Our holiday was FANTASTIC, definitely lived up to all my expectations.
Where to start? Peru was great, really enjoyed visiting the ruins, exploring the Sacred Valley and resting in the tranquil surroundings of the Green House.
We went to Pisac, Moray, Maras and Salinas (loved the salt pans) and also wandered round Ollantaytambo before getting the train.
Our Machu Picchu visit was really well organised and the guide was first class. It was a fantastic experience and it was great watching the ruins and the mountains emerging from the clouds as the sun came up.
Our only regret was that we didn’t spend any time in Cuzco as it is a lovely city and we would like to have explored. The hotel, Casa San Blas, was also really nice.Juliette Walker, UK, July 2014
"It was all totally amazing and a journey that I just want to keep hold of and cherish for some time. Can't really imagine bettering it somehow! All thanks to you for making it all happen.
The boutique hotels outside of Lima and Guayaquil, were lovely. Comfortable and friendly, helpful staff. The Hacienda, La Jimenta in Quito, was delightful, likewise Colca Lodge, and Casona de la Rhonda, Quito.
Everything ran seamlessly - we were met on time, cars and guides arrived on time. No tummy bugs; no hassles from locals etc. in fact, everyone was charming and helpful.
A wonderful, amazing experience which I am still digesting. Thank you so much. I have already mentioned Andean Trails to several people who have expressed interest, so hopefully you may get some more New Zealanders on the trails."Sue Gibbons, Tailor Made, New Zealand, June 2015.
- What was the highlight of your holiday? Was there a low point?
There wasn't any part that no-one liked. The itinerary was organised in such a way that it was varied and exciting throughout. Enough time in the rainforest and camping on the Inca Trail rewarded by more comfortable urban stays afterwards. The adults especially loved the homestay village in Willoq as it offers an authentic and friendly piece of rural living. Football against locals was a highlight as well. The biking to Moray was perfect - a little challenging for some on the downhills but exhilarating with incredible views of surrounding glaciers high in the mountains. The Inca Trail is far more sustainable than I had imagined; very few people up until camp 3 and maintained to an excellent standard. Ridiculous views and incredible engineering to build the stone paths. Miraculous meals produced by our team of chefs and porters; their workrate was phenomenal. Macchu Picchu is as good as you would imagine, and I'm pleased that we scaled Huayna Picchu as well - great sense of achievement here.
For a school trip, this fortnight was superb. If kids are prepared for days without TV, days of no wifi and meals they will have to adapt to, then they will have the time of their lives. Safe, challenging and exciting; everything you want in a school trip.
- How would you rate accommodation/ food/ guides/ overall organisation?
Accommodation can't be faulted. The only chance we had of a pool was in Lima, but it was closed for renovations (and virtually a hot-tub, not a pool). Nobody minded.
Range of food was very good - even fussy eaters were ok. It was a buzz for us to eat piranhas that we had caught in the Amazon. Cuy (guinea pig) was another first.
Guides were all superb. We had a student vote once we had left the guides and the rainforest guides probably gained most votes. They were all especially good with the students.
I was really happy with the tour we put together - no difficulties despite a 3 hour late arrival into Puerto Maldonado, and a similar delay on the train from Agua Calientes - guides were always waiting for us. I don't know how I'd improve on the itinerary we had - rainforest, homestay, biking, Inca Trail, Cusco, Lima - the rainforest disappointed a little in terms of wildlife (I was hoping for more insects, beetles, frogs, etc) but this was undoubtedly due to the dry season.
- Did you feel you benefitted the local communities? Any additional comments on the homestays would be very interesting as this is the first time we have included this in our school programme.
-We definitely benefited local communities. This is partly why we chose a trip like this. One change we made during the Amazon section was to stop at a local (non-touristy) village (Infierno) during a boat trip - we bought a fair amount of juice here that probably made their week! In the homestay village, we were given the chance to buy local clothing that the villagers had made - often the families we stayed with. This was a nice souvenir and definitely added money to the local economy. Unless the students are expecting 5-star hotels (or perhaps even if they are) the homestay experience should be on a school trip itinerary. You are out of your comfort zone and are actually living.The interactions between the students and local children, with little language skills to speak of, were heartwarming. We played football and gave out football tops we had collected for the trip. It was obvious locals were delighted, especially if it was a Spanish top. The weaving and farming activities were fine, probably not a highlight for teenagers but still worthwhile.
- Knowing what you now know what would you like to do differently next time?
I thought about this a lot towards the end of the trip, and asked the tour guide if he thought we could have improved the trip. The conclusion I have is no. Sure, I'd like to fly over the Nazca lines, trek the longer routes to Macchu Picchu, visit Arequipa, see the sites in northern Peru, but this trip was excellent.
I made a photobook for the group, and always ask them for their favourite moment of the trip, which I add to the book. Here are some favourite moments:
- Playing football in the Homestay village at 3500m against a makeshift Peruvian side that featured a woman with a baby strapped to her back playing in defence.
- Being with the people of Willoq village and getting to dress up like them and take part in their way of life.
- Arriving at the Sungate and seeing the first glimpse of Macchu Picchu.
- Watching a tarantula emerge from it's cave in the Amazon.
-The biking, as the route was very fast-paced and had amazing scenery left, right and centre.
- Getting down to the camp after a day hiking up and down dean Woman's Pass. Just relaxing at the tent looking out over the valley was amazing.
- When I first thought I had caught my first piranha but unfortunately it fell off the hook before I could get it on the boat.
David, school group 2016