After months of anticipation, my trip to Peru finally came and went. But what an exceptional experience it was! This was my first escorted tour and the first time I’ve traveled with my sister since we backpacked across Europe in 1998. Over the next several weeks I will be posting more in-depth stories about the various locations we visited, the people we had the opportunity to meet, and the interesting cultural similarities and differences we encountered.
I can’t say enough good things about Gate 1 Travel, the tour operator we chose for our visit to Peru. Everything was planned to a tee. Gate 1 arranged the flights from (and returning to) Los Angeles, the intra-Peru flights (from Lima to Cuzco and from Juliaca back to Lima), the comfortable motor coaches between the other cities and for the daily sightseeing, many of the meals, and the transfers to and from the airport. All of our hotels were top quality, as were the local guides provided for each destination. The trip wouldn’t have been the same if it weren’t for our amazing tour manager, Elvis. He was incredibly knowledgeable in all facets of Peruvian history and culture, plus had a great sense of humor. (In Peru, you need to attend university and must be certified to be a tour guide.) Another great aspect of this tour package was all of the great people we met. There were a wide range of ages represented: a grandfather and his ten-year old grandson, a couple on their thirtieth wedding anniversary, a handful of thirty-somethings, and several retirees. A guy on the tour proposed to his girlfriend at the top of Machu Picchu. (She said yes.)
Besides all of the spectacular cities and sights we visited, we did many things not listed in the brochure. In the Sacred Valley, we stopped at a roadside bar for some chicha (home made corn beer) and on the way to Lake Titicaca, we visited a remote elementary school, high in the Andes, to meet the children. We had the opportunity to give them simple school supplies like pencils and notebooks. It felt so rewarding to see the smiles on their faces when they received these mundane items, things you and I take for granted.
Another big surprise about Peru was the amazing food. Before this trip, I had no idea what to expect. It turns out that Peru is highly regarded for it’s cuisine and Lima is one of the world’s culinary capitals. I let my sense of adventure guide me as I tasted everything from cuy (guinea pig), alpaca and Peruvian tamales bought from street vendors to coca tea and pisco sour, the national cocktail. More on the food from Peru later…
My trip to Peru was extraordinary and will never be forgotten. I highly recommend visiting this diverse and colorful country. I’ll share more stories, photos, and experiences soon.
Below was our itinerary, so you can see how well planned each day was:
Have you ever been to Peru before? What were your thoughts? Feel free to comment in the section below!