This August, I was determined to go on a trip abroad with my boyfriend to either Central or South America. I was limited on both time and money, and had only three weeks to spare. So after hours of googling, we arrived at a decision: Peru. (Scrolling through hundreds of photos of baby alpacas sold it for me). Next step was to begin planning our 3-week itinerary.
Since this was my first backpacking trip out of the country, and I had no set plans other than to visit Machu Picchu, I made sure to read through Lonely Planet guides and highlight the places I found most interesting. When traveling, I prefer to spend at least a few days to a week in one location, and absorb as much as I can. It helps me stay grounded and avoid getting burnt out quickly. This narrowed our itinerary down to Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes, and Huaraz.
What I learned from my first backpacking trip:
- Have a place booked for your first night in a new city, it’s always nice to know you have a place to rest when you arrive to your destination.
- Educate yourself on any diseases you might be at risk of, and make sure to come prepared! I hadn’t bothered to research this until just two weeks before our flight, and found out that while it isn’t necessary, a Hepatitis B shot is certainly recommended. I would’ve felt a lot safer if I would’ve gotten the chance to get vaccinated, but unfortunately I left it for the last minute. I was extra wary to keep my hands clean at all times, avoid street food, and not drink any tap water (keeping purification tablets and buying bottled water helped).
- Though it’s important to cut down costs while on a budget, some things are certainly worth spending a bit more money on. Like taking a plane to Cusco from Lima, versus a 40 hour bus ride round trip. While I initially thought it was the best option as it was the cheapest, having to spend over two days on a bus with nausea and headaches was definitely not worth it! I kept wishing I had booked at least one plane to save us some time.
- Stray away from tourist spots, and spend more time with locals. My favorite memory from this trip, besides skydiving, was visiting the district of Chinchero, where local Quechuan women demonstrated the process they use to make their wonderful textiles. From spinning and dyeing alpaca fiber, to the weaving process.
- While it’s great to have a set itinerary planned, do leave some free time to just explore new things. I hadn’t bothered to make any plans for our time in Ollantaytambo, and that ended up working out for the better. On our first night there, I became sick with some sort of stomach virus and spent an entire day lying in bed. The following day, my boyfriend caught the same virus, so I was left taking care of him. By our final day, when we finally had enough energy to move, we made some British friends and carpooled with them to the Sacred Valley, which worked out wonderfully!
Overall, I found Peru to be an amazing destination for anyone new to backpacking. The people were extremely kind, the views were completely breathtaking, and it was dirt cheap! I’m really grateful for the opportunity to have experienced this magical country along with all of its magnificent people, and hope to return someday soon.