I recently traveled to Peru with Under30Experiences a company that specializes in group travel for young adults. It was an 8-day trip with stays in Lima, Cusco and Ollantaytambo before we went on to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. You can click here if you’d like to hear about my experience on the trail but in this post, I’m going to talk about the first half of our trip.
We arrived in Lima after about 15 hours of overnight travel and had a groggy breakfast and not enough cups of coffee before venturing out to Plaza San Martin. From there, we walked to the Plaza de Armas, Lima’s main square.
We had a peek inside the massive Cathedral but didn’t spend a lot of time because Sunday mass was going on.
Around 11:00am, we watched the changing of the guards at the Presidential Palace. It was slightly underwhelming compared to the pomp and circumstance of the changing the guards at Buckingham Palace in London but still interesting to see.
For lunch, I had my first true Peruvian meal. *nom* I can honestly say I didn’t have a single dish the entire trip that I didn’t love. Lots of potatoes, beans, rice, meat. The good stuff. I even ate Alpaca, which was also very tasty, you just can’t think about how cute they are.
Later in the trip we would learn how to make a Pisco Sour, the classic Peruvian cocktail. It contains pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, and bitters and because of the lime it tastes a little like a margarita.
The next day, we flew into Cusco which sits at about 11,000 ft and we began to acclimate to the altitude. I had never been at such a high altitude before and I could tell it was making me fatigued and giving me a slight headache. I found that coca tea eased my headache. A cup of coca tea is a mild stimulant just like a normal cup of tea or coffee.
Coca leaves are illegal in most countries outside of South America because they contain alkaloids which are the source for cocaine. But the coca leaf has a strong cultural presence in Peru and carries spiritual and medicinal significance. Maybe it was the placebo affect but it seemed to be the only thing that helped my altitude sickness.
We took a mini hike up to San Cristobal Church to get the full view of Cusco and then meandered down to Cusco’s Plaza de Armas where all the action is: the Cathedral, restaurants, and shopping.
As we ventured out to the countryside, we stopped to visit our first Inca ruins called Moray. These massive tiered bowl-shaped things were used by the Incas to farm at a high altitude. I was a little winded walking down to the bottom and back up which made me nervous for the impending 4-day hike we were about to make to Machu Picchu.
They then drove us on some very precarious roads to a small village in Chinchero. The greeting we received from the people was overwhelming and humbling. They grab our hands and we all danced as they showered us in flowers and hugs. It was a surreal moment. We didn’t speak the same language but their excitement was contagious and I had a goofy grin on my face the entire time.
We learned about how they farm and even trekked out to a field to harvest potatoes. I was a much better gatherer than I was a harvester.
We also learned about how they create their own textiles. The amount of time spent spooling, dying and weaving is mind-blowing compared what a machine can do. Four months to create the average poncho but their work is impeccable and you can tell they take immense pride in it.
It was such an amazing day that Under30Experiences had organized for us. We were rewarded with true cultural immersion and hopefully we helped the village by putting some of our tourist dollars directly into their pockets.
After we had hiked the Inca Trail, we flew back to Lima from Cusco. Lima’s airport is relatively small and we had about 7 hours to kill before the American Airlines counter would even open for us to check in. My travel buddy Lindsay was a genius and decided to check out the hotel attached to the airport. Getting a room was too expensive to be justifiable for only 7 hours but at the spa you could enjoy beds, jacuzzis and saunas for around $50. We also had pizza delivered to our beds because…why not.
Our 8 days in Peru had been a whirlwind of activity and I can’t think of any other trip I’ve taken that went by so quickly. We did and saw more than I could have ever planned on my own. If you’re wary about navigating a foreign country alone or don’t have the time to plan the logistics of a trip, I could not recommend Under30Experiences enough.
I also encourage you to look into a trip to Peru. I fell in love with this country and it’s people and wish that everyone had the opportunity to visit this beautiful place.