Some random thoughts as I gaze out the window of the Vistadome train, making my way from our Machu Picchu tour back to Cusco, traveling through the Sacred Valley of the Incas…

The scenery is a cinematographer’s dream. It’s lusher than you’d think; in fact, we’ve passed a number of palm trees. (Who would have thought they could thrive at 7,000 feet?) Terraced hillsides rise above a colorful patchwork of quinoa, corn and wheat fields. And ringing the whole scene are majestic peaks that reach 18,000 feet—many of them snowcapped with glaciers.

Llama in Peru

The food is a pleasant culinary surprise. Our country manager, Sylvia, had advised us to prepare for a fusion of European flavors and styles, mixed with incredibly fresh local ingredients—fish, meat, local herbs. I admit I doubted her. I shouldn’t have, since she’s a Spaniard who also lived in Paris before relocating to Peru. The risotto and penne with pesto turned out to rival some of the best we’ve had in Italy. As did the grilled shrimp with caramelized vegetables, and alpaca skewers with a mint vinaigrette.

Hotels? Imagine a 5-star former monastery in Cusco and another that’s one of the top ten in all of South America at Machu Picchu. And oh, the one in the middle (in the Sacred Valley) had the best massage services many of us had ever experienced. I remember fondly returning from a day of river rafting to collapse into my 400-count cotton sheets…after a friendly staffer delivered a Pisco sour as a welcome sundowner.

Last, but certainly not least, the people. Anyone who believes the height of Andean civilization occurred several hundred years ago should meet the warm, welcoming people who populate this gorgeous country now. Throughout our walking tour of Peru and Machu Picchu, we were graciously invited into private homes like that of famed ceramicist Pablo Seminario—who with his wife, Marylou, took us into his studio and then worked the clay with us—and that of our newfound friends, Pio and Iris, who hosted us for a cooking instruction.

Woman in Peru

And as for the “characters” you meet on tour: On a section of the Inca Trail, we passed a peak that reminded us of Mount Crumpet, which in turn launched a lively conversation about The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. We soon found out that one of our fellow travelers—the assistant lead counsel for a major oil company—could recite the entire book…by heart…in Boris Karloff’s voice. Just one more priceless moment on our Peru adventure tour that none of us will ever forget.

If you would like more information about our Cultural Walking Adventure to Peru, please click here.