Latinamerica Journeys | Travel Design

Peru & Amazon - Independent reviews


Pachamama sanctuary (Mother Earth < > Divine Mother), Amantani island, Titicaca lake

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Reviewed by Steve Pullinger

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Difficult one this, because our three weeks in Peru were packed with such a wide range of experiences in diverse environments. You catch you breath when the Condors float effortlessly past you in the Colca Canyon. You cannot quite believe how close you are to the Caiman and the Giant Otters fishing in the early morning sun on a Manu lake nor does any photo prepare you for the excitement of watching a Jaguar search for its breakfast on the bank of the river. Cities, towns, villages and countryside alike offer so much of cultural interest and so much physical beauty that at times you feel overwhelmed by the richness of it all. The scale and beauty of the Andes is awesome and you realize that it can only be for this reason that the Inca's managed to keep both the trail and the city secret from the Spanish as you explore a small part of them on the four day trek to Machu picchu. When you get there you cannot quite believe how much of this lost city has survived. However much you have read or however many photos you have seen nothing prepares you for the thrill of the real thing.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Do try to be fit enough to get to Machu picchu via the Inca trail and to spend a day or two on mountain bikes (we cycled from Chinchero via Moray and Maras to Tarabamba and would recommend it). Do not try to do the high altitude physically demanding stuff too early on in the trip, even if you do not get altitude sickness it takes a while to get used to less oxygen. If you are pushed for time, spend as little of it as possible in Lima - it is interesting and there is much to do but we found the necessary day at each end of the trip plenty to get a feel for the place.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Yes is the short answer to the first part of this question, it was clear from the start that our agent had given this careful thought. As for impact on the environment, even if you mitigate it by carbon off-setting there is no getting away from the fact that you will almost certainly have to fly to South America. We compounded this sin with some internal flying (not just the 30 minutes over the Nazca Lines) which is a temptation given the scale of Peru, limited time and the astonishing views.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
From the gushing above, it is clear that I feel it was a 5 star holiday. Everything was brilliantly organized. The accommodation - be it hotel, hostel, cabin or tent was clean and comfortable and transport was safe and comfortable. Our guides were well informed friendly and enthusiastic and all the Peruvians we met (not just the professionals with whom we were interacting) were charming, helpful and welcoming.

 

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Reviewed by Kirstine Wilson

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Too many to mention as Peru gave us so many unique experiences. But if you have to pin us down I would say, seeing the sunrise at the Temple of the Sun, Machu Picchu, staying with a local family on the Island of Amantani, Lake Titicaca, sharing their food and dressing up in folkloric costume for an evening of dancing and Cusquena cerveza, Climbing the terraces to wonder at the magnificent ruins and relaxing in the Plaza des Armas with delicious pancakes and joyful children at Ollantaytambo

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Don't take too many clothes. There are plenty of laundry facilities in the larger cities and hotels that will do 3 hour laundry service. Better to save space for all the Alpaca hats, gloves, socks etc that you will end up buying! There are ATMs all over the place, often in restaurant lobbies or shops so getting money is never a problem. We found that using Visa and Mastercard, we were charged 10 soles but for using Maestro (ordinary debit card) we weren't charged. We took no UK money or travellers cheques at all but had some dollars for emergencies which are also widely accepted across Peru. We found that 100 soles per day (less than £20) was easily enough for everything we needed (food, drinks, small souvenirs, taxis).

Get the biggest memory card for your camera that you can, or a selection of smaller ones and download to CD while you are in Peru. It only costs approx 6 soles (£1) to download all your pictures to CD (approx 700 MB per CD). Make sure you save some money back for the airport taxes. They quote in Dollars but you can pay in Soles too. It was approx $7 US to travel internally from Cusco to Lima and approx $30 each to go from Lima to the UK.

If spending time in Cusco, get a visitor ticket (70 soles) which allows you to visit local ruins at Saksayhuman, Qenko, Tambomochay (we booked a half day trip with Andean explorers , Av Triumfo for $7 US per person). Also allows access to Pisac, Tipon and Ollantaytambo. Does not include entry to Cusco Cathedral or the Temple of Coricancha. Includes entry to some of the museums in Cusco but note that most are closed on a Sunday.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
I feel that we supported local people through purchase of local handmade goods rather than purchasing factory produced items. We also ensured that we gave tips wherever we ate or drank (10%) and when our bags were carried (a couple of soles) and that both our drivers and guides were given reasonable tips following any tours that we went on.

We tried to buy large bottles of water and fill up smaller bottles from these for taking out on day trips. But invariably we needed to purchase more drinks whilst travelling and it was quite difficult not to purchase plastic bottles. While on the island we took pencils, paper and a head torch and batteries for our host family which seemed to be well accepted. We learnt later on that perhaps we should have taken fruit as this is in short supply.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
An amazing experience and a real eye opener. Peru has such a wide variety of climates and breathtaking landscapes and the Inca sites and history are fascinating. The poverty and housing conditions are quite a culture shock when you first arrive but all the positive aspects of the people, their easy going attitude and their kindness had much more of an impact overall.
 

Very enjoyable. Amazon & Peru tailormade holiday.
Reviewed by Helen Hooper

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
3 things: a. Completing the Macchu Picchu trek with our two kids (9 & 11yrs) still talking to us! A really worthwhile 4 days. Inca ruins seen in full splendour--backdrop of steep mountains fully clothed in sub-tropical vegetation, with low clouds and brilliant blue sky to aid my, otherwise dubious, camera skills. Lots of physical exertion and early morning starts that gave the feel of a 'real' expedition. Only downside was arriving to find MP filling with hundreds of goretex-clad tourists up on the first buses from Aguas Calientes. You can appreciate the splendour of the place by looking at promotional photos before you leave the UK--I just wanted to get out of there.
b. Eating in San Miguel market in Lima. Saved this delight till end of holiday as hygienic food prep is not a speciality of Peruvian markets. 3course vegetarian meal for 4 soles (80p)--we shared 2 between 4 as they were huge portions. Unlike the tourist trail restaurant fayre where, for what reason I cannot fathom, chillies, spices and herbs have been removed from all dishes making them bland unpleasurable offerings, the meals in the marker were the 'real thing'--nice and spicy!
c. Our first night hike at a jungle lodge. Armed with head torches we set off down a small trail to discover tree frogs, giant stick insects, a nest of tarantulas and then, not 2 metres away, at about head height, an emerald boa hanging from a branch. Asleep--but the still having an adrenalin effect from a knowledge delimited by the lore constructed by children's adventure stories.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Don't be persuaded to stick to the usual tourist trail. Take a look at any company on the web--they all go to the same places. Take more days in the Colca Canyon. Maps in all places are difficult to find but some good walking in the canyon that can be accomplished with/without a guide. If at Yanque thermal baths go to family-run one just over the old wooden suspension bridge rather than the posh one, newly built that is about 100yds upstream in the grounds of a newly built tourist hotel. Much more authentic and their business has been hit badly as a result of a baths with poolside bar and restaurant opening just upstream. Grin and bear Titicaca--the money from visiting tourists is obviously benefitting the community--just don't expect to meet real people.

Pisco: still in a state of major demolition/rebuilding post-earthquake so you can feel that you are benefiting the local community here. Whether you're prepared to visit Paracas NP just to benefit the local community should be well-considered though. (nothing there--this is freely admitted by guides--since 'El nino' apparently--non-impressive rock formations and a few turkey vultures).

Nasca: The Cemetery!! Kids loved it. But ourselves and most on tour were less convinced by the site. Seemed as if piles of stones had been covered by cloth and a skull unceremoniously dumped on top. May have been a great find when first discovered but most articles had been looted and what remains is unconvincing.

Arequipa: We recommend 'La casa de mi abuela': wow! good rooms, beautiful gardens, nice food at reasonable prices, wonderful buffet breakfast. (Arequipa was our favourite town visited--less touristy than all the others)

Cusco: not advisable to stay more than a couple of days unless you wish to spend lots of money doing organised trips. Beautiful city but soon became overwhelmed with 'Dos soles senora'... We were very bored. Wanted to walk up some of the mountains overlooking the city but no tourist agency will sell you a map. They only sell overpriced group trips. Food better here though. Sandwich bar on street parallel to Casa de campo (on way to plaza san blaas) does superb (huge) veggie sandwich with hot vegetables, guacamole and wonderful sauces (esp. rocotto) for 7 soles.

Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
See above. I HOPE that some of the money we spent found its way into the hands of local people. I THINK most of the tourist agencies operating tours that we went on were Peruvian and not US/UK company franchises. You do need to step out of the tourist circus though to really feel that your money is being spent in a beneficial way.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Please note: the following gradings are NOT related to the organisation of our holiday which was exemplary--I would recommend the tour operator wholeheartedly in this role (4-5*). Holiday as a whole: Me: 3-4* but can appreciate the kids who would give it 4-5* and my partner's 3*

We did have a great time. I just realised why I love travelling and being whisked around the tourist trail isn't the reason! I need proper adventure and real people. The kids haven't stopped talking about it though. It is a safe place to travel with kids. Whilst travel companies give you the usual safety advice, I never felt threatened. We generally came into contact with another family with kids in tow every couple of days so the kids were able to play together and relax.

Read the operator's response here:
Many real tailor made options are possible at least with us. Whoever thought for instance of hiking from the Colca canyon to Cusco, an impressive expedition, or hiking off the beaten path trails in the Colca canyon with our GPS information and/or a private guide, or traveling with a private guide for 2 weeks through Peru off the beaten paths? The issue is that most travelers have little time and wish to see all the main highlights giving that their priority above exploring into the unknown. We can offer hiking off the beaten path trails in the Colca canyon with our GPS information or a private guide for instance visiting an amazing pre-colombian village hardly visited and hidden out of sight higher in the canyon. My personal experience on the islands of both Taqule and Amantani is very positive. I have met so many beautiful and authentic people with whom I have shared wonderful conversations and volley- and football games playing up into full moon lit nights! They love to meet travelers and do games together, and this breaks certainly the ice and leads to heart opening experiences. But you need to speak of course Spanish, integrate with their way of being, be able to make fun and be respectful at the same time. The National park of Paracas is impressive, and this is not only a personal experience as I have been many times with clients over here; you need to step out at Lagunillas and walk along the cliffs to for instance the beach of Minas, climb a hill, and afterwards have some delicious tapas at the tiny fisher village. It is amazing and beautiful, but you should not stay in the car and explore walking, to enjoy the steep cliffs, wind and shouting of the sea gulls. The cemetery was a looted place, one big chaos of bones & cotton that you can still see on old pictures in guidebooks. Afterwards archaeologists tried to make the best out of this completely destroyed graveyard, created some order by putting mummies, bones and ceramics together and offering the public a view of a few funeral chambers. Cusco is loved by most travelers! It is such a special location and you could say thanks to all the travelers there are so many facilities for immersing in city life, shopping, Nova Andean cuisine and enjoying culture all at the same time in this the former capital of the Incas, it is a wonderful combination. All local agencies we work with are Peruvian and so all the income flows back to the Peruvian society.

 

We had a really great time – as you advised us, 2 weeks was really too short a time to do all the places we went to justice. But it was all good! All local guides were good and knew their stuff. Rainforest was really good – very friendly at lodge and guide was very fun and knowledgeable. Reviewed by Paul Vernon
 

 

Gallery

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Butterflies everywhere in the Brazilean rainforest of Np Iguazu. This is on a watchtower to observe...

And did we see any Jaguar in the National Park? They are there at Iguazu Falls, somewhere, you may...