LAN Airlines has daily direct service to Lima from New York, Miami and Los Angeles, and a morning flight to Cuzco from Lima. From Cuzco, trains run to the village of Machu Picchu, known as Aguas Calientes, three times a day. There are two classes of round-trip tickets: The backpacker is $65; first class is $100. Bus tickets cost $6 each way.
Where to Stay
In Cuzco, the Ninos Hotel has quaint rooms with original artwork for $34 a night. At Casa San Blas, located in the gallery-filled San Blas area of Cuzco, suites with city views cost $88 per night. In Aguas Calientes, the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel sits amid 12 acres of cloud forest. There are two restaurants, a spa and myriad walking trails, so you can take in the 372 local orchid species. Rooms start at $335, including meals.
Where to Shop
Center your search for textiles and silver in San Blas, where cafes can help you while away an afternoon. Maki Wasi sells contemporary pieces in silver, wood and alpaca. I’m still thinking about the white and magenta throw I didn’t buy. I have no such regrets about the handmade sweaters I found at Aucells, a shop run by a Catalan designer.
Where to Eat
Hallmarks of Peruvian cuisine include potatoes, beef hearts and guinea pig. In Cuzco, walk down the Pampa del Castillo, home to several cafes that serve up deep-fried pork ribs or chicken with onion, lime and cilantro. In the evening, head to San Blas, where trendy eateries compete for tourist dollars. Try Fallen Angel, Witches Garden or Cicciolina.
Before You Go
For guided trips, the veterans at Mountain Travel Sobek offer 10-day excursions, including the four-day Inca Trail hike, that start at $3,000 per person. A local outfitter, Inkaterra, leads private one-day treks starting at $190 per person, including hotel. You should also join the South American Explorers Club, which has clubhouses in Lima and Cuzco. A $50 membership fee will get you access to member-written reports on the best outfitters, trails and cafes.
Originally published in MORE magazine, December 2005 / January 2006.