From my study abroad semester-long experience in Peru through EdOdyssey, some of the most memorable parts of my experience were from the excursions that were a part of the program.
Initially, I thought that these excursions would be fun trips, but I did not realize the how all-encompassing, holistic nature of each location and vast difference in landscape that these respective areas have in Peru they would be.
Pre-Paid & Pre-Planned? Yes!
During each of the excursions to Ica, Cusco, and Iquitos I never had to worry about any aspect of the trip, as everything was all-inclusive. I bought a few souvenirs to take home with me, but other than that, everything was set!
What made the excursions even more enjoyable was the incredible and knowledgeable EdOdyssey team. After each excursion, I learned a great deal about each of the different regions of Peru (the desert, the mountains, and the jungle), and came out of my experience with lasting friendships and a new perspective of Peru.
Ica: Welcome to the Peruvian Desert
The first excursion out of Lima was to the south to Ica. My first impression upon arriving to Ica was how sunny and warmer it was compared to Lima.
One of the first things we did was eat a delicious meal of carapulcra con sopa seca. This dish consists of a stew of pork and dehydrated potatoes with pasta and dry soup (sopa seca).
The highlight of the trip was sandboarding in the desert of Ica, something that I had never done before. I did not picture myself laying stomach-down on a board flying down the hills of Ica, but it was one of the most exhilarating experiences!
Ica is home to one of the world’s only oases in the world, called Huacachina. This was a beautiful sight, with views from the desert looking down on the oasis. While we were riding in a dune buggy through the desert, I witnessed the most beautiful sunset and the sky had a natural purple tone to it.
What I took away from this excursion was that adventure can truly be a part of new experiences abroad. I had never really done any adrenaline-rushing activities like sandboarding, but I am glad that I went out of my comfort zone and flew down those hills in Ica.
Iquitos: Experiencing the Jungle
The next destination was to northern Peru in the jungle of Iquitos. Continuing on the theme of adventure, this excursion was filled with adventurous activities.
Whether it was fishing for piranhas in deep black water of the Amazon and then frying them to eat or going for a swim in the Amazon River with dolphins nearby, there was never a dull moment in the jungle.
My favorite part was listening to our guide’s stories about the jungle, including fantastical ones and his own first-hand accounts of life in the jungle. He would tell us these stories as we cruised through the tributaries of the Amazon, taking in the nature and wild animals along the way.
My experience in the jungle also taught me how fortunate and privileged most of us truly are. Homes and communities in the jungle are not the most advanced and do not have a lot of the amenities and infrastructure that many may be accustomed to.
Recognizing this, it was meaningful to experience how life in the jungle can be difficult, between blazing hot heat at times and torrential downpours at another. Nonetheless, I enjoyed every minute of Iquitos, including the slightly terrifying moments of holding a python and a sloth!
Cusco & Machu Picchu: The Ancient Land of the Incas
The last of the excursions was to majestic Cusco and Machu Picchu. Many may have an image in their head of what Machu Picchu resembles, but the full feeling is experienced in person.
Before arriving to Machu Picchu, there were many other excursions to the surrounding area. These included visiting an indigineous village, where we were able to learn some handcrafting techniques for textiles and enjoyed a homemade meal with the people of the village.
Another site that stood out to me was Las Salinas de Maras (pictured left), home to beautiful salt flats in the mountains of the Sacred Valley. Smaller trips led up to our visit of Machu Picchu, which was breathtaking in every way.
Through this excursion, I learned a lot about the history of the Sacred Valley and the Incas. I also experienced the feeling of seeing my first Wonder of the World, which exceeded my expectations.
Compared to the sheer size of the mountains surrounding Machu Picchu, I felt smaller than ever, but I could understand why this area was on significance to the Incas.
Peru: Land of Adventurous Opportunities
All of these excursions showed me different parts of Peru, from the food, adventure, and history. These excursions shaped my life have shaped my life by making because they’ve made me break out of my shell and seek more adventure in my travels.
I never thought that a trip to the jungle or desert would bring out my wild, adventurous side, but I am glad it added some spontaneity to my life. Peru is diverse, and the best way to understand this diversity is to go on excursions like those of EdOdyssey.
Anytime I think back to my experiences in Peru, I cannot help but smile and reflect on how worthwhile of a trip it truly was.
If I were to talk to someone who is considering going to Peru, I would tell them to go in a heartbeat. I would advise them to not only stay in one place or city, but to travel around the great and diverse country that is Peru. They will not regret a moment.
Want to learn more about the epic Cusco and Machu Picchu semester finale? Check out it here!