Begin among the bohemian neighbourhoods, colonial architecture and eclectic cuisine of Peru’s capital, Lima. Many visitors use it as a launchpad to Inca territory, but you’ll stay awhile to wander its UNESCO-listed Old Town and take a bite out of its gastronomy scene. Then you’ll hop over to Arequipa for its whitewashed baroque architecture, but it’s the handful of spluttering volcanoes the city is circled by that give you a clue as to what’s in store for you next..
True enough, you’ll jump on the Belmond Andean Explorer train and chug through the grassy Andean plains, witnessing dawn break over Lake Titicaca before leaving your carriage to explore its islands and time-honoured cultures. On this luxury holiday, Peru’s ancient capital and the gateway to the fabled Sacred Valley, Cusco, is next. This is firmly in Inca territory and you’ll really get to unpick the inner workings of how the dynasty once operated, with visits to fortresses like Sacsayhuaman and Ollantaytambo, the town of Chinchero, the Maras salt mines and the village of Huilloc, where you can enjoy lunch just as the Incas would have. We couldn’t have let you unravel the Sacred Valley without taking a Machu Picchu trip: a legendary citadel that doesn’t reveal all of its secrets straight away. That’s why you’ll visit twice and a guided tour each time will gradually add more pieces to this pre-Columbian puzzle.
After whizzing back to Cusco on the train, it’s time to head further off-grid. Fly to Iquitos, the world’s largest city that cannot be reached by road, and the frontier to Peru’s slice of the Amazon. Here you’ll board a four-night Amazon River luxury cruise that gives you seemingly limitless opportunities to spot wildlife like iguanas, macaws, sloths and monkeys. Carry on fording the jungle-fringed waters, often joined by inquisitive Amazon river dolphins, before hopping off the boat to meet remote Amazonian communities and witness the origins of the Amazon River, a wild waterfall where the Ucayali and Marañón rivers collide. Glide back to Iquitos, but before you fly back to Lima for your final night in Peru, you’ll see the work locals are putting in to protect this fragile wilderness at the Amazon Rescue Center, where injured manatees and dolphins are nursed and rehabilitated back to full strength so they can return to the emerald wilds of the Amazon.
Overlooking the wild Pacific Ocean and lording over Lima’s leafy Miraflores district, Belmond Miraflores Park isn’t your regular city hotel. Draped in foliage and with freshly cut flowers in every room, you’ll think this is a city in a garden rather than the Peruvian capital. But its coastal location is also very convenient for many of Lima’s main landmarks, with colonial architecture, museums and fashionable boutiques only a few minutes away on foot. Or, stay put in the hotel’s rooftop pool and soak it all in.
Housed in a former sixteenth-century monastery built entirely from white volcanic stone, Cirqa fits right in La Ciudad Blanca. What was once part of Arequipa’s San Agustín Church, Cirqa now reimagines the calm and comforting welcome monks would have once offered to weary travellers. The vaulted ceilings, stone walls and barrel ceilings are still there (as they have been for four hundred years) but Relais & Chateaux have injected a modern sleekness to this refuge that compliments its monastic origins.
South America’s first luxury sleeper train, the Belmond Andean Explorer reinvented the rail experience in Peru. It doesn’t just give you a front-row seat to some of the country’s finest landscapes, whizzing through the grassy Andean plains overlooked by hulking mountains, but brings the outside in with its earthy tones, alpaca wool textures and bathrooms fashioned from local stone – all stamped with Belmond’s seal of luxury. Also the world’s loftiest train ride, this is a journey that proffers literal, as well as figurative, highs.
Fusing colonial frescoes and Inca masonry, Belmond Palacio Nazarenas marries the key elements of Peru’s history. Housed in a former convent and palace that has been transformed after years of painstaking restoration, the suites are set around clusters of cloistered courtyards serenely decorated with bubbling fountains and patios speckled with indigenous flowers. A sense of place is ever-present here, whether it’s perusing the Peruvian artefacts in the library or enjoying a treatment at the subterranean Hypnôze Spa, where glimpses of Inca ruins still linger.
Pitched in the heart of the Sacred Valley and resting right beside the burbling Urubamba River, the Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado is rural Peruvian living the Inca way. Built like an authentic Andean village, the hotel will ensure you take no time at all to align with nature. This is where riding through the Sacred Valley on horseback, being greeted by baby alpacas on the hotel lawn and drinking pisco sours to the sound of birdsong are all considered normal. And we love it.
Being the only hotel at the entrance to Peru’s world-famous citadel, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge’s exclusivity makes it feel like it has the keys to Machu Picchu. While other visitors have to slog it up a hill (either by bus or on foot), you can smugly enjoy a leisurely breakfast before witnessing the world wonder. Unsurprisingly, the hotel’s design takes its cue from the pre-Columbian era with its rough stonework, earthy hues and woven textiles, while the Tampu restaurants whips up authentic Peruvian fare like stuffed alpaca and fish ceviche.
Custom-built for the Peruvian Amazon so its guests can glide in complete comfort while minimising the impact it has on the Amazon River and its delicate environment, the Aria Amazon is the perfect jungle cruiser. Onboard, you’ll try world-beating rainforest-inspired cuisine and while away the hours watching jungle life go by from the outdoor deck, while the Aria Amazon’s smaller boats penetrate parts of the Amazon few others get to see. Its experts will help you spot its enigmatic wildlife like pink river dolphins and piranhas.
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