Peru: 100 years of Machu Picchu
Explorer Hiram Bingham?III and whip-cracking film hero Indiana Jones have more in common than just unusual names. The American is said to have been the real-life inspiration for the movie adventurer.
His exciting life included travelling around South America, during which, in July 1911, he was guided by villagers to the then almost-unknown Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. His subsequent book, Lost City of the Incas, became a bestseller. Now, 100 years on, the world remains fascinated by this ancient site.
The Peruvian government will soon unveil a programme of celebratory events and activities surrounding the centenary, and operators have already responded with keenly priced deals.
Cox & Kings’ 10-day Peruvian?Highlights itinerary is now down £250 to £1,995, valid for departures from March to May.
W&O Travel’s South?American Experience has prepared a special eight-night anniversary itinerary, with 2011 prices starting from £2,011.
Journey Latin America is running a?one-off group tour to Peru led by author Hugh Thomson, an expert on Peruvian archaeology. The 14-day tour arrives at Machu Picchu on July 24, the day of the 100th anniversary, and is priced from £4,328.
Escorted tour operators report healthy growth for Peru. Page & Moy Travel Group says sales are up 40% year on year. It has responded by launching two Peruvian itineraries, plus another option with Travelsphere.
Peru is also a massive seller for the adventure market. Two of Gap Adventures’ top-selling trips are Peru-based – Quest?of the Gods, and Galapagos?and Inca Discovery – and Explore offers a massive 23?itineraries in Peru, including special trips for teenagers and families.
Whether your clients are keen to be there for the 100th anniversary events or are inspired by the increasing press coverage to take the trip of a lifetime, it’s time to brush up on your Peruvian knowledge.
Tucked away in the Andes and shrouded from sight by surrounding peaks, Machu Picchu was built at the height of the Inca empire, and is incredibly well?preserved.
The nearest city is Cusco, where colonial churches sit on Inca foundations, and from which most tourists begin their explorations of the Urubamba or Sacred Valley – home not only to Machu Picchu, but other Inca sites including Sacsayhuaman, Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
Machu Picchu sits above the town of Aguas Calientes, which has no road or air links to the outside world. It’s accessible only by train, from the towns of Porac and Ollantaytambo. There are different classes of train, from a budget backpacker service to an extremely luxurious Hiram?Bingham train, operated by Orient-Express.
The other option is trekking the famous Inca Trail, which gives tourists the chance to experience the Andes up close and reach Intipunku – the Sun Gate – at dawn. The classic route takes four days and is the one included in the majority of packages offering trail treks.
Clients will need a decent standard of fitness and should be prepared to camp. The trek rises to a high altitude so they should spend a couple of days in Cusco first to acclimatise. The Peruvian government strictly limits the number of trekkers per day, so clients will need to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Those with less time, or who just fancy a shorter walk, can start the classic trail from halfway along, completing a two-day walk. Another option is the Salkantay Trail. It follows an alternative route, with spectacular scenery, including glaciers and tropical forest, and far fewer tourists. On this route, clients can choose either to camp, or to overnight in a series of luxury properties operated by Mountain Lodges of Peru. Operators such as Journey Latin America, W&O, Kuoni, Cox?&?Kings and Sunvil Traveller all offer this luxury trekking option.
Dragoman offers an even less-trekked alternative for those who’d prefer their route tourist-free. The adventure operator’s Community?Inca Trek snakes through the Lares valley, taking a route which isn’t used by any other operator, and offers trekkers the chance to stay within the local community and do some voluntary work. A proportion of the cost goes straight to community projects.
Another option for luxury clients is to stay in a hotel near to the site. The Inkaterra?Machu Picchu Pueblo is in Aguas Calientes, and offers a wide range of activities including visits to the hotel’s spectacled bear rescue project, twilight walks, and spa treatments.
Uber-stylish Luxury Collection property Tambo?del Inka opened last year in Sacred Valley and has its own railway station so clients can connect almost from the hotel door to the Machu Picchu site. peru.info
Hayes & Jarvis offers a 12-day tour of Peru called Land of the Incas, which visits Lima, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, Cusco and Machu Picchu. The tour costs from £2,299 and includes Iberia flights from Heathrow. Hayes and Jarvis, 0844 415 5550
Explore offers a 14-day Heights of Machu Picchu itinerary from £2,434, including the classic Inca Trail trek, Cusco, Lake Titicaca and Lima, and flights.
explore.co.uk, 0844 499