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October 10, 2022

Highlights of Peru: Machu Picchu & Beyond

We recently returned from a private luxury tour of Peru, featuring the best of Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca.

We began in Lima, the fascinating and historic capital of Peru. Many travelers are surprised by Lima’s abundance of beautiful Spanish colonial architecture…

…delicious food…


…incredible museums and private pre-Columbian art collections (including the Larco Museum, pictured here)…

…and exclusive hotels, such as the Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel, one of Artisans of Leisure’s preferred luxury hotels in Lima.

Next, we flew to Cusco and then traveled to the beautiful Sacred Valley.

On the way, we stopped at Sacsayhuaman, the ruins of an Inca fortification on the edge of Cusco. The massive stone walls have a zigzag shape thought to honor Illapa, the god of thunder, lightning and rain.

Our wonderful Artisans of Leisure guide showed us a mock-up of how scholars believe that the Incas transported giant stone blocks from nearby quarries to construct the citadel.

These stones resemble the paw of a puma, one of three animals considered sacred by the Incas (along with the condor and the snake). The puma represents the Earth and is also the symbol of Cusco.

We also stopped at the impressive ruins at Pisac, a terraced hillside perched high in the mountains and overlooking the Sacred Valley.

During our time in the Sacred Valley, we stayed at the luxurious Sol y Luna, a Relais & Chateaux hotel with excellent restaurants, extensive gardens and locally inspired decor.

A highlight of our time in the Sacred Valley was a private visit to a weaving cooperative in Chinchero that’s dedicated to preserving ancient techniques.

A close-up of the beautiful details on one of the pieces. The colorful edges are knitted by hand and attached once the piece is finished.

These unusual circular terraces are at Moray, where it’s believed that the Incas conducted agricultural research.

We also visited the Maras salt pans. Locals have been harvesting salt from these spring-fed pools since pre-Inca times.

Colorful textiles are produced throughout Peru, including this typical style seen in the Sacred Valley.

We also toured Ollantaytambo, a town that preserves much of its Inca heritage.

Many of the town’s residents live much like their Inca and pre-Inca ancestors did, including keeping guinea pigs in their homes as a source of warmth and food.

Ollantaytambo has some of the area’s most fascinating Inca ruins.

It’s also where we boarded the train to Machu Picchu, a highlight of any traveler’s visit to Peru and an iconic site that does not disappoint.

A view of the spectacular mountains through an opening in one of the buildings at Machu Picchu.

Every angle at Machu Picchu provides a different, inspiring view.

Seeing llamas wandering around the site is always fun.

We returned to Cusco, a beautiful and well-preserved city high in the Andes.

Our room at Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, one of Artisans of Leisure’s preferred luxury hotels in Cusco, overlooked the hotel pool and the rooftops of Cusco.

The hotel has a long history, going all the way back to the Incas, but much of its current design dates to the Spanish colonial era, when it was a convent.

The hotel showcases elegant, Peruvian style and has a great swimming pool for relaxing after private city touring.

Cusco is filled with beautiful colonial architecture.

Many of Cusco’s top hotels, such as Belmond Hotel Monasterio, were former convents or monasteries.

Next, we flew to southern Peru and transferred across the altiplano to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world.

Titilaka, Artisans of Leisure’s preferred hotel on the lake, is an ideal base for exploring the area.

Touring the intense blue waters of Lake Titicaca by boat is fascinating. We learned how the indigenous Uros people here use totora reeds for everything from fishing boats…

…to the floating islands on which they live.

We also visited a local family on Taquile Island to learn about their culture…

…and enjoy a delicious alfresco lunch.

Tasty local dishes at our special lunch.

Weaving is an important part of the culture both on Taquile Island…

…and in the lakeside communities. We enjoyed learning about the similarities and differences in each community’s techniques and designs.

Contact an Artisans of Leisure Peru specialist to begin planning a private luxury Peru tour featuring the top highlights, including Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, Cusco, Lima and Lake Titicaca.

Destinations:  Peru, South America

Tags:  Andes mountains, artisan crafts, Cusco, hiking tours, Inca ruins, Lake Titicaca, Lima, luxury Peru tours, Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Peru, Peru crafts, Peru culinary tours, Peru luxury travel, Peru textiles, Peru tours, Peruvian cuisine, Sacred Valley, salt pans, Sol y Luna, South America tours, weaving