A weaver in Cusco, Peru, making traditional clothing. // (c) 2013 Kenneth Shapiro
When I told friends that I was going to Machu Picchu, in Peru, the two most common responses I heard were “I’ve always wanted to do that one day” and “How can you take that much time off work?”
I realized that Machu Picchu — a bucket list destination for many of us — seems so exotic that people just assume you need two weeks or more to visit. Tour operator Globus Family of Brands has an answer for that, however, with its new Peru Splendors eight-day itinerary. Globus has a successful tour with its Legacy of the Incas, a 12-day itinerary, but the eight-day Peru Splendors, which began in January, shortens the trip by eliminating visits to Lake Titicaca and the Nazca Lines. Visitors who have more time can then add a pre-trip option, to the Amazon, for instance, or post-tour extensions to the Galapagos Islands or even Easter Island.
The eight-day tour gives busy travelers the chance to visit this intriguing destination with an itinerary that is a better fit with the needs of today’s time-starved visitors.
“Many first-time travelers to South America come to Peru,” said Mauricio Yonfa, South America tour director for Globus. “People who don’t have a lot of time say this trip is perfect. And many decide they want to come back and do more next time.”
My Recent Visit
The Peru Splendors trip I took in March began with two nights in Lima, staying at the modern and cosmopolitan Hotel Atton San Isidro, located in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Lima.
While in Lima, as in all the destinations, the group was led by one of Globus’ extremely knowledgeable local guides. These guides helped arrange special experiences called Local Favorites that are designed to highlight certain aspects of Peru’s culture and history.
One of the Local Favorites in Lima was a visit to a local market, where our guide explained Peruvian cuisine and gave us samples of the region’s exotic produce, including many fruits that come from the Amazon. Another Local Favorite in Lima was dinner at a historic local residence. Our host, who grew up in Lima, dined with our group and shared fascinating stories about the city’s history.
From Lima, our group flew to Cusco, where we boarded a bus and headed to the Sacred Valley, stopping along the way to do some shopping at a local market. Before we left Cusco, however, our group had the chance to experience another Local Favorite, when we participated in a traditional Mother Earth blessing ceremony conducted by a local shaman. The tour guide explained all aspects of the ritual to us, giving us a great sense of the beliefs at the core of Andean culture.
In the Sacred Valley, we stayed at the beautiful Casa Andina Private Collection. Our guestrooms here were easily the best of the tour, with all the modern amenities, as well as private outdoor showers and deep soaking tubs.
The next day, we visited the town of Ollantaytambu and climbed the ruins of an Incan fortress. We also visited a local Andean home and met with the family living there, before boarding the train to Aguas Calientes near the entrance to Machu Picchu.
After arriving in Aguas Calientes, we immediately took a bus up to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Certainly, the highlight of the trip, and one of my most memorable travel moments, was being able to wander the Incan site in the afternoon, just before closing time, when the crowds were gone and it felt like we had the ruins to ourselves. The Globus tour guide gave the group the option of walking with him and discussing the history of the ruins, or being on our own to experience Machu Picchu in a more individual way.
We spent that night at the Hotel Sumaq, right on the roaring Urubamba River. The hotel’s location provides ideal access for catching the bus to and from Machu Picchu, which is what we did the next morning for a few hours. Being at the site first thing in the morning once again meant we avoided the busy times when crowds of tourists visit the ruins.
From there, we traveled by train and bus back to Cusco, where we spent the night at the Casa Andina Private Collection Cusco, a quaint Spanish Colonial hotel near the main plaza. In Cusco, the group toured the city’s historic attractions and had some free time to explore the city on our own.
After Cusco it was back in Lima for a night before heading home.
Overall, the pace of the trip felt quick, but not too rushed. Still, clients should be warned that there is never more than two nights in any hotel, and on one of the nights — at the Hotel Sumaq — everyone in the group must switch to a smaller overnight bag to bring on the train. Personally, I felt the logistics were completely manageable — and our tour guide handled the luggage and made every detail seem effortless. Still, agents should be sure that less experienced travelers are prepared for the pace.
“Globus takes very good care of its customers,” said Yonfa. “We handle every detail and we can arrange experiences that can’t be done by people traveling on their own.”
In general, the properties that were used on the trip were very good mainstream hotels, but not top-tier luxury level. The best of the hotels was the Casa Andina in the Sacred Valley, which I would have been happy staying at for much longer than one night.
In an ideal world, we all would have unlimited time to leisurely wander the world visiting the places we’ve always dreamed of. In the real world, however, we often have to sneak in our vacation time whenever we get the chance. The Peru Splendors itinerary gives travelers a great option for experiencing one of the world’s iconic destinations in a short period of time.