Mary Miers visited the lesser-known side of Peru for a lesson in relaxation. She found nature reserves, geoglyphs and a jolly good pisco sour.
Where better to sit sipping a pisco sour than watching a Peruvian Paso horse perform its extraordinary four-beat ‘swimming’ gait surrounded by a vineyard and the oldest working distillery in the Americas in a coastal valley of the Ica region of Peru?
Founded in 1684, La Caravedo includes a stable complex, the padrón’s arcaded house with chapel under the shade of a 200-year-old weeping fig tree and five colonial-style bungalows available to rent. For all the productivity of this beautiful hacienda, where grapes are grown, harvested and pressed, their juices fermented, distilled and bottled with varieties of Peru’s national spirit, my lasting memory is of the peace. Hours spent reading by the pool, wandering the vineyards or riding through the estate are disturbed only by the call of the cuculí (the Pacific dove) or a horse’s whinnying.
The owners have restored the historic distillery and established a $64 million state-of-the-art complex nearby. Guests can sign up for a tour of the ‘techno-artisanal’ production – the ancient buildings still function; the new ones replicate the traditional process using modern equipment – and sample the full range of La Caravedo’s award-winning piscos, which are among the world’s finest.
A two-night stay for two people in a poolside bungalow on a full-board basis with Aracari Travel (www.aracari.com) starts at $1,200 (£978). Price includes cocktails, a guided tour of the distillery and pisco tasting, plus a Paso horse show and ride
While you’re there
Visit the astonishing Nasca Lines, a pattern of geoglyphs covering 170 square miles carved into the arid coastal terrain. Dating from 200bc to 600ad, they were first seen from a commercial flight in 1926 and remain one of the world’s great mysteries.
Explore the Ballestas Islands to see Humboldt penguins, sea lions, fur seals, Inca terns and other Pacific marine life. (The islands’ nitrate-rich guano, used as fertiliser, gave rise to the 19th-century guano boom).
Go on a trail ride on a Peruvian Paso horse with a guide.
Visit Paracas National Reserve, Peru’s only marine reserve, with amazing landscapes, rocky outcrops and magnificent beaches along its coastal deserts, as well as flamingos and an abundance of bird life.
In Lima, visit the trendy former colonial seaside resort of Barranco. Here, stay at Villa Barranco, a 1920s republican house restored as a boutique hotel; eat hearty Creole dishes with a modern twist at Isolina (Lima is world famous for its fusion cuisine); try Tostaduria Bisetti for superb coffee and Crem dela Crem for the best artisan ice cream. For culture in Barranco, visit Mario Testino’s house museum and the Museo Pedro de Osma. If you want to shop, don’t miss Artesanías Las Pallas, an Aladdin’s cave of folk art and craftsmanship.
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