Destination: Peru


Recently, I was a delegate to the 2005 TravelMart Latin America. It is one of the most important business events for the tourism sector in Latin America. This year, Peru was the host country.

Close to one thousand representatives of tourism organizations around the world gathered in Lima, Sept. 14-16. TravelMart brings together sellers (airlines, cruise operators, tour operators, hotels and tourist offices) and buyers (tour wholesalers from abroad) to promote their products.

Pre and post tours are available to delegates to familiarize them with the programs they sell to the public through travel agents or the Internet. Making the rounds of the trade show floor supplied me with the most up-to-date information to pass on to ITN subscribers.

Jetting there

At a special fare offered to TravelMart delegates, I traveled in economy class on LAN Perú nonstop from Los Angeles to Lima, with an almost immediate connection to Cusco.

This marks the first time in my 30 years of traveling to Peru that I did not overnight in Lima before continuing to Cusco. Adjustment to the altitude, 11,500 feet, was about the same — and I saved time and an extra round-trip taxi fare, which can range from $16 to $50 depending upon a person’s bargaining skills with taxi drivers.

The rate of exchange at the time of my visit was $1 = 3.25 nuevo soles. You can check currency exchanges worldwide at www.xe.com.

LAN now has electronic ticketing, which greatly simplifies the ticketing process. LAN Perú, LAN Ecuador, LAN Chile and LAN Argentina all fall under the LAN umbrella and are part of the Oneworld airline alliance. The food and service in economy class were far better than those of their partner American Airlines, with which I flew to Paris in June.

For additional information, call LAN toll-free at 866/435-9526 or visit www.lan.com.

Accommodations in Lima

Hotel Los Delfines (visit www. summithotels.com), a 5-star property in the very upscale San Isidro neighborhood, hosted my accommodations ($130 single or $140 double; call 800/457-4000). Personally, I would rate it at four stars, especially compared to the truly deluxe Country Club Lima Hotel across the street.

As lovely as San Isidro might be, it was necessary to hail a taxi for every outing. The only convenience was a Starbucks across the street, with prices for espressos comparable to those at home. My advice would be to select a hotel in Miraflores, the perfect combination of shopping centers, art galleries, restaurants, boutiques, beaches and nightlife. See my April ’02 column for hotel listings and descriptions.

Peru tidbits

Important squares and buildings in Lima are beautifully illuminated at night, thanks to a program of the Spanish foundation ENDESA. These include Plaza San Martin and Plaza de Armas in the downtown area. Particularly beautiful and glowing was the Government Palace and the 400-year-old Cathedral where the remains of Francisco Pizarro, the first governor of Peru, rest.

It is now possible to do overflights of the Nazca Lines not only by small aircraft but by helicopter. Helicopters have better stability, enabling better views and photos. This new flight option saves visitors time because the heliport is located next to the Maria Reiche Museum and offers more frequent departures.

Hotel Libertador/Lago Titicaca ($165 single or double including buffet breakfast, rising to $175 in 2006; call 800/457-4000 or visit www.summithotels.com), part of the Summit chain, offers guests the opportunity to horseback ride around the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world. The lake forms a natural border between Peru and Bolivia.

The oldest city in the Americas, Caral, is located north of Lima. Currently, it is one of the most important archaeological projects in Latin America. After nearly a decade of excavation by Peruvian archaeologist Ruth Shady of San Marcos University, a site of giant proportions is emerging. For tour information, call Latin American Reservation Center at 800/327-3573.

Adventures in Latin cuisine

The most innovative tour program that I uncovered at the TravelMart will delight devotees of the Food Network’s cooking shows. Latin Excursions, awarded Best Travel Specialists on Travel & Leisure’s 2005 A-List, has fashioned culinary adventures through the world of Latin America. These are deluxe, customized tours which include airfare, meals and accommodations at a price of $3,000 per person for a one-week tour or $6,000 per person for a 2-week tour.

Latin Excursions’ guides and hosts are local experts in the field of Latin cuisine and include a fascinating mix of food historians, chefs and restaurant owners as well as local artisan farmers.

From just south of the U.S. border all the way to Tierra del Fuego, the continent offers a kaleidoscope of cultures, landscapes and cuisines, each with its own particular accents, influences and flavors. On these tours, you’ll sample delicacies that remain distinctly local as well as staples like quinoa that are just now appearing in specialty markets in the States.

Food is intimately interwoven with Latin American family festivals and unique ways of living. Latin Excursions’ programs actually take you into kitchens to learn the secrets of the finest chefs and into colorful indigenous markets to search for unusual ingredients.

In Ollantaytambo, Peru, the Quechua-speaking locals (Quechua is the Incan language) still plant, harvest and prepare staples as their forebears did in the Valley of the Inca. In contrast, you will enjoy fine dining, just a few miles away by train, at the base of Machu Picchu.

Other tours highlight vineyards in the Mendoza Valley of Argentina that offer up some of the world’s most promising wines, and in Chile’s rugged Patagonia area you can visit lodges to catch and prepare the freshest fish.

For additional information, contact Latin Excursions, 500 Bayview Dr., Ste. 922, Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160; phone 866/626-3750, e-mail eric@latinexcursions.com or visit www.latinexcursions.com.

I’ll have more on Peru soon.