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Peru Beyond Machu Picchu

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© Getty Images Night falling on the Plaza de Armas in the historic center of Arequipa, Peru (photo via DC_Columbia / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

By Harvey Chipkin, TravelPulse

There’s a whole world of possibilities in Peru beyond the world-renowned destinations of Cuzco and Machu Picchu, UNESCO World Heritage sites in the southern part of the country.

That is the message from Sandra Doig, deputy director of PromPeru, the national tourist office, speaking to TravelPulse during a visit to the U.S. She said the country works extensively with the trade, which is familiar with those much-visited places, but she is aiming to get across Peru’s deep tourism product that features Culture, Adventure and Nature.

Doig said almost 600,000 visitors visit Peru from the U.S. annually with a 2 percent increase in 2017; the average stay is 11 days.

To highlight its attractions, Peru last year launched “Peru: The Richest Country” -- with the message that visitors to the country can enrich themselves experientially.

The official was in New York recently in connection with Peru Restaurant Week (October 8 to 19) which will have 10 Peruvian restaurants in the city promoting the country with discounted travel packages, a sweepstakes for a trip and other incentives. “We hope that while they are in these restaurants, they will get a sense of place that will inspire to travel to Peru itself,” said Doig.

Gastronomy, she said, has become a key part of the country’s appeal as national and regional cuisines that combine influences from Spain, Japan, China, Africa and elsewhere along with the nation’s long history dating back to the Incas.

Doig said at least one respected review system showed Peru boasting the two best restaurants in Latin America, as well as two of the 10 best in the world. The birthplace of the potato, the country grows no fewer than 3,500 varieties; and it also cultivates the most varieties of chili pepper in the world at 300.

Peru’s tourism infrastructure is strong and continues to develop, according to Doig. She said there are about 100 direct flights from the U.S. weekly (from nine gateways) and that the lodging infrastructure is solid and continues to grow. Major brands are in place around the country as well as locally operated accommodations. About half of visitors said Doig, travel as part of tours while about half travel independently in a country that most perceive as safe.

It’s easy to get around as well, said Doig, including to destinations in the north to visit places like Arequipa, home to another UNESCO World Heritage site. That city hosts the annual Hay Festival, a literary and arts event that is a spinoff of the famed Hay-on-Wye Festival in Wales.

Choices are plentiful on the soft adventure front as well, said Doig, including: glamping (luxury camping) in the Andes, kayaking, birdwatching and much more. Other options are the Belmond Andean Explorer luxury sleeper train, river cruises on the Amazon and a Pisco trail where visitors can visit producers of the national spirit.

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