From otherworldly cloud forests to tribal villages, Charlotte Flach rounds up Peru’s highlights.
I can feel the cool breeze rippling through my hair, the warm sunlight dappling my face and the whisper of absolute silence. Almost.
Elisabeth Hakim, incoming tourism coordinator for North America and the UK at Prom Peru, has transported me to mountaintop Kuelap Citadel, with vistas of the Amazonas region below.
This event, hosted by the country’s tourist organisation, aimed to shed light on Peru as a destination beyond Machu Picchu and capital city Lima.
Named destination of the year at the Latin American Achievement Awards 2019, the country saw a 7% growth in UK visitors in 2018. About 95% of all tourism goes to the south, Hakim estimates, but there is an abundance to see and do in the north too.
The Amazonas region is famed for its cloud forest, where clouds graze the tops of the jungle trees in an otherworldly spectacle. As one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, it’s a bird-watching paradise and dotted with waterfalls.
In the south of the region, Kuelap is a walled settlement built in the sixth century by the Chachapoyas civilisation, overlooking the Utcubamba Valley.
Caffeine fiends can visit Jaen, known as coffee country. With a history as rich as the drink itself, 5,000-year-old cacao seeds have been discovered in this region. Today, chocolate and coffee experiences abound. For those who prefer their drinks cold and alcoholic, El Capitan is a traditional Peruvian cocktail, made with pisco and the fortified wine vermouth. It dates back to the 1920s in the Puno highlands, where the army captains would order their favourite tipple after making their nightly rounds.
First-timers should visit Cusco, suggests Hakim, and from there fly over to the port city of Iquitos, which acts as a gateway to the jungle lodges and tribal villages of the northern Amazon.
“I want to recommend so many things to do in Peru that are away from the conventional,” she said. “Discover the country through its food and culture, and the different textiles each small town uses to express itself. Peru does not have to always mean the same thing.”