I returned from an unforgettable trip to Peru last week. This was my first trip to South America, so I was especially excited for it. I purchased the trip on Groupon through Gate 1 Travel (www.gate1travel.com); if you are looking for an affordable, reliable, organized trip, I would highly recommend this travel company. Also, if you are hesitant about Groupon trips — do not fret. This was my second trip through Groupon (last year I purchased part of a trip to Costa Rica which just included a few nights at a hotel while the rest of the trip was planned by myself and my friend) and I was pleasantly surprised with both. However, I did try to plan a Groupon trip to the Dominican Republic and the hotel that the Groupon was for gave a lot of problems to me (that’s another story, but Groupon refunded the money because the hotel kept changing the dates on me to the point where I wasn’t able to go — I ended up buying the trip to Costa Rica instead). Two of my friends purchased the trip to Peru with me and we did not have any problems booking with three of us (the Groupon vouchers were sold individually, but there are typically additional costs if you are traveling alone — Groupon and Gate 1 were kind of enough to not charge us the solo traveler fees). The hotels accommodated us by either putting an extra bed into the room or giving an extra room to us at no cost. The purchases included round-trip airfare from Miami, all lodging, most meals (including some tips), bus and train transportation, tour guides, and flights within Peru. I only needed to make travel arrangements to Miami, purchase the remainder of the meals while I was there, and leave tips for the tour guides and hotel staff. There were also optional excursions for sale.
The trip was an 8-day tour of Peru with visits in Cusco, Lima, Urubamba, and Machu Picchu. Our flight from Miami departed around 1:00am and we arrived to Lima early in the morning with a short flight to Cusco. Upon our arrival in Cusco, we were greeted by Gate 1 representatives and were driven by bus to our hotel in Urubamba, part of the Sacred Valley. Our group totaled about 50 people. During the bus ride, we were able to stop at a few points for pictures. The views of the valley and of the Andes were spectacular.
Our first hotel was beautiful, clean, and peaceful with great views all around us.
We were secluded at this hotel, with only a dirt road that would eventually bring us into the main town. Nothing was within walking distance, which was fine since cabs were available if we wanted to explore on our own a bit. After arriving at the hotel, we had the rest of the day to relax, followed by a group dinner that evening. All of the included meals on the trip were better than expected, with plenty of options (I am a vegetarian and ended up completely full each time).
For our first full day, we were brought to the Pisaq Incan ruins and Pisaq marketplace. We had plenty of time to hike around the ruins and to shop at the marketplace later in the day.
After a busy day in Pisaq, we returned to our hotel and several of us arranged a taxi for a ride into town for dinner. The following day was our big day at Machu Picchu! We had about an hour bus ride to the train station, where we would catch a train to Machu Picchu. The trip by train was about another hour and a half. Machu Picchu was the purpose of the trip for many of the travelers and no trip to Peru would be complete without a stop there!
Our group split into two, with some of us (myself included) branching off to hike up to the Sun Gate for a better view. The hike was mildly strenuous, but worth it.
Our group reunited for lunch and we then boarded the train, ready to catch a bus to our next stop: Cusco. We arrived to our hotel in Cusco around dinner time. We had the evening free and there was an optional tour the next day. Some of the group and I found a spot for dinner the night of our arrival and a few brave souls dared to try “cuy”, or guinea pig, which is a local favorite. For our free day, most of us just explored the city. We were fortunate enough to be there during an Incan festival in the main plaza.
We then explored the marketplace a bit and found a chocolate museum to sample some delicious Peruvian chocolates. After that, a couple of us decided to try out bungee jumping! Cusco boasts the highest bungee jump in South America at 400 feet (and #14 in the world). Only three of us dared to take the jump, but it was a ton of fun. I will probably go again if I ever make to New Zealand, the home of bungee jumping.
We needed a break for a bit after such an adrenaline-pumping activity, so we returned to the hotel to get ready before meeting with the rest of the group for dinner. A few of us went out to a pub that night for drinks and headed home relatively early to get some sleep before another big day.
The following day, my friends and I signed up for an optional tour to Saksaywaman (a Quechuan word pronounced almost like “Sexy woman”), an Incan complex on the outside of Cusco, the former capital of the Incan empire. How the stones were so perfectly constructed is still a mystery.
We also had a great view of Cusco from the top of Saksaywaman.
Our group then visited a local elementary school to deliver school supplies to some of the children. Before the trip, we were told that a visit might be possible and to bring school supplies if we wished. The children were so grateful and we had such a rewarding visit with them.
Following the school visit, we stopped by an alpaca factory to see how the infamously soft alpaca wool is crafted.
This was our final day in Cusco and we were on a plane to the capital city of Lima the next morning.
We stayed in the town of Miraflores, which wasn’t too far from the ocean. In the afternoon, we joined on a tour of the city, which included stops at “Lover’s Park” and the main plaza.
We only had about a half day in Lima, which was plenty of time, in my opinion. I preferred the cultural aspect and scenery of Cusco to the big city feel of Lima. At the culmination of the day, our group had a nice farewell dinner and a few of us exchanged contact information to stay in touch. One thing that I really love about group travel is meeting a variety of interesting people.
I would definitely do a trip like this again.