Machu Picchu has my soul, but Barranco stole my heart

Interview with Susan Vandendam, Away by TTI Travel Advisor


Peru has long been a “bucket list” dream for me so when I was invited by LimaTours to experience Peru and finally visit Machu Picchu, I accepted in a heartbeat!


While the whole week was full of amazing experiences and surprises, the highlights of the trip included the “wow factor” of a First Class Inca Rail ride alongside the roaring Urubamba river enroute to Aguas Calientes; the gentle and genuine hospitality of the people (both city and countryside); the bohemian creativeness found in the Barranco district of Lima; the serene and rugged Sacred Valley and of course, the mystical majesty of Machu Picchu.


After living my dream of finally seeing Machu Picchu citadel, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the Modern World, I made the commitment to climb the extra 3000ft to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain which peaks at 10,069ft. Even though it was a cloudy and drizzly morning, the views along the way combined with the persistent effort it took to climb, made for the most memorable part of the trip. The feelings of exhaustion, enchantment and wonder as I finally made it to the top peak, surrounded by rapidly moving clouds, will be forever imprinted in my memory.


Even though we only had a week, Virtuoso’s LimaTours crafted the itinerary in a way that maximized our enjoyment and minimized altitude issues. We started in Lima with a good night’s sleep. The next day we shopped a local market with the Chef and then cooked our own lunch at his Urban Kitchen. We visited Old Lima and then dined at the trendy Hotel B in Barranco for our first taste of the fabulous cuisine of Peru. Next day we were off to the Sacred Valley by way of a flight to Cusco. There we visited with the Huilloc people and participated in a traditional dance and ceremony. We had a couple of days to explore the natural beauty and local culture of the valley, staying at the gorgeous and impressive Hotel Tambo del Inca, and then on to the highlight, Machu Picchu. We stayed in the lively town, Aguas Calientes, on the river at the base of the mountains and had two days to visit the ancient site and climb/hike around the area. Once acclimatized, we visited the highest (altitude) point and capital of the Incan Empire, the city of Cusco, surrounded by the mighty Andes Mountains. After a tour of the old town and its impressive Cathedral we flew back to Lima for a visit to the Larco Museum of ancient civilizations. The last day was spent in Lima exploring the modern Miraflores and the bohemian Barranco districts, both which sit atop cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.


One thing that I didn’t expect on this trip was the amazing and sophisticated food scene. Every meal we had was a new discovery in taste and sense. Because of Peru’s varied landscape and geography, it offers the most diverse range of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meats. This has attracted many well known and culturally diverse Chefs. As a result, you can expect to enjoy some of the best dining of your life, despite how discerning your taste may be. This was a big surprise for me; bonus!

Considering all that Peru has to offer, it is no wonder so many of us have it on our bucket list. Don’t put it off, you will be impressed, amazed and enchanted!

Photo courtesy of Susan Vandendam