SA first-timers* need Peru advice!

Old Jan 8th, 2017, 03:27 PM
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SA first-timers* need Peru advice!

*I'd say this is our first time planning travel to South America (in an almost 10-year run of trips exclusively to Asia and Southeast Asia) -- but I did have one work trip to Brazil two years ago...technically doesn't count...SO, as a true SA newbie and longtime Fodor's user, I'm really excited to dig into our next adventure (with your help, of course).

We've just returned from an astounding 3 week trip to Sri Lanka and, in typical travel-obsessed fashion, I'm already planning the next trip as the plane just puts its wheels back on the tarmac.

Peru and Argentina have long been on our ever-expanding 'to-do list' and so we've finally decided--and mostly because of award ticket availability--that this year it will be Peru.

The plus side is that we already have our tickets, the perhaps (?) downside is that we can only really get away this year in November and, from what I gather, that's rainy/shoulder season for a lot of the country. A definite plus for the avoidance of crowds, but maybe not so great for Machu Picchu and/or the Inca Trail?

So, that said, just want to get my hands around the order of cities/destinations first-off. Definitely want to spend time in Lima, Cusco, Sacred Valley and MP. Other areas of interest are Arequipa, the National Parks/Amazon basin--but with 11 days on the ground (that does not include travel days), I think we have to be realistic about what's achievable and what would result in a rushed/harried trip without much relaxation and time to take things in.

A bit about us: in our early 40s, active, love food, culture/history and wildlife...and definitely like to see a lot when we're on trips. We usually move around at a pretty fast clip of about 2-3 nights max in one given place--for longer trips we always add in a 4-5 night 'relax' destination one time during a trip, but this is a shorter trip for us so not sure if that'll be possible. As for hotels, we like a mix of boutique and luxe, but, honestly, have been staying more luxe than not lately. Definitely try and avoid the tourist rut as much as humanly possible (but keenly aware that's harder to do at luxe places).

I know we'll need to figure out how we want to do MP (stay there, train it, hike it, etc.) and I'll definitely have more questions on hotels and to-dos once we generally get a sense of where we want to go. But for now, hopefully this is enough to get the thread started and some great ideas and suggestions from the previous-experienced.

Many thanks in advance and looking forward to your input!
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Old Jan 9th, 2017, 12:22 AM
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Several different options but with 11 days to play with, I think you have to choose between the Amazon basin and Arequipa. On balance, for me it would be Arequipa, possibly including a side trip to the Colca Canyon or, alternatively, just stick with Lima and Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Plenty there to keep you busy for 11 days. Rushing around is not really an option for most, simply because of the effects of altitude which takes most people a few days to get used to.

One option could be:

2 nt Ollantaytambo or Urumbamba (go straight there from Cusco airport so as to acclimatise at the lower altitude) spend a whole day exploring the SV - Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Maras, Moras etc.

1 nt Machu Picchu (by train from Either of the above) stay at the Belmond, see MP at dawn and get the train back to Cusco (or train Ollantaytambo and taxi back)

3 nts Cusco - maybe Belmond or Marriott hotels (although there are lots of smaller boutique type places to choose from.

2-3 nts Arequipa - Arequipa is a beautiful city in its own right. Colca Canyon is also pretty special. A couple of nights in both would be ideal but time is a little tight for that. Some photos of both places on our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/peru/

Monasterio de Santa Catalina is a must see.

2 nts Lima - Many people skip Lima which is a mistake imo. There is a lot to see and do (some more info on te blog link above). Miraflores has more lux hotels but Barranco has more of a bohemian feel and I much prefer it. The only luxury place I can think of there is Hotel B - very nice!

An alternative to the above route would be to reverse the order fly to Arequipa first for acclimatisation and then on to Cusco, leaving MP until the end.

If you wanted to do the amazon instead of Arequipa, it is easy to fly to Puerto Maldonado from Cusco.

It is not easy to "avoid the tourist rut" in that part of Peru as it is on a very well trodden "gringo trail" . To do that you need to head off to other parts of Peru like Huaraz, Chachapoyas etc
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Old Jan 11th, 2017, 09:56 PM
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Thanks, Clive...this is all really helpful!

I'm glad that our paths have brought us to the same conclusion, as your suggestion is very similar to where I've been netting out (based on what research I've done and a few friends' offline input on how we should order things.)

So currently thinking something like this:
NOV 16 Depart from LAX
NOV 17 Arrive Lima / Fly to Cusco / Transfer to Ollaytaytambo or Urubamba
NOV 18 Sacred Valley
NOV 19 Train to Machu Picchu / Overnight at MP
NOV 20 Machu Picchu / Train to Cusco
NOV 21 Cusco
NOV 22 Cusco
NOV 23 Fly to Arequipa
NOV 24 Arequipa
NOV 25 Colca Canyon
NOV 26 Colca Canyon
NOV 27 Lima
NOV 28 Lima
NOV 29 Return to LAX

A few additional questions:

*Should we maybe consider spending more time in Sacred Valley and less in Arequipa? Looking at Arequipa, it looks fine but nothing is particular speaking to me.
*Is the Amazon worth considering as an alternate to Arequipa/Colca?
*Are hotels cheaper through a tour company/agent? All I'm seeing are essentially rack rates from the hotels directly. Have to imagine there are better prices or better perks (e.g., Virtuoso, etc.) If so, do you know of any great local agents?
*What are some good places to start for drivers and guides, assuming we'll need them at least for portions of this trip?

I'm honestly a bit surprised that there's so little response here, but maybe I've been spoiled a bit by the Asia boards.

Irrespective, appreciative of your help!
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Old Jan 12th, 2017, 12:49 AM
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You are welcome filmwill. Sadly this board just does not get the traffic the Asia board sees and it will take a little longer but I and sure you will get some more responses. Mlgb where are you??

I can t recommend agents or guides as we hardly ever use them. For South America, I tend to use booking.com or hotels.com who generally seem to provide better rather than rack rates. Having said that, these days, we tend toward simple mid range places rather than luxe as we travel for extended periods. Apart from Belmond who are at the top of the range when it comes to hotels in Peru, have a look for Inkaterra and Casa Andina. The JE Marriott in Cusco is very good.

In the SV Urumbamba has more highend hotels but has a lot less to see than Ollantaytambo. It is only 20 mins between the two places but Ollantaytambo is by far ten more interesting place. The advantage of staying there is that you get the amazing ruins to yourselves before and after the tour buses from Cusco arrive and depart. We arrived for a day and stayed a month (ok we were doing voluntary work but you hugest the picture. El Alberquerque, run by an American woman, is right on the station platform and is arguably the best place to,stay. A 10 min walk to the centre of town.

The Belmond at the entrance to MP is the lux place to stay but room rates are pricey - think $750-1k . I recall Kathie managed to snag a great deal there. I am sure she will enlighten you as to how! Alternatively, search for her TR on this forum.

- Arequipa is a great city. If I were going to live in Peru, it would be there. Wonderful, white colonial architecture, a great food scene and I would visit for Monasterio de Santa Catalina alone - almost a city within a city and an intriguing story behind it. Colca Canyon is breathtaking but not sure how the weather might be in Nov. We used http://www.killawasilodge.com for accomodation and transport around the Canyon and onwards to Lake Titicaca.

- the amazon is definitely worth consideration as an alternative. We haven't visited the Peruvian rainforest as we have seen plenty in Bolivia and Asia and didn't feel the need. From people we have met on our travels, most seem to suggest that that is the place to go upmarket in terms of operators and accomodation and also that the deeper you go into te jungle, the better.

- we tend not to use agencies, largely because we can always seem to be able do it cheaper and better abut I have heard tell of better rates being obtained for higher end accomodation. David Choque over on TR always seems to get good reviews and a good starting point might be http://andeantravelweb.com/peru/index.html

-Guides and transfers can always be booked via accommodation and usually with pretty good results. Although, when staying at the sort of places you are considering, they would almost certainly add a significant premium. Taxidatum are good and reasonably priced and will do airport runs in Lima and Cusco as well as tours of the SV, Pisac. In Lima, I don't think a guide adds a great deal but it may be worthwhile seeking out a driver fro the days you are there to take you around the various sites. Again Taxi datum my have a day rate.

Re trains. The trains between Cusco and MP are far less frequent than those between MP and Ollantaytambo, so for that reason, I would return to Ollantaytambo after MP and stay another night there. Tha way you can hire a driver and visit te various sights I mention in my first post, on the way back to Cusco . Takes about 4-5 hours with stops.
PS I read a couple of days ago something about Peru Rail running a service from MP all the way to lake Titicaca. How true this is I don't know, but that would open up te possibility of going on to Colca and Arequipa that way. I will try and find it when I have a moment.
PPS if you are into trains, do take a look at ten luxury option of te Hiram Bingham train
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Old Jan 12th, 2017, 09:52 AM
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I rarely disqgree with crellston and also have a preference for the small nonluxe lodgings, so didn't feel I could contribute much. Staying at a chain to me is a big disadvantage for me in Peru, as you know the service is more formal and you lose the opportunity for casual interactions with the employees and owners..Peruvians are some of the nicest people on the planet. I doubt I would like Peru as much as I do without those interactions. In Lima I also prefer Barranco, and am not a fan of Miraflores location. Hotel B is in a great location.. Another option is Second Home Peru, especially if you like art. Although crellston has experienced my "family" at 3B Barranco, so he now knows why it is my favorite Lima lodging.

I'll put a pitch in for Chaparri since you mention wildlife. An advantage is that the weather tends to be good year=round. A friend who has traveled the world says it's one of his favorite places.

http://www.chaparrilodge.com/
That would require a flight to Chiclayo, which has other places of interest (the museum in Lambayeque, the Tucume pyramids for example)

To visit MP and the SV without hiking the Inca Trail I'd want about a 6 days not including travel time, assuming you would also want to spend a little time in the Sacred Valley (I'm assuming in one of the isolated upscale hotels such as Tambo del Inca, not my preference again). In Cusco it would be fine to stay at the Marriott in the center of town. I've had good prices with Mariott hotels via their member pricing, if you don't have points.

In Aguas Calientes I see good recommendations for the Inkaterra in town. I've visited twice, both times as a full day trip from Olly (leave on the first train, come back after the sight closes). I don't like heights but managed the walk up to the Sun Gate the second visit.

Walking down from Pisac is also a good walk (there are two different routes).

I like Arequipa especially for architecture, museums, the market (designed by Eiffel) and food CAN be good but it's hard to find that in the upscale touristy restaurants..although I think there was a Gaston Acurio restaurant there, the best flavors are in the market stalls. November is the start of the rains which can mean no views of the volcanoes and harder to see the condors..Casa Andina has a good location. (Private Selection is their top-level brand).

I think crellston and I agree on Killawasi as a good option in Colca Canon (Yanque). I also liked using Giardino Tours for Arequipa to Colca with one night at their lodging on the far side (Mama Yacchi) and a second night in Yanque. I was a bit spoiled there as there were only two of us on the tour in a private minivan with a driver an guide.

Re guides, around the Sacred Valley you'll see many recommendations for Percy Salas I think it's [email protected], I also see recs for Nina at Ancient Summit around the SV.

From Olly I did a visit with Awamaki to a weaving village (Patacancha) and used El Albergue's tour/transfer service on the way back between Olly an Cusco to visit the Salineras, Moray and a fun stop near Maras at a place where you can play sapo and taste chicha..I think it's called Descanso Bar.

For me, I didn't want a guide at MP...you can buy a guide book, and take your time, and you can't escape the guided groups anyways. So you'll hear different explanations at the stops, over and over and over. Or you can interview guides at the entrance and be sure you can understand their accents.

Ollantaytambo ruins are interesting, and have really fine stonework at the top, I don't know of a good option for guiding or even a guidebook..maybe there is now that tourism has exploded. I was lucky my first visit and got to chatting with an assistant Archaeologist there who gave me an impromptu tour (free). A payoff for the HS/college Spanish lessons. It's best to visit there early or late when the site isn't crowded. The view from the top and late afternoon light is amazing.
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Old Jan 15th, 2017, 07:56 PM
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mlgb and crellston, you both have been so amazingly helpful--thank you so much for getting back to me on this. And thanks for you patience in understanding that we might not all travel the same way but sometimes crave similar experiences. Definitely getting closer here to finalizing things.

A few more questions:

*Looks like, due to the unfortunate timing of our award flights, we'll have to overnight in Lima on the arrival before we go to Cusco (we arrive at 6:45 PM and will leave for Cusco at 8:40 AM the next day). I'd hate to stay at an airport hotel and lose a night--but I also know we'll probably be conked, having left LA at 2 in the morning the night before. Is it feasible to go into the city for one night (knowing we'll come back again at the end of the trip) just for a good meal and a quick nap? How far our is it? Where would you recommend that's decent, given that we'll probably splurge at Hotel B at the end of the trip?

*Starting to formulate a new plan around Arequipa. Provided the potential cost won't prevent future generations of my family from going to college, I've read about a new Belmond train starting service this year from Cusco to Titikaka that then goes on to Arequipa--it sounds astounding (much moreso than the train to MP, which I'm happy to pass on in favor of this one.) It's a 2 night journey all-in, stopping first at Lake Titicaca with a small tour and then onwards to Arequipa. This seems like it could be the final puzzle piece in trying to fill in the tail-end of the trip. This, of course, assumes that this train will run every day (doubtful) but assuming that's the case, this could potentially work out. The potential views and the experience of an old-world train ride sure seem appealing. I know this might not float everyone's boat, but it really sounded interesting to me! That--and this seems far more appealing to me than taking the Hiram Bingham train. I think I'd prefer to take the standard/Vistadome train to MP and if we're going to splurge on a train trip, this might the one.

That said, I think here's where I'm starting to net out (well, at least at this moment in time...could change tomorrow!):

NOV 17 Depart from LAX / Arrive Lima (overnight in Lima--hotel TBD)
NOV 18 Fly to Cusco / Transfer to Sacred Valley (Sol y Luna)
NOV 19 Sacred Valley
NOV 20 Vistadome train to Machu Picchu / Overnight at MP (Sanctuary)
NOV 21 Machu Picchu / Vistadome train to Cusco (La Casona or Monasterio)
NOV 22 Cusco
NOV 23 Cusco
NOV 24 Belmond train to Titicaca
NOV 25 Lake Titicaca tour / back on the train to Arequipa
NOV 26 Arequipa
NOV 27 Fly to Lima (Hotel B)
NOV 28 Lima
NOV 29 Return to LAX (AM)
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Old Jan 15th, 2017, 10:02 PM
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Probably in your shoes I would stay at the airport. Traffic that time of night after exiting customs will still be bad, and you would need to check out really early the next am.

Being well rested will help with your altitude adjustment, as will staying hydrated as much as possible on the trip down.

OTOH if racking up another night at a reservation-only restaurant is important, then go for it!
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 12:26 AM
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We have done the transfer between Lima airport and Barranco several times. Once we made it in 30 mins but that was exceptional, usually it is between 60 and 90 mins. The evening rush hour usually lasts until 9.30 10.pm. I wouldn't expect to get to a Miraflores hotel until 9pm. On balance, after that early start, I think I would go for the airport hotel and not have to worry about a very early start and the morning traffic. If you do decide to brave the traffic, then for one night, the JW Marriott in Larcomar would be my choice. Easy to reach from the airport, great restaurants in the hotel but a huge array in the Larcomar centre across the road. Also, it has superb views out over the Pacific - although it will most likely be dark for the majority of your time there! For a restaurant splurge any where by Gaston Acurio springs to mind but. Punto Azul a decent seafood place is close by the JWM or, near Hotel B in Barranco, one of our favourite places is http://lacuadradesalvador.com amazing steaks, and the best Chilcano cocktails in Lima

I saw a couple of pieces re the new train routes being offered by Belmond but didn't realise that they were going all the way to Arequipa. We have followed much of that route by car and bus and it it certainly covers some of the most spectacular scenery on the continent. I think Belmond took over Orient Express?? . I did a few trips on their European trains a few years ago - London to Paris and within England and they were amazing. Incredible food, faultless service and clearly the most comfortable train rides anywhere on the planet. I agree that it would make a much more appealing option than the Hiram Bingham train which is only for a few hours.

We went from Arequipa to Cusco by bus a few months back and stopped for a couple of days in Puno just to take some friends who wanted to see the Uros floating islands - sadly it is now virtually a theme park! Places like sillustani and Tacquile island offer a much better impression of the lake but I am sure belmond will have a handle on that.
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 01:29 AM
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If we decided to stay at the airport, is our only decent option the Wyndham? I saw some reference at some point to a Ramada too, but assume that IS the Wyndham now. Seems to get very mixed reviews, at best...but then again, most airport hotels do.

Suppose we can figure it out later either way--but is tempting to go in...but do also agree that we don't want to waste a good hotel night needlessly.

Thanks for the info on traffic into the city. What's traffic like back out to the airport in the morning? What time would we need to leave by if we did decide to stay (to catch an 8:40 AM domestic flight--FYI, in biz on Avianca, if that helps expedite the check-in procedure at all)?
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 07:01 AM
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I would leave by 06.00. The traffic always seems easier on the way to the airport - 45-60 mins is reasonable I feel, which allows 2 hours to check in bags etc. Jorge Chávez is IME , reasonably efficient and a lot better than it used to be. As you are flying business class, you could perhaps shave another 30 mins off that time. In Lima I would always err on the side of caution, occasionally the traffic is good but that doesn't happen that often. May be a good idea to ask taxidatum to quote and get them to suggest a pick up time.
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 07:37 AM
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I was also going to say 6am to leave, maybe a 15 minutes later if you stay at the J W. or another hotel on the west side of Miraflores or San Isidro, or won't need to join the lines at LAN. I don't know if Avianca is better but doubt it is worse. Although that's early enough to miss the worst traffic you never know what else might be going on..landslide,marathon, religious procession. Think LA traffic to the west side.

Yes Wyndham and Ramada are the same hotel. And really the only option in your class.

If you want to try Central, Maida, etc you need reservations, often full more than a month ahead! I don't think I would brave two extra hours in Lima traffic to eat at any Larcomar restaurant.

Btw crellston,those steaks are sourced from the US!

Archaeology there is food court on the mezzanine, landslide.
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 07:39 AM
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Autocorrect! At the airport, not archaeology!
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Old Jan 17th, 2017, 12:37 AM
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Sourced from the US but still pretty good and hopefully hormone free As I recall the menu offered most cuts from USDA and locally sourced beef with a corresponding price difference.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2017, 09:40 PM
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Update on this front. A few new questions for you both:

*We have to option of flying from Lima to Cusco at either 8:40 or 10:15 AM. I've heard numerous reports that taking "later" flights to Cusco can results in lots of canceled flights due to fog, etc...and that earlier flights are always better. But not sure if that's endemic to a particular season or not. I do like the idea of taking the later flight as it allows us to stay in Lima city that first night instead of a presumably boring airport hotel.

*What are the recommended places to stay in Arequipa? One person recommended Hotel Libertador, but the Casa Andina Select also looked nice. A lot of the places in the city seem hard to judge based on TA reviews and photos. It seems like it comes down to location vs accommodation. Thoughts/recommendations?

*In Sacred Valley and Cusco, I'm torn between doing the more boutique/unique vs more luxe/chain. Wouldn't want both in both places. So it would either be, for Urubumba: Sol y Luna (boutique) vs Tambo del Inka (Luxury) and for Cusco: Inkaterra La Casona (boutique) or Belmond Monasterio (luxe). I realize they're all expensive, but both Sol y Luna and La Casona seem smaller and unique and Tambo del Inka and Monasterio seem bigger and splashier. I guess I'm just looking for advice on where (both scenery and value-wise) it's worth going with one vs. the other. I know you both don't particularly enjoy these kinds of places, so please take the question with a grain of salt.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2017, 08:12 AM
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Lima - Cusco flights. I wouldn't worry about taking the later flight to Cusco. The problems are mainly with the smaller airlines whose aircraft lack the instrumentation for dodgy takeoffs and landings. Stick with Latam who have te more modern aircraft with all the bells and whistles and mor frequent flights than any other airline. It is a virtual bus service between the two cities. We have been in Lima airport early and have been asked if we wanted to go on an earlier flight. Any problems usually arise with afternoon/ evening flights. If going into Lima city that extra time will make a lot of difference!

"I know you both don't particularly enjoy these kinds of places" Not at all! I can't speak for mlgb but pre - retirement, we would have been frequenting similar types of property. Our hotel of choice in Bangkok that I am sure you have stayed at is the Peninsula. These days, we travel for extended periods so our tastes and budget are geared to simpler places ( with ten occasional blow out!)

AREQUIPA - the Libertador is nice but a little too far out from the centre. Casa Andina Select is right in the centre of things on the Plaza de Armas. I think we had drinks there in the rooftop bar back in August - a great place for sundowners! One worthy of consideration and the one I would probably go for is the Casa Andina Private Collection. It is by the walls of Monasterio de Santa Catalina ( a must see in Arequipa) and possibly a lot quieter than the Plaza de Armas property. We stayed in a couple of door down the same street and were very pleased with the location.

CUSCO - Both hotels are close together in a great location. I would probably go for the Inkaterra but only because it is the smaller of the two.

URUMBAMBA - despite living there for several weeks whilst doing some volunteering in the SV , I don't know either place. Tambo has the advantage of having its own train station and being closer to the centre of town (not that the town has a great deal to commend it apart from a very authentic andean market.Sol y Luna does seem a long way out. But it is highly likely that you wouldn't venture far from the hotel anyway.

I would generally recommend staying in Ollantaytambo which is a much prettier and more interesting place but does lack any lux hotels. It is 20 -30 mins between te two so perhaps it doesn't matter too much.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2017, 11:09 AM
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You can check flightstats for how often those flights are cancelled. I have had LAN/LATAM cancel & consolidate flights for not being fully booked or planes being out of position. They do have many more flights per day but also serve many more airports so may need to switch planes around. Being on an earlier flight is my preference to allow for delays and hopefully rebooking the same day if the flight is cancelled. If there are problems at either airport there are ripples down the system..(November is rainy season, but it's more about wind than rain). I recall my first trip (January) there were many people who did not get rebooked until the following day (LAN). I apparently had priority as a frequent flyer, plus I was on one of the first flights.

For the later flight, you still need to leave early, say 7am because there will be a little more traffic. So it doesn't really make that much difference.

I agree with Casa Andina Private Selection in Arequipa. Do you think your "person" got Select and Private Selection mixed up? The location of Select at the plaza is less desirable to me, and it's the lower-end brand of the Casa Andina chain. Libertador has an inferior location.

I also have no recommendation on the Urubamba hotels and agree with crellston as usual.

For Cusco, they're around the corner from each other and both have some history. My preference is also the smaller hotel.I would be reading reveiws re noise, etc. before deciding.
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Old Jan 24th, 2017, 10:12 PM
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Thanks, gents (presuming, maybe incorrectly that mlgb is a gent...if not: apologies!) Rolling along here in the planning department. Belmond train booking is in the works and hotels are getting closer to being final (although not used to EVERY hotel on our trip requiring pre-payment or 50% pre-payment upfront--a bit strange considering that November isn't even high season).

crellston, FYI, we ended up booking the flights with miles on Avianca via Star Alliance so our internal flight to Cusco is on Avianca (in biz). I know LAN/LATAM is probably better and has more options, but free is king, at least in my book. We still have to book our Arequipa-Lima flight and it sounds like you're recommending choosing LATAM for that leg, no? Could go either way as the cost is fairly comparable.

Thanks to both of you for the clarification on the Casa Andina in Arequipa. Yes, it *was* the Private Collection I was referring to. My addled, late-night internet scouring brain got the two confused. FYI, mlgb: I wish I had a "person" but my person--at least on this trip--is yours truly, even despite his temporary confusion/insanity/late night trip planning cramming.

Speaking of Arequipa: we have the option to stay there for 2 nights or 1 (1 night would add a total of 3 nights in Lima at the end of our trip vs the planned 2). We arrive to Arequipa in the late afternoon from the train...I think they do a short tour of the city once we leave the train and then drop us at the hotel assumedly around 3 or 4 PM. Given that, I'm anticipating a 2 night stay makes more sense, but, again, from what I've read, a lot of people only stay there 1 night as a gateway to somewhere else so not sure if 2 nights is too much. 3 nights in Lima does seem excessive to me. So, stuck on this one a bit.

Finally: is it worth going through an agency to do day trips in the SV, transfers to/from airports and train stations, etc? This is the one area of the trip that isn't as clear to me. We definitely will need a handful of not only car transports but also, preferably in some place, guides -- or at least a driver that can give us a decent amount of context.

Thank you so very much, as always, for all the help so far!
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Old Jan 25th, 2017, 10:23 AM
  #18  
 
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Avianca should be fine. The LAn/LATAM phone customer service is horrible..usually with a bad connection overseas and marginally English-fluent depending on which office randomly takes your phone call.

If you have AA One-World miles, they may work on LATAM?

I like Arequipa a lot, so much so that I added nights after visiting Colca Canyon. If you like architecture, city planning, photography, the old colonial center is built from 'sillar' stone, and has a prescribed color palette (blue and scarlet) that makes it stand out among South American cities. I also enjoyed the Eiffel-designed San Camilo central market, quite friendly and an amazing array of products. Unless things have changed from 6 years ago, it was not a bad place to get a juice and I also ate at one the food stalls with no ill effects (downstairs, and early in the day). In fact it was one of the better meals I had there.

If you like photography the Santa Catalina monastery could take a few hours. The La Compania chapel with the painted murals is worthwhile,adjacent the cloisters were redeveloped to a nice upscale shopping area. There are some secondary museums (plus the ice mummy one) and colonial houses that are interesting.There is also an alpaca producer that has a tourist display with weaving and a few animals,as well as a store. Probably your tour will include a stop at the Mirador in Yanahuara..look for someone making a traditional 'queso helado' near the church there..Which has nothing to do with cheese. Ice cream is definitely something to look for around Peru..some great flavors.One thing I will warn against based on my experience is the yellow bus tour.

Re an agency for guides and transfer. In the Sacred Valley I would search for Percy Salas as an independent guide, often mentioned here on Fodors. For transfers you can book straight with taxidatum.com in Lima, they also work around Cusco and their pricing is posted on their website. I'm sure your hotels can also arrange the transfers if you want to pay double (LoL). Perhaps in Arequipa the hotel will use the official airport taxis. For the most part unless you are out past the witching hour you can walk around central Arequipa. I was warned to not walk around the outside of the Arequipa market, but just to walk in though the main entrance. If you tend to be cautious ask at the hotel about the safety in the area of the market.
mlgb is offline  
Old Jan 25th, 2017, 10:36 AM
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Re an orientation in Lima, I don't have a suggestion. I kind of learned it on my own, using maps and taking the colonial center Mirabus tour a few times (which is in Spanish and I'm not even sure it's still running). It is a big sprawly LA-like city so I think even with a guide you aren't going to absorb it on just one visit. I believe there are apps that now work for taxis.

A great website for Lima is limaeasy.com, not 100% up to date, but comprehensive.
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Old Jan 25th, 2017, 08:58 PM
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Great suggestions from mlgb. I would just add that we found the market area of Arequipa and indeed, all areas of the city we visited, including the areas around the market perfectly safe. We rented a house there for a couple of weeks in 2013 Monasterio de Santa Catalina, as mlgb says will take at least a few hours. You can get a guide inside the gate which takes around 90 mins and then wander on your own for a similar amount of time - incredible place. You can also do a nighttime tour which would be very different. Every time we have been there have been fiestas going on in the plaza de Armas and surrounding streets - hopefully there will be something simailar when you visit. Quite an event!

I haven't flown with Avianca but I think they are closer to Latam than the other airlines I was commenting on like star Peru and Peruvian. The delay problems, if they happen are likely to be with Cusco because of the altitude and weather around the airport than Arequipa which is in desert and 1000m lower. I would be concerned on that leg.

In addition to Percy, I believe there is also a guide called David Choques?? who apparently does good work in the Sacred Valley and Cusco.

I don't know of anyone in Arequipa except that there are a lot of touts around the plaza so within ten mins of walking there you will get solicited many times for tours - avoid. The hotel may help but in Arequipa I don't really think you need one. A guidebook map will suffice to get a feel of the downtown area. There are some decent restaurants in the Yanaura area but those can be reached by taxi and maybe your initial city tour will be good for orientation.

Like mlgb we just got to know Lima by wandering around and using the metropolitano system to get around. The three main areas are Barranco ( where I think you are planning on staying, Miraflores ( a fifteen min walk to the Larcomar centre from Barranco) and the Centro Histórico ( easy by the metropolitano, but probably easier by taxi).

Taxis are always a bit suspect in Lima so order only
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