Revisiting the different historical periods of Peru
There are certain ways to know a country like Peru: through the fables of its forbearers that recall the heydays of the Incan empire, through travel reports citing the eternal allure of Machu Picchu, juxtaposed against the backdrop of eras-long political upheaval, or through tours—first, the train route overlooking the Sacred Valley, then the cloud-enshrouded ranges— that thousand others have traversed since tourism here reached its peak.
Yet, as they say, there is no more intimate way to lose one’s self in the folds of a foreign country than through knowing the lives its locals live. “There are few places on earth where you can still see what I call ‘ living culture,’” says Diego Velasco of Coltur Peru. “[ You see] people keeping their traditions and [sustaining] the way they’ve lived for a hundred years.”
Peru on a Plate
Velasco and Coltur Peru have made the many private Peruvian worlds more accessible to seasoned travelers. For instance, globetrotters can now be admitted into the homes of the food scene’s current stalwarts.
Over the recent years, Peru has seen how its capital Lima gained worldwide acclaim through the increasing ubiquity of the neighborhood cevicheria and its recognized restaurants, like Michelin-starred chef Virgilio Martinez’s Central. Chef Penelope Alzamora, who has worked in Boston and San Francisco, takes travelers to the boulevards of the country’s renowned culinary destination. “She will pick you up at the hotel, drive you to the market, choose which produce you’re going to take home, and prepare food with you,” says Velasco. After a tour to the local markets, Alzamora holds cooking workshops in her kitchen where guests can whip up their own Peruvian fare with a view of the nearby ocean.
Portraits of Conquest
The capital, which the conquistador Francisco Pizarro had ardently called the “City of Kings,” still displays remnants from the century when the Spaniards reigned.
Among the storied landmarks of Lima is the centuries-old Casa de
Aliaga that has housed Peruvian art and artifacts since the 1500s. “Jerónimo de Aliaga was a lieutenant of Pizarro,” explains Velasco. “And so, as a gift, Pizarro gave Aliaga a piece of land [adjacent to the government palace].”
The oldest mansion in the Americas, filled with colonial furniture and tell-tale artifacts such as the sword that Lieutenant Aliaga wielded in his conquest of the country, is similarly home to several artwork from different eras. “You can find these private art collections that we can take you to,” says Velasco. “There are 16 generations of the Aliaga family that have been here, and we can take [guests on] a private tour, hosted by one of the [members of the] Aliaga [clan].”
In Peru, the natural landscape is similarly a portrait of long-forgotten times. Inca, located in the south of Lima, gives view of the storied Nazca lines, created by pre-Incan civilizations. “This is a desert. There are strong winds, and thousands of years have passed, but the lines are still there. The way they were made is still a mystery,” says Velasco. The only way to see these lines is from the air, and travelers can take Coltur Peru’s system aircraft to better see the prehistoric marvels.
Part of the country’s appeal is the lore and lure of the Cusco region. The mountains and rivers of its Sacred Valley play host to a scenario fit for folklore: “[It’s] living culture. You will be able to see locals trading things with no money, like potatoes for sugar, onions for vegetables,” says Velasco.
Cusco also holds Peru’s most talked-about attraction Machu Picchu, touted as the lost city of the Incas. “When you start getting there, the scenery changes, because Machu Picchu is closer to the clouds,” says Velasco. Seasoned travelers can take the train or the Incan route to mine the many other myths and marvels of this country, each one planted different points in time.
Built by the Incas, the so-called hidden city of Machu Picchu was constructed with huge stone blocks cut to fit together without mortar.
Developed during the pre-Incan era, the Salinas de Maras lie above the Maras Formation in Cuzco. Folks have sustained the tradition of making salt, alongside producing bath salts and oils.