So you are headed to Peru? How exciting! You’ll be stepping back in time and sightseeing at the crossroad of two great cultures. Reflecting on the Spanish arrival in the Americas, Bartolome de Las Casas concluded that what happened 500 years ago is a story of “events so amazing that they overshadow all other famous deeds in history.”
Ahead of going, I’d highly recommend reading two fairly recent books, The Last Day of the Incas and Turn Right at Machu Picchu. Both of them are very well written and engaging accounts of the history that surrounds your trip.
When you are in Lima, I’d recommend dinner (and pisco sours) at La Rosa Nautica on the waterfront. The food is great and the view is exceptional. And did I mention the pisco sours? If possible, plan your dining for dinnertime so you can watch the surfers and also watch the sun disappear into the western horizon. Or do what we did and dine there more than once!
In Lima, there are some beautiful parks on the bluff tops that look out on the Pacific Ocean. They are great for an evening stroll.
Be sure and check out the Lima Cathedral, the catacombs there and the burial site of Spanish Conquistador, Francisco Pizarro.
When in Cusco, you’ll be in the heart of the former Incan Empire. You’ll see The Convent of Santo Domingo, once one of the oldest Christian churches in Latin America, built right on top of Coricancha, the Incan Temple to the Sun God. In Cusco, you’ll also see the incredible stone masonry of the Incans. The stonework is so masterfully done that you can’t slide a credit card between the blocks.
The historic square is filled with great shops and restaurants, some of which feature live music and salsa dancing. We ate at a second floor restaurant on the Plaza de Armas that looks out on the beautifully illuminated Cusco cathedral.
While in Cusco, be sure and check out The International Center for the Study for Machu Picchu and Incan Culture. For many years, Peru and the Peabody Museum at Yale University were in a dispute over rights to the antiquities taken from Machu Picchu. Hiram Bingham, the famed explorer of Machu Picchu took many artifacts to New Haven, CT and in the last few years, Yale University has returned them. Many of them are now housed in this new center in Cusco. Your children will be interested to know that Yale Professor Hiram Bingham was an inspiration for the Indiana Jones character. Bingham’s own story is riveting and that will help you get ready for visiting Machu Picchu. Your children will enjoy seeing the first photographs taken from his National Geographic Expedition there in 1912 and published in April 1913.
After you’ve acclimated to the altitude in Cusco, you’ll make your way to Machu Picchu, which is indescribable. It was recently designated one of the seven new wonders of the world and it is a mesmerizing place. We spent two days there and I’m grateful we did. One day was cloudy and misty and the mountain citadel was shrouded in mystery. The next day was filled with glorious sun breaks on the peaks of the Andean mountains.
You’ll love the town of Aguas Calientes as the base of Machu Picchu. There are a lot of great food restaurant choices but one we really liked was The Café Inkaterra which has some stunning views of the Urubamba River.
Enjoy the trip! I’ll look forward to hearing about it upon your return. As I’ll be returning there again in the near future, I expect you to update me on other good places to eat and important things to see.
p.s. When you are in Peru, your family needs to try the guinea pigs. It’s one of their delicacies, you know. You might want to wash it down with a chicha beer or a pisco sour or two! Did I mention the pisco sours, already?