Posts Tagged ‘treasuresofperu2011’

A Fantastic day at Machu Picchu

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Study Leader David Scott Palmer recently led a group of Smithsonian Travelers to Macchu Pichu, most of whom were exploring Peru for the first time on our Legendary Peru tour. Palmer was also among the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers to work in Peru. Today, he shares his most recent trip with us.

Smithsonian travelers visit Machu Picchu, many for the first time. Photo: David Scott Palmer.

Smithsonian travelers visit Machu Picchu, many for the first time. Photo: David Scott Palmer.

Peru is a remarkable place in so many ways, with Machu Picchu, voted one of the seven wonders of the world, on just about everyone’s “bucket list.” “Awesome!” Fantastic!” “I can’t believe it!” “How could anyone ever have built this?” are just a sample of the impressions of my first-time visitor companions.

The hills of Machu Picchu. Photo: David Scott Palmer

Yet as extraordinary as that first sight of the 15th century ruins are to everyone, it is not long before we realize how much more there is to this beautiful and rugged country. Terraces line the hillsides of the Sacred Valley, with the Moray agricultural research station close by, both testaments to the ingenuity of the Incas in being able to meet the food needs of all of their subjects. Range after range of snowcapped mountains stretch to the horizon, leaving us in wonderment over how either indigenous cultures or Spanish conquerors could have overcome such daunting physical obstacles to leave their stamp.

Machu Picchu. Photo: David Scott Palmer

Photo: David Scott Palmer

And as impressive as the physical beauty and the six to sixteen centuries-old ruins are, we also see all around us the vibrant presence of living cultures and are able to experience a small part of their daily routines. We meet with a community of women in traditional garb who dye their alpaca wool with the same variety of local materials as their ancestors and weave an array of colorful goods.

Woman weaving alpaca wool.

Photo: David Scott Palmer

We watch a lively Sunday parade in Cuzco’s main square and lunch in homes of local families, who share their culinary gifts and their warm hospitality.

We also cross the waters of Lake Titicaca to share a morning with the Uru people on the islands they have made from the reeds of the lake for centuries, since fleeing to the water in the 1400s to avoid Inca domination.

The Uru people live on lake Titicaca

Photo: David Scott Palmer.

In Peru there is so much to see and appreciate, to savor, and to reflect. With such an interested and interesting group of travelers, we learn so much more together than we ever would separately. Amazing country, wonderful people, unforgettable experiences…What more could one ask?

You can join our group tours or create your own experience.


Los Uros of Peru

Monday, August 30th, 2010

The hand-built island of Los Uros, floating on Lake Titicaca, in Peru.

One of the more interesting features of the Peruvian landscape are tiny islets floating on Lake Titicaca, fashioned from reeds by Los Uros, people who lived in the area even before the Incas arrived. Most of the Los Uros people have moved off the islets, but a community of 200 remains today, still practicing their traditional methods of construction while adapting some aspects of modern technology; Uros use motorboats, watch TV, and have their own radio station.

Travel to see the Uros for yourself on our Legendary Peru tour.

What’s the most interesting structure you’ve ever used? Please share.

Treasures of Peru

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
A Peruvian woman weaving, Photo by Carmen-Julia Arze

A Peruvian woman weaving, Photo by Carmen-Julia Arze

If there were only five things we would do in Peru, here’s what we’d suggest:

  1. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Yes, there are easier ways to get to the sacred city in the Andes mountains, but it is a completely different experience when you have put the sweat equity into the journey and are witnessing a quiet sunrise over the ancient ruins.
  2. We all want to go shopping, but going shopping with a local on a Sunday at the Pisac Market in Cusco provides a cultural experience you won’t find anywhere else. You’ll learn which traditional and authentic art pieces are worth buying, and how to make a really great deal – in Quechua.
  3. Experience the Cajamarca Carnival held every February where events include the decoration of cars, the public mocking of public figures, and dance, music, and lots of food. Also keep in mind that to really attend the Cajamarca Carnival, you will likely be soaked with water by the time you leave.
  4. To be in South America, and not find yourself in a rich rainforest is simply a shame. Try a rafting trip and a hiking excursion where you’ll witness amazing wildlife you won’t see anywhere else.
  5. Eat at least one meal with a Peruvian family. You may be trying new foods (such as Roasted Cuy – also known as guinea pig- a delicacy in Peru), but you’ll also make new friends in the process.

To experience all that Peru has to offer, join us on one of our many tours to explore Peru.

What would you recommend a traveler do in Peru?

What You Need to Know About Machu Picchu

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
A stone archway of Machu Picchu with the Andes in the background

A stone archway of Machu Picchu with the Andes in the background

Nobody wants to stand at a nice reception when an acquaintance announces she just got back from the absolutely fabulous Machu Picchu and have no idea what the fuss is all about. To make sure that never happens to you, here are the basics about Peru’s Machu Picchu so you can be as smart and cultured as the next guy.

  1. Machu Picchu is Quechua for ”Big Mountain.” The Quechua are the indigenous people of Peru, and the archaoelogical site of Machu Picchu is located south of the equator in the Andes Mountains and outside the city of Cuzco. But the location of the ruins is truly amazing as it sits in between the Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu mountains, making it difficult to approach and easily defensible in an attack.
  2. The city was built in 1450 at the height of the Incan Empire. By 1572, the city was abandoned, but there is some confusion as to why. It doesn’t appear that the Spanish conquistadors defaced or damaged any part of Machu Picchu, so it is thought that smallpox, which the Spanish brought from Europe, may have been a major factor in the fall of the city.
  3. The buildings located at the site were very well built using a technique called ashlar. This involved cutting blocks of stone and stacking them without the use of mortar. The result is a long-lasting, earthquake-proof structure.
  4. Popular culture has cited Hiram Bingham as the person who “discovered” Machu Picchu in 1911. However, there is some evidence that he wasn’t the first non-Native to stumble upon the site. Simone Waisbard, a longtime researcher in Cuzco, believes three men named Enrique Palma, Gabino Sánchez, and Agustín Lizárragal left their identities inscribed on a rock at the site on July 14, 1901. Others believe a German businessman named Augusto Berns looted the site – a common practice at the time—in 1867. Physical evidence has shown Machu Picchu to be listed on maps as early as 1874. While Bingham gets the most credit today, there may have been other visitors prior to his notable arrival in 1911.
  5. In 1983, Machu Picchu was designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site and was described as “an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization.”

With these little tidbits in your back pocket, you can be the hit at the party too—or at least answer that Final Jeopardy question and impress your friends.

Have you been to Machu Picchu? Share below.

Want to go? Peru is truly amazing! We still have room on our 2010 tours, or you can plan for 2011!