A few weeks from now, I'll be checking off the number one spot on my travel bucket list: Machu Picchu. I've pretty much been obsessed with this beautiful place ever since I was a kid and saw an episode of The Wild Thornberrys on Nickelodeon when the family visited Peru (and Tim Curry as Nigel Thornberry brilliantly taught his daughter how to breathe deeply while hiking the Inca Trail by singing "The Yellow Rose of Texas" as they hiked—a scene I may have to re-enact when I visit!). The good news is, you can come, too! Follow along with my adventures as I post photos from the road to our Instagram page, @budgettravel.
I'm going to be living out my ultimate dream trip by taking the Machu Picchu Adventure tour with G Adventures, a small-group adventure tour company that offers a wide variety of trips around the world for people of all ages at super affordable prices. Not only do their trips guarantee departures (once you book, you're going!) and incredible inclusions (like guided tours of the Sacred Valley and the Ollantaytambo ruins, for instance), the company is also big on making a difference in the world. G Adventures' founder, Bruce Poon Tip, started the company in 1990 by maxing out two credit cards to follow his dream—G Adventures is now the largest adventure travel company in the world and features more than 1,000 tours on all seven continents. He recently wrote Looptail, a book that became a New York Times bestseller, about his company philosophy and how he reinvented the business model by focusing on the human element, karma, and happiness within the company. He also started the Planeterra Foundation in 2003, a non-profit that works to give back to the communities G Adventures tours visit and creates a sustainable travel network around the world—tours often stop at project sites, putting money back into the communities and allowing travelers to have a more authentic experience getting to know the local people who run them. The trip I'm taking includes lunch at a Planeterra-supported Sacred Valley Community Restautant in Huchuy Qosco village and a visit to a women's weaving project that the company started as a way to help support the area's indigenous community.
The tour starts in Lima and includes internal flights from Lima to Cusco, time in the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes (hot springs, anyone?), and of course, Machu Picchu. G Adventures offers a ton of Peru packages that include time in Machu Picchu and along the legendary Inca Trail. This particular tour actually offers an optional one-day hike along the end of the Inca Trail into Machu Picchu, something that must be booked far in advance so, unfortunately, I won't have a chance to do it this time around (lesson learned: always, always, always book early for sites that require permits to enter). But, I'll still be able to tour the site at another point during the tour, so it's all good. The trip ends with some more time to explore Cusco before hopping on an internal flight back to Lima for one more day of sightseeing, one of the perks of purposely booking a red-eye back to New York City.
This is also going to be my first trip to South America, so I'm really excited to be visiting another continent (three down, four more to go!), but also a little nervous about accidentally ruining my whole trip by being overzealous and eating the wrong thing on day one—let's just say I've been studying this Budget Travel article about how to keep your stomach safe while traveling and reading up on foods to avoid on the road, you know, just in case. My doctor recommended getting a Typhoid vaccine before traveling to the area since water can sometimes be questionable, but I'm told as long as I stick to bottled water for drinking and teeth brushing, there's not much to worry about. Altitude sickness was another concern, but my friends who have traveled to Peru said to just keep drinking water, take it easy, and when in doubt, do as the locals do and sample the coca tea that they use to help keep their own altitude sickness at bay. (Please feel free to share any tips or recommendations from your own Peru travel adventures in the comments section below).
While the G Adventures tour includes a lot of sightseeing, there is also a decent amount of free time built in. That's where you come in. Before I travel to a new place, I always ask my friends and family for recommendations for great places to eat, things I shouldn't miss, and other off-the-beaten-path spots that I'd never know about otherwise. Our intrepid Budget Travel audience has traveled all over the world and always has great advice, so now I'm asking you. What are your favorite places to visit in Lima and Cusco? What tips would you give to someone traveling to Peru for the first time? Sound off below!