What's New in Peru
As part of its efforts to promote the country's exports and tourism industry, the government of Peru introduced a national trademark in 2012. You're bound to notice the trademark, which is the word Perú written in cursive with a spiral in the P, on everything from brochures to T-shirts. The curlicue in the P was inspired by the tail of the monkey in the Nazca line figures, so Peru's 21st-century marketing campaign celebrates the country's pre-Columbian heritage.
Following his discovery of Machu Picchu in 1911, the American adventurer Hiram Bingham returned to the Incan citadel in 1912 and 1915 on expeditions supported by Yale and the National Geographic Society, and oversaw extensive archaeological excavation. His team uncovered thousands of artifacts including human skeletons and ceramics that were shipped to Yale, where they were studied and displayed for nearly a century. As the centennial of Machu Picchu's discovery approached, Peru launched a diplomatic campaign to pressure Yale to repatriate those artifacts, and in 2011 the university complied, transferring them to the Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad. Approximately 500 of those artifacts are new displayed at Casa Choncha, in Cusco.
In November 2011 the Amazon was declared one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature based on an international vote organized by the New7Wonders organization. Though most of the Amazon Rain Forest is in Brazil, Peruvians celebrated the designation, since the river's source is in Peru. Travelers can experience that natural wonder by flying to Iquitos, where boats ply the river to nearby nature lodges and several companies offer three- to seven-night Amazon cruises in small ships.
Lima's best museum has gotten better. The Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera (aka Museo Larco), which was founded in 1926 in a former a colonial hacienda, underwent extensive renovation in 2011. Among the innovations, the museum now stays open till 10 pm, and its garden holds one of the city's best restaurants, making a visit to its exhibits and dinner a convenient option for a night in Lima.
Planes, Trains, and Buses
A combination of public infrastructure and private investment has made Peru an easier country to explore than ever before.
In Lima a new express bus called the Metropolitano provides quick and inexpensive transportation between the neighborhoods of Barranco, Miraflores, and the historic Centro.
The addition of Peruvian Airlines and LCPeru to the list of domestic carriers and an expansion of routes flown by Star Peru, TACA, and LAN means there are more options for flying between Lima and other Peruvian cities than ever before. This is especially good news if you're on a tight budget, since LCPeru, Peruvian Airlines, and Star Peru charge foreigners considerably less than TACA and LAN. Chile's LAN Airlines and Brazil's TAM airlines merged in 2012 to form LATAM, increasing flight options to 150 destinations in 22 countries.
A comparable development in Cusco, where two new companies—Inka Rail and the Machu Picchu Train—now offer service to Machu Picchu, means there are also more options for getting to Peru's top attraction. For years one company, PeruRail, departed from Cusco for Machu Picchu early in the morning and returned in the evening. Trains now run between the Sacred Valley towns of Ollantaytambo and Urubamba and Machu Picchu every hour or two, though PeruRail still offers early-morning departures from the Poroy station, near Cusco.
Machu Picchu Centennial
July 7, 2011, marked the 100th anniversary of American adventurer Hiram Bingham's rediscovery of Machu Picchu. The Peruvian government celebrated Machu Picchu's centennial with a concert and light show, with the participation of international celebrities, which helped push the Incan citadel to the top of many a traveler's list.
Peru's Nobel Laureate
Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, one of Latin America's most popular authors, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010. The award's announcement sparked widespread celebration in Peru and renewed interest in his work throughout the world. The author of more than a dozen novels and numerous plays, Vargas Llosa is also a respected journalist and essayist; his weekly opinion column appears on Sunday in the principal Spanish-language newspapers.
Mother Nature's Fury
Peru suffers more natural disasters than any other country except Bangladesh. This includes periodic tremors and quakes, such as the 8-magnitude earthquake that shattered the southern coastal cities of Pisco, Ica, and Chincha Alta on August 15, 2007. More frequent disasters are the mudslides and flash floods, known as huaicos (pronounced "whycos") that destroy homes, roads, bridges, and lives in the eastern Andes during each December-May rainy season. The most newsworthy huaico in recent years roared down the Vilcabamba River Valley in January 2010, tearing out several kilometers of the railway between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu and leaving thousands of tourists stranded in the town of Aguas Calientes until they could be rescued by helicopter. According to scientists, such extreme weather events will happen more frequently due to climate change.
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