A trip to Peru has been on my bucket list for quite a while. It was finally time for me to visit the country home to the remarkable Machu Picchu – the ancient Incan city built in the 15th-century and generally the first landmark people think of when they hear “Peru.” This is also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World!
Here in Peru, there was so much to discover that it was extremely difficult to cover all of it in one post! This country had me lost for words with the stunning ancient ruins and incredible experiences it gave me.
A Memorable Trip to Peru
Peru is famously known as the “land of the Incas.” In fact, at its peak, this Inca Empire was one of the largest known in the world, with Cusco being the most important city. Another fact I came across was that three-quarters of the world’s Alpaca population lives in Peru, which I can attest to (there were many during my Lares Trek)!
But there was so much more to Peru than just sightseeing. The people and culture I discovered there were among the most interesting I had ever encountered, but I won’t spoil that here. Let’s start my trip to Peru with day one, where this breathtaking journey began. I am travelling with G Adventures on this trip to Peru and it is one of many tours you can take in South America.
If you are looking for help planning your next trip, check out my travel resource guide.
Day 1 – Lima
My first day started in Lima, the capital of Peru. This bustling city lies on the country’s Pacific coast and is home to abundant art, culture, and historical significance. Some people call this city the “gateway” into Peru, but as a destination in itself, this was a beautiful place.
Touring with G Adventures
I met with the G Adventures representative here about the tour. G Adventures is a company founded in 1990 that helps you to connect with other like-minded individuals in small group-based travel adventures. They definitely played a big part in helping to make Peru a memorable and cherished experience for me! This is the tour that I did on this trip to Peru.
They offer a range of travel deals and styles for individuals seeking an experience that aligns with their interests and preferences, including destinations all over the world from Asia and Europe to Africa and the Arctic. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to go with G Adventures is because their tours directly benefit the people and places they visit, which you’ll learn more about later in this post. I really enjoy the active tours which involve some trekking. I also did the Tour du Mont Blanc with G Adventures.
In Lima, my representative discussed the details of my tour, and I met with the group I would be traveling with. I also had the opportunity to explore Lima in my own time, with optional activities, including a city tour, show, cooking class, biking tour, and more.
Day 2 – Cusco
Day two had me hopping on a flight from Lima to Cusco, where I was able to enjoy another free day of shopping and exploring. There are so many things to do in Cusco! There were more tours and classes available here, but the main reason for spending a day or two in Cusco was to acclimatize to the altitude.
As we were ascending to such high altitudes, acclimatizing becomes essential to avoid altitude sickness. This allowed us to adjust to the change of environment instead of rushing in – there was no way I wanted to end up sick on my first few days! I had heard of many stories where trips were canceled due to altitude sickness becoming too much to bear.
I was determined to reach the wonder of Machu Pichu, so I was happy to spend a day exploring Cusco and its sights. Believe me when I say that you’ll be glad you got a chance to experience this beautiful city.
Cusco was once the capital of the Inca Empire. Today, it’s famous for its archaeological remains and architecture, with many fascinating buildings, ruins, and carved stonework. It’s also renowned as a city for its talented artists and artisans, with endless paintings, ceramics, clothing, traditional instruments, and many more hand-crafted items. If shopping for unique, ancient gifts interests you, you won’t be disappointed here!
The sights and crafts aren’t the only interesting parts of Cusco. It also has an amazing culinary experience with world-class restaurants and delicious food choices. Plus, the nightlife is considered magical! There’s something for everyone in this city.
A special thank you to Brendan Williams for joining me on this trip and taking photos.
Day 3 – Ollantaytambo
Day three led me to Ollantaytambo, where I got to enjoy a full-day guided tour of the Sacred Valley. G Adventures definitely provided some memorable moments, including:
Ccaccaccollo Community & Women’s Weaving Co-Op Visit
I got to witness local weaving and dyeing techniques that are used to create unique garments and souvenirs, plus an educated experience on how the Planeterra weaving co-op has impacted the community.
Cuyo Chico Pottery Making Demonstration
The rural Cuyo Chico village inside the Sacred Balley is where a group of joined families have a business based on traditional ceramic crafts, with clay used from their surroundings to craft bowls, plates, and more. This was incredibly fascinating to watch, and afterward, we were able to purchase the items directly from the artisans!
Parwa Community Restaurant – The Sacred Valley
This G Aventures experience allowed me to contribute to sustainable tourism by eating at the Parwa Community Restaurant. Here, I also learned how the restaurant was kickstarted by G Adventures and the Multilateral Investment Fund. Today, they are a successful farm-to-table program!
After these G Adventures experiences, I finished up with the Ollantaytambo Storehouse Ruins and Hike, which definitely got my blood pumping! This steep hike up to Pinkuylluna Incan storehouses gave a phenomenal view of the Sacred Valley and was well worth the trip.
You can watch my Peru trip vlog below or on YouTube directly for better quality.
Day 4-6 – Lares Trek + Aguas Calientes
Day four had us starting the Lares Trek, a scenic and less-touristy hiking route through the Andes. While it was a day shorter than the Inca trail, it was higher in elevation and quite challenging. Along the way, G Adventures provided handmade biodegradable soap products for us to use, which I found awesome!
You can read my full blog post about the Lares Trek with more detail HERE.
For the first part of this trek, we camped at the Cuncani Community Campsite, which had an altitude of 3,872m (12,703ft)! This campsite was owned and managed by 71 families of the Cuncani community, of which the earnings were allocated for health, education, nutrition, and infrastructure projects.
Day five was an early start to hike from the foothills of Sicllaccasa Mountain to its high pass at 4,750m (15,583ft). The scenic views along this route were unbelievable, with stunning lagoons and the snow-capped Chicon Mountain leaving me speechless.
After we reached the highest point, we celebrated by making an offering of coca leaves to the Andean gods. Then, we hiked downhill to QuencaPata for lunch, and then down to our second campsite near a lovely stream. That night, I slept at an elevation of 4,114m (13,497ft).
Lares Trek Altitude Tips
- Arrive a couple days early to get used to the altitude. We spent a few days in Cusco before beginning the Lares Trek.
- Drink lots of water…but watch what water you drink. Bottled or boiled water is the safest. You don’t want to feel sick while hiking!
- Drink coca tea or chew coca leaves. You find these everywhere and it is a known remedy for altitude sickness.
- Before the trip, get a prescription for Daimox. It really helps a lot with the altitude sickness
At day six of the Lares Trek, I got to enjoy a few more hours of hiking and exploring the Andean flora and fauna, including Llamas and Alpacas. We descended through the valley of Pumahuanca, met local Quechua people who were very friendly, and also witnessed some old Inca storehouses. After reaching the town of Pumahuanca, our group traveled by van to Ollantaytambo and then via train to Aguas Calientes, where we were granted a good night’s rest at the hotel. It was well-deserved, for sure!
Day 7 – Machu Picchu
The day finally came where I got to see one of the New Seven Wonders of the World! Day seven had me enjoying a lovely guided visit to Machu Picchu at sunrise. I had free time to explore these ruins on my own as well as with my guide. I could also optionally walk up to the Sun Gate or Inca Bridge to take a closer look at the remarkable architecture.
You can read my full Machu Picchu guide with all the details HERE.
It was a lot to take in. I had to stop for a moment and soak up the energy of such an ancient site – I couldn’t fathom that an ancient civilization once lived and thrived here, hundreds of years ago. This place was made up of more than 150 buildings, ranging from baths to temples to houses.
One of the most astonishing facts I learned was that although most of the stones used for building the city weighed over 50 pounds, researchers believe that no wheels were used to transport them. Instead, it’s thought that hundreds of men accomplished the task themselves up the steep mountainside!
While most Inca cities were destroyed by the Spanish conquest, Machu Picchu is one of the most well-preserved Inca cities because of its hidden location invisible from below.
The history here was incredible, and the local guide was most informative. I gained plenty of local insight into the Inti Mach’ay cave, Inti Watana, the Temple of the Water, the Temple of the Condor, and the Room of the Three Windows. I will never forget my time here for as long as I live!
After my Machu Picchu experience, our group returned to Cusco.
Day 8 – Back To Lima
On Day eight, I was flying back to Lima from Cusco and spending my last night in this beautiful city. I had free time to go to the market, eat at a cafe, or do whatever else interested me. I found that the amount of free time given by G Adventures was just perfect, allowing me to plan some of my own experiences that I wanted to include.
If you go with this tour and missed out on any activities from Lima before (on day one), you can consider doing them on this last day, such as a city tour or even a horse show. Don’t let the day go to waste – find something that would appeal to you and go for it!
Day 9 – Flight Home
When day nine rolled around, it was time to fly home, concluding my trip with G Adventures and Peru, and given the chance, there was no doubt in mind that I would jump at the opportunity to do it all again.
My Peru experience wouldn’t have been possible without G Adventures providing such a memorable time. Everything was well-organized, and I felt completely safe in their hands.
If Machu Picchu isn’t on your bucket list, I strongly recommend adding it, because it was, without a doubt, a dream come true. Concealed high up in the mountains and only discovered officially in 1911, this ancient architecture and lost civilization is something one can only truly enjoy in person – the photos simply don’t do it justice. Take it from my experience!
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Bella Bucchiotti of xoxoBella is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for recipes, dogs, sustainability, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.
Bella Bucchiotti is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer for MSN and the Associated Press Wire.