IN PICTURES - From Lima to Arequipa, the Pan-American route runs along the south coast of Peru, crossing some of the most arid and unique landscapes on the planet.
Published on 17/02/2017 at 14:52, updated on 03/03/2017 at 11:56 1/16 - In Peru, the Pan American route unrolls its 2,700 km of bitumen through arid landscapes beautiful: parched plains, dunes, cliffs plunging into the Pacific Ocean. Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 2/16 - La Réserve de Paracas, a raw and wild setting where the desert meets the ocean. Here, the playa El Rasponi. Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 3/16 - Since 1982, Giuseppe Orefici has been unearthing the various pyramids and buildings of the archaeological site of Cahuachi. This ceremonial center of the Nazca civilization (3rd century AD) has not yet revealed all of its mysteries. Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 4/16 - The Tambo Colorado site was one of those outposts that made the power of the Inca civilization. We worshiped the sun on the square framed by adobe buildings, once painted in red and now forgotten, except by wind and dust. Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 5/16 - There are many volcanoes around the city of Arequipa: the Misti (5,822 m) with the air of Fujiyama, the Chachani (6,075 m), sprinkled with eternal snow, the Pichu Pichu ( 5,664) ... Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 6/16 - The Salinas y Aguada Blanca reserve offers a summary of the Andes on a plateau that rises to more than 4,000 m. In a landscape of fragmented lawns of water or steppe, a herd of alpacas grazes on tufts of ichu (yellow grasses). Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 7/16 - Alpaca wool has been a raw material used for centuries in Peru. Considered by the Incas as the wool of the gods, this much more precious material than gold was exclusively reserved for emperors only. Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 8/16 - From Lima to Arequipa, the Pan-American road crosses immense desert plains from which small chapels sometimes emerge in the middle of nowhere. Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 9/16 - Facing the immensity of the Pacific Ocean, Lima, the Peruvian capital, wakes up gently under a twilight light ... Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 10/16 - Trendy break in a haven of luxury: the terrace of the Belmond Miraflores hotel offers an incredible panoramic view of Lima .... beware of vertigo! Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 11/16 - Carefully aligned at the foot of the cliffs, the flotilla of fishermen's boats in the small port of Caleta de Quilca. Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 12/16 - All in sillar (volcanic stone), the particularly imposing cathedral proudly displays its two bell towers on the Place d'Armes. All in sillar (volcanic stone), the cathedral of a particularly imposing size proudly displays its two bell towers on the Place d'Armes. Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 13/16 - A must-see place of vitality, the Arequipa fruit market offers an abundance of fruit. Here, colors and freshness are at the rendezvous. Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 14/16 - A true joy of colonial architecture, the convent of Santa Catalina has withstood many earthquakes. Considered one of the most important religious buildings in Peru, the convent is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 15/16 - Gastón Acurio, owner of the Chicha opened in 2009 this chic table from Arequipa which boldly revisits local specialties. Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine 16/16 - Located by the ocean, the Hacienda Bahia Paracas hotel invites visitors to the pleasures of idleness. Here, we surrender while contemplating the sunset. Stéphane Compoint / Figaro Magazine This content is not accessible. To access it, click here
From Peru, we especially know Machu Picchu, the Andean landscapes and the treasures of the Inca civilization. Is that all? South of Lima, the Pan-American route reveals a whole other side of the country. With her, let's embark on a lesson in history, geology and biology in the open air.
The site of Tambo Colorado, 270 km from Lima, was one of these outposts that made the power of the Inca civilization, from Cuzco to the borders of Patagonia. We worshiped the sun on the square framed by adobe buildings, once painted red and now forgotten, except by wind and dust.
This modest Inca vestige deserves to be stopped, because the territory which we approach later belongs to other pre-Columbian civilizations. The Paracas peninsula was in the hands of a people who knew their golden age long before the Incas, from 600 to 400 BC.
We found here mummified corpses wrapped in superb embroidered fabrics and endowed with elongated skulls, a deformation of an aesthetic nature. The peninsula has the most desolate face there is: a lunar desert heated to white by the sun, turning from yellow ocher to fiery red.
The Pacific Ocean breaks in big furious rollers, sweeping away any idea of swimming. As for the rain, it almost never falls on this corner of scorched earth, one of the driest places on the planet. However, since 1975 the Paracas peninsula has housed a national reserve of incredible wealth.
Pelicans, red-headed vulture, Inca terns, penguins, various boobies, mane seals It is known to Humboldt, coming from Antarctica, that we owe the presence of this plethora of fauna. Its cold, plankton-rich waters attract myriads of fish and as many predators. Among them, the Andean flamingos. General José de San Martín, liberator of Peru, would have given the Peruvian flag its red and white colors by seeing their scarlet wings in the bay of Paracas
This content is not accessible. To access it, click hereIntense and deep blue ochres: the desert meets the ocean on the Paracas peninsula. Pelicans, Inca terns, various boobies and mane seals mingle in this spectacular marine and ornithological sanctuary. Stephane Compoint for Figaro Magazine
The boat trip to the Ballestas Islands gives an idea of the abundance of food beneath the surface of the ocean. Hundreds of thousands of varied boobies, pelicans and cormorants from Bougainville colonized this archipelago, transforming the islets into white mountains of guano, the source of Peru's fortune in the 19th century. Under the natural arches carved out by erosion, nearly 2,000 sea lions bask in the sun.
70 km away, the Ica region contrasts with the surrounding desert. Orchards appear on all sides in an explosion of greenery. Mango, avocado, corn, cotton, potato, pecan are grown there. And the grape. Wineries welcome bodegas where you can taste the famous pisco, a brandy of wine consumed throughout Peru, but also red or white wines.
Our days are very hot, but our nights are cool thanks to the proximity of the ocean, which cools the Humboldt Current. This gives us a nice thermal amplitude, ideal for whites. In addition, being close to the equator, we have short days and long nights, which allows our vines to rest, explains Frédéric Thibaut.
This French oenologist who has passed through the Roasted Coast and Chile now works in the Tacama estate, one of the oldest and most renowned in the country. Two hundred and fifty hectares of vines surround this former Augustinian convent with the air of a hacienda. Peruvian wine improves from year to year.
We have tannats worthy of madirans! As for the pisco, formerly a tubular twist, it has grown enormously over the past ten years. Conquering, the vineyards of Tacama or the Queirolo estate extend to the foothills of the Andes. As ready to take the world by storm, after their neighbors in Chile and Argentina.
This content is not accessible. To access it, click here Petroglyphs over 1,000 years old cover the rocks of the Toro Muerto site. Stephane Compoint for Figaro Magazine
On leaving Ica, the desert regains its rights Huacachina looks like a mirage. It looks like a displaced Saharan oasis in the middle of Peru. High sand dunes set a small lagoon surrounded by palm trees. In the morning, we get up early to admire the sunrise and see its shadow over the sea of dunes. An equally striking spectacle at sunset.
The roar of buggies disturbs, alas, the silence. These machines zigzag at full speed to the top of the dunes, where tourists try their hand at sandboarding. Everyone here is trying to draw their line on the sand. But it is to other, much more important traces that the Pan-American takes us, a hundred kilometers further south.
Classified in 1994 as World Heritage by Unesco, the Nazca lines are among the most enigmatic human achievements. The road crosses the immense desert plain on which men have drawn, for more than a thousand years, straight lines and geometric, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures several kilometers long.
Impossible to observe these gigantic works from the ground. You have to fly over the parched plain, as the American scientist Paul Kosok did in 1939 for the first time. A strange bestiary drawn with stones between 500 BC and 600 to 700 AD appears suddenly in the vast basin of the Rio Grande de Nazca. A hummingbird drawn with a line, a 130 m wide condor, a spider, a monkey with a spiral tail, a character with the head of an astronaut, and countless geometric figures evoking a Malevich painting
This content is not accessible. To access it, click here. Further north, the Nazca civilization bequeathed to us its famous giant lines, drawn with stones, but also pyramids, like that of the ceremonial site of Cahuachi. Stephane Compoint for Figaro Magazine
By their size, quantity, diversity and extent (over 75,000 hectares), the geoglyphs of Nazca have no equivalent in the world. The extreme aridity of the climate allowed their excellent conservation. Archaeologists are still wondering about the meaning of these lines.
Everything has been said: astronomical calendar, race tracks, map representing the underground hydraulic network Giuseppe Orefici smiles in his goatee. This Italian archaeologist based in Nazca is used to fanciful hypotheses, like those of the American Jim Woodman, who imagined that the Nazcas had invented the balloon to verify the result of their work.
Geoglyphs were probably used for worshiping deities. During major ceremonies, hundreds of pilgrims could line up on the paths drawn by the stones. The Nazcas, a preincaic civilization, proceeded by reproducing figures on a large scale, as for a sewing pattern. Their work is considerable, and there are still many vestiges to discover in the region.
The Cahuachi ceremonial site is one of them. Since 1982, Giuseppe Orefici has been unearthing the various pyramids and buildings of this adobe pilgrimage center. When I arrived, the site was buried under the alluvium.
We could find there, almost intact, wonderful fabrics embroidered with bird feathers, decorated calabashes, gold and lapis lazuli bracelets, trophy heads that we wore on the belt In the center from the site stands the main pyramid, originally painted an intense red. All around, the remains of around forty temples with colonnades.
The farmers came from the Andes to make offerings to the gods, especially the orca and the feline. The great pilgrimages welcomed thousands of people. Rome, in 300 BC, was smaller than Cahuachi, slips Giuseppe Orefici mischievously. In the 5th century, devastating rains, due to the El Niño phenomenon, triggered rivers of mud. Cahuachi was razed, as well as part of the Nazca geoglyphs. A civilization of water drowned in the rain
This content is not accessible. To access it, click hereOne of the driest places on the planet is suddenly green in the fertile and agricultural valley of the Majes river. Stephane Compoint for Figaro Magazine
On leaving the city, the Cantalloc site offers a unique spectacle, too: that of spiral wells, spaced at regular intervals. Farmers used underground canals to irrigate their plots of crops. The water is still flowing there, straight from the Andes mountain range.
The large stone spirals were dug to allow the water to oxygenate properly and to access the galleries for their maintenance. Not far from there is the Cerro Blanco dune, the highest in the world: 2,078 m of sand and no buggy to disturb its silence.
Offerings have been found on this mountain, sacred since time immemorial. You need good legs (and lots of bottles of water) to climb it before the heat of the day. The condors hover over this vertical sandy desert: 1,176 m of elevation.
Back to the horizontal on the Pan American road. The ribbon of bitumen spins across the desert towards Camana, pushing the horizon ever further. When the ocean appears, foaming with rage, we do not know which is more hostile: the slaps of sand or the murderous waves.
The dunes soon form high cliffs plunging into the sea. The cornice route plays the girls of the air, descends into the verdant rice valley of Ocoña, crosses sandy villages and fishing ports where has as many pelicans and sea lions as fishermen. Two hours from Camana, the Majes valley shelters the astonishing site of Toro Muerto (of the dead bull).
On a desert mountain slope, the Huaris and their successors, from 600 to 1350 AD, engraved in the volcanic tuff more than 5,000 drawings: pumas, condors, snakes, camelids, parrots, dancers masked
This content is not accessible. To access it, click here Peru is home to the largest population of vicuñas, these camelids known for the finesse of their wool. Stephane Compoint for Figaro Magazine
For centuries, nobody seems to have been interested in this Peruvian Valley of Wonders: the site was only discovered in 1951. In a lunar landscape, one moves among the engraved rocky blocks as in a treasure hunt. In the absence of any interpretive sign and any visitor, we could believe ourselves the first archaeologist to discover the site.
Here, a giant snake runs the length of a rock. There, dancers seem to call the rain, represented in the form of a zigzag. Each drawing was engraved by scraping the rock or by striking it with a lava stone. The site was undoubtedly an important pilgrimage center on the route of sacred volcanoes, like that of Coropuna (6,377 m).
Volcanoes It is towards them that the Pan American route soon takes us, which we leave shortly before arriving in Arequipa. The country's second city was founded by the Spanish conquistadors in 1540 in a region exposed to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes (the last dates back to 2001).
A string of volcanoes surrounds the city: the Misti (5,822 m) with the air of Fujiyama, the Chachani (6,075 m), sprinkled with eternal snow, the Pichu Pichu (5,664 m) The white city, built in sillar (white volcanic tuff), has withstood the earthquakes that shook it surprisingly well.
After the harsh desert, the old colonial city appears as a peak of civilization. The small center, around the Place d'Armes, is full of cloisters, monasteries, churches and houses built in a surprising Baroque Métis style. On the facade of the Compañia church, baroque ornaments, angels and figures of Christian saints rub shoulders with pre-Columbian elements: cocoa beans, condor heads or preinca masks. Two universes united in the local sillar.
The islands of Lake Titicaca and the dizzying depths of the Colca canyon are not far away, but the nearby Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve offers us a glimpse of the Andes on a plateau - which peaks at more than 4,000 m. In the shade of the Chachani, herds of vicuñas and alpacas graze the tufts of ichu (yellow grass) in a landscape of lawns divided into water or, more frequently, steppe.
This content is not accessible. To access it, click hereJoyau d'Arequipa, colonial city classified by Unesco, the convent of Santa Catalina has withstood many earthquakes. Nearly 200 nuns lived there in the 18th century. Today, we admire its courtyards with colorful arcades and its maze of alleys, fountain plots and flower gardens under the eye of the Chachani volcano. Stephane Compoint for Figaro Magazine
It is impossible to confuse these two camelids: the graceful vicuña, a protected wild species, has a caramel coat of incomparable finesse and sweetness; the domesticated alpaca evokes a plush thanks to its thick woolen fabric. Under her Andean hat, the shepherdess Tecla walks the plateau with her 120 lamas and alpacas. Its huaraca (slingshot) sometimes helps it keep foxes and pumas away. She lives in a cottage covered with ichu, speaks Quechua and prays the Pachamama (Mother Earth), the apu (deity of the mountain), Saint James and the Virgin all at the same time. You couldn't be more Peruvian
And there is nothing more Peruvian than Gastón Acurio. This chef opened a good table in Arequipa (Chicha) but it is in Lima that we meet him. If the Peruvian capital has become, in twenty years, a high place of gastronomy, it is to this talkative and jovial man that it owes it. After training in France, Gastón Acurio created his restaurant in 1994.
I served what I had learned at home: foie gras terrines and lamb navarin! Little by little, I discovered the incredible terroir of Peru and its gastronomic culture. Amazonian fruits, Pacific fish, countless varieties of potatoes, peppers unique in the world
Here, the difficulty is not finding the right product, it's choosing it, he laughs at the table of his mother restaurant, Astrid y Gastón. Leader of a generation of cooks capable of sublimating a cuy (guinea pig) or a lean ceviche, he now has around forty establishments, from Miami to Bogotá and from Paris to Buenos Aires. The media of the whole world have eyes only for this exotic, generous, surprising neoandine cuisine. Peru? It's just beginning, warns the chef with a big smile.
This content is not accessible. To access it, click hereTecla alone keeps her herd of llamas and alpacas in the Salinas y Aguada Blanca national reserve. Stephane Compoint for Le Figaro MagazineTravel diaryUseful
Peru Tourist Office. Other information via Express Conseil, the public relations agency of Peru in France which represents PromPerú, the entity responsible for the promotion and image of the country.
With Air France (36.54), the only airline which flies directly to Peru from France (from Roissy-CDG) with 3 to 5 rotations per week (to which are added the 7 weekly flights offered by KLM to aboard its Boeing 777s with new generation seats, via Amsterdam). Note: the company's agreements with Lan and Taca open up service to domestic destinations such as Cuzco. Count from 698 the round trip in Economy.
With Etendues Sauvages (01.77.37.03.10). Creator of tailor-made trips since 2002, this tour operator offers a superb itinerary Peru in all its states with on the program: Lima, the legendary Nazca lines, the Ballestas Islands, the Colca canyon, the colonial cities of Arequipa and Cuzco, Lake Titicaca and the unmissable Machu Picchu, among others. A discovery of the largest sites in Peru while respecting the environment. 18 days / 16 nights in a double room and half-board, from 5,800 per person. Price from Paris, transport with driver and private French-speaking guide service included.
In Lima, the Belmond Miraflores Park (00.511.610.4000). This 5 star hotel nicely overlooks the Pacific coast in the peaceful Miraflores district. Gourmet restaurant, spa, gym and pleasant rooftop pool. From 341 in double room with breakfast.
In Paracas, the Hotel Paracas (00.511.518.6500). It has allure, this 5 star hotel on the edge of Paracas bay. The bungalows are arranged in a green park, among palm trees and bougainvillea. The plus: the cevicheria on the white pontoon above the water. From 232 with breakfast.
La Hacienda Bahía Paracas (00.511.213.1010). This waterfront hotel is also more traditional and has a beautiful central swimming pool. Ideal for relaxing after visiting the Paracas National Reserve. Tennis, spa, bar and restaurant. From 242 with breakfast.
In Ica, the Hotel Viñas Queirolo (00.511.261.3772). A delightful hotel with the air of an old hacienda, decorated with objects from the colonial era. Choose the pool side rooms. Good table overlooking the vines (23). From 220 to 258.
In Nazca, the Nuevo Cantalloc (00.51.056.522264). This former colonial hacienda now houses a slightly dated but spacious hotel with a large park where llamas, alpacas and ostriches roam. Big pool. 186 with breakfast.
In Arequipa, Casa Andina (00.511.213.9700). The best hotel in Arequipa occupies a beautiful historic building from the 18th century, right in the city center. Elegant paved courtyard, carved cornices. Unfortunately, the rooms do not have as much cachet. Spa, restaurant. From 307 with breakfast.
In Lima, Astrid & amp; Gastón (442.2777). The unmissable address of Gastón Acurio! Taste the seafood tiradito (or its vegetable version, Michel Bras style) with your eyes and taste buds. For dessert, the chocolate bomb explodes the flavors. Tasting menus at 65 and 107.
Costanera 700 (421.7508). Japanese cuisine has strongly influenced local gastronomy. The proof in this excellent restaurant, renowned for its salt-crusted bar. Around 37.
In Arequipa, Zig Zag (206.020). Under beautiful old vaults, the Swiss chef Michel Hediger serves Peruvian meats pierrades, röstis prepared with local tubers, fondues of local cheese, rack of lamb from the Altiplano and quinoa risottos. The happy marriage of Peru and Switzerland! Count 21.50, wine included.
La Benita (943.400.148). A picanteria (typical establishment in Arequipa) run by a young, dynamic chef. You can enjoy rocotto relleno (stuffed rocotto pepper covered with cheese), cuy chactao (fried guinea pig) and above all a delicious camarone chupe (crayfish soup). To sprinkle with chicha morada (fermented purple corn drink). Count 15.
Viñas Queirolo (261.3772). Another Ica estate renowned for its pisco and Intipalka wines (merlot, malbec, syrah). Tasting and visit to the vineyards during the harvest.
La garúa, a very humid mist, covers the coast from May to September, thus depriving it of sunshine. Beware of mountain sickness (soroche), which affects around 15% of visitors at an altitude of 2,000 m, and 60% at 4,000 m.
The fabulous riches of Peru Peru, the dreamed Amazon The Eldorado and the lost city of the Incas Peru, the luxury version adventure This content is not accessible. To access it, click here