I’ve always been a independent traveler, whether on my own or with a buddy or two. I’ve just returned from my second group travel experience in the past six months and I have to say I’m beginning to really like it. I enjoy having a full itinerary planned and executed for me and, for that brief time, being told what to do and when to do it.

I was in Peru with 13 other travelers on the Peruvian Legends Discovery Tour from Gate 1 Travel. We spent 12 nights there and everything about the tour: the meals, hotels, excursions, transfers, flights, were all executed perfectly. Combine that with a smart, native-born tour manager and an amazing destination like Peru, and it was an incredible experience for all of us.

Itinerary
The trip was very well planned and offered us a great overview of this fascinating country. We started out in the southern Colonial city of Arequipa, high in the Andes. We toured the city and explored some of the neighborhoods on foot. After spending a two nights at the Libertador in Arequipa, we headed through the mountains to the Colca Canyon area. This natural reserve is deeper than the Grand Canyon and home to a range of wildlife. One highlight, we were able to see not just one but two condors, resting on a rock quite close to us.

After a night at the Colca Lodge, a rustic, yet luxurious property alongside the raging Colca river, we headed to Puno and the area around Lake Titicaca. We spent two nights there at the Libertador Puno and took a cruise on the lake, also visiting the Uros floating islands and their residents. We also had a spectacular lunch of freshly caught trout overlooking Lake Titicaca in the town of Luquina Chico.

After Lake Titicaca, we headed to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and spent two nights there at the Casa Andina Private Collection in Urubamba. We visited the Raqchi Inca ruins, and the town of Chinchero where we had lunch and a weaving demonstration. We visited the fortress / temple at Ollantaytambo, also in the Sacred Valley.

Next stop was the ancient capital of the Incas, Cusco, a city I had visited previously in 2008. We spent three nights in Cusco, at the Novotel Cusco, and took a day trip to visit Machu PIcchu via Perurail’s Vistadome train. We hit all the historic sites in Cusco and the experience was very special as Edgar, our tour manager, was born and raised there. During the tour he jokingly referred to himself as “the last Inca” and referred to us constantly as his “waikis”, a Quechua word for buddies. Quechua is the historic language of the indigenous people of the region of Peru around Cusco and was spoken by the Incas.

Following Cusco, we all headed to the airport and flew to Lima, where we went from the airport straight to the amazing Museo Larco. A city tour of Lima followed, timed perfectly to end at the ocean at sunset. We then checked into our hotel, the Estelar Miraflores Hotel in the heart of the Miraflores area of Lima. That night we gathered at a cool local restaurant Huaca Pucllana overlooking ancient structures for a farewell dinner. We were up early the next morning to check-out and make our way to the airport in Lima for our flights home.

Costs
The Peruvian Legends Discovery Tour from Gate 1 travel starts at $3,399 per person, double occupancy. Pricing depends on departure dates and rises to $3,519 for some. Pricing includes flights from Miami, all hotels, tours and most meals. The trip really was all-inclusive with no hidden up-charges, even gratuities for restaurants and hotel bell staff were included.

This is a reprint of my article as originally published on Yahoo! Voices HERE