This week I am chronicling my recent family trip to Peru with Adventures by Disney. It will give you insight into taking a guided tour rather than going it alone, and shine a light on a bucket list destination, that is educational for children too.
Day 2 found us waking to a beautiful sunshine morning…. the birds chirping was our alarm clock. Perfect setting for our thrilling river rafting trip between lush Andean mountains through the Sacred Valley.
You may be asking yourself…. Is she crazy to take her young kids rafting in a third world country? What if something should happen? No, I am not loco.
What you will learn about my particular tour operator, Disney, is that the company is uber conservative, and ultra concerned about safety.
Case in point: At the last minute, the guides changed the location of the rafting trip because the rains the day before swelled the river, causing rougher, class 6 rapids. They said the new location had Class 1 and 2, and “Maybe” 3 rapids…. their estimation really ended up being a float, not more than class 1.
They also made sure there was a trained guide on every raft….
and an extra solo guide on a catamaran-like vessel who went ahead of everyone, making sure the path was safe, and also hanging around in case anyone fell out.
Although these mellow waters were not a blood rushing experience that older children may have had bragging rights about, it was perfect for the younger kids… and the adults thoroughly enjoyed the relaxing nature and the incredibly beautiful scenery. We all had fun.
The great thing about this organized tour, is that the Disney guides have bottled water for you anytime you want it, and provide snacks between meals if you need it. So after a snack and a quick change into dry clothes, we were off to the second part of the day – the old Inca town of Ollantaytambo. (If you notice the pattern here, Disney seems to organize the days with 50% something fun for kids, and 50% something cultural and educational that they try to make the most engaging.)
Something struck me about Ollantaytambo… not the largest… not the cleanest or even most developed town… but it felt very authentic, despite being a popular starting point for thousands who hike the Inca Trail.
The guides arranged a buffet lunch of Peruvian fare (as always) at this charming little garden, and then we explored the ancient Incan ruins on the hillside.
What you MUST research about Peru before you go, because it is inescapable once you get there, is a little bit about the Incan Empire… and teach your kids about it too. The Incan Empire was the largest pre-Columbian empire in America. It was headquarted in Cuzco.
The Incas were eventually conquered by the Spanish, but their ruins are well preserved around the Cuzco area. Ollantaytambo is the perfect example – we hiked the hillside to see a 600 year old temple.
This was an intimate intro to Incan construction style, which we would later in the trip learn more about at Machu Picchu. The Incas were known for their precise joints between boulders – and how tightly each rock fit together. Look how closely the rocks are bound – not even a piece of paper could slip through. More astonishing is that they used no mortar.
After the tour, we wandered the cobble stone streets of this town, then headed back to the hotel for dinner…. and the kids had dinner and movie night with the Disney guides! They loved it, and the parents got a little break!
Tomorrow: Exploring the picturesque salt mines.