Jon Kortajarena’s Peru

Scenario of one of the greatest empires in history, Peru is a country that attracts for its mix of history, exotic landscapes and legends.

We reach the “kingdom of the four regions”, as the Inca culture was once known, by the hand of Iberia, a kingdom that has left an unfathomable legacy of fantastic ruins and palaces that are discovered in this incomparable journey; from the temples that during the winter solstice are aligned with the sun and the mountain at dawn, through fortresses that protected the cities, to Machu Picchu, which is the ultimate expression of mystery.

We start our trip in Lima, for a private culinary tour with Penélope Alzamora, born in Lima and passionate about traditional Peruvian gastronomy and good food. With the help of Alzamora, we visited a local market, where we discovered the local ingredients that give life to the best dishes of this country, and then participated in the preparation of our own lunch at Penelope’s private home, located in the neighborhood of Barranco, of course accompanied by the best Pisco sour.

We continue with the visit to the city center with our private guide, to begin the historical and monumental tour of Lima. We start in the neighborhood of Barranco, a traditional and bohemian district, discovering on our way its houses from the republican era and its extensive and green parks. On our tour, we also visit the colonial area of the city and the Plaza de Armas, a place of special historical interest, since it was here that Francisco Pizarro founded the city almost 500 years ago. Around it, we can observe buildings representative of Lima’s colonial period, such as the Government Palace, the City Hall, the Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Union Club building.

The area also has other architectural treasures, such as the Torre Tagle Palace, a jewel of 18th century colonial architecture, with beautiful Mudejar-style balconies; the Assembly House, the Inquisition Museum and the San Francisco Convent. This architectural complex includes, among other things, a complex of catacombs that has made the place famous.

Jon Kortajarena at Casa AliagaFinally, we visited the Casa Aliaga, a unique mansion in the Americas, whose origins date back to the founding of the city. Its historical value derives from being one of the first original colonial houses of Lima, as well as having belonged to one of the co-founders of the city, Captain Jerónimo de Aliaga y Ramírez; and even today, the property continues to be owned by the descendants of the conqueror. Its artistic value derives from the beauty of its interior space and the original distribution of its rooms.

main square of lima at sunset

The next day, accompanied by our private guide, we head for the town of Chinchero, located 28 kilometers from Cuzco; the highlight of this picturesque village is its church, built in colonial times, which still retains beautiful paintings of the Cusco School. In this place, Sundays are very special days for its inhabitants, because it is the day when merchants and farmers meet to exchange products; something that is usually surprising, since some of them still use barter in their transactions.

In Chinchero we visited other remarkable points of interest, such as its archaeological remains and the Traditional Textile Center of Cuzco, a place of high traditional value where we enjoyed demonstrations of the art of weaving in situ; in this institution it is also emphasized how Chinchero women have inherited from their ancestors the art of spinning and weaving wool, a heritage that they proudly preserve in their traditional clothing.

Houses in the village of Chinchero in Peru

Sacred Valley
The following morning, we head to the fortress of Ollantaytambo, known as the “living Inca village” because its inhabitants still maintain ancient customs and traditions. Its marvelous archaeological site includes a temple, terraces and an urban sector, in addition to preserving part of the walls and towers that, at the time, must have had defensive or military functions.

We continue visiting the archaeological center of Moray, currently used as an agricultural laboratory; its system of circular terraces, which descend 150 meters below our feet, confirms the wisdom that the Incas possessed when building masterpieces in harmony with nature.

We resume our tour until we reach the Maras salt mines, which have been exploited since the Inca times until today, surprising with their white steps that descend abruptly against the green slopes of the hills.

Panoramic view of the Sacred Valley

Machu Picchu
And finally begins one of the most awaited days. We transfer to the Ollantaytambo train station where we board, together with our private guide, the Vistadome, the train that takes us to the small town of Aguas Calientes, gateway to the majestic ruins of Machu Picchu; discovered in 1911, they have become a mecca for scientists, students and travelers from all over the world.

Machu Picchu is an authentic work of art in itself, the summit we all wish to climb and that asks to be discovered with patience. We enter to tour the mystical Inca citadel, built in the mid-fifteenth century, to discover the palaces and temples that compose it, such as the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Condor or the Temple of the Three Windows, which surround the Main Square in an order that is not casual, but is imposed by the natural layout of the terrain and the rituals that were performed there in ancient times.

Here we contemplate the Intihuatana-whose name means “where the sun is tied”-, the most symbolic rock and one of the most important of the place, whose angles point to the four cardinal points, which served as a kind of clock or sundial with surprising precision.

Jon Kortajarena Machu Picchu Wall

On our last day in Peru, we leave in the morning for the streets, churches, archaeological treasures and walls full of history that await us in Cuzco. We begin our tour visiting the Sacsayhuaman Fortress, a colossal building of huge carved stones that were joined with precision, and then continue through the beautiful district of San Balas, where most of the workshops and craft stores of the city are concentrated, with narrow and steep streets where beautiful colonial houses that were built on ancient Inca foundations are preserved; Here we know the craft workshops of Mendivil and Olave, whose artisans have exhibited their spectacular work in London, Paris and New York.

Jon Kortajarena on train from Cuzco Jon Kortajarena with a baby goat in his arms in Peru

We continue our tour through the Temple of the Sun, also known as Qoricancha, and the Plaza de Armas, ancient Haucaypata; a place of weeping or meeting, its XVI century Cathedral and its rich collection of art, its altars covered in gold leaf and its choir carved in wood stand out. To end the visit, we went up to the dome of San Francisco, where we toasted to an unforgettable trip and experience, saying goodbye to this wonderful country with a view of the majestic City of the Incas.

Panoramic aerial view of Cusco

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Sandra Menieur


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