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April 15, 2009

Notes from our travelers: Peru’s Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu

This post is by travelers of ours (a husband and wife) from Maryland. They are currently on an around-the-world tour with Artisans of Leisure. Along the way, they have been sending updates about their journey to friends and family back home. They have generously allowed us to share their stories and images with our blog readers.

253-Peruvian ruins.jpg“I don’t remember when I first saw a picture of Machu Picchu, but I remember being amazed–and from that time on, knew I wanted to see it in person. My mother, who loved all things archeological, told me she regretted missing her chance while she could have managed the altitude.  She didn’t live much longer after that.

That helped us make the decision to do all of this before it was too late, and is a reason why we wanted to have a special tour of our own.  We were finally on our way.

Machu Picchu is not easy to get to, but it does not disappoint.”

The Sacred Valley

“We were met by Artisans of Leisure’s wonderful representatives at the airport and whisked to the Hotel Monasterio–a beautiful hotel in (what else?) a converted monastery. We felt the effects of the altitude immediately and needed to have some lunch and a rest before our introductory tour of the city.  When we were ready, there was just enough time for a tour of the cathedral–but it turned out to be a perfect introduction.  Our guide gave us the history of the city and great explanations of the art and artifacts of the stunning church.”


“We spent the next entire day with our guide and our driver, seeing the villages and ruins in the Sacred Valley. There are amazing Incan ruins everywhere and remnants of their terrace farming.”


“And, while you’re gasping at the unbelievable workmanship and sheer size of the effort involved, your eyes constantly drift back up, trying to take in the overwhelming mountains.”


“We had a special demonstration, just for us, by weavers who are trying to preserve the traditional techniques of dying, spinning, and weaving the famous wools of the Andes.

Our guide told us that many of the more brightly colored woven objects offered in markets and on the street actually come from other South American countries–the traditional Peruvian work have more muted colors from natural dyes.”


“The day also included a stop at the famous market in Pisac.”

Mystical Machu Picchu

“The best way to go is on the Orient Express Hiram Bingham train–very luxurious and a rare opportunity to experience train travel the way it used to be.”


“Once there, we checked into Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel at the site–and then began our tour. Our private guide was an expert at explaining the mysteries of the construction, life, and demise of the city.

The sun had begun to sink after our beautiful day at Machu Picchu, and we were so proud of ourselves for making it to the top, that we asked our terrific guide to go down ahead of us and take the picture–we didn’t think anyone would believe us without the proof!”

258-at the top.jpg

“After several hours of climbing over the site, we celebrated with the first alcohol we had in Peru–Pisco Sours!  It’s recommended not to drink alcohol until you’re used to the altitude, and we hadn’t wanted to take any chances!

Following a delightful dinner with local entertainers and an early night, I got up at dawn to see the ruins again in the mist.” 


“Our trip to Peru was almost over–we got back to Cusco, flew to Lima, and had one night there at a beautiful hotel by the ocean. The Miraflores neighborhood and historical centers of the city are lovely, but that area of Peru is a desert and it never rains in Lima–I mean never, the last time was a freak occurrence in the 1940’s–and for nine months of the year, the sun is shrouded by fog from the sea.

In the morning, before rejoining leaving Peru, we had a private tour of the city with an art historian.”


– J.F.

Destinations:  Peru

Tags:  adventure travel, Andes, art, art historian, Artisans of Leisure, blog, crafts, Cusco, Incan, Lima, luxury hotels, luxury South America tours, Machu Picchu, markets, Orient Express Hiram Bingham train, Peruvian, private guides, private luxury travel, private Peru tours, ruins, Sacred Valley tours, South America, tour operators, tours, weavings