Zafiro Amazon Cruise, Machu Picchu and Lima Tour Review
I would like to echo Denise's description of the trip to Peru. It was wonderful. The trip of a lifetime. It was such a luxury to be met at all the airports and to simply relax, knowing that we were in good hands. Truly a luxury as my husband is a real do-it-yourself travel person. I believe you have converted him to the pleasures of guided travel - even with the late arrival to the Cusco airport.
Travel snafus are not fun at any hour - but at least, at 4:30 am the roads were clear of traffic. We arrived at 4:55 am and the LAN agent showed me on my boarding pass that we should have been there at 3:30AM! The itinerary said 4:30 pick-up at the hotel. Upon arrival at the Cusco airport, the check-in lines were already very long. We made it to our flight only because of my priority One World status with American Airlines. It was printed on my and my husband's tickets and was honored for our entire party by the LAN staff in the priority check-in line. The thrills of travel!
Sol y Luna was superb. We needed two nights there in that beautiful and tranquil setting just to wind down and catch up on sleep. The kitchen there is very good and the staff are simply the most accommodating and lovely people. Loved the casitas and the wonderful art all around the facilities.
The Sanctuary Lodge is perfection as far as it's location, kitchen, staff, and overall comfort. Thank you for arranging for the full service rate. We certainly needed a bit of laundry done and to have it included with our room was a rare treat. My husband enjoyed taking photos of the hummingbirds at the feeders in the Lodge's gardens.
The Zafiro Cruise facilities are just 5 star, as are the food and the staff. We wanted for nothing. The opportunities for viewing wildlife were abundant. My husband was so taken by all the birds, and by the manatee rescue center. I loved the river dolphins.
The visit to the communities and the school were so enlightening. We actually sat and shelled black-eyed peas with a multi-generational family. Juan Carlos, our guide, is from the area and speaks the local dialect. So he engaged them in discussion of their daily life and local customs as we worked. The craft items made by the local populations were well made, varied, and relatively inexpensive.
The school children were charming and fun. I wish I could have packed more school supplies. The school rooms are spartan to say the least. The Ramada on our return trip to Cusco was OK. We were just off the open courtyard of this historic hacienda, so it was a bit cool. But, we arrived in time to watch the first Presidential Debate over a room service dinner, so we were very happy with that. The hotel was certainly well located to the main plazas and we walked comfortably and safely in the afternoon and evening.
As Denise stated, the hotel at the Lima airport was a welcome relief. It was so nice just to walk out of the bustle of the airport and then in the morning, to avoid traffic, taxis etc.
What made this trip so superior? The guides.
All the guides were so knowledgeable and personable. We enjoyed every one! Elie in Lima, Melvin and Rosario in Cusco, Pasqual in Machu Picchu, and Juan Carlos on the Zafiro excursion - each one superb. I felt we saw an amazing array of historical sites, but also learned a bit about the history, current events and life in Lima, Cusco, Iquitos and in the rural Amazon. Having guides that were part of the indigenous populations also added to our cultural understanding.
They were wonderful with recommendation for activities and restaurants after our tour was done. Elie referred us to Mangos Cafe on the cliffs in Lima. The buffet was very good and the view of Lima's foggy coastline was lovely. Elie reinforced our choice of Astrid and Gaston for dinner. The dinner and especially the wine list lived up to the reputation of this well established restaurant. We even met Astrid!
Melvin encouraged us to go to the salt ponds and to the circular terraces in the Sacred Valley and she made our Cusco dinner reservation at Cicciolina. Very good! Pasqual is a vast source of historical and cultural information. Machu Picchu is truly his "office" as he calls it, and he knows it so well. My husband asked if we would see any Andean Condor. Pasqual very tactfully explained that condors were seen once in a while. He explained the significance of the condor to the Inca as wells as the local belief in Condor as a harbinger of bad things.
Juan Carlos is a superior naturalist, and his personal story was just as interesting. We probably learned more about life in the Amazon because of his life experience as a "piranha child" fending for himself. He left his family and Amazon community at age 11 to go to Iquitos so he could go to high school and college.
So, thank you so much, Matthew, for arranging this amazing trip. We are actually considering another trip to Peru to include the Manu Reserve, a day trip over the Nazca lines, and then to the Galapagos. So do let us know what you might recommend.
All the best!