“What is your favorite destination in the world?”
There is no right answer. The response must be qualified, such as: …For wildlife? Kenya. For relaxing? Greece. For photography? India. For visiting friends? UK. For shopping? For dining? Etc. etc.
Well, in the year 2000, I discovered what would be my best response if absolutely cornered, if I HAD to choose just one place. And for the past 7 years, my response has held strong. Peru.
Peru just has it all – it’s the one-stop shopping for travel experiences. The geographic diversity offers rainforests, coastal beaches, and snow-capped mountains each within an hour flight of the other. There are world-famous archeological ruins (Machu Picchu), incredible museums, and tons of treasures. There are indigenous people who speak their own ancient language. There’s culture – distinctive music, dance, and costume. There’s wildlife, and there’s urban modernity. There is great food and fantastic shopping. The people are friendly, proud, and colorful in clothing, conversation, and personality. It’s an ethnic potpourri. It’s a climatic potpourri. It’s a geographic potpourri. It’s a visual potpourri. And it’s a potpourri for all the other senses – sound, taste, scent, touch…and that undefined extra sense felt on a misty morning sunrise at Machu Picchu. All of the expected and natural, with a touch of the unexpected and supernatural.
Peru satisfies every type of traveler, from backpacking hikers on the Inca Trail, to 5-star luxury guests shopping for the finest gold, to those making a trip of a lifetime before it’s too late. No matter what one’s taste, intention, and level of comfort desired, a warm welcome can be found in Peru.
And now in pictures:
The remote jungles of the north, where the upper Amazon river hosts abundant wildlife and tiny villages complete with shamans (medicine men) who wear feathers and mix potions for every ailment known to man.
The vibrant coastal capital city Lima, with colonial mansions and sprawling shantytowns, world-class restaurants, 5-star hotels, Indian craft markets and modern shopping malls. Lima sits on the Pacific like Los Angeles, with neighborhoods such as San Ysidro and Miraflores comparable to Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades. Rising cliffs, sandy beaches, rolling surf, and parks galore offer every reason to be out enjoying the peak-summer sunshine of mid-January.
The Andes Mountain range forming the backbone of Peru. As impressive from the ground as from the air, and made ever more dramatic by the swirling clouds deciding which peak to present at which moment.
Hidden amongst the majestic Andes lies one of the greatest archeological discoveries of our time, the lost city of Machu Picchu. It is not just the remains of an ancient civilization. It is a sacred temple; it is a vital agricultural center; it is an urban complex with houses and town halls; it is an astronomical observatory; and above all, it is an enigma, ever shrouded by clouds and by mystery – offering not one but several possible explanations, and answers to questions that just lead to more questions.
The people. While the ancient civilization that inhabited Machu Picchu has all but disappeared, Peru has no shortage of indigenous peoples. The most prominent of these are the Quechua, who retain their character, dress and language despite their enterprising exploitation of tourism. Or perhaps because of it. They do make for colorful portraits of a life and culture quite different from our own, even if they are posing and as soon as the camera clicks the hands come out. Nothing says Peru like colorful textiles and llamas.
As for the rest – music, food, shopping, architecture – I could blog a thousand photos and write a million articles. But here are a few of my favorites to round out your visual experience, at least, of what I have fondly come to acknowledge as my favorite destination in the world. For now, anyway!