Whichever way you choose to fly from India, Peru is on the other side of the world—brace yourself for long flights. There are of course no direct flights from Indian cities to Lima. The most painless (one-stop) route is to fly via Europe. KLM connects to Lima via Amsterdam and Air France via Paris. You can also fly via the US, but this will be a two-stop journey. Round-trip economy class airfares to Lima from Delhi begin from around Rs 80,000.
The Embassy of Peru in New Delhi issues visas for Rs 1,650. Visa forms and more information can be had at embassyperuindia.in. Remember that you’ll also need either a Schengen or a US visa for air- transit reasons.
I travelled on Globus's 'Legacy of the Incas’ 10-day tour of Peru, which began and ended in Lima. The day-by-day itinerary:
Day 1: Lima. We went on a walking tour with a local guide. Highlights included the colonial centre, the Plaza de Armas with the Government Palace, Cathedral and the San Francisco Monastery. The evening ended with a ‘welcome dinner’ at a restaurant that serves Peruvian classics (we ate lomo saltado, a stir-fry dish that usually features beef and onions, but was modified to chicken).
Day 2: Lima–Paracas. A superb early morning drive along the Pan-American Highway. Paracas is where you get on to a little plane to fly over the Nazca Lines.
Day 3: Paracas-Lima. According to the itinerary, the morning is given over to a visit to the Ballestas Islands, followed by a return to Lima. Since Peru is like India in some ways, the tour director might have to take a spot decision to modify the itinerary: our tour combined both the Nazca Lines flight and the Ballestas Islands visit in one day, which gave us more time in Lima on this third day. Another change of plan was that our lunch at the popular highway restaurant, El Piloto, had to be postponed to the third day because of roadblocks by agitating farmers.
Day 4: Lima-Cusco. This morning, we flew to Cusco. We didn’t actually enter Cusco but drove off into the ‘Sacred Valley of the Incas’, to reach the Temple of Sacsayhuaman, notable for having been built with gigantic stones, some weighing more than 350 tonnes. We continued to Pisac, the first of several picturesque Andean villages we visited, with Indian markets that sell handicrafts, both fake and genuine. Again, we should have visited another Inca fortress at Ollantaitambo and then a village home, where it’s fascinating to see how frozen-in-time Inca-style living has adapted to the opportunities that mass tourism affords.
Day 5: We did so on this day. We then boarded the legendary Inca Rail for a lovely journey through the Urubamba Valley. We stopped for lunch at Aguas Calientes and transferred to a minibus for the short (20min), stunningly beautiful ascent to Machu Picchu.
Day 6: We visited Machu Picchu for the second time this morning (some people opted out to rest). After lunch, we made the return journey by train and bus to reach Cusco in the evening.
Day 7: Cusco-Juliaca-Puno. We had just the morning in Cusco, which included a guided visit to the Cathedral and the Santo Domingo Monastery. Then came the option to visit an alpaca factory or to wander the town on our own. That afternoon, we flew to Juliaca, and then took a bus to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
Day 8: Lake Titicaca. The day was spent visiting the Uros reed islands and Taquile island, further out on the lake, where we had a fabulous meal of grilled trout and salad made by the islanders.
Day 9: Puno-Lima. The final attraction of the tour was a stop at the pre-Incan burial ground of Sillustani, en route to Juliaca to take our flight back to Lima. Depending on the timing of our international flights, members of the tour group either stayed on in Lima airport or entered Lima once again for one last night.
Since I travelled in late October 2011, Globus has modified this tour to make it a 12-day tour of Peru. This should be an improvement on the earlier one, since it offers a day more in both Lima and Cusco, both cities that I felt I could have seen more of. It will also relax the pace of the tour.
We stayed at excellent hotels. Many of these were part of the Casa Andina group, which has a varied bouquet of hotels ranging from smart city hotel in Lima (in Miraflores), to a lovingly restored colonial mansion (Cusco), to a fabulously located one in the Sacred Valley. In Aguas Calientes, the Hotel Sumaq is another new, delectable hotel with balconies that face an Andean cliff-face and a gushing stream. The DoubleTree Paracas is a splendid resort set by the tranquil Bay of Paracas, and offers accommodation in suites you’d be happy to live in forever. The Puno Libertador has dated décor, but its location beside Lake Titicaca is unmatchable and the food outstanding.
A characteristic of most Globus escorted tours is that while they take care of all logistics, there is usually enough free time and meals that are not ‘included’, by way of encouraging travellers to taste local foods. On a packed trip like this, though, most meals were in fact ‘included’. The good part is that it’s all laid out, literally—generous, excellent, buffet spreads or pre-plated meals awaited us wherever we arrived exhausted. Travellers with a genuine interest in food might be disappointed, though, since opportunities to sample street foods or truly high-end meals are few. Peruvian food is now among the hippest foods internationally (Frommer’s recently anointed Lima the gastronomic capital of the world for 2012).
Prices & Bookings
Globus's 'Legacy of the Incas' tours for 2012 are priced from $2,819 per person. This includes all accommodation, land travel, breakfasts and most other meals, entry charges to attractions and guided tours. Note that flights are not included; but Globus requires you to buy either the flights from the US gateway of your choice plus the intra-tour flights (Lima-Cusco, Cusco-Juliaca, Juliaca-Lima), or just the internal flights from them. Prices for the former start at approx. $1,630, depending on when you want to travel.
For more information and to make bookings, see globusjourneys.in. Or call Globus toll-free at 1800-425-3575.