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Cultural Awareness in Cuzco

Cultural Awareness in Cuzco

Combining the old with the new, Cuzco is the cobblestoned cultural center of Peru. Once the capital of the Incan Empire and now one of the most prized places in all of South America, this highland hub should feature prominently in any Peru vacation itinerary. Unfortunately, many visitors breeze by Cuzco on their way to Machu Picchu, missing many of the best ruins, museums, and cultural attractions the country has to offer. A few leisurely days here are recommended not only to gradually acclimatize (because if you’re coming from Lima you’ve gone from sea level to 10,800 feet) but also to soak in the Andean atmosphere. Ladies leading llamas, intricate indigenous artwork, and highland delicacies like baked cuy, pachamanca, and trucha meet you at every corner, tempting you to stay longer. Visiting Cuzco is like stepping into a historical reenactment where the lines between modernity and antiquity blur. The pre-Columbian, colonial, and contemporary are distinguishable but inseparable. …
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Flying over the Nazca Lines in Southern Peru

Flying over the Nazca Lines in Southern Peru

Eight hours south by road from Lima—the second largest desert city in the world—sits one of Peru’s many mysteries: The Nazca Lines. This animal cracker collection of whales, monkeys, birds, and other creatures etched into the arid desert floor has baffled archeologists, locals, and tourists alike since their discovery nearly 75 years ago. From the ground the etching are indistinguishable, and from the air they appear faded—like artwork left to hang in front of a sunny window.  Which makes sense, as the 310 square miles of desert drawings have adorned the landscape for over 2,000 years, sprawled beneath a harsh Peruvian sun. But as I peer out the window of my small aircraft, nose pressed against the window and hands clinging to my already snug seatbelt, I can’t help but be fascinated by this desert version of Peruvian crop circles. The Nazca Lines are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the mysteries of why they were created and for what purpose remains unknown. Theories …
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Into the Amazing Amazon

Into the Amazing Amazon

Immense. Overwhelming.  Incredibly, vibrantly alive. The Amazon Rainforest is unlike any other place in South America; unlike any other place in the world. It covers 1.4 billion acres, touches 9 countries, and contains more animal species than anywhere else on Earth. Its vastness conceals dozens of indigenous Amazonian tribes that manage to make their home in one of the world’s last untamed regions, completely untouched by the 21st century. For nature lovers, adventure seekers, and travel enthusiasts, a tour of the Amazon cannot be beat. I last visited the Amazon in January, during its rainy season. Peru’s two main launching points for excursions into the Amazon are Iquitos (in the north) and Puerto Maldonado (in the south). I’d come from Puerto Maldonado. From town I traveled by motorized covered canoe up river to my Amazon lodge, getting my first taste of Peru’s famous forest. Although the Amazon Basin covers more than half of the county, only 5% of Peru’s population lives here. It …
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Machu Picchu: #1 Place To See Before You Die

Machu Picchu: #1 Place To See Before You Die

After a fierce competition, Machu Picchu claimed the top spot in Huffington Post’s Ultimate Places to See Before You Die. Thousands of readers weighed in, moving Machu Picchu through the bracket to a final faceoff against the Great Pyramid of Giza. One ancient civilization verses another, but the Egyptians were no match for the Incas. See the entire Ultimate Travel bracket here.                        
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Scenic Serenity in the Colca Canyon

Scenic Serenity in the Colca Canyon

Stand on the rim of the Colca Canyon and look down. Or look up. Or just look around because you’re literally surrounded by three hundred and sixty degrees of remarkable vistas. Whether you’re peering down thousands of feet to the canyon floor, squinting up at the condors soaring overhead, or taking in the terraces from across the way, chances are you’ll have trouble looking away for long. The Colca Canyon carves down 11,155 feet and carries on 62 miles through Peru’s canyon country, the southern portion of the country that contains the colonial city of Arequipa and sky-high lake of Titicaca. The Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world, sits in the heart of this region, about 4 hours from Arequipa and 6 from Puno. The region’s main attraction is serenity surrounded by spectacular scenery. Small villages dot the landscape and Quecha-speaking locals lead llamas along the roadside while adorned in brightly-colored, intricate traditional skirts and hats. Towns like Chivay, …
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Morning Mist at Machu Picchu

Morning Mist at Machu Picchu

There are many spectacular sights in Peru:  pink river dolphins splashing in the Amazon River, cultural festivals with elaborate costumes in Cuzco, and an aerial view of the massively mysterious Nazca Lines. But the Peru experience that lingers in my mind took place during a quiet morning at none other than Machu Picchu. On this particular day I’d risen before dawn and entered the ancient citadel under the cover of darkness. A sea of mist surrounded the site, seeping between stone structures and hiding all other visitors from sight. Turning left and away from the main ruins, I followed the twisting stone path toward the Sun Gate, which is where the Inca Trail meets Machu Picchu. The Incas called this gateway Intipunku. For me, the 45 minute inclined walk was undeniably spiritual; I was overwhelmed by a sense of isolation and natural majesty. With the mist obscuring any sign of the ancient complex below, I was alone in the semitropical mountain range, 8,000 feet up in the air and …
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Rodent Fossils Discovered in Peru Date Back 41 Million Years

Rodent Fossils Discovered in Peru Date Back 41 Million Years

Scientists in Peru recently found the oldest rodent fossils yet discovered in South America. An international team of scientists discovered the fossils in the Peruvian Amazon and believe the teeth belonged to mouse-sized animals that lived around 41 million years ago--10 million years older than previously discovered fossils. Read the entire BBC article here. Common critters living in Peru today include the rabbit-like viscacha (pictured about at Machu Picchu), the tasty guinea pig, and the large Amazon-dwelling capybara.
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Colors and Culture in Peru’s Capital

Colors and Culture in Peru’s Capital

For the second largest desert city in the world, Lima is surprisingly colorful in the summertime. Candy-colored paragliders float through the air, pastel colonial churches withstand the test of time, and local markets display a cornucopia of tropical fruits. Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535 and still thriving today, Lima is the vibrant cosmopolitan capital of Peru, and it carries a weighty nickname: City of Kings. And sure enough, as I stroll along Lima’s Malecón, a coastal walkway, I truly feel like royalty. The landscape is a painter’s palette of emerald lawns, navy waves, and crystal skies. Surely a setting fit for any king. The pampering continues when one heads indoors. Lima is home to some of the country’s best 5-star hotels, including the seaside Marriott, a favorite of celebrities and luxury lovers alike. Right across the street from this artistic glass building is the up-scale shopping center LarcoMar. Built into the side of a cliff and overlooking the ocean, the complex …
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Incan Ingenuity in the Sacred Valley: Moray & Salinas

Incan Ingenuity in the Sacred Valley: Moray & Salinas

Bundled up against the icy breeze blowing from the snow-covered mountains across the valley, I was impressed. Moray may not be as monumental as Machu Picchu, or as cultural as Cuzco, but for me this often overlooked Sacred Valley destination is an example of unsurpassed Incan ingenuity. The Moray complex consists of a series of amphitheater-style terraces, spiraling downward like inverse layer cakes. Or, if you prefer cosmic comparisons, like massive inverted crop circles, eerie in their perfection. But the most impressive thing about this site is its purpose: the Incas created and used Moray as a technologically simplistic yet very effective agricultural laboratory. They experimented with crop growing patterns, soil type, optimal growing temperatures, and seed varieties much in the way agricultural-focused scientific centers do today. Moray - Kenneth Moore Climbing down to the first layer of one of the earthen bowls, at least one component of this agricultural complex becomes …
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The People and Islands of Lake Titicaca

The People and Islands of Lake Titicaca

The baby blue clear waters of Lake Titicaca make up the largest body of water in the world above 12,000 feet. Its islands are windswept, rocky landscapes, reminiscent of the Greek Isles. The moment you expect to encounter the armies of Troy in a battle of conquest, you instead find unassuming ancient Andean inhabitants quietly collecting sea reeds, catching small fish, and planting scant agricultural fields among the lake’s shores. These people have learned to live in a harsh climate. The lake itself is divided between Peru and Bolivia. Puno, which is the economic hub on the western Peruvian side of the lake, is a humble town quickly growing into a small city. The economic and social center on the southern Bolivian side of the lake is Copacabana. It’s a small quaint town that serves as a transportation center between La Paz and Puno, lying among the dry desolate altiplano that stretches between southern Columbia and Chile. South of Copacabana you will find Tiwanaku. An ancient Incan …
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