South America, and Peru in particular, have long been on my list for international travel. I’ve always been intrigued by the natural beauty, the spiritual richness and the active, adventure type of travels that this destination provides. In November, I was finally able to explore this amazing place.
Long-time Pique Travel partner, Big Five Tours and Expeditions, was my host and guide. I’ve admired their work for a long time, specifically for their commitment to sustainable tourism, so it was great to finally have the chance to travel with them. Their arrangements and guides lived up to my high expectations and I look forward to having more clients experience Peru through their trustworthy hands.
Our itinerary started in the Sacred Valley where we stayed at the stunning Explora lodge. Set in a tranquil corn field, the rooms were extremely comfortable. Specifically, the heavenly bed was a treat after long days of hiking and adventure! Explora is an inclusive property, so all the gourmet meals, creative cocktails, and even excursions with their expert guides, are complimentary for guests. Highlights of our stay included soaking in the hot tub looking at snowcapped mountains, a vigorous 20-mile bike ride through small villages in the area (to be met at the end with a picnic of snacks, soda, and beer), and even tasting the regional specialty - alpaca (I have to admit it was pretty tasty).
Of course, no trip to Peru is complete without a trip to Machu Picchu. We took the lovely IncaRail first class train up to Aguas Calientes, which is a charming town and home to the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel (which is worth at least a two night stay, in my opinion). The winding bus ride up to Macchu Picchu is a little harrowing, but the views are stunning. The site itself was as beautiful as the pictures show, but I was blown away by the dramatic landscape surrounding it. The low hanging clouds reminded us just how high up this ancient civilization lived. Our guide, Chris, brought it to life as a very well-educated archaeologist himself. While we happened to take a bus, many of our clients prefer one of various hikes, which offer a range of skill, accommodations and time needed.
Other highlights in the Sacred Valley were visiting Awamaki, a women's weaving cooperative, and climbing by via ferrata straight up the side of the mountain to the Sky Lodge pods. I will admit this experience is not for the faint of the heart, but I highly recommend it for those looking for a thrilling adventure that results in gorgeous views and an exhilarating zip-line ride down.
The last few days of our trip were spent in Chachapoyas – an area in northern Peru that gets very little tourism. This region is home to Kuelap, an archaeological site almost 1,000 years older than Machu Picchu. A beautiful French-built gondola system takes you up to the top of the mountain where you see the 420 stone circles that make up the fortress.
While we were in the area, we spent a morning hiking to Gocta Falls, which is among the tallest waterfalls in the world at 2,530 feet. I loved our time in Chachapoyas. While the lodging options are simple, they are beautiful and in gorgeous settings. You definitely get the sense that 10 years from now, this will no longer be an undiscovered part of Peru, so I was happy to see it when we did!
Want to learn more about Erin’s travels to Peru? Email her at ErinG@PiqueTravel.com.