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How Are Peruvians Welcoming 2009?

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playa1So how do Peruvians plan to celebrate the New Year’s? An article in RPP Noticias, the leading news radio and online site, states the options are either camping at a beach, at a friends’ or family’s place, or at a public venue for the long weekend that began yesterday for most.

For the New Year’s Eve, traditionally there are superstitions on receiving the New Year with a positive attitude and good luck, including wearing a yellow underwear (typically bought by someone else to bring more luck), eating 12 grapes at midnight, having yellow flowers, among many others. And regardless of where they will be, people plan ahead to stock up on alcohol and beers, bottled water, as well as canned food if you will be away from home.

According to the article, this is how the New Year’s Eve is looking like in Peru, particularly in the Coast region:

Campers along the beaches have already began to travel mostly by car to their preferred beach or to their friends’ or family’s beach house since the past days according to their vacation schedules. The main inter-department highway along the Coast called “Panamericana” (similar to the I-95 along the East Coast) is already busy with thousands of cars and SUVs with families or groups of friends going north or south from Lima, the capital city. Several police cars are along the highway to address any potential jams, and giving away brochures with safety and driving recommendations. To help the flow of drivers from Lima to the south of Peru, the highway has been opened today to be all southbound, and will change on January 4 when all drivers plan to come back to the city to start work on Monday.

Hundreds of people are also along the highway selling goods for those last-minute needs, including yellow flowers, balloons, bottled water, and other yellow goods to bring up good luck at midnight.

And for those who decide to stay at home or at a friends’ or family member’s place, a dinner similar to what they had for Christmas (a big meal similar to Americans’ Thanksgiving dinner) will be served tonight. The main course could be chicken, turkey, or pork, accompanied by paneton (an Italian-style sweet bread), salads, and several sides such as mashed potatoes and white rice. And to drink, there will be champagne or sparkling wine.

And once the clock hits midnight, fireworks all around the country will be heard. This replaces the typical “ball drop” Americans have.

Happy New Year to everyone, regardless of where in the world you will be!

Written by Catherine Castro

December 31, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Australian-British Travel Guru Tony Wheeler Names Peru “Hot Destination 2009”

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lonely-planetOne of the purposes of my blog is to allow for its readers to stay ahead of the curve on the popularity that Peru (both as a country and as a brand) is getting throughout the world. With restauranteur Todd English predicting Peruvian food to be “the next big thing” (read my post here), Bon Appetit magazine naming Peru’s capital city Lima as the “Gastronomic Capital of South America” (read my post here), and a dozen luxurious hotels including the world’s largest hotel chains to be built in 2009 and 2010 in Cuzco (read my post here)…now another travel tag adds to the mix — and all the way from Australia!

Australian newspaper The Age just wrote a story about world-renowned traveller guru Tony Wheeler, co-founder of the Lonely Planet guidebooks sold around the five continents (click here to view an interview done to Wheeler by Travel Channel). Among travelling tips and profiling the Australian traveller, Wheeler highlights his 2009 hot destinations…and yes, Peru is one of them!

Here is what the paper writes about Wheeler and his take on Peru:

The founder of Lonely Planet guide books, Tony Wheeler, predicts big growth in travel to South America, particularly Peru. He says Peru has “everything in one package”, from the “lost city” of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail to surf breaks, canyons and Lake Titicaca.

Written by Catherine Castro

December 29, 2008 at 11:32 pm

A Dozen Luxury Hotels, Including a 7-Star Hotel, will Open in Cuzco in 2009/2010

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hilton1marriott1In 2008, more than a million tourists from around the world visited Cuzco, the department where Machu Picchu is located. To address the increasing demand expected in the coming years, a total of 12 luxury hotels are planned to open in 2009-2010, some of them by the world’s largest hotel chains, as El Comercio reports.

Here’s the timeline, so make sure you take note of them as you plan your next visit to Cuzco!

Q1 2009

  • Urubamba Luxury Collection will be opened in the area of Valle Sagrado by the Peruvian chain Libertador Perú
  • Río Sagrado, a boutique hotel by a Peruvian investment group
  • Marriott will open a hotel that looks to surpass 5 stars
  • San Agustin, a local Peruvian chain of hotels, will open a 3-star hotel in Urubamba, and a 4-star hotel in Cuzco.

Q2 2009 and beyond

  • Acqua Hotel Resort Spa, a local chain of boutique hotels, will open between May and June 2009. It will consist of the renovation of a colonial mansion from the 17th century. A second 5-star location will also be opened in Urubamba.
  • Hilton Hotels Corp. will start building a 5-star hotel in mid-2009 to be located just 4 blocks away from Cuzco’s Main Square.
  • Aranwa Sacred Valley will build a 5-star hotel in the area of Valle Sagrado and another one in the city of Cuzco which is expected to be inaugurated in 2010.
  • The American company Revolutions Perú will build the first 7-star resort in Peru
  • Casa Andina plans to open its second luxury hotel by 2010.

Click here for a related story from today’s Washington Business Journal covering Maryland-headquartered firm Marriott and Hilton.

Written by Catherine Castro

December 29, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Peru: A Premier World Archaeologic Discovery Center in 2008

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chachapoyas-peru-4_1126226ccity2If you are into archaeology, ancient art, or history, this is a post you’ll be very interested in reading. An article in Peru’s largest newspaper today highlights relevant discoveries throughout 2008. Here is a list grouped by department that perhaps you might want to consider for your next trip to Peru. And once again, the map of Peru referenced in my earlier post will help in locating them and aligning them to your travel plans.

AMAZONAS (province of Utcubamba)

  • A pre-Incan city was discovered by an expedition of local authorities. Click here to read my earlier post for details.
  • Several ancient graphicshomes with ovens, ceramics, paintings,  caves, thermal waters, petrified seashells, as well as a wide variety of orchids were also found.
  • A pre-Incan cemetery was found including remains of about 200 bodies accompanied by ceramics in a cave 70 meters long and 15 meters wide.
  • Another expedition reported finding a 670 meters-high waterfall named Lejía. The area will become part of a tourist site.

LAMBAYEQUE

  • A mummy (fardo funerario in Spanish) was discovered in the Historic Sanctuary called “Bosque de Pómac”. The remains belong to a royal personality of the Lambayeque culture who is holding a golden stick back from 750-800 AC.
  • In this Sanctuary was also found the remains of a royalty member of the Sicán culture with a chest armour, golden vases and other ornaments as old as 1,000 AC.
  • Two religious temples were found in the archaeological site of Collud-Zarpán belonging to the starting ages of the consolidation of the high civilization of the North region of Peru. Also, a mural with a spider-shaped God was also found.
  • An ancient city of the Wari culture was discovered in the archaeologic complex of Cerro Pátapo, representing “the missing link between the ancient cultures of the Wari people and the earlier Moche civilisation […] because it explains how the Wari people allowed for the continuation of culture after the Moche” as archaeologists explain. Click here to read my earlier post about this discovery.
  • A total of 11 human skeletons belonging to sacrified women were found in the archaeologic complex of Huaca Chotuna. One of them included the low jaw bone of a fetus.

CUZCO

  • A total of 277 bronze artifacts were discovered in the archaeologic site of Sacsayhuamán
  • Two pre-Hispanic cities near the cerro Huanacaure were found which are considered to be major religious sites back from the Incas empire. Both ancient cities remained hidden for more than 400 years since the Spanish conquered the Incas, and was only heard about them through Spanish chronicles that date back from the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • An Incan religious ceramic shop was also discovered in one of the Inca temples in Sacsayhuamán, as well as an Incan temple which remained hidden for centuries underneath soil and an eucalyptus forest.
  • An archaeologic fortress named Manco Pata was discovered in the district of Kimbiri.

ANCASH

  • John Rick, an American archaeologist, discovered an underground tunnel where religious offerings occured in the archaeologic site of Chavín.

PUNO

  • A gold necklace of around 4,000 years old was found next to the Lake Titicaca — perhaps the oldest gold necklace in the Americas.

PIURA

  • A religious center or cemetery for the hierarchy of the Vicus culture was discovered in the province of Morropón.

Written by Catherine Castro

December 29, 2008 at 7:34 pm

Machu Picchu Continued Capturing Presidents and Celebrities’ Attention in 2008, including The Simpsons and South Park

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mpicchu1Throughout 2008, Machu Picchu and the neighboring city of Cusco has welcomed several celebrities, royalty personalities, and sports stars, as El Comercio reports, including:

  • Alicia Keys: received the 2008 year in Cusco and then visited the archaeological site. Click here to watch her appearance in the Letterman show talking about her visit.
  • Jenna Bush: visited Cusco and Machu Picchu on January, and also stopped by the Andean communities in Paucartambo, nearby Cusco, as part of her Unicef agenda in favor of local poor children. Click here to watch a raw Associated Press video of her visit.
  • Marguerite of Borbon, Infant of Spain: visited Cusco in April and enjoyed a show with Peruvian folkloric and flamenco music before heading by train to Machu Picchu. Despite her blindness since birth, she very much enjoyed it from the windows of the train.
  • Canadian singer and composer Bryan Adams arrived to Cusco following his concert in Lima in a private plane, and then headed to Machu Picchu in a helicopter.
  • Several Presidents from around the world and political personalities visited Machu Picchu around the Latin American, Caribbean and European Union (ALC-UE) Summit and the Asian Pacific (APEC) Forum between May and November, including the Foreign Affairs and External Affairs Commissioner of the European Commission Benita Ferrero-Waldner; the President of the same organization José Manuel Barroso; the Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk, the President of Guatemala Álvaro Colom; the Chancellor of Slovakia Jan Kubis; the Chancellor of Hungary Kinga Goncz;  and the wife of the Executive Chair of the region of Hong Kong Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei.
  • The goalie and captain of the Spanish soccer team Iker Casillas visited Machu Picchu in July accompanied with a group of children that the sports star supports through an NGO. Together with the former Spanish soccer star Emilio Butragueño, they visited Patabamba to visit children in that community.

And if you are a fan of The Simpsons and South Park, you might recall they “visited” Macchu Pichu in an episode where all the members of the Simpsons family end up at the archaeological site following one of Bart’s adventures, and the characters of South Park visit as they fight against an attack of “giant guinea pigs”.

Click here to watch a YouTube video with The Simpsons episode, and click here to watch the South Park episode.

In 2007, actresses Olivia Newton John and Cameron Diaz (click here to check out her visit while taping for the 4REAL show from my earlier post), the multimillionaire Bill Gates (click here for a video of him attending the Inti Raymi, the most important ancient ceremony praising the Sun), the Princess of England Beatrice, and the actors Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson.

It has certainly been quite a busy city in 2008!

Great Beach Getaways in Piura: White Sands, Warm Water, and Sun

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playaAs Peru kicks off the Summer season, lots of places start promoting tourism-related packages, including hotels, beaches, archeaological site tours, etc. In today’s major newspaper El Comercio, an article features the department of Piura, located in the north Coast of Peru.

Below is a list of the most popular beaches, from North to South:

  • Mancora is the most visited beach among domestic and international tourists of the young type, including surfers and adventurers, which explains hotel price ranges from $5 to $ 15 per night. Hotel Las Arenas is one of the most known in the area.
  • Las Pocitas and Vichayito are two great beaches to go to for a more sophisticated tourist or if traveling with the family. Hotel prices range from $20 to $100 per night and is highly recommended to make reservations with months in advance, particularly during peak season which is around New Year’s, July 28 (Peru’s Independence Day), and Holy Week (a Catholic holiday around late March/early April).
  • Punta Veleros, located in the district of Los Organos,  is starting to become increasingly popular. Its beach is good if you like surfing. If you are looking for a relaxing trip this might be the right beach for you. And the area has 5 small hotels and houses you can rent in advance.
  • Cabo Blanco is a beach largely preferred by surfers due to its big waves, as well as those who like to fish. This was the beach that inspired the American writer Ernest Hemingway for his novel “El Viejo y el Mar” (The Old Man and the Sea). The beach has a few small hotels. The best way to access this beach is if you have a car given its limited access via public transportation.
  • Lobitos is another beach for surfers with small hotels made out of wood (similar to cabins). The best way to access this beach is driving. If you don’t have a car, there is public transportation leaving from Talara but the wait could be up to an hour.

There are more beaches going further South, including Yacila, Cangrejos, Colan, Sechura, San Pedro, San Pablo, Matacaballo, Playa Blanca, Loberas, Reventazón, and Chulliyache. However, these beaches are not much tourist-friendly given its lack of access, hotels, and other basic tourism needs. But if you are the adventurer type and have a car via a friend who is local, you might want to go and explore these areas if you’d like but make sure you leave early and come back early before it gets dark for safety on the highways.

Personally, my favorite beaches area Mancora and Las Pocitas where I used to hang out with friends during my Summer vacation in Peru. And regardless of what beach you stay at, the seafood of that area is fantastic, perhaps one of the best available in the country. Make sure to order a ceviche with a cold beer – the best feeling ever! A shrimp omellette for lunch is really good as well.

Click here for a great trip planner in English made available by Peru’s tourism entity PromPeru, including the local cuisine, places to stay, local map, transportation, etc.

TIP: The quickest way to travel from Lima to Piura is by taking a flight. Recommended airlines include LAN and TACA. Once you get to Piura, the recommended way of traveling to your hotel and commuting is either walking or by taking local buses instead of driving. Ask your hotel to get the best routes and bus companies to where you want to go. I wouldn’t recommend renting a car if you are a tourist without any native Peruvian friends traveling with you. Some local routes might not have clear signs/labels, it creates a hussle to ensure you get a safe place to park it at nights, and hussles of filling up the tank when the closest gas station is several miles away from the beach.

Written by Catherine Castro

December 27, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Cajamarca To Become Peru’s Carnival Capital in 2009

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cajamarcaCajamarca is one of the 24 departments of Peru located in the far north Highlands region (see my earlier post to get a map). In order to promote it as a tourist attraction all throughout the country and around the world, the local government will be registering Cajamarca to be known as “Peru’s Carnival Capital” to the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and Protection of Intellectual Property (Indecopi).

As Andina reports,

One of the most important carnival celebrations is the Cajamarca Carnival, considered one of the country’s most famous festivals during February and March. During the carnival, locals from different parts of the region compete with other neighborhoods in a dance and music contest. Afterward, a parade is organized where all can enjoy the festive music and dances. This celebration lasts for one month with eight main days.

For those who have gone to the Brazilian Carnival, Cajamarca’s carnivals aren’t as big or crazy of a party. Very differently, they are traditionalist and a place where you can enjoy the colorful folkloric dresses and dances that have gone through several generations in history. And most likely, there will be great traditional dishes sold at stands and restaurants nearby.

It is a great target if you are planning to visit Peru between February and March 2009! And if you have several days of stay in Peru, you might want to enjoy a trip driving from Lima to Cajamarca which takes 12-13 hours, but worth making stops along the way to enjoy the local dishes and archaeological sites. And if you don’t have too much time, you can also catch a flight from Lima.

Here is a good video where you can get a glance of the drive from Lima to Cajamarca. You can also watch Cajamarca’s main square, archaeological sites, as well as the “Banos del Inca” which are the saunas used back at the time of the Inca empire as spiritual purifiers for the royalty.

And here is a good map of an illustration of Cajamarca’s tourism sites nearby.

Written by Catherine Castro

December 23, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Physician from Wisconsin Brings Health Services to Peruvians in Amazon Since 1990

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smithIt is so inspiring when I read stories on experiences foreigners have when they visit Peru but end up actually moving over there captured by its culture, its forest, its food, or any other of its wonders. This is similar to the story from my earlier post on a man from Arkansas who after his trip to the Peruvian Amazon ended up changing his life to take the job of his dreams: become a canoe guide on the Mississippi River.

Click here to read this story I found in a Wisconsin local newspaper The Eagle on Dr. Linnea Smith, a medical practitioner from Wisconsin who ends up leaving her family medical practice in Prairie du Sac to take her doctoring deep in the Amazon rainforest in Peru, and thought to share it with you all.

The story is about how in an adventure of finding out where her plants came from, Dr. Smith decided to travel to Peru’s Amazon where she has lived since 1990. She serves thousands of residents, both children and adult, in very remote areas.

As the story reports, in 1998 she published a book on her experiences titled “La Doctora.” In 2005, the Wisconsin Medical Society chose Smith as the Wisconsin Physician Citizen of the Year. And this fall, she received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Wisconsin Alumni Association, which takes trips that visit her clinic in Peru.

Take a read, and let me know what you think. Captivating story — and thankful to her for bringing so much love and health support to those kids and their parents who have very limited access to hospital care.

Written by Catherine Castro

December 20, 2008 at 1:27 am

New Ancient Civilization Found, Now in Chiclayo

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city2If there is one thing about Peruvian history is that it goes way back thousands of years BC. With the nature of Peru’s landscape being so diverse and the Andes mountains crossing it vertically, it is no surprise that once again an entire ancient city is discovered — check out my earlier post on a Chachapoya tribe ancient city found in Peru’s Amazon. This time is a city in the north of Peru called Chiclayo, as BBC News reports.

Archaeologists claim to have found “the missing link between the ancient cultures of the Wari people and the earlier Moche civilisation […] because it explains how the Wari people allowed for the continuation of culture after the Moche.”

The Waris were the first strongly militaristic and urban culture of Peru who conquered the Moches by trying to enforce their own values and suppress local oral traditions and regional self-expression. The Wari empire ruled between approximately 100 AD to 700 AD – a few centuries before the Inca empire.

Here’s something to remember: if you get to visit Chiclayo, you will have a great archaeological and site seeing tour, but also one of the best beach areas and seafood in Peru!

Written by Catherine Castro

December 17, 2008 at 7:23 pm

Renovations Along Lima Beach Area “Costa Verde” Could Bring More Attractions for Tourists by 2010

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cv2cv1If you have been to Lima, most likely you have seen the Larcomar shopping center right on the beach and the Costa Verde (Green Coast, in English) in search of a good ceviche in the Miraflores district.

According to Peru’s newspaper El Comercio, the Costa Verde area will be renovated, and will include:

  • A greek amphitheatre with ocean view for approx. 3,000 people
  • Two ocean water pools (similar to the ones you might have seen in Portugal) — one for swimming and the other one for families
  • Recreational and sports areas, including bike trails
  • New access areas (bridge between the hill and the beach area)
  • Development of green areas

This project called “La Nueva Costa Verde” (The New Green Coast) will start to be built next year and is expected to be finalized by 2010.

Should be a nice area to hang out if you stay in the hotels nearby the ocean in the districts of Miraflores or San Isidro — two common areas tourists stay at.

Written by Catherine Castro

December 16, 2008 at 12:09 pm