Beyond the Parks - Adventures by Disney - Peru!
When most people think of a Disney vacation, the first thing that comes to mind may be Disneyland or Walt Disney World, places to be immersed in Disney magic, making cherished family memories with characters, rides and amazing entertainment. The Walt Disney Company through the years has always been on the cusp of change, for making lives better, people happier and the environment healthier. Fourteen years ago, Disney started something truly magical for families and adults to see the world in a way that is like no other. Adventures by Disney was a vision that came to life, exploring the world in a stress free, fun and exciting way that has you fully immersed in the history and culture of countries and cities visited. Today, there are adventures traveling over 25 countries, spanning 6 continents, for both families with children and Adult-Exclusive group tours. All tours are capped at 40 adventurers, making for a very manageable group.
Recently, I had my first amazing experience traveling with Disney. It was an unforgettable adventure that I will forever cherish. My husband and I went on the Adult-Exclusive, Peru Adventures by Disney tour. As with every Adventures by Disney, there are two Adventure Guides, one of which is US based and the other is a local guide. Each Disney Adventure Guide, has to go through a very selective hiring process. For just one example, there may be 1,200 that apply, and out of that only 100 who get the opportunity to interview and then, maybe only 35 hired. Our Adventure Guides were Rudy and Casey, who led us through our breathtaking, adventurous, fun-filled and culturally immersive tour of such a beautiful country!
You may be wondering, what is so special about Adventures by Disney versus going on your own or with any other touring company. Allow me to share my experience in describing how Disney sets itself apart.
The Disney difference begins from the very start of your trip, with an Adventures by Disney (AbD) representative greeting you with a bright orange AbD sign and escorting adventurers to their shuttle for the ride to the hotel. At check-in of the hotel, we were provided with a welcome letter explaining what to expect over the next 24 hours, including meeting our Adventure Guides the following morning! Upon meeting our guides, it was very evident that this was going to be more special than any other tour we’ve experienced, as the personalities of both Rudy and Casey are very endearing. It was apparent, right away, how well organized, witty and gregarious they both are.
Flight from Lima to Cusco –
Our adventure began by heading to the Lima airport for our flight to Cusco. As with any type of travel, there can be bumps along the way, but it’s all in how things are handled which can make or break a trip. Part of our group experienced an airline glitch upon arriving at the gate to our departure, causing 6 of us unable to board the flight. This was something out of AbD’s control, and as soon as it was evident that we would not be allowed on that flight, Casey was in touch with her co-guide Rudy (who was on the plane with the rest of the group), and with AbD management, and within minutes she had plans A, B, C, and D mapped out. She turned what could have been a complete nightmare, had we been on our own, into something that was no big deal, everything worked out great, and we ended up making happy lasting memories in spite of it! When you are with Adventures by Disney, you can be rest assured that everything will be taken care of so that you can relax and not stress, knowing that it is all being handled for you. It takes incredible talent to not only be super organized, but keep everyone in the group calm and happy at the same time. This is the level of service you can expect, and so much more, from Disney Adventure Guides!
The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco
Upon arriving in Cusco, we enjoyed a wonderful Peruvian lunch and a fascinating weaving demonstration. Some of us even got to put on a fashion show!
The Sacred Valley
Our home for 4 of our 8 nights! At 9,180 feet above sea level, the hotel offers oxygen for those who need help acclimating to the altitude. Each room is its own Casita, with a little porch that makes it feel like you have a home in this pastoral heaven. Sol Y Luna is a floral wonderland, reminiscent of what I have always imagined the Secret Garden to look like. This was so beautiful and tranquil, it was like being in a dream. There are winding pathways filled with all different flowers, bursting with colors. There are two dining locations, a bar, library, pool and horse stables (guests can go on a horseback ride). The first evening of our arrival we got to enjoy a welcome reception with a traditional Peruvian style dinner and show!
We had the exciting opportunity to ride the rapids along the Urubamba River, which feeds into the Amazon! Each boat had 7 people, including an experienced rafting guide. The rapids were Levels I-III and so much fun! I was a little nervous at first, but after the informative instructions and settling into our raft, I was feeling excited! Our guide was Thomas and he kept us engaged and laughing the whole way through.
Salt Pans of Maras
The thousands of salt pans are each managed by local families in the community. These shallow pools of water that are terraced down the mountain are filled with salty spring water that is continually running through a maze of ducts and trenches and is diverted to fill the pools with about 3 inches of water. Once the water evaporates, the salt is then harvested and readied for market in local shops and nearby towns. This was a very cool site to see, as the process is truly amazing! For some additional adventure, we had the option to hike down along the salt pans into Sacred Valley, getting a closer look (way past the area where the general public must turn around)! This is the other incredible benefit of traveling with Disney - they get access to experiences and areas that other tour groups and the general public do not get.
For most, this was the main reason for booking this Adventure. We took an exciting train ride which gave gorgeous views of the area. Once we arrived, each adventurer was given 2 options following lunch, hike up the Incan Trail part of the way, to the top or take a less strenuous tour. Each option provided breathtaking views! Machu Picchu definitely stood up to its promise of being a rewarding and unforgettable experience. It was rainy the day we were there, which made for spectacular sites! The clouds made everything appear so mystical!
Llamas and Alpacas
We had so much fun at the Awana Kancha Camelids Center where we got to meet, feed and take selfies with Llamas and Alpacas. They were all very sweet, photogenic and eager to eat alfalfa out of our hands! We even got a chance, at our hotel in Cusco, to get a photo with a baby Alpaca (you will never feel anything softer)!
We enjoyed a wide range of food throughout our travels; Alpaca, Cow’s heart kebabs, Guinea Pig (aka Cuy, it is considered a delicacy and has been part of the Andean cuisine for over 5,000 years), the best Ceviche I have ever eaten and a wonderful assortment of vegetables, including quinoa, the largest corn I have ever seen and about 25 of the over 3,000 variety of potatoes! There are even unique beverages native to Peru; Coca Tea (helps with altitude sickness), Pisco Sour and Inca Kola! Peru produces some of the best and inventive chefs in the world, using modern influences, molded with ancient ingredients and a variety of produce that make it a must visit for any foodie!
We got the chance to do some shopping in a few different areas along the way, but one shopping excursion in particular stands out the most, where we enjoyed checking out the Pisac Market in Cusco. There is a large variety of handmade items; sweaters, headbands, art, etc. Here we got to shop for a gift for the White Llama Gift Exchange we had on our last night in Cusco!
Throughout this whole adventure, we never felt rushed and were even give some time on our own to explore, although we always looked forward to our time with the group the most! We enjoyed experiences that we would not have had if we tried piecing this adventure together on our own! Rudy’s love for his country showed through in his stories of the Incan culture, and rich history of Peru as well as the endearing interactions with local people along the way. This was the most action packed, culturally immersive, fun, and fulfilling tour I have ever been part of, thanks to our wonderful guides!
At the end of our adventure, we had the honor of touring, being entertained and enjoy a delicious lunch at Casa Aliaga, a magnificent 16th century mansion located in Lima! At lunch, we each shared what we enjoyed most from our adventure. It’s interesting how what brought us all together, Machu Picchu, ended up being just one part of what made this such an incredible experience. I never imagined how much I would love every aspect of this adventure, including the people we met along the way, our Adventure Guides, and all the Adventurers in our group. What started as a group of strangers, ended up becoming a great group of friends, who hope to keep in touch and travel together again in the future.
What’s included in the price of an Adventures by Disney tour:
Adventures by Disney Backpack
Transportation during the tour
Pixie dust along the way
2 Amazing Adventure Guides
Unforgettable and rewarding experience
Special Thanks to…
Arlene, John, James, Kathy, Christine, Kathy, Ravneesh, Asavari, Jay Jay, Venus, Carolyn, David, Adam, Catherine, Harry, Bev, Alex, Olivia, Denise, Diane, Beth, Jimmy, JJ, Jeff, Gwen, Thomas, Ernesto, Marissa, Rudy, and Casey for making my and Curtis’ first Adventures by Disney INCA-redible!
JJ, I am Happy!