Abercrombie & Kent

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By the time we traveled to Peru I had read so much about that fascinating country, especially mystical Machu Picchu, I was worried my expectations of it were far too high.  But as I discovered the moment we arrived, in so many ways Peru exceeds expectations. 

Our trip took us from the desert of Lima, onto Arequipa, up to the awesome Antiplano of the Andes Mountains, and into breathtaking Colca Canyon.  We then crossed the country to Puno and Lake Titicaca, finally onto Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, and unforgettable Machu Picchu.  Everything about our trip was magical… especially Machu Picchu Citadel where we had the pleasure of seeing the most spectacular rainbow.  We were told it's a rare occurence and is a sign of good luck to those fortunate enought to witness it.

Uniquely Personal

I was thinking of planning the trip myself but my work schedule was far too demanding.  We normally rent a car so we can travel at our own pace and whims, but the distances in Peru and the rugged landscape made that quite impractical.  This had to be a pre-booked trip end to end but we didn’t want a tour company as they’re impersonal and vacations are far too special to do things with a bus load of tourists.

My travel agent suggested Abercrombie & Kent… but not just an A&K tour, a private tour designed for the two of us.  That sounded perfect… from all I had heard about A&K, I felt their very high standards would match my own.  

With a few back and forth e-mails, a trip was put together which took into account our interests, desire for high-end accommodations, and our request that our stops not be rushed as is so often the case because travelers these days want to cram in as much as possible, even if it means not fully appreciating things along the way.  A&K planned a schedule based on my desire to be in Cuzco and Machu Picchu over Christmas, giving us three nights in Cuzco and departing Christmas morning by train to Machu Picchu for three nights.  Their hotel selections were outstanding in all our key stops (Orient-Express on arrival and departure from Lima and in the Colca Canyon, Relais & Chateaux in Machu Picchu, and the most historic hotel in Cuzco. 

Precision Planning

We traveled the country by plane, train, boat, bus, chauffeured car and SUV.  All details were taken care of ahead of time and all transportation was on time, extremely comfortable, very clean and safe.  And while en route anywhere, we never went hungry or thirsty. 

What amazed us was their perfectly timed relays for our pick-ups and drop-offs.  When we arrived at the airport in Lima very late in the evening, the A&K representative was waiting for us, a bright yellow sign held high.  From then on, we were never alone even though we may have been on our own.  He immediately took care of us during the drive to the hotel, sat with us at check-in to ensure we got our preferred room, gave us details for the next day’s sightseeing in Lima, a list of his favourite restaurants, and his personal number in case we needed assistance. That flawless relay of service from one spot to the next was precisely orchestrated.  We’d say goodbye to one rep as we got in a plane or car and met another at the next leg of our trip who greeted us, handled our luggage, and took care of all the details for that segment.  Each rep knew the precision of our entire itinerary, and each had the necessary tickets, vouchers and paperwork for their segment.  That’s traveling with peace of mind! 

Great Guides

Peru is a country with many unexpected and wonderful surprises.  The food is among the best we've eaten anywhere in the world (including in France and Italy). Peruvians are gentle, modest, kind and helpful. The landscape is stunning and varied with the impressive Andes, deep canyons, terraced farming, and crystal clear waters that flow from the glaciers. 

What also made our trip extremely enjoyable was what we learned along the way, thanks to the very high caliber A&K guides.  We’ve experienced many great guides on various trips around the world, but they now all pale next to A&K.  Tourism is the leading industry in Peru and a degree in travel from the University in Lima is required before anyone can work as tour guide.  That raises the bar far above most countries.  And A&K adds its own standards which means they hire the best of the best.  It shows! 

Every guide was outstanding for their knowledge of the country’s cultures, people, history, religions, climate and eco-systems, agriculture and farming, birds and wildlife, plants, natural medicine and holistic healing.  Being with a Peruvian A&K guide is immersion in knowledge.  We came away with an intimate understanding of the land and its people unlike that of any other journey we'd taken. 

Our guides were such an important part of our trip, I must mention a few.  Perhaps you’ll one day have the pleasure of their company to guide you through their fascinating country. 

Our Virtuoso Specialist

I must begin with our Virtuoso specialist in Peru, Ms. Maria Luisa Colchado, whose talents for organization and customization, and her patience, gave us a trip far beyond our expectations!

Our private Guides

Emma Salinas was our guide from Arequipa to Colca Canyon (a 5 hour journey) where we stayed three nights.  Emma exemplifies the perfect tour guide.  She’s professional, caring, talented and tireless.  Her keen passion impressed us - as did her ability to sit beside her driver (informing him of stops en route) while fully turned to us in the back seat of the SUV to give us details on points of interest, never once expressing discomfort at sitting that way for hours.  She assisted us on arrival at Las Casitas del Colca, dropped by the next day to make sure everything was in order before she headed back to Arequipa, and later came back for our return trip to Arequipa.    

Ruben Calla was our guide in Puno to Lake Titicaca return, with an all-day private excursion on Lake Titicaca to the island of Taquile for a visit and lunch, followed by a visit with a family on one of the floating islands.  Ruben is the consummate professional with deep knowledge on so many subjects.  Of Quechua descent, he’s extremely well versed in Quechua and Andean cultures, including their beliefs and rituals, dress, dance and music.  It was clear the island people have a lot of respect for him.  He shared interesting stories of his family (many are in the travel business), and his sophisticated style and respectful ways made our time with him very special and relaxed… despite our very high altitude (3,800 meters). 

Juan Manuel (Manny) Yunez was our guide from Cuszo to Machu Picchu.  More than any other guide, he had the burden of fulfilling our dreams for Machu Picchu (the reason most people go to Peru).  Before boarding the train for Machu Picchu, he guided us on a walk through Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley.  When we got to Machu Picchu he stayed with us while we checked into the Inkaterra, our surreal Relais & Chateaux accommodations.  We took the bus together winding our way up to the Orient Express hotel for lunch before entering the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu.  He made every step of our journey up to the Citadel exciting.  When the Inca ruins were almost in sight, he stepped behind us so we could experience the awesome first view for ourselves…breathtaking!  Manny’s knowledge of Inca civilization and the ruins is profound.  He guided us through the ruins one afternoon and for a second visit one morning.  He’s patient, sensitive and enthusiastic.  His laid back style and great sense of humour made our time at Machu Picchu most memorable; a lifelong dream come true!

Needlless to say we're sold on A&K… and are already planning our next trip with them - to Africa!

 



Awesome antiplano wildlife


Emma


Tequile Island

Ruben


Machu Picchu with rainbow


Manny


Fabulous food!