A Groupon to Peru

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Did you buy a Groupon for Peru?

Know if you go:

  • The altitude is 8K at Machu Picchu and up to 13k above sea level in Cusco
  • Hydrate, eat light meals, drink the local coca tea and rest during the trip to avoid the effects of the altitude
  • Bring and wear layers including rain gear
  • Wear pants (and long sleeves if weather permitting) to Machu Picchu to avoid bug bites and apply lots of bug spray
  • Bring water into Machu Picchu as there is nothing for sale in the park
  • Brush up on survival Spanish – Especially numbers for negotiations with vendors and directional questions
  • Have cash to pay for the many street vendors – can withdrawal Peruvian Soles from ATMs at the airport at a decent exchange rate.
  • Street vendors account for a large majority of the shopping in Peru – anticipate bargaining 20-40% below their asking price for goods.
  • Carry baby wipes/toilet paper and hand sanitizer as there was often not paper or soap in the public restrooms
  • Be aware of pickpockets! Do not leave items unattended. Peep wallets in inside pockets and lock hotel doors.
  • Don’t drink the tap water!  Also, avoid eating raw foods and using the water to brush your teeth.

Should I Buy A Groupon To Peru?

For years, Groupon has been a staple in my life to snag deals on everything from restaurants to spa services.  I always looked longingly at the “Groupon Getaways” page and thought that the deals on pre-packaged trips looked too good to be true. Whether it was a $599 all-inclusive five day trip to Ireland or an $899 seven-night trip to Mexico I was hesitant to book anything over this site; despite the temptation with the low prices.

Then I came across a five day express trip to Machu Picchu Groupon.  Machu Picchu had been on my bucket list for years so I was immediately intrigued.  That evening, I went to dinner with my friend Jessica, who also had Peru on her radar for years. I mentioned the deal to her and she immediately said yes. I was not sure if she was serious or not. However, I woke up the next morning with a confirmation email forwarded from Jessica to confirm the trip. She also sent me a text asking to collect my portion of the money and let me know that her roommate and friend, Sophia, was also coming along. Well, looks like we were going!  As I told people about this upcoming trip I got one consistent response from my friends and family which went a little something like, “You bought a Groupon to Peru?!?”

Day 1: Take Off From JFK On LAN

Fast forward nine months and there we were: Jessica, Sophia and myself boarding a red-eye flight leaving JFK to Lima, Peru. We were flying LAN airlines, which had very comfortable economy seating and friendly service.  I managed to fall asleep immediately after boarding the flight and semi recall sleepwalking to the bathroom around 3 am. Finally, I woke up just in time for breakfast service in the AM and landing in Lima.

By the time that Jessica, Sophia, and I made it through customs we started to meet people on our flight who were also on our tour group.  I learned that the actual agency doing our tour was called Gate 1 travel.  A Gate 1 representative kindly helped us navigate the airport in Lima to our connecting flight to Cusco.

Day 2: Arrive In Lima And The Sacred Valley

In Cusco, we united with our tour group, led by Gate 1 Tours. The tour was led by a Cusco native, Americo.  Americo is a part of the rapidly growing tourism industry in Peru.  Tourism is their third-largest industry and has a huge positive impact on the local economy.  Americo was persistent in sharing the beauty and history of Peru with our group.  He also was vested in our health and wellness. This became quite an issue as many of us dealt with severe altitude sickness and questionable food poisoning on the trip. When I came down with something that landed me in bed for 12 hours, Americo found out and came to my room with a 2-liter bottle of Peruvian Pedialite and some anti-nausea medicine that he assured would make me feel better.  Oddly enough by morning, I was able to get out of bed and function again.

With the group of 30 people together for the first time in Cusco, it was obvious that it was a very mixed dynamic of travelers.   The travelers were a combination of couples, friends and some retirees. We swiftly made our way into the bus that would be our main form of transportation while we were together and onto our first stop in a small mountain town in the Sacred Valley of Urubamba, Peru. That first night we all gathered in a circle kumbaya style  to introduce ourselves and our intentions for the trip.

Day 3: Machu Picchu

Moving forward the trip was a complete whirlwind.  At 5 am the next morning we received a wake-up call to get up and moving; it was time for Machu Picchu.  Machu Picchu, in brief, is a site of Incan ruins from the 1400s.  The exact use of the buildings or spaces is not truly known. The architecture of the stone buildings that encompass the site is extremely sophisticated for the time.  The Incan’s also designed a roadway to get to Machu Picchu, now referred to as the Incan Trail.  This is a 26 mile, four-day hike through the Andes ending at Machu Picchu. With no time to spare, our group took the easy and fast way in, which was the train from Ollantaytambo to the base of Machu Picchu. From there, we took a bus up the mountain directly to the entrance of the park.  On the train, you definitely miss the historical significance of hiking the Incan trail just like the Incans would have. However, you still pass stunning scenery of the Andes for an hour and receive a nice beverage service with tea and coffee.

Before entering the park we did a last-minute bathroom stop (no bathrooms once you get inside) and headed in.  The sheer beauty and architecture of the mountains and buildings inside the park were incredible.  I have never seen mountains that looked quite like the Andes before. With their distinctive cone shape, I could not stop observing their beauty.  I felt aw inspired as I walked around the ruins and stood in the tiny stone buildings.  As I gazed at the mountains I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be an Incan standing at this same place over 500 years ago.

Day 4: Cusco

Our next stop was in Cusco. By noon the next day something unexpected happened: our group became violently ill.  Actually, a large majority of the tour group were bed-bound by 6 pm that day.  Americo and the hotel pulled out all of the stops (including oxygen tanks, meds, and taking at least 2 people to the hospital). Thankfully, everybody was well (relatively speaking) by the next day when we left the city and headed back to Lima.

Day 5: Fly Out Of Lima

Generally speaking – I was never so happy to leave a place in my life as I was to get out of Cusco.  When we left the city and landed back in Lima at sea level I felt like I could take a deep breath again.  Our time in Lima was short as we had a quick layover before catching our flight back to the states and before I knew it we were home again from our fast jaunt to Peru.

Conclusions About The Groupon Trip To Peru

So to answer the question that everybody has been asking me: “What did I think of the Groupon trip?”.  It was exactly what I intended it to be and I would absolutely do another Groupon trip in the future.  This trip was a great, easy, and economical way to get to Machu Picchu.  It was not a cultural emersion or “live like the locals” trip, but I did feel like I learned a lot of the Peruvian culture in the short amount of time that I was there.  I thought that the accommodations were excellent, the tour was very well managed, and found many like-minded travelers on the trip.  If you are thinking about buying a Groupon I would say go for it, have fun and take lots of pictures!

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