Peru, Live the Legend

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Tucked away in the vastness of green jungle peaks, the superb fortress sanctuary of Machu Picchu is made up of grassy terraces linked by staircases that join sacred temples and altars to walled compounds of domestic dwellings. Peru’s most famous archaeological site was discovered by Hiram Bingham of Yale University in 1911. One hundred years later, on the initiative of Peru’s International Trade and Tourism Department, 2011 has been declared the “Year of the Machu Picchu Centennial.” A special ceremony will be held at the citadel on July 7, the official day of the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. The ceremony will also honor this “favorite son” monument’s winning a place among the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Once called the “Lost City,” today’s archaeologists now agree that Machu Picchu was a summer estate for Inca royalty, built by the last of the Incas in the 15th century. And, sitting in the shadow of Huayna Picchu peak, Machu Picchu is indeed a majestic sight to behold, whether one arrives on foot after a 4-day trek along the Inca Trail, or by train, a dramatically beautiful 3-hour ride embarking from the train station just outside Cusco and riding the rails to Aguas Calientes, where there are a handful of fine hotels and inns for an overnight or 2-night stay. From Aguas Calientes, most visitors make the ascent up to the ruins via a 20-minute bus ride. There are many, many touring options inviting travelers to celebrate Machu Picchu.

Consider just a few:

Tara Tours is offering the 7-day Machu Picchu on a Budget tour. Travelers land in Lima and connect immediately to Cusco for a 2-night stay, which includes time to catch one’s breath on arrival, as well as a city tour and visits to the nearby ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Kenko, Puca-Pucara and Tambomachay. From Cusco, passengers depart by rail to Aguas Calientes, check in to the hotel, and in the afternoon visit the citadel of Machu Picchu. On the following day, there is time to revisit the ruins before the mid-afternoon return to Cusco where there is a day at leisure to enjoy the ancient Inca capital on one’s own. On day seven, return by air to Lima, and the connecting flight to the U.S.

The cost is $1,294 pp dbl using three-star hotels, and $1,375 in four-star hotels. Also included is breakfast daily, airfare aboard LanPeru roundtrip Lima-Cusco and rail tickets Cusco-Machu Picchu, all sightseeing with private guide and private transfers. For more information, call (800) 327-0080 or visit taratours.com.

ROW Adventures invites travelers to explore the lands of the Incas by walking and hiking along lesser-known and remote ancient paths on its 7-day Machu Picchu Lodge to Lodge Adventure, which starts and finishes in Cusco. Adventurers trek the Salkantay Trail from one luxury mountain eco-lodge to another, finally reaching Machu Picchu. On this journey, trekkers go from 12,800 ft. down to 6,900 ft., traversing magnificent mountain passes, enjoying mystical snow-capped peaks, seeing nature at its purest and exploring more than 15 different ecosystems. Of course, along the way, the cultural highs are the local people, sons and daughters of their Inca forbearers. The cost, from $2,560 pp dbl, includes superior class lodgings, meals, overland transport where required, professional guide services. For more information, call (800) 451-6034 or vist rowadventures.com.

Myths & Mountains introduces An Insider’s Machu Picchu & Lake Titicaca: Homestays & Home Cooking. This 9-day experience of the Andean way of life, in the past and now, shows how ancient traditions handed down from generation to generation are carefully preserved to this day. From shopping for produce in the Cusco market and a hands-on cooking lesson with a local chef, to following in the footsteps of the Incas when wandering from ruin to ruin and viewing special ceremonies celebrating Mother Earth in the Sacred Valley, not to mention staying as honored guests in two different homes of the Quechua Indians on the shores of Lake Titicaca, this tour offers a special perspective on a special country. Priced at $3,450 pp dbl, the land cost includes superior hotels, daily breakfast and some special meals, private guide and sightseeing, overland transport, and transfers. For more information, call (800) 670-6984 or visit mythsandmountains.com.

Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel, a new deluxe, 60-room property located a 10-minute walk from Agua Calientes near the Urubamba River, is celebrating the “New Wonder of the World” with a special Machu Picchu Centennial package that offers a premium rate and many attractions on a 3-day stay. Guests will enjoy two nights in a jr. suite, tours to the mountain to Machu Picchu and the Site Museum, a half-day hike to the Mandor Valley—an ideal area for birdwatching and orchid viewing—an Inca Massage at the hotels Aqlla Spa, a Special Centennial Dinner on the second evening, and rail station transfers. The hotel has lovely spacious rooms with excellent bedding (some rooms with balconies); the spa has a sauna that welcomes guests at the end of a long day’s tour; the hotel offers many tours and circuits; and the chef’s special Centennial Dinner includes such dishes as mountain gods trout served with aji pepper sauce, corn and glazed sweet potatoes, or alpaca tenderloin with bernaise sauce and a bevy of fresh vegetables. The cost of the package is $885 pp dbl; a 1-night package is also available. For more information, e-mail reservas@sumaqhotelperu or visit sumaqhotelperu.com.