AD­VEN­TURE IN THE AN­DES

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - WHEN TO BOOK PERU - CE­LESTE MITCHELL

All eyes are on Peru with di­rect flights be­tween Syd­ney and Lima hoped to be one of the next routes to be an­nounced in the near fu­ture. PromPeru Aus­tralian mar­ket spe­cial­ist Ka­rina Oliva says an avi­a­tion pact re­cently signed be­tween gov­ern­ments in May could help to make it even eas­ier to reach your Machu Pic­chu and pisco sour dreams.

“In 2010, Peru wel­comed just un­der 30,000 Aus­tralians,” Oliva says. “That num­ber es­ca­lated to over 42,000 last year, so visi­ta­tion is def­i­nitely on the rise.”

It’s lit­tle won­der with the na­ture and culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ences on of­fer, along with the un­veil­ing of South Amer­ica’s first lux­ury sleeper train, the Bel­mond An­dean Ex­plorer, which takes pas­sen­gers through breath­tak­ing scenery be­tween Are­quipa and Cusco on a two-night jour­ney.

“Aus­tralians are ex­pe­ri­ence-driven trav­ellers,” Oliva says. “From ad­ven­ture ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing trekking, to gas­tron­o­my­fo­cused tours, it’s all about tast­ing, smelling, feel­ing and even breath­ing Peru­vian cul­ture and the great out­doors.”

WHY VISIT

“Most first-time vis­i­tors are keen to tick off their bucket list with a visit to Machu Pic­chu, which is un­der­stand­able!” Oliva says. “This usu­ally in­volves an ini­tial night or two in the for­mer In­can cap­i­tal of Cusco, which sits at an al­ti­tude of 3400m.

“To best ac­cli­ma­tise to the re­gion’s al­ti­tude how­ever, head straight to Sa­cred Val­ley of the In­cas from Cusco air­port. Not only does the al­ti­tude here sit about 1000m lower than Cusco (mean­ing ini­tial ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion is eas­ier), the land­scapes and liv­ing cul­tures of the Sa­cred Val­ley are of­ten an un­ex­pected and au­then­tic high­light for many.” On July 1, the Peru­vian gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced mea­sures to help with the swarm of selfie-stick-tot­ing tourists flock­ing to the mys­ti­cal site, with two vis­it­ing-hour blocks and all vis­i­tors must now be ac­com­pa­nied by an of­fi­cial guide.

“The pur­pose is to have a more or­gan­ised flow of vis­its to Machu Pic­chu and to pro­mote the vis­its in the af­ter­noon as it of­fers bet­ter and qui­eter jour­neys,” Oliva says.

The gas­tro­nomic cap­i­tal of Lima is where to head for indige­nous cui­sine in­fused with Euro­pean, African and Asian in­flu­ences.

“We are very proud to have in Lima three of the best restau­rants in the world ac­cord­ing to the World’s 50 Best Restau­rants: Cen­tral, Astrid & Gastón and Maido.”

WHEN TO VISIT

Peru’s rainy sea­son runs from Novem­ber to March, with peak sea­son from May to Au­gust.

“The shoul­der month of April is a great time for Aus­tralian vis­i­tors to Peru,” Oliva says. “Af­ter the rain, the coun­try­side is ver­dant and lush, the skies are (gen­er­ally) blue and sites are with­out the crowds. Prices are lower too.”

Re­gard­less of the sea­son, it’s wise to carry warm clothes, loose pants, cot­ton tops, hik­ing footwear, sun­block and a hat.

WHEN TO BOOK

“If trav­ellers wish to hike the Inca Trail, it’s rec­om­mended to re­serve at least three to five months in ad­vance be­cause the daily cap on hik­ers is lim­ited to 500 and places fill very quickly,” Oliva says. Reser­va­tions for the 2018 sea­son open to­mor­row and Michelle Eck­er­s­ley from World Ex­pe­di­tions stresses that it pays to be pre­pared. “In the re­cent past, Inca Trail per­mits have been avail­able for sale from Fe­bru­ary of the year of travel – and they sell out. Once reser­va­tions are ac­cepted, they can be paid as of Jan­uary 2018, when the reser­va­tion will be con­firmed.”

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