Archive for the Category »Adventure Travel «

  Oscar Nominee Swag Bags are Packed w/ $30,000 worth of Trips!

Aaah it must be good to be Meryl Streep. Think of how many swag bags she’s received with all of her Oscar nominations. The notorious swag bag is the party favor for Oscar nominees… this year the satchel is reported to be worth a whopping $85,000!!!

Why so much? (Besides the fact businesses are clamoring for the PR) About $30,000 is travel gifts. Here are the places you may catch Sandra Bullock or Leo if she or he takes advantage of the trip offers:



1) Walking Japan. This sounds ULTRA COOL! Walk Japan is a tour company that won “One of the Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by Nat Geo. Guides talk you on trekking trips through many diverse areas of Japan – you can choose which itinerary sounds great to you . A Zen experience after a week of Oscar parties. A $15,000 value.

Koloa Landing, Kauai

Koloa Landing, Kauai

2) A $2000 5 night stay at Koloa Landing Resort in Kauai. Supposedly the largest villas on the island with plenty of privacy for Hollywood royalty.

3) A $6850 value on a 2 day Rocky Mountaineer train trip from Vancouver to Alberta in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Prettier than any set these actors have visited, they can enjoy gorgeous scenery while being pampered.


Imanta Resort, Punta de Mita

Imanta Resort, Punta de Mita

4) A $3,300 value for a stay at the Imanta Ocean Casa in Punta de Mita, Mexico.  Anyone would be ready for her close up here…

Riviera, Las Vegas

Riviera, Las Vegas

5) A $9,000 trip to Vegas, which includes as 2 night stay at the Riviera Penthouse.. along with a lot of other tours, perks, club tickets, etc. It’s Vegas baby. You know there’s plenty to do for Hollywood high rollers. Just hate to admit it – never heard of the Riviera…. so many places, such a big world

Hope your weekend has  Hollywood ending!



  Terrified of Turbulence? Read on.


Prop plane at VailI just flew this 60 passenger prop plane through one of the most notoriously turbulent flight paths in the U.S., only to descend onto one of our country’s scariest airports, according to Fare Compare – from Denver, CO to Eagle, CO (Vail.)

Flying over the Rockies is no picnic. The flight was so bumpy, my tuckus floated above the flotation device multiple times, resulting in my cell phone flying out of my pocket.

The poor woman in front of me was jerked back as I braced myself on her seat back, but odds are she didn’t notice since I peaked through the gap in the seats and saw her hand visibly shaking.

Many things cause this chaotic bumpy air we call turbulence – and winds are generally stronger in the winter. Good fun.

Turbulence is one of the biggest concerns in fearful fliers. It can be nerve rattling for sure, but luckily the biggest causes of injuries or fatalities due to turbulence is from not wearing seatbelts during the joy ride, and not crash landing .  Thankfully buckling the heck up is easy to do.Here are some things to know that may calm your nerves before you fly… especially west to east over the Rockies :)

Vail, CORead on, while I go off to the village – I think I’ve earned my hot toddy.

1) Pilots rely on systems and communications to try and detect turbulence  to avoid it. If they can’t avoid it, as soon as they can detect it  they will warn us to buckle up. Planes are only getting more sophisticated to reduce the impact.

2) maps out turbulence in flight paths all over – you can check before your flight and the information is updated every 20 minutes.

3) Larger jets provide more stability than smaller planes.

4) Experts say choosing a seat in the middle, over the wings is preferable to the front or back of a plane so you don’t feel it as much.

5) Consolation: Flying is still safer than driving :)

Have a good week.



  New Zealand’s Sailing Culture…


The Kiwis may not have won the America’s Cup race – even though they were tough competitors in one of the most amazing come back stories yesterday – but the sailing culture is strong and well in New Zealand. The good news is, it permeates all levels of society there, not just the wealthy who can afford nice boats.

According to the SF Bay Guardian:

“In New Zealand, a boat is rarely a status symbol — it’s part of the middle-class way of life, the home base for holidays and weekend fishing trips and lots and lots of competitive racing. Every little harbor town has a yacht club and an awful lot of Kiwis own boats — and they sail the shit out of them.

Which is part of the reason why the New Zealand government is willing to invest NZ$36 million (US$27 million) to compete in the 34th America’s Cup against some of the richest men in the world in a race that has become so elite there’s barely any competition.”


I witnessed this spirit earlier this year when I was in New Zealand – an incredibly pristine and outdoor-oriented country. Locals celebrate their weekends out on the water. As a matter of fact, I saw the land how many Kiwis see it – from a boat.

Visitors can easily charter a yacht to sail to the outer islands for as little as $95 per person for the day. There are a number of companies form which to charter, as I mentioned last week in part 1 of this post.

IMG_7841Last week I talked about visiting eclectic Waiheke Island…. today I will write about sailing to the Great Barrier Island – and reader beware – this is a longer sail from Auckland, and the water got a bit choppy.


Gorgeous scenery along the way, but If you do charter a yacht, take that into consideration if you plan a longer trip spanning distances. No one got sick – but…… whew!

Great Barrier Island is the fourth largest of New Zealand’s main chain of islands. We spent a few days around there, anchoring at various coves around the island. The photos show all that we could do….

IMG_7747It is much more desolate than Waiheke, mostly because it is farther away from the mainland.

IMG_7652The travelers we ran into were true nature lovers, and with good reason because we saw all kinds of wildlife….

IMG_7639Took amazing hikes to beautiful waterfalls…

IMG_7699One, a hike up Mt Whangaparapara led to natural hot springs…


View from Mt Hobson, New Zealand

View from Mt Hobson, New Zealand

You can also take a four hour hike to the top of Mt Hobson – where the view is stunning.

IMG_7828Windy up at the top, however, and there is a guest book to sign put out by the park service.

IMG_7700IMG_7696IMG_7818Yes, the park service does thoughtful things like that here. Just look at the trails that are so impeccably maintained. (Made me wonder just what the tax rate is in New Zealand…)

IMG_7784After “earning” our next meal, we went out and foraged for it. Oyster hunting!!! Collected buckets of very fresh muscles and oysters…

IMG_7802and had them prepared for us one night….

IMG_7796…against a dramatic sunset .

As the sun set for the 34th Americas Cup race, I felt a bit sad for the Kiwis after experiencing their enthusiasm for the sport. I am sure many Kiwis were disappointed for their team. But they have so much to celebrate in their beautiful country!

Congrats team Oracle!!!





  The Perfect Antidote for Holiday Detox: Get Your Yogi on in Exotic Locations

It is only a few weeks past the holiday and New Year revelry…. but who out there is still feeling the after-affects? Rich food… Good wine… An awful lot of parties… Bowl games….

Time to C-L-E-A-N-S-E!! And I think I found the perfect antidote to an overly-fun holiday season: Yoga in the Galapagos.

(Did you expect anything less? )

Yoga in the Galapagos from

I was excited to read about the Travel Yogi adventures. ( Travel Yogi is an outfitter that leads yoga expeditions throughout the world, hand selecting places that would be of spiritual benefit to complement the transformative nature of doing yoga every day in an exotic place.

Bali… Hawaii… Santorini….and how about a surf/yoga expedition to El Salvador!

The Galapagos is a journey for which I just received an announcement -

Galapagos Islands, from

The retreats are conducted on a 12-acre estate in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. The location hosts a six-room lodge, a coffee plantation, tortoise pond, walking paths and a fully stocked yoga studio. From guest room patios are views of Galapagos National Park, Galapagos Marine Reserve and outlying islands.

Blue Footed Boobied from

If you are unfamiliar with the Galapagos, they are a group of islands off the coast of Ecuador. This is where Charles Darwin studied his theory of evolution – there is so much wildlife on a series of islands, that is endemic to this location.

A sample day is a 6 a.m. sunrise yoga session, 7:30 a.m. breakfast, 8:30 a.m. day trip to South Plazas Island with a naturalist guide, 4 p.m. return and unwind, 5 p.m. sunset yoga, 7 p.m. dinner and 8 p.m. evening fire circle. Spa treatments can be scheduled as well.

Throughout the day there may be other activities offered as well, like hiking, meditation, and definitely sightseeing!

To give you an example of what a week-long trip would cost – the Galapagos trip starts at $2995 depending on when you go. This includes most costs once you are there – food, accommodations, activities – but doesn’t include airfare, alcohol, or gratuities.

Add some balance to your life in 2013. Namaste.

  When In Alaska, Hike A Glacier! Day 5 of My Alaskan Adventure..
Working in Alaska

Working in Alaska

THIS…is often my office when I am working. I feel very lucky.

However, on day 5 of my Disney Cruise to Alaska, I was promoted to nature’s equivalent of the corner suite. Alaska’s Mendahall Glacier.

Disney Cruise to Alaska

Disney Cruise to Alaska

My excursion arranged by Disney that day began benign enough…  a nice breakfast overlooking amazing scenery….

…but soon enough I was vibrating to the rhythm of helicopter engines on the heli pad for North Star Trekking’s privately guided tours.

My crew and I first had to change into proper glacier hiking gear of course… warm pants, red jackets, and backpacks for cameras, water, snacks, etc. TIP: Don’t forget to bring gloves if you ever hike a glacier. You might not think of it at home when packing for Alaska.

The shoes always make the outfit right? Out in the wilderness there  is no exception: part of the equipment provided with a glacier trek are the crampons to help you grip the ice while walking. Once all set, we got  quick safety briefing for our unique journey.

The helicopter ride was not as bad as I anticipated. I had been up in a helicopter once before, and remember it to be much more sensitive – you felt every tiny move.

The view from the helicopter gives you a wider perspective of what is to come. It is as if one is looking down on heaven.

Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

This is where I wish knew how to access a more visual and descriptive way of writing. Channeling Pat Conroy here…. I can’t quite find the words to describe how truly spectacular Mendenhall Glacier is. This icefield is 12 miles long – almost 2 miles shorter than in the 195os…retreating of course because of warmer global temperatures.

But 12 miles was plenty for me to hike! The helicopters landed in a safe place… then my crew was lead by experienced and very athletic guides with whom I felt very safe, and had a great time.

After  catching my breath from the raw beauty – I thought that this is what it must have felt like landing on the moon – desolate…and extra-terrestrial like – different topography than anything an explorer had ever faced.

The bright blue-ish hue from the ice made it all the more exotic.

The technical definition of a glacier is: a large mass of snow, recrystallized ice, and rock debris that accumulate in great quantities and begin to flow outwards and downwards under the pressure of their own weight.

Mendenhall Glacier is thousands of feet deep.

Thank goodness the peak I decided to climb is not as tall as it is deep.

Ice Climbing

Ice climbing is a lot like rock climbing, but on a completely different substance. You have to get the groove of it, because it involves really digging in your toes to the mountain…with nothing really supporting your heels in the back. The ice wall is practically perpendicular to the ground, which  makes it challenging. The ice pick does help, as do the terrific guides who helped me with ropes.

It is exhilarating…. and an unforgettable experience. I only wish we could have packed a picnic lunch and string quartet :)

These excursions aren’t to strenuous if you don’t do the ice climb…and children 8 and over can participate in the shorter versions. The tours are available in 3-5 hour windows. But, it also depends on your cruise itinerary – if the ship is only at port a short time, you would be limited.

I would recommend it – where else would you get to hike a glacier?

Tracy Gallagher

Coming up on my next Alaska cruise post: Calling all foodies: take advantage of the special booking restaurants.



  An Alaskan Adventure WIth Kids: Day 4

My family’s trip to Alaska aboard the Disney Wonder was a blast for the kids.

Aboard the Disney Wonder

They felt a sense of independence being able to roam around the ship to kids’ clubs, or movie theaters, and loved it. By day 4, (all 3 prior days at sea with no excursions) they were pretty darn comfortable with that.


There are actually four different kids’ clubs on the Disney Wonder- each catering to a specific age and need. From one end of the spectrum, there is one club for teens only – “Vibe” which is a cool hang out… to the other end of the spectrum  -  a club for younger children that offers babysitting.

Wave phones from

What made all of this easier- and is a great touch on the Disney cruise – are the “wave” phones that are in your stateroom.  We gave our kids one of the phones and could check in on them at any time.

Unfortunately, the phones don’t work off the ship – so on day 3 when we docked in Skagway, I was out of communicado with my kids. I had some work to do, and was taking a separate tour of Skagway..

So I saw my husband and children off while they took a scenic train ride on the historic White Pass Railway.


Skagway was put on the map during the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. It was the entry point for prospectors trying to get to Canada for gold. Unfortunately, the White Pass railway was finished after the gold rush… but today tourist still enjoy it. Adults can take in the scenery from a vintage rail-car, while there are Disney Cruise Line Counselors helping keep the kids interested and entertained. Remember to bring your passports if you take this excursion because you enter Canada… not that you are checked, but if something should happen, you might need your passport to get home.

It is a great outing – I highly recommend trying an excursion if you want to see anything authentic about Alaska.

Skagway, Alaska

If you don’t take an excursion, but walk around the port towns, you will be visiting very touristy shops, and jewelry stores owned by many cruise lines. TIP: I know I’ve said this, but when budgeting for a cruise, before you book, see how much the excursions are. For example, the White Pass adventure is $169 for ages 10 and up. $99 for ages 5-9.

My outing was a bit different – I took the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp and Salmon Bake, which was a charming recreation of a town during the gold rush. The town is named Liarsville for the stories told to journalists about the gold rush – the journalists never actually went to Klondike, so the truth was stretched as stories were told to reporters.

Liarsville Salmon Bake

On this excursion, visitors  pan for gold, then attend a salmon bake….wild Alaskan-caught salmon freshly grilled over a huge alder wood fire. Granted, this is staged for visitors,  but it was an attempt to educate visitors what it was like in the more than 100 years ago,  The scenery was pretty, and you did have an only in Alaska fresh meal! Definitely wear warm clothes: Even if it s a warm Alaska day (i.e. 60 degrees!) this area is the shade from a forest.

The good news about Skagway is that it is easy to find other things to do if you can’t book an excursion every day.

Within walking distance of the port, we took an incredible two hour hike up a mountain that led to a lake.

We enjoyed beautiful vistas and a well-marked trail. ** I highly recommend this for its easy access and non-touristy nature.

The thing I love most about travel is learning about how other people live…experiencing  a new culture. What’s interesting about Skagway is that the population is only about 900, but in the summer it swells to the thousands. Temporary residents spend summers here working during the tourist season. I met a couple who says it’s like “summer camp” for them. They never know if they’ll have a job when they go back to their “winter home.”  A lot of students also come to spend the summer working in a beautiful environment.

Coming up in a later blog post -Day 5: Hiking  a glorious glacier with the true Alaska spirit and grit.





  Comfort Food Travel: Out on the Water

I recently turned to my young daughter while in an airport and had a senior moment. “Ava… WHAT CITY ARE WE IN ?”

I’d rather think of it as a rock star moment, caused by waking up in many different destinations, and exhaustion from fun late nights and rock n roll.

It might be because I HAVE been on the road a lot this year…. but have also gone down some new roads in life which have left me preoccupied.

A close friend, diagnosed with a terrible disease, at too young an age.

My daughter, possibly leaving the womb of her tight knit soccer team to join a club team.

So.. after that little cathartic rant, can I ask – aren’t we all longing for that peaceful place?  Where in the world have you been that you just feel it in your bones… a place that goes right to the core of you? Where do you feel a worldly connection?

I call it comfort food travel -For me…. one obvious place is out on the water. It is a unique, and peaceful perspective from which to admire the world…and the rhythm of the gentle waves reverberates for days after. There are many destinations in the world where you can access the ocean, bay, etc and here are a few suggestions:

SUP -Stand Up Paddling or kayaking- If you’ve never tried it, there are schools all over the world to help you. It is always fun to learn something new on a trip – let this be your take away.


You get up close with the marine life, admiring brightly colored coral and schools of fish. (I SUPed over baby sharks here in Burma!) No to mention, bring a friend and it is a bonding outing. in Bali. in Maui.

Lucky Catch Cruises, Portland Maine

A working lobster boat in Maine:

If you make it to Portland Maine, you gotta take a Lucky Catch Cruise. This is one of my travel highlights – Capt Tom takes you out on his lobster boat during lobster season, and involves you in the process of catching lobster – a huge industry for the state of Maine. Kids are more than welcome, and learn so much about the cycle of food – from the bottom of the ocean to your dinner plate. You can buy the lobster you catch for a mere $5!!

To top it off, on a nice day it is a relaxing cruise where you can take in the gorgeous Maine coastline and some iconic lighthouses. I will write more about this one of a kind experience at the beginning of lobster season.

Newport Beach

Rent an electric boat: This is fun because you can be your own captain.

You can rent these little electric boats that fit about 10 people, and cruise through many water ways in the U.S. Florida, Maryland, and here in California to name a few. It’s not expensive, and they don’t go fast for you first timers. It doesn’t have to be summer – You can pull down plastic covers to block the breeze….

…Here in California, this winter night is crisp and clear. It gets more crowded and harder to rent in the summer.

Venice, Italy, 1988

A gondola ride in Italy:

- Really… I know it can be touristy, but ya gotta do it once. The first time I rode on the canals of Venice, I felt like I had been there in former lives. As you look out on the palaces along the Grand Canal, you are enveloped in the blanket of old world charm. A 60 minute ride typically costs about 100 euro, but you can try to negotiate.

A much less costly option is to take a vaporetto ride on the Grand Canal.

Take a ski boat or a fishing boat out – These can be arranged at most hotels in Cabo…

Florida Keys

or Florida. Once again, another fun activity for kids.

As we enter spring…  be mindful of what floats your boat, and go for it. You deserve the fun… and comfort.

  Bikinis in Burma

Burma/Myanmar,  has probably not been at the top of your travel list. Until recently, this South East Asia country was boycotted by travelers because of a hard line military government, that disallowed opposition to its rule. Economic sanctions have been in place for decades.

But now, the Burmese democratic opposition is supporting responsible travel to Burma… (avoid tourist establishments with ties to the govt.) & the boycott: lifted.

On the way to Burma

So it’s time to go!

Somewhere in the Andaman Sea..far far from home.

I just went with four girlfriends… although we saw this undeveloped country from a unique perspective: from a boat in bikinis almost 24/7.

Yes, I visited the mainland town of Kawthoung…

Mergui Archipelago, Burma

but I spent most of my 8 days cruising the some of the hundreds of islands in the Mergui Archipelago  in the Andaman Sea, just off the coast of Burma.

How you travel there is up to you. Staying on land: it is very rough. Gotta be careful about what you eat… it is very primitive and raw – not many places like this left in the world. Very little internet service – it is reported on that one tourist at a hotel tried sending a photo via email and was charged $2000. The govt reportedly views all emails as well. But – the things to see on land are incredible.

By sea: Gorgeous. Peaceful. And I admit – totally decadent. Not many people can afford to charter a yacht and do this.

Having said that, going by sea is a subject about worth learning…. There are responsible tours that don’t  have ties to the govt & help locals. These tour groups can assist you plan and even charter your own yacht.

We had a fantastic guide with us the entire time and felt completely safe. The locals we encountered were kind and happy to see us -

some invited us into their homes…

and the fishermen invited us on their boats.

It is an utterly different world, and snatched a piece of my soul.

To travel by boat, you get to visit places where there are no other tourists… we didn’t see any at all, except a Russian dive boat, and probably saw total about 40 other people/locals the entire time we were there.

We were anchoring at uninhabited islands… stand up paddling every morning to a beautiful sunrise…

walking every day on virgin sand littered with whole, unbroken shells.

Our favorite we named ‘Sand Dollar Beach” because curiously enough, only sand dollars littered the shore.

And did I mention oh so blue turquoise waters?

We sailed near dolphins…

and witnessed sunsets that would make even non-believers faithful.

Another advantage of the boat: We also felt safe eating the food because our crew stocked it form safe sources.

In my upcoming posts I will highlight specific islands or attractions from my trip. This is just a brief overview.. I know I can’t do this trip justice, but I will try. :)

If you are at all interested in exploring this region of the beautiful world, here are some sources – I can’t recommend them personally because I’ve never used them, but it is a place to start. Like I always say, “Dream Big.”

Some of the yachting companies I’ve researched charge around $1800 per person for 7 nights… that includes food and water activities – no entry visas, etc. The fuel is really expensive, so with the price of gas going up, so may your chartered yacht experience.

Also a good current resource is

I didn’t find our own government’s website to be as current.

  Taking the Kids To Peru: Day 5 Shopping the Markets and Lovin’ the Llamas!

Day 5 of my family adventure: This could very well be my kids’ favorite day in Peru

We left our home at Sol Y Luna to venture to our next hotel in Cuzco. The way our tour group, Adventures by Disney, broke up the all of the drive time worked really well.

Our first stop along the way: Pisca Market. To make shopping seem fun to kids, the Disney tour guides gave everyone 10 soles to spend… but you had to buy a gift for a white elephant exchange at our group’s last dinner together. Creative and fun idea!

The kids really took pride in picking a gift among the traditional chotchkies you’d find in Peru – hats and scarves made from alpaca, dolls, beaded jewelry, etc. The prices are so cheap  – the dollar goes far. It is not hard to bargain here, by the way.

The kids all made friends .. the young Peruvian girls dressed in traditional garb charge you to take a photo with them and their animals.  Even though you know it is a more tourist trap than National Geographic moment, you can’t resist, and want to give them something because frankly, there are many poor people in that country.

My youngest was particularly drawn to the dogs in Peru… I’ve never seen anything like it, but all the dogs roam freely on the streets. They are not kept in a yard at home…. they are not on leashes. Sometimes they seem so busy running through the cities, it is as if they are late to a very important meeting. My son found every dog and had to pet it. :) The language of dog lovers is the same everywhere.

Awana Kancha Llama Farm

From the market, we headed to Awana Kancha – another place I can’t imagine learning about without the sage guidance of a good tour group. At this point, we were all impressed with how easy it was to be part of a tour – you are able to experience the present better because as parents we weren’ t worrying about where our next meal would be, how we would get to our next location, or where we could buy a bottle of water.

Awana Kancha is an exotic animal farm of sorts -

With Suuth American “camels” to with which to interact!

My kids loved feeding the llamas and alpacas -

Some were aggressive and chased my six year old. They all had a great time.

Part of this living museum is that visitors also learn about how the animals’ soft wool is used to make beautiful woven textiles.  Then the next thing you know you are whisked from a dusty, dirty grass patch with alpaca roaming, into a marble-floored, air conditioned indoor mall selling all sorts of very nice Peruvian sweaters and souvenirs. It felt totally out of place, but was some of the best shopping we’d had – at a llama farm! It is so exclusive, we weren’t even allowed to photograph it…

After fraternizing with our furry friends, we finally reached our destination: Cuzco, a city of about 350,000 that disarms one with it’s unexpected charm.

Cuzco, Peru

Cobblestone streets… Beyond gorgeous churches…And all very clean.

There are 300 Catholic churches in this small town – these churches weren’t like the ones you see in Europe by the way – in general they were more intimate, but equally ornate, with alters of carved gold detail.

Cuzco is an Incan city, and was once headquarters to the Incan Empire.. and our hotel was once the home of one of the Spanish Conquistadors.

The Libertador is a regal hotel, and you can see the Spanish influence in the architecture. It is walking distance to the main square which is great with kids.

Even though it is an ultra elegant hotel, the staff was uber-friendly to children. Some of the nicest staff I have encountered in all my travels. The only bummer was no internet service in the rooms, only the public areas. At this point I had been offline for about a week, and needed to check on some things back at the ranch.

That night we ate a super gourmet meal at a restaurant – Limo. Because Cuzco is of high altitude, many people were feeling the effects – even after being in Machu Picchu. It can hit pretty suddenly so be prepared.

It didn’t stop us from walking back to our hotel from dinner – with the lights on the nearby hillside sparkling as our guide.

Lima, Peru

Tomorrow: The bustling cities of Peru.

  Taking the Kids To Peru Day 4: Machu Picchu – One of the Great Wonders Of The World

My family’s 8 day trip to Peru last week finds us on day 4 in my blog….

We had a SUPER early wake up call that morning because Adventure by Disney’s goal is to beat the crowds. Have to admit – I was not loving being told what time to wake up – which is part of a being with a tour group- but it ended up being worth it.

Arriving at the Ollantaytambo train station to being our journey to Machu Pichhu, I already felt transported somewhere lost in time.

Although the station is pretty modern, Peru is still a third world country. It felt old fashioned.   But once inside the passenger car, which services thousands of tourists, the ride was surprisingly plush: leather seats, meal service, and even a fashion show!

In my seat I took it all in. The additional windows on the ceiling allowed more extensive viewing of the lush and rugged Andes dotted with Inca ruins.

The thick fog rolling in and out between the hills – revealing a new scenery each time it dissipated… and the mysterious music playing through the train’s speaker set the scene for a spiritual and mystic journey to the lost city of the Incas.

It was an hour and a half train ride, and when we arrived at the main gate, you must show your passport.  Tickets are pricey about 50 US dollars. Our tickets were already part of our Disney package, so we didn’t need to wait in any lines. The Peru govt is now limiting the number of people, so order tickets in advance. There are lockers to check personal belongings too. (The other way to enter is to hike the Inca Trail.)

Meandering up a hill, the ruins suddenly become visible as you walk through a tunnel-like rock formation.

The first glimpse is an awesome moment – it makes you think about life and those who came so long before you.

Machu Picchu - Put This On Your Bucket List

We spent a few hours following a guide up close through the ruins….I had always wanted to come to Machu Picchu. It is easy to savor the moments here.

Bringing my kids was a thrill.  Having guides from the region is a huge bonus. Disney trains all the local guides, so they are jovial and a fabulous source of information.

I could tell you all the amazing stories about the Incas that you come to appreciate by exploring Machu Picchu… but you are better off getting the history lesson from another website.

In a nutshell. the Incas built this city to purposely be out of reach.. and up high to be closer to the gods.

The reason they say these remains are so special is that they weren’t destroyed by the Spanish when they conquered Peru…. and were actually kept secret to most of the world, overgrown with fast growing lush vegetation. That, until American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911.

Because they’re unspoiled, we can marvel at the Incan construction – how did they get this many tons of boulders up to 8000 feet  above sea level?

How did they get each stone to fit together flawlessly, without mortar and modern tools?

So how did the kids like it?

As parents, we bring our children on trips like this with the hopes of teaching about other cultures and explaining history. At the same time, I realize true appreciation of this magnificent site won’t take root immediately, and that’s OK. The guides on our tour did a good job of trying to keep the kids engaged, and my six year old actually asked if we could Google the Incas…. mostly because he learned they had small feet, but hey – it was a start…. My older kids had fun imagining playing laser tag at Machu Picchu. Had to be honest. :)

We ate lunch at the restaurant right at the entrance – which is much more expensive than going back down the mountain for a cafe, but it gives you more valuable Machu Picchu touring time. My tip would be to splurge at the expensive restaurant near Machu Picchu, or pack a lunch if possible.

After lunch, the guides gave us two choices: to hike part of the Inca trail from the ruins up to the Sun Gate.. or to spend more time wandering the ruins on our own.

Our family chose to hike about 1000 feet higher  along  the stone path that the Incas built some 500 years ago. All my kids made it – even my six year old. The Inca trail here is wide enough that parents don’t have to worry. You should however, judge the maturity, and physical shape of your child before you take him or her up there.

It is a good hike – most in our group didn’t find it too strenuous – about two hours round trip depending on how long you rest at the top, and how big a ham you are…..

Kids having fun at Machu Picchu. Disclaimer: There IS solid ground below their feet.

We took many photos – you can’t resist…. but we found the views at Sun Gate aren’t more spectacular than below, just different.

The Incas were highly spiritual people.. so I couldn’t help but feel the power here. It was nice actually.

Needless to say… we all slept like babies that night…. with strangely lucid dreams. Machu Picchu had infiltrated our souls.

Tomorrow: Lovin’ the llama.