MACHUPICCHU, PERU – Machu Picchu, an Inca citadel from the fifteenth century in the mountains of Peru, had been on our bucket list for a long time.
Our first stop was the wealthy enclave of Miraflores on the coast of Lima. A beautiful and safe city in which to walk around during the evening. A lot of areas in Lima are not safe at night, and it is best to ask hotel personnel for suggestions before venturing out.
We visited the Larcomar Shopping Center one of the most beautiful to behold. Built on a rocky hill, it has spectacular ocean views and stores with international and Peruvian high-end fashion items.
On our walks around the city we did not see any Greek businesses, as one might find in most places around the globe. Yerassimos Davaris, recently appointed Greek Ambassador in Lima, told TNH that “the Greek community here is very small, around 300 families. The Greek company Intralot has been the largest business presence here but they recently sold a large portion of their company.”
Intralot is a subsidiary of the Intracom group owned by Greek businessman Socrates Kokkalis.
The Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity in Lima is the only church in Peru uniting all Orthodox people. Formed by Greeks, Russians, Palestinians, Romanians and Peruvian converts, the church is under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Buenos Aires and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Our next stop was Cusco, the legendary capital of the Inca empire, a 90-minute flight from Lima. The city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983 and hosts nearly two million visitors per year. Cusco is a vibrant city that takes one back in time as most of the Inca buildings remain to this day. But the city also offers luxury accommodations and a plethora of choices for dining and shopping.
The plateia’s center has a beautiful fountain and an imposing statue of an Inca king, a great place to take an afternoon stroll. Up the street is the artisan neighborhood of Barrio de San Blas, with hundreds of craft shops and workshop spaces.
On a suggestion from a friend we visited the Calle Del Medio Restaurant, which specializes in Peruvian cuisine. Delicious food, excellent service, reasonable prices, and views of the plaza.
Cusco’s rich history is exhibited in the city’s many museums most notably, the Museo Inka and the Museo Historico Regional de Cuzco. Cusco is the beginning of the four-day Inca trail that is 26 miles long and runs along the railway and treks high into the mountains finishing at the Sun Gate. The hike is a vigorous one that requires one to be in top shape. PeruRail offers a great alternative as the trip to Aguas Calliente is less than four hours, the service is great, as is the fashion show of local designs by the employees. Aguas Calientes is an idyllic location to spend an evening before taking local bus to Machu Picchu.
Visitors to Machu Picchu will be captivated by the beauty of the city and the two surrounding mountains, Machu and Huayna Picchu. It is believed that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti around 1450 but it was deserted about 100 years later around the time of the Spanish Conquest, even though there is no conclusive evidence that the Spanish visited or even knew Machu Picchu existed.
The city is divided in two sections, the urban sector where the temples and imperial housing was and the lower section where agriculture activities took place. It features the classic Inca style of building called ashlar, a collection of dry stone walls cut perfectly to fit together without mortar. The Temple of the Sun, the Room of the Three Windows and Inti Watana which are the primary buildings were all built with this technique. The Incas had mastered this technique but it was not a new technique. In Northwest Europe, drywall construction is dated back to the Neolithic Age and the Lions Gate in the Acropolis of Mycenae was built as a dry wall around 1300 BC.
The Sun Gate is a steep climb from the city but those who scale it are rewarded with breathtaking views. Hiring a tour guide is advisable. The city was dedicated to Inti, their Sun God and their greatest deity. It is built in a high altitude, 7.972 ft to be exact, not only because it is a strategic position that afforded them safety but also because they believed that it will bring them closer to their God.
Experiencing the Inca civilization was memorable, as was the Peruvian people’s kindness and hospitality.