If you close your eyes and think of the word 'Peru', the image that will probably pop up in your mind is the great citadel at Machu Picchu. At least it was for me. Peru has always been on the 'go-to' list, and moved up a bit when I saw scenes of Cuzco in the Hulu series The Path (some people use television for entertainment, I apparently use it to vacation scout). But honestly, as I considered what the first post-Morocco trip would be, the South American nation wasn't really at the top of the list.
Until one day, I'm scrolling through my Facebook feed (which has become a string of travel ads-they know me so well) and I see an ad for something called Peru Hop. It's a tourist bus service, but not your typical tour bus. Yes, they hit the major cities, and stop at some of the tourist sites, but your itinerary is up to you. Stay as little or as long as you want at their various stops (Lima, Paracas, Huacachina, Nazca, Arequipa, Puno, Cuzco)... and catch the next bus you want. It's basically independent travel with a group. I was intrigued. And the more I researched Peru, the more I found places beyond Machu Picchu that I wanted to see.
Lima is an up-and-coming center for food and art with a few Michelin-starred restaurants waiting for you. Paracas has some incredible nature preserves around it. Huacachina is a party oasis. Arequipa has amazing architecture, museums, and culture. Puno has folklore and Lake Titicaca, and of course, Cuzco has the Sacred Valley of the Incas. And all of it has friendly and welcoming Peruvians. So, to review: food, nature, mountains, desert, beaches, fun, architecture, history, culture, heritage, and friendly people. And with Peru Hop, I could get a taste of it all.
So, out of nowhere, Peru became Walkabout IX's destination, and as usual, I'm extremely happy with my decision. I stopped a few extra days in Arequipa, spent an extra night in Puno (with a full day on Lake Titicaca), and spent most of my Sacred Valley time in a beautiful little town called Ollantaytambo instead of Cuzco. Overall, I'd give Peru Hop a solid B+ for efficiency and comfort, but I'd give Peru an A. It's a destination that really should be on everyone's radar. Yes, Machu Picchu is everything everyone says it is, and should be on any traveler's Bucket List. But you'd be cheating yourself if you didn't take some time to discover the rest of Peru as well.