level, attention to detail and excellent guides guarantee the best in experiential luxury. Inkaterra properties and Aqua Expeditions (which can be booked through Inkaterra) are commissionable. Here are some highlights of my remarkable trip.

Luxury on the Amazon
Land in Lima and explore the gastronomic capital of South America, with on-trend designer shops and a burgeoning art scene. Then take a short flight to Iquitos to board the MV Aria for your 5 star Aqua Amazon Cruise. Your clients will love the comfort and style of this floating luxury hotel with sixteen spacious, well-appointed air-conditioned suites with sitting areas, private bathrooms and floor to ceiling windows for scenic Amazon viewing, masseuse and outdoor Jacuzzi. Star chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino’s inspired cuisine highlights innovative Peruvian fare locally sourced. Exemplary dishes such as Dorado fish, braised short ribs and amazing seafood tiradito were paired with fine South American wines. There’s ample leisure time to relax; take a siesta or enjoy a pisco sour. Excursions on skiffs with first rate guides take guests to swim with pink dolphins, spot sloths, howler and capuchin monkeys, macaws, herons, egrets, falcons, caimans, fish for piranhas, visit the native village Puerto Prado and participate in a ceremony with a medicine man. Trekking the Pacaya Samiria Reserve and seeing an anaconda - safely held by a guide - was a thrill. After disembarking, visit the Manatee Rescue Center in Iquitos, where I bottle fed a baby manatee. www.aquaexpeditions.com

The Magic of Machu Picchu
After a short flight to Cusco, a scenic drive through the Sacred Valley of the Incas takes you to Ollantaytambo to board Inca Rail. Enjoy first class service for the hour and a half journey, passing spectacular mountain vistas and the beautiful Urubamba River to arrive at the foot of Machu Picchu. Inkaterra Luxury Machu Picchu, set in a cloud forest, looks like a sprawling Andean Village. This secluded, unique Relais & Chateaux 85-cottage hotel with stone pathways along terraced hills, lush gardens, waterfalls, river and mountain vistas, strikes the perfect balance between rustic luxury and nature.

Beautiful villas boast private terraces, plunge pools, fireplaces, marble bathrooms and butler service. Guests enjoy outdoor Jacuzzis, a superb Unu Spa, and tasty creative Peruvian dishes like Andean trout and beef tenderloin with vegetables and herbs fresh from the garden. Guided excursions include bird watching, nature walks and a twilight walk to sacred sites, like an ancient petroglyph. The hotel arranges visits by local musicians and shamans for celebratory ceremonies. Stop at the small nearby village with its colorful market of native handicrafts. 

The highlight, of course, is the visit to Machu Picchu Citadel with a private guide provided by the hotel.  One of the great wonders of the world, it’s a 15 minute shuttle bus ride away. The spectacular beauty and majesty are exhilarating as you explore the magnificent ruins of this fabled Inca city. An architectural wonder, 8,000 feet high - its steep palaces, temples, gardens, baths and houses, miraculously appear to be carved out of the hillside. Immerse yourself in the mystical, spiritual energy of the Inca culture and take in the grandeur.

Splendor in the Andes
While traveling through the Sacred Valley by car, stop at the Andean village of Pisac and see the living Incas, called Quechuas. Glimpse women dressed in bright, multicolored shawls with full skirts and high straw hats, bowlers or fedoras. Visit the ancient Inca salt mines, the small town of Maras and the cosmic looking circular agricultural terraces at Moray, built by the Incas. Don’t miss textile village Chincero for beautiful hand made pieces by native women and demos of their living heritage - artisanal weaving. Afterwards indulge in a gastronomic lunch of Peruvian dishes like Andean soup and mouth watering roast pork at Parador de Moray.

Cusco
Arrive at the vibrant capital and spiritual heart of the Inca Empire. In this fascinating city, you’ll find the international smart set side by side with locals dressed in traditional garb. Take in Inca and colonial architecture and old world charm as you stroll cobble stone streets passing art galleries, restaurants galore and boutiques with artisanal goods and the finest alpaca and vicuna clothing. At the center is Plaza de Armas, gloriously illuminated at night, with Koricancha, once the richest temples of the Incas, now a cathedral. For standout Peruvian fare, head to Calle del Medio with the best ceviche and a huge selection of Pisco drinks.

The stunning Relais & Chateaux Inkaterra La Casona, ideally located near Cusco’s main square, delivers a truly exclusive and intimate luxury experience. This 11-suite mansion surrounding a sumptuous courtyard has been spectacularly converted to a posh boutique hotel with exquisite antiques throughout. Each elegant suite is different, gorgeously decorated with Spanish accents, plush fabrics, colonial furnishings and dazzling objets d’art. Gastronomic dining, cozy fireplaces, oversized marble bathrooms with butler to draw heavenly bubble baths, masseuse and impeccable service - are sure to satisfy your well traveled client’s every whim.                                                 

Rainforest Sanctuary
Arrive at Puerto Maldonado Airport and transfer to a motorboat for a 45-minute ride down the Madre de Dios River. Adventurous clients who want the rainforest experience up close and personal will love eco lodge Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, adjacent to the spectacular Tambopata National Reserve. Visitors enter another world at this exotic retreat, waking to the serenade of tropical birdsong - imbibing the serenity and beauty of the rainforest.

I recommend taking the best accommodations - spacious thatch-roof wooden cabanas with private terraces with plunge pools, sunbathing chairs, outdoor and indoor hot water shower and screened siesta lounge with hammocks. Guests enjoy fresh, locally sourced food and jungle pampering at Ena Spa.

Guided excursions include spotting impressive tapirs, capybaras and agoutis on a twilight boat safari with endless stars in the impossibly black sky.  The exhilarating Canopy tour gives you a bird’s eye view of the Amazon from walkways suspended in the treetops. My favorite was trekking the scenic wildlife reserve with its lovely cobalt blue butterflies, followed by a canoe excursion on picturesque Lake Sandoval with giant river otters, white caimans, the hoatzin bird, side neck turtles, harpy eagles, point tailed palm creepers and adorable monkeys playing on the vines.

Inkaterra is slated to open a lodge in Urubamba in The Sacred Valley of the Incas in 2014 - one more reason to visit Peru, or for those who already have, to return.

Lan offers flights from major US cities to Lima as well as in Peru.
www.lan.com

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