I recently returned from a whirlwind exploration of new properties in southern Chile, the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico City and a week of diving deep into the culture and food of Lima, Arequipa and the Colca Canyon in southern Peru. It’s very hard for me to summarise the highlights and identify the most special experiences in a month of travel but a couple of things stood out as spectacular, incredibly authentic and a must for any traveller who loves to be in nature, discover the depth of a culture and enjoy fabulous food and wine.
Chile & Patagonia
Patagonia wove its magic once again and my time staying at The Singular in Puerta Natales was fabulous. Terrific local food and a great wine list, extraordinarily professional and friendly staff and very interesting local excursions inside and outside the National Park. This region of Southern Chile is captivating for me offering an endless variety of trekking options, horseriding and other outdoor activities along with cultural excursions.
Vira Vira Hacienda near Pucon and only an hour by flight from Santiago, was brilliant. Stunning in every way from their home grown organic garden produce, fabulous cheeses from their onsite dairy and an outstanding wine list, Vira Vira won my heart from the moment I arrived. Michael and Claudia, the owners and hosts, offer such a homely and personalised experience that it was hard to leave.
My very short stay in Mexico City was a knock out with a great hotel in the Polanco area, a quick cruise around the beautiful modernist architecture of Mexico’s National Autonomous University and its surrounding suburbs, and a stunning late lunch at Dulce Patria followed by an evening stroll around the main square, Plaza de la Constitución. Then off next morning to the Yucatan Peninsula, but that warrants a story of its own.
My last stop was to visit my Peruvian colleagues and friends Nicolas and Brisa in Lima from where we set off on an excursion for 4 nights to Arequipa and the Colca Canyon, but not before I dined at two of Lima’s most fabulous restaurants – Malabar and Maido.
Both the city of Arequipa and the Colca Canyon in Southern Peru are not regularly frequented by tourists who do the fly-in, fly-out Machu Picchu circuit. Authentic experiential travel at its best is the only way to describe my time in these two places. The city of Arequipa’s historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the vistas of the surrounding volcanoes of Misti and Chachani are magnificent on a clear day.
Indigenous community, Colca
Arequipa is a major centre of the world’s wool industry. The high altitude plains outside the city are home to herds of Alpaca, Llama and Vicunas. So shopping for camelid wool products is a treat in this city. But more of a treat for me was the Tincachuy ceremony in the Tocra Community on our way towards the Colca Canyon. This annual blessing of the community’s flock of alpaca and llama was incredible. The Tocra community is one of the last people in the world devoted exclusively to grazing; each family specializing in parenting these beautiful animals. Their devotion to their animals and the surrounding grazing land is a lesson in sustainability for the rest of the world.
The inspiration from this journey will provide the basis for designing a new culinary, cultural and active itinerary for Peru incorporating some of these experiences and integrating the exciting new luxury Andean Explorer train journey from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa. We are planning to offer this new journey in March 2018.
A New Train Experience in Peru
Andean Explorer by Belmond
The Belmond Andean Explorer, which launched in May 2017, is one of the highest train journeys in the world and certainly the most luxurious. It is South America’s first luxury sleeper train.
From Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire traversing the highest plains of the Andes, to the beautiful Lake Titicaca, the journey explores the vast Colca Canyon then continues towards the city centre of Arequipa, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
We are planning to incorporate the journey into our next Culinary and Cultural Tour of Peru in 2018.