Finding Peace in Peru
Author: Lauren Hunsberger | Posted In: Go | May 2023
A stunning combination of mountains, city, jungle, history and adventure, Peru has everything you need for the perfect combination of wellness and thrill-seeking.
Touch Down in Cusco
The best base camp for a Peruvian adventure is Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire more than 600 years ago. There are few direct flights into Cusco, so you will likely have to fly to Lima first, but the layover is well worth it. As you eventually fly directly through the craggy, lush peaks of the Andes Mountains, you will get a bird’s-eye view of all the potential for grand experiences that await you.
But beware: the most important thing to know about Cusco, and many of the most popular destinations in Peru, is that it sits at 10,800 feet above sea level, which is no joke. You will want to spend a few days acclimatizing in the city before venturing out farther into the mountains, and come prepared with healing aids if you know you are prone to altitude sickness. Locals suggest chewing coca leaves (which you can purchase virtually everywhere in town) and sipping coca or muña tea to help ease upset stomachs and soothe headaches.
Book a Room at Inkaterra La Casona
Inkaterra La Casona is the premier place to stay in Cusco, as the city’s first five-star boutique hotel. It’s located in the beautiful Plaza de las Nazarenas, surrounded by vibrant eateries, shops and historic places to visit. The service here is top-notch, and the staff greets guests with tummy-soothing tea and a traditional Incan gift. But it’s the history of this stunning hotel that really impresses.
“This sixteenth-century manor house stands on the training grounds for an elite army of Incas, and had Spanish conquistador Diego de Almagro and Libertador Simón Bolívar among its illustrious guests,” according to the website.
There are only 11 suites on the property, and each one is perfectly appointed with a mix of traditional details and artwork while offering all the modern amenities, including floor-to-ceiling marble showers, Wi-Fi and luxurious bedding.
Refresh and Restore on the Property
Set in a stunning dining room with glass doors that face ancient art and lush Peruvian vegetation, the in-house restaurant on Inkaterra La Casona’s property is a must. “The food is fresh, natural and nutritious; our chefs incorporate local ingredients to give travelers a portal to explore and discover the Indigenous culinary secrets.” Their menu rotates based on the season, so ask your server what the chef recommends. The restaurant can also pack lunch boxes for any of your one-day excursions.
For something truly special, ask about their signature services including secret tea time on the roof of a nearby cathedral, sunset cocktail or even a Pay the Earth Ceremony Pachamama. “Led by a shaman, the ceremony involves making an offering of small amounts of native Andean cereals, grains and fruits, together with coca leaves.”
It’s a taste of the mystical tradition of the Indigenous people.
Lastly, be sure to relax in the Yacu Spa Therapy Room. “All of our spa products are 100 percent natural, derived from local botanical extracts for a pleasing, spiritual and soothing experience.” The spa offers a variety of massages, foot therapy, reflexology and oxygen therapy.
For more information, please visit inkaterra.com.
Head Out on an Excursion
The options for day trips and beyond are virtually endless when it comes to sightseeing from Cusco.
From hiking and horseback riding to visiting ancient ruins, there’s something available for everyone.
Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca)
One spot that lands on almost every must-see adventure travel list is Rainbow Mountain, and for good reason—its striated, vibrantly colored layers make it one of the coolest natural features on the planet. But you will have to work a little to see it. The trailhead is located roughly two and half hours from Cusco, and you can take a private taxi or hop on a bus with one of multiple tour companies around. Either way, you will drive through remote villages, which gives you a chance to see the Peruvian countryside. Once you arrive, you have two options: hike up the 3.5-mile trail or rent a horse. Horses can help those who are having trouble with altitude (as the mountain peaks at 15,600 feet), but they can’t go all the way. The steep parts at the top are all up to you. Those who make it are rewarded with unbelievable views, a chance for a passport stamp and treats from locals who set up shop for travelers.
Machu Picchu—One of the New Seven Wonders of the World
Machu Picchu, the abandoned Incan settlement that rests on a mountain ridgeline, is the most famed destination in Peru, and its mystery and beauty are guaranteed to leave you in complete awe. The official website calls it “a masterpiece of art, architecture, and engineering in perfect harmony with nature and it’s the most well-known legacy of the Inca civilization,” and that’s putting it mildly. There are two approaches you can take to visit. The first is a five-day backpacking trek called the Inca Trail. It’s a major undertaking, but a perfect challenge for the most adventurous travelers. The other way is to travel from Cusco to the small riverside town of Machu Picchu by car and then take a 20-minute bus up the side of the mountain. It makes seeing the ancient citadel a shorter trip. Stay a night in the city and enjoy fresh local fare and the bustling marketplace.