ETC AMBASSADORS TO PERU

In 2014 the Executive Advisory Council of the Educational Travel Consortium held its annual meeting in Peru, where they were the guests of the country’s national tourist board, PromPeru. Here, in their own words, are their comments about this memorable experience.

To go directly to a particular individual beyond this first page, click on his/her name below:

Fred Ackerman, Chief Shepherding Officer, Black Sheep Adventures:

Cultural Sights: “Every bit as amazing as I had expected. This was a dream come true for me to visit this beautiful country.”

People: “The people we interacted with seemed genuine, cheerful, and wanted to share the beauty of their country.”

Hotels: “Every bit the standard we’d expect of Relais et Chateaux and other top luxury brands, but at a better value.”

Cuisine: “Far exceeded expectations. Really quite excellent. Loved the ceviche, lomo saltado and other dishes. That picnic we had by the lake was among the best-catered events I have ever experienced.”

Tourism: “I knew Peru would be a popular place, but I was surprised to find the number of tourists was pleasantly less than what I expected. I think it’s great that the number of visitors to Machu Picchu is limited to prevent it from feeling overrun with tourists.”

Tim Bennett, Business Development, Delta Bridge:

This was my second trip to Peru, but the first time having the opportunity to learn about the country, the history, and sites. The PromPerú team did an amazing job in pre-trip communication, and was very kind to provide tourist maps and the copy of the Last Days of the Incas. Our reception at the airport was wonderful, and we received a good amount of information on the ride to the hotel. It is important for travelers from the U.S. to have a good night’s sleep in order to properly handle the altitude and rigors of a tour. The Westin is a quality brand, recognizable to U.S. tourists, and a comfortable way to start the trip on a tour. Being in the San Isidro and Mira Flores neighborhood is convenient to many restaurants and shops as well.

The Larco Museum was a truly incredible collection of art, beautiful flowers, and courtyards. I found the number of additional artifacts in storage to be just as amazing as those on display. The gardens were beautiful and our treat of Pisco Sour was a wonderful start to our trip.

Casa De Aliaga was truly remarkable. This was truly a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.” I have never seen a home and décor like this ever in my life. The role-players added to this experience, and I was truly in awe of the venue. This experience was brought to an even higher level with the gourmet five-course dinner. This was really one of the best dining experiences of my life, and certainly something to add to a tour if possible.

Taking the Inca Rail Train was an amazing treat, and very impressive. I have never before been on a dining car of a locomotive, and it was quite an experience, even if working. The views were wonderful, and the service even better.

Inkaterra was a wonderful combination of rustic, and luxurious. The staff was very accommodating, and the grounds were gorgeous. The owner and his staff ensured everything was just right. I think it was wonderful that they were able to accommodate our meeting room move for instance. The views of Machu Picchu were better than could be imagined. A camera truly doesn’t do the landscape justice. I was very pleased to have the option to go back up the mountain for sunrise. Our guide was very knowledgeable, and spoke with great reverence and passion for the history. This is quite possibly the best single spot I have seen in my life. It will be transformative for all visitors.

Tambo del Inka was amazing. Who knew that there was such a modern, incredible hotel? I thought it was great that they integrated elements of Inca wall building techniques into the building. The rooms were amazing, and I immediately posted to social media! I think even the most discriminating traveler would love to stay at this hotel.

My biggest priority while traveling is to meet and learn more from local people. So having the opportunity to play games with local people, and drink and share in Chicha, and Q’ui was a wonderful evening. It was also a nice way to contrast the luxurious quarters we were staying in!

I found the time at Ollantaytambo to be a fun stop. Again, our guide was incredible, and we very much appreciated his presentations and way of presenting the information. I found the artwork at Seminario to be very interesting. Being able to speak to the artists was a great treat.

The trip to Sol y Luna for lunch was a big surprise. I had missed this on the agenda, but was certainly glad it was there. I had never ridden a horse before, so this was truly an amazing adventure. The food once again was amazing. I will be trying to cook corozon here in the US again soon.

I wanted to spend more time in Cuzco. The city was so alive, so historical and with so many nooks and crannies of interesting things. It looked like the shopping and vibrant lifestyle would be worth exploring. Our dinner and dance event at San Cristobal was eye opening and wildly entertaining. Everyone was amazed with our dinner as well. As is usually the case on these trips, we do not suffer from hunger! The event really exceeded our expectations.

Finally, I very much enjoyed Hotel B in Barranco. This destination is more suited to a FIT traveler, and I hope to spend the night in the Chairman Mao room one day. top

Jennifer Bohac, Director of Travel for The Association of Former Students at Texas A&M University:

This was my third time to Peru and I have to say it was the best. I have always enjoyed my experiences in this amazing country. This trip was well planned, extremely organized, and a lot of fun. I feel we got a great overview of the area, a knowledge of the people, and in depth understanding of the culture and the history. Peru is a destination on the Traveling Aggies itinerary every year, and we will continue to offer Peru yearly.

Lima is a fabulous city with so much to offer and do. I know we just scratched the surface with our experiences here. The museums, the fascinating architecture, plazas, and the artistic value was definitely a plus to experience. Plaza Mayor is gorgeous and at night it is just magical – a must see on any visit to Peru. I also feel the dinner of Casa De Aliaga was one of the highlights of our trip – it was almost like living as a royal. It was over the top – the food, the service, and the location was all just unbelievable. I definitely want to go back.

Machu Picchu is a bucket list item for many people as it should be. I find the entire experience amazing. From taking the train and the breathtaking scenery, to spending time exploring this historic Inca sight is an experience I cherish. Having Peter Frost take our group around the ruins was a real treat. The area is stunning and learning the history and background of the area just fascinates me. I am always blown away at how Machu Picchu was even built and has survived this long atop the mountain. Truly a sight to behold.

The Sacred Valley was also a magnificent and wonderful experience. It is one of those places that you take lots and lots of photos but pictures do not do it justice. Around every corner, there is a landscape or scene that takes your breath away. We were fortunate with lovely weather throughout the trip, which added to our great experiences and enjoyment.

Finally, Cuzco was an excellent way to end the trip – another marvelous city with so much to offer. As each stop on this trip, we just did not have the time to take it all in and do it all. The main square, churches, buildings, and history are such a treasure and beautiful. We enjoyed the visits, tours, and overview of the Incan city.

Aside from the incredible destinations, we had the opportunity experience; I believe the best part of the trip was the people. I very much appreciate the cultural exchanges and the chance to get to know some of the various people throughout the country. I cannot say enough about how warm, friendly, welcoming, and inviting the locals were. We were lucky to meet and interact with a variety of people – from the villages, mountains, and the city. These interactions helped me to learn more about Peru and an appreciation of their culture, history, and background. It was a lot of fun and definitely added to our overall experience. I loved the bright colors, the friendly smiles, and enthusiasm of the Peruvians to make us feel welcome and share their background.

I also enjoyed the food and drink – always a big part of the travel experience. I think the itinerary and trip gave us a fabulous opportunity to try a variety of foods and cuisine. It was all delicious and a great way to learn more about the country and people. And yes, I even enjoyed the guinea pig!

In conclusion, Peru was magnificent and this trip was outstanding. I cannot say enough positive about my experiences during our short time here. It is a place I will definitely return to and will share to potential travelers all that Peru has to offer. Thank you PromPerú and COLTUR for a trip I will always treasure! top

Regina Cross, Director of Alumni Travel, Michigan State University (MSU) Alumni Association:

My first experience traveling to Peru was wonderful. Seeing the Andes Mountains up close and personal was definitely a highlight. Having the opportunity to interact with the people of the Andes was also a highlight. The local people are very warm and seemed proud of their heritage. Something should be said about those that still live off the land. I was most impressed with those that traveled from other countries and because they loved the country so much, decided to migrate to Peru.

All the guides and drivers we met were friendly, kind, and accommodating in every possible way. They made for a more enriching experience.

I was impressed with our first city visit of Lima. It was very metropolitan with fantastic cuisine. The backdrop of the mountains and ocean added to overall appeal of the city. Lunch at the Amaz restaurant was nice and introduced the local cuisine. Each time we thought the meal was over, another wonderful dish was presented.

The Larco museum was enlightening with its beautiful pieces of regional artwork and the area with the classified pieces was unbelievable. I also enjoyed the opportunity to relax and have a cocktail in the beautiful garden area adjacent to museum. That evening our cocktail reception and dinner at the Casa De Aliaga home was incredible. The folks in the period costumes were a nice added touch as they paraded through each of the rooms.

The ride on the Inca Rail train was a great. The meal was very good and the train was abuzz with the excitement for our time at Machu Picchu. While on the trip all the accommodations were top-notch, but the one that stood out for me was the Inkaterra hotel due to the rainforest setting. It was a pleasure to meet and dine with the owner who told me his brother attended MSU.

I also enjoyed the presentation by Peter Frost and having him as our guide during the visit to the Inca settlement. Machu Picchu is definitely a wonder of the world and I am glad I had the opportunity to experience it and will be pleased to share how beautiful and impressive it is with potential travelers.

One of the definite highlights of the tour was the stop at the La Chicheria El Descanso. It was a pleasure interacting and playing the coin board game with the native Q’eros people. Learning the process of how the drink chicha is made was so interesting and I have enjoyed recounting the process with my colleagues and friends. Dinner with the Q’eros natives and the video of the Q’eros traveling from the high to low country and the music were fabulous. I can check off eating guinea pig from my list of firsts. I also enjoyed the opportunity to shop for the handcrafted items.

During our visit to the Sacred Valley, I chose the visit to Chinchero Center with the handcrafted textiles. The women that run the center are very skilled in the tradition of the woven pieces. A demonstration on how the sheep’s wool and llama fur was dyed was very enlightening.

A very fun day included the lunch at Wayra and horse show by the gauchos. Having the opportunity to ride the horses was a special added touch. The visit to the Sol y Luna School and having the opportunity to meet the children was inspirational. I was so impressed with how the owners first established the restaurant/resort and then subsequently opened their hearts and provided educational opportunities for children of needy families by establishing the Sol y Luna School.

The ½ day we spent in Cuzco was most enjoyable especially the pre-dinner visit to the Koricancha temple. The evening presentation was unexpected and delightful.

Our final day in Lima with lunch and tour at Hotel B was nice and our visit to the Las Pallas Art Gallery was a pleasure. The owner Mari Solari was very interesting and it was fun to hear of her migration from Europe and enjoyed learning of the origins of local artwork that she sells in her gallery.

To conclude, the tour was beyond my expectations. From the beauty of the Andes mountains, the ancient settlements, to the humility of the native people and the inspiration of those that have migrated from other lands, Peru is rich in culture and filled with must see sites and I will speak highly of it for years to come. top

Stacy Fiorentinos, Founder and President of Classic Escapes:

Peru is one of my favorite destinations around the world. I’ve traveled extensively throughout Peru and I’m spellbound by the rich and varied experiences it offers. From the Amazon, with its splendid wildlife and luxury vessels traversing it, to the arid, desert southern coast with its marine life and old civilizations. From the highlands rich with Incan treasures, to Puno and the highest navigable lake in the world – Titicaca. From the white city of Arequipa and the deepest canyon in the world – Colca Canyon, Peru has tremendous diversity and unbridled culture.

This time around, I explored the northern part of the country, and I was astounded by the amazing finds in the Lord of Sipan gravesite. We all know about the Incas, which is only a 100-year span in Peru’s history, but this venture to the North opened my eyes to the knowledge that Peru has as many ancient civilizations as the Egyptians and Greeks.

The Peruvian people are some of the warmest and most hospitable in the world, always smiling and courteous. The countryside is stunning, and the food innovative, delicious, and celebrated worldwide. There are many artifacts to bring back home – from weavings, to ceramics, to artwork, to name a few, and more importantly memories to last a lifetime. Peru has been in our product line-up for decades, and we plan to keep it that way for decades to come. Thank you for an outstanding educational experience. top

Melissa Gresh, Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Alumni Travel Program:

Having never been to Peru, I was not sure what to expect beyond the images I have seen for the past ten years or so in our trip brochures. In relation to other destinations, China, France, etc., Peru is relatively new for us. Colleagues and friends had visited prior to my trip and they all shared with me how much they enjoyed it and how beautiful it was.

When I think of Peru’s beauty, the first thing that comes to mind are the two train journeys we enjoyed. The spectacular views along these two routes were beyond what I had envisioned. This activity was a highlight for me as was traveling by train. I always like to get a varying perspective of a country and traveling by motor coach, train, boat, bike, etc., can provide those differing viewpoints.

I enjoyed being in the cities as well. Parts of Lima were delightful and I enjoyed seeing the coastline. I wished we had more time in Cuzco. I truly loved the city’s beauty, historic buildings, and bustling, joyful atmosphere. An early morning walk in Cuzco gave me time to explore in the peace and quiet and allowed me to see the city slowly come to life. Loved Cuzco.

When we arrived in the Sacred Valley, I did not have an understanding of the meaning or the content of our meeting at Chicheria El Descanso. As it turns out it was thoroughly enjoyable and it was a nice chance to engage differently with the people and the town. I really liked the casual activities, learning about their local drink, tasting the traditional food, and hearing their music. The people were lovely and friendly and I thought the conversation of music tied into culture and working the land was wonderful. There are so many ways to approach learning about a country and its people, and doing so by way of learning about a people’s crafts, music, and other traditions is a great approach.

I would have liked to understand the connection between the people we met at the event in Chicheria and the people and artists we met in the town and cities. How are the people who live more a traditional lifestyle connected with those who live a more modern lifestyle? Do they rely on one another? I felt like there were two peoples of Peru and it would be good to know how they connected day to day.

It was wonderful to see how the people (I heard mainly about the women’s efforts) in the countryside were adapting to modern life with regard to building up a business and making a living. There were inspiring stories. The high quality of the crafts and their work was terrific. I enjoyed our time at the school and hearing about how hard the children work, their goals, and their efforts and that of their families to ensure that they get a good education. It would be good to see how other schools work and what the needs are elsewhere. The school visit we had was wonderful but I am sure it was not a typical setting for some of the children of Peru. Their school was beautiful and they seemed to have many resources.

In any case, Peru seems to lend itself to wonderful interactions with children of Peru and children from the US. It seems like a wonderful place for a family program, being relatively easy to get to and offering natural beauty, physical activities, and opportunities with the friendly, lovely people of Peru.

Machu Picchu was amazing and, in addition to the structures themselves, I was in awe of the surrounding natural beauty. It must be a truly wonderful experience to hike to the site. Breathtaking views, encounters with local citizens, and a real sense of accomplishment for the hiker.

Oh, and the food was beyond compare. Healthy and flavorful. Perfect for the current-day traveler. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity! top

Steven Lembke, Retired Vice President, Institutional Advancement, Road Scholar (Elderhostel):

Despite my many years of travel with Road Scholar, I never had the good fortune to find my way to Peru until I travelled there to participate in the May 2014, ETC Executive Advisory Council meeting hosted by PromPerú. For years, my image of Peru had been formed by the nearly identical pictures of Machu Picchu featured in countless brochures and travel flyers. So it was with almost child-like ignorance that I arrived in Lima and began one of the most memorable 8-day travel experiences of my life.

Under the watchful eye and creative planning of Elisabeth Hakim from PromPerú and the guiding hands of Enrique Velasco, Jr. from COLTUR, I and my colleagues were able to explore experience and engage the wonders of Peru. I was agog traveling from the narrow lowland coastal region to the Andes Mountain range — I was not aware that such a geographically and ethnically diverse country existed anywhere on earth. And, everywhere I went I was struck by the warm spirit, friendliness, and industriousness of the people.

The food alone demands a revisit … I agree with those who say that Peru has one of the great cuisines of the world. I love fusion food and the Peruvian cuisine with its influences from almost every continent blended with ingredients that can be traced back to the Incas was the epitome of fusion and taste. Traditional dishes such as ceviche, tacacho, and cuy, cuy, cuy, struck me as not only delicious and exciting foods but complex history lessons as well. I loved the endless varieties of potatoes, the enormous white Andean corn, and the marvelous sweets. I saw trees laden with delicious avocados and I still dream of the delicate quinoa pancakes served for breakfast at Tambo del Inka Resort. And, of course, starting each dinner with a tongue tingling pisco sour helped to set the stage for a memorable meal. The range of culinary experiences and the accompanying interpretation was fantastic. The bountiful lunch at Amaz, the stunningly elegant tasting dinner at Casa De Aliaga, the authentic dinner, and cultural exchange with the native community at La Chicheria El Descanso, and the picnic lunch at Huaypo Lake were masterful touches.

I found our accommodations incredibly eclectic and perfectly reflective of their regions. I appreciated all of them for their individual styles and wonderful staff — from the gleaming and exciting Westin Lima Hotel, to the serene and enchanting Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, to the resort elegance of the Tambo del Inka, to the historical Palacio del Inka — each hotel made me feel like I belonged to that time and region. And, miraculously, while we arrived as a group, the attentive staff at each hotel brought me quickly back to being an individual – not an easy task and much appreciated by those of us dealing with group travel.

Our visits and lectures were superb. The Larco Museum visit was enlightening and was brought to life by our caring, professional, and enchanting guide — A great way to start the trip. Our walk through the Plaza Mayor, the twilight walk at Inkaterra, the climb to the top of Ollantaytambo town and the tour of Colonial Cuzco were done well and each offered a much needed more detailed and deeper look at what we were seeing from our coach and hotels. I found the visit to the tower of San Cristobal Church, the outdoor pageantry and the magnificent dinner, as we overlooked the city, magical in many ways. The lunch at Wayra and the Sol y Luna school visit were both inspirational – one for the elegant serving of traditional foods in such a relaxing and beautiful setting and the other for the smiles on the faces of the kids who are experiencing all that learning in a loving environment can bring.

And finally, Machu Picchu — I stated earlier that I had seen many pictures of Machu Picchu before coming to Peru, but nothing prepared me for the beauty and history that completely overwhelmed me during our two visits to this truly World Heritage site. There are no words, no pictures, and no videos that can do justice to this site. One must see it and experience it in person to even begin to appreciate and understand its cultural and historical significance.

We ended our visit in Cuzco. At first, I thought it was the elevation that was affecting me but then I realized that all of Peru is simply breathtaking. My visit to Peru was a personal awakening. I can truly say that no other country has impacted me so much in such a short time. I send special thanks to Elisabeth and Maria from PromPerú, Enrique from COLTUR and all the members of their teams for all they did for all of us. top

Martin Ludwig, Director of Travel for the Georgia Tech Alumni Association:

Peru is a country of archaeological, cultural, and natural treasures. So, to get the opportunity to visit it and explore these treasures was a treat for myself and my colleagues on the Executive Advisory Council for the Educational Travel Community. I started my adventure with a direct flight from Atlanta to Lima on Delta Airlines and checked in at the Westin Lima.

Accommodations

The hotels and resorts that our group stayed in during our visit to Peru were all amazing and each unique and different from the others. The Westin Lima is an upscale hotel that caters to both business and vacationing travelers in the city. The Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is nestled in a forest and really made you feel a part of its natural surroundings. The Tambo del Inka Resort in Urubamba offered great dining and accommodations with a luxurious feel and mountainous views. The Palacio del Inka Hotel is situated in the center of Cuzco, which made it easy to walk and tour. The Peruvian art and handicrafts were a treat to explore.

Food and Dining

Peruvian food is as diverse as its climate. We started our trip with lunch at Amaz Restaurant. Amaz was a taste of the Amazonian region. The food was very delicious and we feasted on such foods as ceviche and tacacho. An amazing dinner was to be had at Casa De Aliaga. The stately home of Captain De Aliaga created a magical dining venue that took us back in time with characters in colonial costumes waltzing around the home while we prepared for dinner. The meal was a tasting of it seemed like eight courses with the Chef explaining each. Very different from the Casa De Aliaga stately dinner was the dinner and cultural exchange with a native community at “La Chicheria El Descanso,” a traditional restaurant in Urubamba. We were able to experience the traditional Peruvian food and hear the music of the Quechua community. Holly Wissler, our host, did a wonderful job explaining and translating the importance of the music rituals of these amazing and colorful people. Next up was our picnic lunch at Huaypo Lake. This was an outdoor lunch with amazing views of the lake and its surroundings. The temperature was a little cool, but the food and the views were too grand to pass up. Nilda Callañaupa was our guest speaker. She gave us a brief introduction to the Chinchero weaving tradition and the Chinchero Center for Traditional Culture. Her talk inspired many in our group to want to learn more. Another lunch spot on our journey through Peru was at Wayra, which is a part of the Hotel Sol Y Luna in the Sacred Valley. This outdoor venue set with the Andean mountains in the backdrop was a perfect spot for a local BBQ. The food from the firewood ovens and grills was superb and gave us a taste of the local flavor. The horse show and chance to ride the horses was a highlight for many of us in the EAC group. I know it was for me. Our final dinner was across from the San Cristobal Church. The ambiance of candles and the close quarters made for a very intimate dining experience. This three-course meal was a great way to end our gastro adventure in Peru.

Excursions

Our first excursion was a visit to the Larco Herrera Museum. This museum, which houses a remarkable gallery of archaeological artifacts, gives visitors a chance to explore Pre-Columbian art and an erotic archaeological collection. I really enjoyed the beautiful gardens that surround this 18th century mansion.

The walking tour of Lima at night in the Plaza Mayor was a nice way to see the liveliness of the city at night. It was great to see so many people enjoying Lima on our way to the Casa De Aliaga.

Next up on our adventure in Peru was our flight to Cuzco and train ride to Machu Picchu. Riding on the Inca Rail Train seemed to take you back to days gone by. The service and the food and the chance to socialize while traveling to Machu town were all great and was a nice way to lead up to our visit to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is a place that all travelers should have on their “bucket list.” The site of this 15th century Incan village on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley takes your breath away. Not just because of the altitude, but because of the engineering marvel and beauty of what still exists after so many years. Peter Frost, a British writer, photographer and archaeologist, led us on a tour of this amazing site explaining to us its history and importance to the Incan civilization.

After spending some time at Machu Picchu, it was back to the Sacred Valley for further exploration. We boarded the Inca Rail Train and headed back to the Sacred Valley. While there, we broke up into three groups on different excursions. I visited the town of Ollantaytambo and fortress. Having the chance to go into a home of local resident gave me an insight to how the Peruvian people live in this area. For the most part these people live, cook and raise animals in a small area. The town itself is an Incan archaeological site whose ruins attracted foreign explorers in the 19th century. After climbing the ruins of the fortress, we had a bird’s eye view of the town and insight to the engineering marvels of how these massive rocks were moved across rivers and valleys to create this fortress so long ago. Very impressive!

On our way back to the hotel, we took the opportunity to visit the Seminario Gallery. The artist and owner, Pablo Seminario, explained his new form of art expression and the techniques that he uses to design and create. I was impressed with how he mixes the work of ancient Peruvian inheritances with his modern techniques in designing unique pieces of today. The next day, our group had the chance to visit the Sol Y Luna School. What a firsthand way to learn about this private educational institution which provides not only an education, but an opportunity to many children who may not receive the attention and guidance that they should at home. The children there seemed very happy and the environment seemed to be a place of inclusion to all. Our next journey took us back to Cuzco with a city tour. We had the chance to sip champagne as we visited the San Cristobal Church. The local Harpist in the bell tower of the church was a treat, but the bigger spectacle was the show outside of the church. Our group was treated to a private dance and light show outside the church and temple. Actors on stilts and dancers all in costume told a story of the gods and the people, which was an amazing production and story to be told. What a way to end an evening! On our last day, our group had the chance to visit Las Pallas Art Gallery. Located in a restored residence from 1898, Las Pallas Art Gallery combined the works of artists from many regions of Peru. Many people in the group were able to pick up last minute unique gifts before heading back home. top

Aleksandra Matic, Associate Director of Member Travel for the Art Institute of Chicago:

This being my first time to Peru (and to South America), I really tried to go into the meeting with a completely open mind. Everyone has read about Machu Picchu and seen photographs of the colorful indigenous costumes, alpacas, rain forests, etc. I am very glad that I tried to keep these images out of my mind prior to arrival, as all of my mental imagery would have paled in comparison to what we were to experience during this fantastic journey.

All of the hotels we stayed at were fantastic. The Westin, Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo, Tambo del Inka, and Palacio del Inka were superb. While the decor and themes varied, the terrific service, wonderful meals, and overall comfort level were constant. At the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo, it was a treat to meet José Koechlin and hear first-hand of his passion for conservation, research, and education. I think that all of our meeting spaces were perfectly lovely. At the Inkaterra Machu Picchu, the meeting room was lovely and although the trains were constant, I was not bothered by the noise. All of our meeting spaces had ample space and electric plugs, which is good to know for the purposes of formal, slide-illustrated lectures, which is a feature of all Art Institute programs. The snacks and tea everywhere were a nice touch, too.

One constant theme that played in my mind during the course of our meeting was the people we met. Everyone from drivers, to hotel receptionists, to restaurant servers, to guides, to our gracious host were perfect cultural ambassadors for Peru. Everyone was so kind, welcoming, and hospitable and so eager to share their knowledge of Peruvian life and culture with us.

The gifts we were given each evening were just fabulous and so timely, as they were always a precursor to what we would experience next. We were truly spoiled!

My mother and I also chose to participate in the post-tour to the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica. This was at the suggestion of Elisabeth, who thought that we would enjoy the excursion since it was such a unique experience. She could not have been more correct! Our cabana was lovely. We were provided with kerosene lamps and flashlights, as electricity was not available around the clock. They also provided us with rubber boots for the excursions, which was extremely helpful. Of all of our accommodations, the service here was definitely the most under-developed. It was not for lack of trying. Everyone was very nice. I think most issues were just language barrier problems. We had a mix-up with a couple of massages we booked, but we sorted it out mid-treatment. Essentially, they book the treatments in the dining lodge, and the gal that booked our appointment didn’t understand our request for a basic massage, and booked us for an hour long foot massage. The only other issue was that the spa was in a converted cabana. That evening was so cold they left hot water bottles in the cabanas. I know the cold was unseasonable but if they intend to keep the spa there they might consider putting in windows that can be open and closed-getting a massage while shivering is not very relaxing.

Our guide on the first day’s excursion was very young and his English was limited, which made our excursion a bit hard. He did not have much to say. However, our guide for the first night’s twilight cruise and the second day’s excursion to the Hacienda Concepcion was outstanding. He was a wealth of knowledge of medical plants and remedies and local flora and fauna. There were four other people in our group, and as a thunderstorm continued, we chose to complete the excursion with a canoe trip in the storm. What an amazing experience! The meals were also phenomenal in the beautiful dining lodge.

A few of my favorite visits…

The lunch at Amaz was AMAZing!!!!! Decor was very cool and the food was amazing. It was nice to have a bit of an introduction to Amazonian-influenced cuisine in the city.

The visit to the Larco-Herrera Museum was just fabulous. They have the luxury of a fantastic director, passionate PR director, talented and knowledgeable curator, and an outstanding collection. The grounds were lovely and the restaurant looked very cozy and attractive. Their PR manager told me that not many tourists frequent the restaurant and bar, but it is a sort of hot spot for locals. Whenever an art museum can engage the local population and get them to see the museum as a complete destination (besides just a museum), that is wonderful and truly an accomplishment.

The evening at the Aliaga Mansion was absolutely perfect. My travelers would just love this visit. The home, the art, the furniture, and the added touch of the actors in period clothes was enough, but then the dinner…The whole set up was so elegant and the food amazing. The service was outstanding.

The tour of Machu Picchu with Peter Frost was such a highlight, and having Peter there made it even more special. His lecture enhanced our visit and it was a privilege to dine with him that evening. This visit was definitely on my list and it didn’t disappoint. Since our meeting there has been quite a bit of press detailing concern that the enormous amount of visitors (though now limited) is still putting too much of a stress on the site and that more parts may be closed in the future. The ride on the Inka Rail was also such a lovely experience. A lovely lunch with great service and beautiful scenery, as well.

The visit to the Center for Contemporary Textiles was wonderful. I had to miss parts of it to film my interview, but the parts I did catch were wonderful. Everyone was so welcoming and it was great to learn about Nilda’s work and what these wonderful women are able to accomplish to support themselves and their families, and to continue this wonderful artisan tradition.

The visit to the Sol y Luna school and the lunch and Pasos horses was a great afternoon. It was such a pleasure to meet Petit and her students. The work she is doing there is so important and you could really tell how much she cares for those kids and wants them to live happy and healthy lives.

This meeting was a truly amazing experience and besides all of the important work we accomplished on behalf of ETC, we also were truly privileged to meet all of the wonderful people that we met and see all of the special things that we saw. None it would have been possible without Elisabeth and Enrique and I hope that they were pleased with our meeting, as well. Also, a tremendous thank you to Mara, Barb, and Lisa for all of their hard work and dedication, and a big thank you to all for including my mother. She truly had the trip of a lifetime. top

Christel (Pailet) Aragon, Director, UCLA Alumni Travel, UCLA Alumni Association:

This was my second time to Peru, and I enjoyed returning very much. This beautiful country with its rich history and diverse ecosystem has a lot to offer our discriminating travelers.

Spending time in Lima is a must, and the Larco Museum is of course a required visit on any trip. The garden downstairs is lovely, and a drink here at the end of the visit adds to the experience, and gives travelers an opportunity to explore the beautiful grounds.

Traffic in Lima is a big problem, but I don’t know what can be done about this other than planning sightseeing to avoid peak rush hours. Perhaps prepare travelers in de-briefing materials, and explain why some tours have to start early, or end late?

Peru has gotten a lot of press and recognition in the culinary arena, so any dining in Lima has to be top notch. That is what our travelers would expect. The Peruvian luncheon at Amaz Restaurant was amazing, and a very memorable experience. As was the dinner at Casa De Aliaga, but one must recognize that not all groups can get reservations here. It was a special evening though, and the characters in costume added to the experience.

Machu Picchu…..one of the most special places I have visited. When I was in Peru two years ago, I spent a total of 12 hours at this magical site. My group stayed one night at the Sanctuary Lodge, so I took every opportunity to spend time on the grounds at different times of the day. Still have to hike Wayna Picchu mountain! Returning with Peter Frost was a treat, and he added another dimension. Machu Picchu is a site one has to visit once in your lifetime, and I tell my travelers just that.

Throughout our visit the properties were top notch and memorable. My favorite was the Tambo del Inka Resort in the Sacred Valley. I loved how it blended in with nature, and the rooms were just perfect. I can’t think of one thing I would like to change or add. The pool was exquisite, and I am glad I was able to enjoy this spectacular facility one morning before our meetings.

The cultural exchange at La Chicheria El Descanso was a lot of fun, and it was great to get the opportunity to mingle with locals. I know my travelers would enjoy this very much, but I would not recommend the dinner for my groups. Seeing how the local brew was made was very interesting, as was the musical performance, and simply playing games in the courtyard. Sometimes the simple things are the things we remember the most!

On my previous visit to Peru, I participated in all three optional tours offered in Sacred Valley. I liked them all, but for me personally, the visit to Chinchero was the most memorable so I opted to do that again.

The lunch at Wayra was another unforgettable meal. Getting the opportunity to saddle up was a treat; however, I would not recommend this for my older audience. I always encourage visits to local schools as we are an educational institution, and the visit to the Sol y Luna school was very well done. We got an opportunity to learn about the mission, interact with the children, and visit the grounds. The time spent there was just right. A suggestion for groups would be to make it clearer how one can help support the school through donations. It can be done in a tasteful way, and I think many of my travelers would. For example, how much would it cost to sponsor a child for a year? Perhaps the group would like to pitch in and do \ this?

Cuzco…one of my favorite cities in the world. This is a very special city that I hold close to my heart. I felt an immediate connection to Cuzco when I was there two years ago, and visiting again was a treat. My only regret is that I did not add on a day or two here personally. Wish we would have had an afternoon flight back to Lima to allow for more exploration here, but I know the logistical challenges of operating tours.

Our gracious hostess Elisabeth Hakim and her team went out of their way to make sure we were well taken care of, and got to experience the best of Peru. She genuinely cared, and it showed. I have nothing but fond memories, and will continue to offer Peru in my tour line-up on an annual basis. While we worked hard on this tour performing the duties of the ETC Executive Advisory Council, it was an absolute treat to have our annual planning meeting in Peru! top

Steve Ridgway, Owner and President of Criterion Travel:

Our visit to Peru for the May 2014 ETC Executive Advisory Council Meeting, in short, validated my impression that Peru is not only a world- class tourism destination, but also one of the best countries on the planet for an educational travel program.

Peru has everything. Fascinating cultural history going back thousands of years. Stunning natural history, from the coast to the desert to the highlands to the Amazon rainforest. Good airlift and a well-developed tourism infrastructure combining hotels, resorts, transportation, and guides that makes it easy for tourists to travel around the country, rest in comfort, and see the sights with experts who can help them learn about what they’re seeing. Delectable cuisine, some of the best we’ve tasted anywhere in the world. And of course a wide variety of famous places to visit, from the Nazca Lines in the south to the tombs of Sipan in the north to the Upper Amazon rainforest to Peru’s crowning jewel, Machu Picchu. Let me share a few specific impressions about Peru.

LIMA

The capital city, Lima, gives the impression that the economy of Peru is strong. There is construction everywhere, the traffic is heavy, the city has an energy that is missing from some other Latin American capitals. Efficient public transportation is sorely needed. We were told that construction will begin next year on a subway system. I can’t imagine how bad the traffic will be while the subway is being built, but something needs to be done to make it easier to get around the city so I expect the bullet needs to be bitten to get the system built. Meanwhile, it’s my recommendation that tour groups spend a minimum of time in the city, using it only as a hub for flights into, out of, and within the country.

THE LARCO MUSEUM

Having just suggested that time in Lima be limited, I would contradict that a bit by strongly recommending a visit to this museum. It’s excellent, with perhaps the most amazing thing being that the museum’s entire collection represents civilizations that pre-date the Inca!

THE ACCOMMODATIONS

The Westin in Lima is an excellent U.S. chain hotel, probably best for business travelers. But the three hotels where we stayed next, along with the Hotel B we inspected in Lima, all made terrifically positive impressions. The Inkaterra Machu Picchu has a phenomenal “natural history” setting. The Tambo del Inka Resort in Urubamba is stylish and a stunning surprise, almost seeming out of place in the Sacred Valley. The Palacio del Inka in Cuzco, despite its recent renovation, is the least impressive of the three but the history, setting, and location are unbeatable.

THE FOOD

On all our previous overseas trips together, my wife Emily and I were most impressed with the food of India. Indian has been our favorite international cuisine for decades. Imagine my surprise when, as we were telling our family about our experiences in Peru, Emily announced that the food we were served on this trip was just as good or better than any we’ve ever enjoyed. From the beet salad Emily savored at the Westin in Lima, to lunch at Amaz Restaurant in Lima featuring foods of the Amazon, to that unforgettable dinner in Casa De Aliaga prepared by a member of the family that has lived in the house for five centuries, to the throwback luncheon served on the clattering Inca Rail train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu Pueblo, to the native dinner at La Chicheria El Descanso in Urubamba (not necessarily our favorite, but interesting nonetheless), to the surprisingly excellent picnic lunch at Huaypo Lake, to the finale dinner at San Cristobal Church prepared by three chefs in a kitchen not much bigger than a closet – the food was definitely a highlight of this trip.

THE PERUVIAN PEOPLE

The Peruvian people left a very positive impression. Most interestingly, everyone we saw along the way, whether in the cities, the towns, or the countryside, mixed freely and seemed to respect one another whether wearing traditional dress or Western clothing.

THE ALTITUDE

Everyone visiting the highlands in Peru is warned about the effects of high altitude. The organizers of our itinerary clearly knew how to best address this challenge, from providing ample coca tea to beginning the highlands portion of the program back down at Machu Picchu and then working our way back up to the high point at Cuzco. From exploring Machu Picchu to climbing the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo to clambering up the steps of the bell tower at San Cristobal Church in Cuzco, I was pleasantly surprised at how well our group coped.

THE ORGANIZERS

My impression of Peru as a world-class tourism destination was enhanced by our wonderful hosts at PromPerú, represented by Elisabeth Hakim, and our implementers at COLTUR, overseen by Enrique Velasco. The planning and implementation of the itinerary was superb. The special touches including the fascinating people we met along the way and the generous gifts we received throughout were appreciated and extremely well done. It was a class act throughout.

In short, my overall impression of Peru could not have been much better. top

Lauren Summers, Director of Marketing for Visit Wales in North America:

I have not been able to stop talking about Peru since I returned from the EAC meeting. Anyone who spends more than 15 minutes talking to me – about any topic – will hear about my trip to Peru, and likely see a few photos. This destination not only left a lasting impression on me, but it also became a part of my personal story, such that you can’t get to know me without learning about my experiences in Peru. I celebrated my birthday on this trip, and I couldn’t think of a better way to mark another year in my life, than with such a life changing tour.

If I were to pinpoint why Peru impacted me so powerfully, I’d say that it was the richness of the culture, history, people and the natural landscape. The authenticity of the country’s tourism offered in each of these categories is deep and substantive, and I experienced nearly every activity as if I were not a visitor but a fortunate explorer who had somehow become a part of the community. Whether it was the people, the food, the cultural and historic sites, or the amazing scenery, I always felt as if I were seeing the real thing – unadulterated, and from an insider’s point of view. I was overwhelmed by the warmth of the Peruvian people, their passion for their country and their genuine desire to share it with visitors.

In all of my journeys, I look for the one distinctive feature of the destination that sets it apart from any other; that one sentence description that defines a place and tells why you must go there. I have found myself explaining Peru as a place where the descendants of the Incas still live and maintain millennia-old traditions; theirs is an ancient but living culture and a worldview that is among the most fascinating and complex in the globe. The opportunity to engage with some of the world’s greatest mysteries in the land where they were created is extraordinary (as opposed to the static environment of a library or an anthropology class). The wealth of quality accommodations, easy transportation and well-executed attractions makes it possible on a practical level that doesn’t exist in many other places.

Another thing that I look for in my travels is the opportunity to taste foods that are uncommon in my home country. Peru has much to offer the gastronomical tourist. I was amazed by the different ways they use yucca, quinoa and the many plants that grow in the Amazon. I loved trying things I had never heard of before, and discovering recipes that I could prepare at home.

In terms of the more practical concerns, I had many favorites on this trip. All of the hotels were e cellent, and I was surprised by the consistency of service and accommodations across all of the places we stayed. The Westin Lima has got to be one of the nicest Westins in the world. Not only were the rooms comfortable and well-appointed, but the staff were eager to please and the food in all of the restaurants was first-rate. I had a chance to dine at Maras restaurant and it was a memorable meal, as was my visit to the hotel’s spa. The staff took note of my birthday and left a special dessert in my room. That kind of attention to detail is unusual, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Lima, because I know I can stay in this hotel.

The Tambo del Inka hotel is the other property that left a strong impression on me. When I first walked in, I was stunned at how beautiful and unusual it was. It achieves luxury while simultaneously creating a feeling of being close to the natural environment, the traditional culture and the native heritage of the region. The artwork and textiles deliver a distinctive sense of place. I enjoyed each of the properties where we stayed, but I found these to be the most special of all.

The visit to Sol y Luna stood apart from the other outings because it incorporated a nice variety of activities: entertainment, dining and time spent at the school. I was grateful for the opportunity to get to know the children and to donate to the school after being given so much by the Peruvian people we met on the trip. Our lunch there was probably my favorite meal (the outdoor picnic near the lake was my next favorite). I liked being able to sample the variety of entrees, and the chicken was INCREDIBLE! It was a relaxing atmosphere and yet it was polished – from the service, to the table settings, to the efficiency of how it was all run. Having a chance to ride the horses under the guidance of the caballeros was thrilling. It was one of those moments when you take a step back and pinch yourself to believe this is actually happening. Sipping wine, riding Peruvian horses – it was a bucket-list experience.

The visit to the Chinchero Center for Traditional Textiles gave me an opportunity to engage with the women, to learn their stories and to become educated on traditional Peruvian textiles and their cultural significance. Meeting Nilda Callañaupa the day before is what motivated me to choose this outing. She is an excellent ambassador for the co-op, and for the country of Peru in general. She helped me to see how valuable the cultural traditions are and how crucial it is to ensure their survival. She also taught me about the day-to-day lives of the local people, and what’s important to them. Being with these women touched my heart. I saw Peru through their eyes, which allowed me to better understand their lives, and gave me new perspectives on my own.

At the Inkaterra Lodge in Machu Picchu, I did the nighttime walk. I enjoyed hearing the traditional folklore and seeing the petroglyphs, and then there was this magical moment when we stood by the river, and in the absolute darkness we could see the Milky Way. Everyone was awestruck. I could see exactly how the Incas had marveled at the sky and named the river as its twin, and I felt close to the ancient peoples through this glimpse of their mysteries that I internalized for myself.

The visit to meet Holly Wissler and the Q’eros community at La Chicheria El Descanso was unparalleled n t only because it was a personal encounter with a group of people whose lifestyle is so different from ours, but also because there were so many different elements wrapped into one visit: music, food, video and discussion as well as the chance to purchase some of their weaving. Whenever I wear the things I bought from them, I feel as though I am still with them. I was overwhelmed by how generous they were with themselves and how non-commercialized the whole visit was. I hope they will find a way to continue engaging visitors with such uninhibited sincerity.

I was pleasantly surprised on the train ride to Machu Picchu. The table settings, meals, and cocktails were so charming and dining en route while enjoying the dramatic scenery was one of those unexpected extras that adds a bit of magic to the trip. When it came to visiting Machu Picchu itself, it was incredible to see it first hand, but at the same time, I have seen it so often in photos, that I felt I had already visited – even though it was my first time. Therefore, I was grateful that one of the COLTUR Peru guides gave a personalized commentary for a handful of us. He spoke of Machu Picchu from the indigenous perspective, and while his insights weren’t based in academic learning, they came from the heart. He brought the site to life, and made me look beyond the Machu Picchu of pictures, textbooks, and iconic advertisements.

I participated in the Amazon extension, which was the pinnacle of the trip. I loved the lodge because it was simultaneously comfortable and rustic. I felt completely pampered but I also got to enjoy the jungle surroundings. The menu was so diverse and interesting, we couldn’t make up our minds what to order, and did our best to try everything. I have special dietary restrictions, so I was impressed that they went out of their way to accommodate me with creative and flavorful choices. We had the best guide of the trip at Reserva Amazonica, named Elias. His deep appreciation for the mission of the Reserve helped me understand the ecological significance of the work they are doing. He had an uncanny ability to spot the tiniest little mushroom on the jungle floor or to anticipate the presence of a creature from many yards away. He also went above and beyond to make our visit special, rerouting our day-tour to ensure that I saw certain types of trees, pointing out things that were especially of interest to me, and helping me practice my Spanish!

Among the many activities that were planned for our group, I have no criticisms. Everything we did was well organized and professionally delivered. Getting through the airports was easy; the regional airlines, roads and trains were in great condition. Our itinerary had the right mix of active options, important sights and interactive visits with local people. I was left with a very positive opinion about the quality of tourism offerings in Peru, the level of service provided by the trade and the strength of the country’s tourism infrastructure. I can’t say enough about Elisabeth Hakim and her superb planning of this meeting. The gifts we received each day will always be cherished as a reminder of the generosity and commitment of PromPerú and the high standard to which this trip was delivered.

As much as I hated to leave Peru, it’s even more difficult as the months go by to quench the longing to return. In Welsh we have a word, Hiraeth, which has no English or Spanish counterpart. It means homesickness combined with nostalgia and a yearning for the land of one’s ancestry. Although I can’t claim Peruvian heritage, I have a sense of hiraeth born of this trip. I feel as though I found a home I never knew I had. top

Heidi (Tefft) Ramstad, Leading Community Development & Outreach, Educational Travel Consortium:

My first visit to Peru was in March 2008. I was so thrilled at the adventure of seeing “Peru” for the first time. It was a quick 3-day extravaganza of Lima, Cuzco and Machu Picchu – then out of Peru I flew. I embraced Peru.

Having the opportunity to visit Peru again has left a different emotional tattoo on my heart and mind. It was by beautiful design and dedication by Elisabeth Hakim and PromPerú, that this time, Peru embraced me. How fortunate I am.

Our seven-day itinerary was packed tightly with meetings and on the ground real experiences, which can never again be replicated. The EAC team came to Peru, each in our own space in our lives, with our knowledge, commitment, and expertise and this is forever changed because of our time together. Together we shared our Peruvian experiences and will forevermore be changed and inspired because of it.

Some of my most favorite memories are from when the group was flooded by authentic Peruvian moments. Running to the train at Ollantaytambo station filled my senses as we ran past vendors, carrying bags, knowing we HAD to catch that train. How many of us have done this before, but usually in the noise of a city. Another favorite was talking with Joe from Inkaterra, who radiates passion and commitment for preservation and conversation. Reaching out to touch the architectural walls at Machu Picchu, knowing someone spent hours specially crafting that wall, just so. It’s magical in that moment – almost as if you can reach through time.

Being welcomed into Chicheria El Descanso for a lesson on chicha and its role in the highland society, learning about the importance and practice of living with guinea pigs, to meeting families from the Quechua community of Q’eros, was a special treat for me. Along with Petit inviting us to Sol y Luna School to teach us about why she and her husband remain ever vigilant in their efforts to educate children. To have such gracious hosts invite us into their world and share their stories, their struggles and successes, along with their emotions and opinions is a powerful experience which shouldn’t be taken lightly. In a world that relies so deeply on the concept of reciprocity, I am still wrestling with my lack of reciprocity during my time in Peru. Maybe this is yet another gift of traveling – the further expansion of heart and care for others.

The dining experiences were beyond my palate’s understanding and eye’s undertaking. Our dining experience at Casa De Aliaga was written out of a book. It was grandiose and the only thing missing were costumes for us! How grand it would have been to dress in traditional wares for but a brief moment in time. The home was a smorgasbord for the eyes and the food a feast for the senses.

One of my favorite hotel properties is Inkaterra MP Pueblo. Joe and his wife found a lovely balance between comfort and hiding amongst the jungle. I felt like a child walking up the hill to my room, as if I could find hiding places around every corner for a game of hide and seek. Or, look for birds as though I was on a safari with friends. I never felt as though I overtook the land, simply that I was part of it.

Tambo del Inka Resort was a beautiful property and I am confident they receive high marks. I too would give them the utmost of positive feedback. It was a lovely selection as it gave us meeting space with easy access to our rooms and restrooms. I envision this property working for certain groups, especially larger groups.

It was also nice to walk around Hotel Sol y Luna, to get a glimpse at another option in the Sacred Valley. This property is lovely as well. Their outdoor lunch dining experience at Wayra with the paso horses was fun, especially once our group had the chance to ride some of them. Wayra was one of my favorite lunches. The food was flavorful, light with a wide variety of options to choose from.

Every chance we had to be in nature, I took it. Therefore, I loved the picnic lunch at Huaypo Lake and having Nilda as a guest was a special treat. Again, showcasing a local woman who has worked hard to inject tradition back into communities, who is humble and also honest about her story is a humbling experience. She was gracious with her time and her stories.

The walk around Ollantaytambo town and fortress was outstanding. Our guide earned an A+! His grade had nothing to do with the fact that I found a sweater for my nephew. Walking around town to see locals living in their everyday lives and then invite us into their homes was amazing. Sure, the lady of the house was trying to sell us goods, but I can’t help but wonder if I would behave in the same manner – always smiling.

Our evening stroll of the city tour of Cuzco was a kick and a dynamic opposite to the highlands. People were everywhere and it was late at night. The emotional vibe was similar to that found in New York – but the architecture so very different. Giving us the chance to see how locals live their daily life, again, is just a special experience. We walked away with a snap shot of a family whose daughter was dancing to the music, a couple sitting on a bench who seemed to be backpacking through Cuzco, another family who kept chasing their son around – so relatable and yet, beautiful beyond words.

Thank you for giving us a moment with Pablo Seminario and Marilu Behar. Sometimes in life, we meet people and don’t understand the enormity of their creativity until we research further. This happened twice on our trip – first with Pablo and then with Chambi. After meeting Pablo and Marilu, I knew what we heard and saw was a sliver of their work and efforts. After seeing the photograph by Chambi, I could feel there was something more powerful behind the captured moment. Elisabeth created a plethora of moments for us to come racing home to research and delve deeper, and isn’t that a pillar of educational travel. Thank you Elisabeth – our Peruvian journey continues!

I have yet to experience the full vastness that Peru and it people have to offer, but I know more today than I did two weeks ago. Diversity is my tagline for Peru – diversity in its people, places, food and ultimately the way it moves my heart – it is like none other.

May Peru once again invite me back, surround me, and embrace me with the warm smiles and adventure incomparable to any other place I have traveled.

Thank you Elisabeth and PromPerú – your efforts have changed my soul and I will forever carry the Peruvian spirit wherever I may go! top