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Frommer's EasyGuide to Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu

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Frommer’s books aren’t written by committee, or by travel writers who simply pop in briefly to a destination and then consider the job done. Frommer’s author,Nicholas Gill, has been covering Peru for over a decade and this book hits all the highlights, from iconic Machu Picchu to Lima's vibrant dining scene. He's checked out all of the country's best hotels and restaurants in person, and offers authoritative, candid reviews that will help you find the choices that suit your tastes and budget, whether you’re a backpacker or on a splashy honeymoon. Most importantly, he’s not shy about telling readers what to see, and what they can skip without regret.

The book includes:

-A handy fold-out map, plus detailed maps throughout the guide
-Exact pricing, opening hours, and the other important details that will make your trip smoother and less hectic.
-Smartly conceived itineraries for travelers of all types, so you can shape your vacation to fit your interests.
-Savvy, sometimes sneaky, tips for saving money in ALL price ranges, whether you need to pinch pennies or are able to splash out a bit. This book has it all from budget to luxury and everything in between.
-Fastidiously researched information on the many

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1 THE BEST OF LIMA, CUSCO & MACHU PICCHU

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The Best of Lima, Cusco & Machu Picchu

Peru may be inseparable from Machu Picchu and the legacy of the Inca Empire, but a scratch beneath the surface reveals a fascinating and dynamic country that preserves its Andean traditions. Cosmopolitan types dive into Lima’s world-class dining, while travelers in Gore-Tex outdoor gear gather at pubs around Cusco’s 500-year-old Plaza de Armas in anticipation of ruins treks. Yet even in this cross-section of some of Peru’s highlights, there’s much more. In Sacred Valley markets, artisans haggle over handwoven alpaca textiles. On the desert coast, a 5,000-year-old city is being excavated as you read this. There are beaches for surfing, fervent religious processions, and highland celebrations with surreal masks.

Sightseeing    Cusco revels in its Andean traditions, with exquisite Inca stonemasonry on nearly every street. Take a train though the Sacred Valley to the Inca town of Ollantaytambo and legendary Machu Picchu. The fast-paced capital, Lima, has revitalized its colonial quarter to go along with its sophisticated nightlife and shopping. Visit the ancient pyramid complex of Caral, which parallels the ones in Egypt, or surf some of South America’s most consistent waves at Punta Hermosa.

 

2 SUGGESTED LIMA, CUSCO & MACHU PICCHU ITINERARIES

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Suggested Lima, Cusco & Machu Picchu Itineraries

You want to get the most out of your trip to Peru in the time that you have available. Here are some ideas for structuring your travels. Unless you have a solid month to spend, you probably won’t get to see as much of Peru as you’d wish, at least on a first trip. Peru is deceptively large, and at least as important are the considerable geographic and transportation barriers that complicate zipping around the country. Some regions require difficult travel by land, with no air access. It’s ill-advised to try to do too much in too short a period; in addition to travel distances and transportation routes, you’ve got to take into account other factors—such as jet lag and acclimatization to high altitude—that require most visitors to slow down. Of course, slowing down is never a bad thing, so feel free to trim the itinerary, too—particularly since several of the itineraries are go, go, go—and add days in a particularly relaxing place, such as the Sacred Valley or the beaches south of Lima.

 

3 PERU IN CONTEXT

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Peru in Context

Peru has a habit of turning virtually every visitor into an amateur archaeologist or outdoors enthusiast. Intriguing ruins, the legacies of the Incas, and even more ancient pre-Columbian cultures fire the imagination, and outstanding museum collections of ceramics, textiles, and remarkably preserved mummies weave a complex tale of some of the world’s most advanced cultures. Dense tracts of Amazon rainforest and forbidding Andes summits are known to only a select few adventurers. And yet—Machu Picchu’s immense popularity notwithstanding—with so many sites still being excavated, and ruins almost continually discovered in remote jungle regions, Peru still has the rare feeling of a country in the 21st century that hasn’t been exhaustively explored.

The third-largest country in South America (after Brazil and Argentina), Peru has grown immensely as a travel destination over the past decade—though it still seems comparatively undervalued, given all it has to offer. With spectacular Andes Mountains and highland culture, Amazon rainforest second only to Brazil, a rich array of wildlife, and some of the Americas’ greatest ruins of pre-Columbian cultures, Peru deserves to be experienced by so many more people.

 

4 LIMA

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lima

Founded in 1535, Lima was the Spanish crown’s “City of Kings,” the richest and most important city in the Americas and considered to be the most beautiful colonial settlement in the region. Lima was home to some of the Americas’ finest baroque and Renaissance churches, palaces, and mansions, as well as the continent’s first university. Today’s modern capital, with a population of nearly 9 million—about one-third of Peru’s population—sprawling and chaotic Lima thoroughly dominates Peru’s political and commercial life. Although many travelers used to give it short shrift, Lima is newly welcoming to visitors. The historic centro is being spruced up, and spread across the capital are the country’s most creative restaurants, finest museums, and most vibrant nightlife. Limeño cuisine is the subject of growing international buzz, and foodies bent on a gastronomic tour of Peru are flocking to Lima’s diverse restaurant scene.

History    Peculiar in a modern capital, evidence of pre-Columbian culture exists throughout the city, with the remains of adobe pyramids next to high-rises. Founded by the conquistador Francisco Pizarro and for 2 centuries the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition, the city’s colonial wealth and importance are on view throughout Lima Centro.

 

5 SIDE TRIPS FROM LIMA

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Side Trips from lima

A short drive out of Lima seems like entering a different world. Scenic river valleys dotted with small farming communities add a touch of green to the central coast, while to the south, a string of beach communities are a welcome change from the frantic pace of the capital. For those with a few days to explore what the central coast has to offer, you will be pleasantly surprised. Major archeological sites, such as Pachacámac to the south and Caral to the north, pre-date the Incas and reveal some of the oldest civilizations in the Americas. The vast Carretera Panamericana (Pan-American Hwy.), a two-lane strip of asphalt that extends the length of Peru from the Ecuadorian border all the way down to Chile, slices through this section of the desert lowlands, and bus travel is direct, if not always visually stimulating. South of Lima along the coast, the hot and extraordinarily dry desert province of Ica is one of the most arid places on earth. There is sandboarding and dune buggy rides, not to mention vineyards hidden amid the sand dunes, though it is also where the South American Plate collides with the Nazca Plate, one of the most seismically active regions of the world. The most recent tragedy struck in August 2007 when a massive earthquake struck around Pisco and Ica, registering 7.9 on the Richter scale.

 

6 CUSCO

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cusco

The storied capital of the Inca Empire and gateway to the imperial city of Machu Picchu, Cusco (also spelled Cuzco and Qosqo) is one of the highlights of South America. Stately and historic, with stone streets and building foundations laid by the Incas more than 5 centuries ago, the town is much more than a mere history lesson. It is also surprisingly dynamic, enlivened by throngs of travelers who have transformed the historic center around the Plaza de Armas into a year-round hub of South American adventurers. Yet for all its popularity, Cusco is one of those rare places able to preserve its unique character and enduring appeal despite its growing prominence on the tourism radar. Cusco’s beautiful natural setting, colorful festivals, sheer number of sights—unparalleled in Peru—and facilities and services organized for travelers make it the top destination in Peru and one of the most exciting places in South America.

History    Cusco is a fascinating blend of pre-Columbian and colonial history and contemporary mestizo culture. It was the Inca Empire’s holy city, the political, military, and cultural center of its continent-spanning empire.

 

7 THE SACRED VALLEY

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the sacred valley

The Urubamba Valley was sacred to the Incas, and it’s not hard to understand why. Better known as the Sacred Valley, it’s a serene and incomparably lovely stretch of small villages and ancient ruins spread across a broad plain, split by the Urubamba River and framed by magnificent Andes peaks and a massive sky. The Incas built several of the empire’s greatest estates, temples, and royal palaces between the sacred centers of Cusco and Machu Picchu, positioned like great bookends at the south and north ends of the valley. Many visitors use the valley as a base for visiting the region, as it’s about 300m (1,000 ft.) lower than Cusco, making it a better introduction for visitors prone to altitude-related health problems.

History    The entire valley is suffused by the great, if brief, presence of the Incas. From extraordinary temples to fortresses, no region in Peru is more marked by the continent-spanning civilization. Today, Quechua-speaking residents work fields with primitive tools and harvest salt using methods unchanged since the days of the Incas.

 

8 MACHU PICCHU & THE INCA TRAIL

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machu picchu & The Inca Trail

The stunning and immaculately sited Machu Picchu, the fabled “lost city of the Incas,” is South America’s greatest attraction, drawing ever-increasing numbers of visitors from across the globe. The Incas hid Machu Picchu so high in the clouds that it escaped destruction by the empire-raiding Spaniards, who never found it. It is no longer lost, of course—you can zip there by high-speed train or trek there along a 2- or arduous 4-day trail—but Machu Picchu retains its perhaps unequaled aura of mystery and magic. From below it remains totally hidden from view, although no longer overgrown with brush, as it was when it was rediscovered in 1911 by the Yale archaeologist and historian Hiram Bingham with the aid of a local farmer who knew of its existence. The majestic setting the Incas chose for it, nestled in almost brooding Andes Mountains and frequently swathed in mist, also remains unchanged. When the early-morning sun rises over the peaks and methodically illuminates the ruins’ row by row of granite stones, Machu Picchu leaves visitors as awestruck as ever.

 

9 PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO LIMA, CUSCO & MACHU PICCHU

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Planning Your Trip to Lima, Cusco & Machu Picchu

Getting There

By Plane

All overseas flights from North America and Europe arrive at Lima’s Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chávez (www.lap.com.pe;  01/517-3100; airport code LIM). Major international airlines from North and South America, Europe, and Asia all fly to Lima. Lima is a hub city for LAN Airlines (www.lan.com;  212/582-3250 in the U.S., or 01/213-8200), which has flights throughout South America as well as multiple destinations around North America and Europe. LAN flights also connect to Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti through Chile. North American carriers have direct flights between Lima and cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark, Orlando, and Toronto. They include American Airlines (www.aa.com;  800/221-1212 in the U.S., or 01/211-9211), Air Canada (www.aircanada.com;  01/626-0900), Avianca (www.avianca.com;  01/213-6060), Copa (www.copaair.com;  01/709-2600), Delta (www.delta.com;  01/211-3250), JetBlue (www.jetblue.com;  01/517-2764), Spirit (www.spirit.com;  212/641-9131), and United (www.united.com;  01/712-9230).

 

10 USEFUL TERMS & PHRASES

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Useful Terms & Phrases

Peruvian Spanish is, for the most part, straightforward and fairly free of the quirks and national slang that force visitors to page through their dictionaries in desperation. But if you know Spanish, some of the terms you will hear people saying are chibolo for muchacho (boy); churro and papasito for guapo (good-looking); jato instead of casa (house); chapar (literally “to grab or get”), slangier than but with the same meaning as besar (to kiss); ¡que paja está! (it’s great); mi pata to connote a dude or chick from your posse; and papi (or papito) and mami (or mamita), affectionate terms for “father” and “mother” that are also used as endearments between relatives and lovers (which can get a little confusing to the untrained outsider). The inherited indigenous respect for nature is evident; words such as Pachamama (Mother Earth) tend to make it into conversation remarkably frequently.

Spanish is but one official language of Peru, though. Quechua (the language of the Inca Empire) has been given official status and is still widely spoken, especially in the highlands, and there has been a movement afoot to add Aymara as a national language, too. (Aymara is spoken principally in the southern highlands area around Lake Titicaca.) Dozens of other native tongues and dialects are still spoken around the country as well. A predominantly oral language (the Incas had no written texts), Quechua is full of glottal and magical, curious sounds. As it is written today, it is mystifyingly vowel-heavy and apostrophe-laden, full of q’s, k’s, and y’s; try to wrap your tongue around munayniykimanta (excuse me) or hayk’ atan kubrawanki llamaykikunanmanta (how much is it to hire a llama?). Very few people seem to agree on spellings of Quechua, as you’ll pick up on street signs and restaurant names in Cusco. Colorful phrases often mix and match Spanish and indigenous languages: Hacer la tutumeme is the same as ir a dormir, or “to go to sleep.”

 

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