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The Incan kings made some sound decisions when it came to choosing a home for their empire. Peru is a country built on the foundations of mystical ancient civilizations, with the rugged mountains of the Andes, the lush rainforests of the Amazon, bountiful wildlife, palm-treed desert oases, coastal beaches and a rich and thriving contemporary Latin culture. For the traveler, it offers a little of everything and for the history enthusiast, it represents a magical journey into the past.

Peru is such a unique destination, that it can be even better the second time around. Rutahsa Adventures (tel. 931/520-7047; www.rutahsa.com), purveyors of unique Latin American tours, is offering a new specialized tour to Peru, geared towards those who may have already been to Cusco and Machu Picchu and are looking for a more in-depth cultural experience. "The Ancient Cultures of Northern Peru" tour will begin on May 23, 2006, but like most Rutahsa trips, this one will undoubtedly sell out, so you may wish to book early to secure your place.

Northern Peru abounds in stunning Andean scenery and fewer tourists. For archaeology and anthropology buffs, this trip is second to none in its attention to detail and opportunity to visit isolated yet culturally significant sacred sites featuring a multitude of pyramids, temples and tombs.

On this 14-day adventure, visit the city of Huaraz, the Baños Termales (natural hot springs baths) in the village of Monterrey, Yungay, Llanganuco lakes, the town of Trujillo (home to two famous pre-Columbian cultures, the Moche and the Chimu), the beach resort town of Huanchaco, Chiclayo, the town of Chachapoyas (home to the mysterious cloud people), Leymebamba, the spectacular valley of the Río Marañón, Marañón River, Celendín and Cajamarca.

Archaeological highlights (and there are many) include Chavín de Huantar (home to the oldest known pre-Incan civilization in Peru), Sechín (and circumstances permitting, the "Great Wall of Peru"), the great pyramids of Huaca de la Luna and Huaca del Sol (the largest pre-Columbian structure in South America dated from 600-400 BC), Chan Chan (capital of the Chimu kingdom), T¿cume (the infamous site of Sip¿n, considered the Tutankhamen tomb of Latin America and the New World's richest unlooted tomb), the National Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sip¿n in Chiclayo, a horse ride up to the citadel of Kuelap (a pre-Inca mountain fortress), the ruins of Molinete, the pre-Inca remains near Cajamarca (and the site of tragic downfall of the Incan Empire at the hand of the conquistadors), the ancient stone aqueducts of Cumbe Mayo, and Las Ventanas de Otuzco (The Windows of Otuzco), a necropolis of niches carved into volcanic cliff faces.

This special trip is priced at $1,922 per person (with 10 to 12 participants) or the price will come down to $1,778 per person if 13 to 16 travelers participate (land-only). This price includes all hotels (double occupancy rooms), airport transfers, ground transportation, domestic airfare from Cajamarca to Lima, entry fees, bilingual guide service, and various meals (continental breakfasts at most hotels and picnic lunches on certain outings). A single supplement of $235 applies. Airfare to Lima is additional. For a fully detailed itinerary of this trip, visit www.rutahsa.com/peru-06-n.html.

Upon returning to Lima, trip participants who wish to continue on to Cusco and the heart of the Inca Empire may also sign up for Rutahsa Adventures' "Cultural Adventure in the Inca Empire and keshwa chaca Excursion" starting the following day (June 6, 2006). This trip features visits to Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and the mysterious Machu Picchu with an extra special excursion to view the annual rebuilding of the last remaining Inca straw suspension bridge (the keshwa chaca). This trip is priced at $2,025 (for 10 to 12 participants) or $1,927 (for 13 to 16 people). Rutahsa can also arrange extensions for travelers who wish to fly over the Nasca Lines, hike the Inca Trail, or visit the Peruvian Amazon.

If you're after a brief Peruvian interlude taking in the famed Machu Picchu, Latin America 4 Less (tel. 800/480-0707; www.latinamerica4less.com) has a few perfect short getaways. The Machu Picchu "Lost City of The Incas" tour includes round-trip International airfare, round-trip plane ticket from Lima to Cusco, one-night hotel accommodations in Lima, two-nights in Cusco and one in Machu Picchu, all transfers and tours as per itinerary, daily breakfast and various other meals as per itinerary. This package is priced at $1,069 from Miami, $1,239 from New York or $1,119 from Los Angeles with a single supplement of $148. Trips depart on October 27, November 10 and November 30, 2005, February 16 and March 16, 2006.

The "Great Peru Experience" tour is a six-day adventure that takes you to Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu, Puno, and Juliaca. This package is priced at $1,415 from Miami, $1,585 from New York or $1,465 from Los Angeles with a $235 single supplement. Tours depart daily and include round-trip International airfare, flights from Lima to Cusco and Juliaca to Lima, one-night hotel accommodations in Lima, two-nights in Cusco, one-night in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) and two nights in Puno, all transfer as per itinerary, half-day guided City tour in Cusco and nearby ruins, full-day Machu Picchu Tour, train transportation, guided excursions to the Uros Islands in Titicaca Lake and to Sillustani in Puno and daily breakfasts.

The eight-night "Peru Enigmatic" tour features visits to Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Puno and Juliaca. The package includes round-trip International airfare, flights from Lima to Cusco and Juliaca to Lima, eight-nights hotel accommodations (two-nights in Lima, two-nights in Cusco, one-night in the Sacred Valley, one-night in Aguas Calientes and two-nights in Puno), all transfers as per itinerary, half-day guided tour of Cusco and nearby ruins, half-day guided tour at Machu Picchu, half day guided tour of Lake Titicaca, daily breakfast and meals as per itinerary. This trip is priced at $1,676 from Miami, $1,846 from New York or $1,726 from Los Angeles with a $336 single supplement. Tours depart on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.

Each of these tours must be booked by October 31, 2005.

Gate One Travel (tel.800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) is featuring a discounted nine-day Peru Inca Special from $699 per person plus taxes. The package includes round-trip flights from Miami to Lima with Lan Peru (other departure cities available for additional cost), round-trip flights from Lima to Cusco, seven-nights hotel accommodations (three in Lima and four in Cusco), all transfers, seven breakfasts and one dinner, sightseeing in air-conditioned modern motor coach, services of English speaking local guides and entrance fees per itinerary. This price is valid for departures on January 10, February 14, March 14, April 11 and May 23, 2006. Other departure dates available for additional cost. Add $171 from New York, Philadelphia or Boston, and $259 from Chicago. Bookings must be completed by December 28, 2005.

Intra Tours (tel. 800/334-8069; www.intratours.com), discount flight specialists to Latin America, currently has the following deals from various cities to Lima:

  • Miami: $440
  • Atlanta: $582
  • Detroit: $597
  • San Francisco: $631
  • Boston: $653
  • New York: $673

Taxes are additional. Monday to Thursday departures with a Saturday night stay required (maximum 90-day stay). Valid for travel from now until December 9, 2005 and from January 14 to March 31, 2006.

For more information about traveling in Peru, visit www.peru.org.pe/defaulteng.htm and www.frommers.com/destinations/peru.

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