article and photos by Liz Kramer, Woodland Hills, CA.
Just got back from one of my best trips ever– Peru!

What an amazing place…the food was amazing, truly a foodie’s destination. Lots of fresh seafood, Peruvian ceviche which was fantastic and the presentation of the food everywhere we ate was spectacular,especially at the Inkaterra hotels and on Aqua Expeditions, where every night was a tasting menu!

Both the JW Marriott and the Miraflores Park Hotel (an Orient Express property) are great hotels for Lima. Both are located in the Miraflores area which is really the only area to stay in with great restaurants, shopping and the nicest part of town. The JW was your typical American property, but very nice, and the Miraflores was amazing. Beautiful lobby, bar, and rooms…very much the feel of a Ritz-Carlton.

I had made all my reservation with Inkaterra direct and the executive of sales Ana Maria Zenelli was super helpful in helping plan this trip as I had never been. She arranged all our transfers, tour guides in Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu, and they never missed a beat. The guides were knowledgeable, spoke amazing English, and their goal was to make sure we had an enjoyable stay. We also had a 24-hour concierge at our beck and call if we needed one. They even called after the first day of tours to make sure we were happy with everything we did.

I stayed at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica where we had the canopy walk, the treehouse, and jungle expeditions. The rooms there are all individual cabins with lanterns at night for lights, and netting around the bed: very rustic and tropical but very comfortable. The main lodge is the dining area and meeting reception where all the dining furniture is carved out of tree stumps. This is a good pick for someone who wants a quick 8-10 day trip focusing mainly on Machu Picchu but wants to experience a bit of the jungle. You have to fly from Lima down to Puerto Maldonado via Cusco so it works out well with flight schedules. The nature guides were helpful and really took care to make sure we were comfortable doing all the activities.

The Inkaterra Casona in Cusco is an 11-room hotel converted from an old Spanish hacienda with a gorgeous courtyard in the middle. It is located in the same square across the street from the Monastery. These two by far are the nicest places to stay. Again and I can’t say enough about the service and the willingness of the staff to make sure we were taken care of, especially for those struggling with the altitude…and it was tough!

The Inkaterra Machu Picchu is located in the town of Aqua Calientes at the base of the mountain. It is a 20-minute bus ride to get to the site. The buses run continuously from 5 am to 6 pm. This also was a wonderful hotel, great food, but LOTS of steps, so not for someone that can’t get around very well. As far as Machu Picchu goes, pictures do not do it justice; there are simply no words to describe the magnitude and sheer size of the place. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.

AQUA is, as my husband said, a houseboat on steroids, with 12 cabins, 24 passengers and 21 crew. The crew bends over backwards to make sure you are comfortable, safe and well educated about the Amazon. Cabins are large and comfortable with good a/c, which you really appreciate after a nice long hike in the jungle. The large 20-ft windows are perfect for laying in bed and watching the world sail by! Two excursions per day are scheduled, usually early morning and later in the afternoon with time in between to recover. The 3- or 4-night options are the best bets, in my opinion. You have to really be into nature, birds and bugs to do 7 nights, but the Amazon was truly a wonderful place to visit. We never felt unsafe, there was so much to learn and the villages we went to were great eye openers to how people still live in our modern world.

About the only negative is the amount of traveling it takes to get around– lots of flights, boats, trains, cars etc. — but worth every minute!