Let the Trek on Inca Trail change your life, according to CNN

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Peru’s Inca Trail was recently named as one of CNN’s 49 Journeys that will Change Your Life.

The Inca Trail – which came in third on the list – was joined by other stunning adventures like a 10-week trip from Cape Town to Cairo or an elevator trip from the ground floor to the 89th of Taiwan’s Taipei Tower.

Built more than 500 years ago, the Inca Trail was part of the most extensive and advanced road system in Pre-Columbian South America. The Inca road system linked together some 25, 000 miles (40,000 kilometers) of roadways.

Traversing the Andes Mountain range, the Inca Trail offers travelers several different routes, each one passing through some of Peru’s unique ecosystems, ranging from cloud forests to alpine tundra.

Inca ruins along the way act as teasers for the final destination: the world-renowned ruins of Machu Picchu. Some of the routes take travelers as high as 4,200 meters above sea level – offering breathtaking views. Depending on the chosen route and stops made along the way, the trek can take anywhere from 2-5 days.

Other South American destinations named on CNN’s list included: a road trip from Turbo, Colombia to Buenos Aires, Argentina and a train ride from Esquel to Ingeniero Jacobacci, Patagonia, Argentina.

Peru is indeed the perfect destination for your honeymoon

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Picture this: you’re relaxing in a natural health spa, enjoying a luxurious couple massage with your significant other, discussing the ancient temple you just visited with a personal guide, and anticipating tomorrow’s luxury train ride to the ancient citadel of MACHU PICCHU. For couples looking to combine elite luxury with light adventure and cultural exploration, Peru makes the perfect honeymoon pick.

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With a remarkable increase in luxury accommodations, a booming and acclaimed culinary scene, and the ability to visit ancient ruins, traditional villages, and imposing jungles with modern services and private guides accustomed to high-end service, Peru is an exotic, pampering, and value-oriented honeymoon destination. But what really completes Peru as a wonderful honeymoon selection is the romance. From watching the sun set into the ocean from the exquisite cliff-side parks in Lima (one of which is named Park of Love!); to the mystic mountains surrounding Machu Picchu, to the scenic serenity in the Scared Valley, Peru is for lovers.

As a diverse country, there are many places in Peru to consider for your honeymoon. Because most international flights arrive in Lima, couples should spend a couple nights in this modern city. Lima is home to some of the best restaurants in the country, and travelers can enjoy gourmet multi-course dinner and drinks for a third of the price (or less) of what it would cost in North America or Europe. Some recommended Lima restaurants include Rafael, Astrid y Gaston, and La Mar.

The trio of Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu should be the central hub of any Peru-based honeymoon package. Luxurious properties in Cuzco provide a pampering experience in renovated colonial structures that contain the charm of the past but with the comforts of a non-intrusive modern touch (such as heated floors), while the Sacred Valley allows for a few romantic nights of seclusion, and Machu Picchu offers a stunning show of man-made and natural beauty.

Those with more time should consider a visit to the Amazon. Just a 45 minute flight from Cuzco is the jungle town of Puerto Maldonado, a launching point for trips to remote Amazon lodges. There are several rustic luxury lodges in the area. However, those looking for pure comfort should head north to the town of Iquitos and the Amazon River. Here exclusive riverboats takes travelers deep into the rainforest, yet all with the comfort of an exquisite private room with panoramic windows and a chef on board to serve delicious Amazon meals.

And to top it all off, Peru has several luxury travel companies with in-country offices available to help you plan your dream vacation. An agency that specializes in Peru and luxury trips can be the perfect way to make your romantic international honeymoon become a reality.

Check out the most luxurious retreats in Sacred Valley, Peru

With the demand for luxury travel booming, and the development of several luxury hotel resorts over the last few years, the Sacred Valley of the Inca’s is becoming an increasingly popular destination for foreign tourists visiting Peru. Ideally located for visiting nearby Inca archaeological sites of Pisac, Moray and Ollantaytambo, and just 2 hours from Peru’s premier attraction – the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley is also an intelligent choice to spend a few nights.

As the price of land in the City of Cusco continues to sharply rise (Sotheby’s is opening an office there at the moment), luxury hotel investors are choosing to constructing away from the city, opting for the more tranquil setting and lower land costs of the Sacred Valley. What this means is that there is now a selection of exclusive hotels that are less restricted in size, offering attractive gardens, all at more affordable prices. And, to boot, the Sacred Valley is located several hundred feet lower than Cusco, making the whole process of acclimatizing to the Andes that little easier.

Tambo del Inka Resort & Spa, Urubamba

Set on the banks of the fast flowing Urubamba River, the Tambo del Inka is one of Starwood’s leading luxury hotels in Peru. The dramatic lobby features a 2 story stone open fireplace which contrasts against the warm and inviting earthy tones of the hotel’s décor. The 128 room hotel not only offers everything you would expect from a hotel  of this calibre, but is also the only hotel in the Sacred Valley to have an onsite train station for catching trains direct to Machu Picchu. The 5,500 square foot spa includes 12 treatment rooms, a hydrotherapy circuit, plunge pools and more. A popular treatment at the spa is the hydrating wrap and massage using maracuya (passion fruit) and honey.

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The Aranwa Hotel & Wellness Centre, Huayllabamba

The astonishingly beautiful Aranwa Hotel is one of the Sacred Valley’s hidden gems. Located in 3 acres of stunning gardens which include a private adobe chapel and lake, the Aranwa Hotel is a haven of tranquillity for visitors to the Sacred Valley. Built on the site of an old corn plantation, the hotel still features the original 16th century hacienda, which has been fully restored to its former glory. The hotel’s 115 rooms and suites are some of the largest of all the hotels in the Sacred Valley. The Presidential Suite offers the ultimate in luxury with 2 bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a bar, a cinema, a private swimming pool and even a grand piano.

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Casa Andina Private Collection, Yanahuara

From the ever successful Peruvian Casa Andina chain, the Casa Andina Private Collection at Yanahuara offers luxury at affordable rates. Located just 10 minutes from the Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo and in close proximity to the train station to Machu Picchu, the Casa Andina Private Collection is ideal for leisure travellers visiting Peru. The hotel offers 85 rooms and 7 Andean cottages all with panoramic views of the Sacred Valley. Guests at the hotel can enjoy a fully equipped spa, pristine gardens and even an onsite planetarium.

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Sol y Luna Hotel, Urubamba

As one of the original luxury hotels in the Sacred Valley, the Sol y Luna Hotel has had to constantly redefine itself to maintain its position as a leading luxury hotel in the area. Luxury at the hotel is defined by exquisite experiences and small details rather than outright extravagance. With colourful gardens that have matured for over 14 years, the hotel is a peaceful habitat to some 35 registered species of bird. The Wayra Ranch (part of the hotel) offers exclusive horse-back rides in the Sacred Valley using their own Peruvian Paso breeds. The hotel even features a secret wine cellar for cosy private dinners. Wine paring, with menus of up to 10 courses can be specially tailored to guests needs.

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Rio Sagrado Hotel, Urubamba

As one of four Orient Express owned hotels in the Cusco region, the Rio Sagrado Hotel is pushing the boundaries of luxury and service in the Sacred Valley. Set on the banks of the Urumbamba River, the hotel has panoramic views of unspoilt Andean mountain scenery. The large gardens, with open and impeccable lawns dominate the hotel grounds. Guests can even take a tour of the gardens, led by their head-gardener – a specialist in indigenous botany. The hotel offers a choice of luxurious rooms and suites, plus two large villas. The villas offer unparalleled space and include a private deck, a lounge, a study and accommodations for up to 6 people.ouru_1366x650_exterior06

7 Peruvian dishes you definietly need to try

Similar to other cultures, Peruvian dishes are a rich combination of several influences, including Spanish  and Chinese cuisine combined with traditional ingredients originating from Peru. Many tourists who visit the nation have the opportunity to try new versions of some old favorites and  may just be surprised by their discoveries. Traditionally,  Peruvian dishes include rice or potatoes (after all, Peru grows 4000 types of potatoes ) combined with different types of proteins like lamb, chicken, fish or pork. Depending on the region, dishes may include locally grown peppers, including the yellow aji or red rocoto variety. Here’s our list of Peru’s 7 must try:

Ceviche

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Ceviche is a simple dish typically made from fresh raw local  fish or any form of seafood which are marinated with the use of citrus juices like lime or lemon. You can opt to add chili peppers and seasonings like onion and salt. The dish is not cooked with heat rather with the citrus marinade. It’s served with avocado, sweet potatoes, lettuce or corn. You can try this dish at any region of the country however they are quite popular in the northern coast of Peru.

Papas a la huanciana

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Dont be mis-led by its name, the origins of this popular dish lie in a region called Chosica in Lima and not Huancayo. The dish is named after a Huancaina (a person who hails from Huancayo) who first made this dish available to the people. (Thank you!!) It’s a simple dish made of potatoes boiled, sliced and served on a lettuce leaf. It is then topped with a hearty serving of spicy cheese.

Pollo a la Brasa

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Pollo a la Brasa is a classic Peruvian rotisserie-style chicken that’s quite flavorful. It is one of the most eaten dish in Peru finds  its origins in the capital city, here in  Lima. Pollo a la brasa has been declared by Peru’s National Institute of Culture “a culinary specialty” and is used by Peru’s census agency, the INEI to  calculate the country’s monthly inflation.   Here is Peru, there’s even a  “Day of Pollo a la Brasa” which is the third Sunday in July.   It’s that important.  Pollo a la brasa is  chicken that’s been marinated with many Peruvian ingredients (plus a little  soy sauce), then roasted in a special brick lined rotisserie that is fired up with mesquite charcoal. Simple and oh, so delicious.

Anticuchos

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Anticuchos is food very popular in the streets of Peru. In essence, it’s marinated grilled beef hearts served on a stick.

Lomo Saltado

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LomoSaltado can be found in every region throughout the country. It is a platter with sautéed onions, tomatoes and beef served with either french fries or rice, or sometimes both. LomoSaltado a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian flavors, which  in Peru is referred to as “Chifa” cuisine. What makes the meal so special is the wine used for sauté which provides a rich unique flavor.

Cuy Chactado

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Cuy is another traditional dish recommend to try while in Peru. Cuy was believed that this cuisine originated from the Antiplano region. This dish is a guinea pig which tastes like chicken or rabbit. It’s usually offered barbecued or baked and served with hot sauce. It’s traditionally served on special occasions here in Peru,  so let’s party!!!
Causa

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And for my absolute favorite (besides ceviche of course):  Causa is one of the most popular dishes all along Peru’s coast, including Lima. Besides being delicious, the traditional causa is fairly economic and easy to prepare. It includes potatoes with local spices, (remember all the potatoes here in Peru?), tuna from the ample Pacific Coast, and Peru’s plentiful supply of avocados. There are many variations both in the purée and in the fillings.

Discover health benefits of Golden Berries, Peruvian super food

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Golden berry (Physalis peruviana) it not a true berry. It’s in the tomato family, and closely related to the ground tomato known as tomatillo. Tomatoes are nightshades, a large group of plants that also includes potatoes, eggplants, and golden berries. Called “aguaymanto” in Peru, golden berries look like small yellow tomatoes. Now golden berries are making their way in to American health food stores as the newest super food.

These beautiful little fruits are native to the Andes of South America where they grow profusely. They especially like to trail among rows of native corn where little children pick them to supplement family nutrition. When ripe, the outer shell is discarded and only the bright yellow-orange fruit is eaten. They taste moderately sweet, with a slight citrusy tang. Gathered wild, they are eaten fresh and are also made into a preserved commercial jam, but with lots of sugar added.

Though new to the market in the U.S., golden berries have a long history of exportation and use in Europe, the Middle East, and China. In the 1800s, they were first brought to Europe and later commercially cultivated in South Africa, where they are called Cape gooseberries, and where they fast became a staple commodity.

It took another hundred years for golden berries to make it to the United States. Here, they are known as Incan golden berry or Pichuberry, named after Machu Picchu, and marketed as a Peruvian super food.

Low in Calories

Golden berries only have about 53 calories per 100 grams, the amount of a typical serving. They contain vitamins A, C, E, K1, B1, B2, and B3, as well as fatty acids and phytosterols. Trace amounts of calcium and iron, plus other minerals, are also found in golden berries. But their claim as a super food does not come from their nutritional value.

High in Antioxidants

This unique fruit has specialized antioxidants including polyphenols and carotenoids, qualifying it as a super food useful for their anti-inflammatory and other healing qualities. Research has found use of golden berry extract in cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. The berries also have liver and kidney protective properties.

A recent study found golden berry extract improved kidney function after renal injury. Apparently, their unique antioxidant power is the key to their healing value.

Healing Power of Withanolides

The primary compound in golden berries that seem to do the healing are a group of naturally occurring steroidal lactones called “withanolides.” The entire plant, not just the fruit, contains withanolides. Four main withanolides have been isolated from the plant, along with the discovery of nine previously unknown withanolides.

Withanolides are also what gives Ashwagandha its value as an adaptogenic healing plant. Considerable research has been conducted on Ashwagandha, often termed Indian ginseng, because of its benefits to the endocrine system. The withanolides in golden berries are considered to have similar effects including anticancer benefits.

Though beating cancer with plants alone is controversial, those like golden berries that contain withanolides can be useful in adjunctive therapy. Research suggests that the powerful inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha is suppressed in the presence of withanolides. This suppressing effect turns on genes that enhance cancer cell death, called “apoptosis.” They also help prevent metastasis—the spreading of cancer throughout the body.

10 Healing Properties of Golden Berries

  1. Antioxidant effects
  2. Cancer protective effects
  3. Counters bacteria
  4. Kidney protective effects
  5. Liver protective effects
  6. Lowers fever
  7. Lowers blood sugar
  8. Modulates immune function
  9. Reduces inflammation
  10. Weight loss benefits

A New Super Food

Golden berries with their high antioxidant value and low sugar content can play a role in low calorie and diabetic diets and products. Their nutrient value adds benefits to salads, yogurt, and cooked dishes.

Though essential fatty acids only make up 2% of the fruit, the oil content is mostly linoleic acid. Its low saturated acid and high phytosterol content make it useful for those on cholesterol- and triglyceride-lowering diets.

The natural sugar content is mainly sucrose. It is very low in fructose, and with only 0.5% sucrose, it’s a tasty source of nutrition while on weight loss diets.

Like many Amazonian and Andean plant foods, golden berries are loaded with vitamin C. There is more vitamin C in this exotic fruit than in pears, pineapples, or plums, and only slightly less than citrus fruits.

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How To Use Golden Berries

Scientists are only just beginning to discover the full value of this fruit, but why wait to enjoy it? Consider adding a handful of golden berries to your morning protein blended smoothie. Natural health products that contain golden berry include beverages, yogurts, sugar-free preserves, smoothies. Of course, you can also go for the whole dried fruit.

Though golden berries are generally considered non-toxic, one study found that in very high doses they could cause toxicity in heart tissue in men. Those with allergies or sensitivity to the nightshade family should avoid consuming golden berries to prevent possible reactions.

All you need to know about Pisco Sour, excellent Peruvian drink

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Pisco Sour is a clear spirit, distilled from grapes, widely consumed and produced in both Chile and Peru. Historically, Pisco has been the matter of heated dispute between the two countries, both of them claiming Pisco is theirs.

To better understand it you need to know these simple facts:

– Cultivation and production of the Pisco started in Peru.

– Pisco is a port in Peru from where the drink was first exported.

– Organisation of Intellectual Property Rights in Geneva recently ruled that Pisco is a Peruvian product.

– Chile produces, exports and drinks almost 15 times more Pisco than does Peru.

But the debate doesn’t stop here… the Pisco Sour was invented by an English sailor in Iquique, a Chilean City which used to be Peruvian until the Pacific War when Chile took it. However, the recipe was greatly improved in Lima (Peru), many years later…And so it goes on.

If you want to keep friends in South America, when a Peruvian asks you who makes the best pisco sour, you say “Peru!”. When a Chilean asks you, you say, “Chile!”. If you are in a room with both Peruvians and Chileans then we can’t help but we’d love to hear your experiences!

So now that you know the history, here is the recipe:

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Ingredients

  • Pure Quebranta Pisco
  • Icing (powdered) sugar
  • Lime (ideally key lime or similarly potent) juice
  • Egg white
  • Ice cubes
  • Angostura Bitters

Preparation

  • In a cocktail shaker mix Pisco and fresh lime juice in a ratio of anywhere between 3:1 and 3:2.
  • Add sugar, usually about a tablespoon.
  • Now add the egg white, lots of ice and shake vigorously.
  • Adjust sweet/sour to suit.
  • Serve in short, stubby glasses with three drops of Angostura Bitters.

The drink should be a delicate green with a slight white foamy head on it… Enjoy in moderation! Pisco sour is traditionally an aperitif. Those in the know, know that whilst easy to drink these little chaps, if you have more than two before dinner you risk not being able to distinguish your knife from your fork.

Peru Trekking Tips

If you have been thinking about going on a Peru trekking trip then it is good to know that these treks are regulated under the Inca Trail regulations and you will need to get your permit for trekking in advance before going out. You can get your permits from 5 months in advance and you can look into the trek permits in real time. However, before you get your permit from any company, ensure that they have their special Inca Trail license.

Inca Trail is the most popular Peruvian treks and when you go on the hike, you will be experiencing a combination of mountain scenery, Inca ruins, rich subtropical jungle, and a lush cold forest. There are over 250 species of different orchids that can be found in the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary. Along with these flowers there are numerous different birds like the waterfowl, hummingbirds, and the majestic Andean Condor. However, what everyone will be enjoying on their Machu Picchu hike is the spectacled bear, which is an animal that is close to extinction that is very shy and is also herbivorous.

The Inca Trail takes you through a mountainous jungle that leads to the ancient city of Machu Picchu. You will need to set a few days aside for this trek because it is normally done in four days for you to get to Machu Picchu and then you will return to Cusco by train the same afternoon. This trek can be taken by any fit person; however, the trek can be very challenging and you will have to withstand altitudes of 4200m.

If your option is to get to Cusco by sea, you will need to spend at least 2 days before going on your trek. By staying there for this period of time you will get acclimatized and it will also allow you sufficient time to go to the city of Cusco and different ruins such as the Pucapucara, Sacsayhuanman, Tambomachay, and Q’enko and you can also spend a few days exploring the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

The trail that you will be taking is at times referred to as the the Camino Real de los Incas. The hike will start at 104KM along the railway from Cusco, then you will need to go on a walk that is expected to last for four hours to Winay Wayna and then there will need to be a couple more hours before you get to Machu Picchu.

The Inca Trail – A Peru Holiday

Situated in the western region of South America, the Republic of Peru is a beautiful multiethnic country with a vast number of hidden treasures. With Colombia and Ecuador on top, Brazil on the right, Chile at the bottom and the gargantuan Pacific Ocean on the left, it’s no wonder why this country is rich in culture and the atmosphere here is amazing. Foreign visitors have claimed Peru to be the ideal holiday experience, a balance between nature and civilization.

If you’re planning on making a trip to Peru, here’s the list of the top three tourist spots. The first spot that I would recommend which incidentally has the highest number of visitors would be the renowned Inca Trail. This trail is one of the most oldest and sophisticated trail in South America and was built during the Inca Empire ruling. The Inca Trail is also known as the Camino Inca and is divided into three parts. The most famous part of the trail would be the trail to Machu Picchu and an average tour of this trail will consume 4 days. The Inca Trail is also divided into three routes, the Mollepata, Classic and One Day.

Secondly, when in Peru, you must pay Lake Titicaca a visit. This lake is elevated 3810 meters above sea level and is located on the borders of Peru and Bolivia. The average temperature of water in this lake is 12 degrees Celsius and is home to a variety of endangered wildlife. When visiting Lake Titicaca, it would be advisable to stay in the Puno, a small town that sits nearby the lake. During the existence of the Inca Empire, this lake was believed to be sacred and spiritual. The Incans believed that the Gods that the prayed to had once dwelled in the lake.

When in Peru and once you’re done with its nature side, there not better place to unwind than Lima.  Lima, the largest and also the capital city of Peru is home to 9 million people. Home to Callao Port, Peru’s biggest harbour, Lima is filled with museum and mind blowing architecture. A walk through this city will teach you all that there is to know about the people of Peru. Besides its culture and history, walking around Lima has another positive attribute, food! With so many different cultures and flavour, this spot is knows to be a food haven.

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Hummingbirds of Peru

Who has not been enchanted by photos or sightings of these iridescent mini-rockets of energy known as hummingbirds? They were described by the Aztec as tiny suns, and have been accorded their place in legend, story and song throughout the centuries. People have called them flying jewels; most male hummingbirds possess iridescent gorgets, or throat feathers, whose colors shift depending on the sunlight shining on them. Additionally, many species also have exotic crowns, distinctive tails, and sparkling iridescent wings.

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world, ranging in size from the Bee Hummingbird, at 5.7 cm, to the Giant Hummingbird, at 21.6 cm. Hummingbirds are among the most skilled fliers of all avian species. They can fly backward, hover, fly straight up, and quickly change direction.

Hummingbirds are pollinators. They drink nectar from flowers with their long tongues, and some catch insects as well, snatching them midair as they fly. Many have bills that are perfectly adapted to particular species of flowers, so that the plant and the hummingbird have an interdependent relationship that is mutually beneficial to both species.

There are over 300 species of hummingbirds in the world. They are native to the Americas, with most species found in South America. Peru has over 118 species of hummingbirds, or colibris, which translates as “Birds of the Sun God.” In Quechua they are known as Q’inti (pronounced Keen-tee). According to one Quechua legend, when all the Earth was suffering from lack of water, and the People, animals and plants were all dying, a tiny hummingbird arose from the last flor de Cantu, and implored the God Waitapallana to save the land and its creatures. Even though he died in the process, the hummingbird accomplished his mission, as two great crystal teardrops fell from Waitapallana’s eyes when he saw the devastation on Earth. These tears awoke the serpent, Amaru, who was dreaming at the bottom of a lake, and who, upon shaking his great wings, brought rain back to the Earth.

Some hummingbird species found in Peru are: the Sparkling Violet Ear, Giant Hummingbird, Green-tailed trainbearer, Booted Racket-tail, Long-tailed Sylph and White-bellied Woodstar.

In addition to being a haven for hummingbirds, Peru is the second most diverse country on Earth for bird species in general, with 1,710 species at last count, and more continuing to be discovered.