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Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Dollar is Soaring High in Peru

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Is the U.S. Dollar your primary currency? If it is, congratulations are in order, because your money has rarely been worth more in relation to the Peruvian sol. Even though Peru is one of the most stable economies in South America, their currency, the Nuevo Sol, has declined against the U.S. dollar over the past several years. For the budget-minded traveler from the U.S. and territories, this is one of the best times in recent history to visit Peru.

The value of the dollar is expected to stay well above the 3:1 level (three sols to every dollar) through the end of 2016. (If you have internet service, you can find out the exact current exchange rate if you type in “USD to PEN” on your browser search bar.)

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Options for Currency Exchange

The Nuevo Sol, the currency of Peru, was first placed into circulation in 1991. It comes in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 soles.

Many places in Peru, especially hotels, restaurants and other venues that cater to tourists, will accept the U.S. dollar as payment, but there are many areas, especially outside of the larger cities, that will only accept the sol.

If you don’t exchange your dollars for soles while still in the U.S., you have four options for exchanging money in Peru: Banks, Exchange Houses (Casas de cambio), hotels, and street money changers. Make sure you know what rate of exchange they are offering (it should be standard, but sometimes isn’t).

Also, pay strict attention to the physical appearance of the soles you are given. Stand your ground and reject any currency (U.S. or Peruvian) that is torn, cut, or imperfect in any way. The reason is puzzling, but true: many Peruvians will not accept payment in paper money that has an obvious flaw. This trend is true for both dollars and soles. Any time you exchange money, make sure the bills you get – whether dollars or soles – are in great condition, without any rips, cuts, holes, fading or staining.

More Money Tips

In Peru, small change is a big deal, literally. Your travels will be much more pleasant if you make sure you always have change with you, for cab drivers, for eating out, and for any number of purchases.

Some people think there is a change shortage in Peru. Perhaps there is, because many vendors and service providers don’t have or won’t give change, even in the larger cities. They will often even refuse to sell an item if you don’t have the proper change. Unless you are prepared to simply pay more for your purchases because you can’t get change, make sure you bring a good supply of your own.

Peru is also primarily a cash society, especially in the country. You might be able to pay for goods and services with traveler’s checks and credit cards in the larger cities, but you’ll need cash otherwise. It’s also a good idea to get familiar with the Peruvian currency, and to understand what its watermark should look like, as counterfeit bills are in circulation.

With the value of the U.S. dollar at near-record highs in Peru, and with taking some of the advice in this blog about bringing cash with you, you can have the adventure of a lifetime on your next visit to Peru. Take advantage of this time and book your trip with us now.

Surfing in Peru is about to Get a Boost

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The eyes of the world will be trained on Lima, Peru, in 2019 for the summer Olympic Games. And with surfing now added as an official event, the waves of Peru will be seen by millions.

Peru is one of the world’s finest surfing destinations. There are 1600 miles of coast and very little to get in the way of the surfer and the waves. With monster swells on a par with the legendary swells of Hawaii, regulars tell of an abundance of accessible breaks, a variety of large, small, and medium-sized waves, and very little rain.

THE COASTLINE

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The areas around Lima and Punta Hermosa are favorite spots of visiting surfers. Even though the entire coastline is in the tropics, you won’t find tropical beaches like you know them. The area is arid and dry, the coast cooler than you would think, and, in most areas, people don’t camp out on beach chairs soaking in the sun. But the avid surfer happily trades that for the waves. And unlike many of the more well-known surfing spots around the world, the best spots in Peru are still relatively empty.

A NATIONAL SURFING CHAMPION

If the billboards with pictures of surfing, surfers and, of course, the waves that are all over Lima are any indication, surfing is a popular subject in Lima. Surfing in Peru really became popular, though, after a young Peruvian, Sofia Mulanovich, won the World Surfing Championship title in Hawaii in 2004. A native of Punta Hermosa, a small village outside of Lima with some great surf, Sofia started developing her winning technique at an early age. She was the first competitor out of Peru to make a serious run for some serious championships, and the first to win the world title. She is still a popular figure in Peru, and was the first South American to be inducted into the Surfers Hall of Fame.

AN INCREDIBLE WAVE

The coast of Peru also is home to one of the longest waves in the world. Called one of “nature’s miracles” the wave on the coast of Puerto Chicama is legendary. Located just north of Trujillo on the northern coast of Peru, this wave stretches over 4 kilometers long. Surfers ride it for as long as they can (it’s not often one can ride the entire length), and then get out of the water and walk back.

As far as the surfing world is concerned, Chicama was discovered, accidentally, in 1965 by a world class surfer who happened to notice it while flying overhead. It appears now, though, that someone else surfed Chicama decades earlier. In recent years, Peruvian surfer happened across an old warehouse near the town, and found several wooden surfboards dating from the 1930’s or sooner. Whether it was locals, or visitors to a nearby plantation, it seems that someone surfed the wave in the 1920’s or 30’s, but kept it a secret until 1965.

With surfing now added to the roster of events for the 2019 Olympics, the chances are good that the Peruvian surfing scene will get quite a bit more crowded. If you surf, or just like to watch some incredible waves, contact us now for a chance to experience the Peruvian surf, and Chicama, like it may not be able to be experienced in the future.

WHAT IS TWENTY PERCENT OF A HIDDEN TREASURE?

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One of the best places to visit in Peru, especially if you like history and enjoy looking at gold, is the Museo de Oro in Lima. The museum is home to genuine artifacts and exquisite reproductions of the massive treasure of the Incas, most of which was plundered and melted down by the Spanish, who also gave twenty percent of their fortune to their king.

Legends live on, though, about a treasure hidden deep in the mountains of the Andes.

The Last Incan King

The Spanish conquistador, Pizarro, marched into the Incan Empire in 1532. The five year war between brothers for control of the Incan empire appeared to be nearing completion. On the edge of full victory, Atahualpa and thousands of men were preparing to enter Cuzco, his brother’s capital city, to complete his conquest.

Pizarro and his own band of less than 200 men were in the city of Cajamarca; he invited Atahualpa to meet him there. Atahualpa accepted, but he misjudged the intent of the Spaniard. According to accounts, he assumed he had nothing to fear because his army was so much larger. Atahualpa did bring his entire army, but they were unarmed. They marched into the city and into an ambush. The Spanish had artillery, which stunned the Incas. Thousands were killed, and Atahualpa was captured.

But Pizarro wanted treasure, and Atahualpa had access to it. So the king offered a deal: the Incans would fill a room with gold and silver for Pizarro, in exchange for Atahualpa’s life.

And so the flow of fortune began. Accounts of exactly how much was finally paid for the ransom vary widely (from dozens to hundreds of tons), but it was never completed, because Pizarro started to suspect a plot against him.

Fearing a rescue attempt by the thousands of Incan soldiers still outside of his control, Pizarro falsely accused Atahualpa of catastrophic crimes, and had him put to death.

Pizarro had already accumulated a fortune, and he wasn’t finished. He later sacked Cuzco, stealing as much or more than he had already received in ransom.

The Royal Fifth

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One fifth of all treasures acquired by any means under the Spanish banner was sent to Spain and the coffers of the king. Referred to as the “Quinto real” or the “Royal Fifth,” this included 20 percent of all the gold and silver Pizarro had been given in ransom, and the treasure he confiscated in Cuzco.

He sent his brother, Hernando, back to Spain in 1534, with most of the treasure melted down. Some of the more elaborate gold and silver metalwork were saved and displayed for a time, but those, too, were eventually melted down.

The Legends

Legends persist about what might have happened to the rest of the gold and silver promised to Pizarro. One such legend is about a poor Spaniard who found the treasure just a few decades after it was hidden. The Derrotero de Valverde, is a map to the treasure he found.

This legend, which has intrigued people for centuries, begins with General Ruminahul, an officer in Atahualpa’s army. After hearing of his king’s death, the General hid a vast amount of gold and silver deep in the mountains. The legend’s history is filled with mysterious disappearances and the sudden wealth of previously impoverished men. 

Another legend is the Legend of El Dorado. It is a part factual and part mythological account of an Incan empire where the ruler wore armor covering his body. For centuries after Pizarro, expeditions sought out the treasure in the jungles, deserts, and mountains of Peru and her neighboring countries.

Most of the treasures of the Inca were melted down by the Spaniards so that their king could have his twenty percent. Some originals and reproductions can be seen in the Museo de Oro and other museums in Peru and around the world. Book your tour to Peru now. We will be happy to help you customize your trip.

Sunrises and Sunsets in Crystal Clear Air

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Nestled between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is South America’s largest lake. At over 3,200 square miles, it is also one of the world’s highest commercially navigable lakes and, for the people of the Andes, the traditional site of the birthplace of the Sun. The lake is one of the best places to visit in Peru.

The lake has been considered to be the center of the cosmos, at least in the eyes of the Andean peoples, for centuries. Even the Inca, who conquered the lands in the 15th and 16th centuries, continued the belief in its connection to the sacred. Evidence of the importance of the lake as a spiritual site is peppered all around the lake in the form of crumbling stone ruins and religious monuments.

Lake Titicaca is home to over 40 natural islands and 60 species of birds. Residents are both indigenous peoples and recent emigres. The two main cities of entry are in two different countries: Puno, Peru, at one end, and Copacabana, Bolivia, at the other. Both of these cities are well-equipped to accommodate visitors’ needs, from hotels and shops to restaurants and access to information and resources about the current culture and past history of this sacred place.

Worth the time it takes

It is likely that the connection of the lake to the sun has much to do with its altitude, which is well over 12,000 feet. Most visitors need to take some time to adjust to the altitude. They accommodate by scheduling some down time, for instance, in Puno or Copacabana. It is well worth the time it takes to adjust.

The best way to see the lake itself is to go out onto it, because it changes. Near the edges, the water is murky. The further you travel towards the middle, the clearer it gets, until the waters are as clear and blue as the Mediterranean.

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There are many sites to see on the Lake, from hiking on the Isla del Sol to observing the normally laid-back populace explode in a riot of costume and ceremony as they celebrate the holidays. One attraction not to be missed are the Islas de Uros.

The Floating Islands

One of the lake’s most popular attractions, the Islas de Uros is a group of over 50 floating islands created from the totoro reeds that grow abundantly in the shallow part of the lake. The islands are the man-made home of the Uros people.

Originally thought to have been constructed as a way to keep their families safe from hostilities, the islands are regularly tended to by the Uros. They are constructed on a base made of densely-packed clumps of totoro roots lashed together, with layers of the totoro reed itself placed on top.

The Uros still use the reeds, as well, to build traditional homes, boats, and elaborate arches and other crafts. Visitors generally can see the floating islands and their handiwork by ferry, which usually visits at least two of the islands on a rotating basis.

The sunsets and sunrises over Lake Titicaca may be one of the reasons why the Andean people call it the birthplace of the sun. When you visit the Lake, be sure to check for the best times and places to view the sun as it awakes or sleeps beyond the horizon.

PLAYS, PASSION & TREASURES PAST

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The cultural scene is exploding in Peru, in the years since the end of the twenty-year internal conflict in 2000. Nowhere is that more evident than in Lima, with its dozens of museums, galleries, theaters and exhibits to entice resident and tourist alike. In this piece, we talk about three attractions, each different in scale and what they offer, but each equally intriguing in their own right.

The largest performing arts center in Peru

Lima has many theaters, presenting a wide variety of fantastic productions. Until July of 2012, however, the city was lacking a venue large enough to attract the larger, and more widely popular productions. That was when the Grand National Theater (Gran Teatro Nacional del Peru) in Lima opened its doors.

The Gran Teatro is the perfect venue for first-class performances, from operas and ballets to Broadway shows. Built for style and comfort, the outside is a sleek glass and steel façade with a contemporary design, while inside, almost 1,500 people can relax in the comfort of a more traditional architectural style.

The Gran Teatro is home to Peru’s Symphony Orchestra, National Ballet, and National Chorus, as well as the National Youth Symphony Orchestra, National Children’s Chorus and National Folkloric Ensemble. The programs change with the seasons. We will be happy to check the performance schedules for you when you book your next tour through www.bestperutours.com.

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A private collection for the public to view

The Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera is another Lima favorite, and a very different experience. The Larco Museum contains the largest privately-held collection of Pre-Columbian artwork in the world. Housed in what used to be an 18th century colonial mansion, the collection of thousands of pieces, includes metalwork, stonework, pottery and weaving.

Unlike other museums, visitors to the Larco museum are allowed into the store rooms to see what’s not on display. One gallery alone holds 45,000 ceramic pots crafted in ancient times into animal, plant, and human forms. Other pieces include gold and silver headdresses, masks and precious metal jewelry. The museum also famously includes a collection devoted to ceramic pots in erotic positions. Many other pots were destroyed by the Spaniards, who objected to them on religious grounds, which makes this large collection even more important.

The museum also holds a garden, restaurant and stores. Make a plan to visit and stay for a while, learning about the history of Peru, and enjoy the beautiful building and grounds.

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Centuries of textiles under one roof

The Amano Textile Museum (also known as the Pre-Columbian Textile Museum) was first opened in 1964 and recently remodeled. It houses (and masterfully displays) many examples of the rich and colorful history of Peruvian textiles from its earliest known beginnings, almost fifteen thousand years ago.

Originally housed in the private home of Yoshitaro Amano, a Japanese businessman, the collection is located in a mostly residential area of Miraflores, Lima. The display information, presented both in Spanish and English describes textiles from the Chavín, Paracas, Nasca, Moche, Huari, Sihuas, Lambayeque, Chimú, Chancay, Chuquibamba, and Inca cultures. Also included are examples of the tools and fibers people used to create the textiles, and an explanation of how they were woven.

Since the recent renovation, visitors are able to see more than the public viewing rooms. They can enter the Yoshitaro Amano room of the museum, which was previously an off-limits part of the storage facilities. There, more than 400 additional examples of textiles from the pre-Incan Chancay culture are on display.
All three of these fantastic cultural opportunities are available to you on your next trip to Peru, making your stay in Lima even more interesting. We’ll be happy to assist you in arranging your visits when you book your tour.

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