By Natalie Neusch

Our guide steps back, a giddy grin on his face. My feet sink into the moist, grassy ground as I carefully inch forward to follow. We’re almost 8,000 feet up, surrounded by fog or skies (at that altitude, probably both) with precipitous cliffs around us. I move when he moves, but I also can’t wait to break free and explore.

He senses my tension and holds up a cautionary palm, informing us about the dangers, the history and the wonder of the sacred grounds we are about to enter. I nervously shift my backpack. With one bent knee he leans into me, still smiling. “Are you ready?” he asks. I nod with fervent agreement, but he already knows what I don’t—there’s nothing to prepare you for the first time you lay eyes on Machu Picchu.

It’s been a decade since that moment I first saw Machu Picchu, and the entire country of Peru itself is so full of enchantment and amazing experiences that the Incan behemoth it’s primarily known for is but one incentive to visit. It’s a tough list to whittle down, but here are my top 10 reasons lesbian travelers should consider Peru!

Travel with a group of like-minded women

As LBT women, it can be stressful to anticipate what to expect during our travels. When you choose a trip with Out Adventures, you know from the start that not only are you traveling with your tribe, but every detail of the itinerary has been carefully selected and chosen ahead of time to suit the group. It is a rare opportunity to travel together as LBT women, and you’ll find yourself making connections not possible elsewhere—think summer camp, but add the Andes, eclectic food, and alpacas.

Experience Machu Picchu

Nothing can adequately prepare you for the first sight of majestic Machu Picchu rising out of the Andean cliffside. Out Adventures’ two-hour private guided tour offers insight into the ruin’s history, discovery, and sacred spaces that make it more than just an Instagram-worthy photo—you’ll make an intimate connection with a site that still holds secrets even 500 years after its construction.

Glorious Machu Picchu!

Discover the Peruvian Amazon Basin

The Amazon jungle is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and is famed for its biodiversity—this massive area is teeming with life! Our canoe ride literally brings you into the wildlife’s world, with experienced guides to lead you through the jungle waters and thicket on land, both day and night. Different perspectives reveal the mysteries of the Amazon, and you’ll scale a tower into the jungle canopy to be amongst clouds.

Taste the local flavours of Peru

Peruvian cuisine is an impressive hybrid of ancient Incan cooking practices and European methods, resulting in a culinary experience that is truly unique and unbelievably delicious. While yes, you’ll find the best ceviche of your life, you’ll also be introduced to foods unknown in other parts of the world. Restaurants such a Kjolle in Lima, launched by top Latin American female chef Pía León, feature dishes using exotic indigenous ingredients that create 5-star modern-day meals. For the more adventurous, there’s always the opportunity to pick up some local roasted cuy, or guinea pig.

Chef Pía León and one of her famous culinary creations at Kjolle Restaurant in Lima. Photo courtesy of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Experience unique cultures

Over one-third of Peru is still rural, with many small towns comprised of indigenous populations following a traditional way of life. There are almost 4 million Quechua people living across the country still speaking a variety of dialects used by the ancient Incas. To this day, these communities maintain the lifestyle and practices of their ancestors, including traditional weaving you’ll witness firsthand in local homes. To be in their presence is to truly step back in time.  

A community of Quechua weaving women show off natural dyes used in their products. Photo courtesy of Kevin Robitaille.

Discover historic Cusco: the gateway to Machu Picchu

Nestled in the Andes, the former capital of the Inca empire is now a crossroads between ancient and modern worlds. In one casual stroll you’ll pass archaeological wonders thousands of years old, Spanish colonial squares and churches, and contemporary restaurants and shops mixing old and new.

Enjoy Peru’s best shopping

I lost myself in the winding streets of Lima amongst shops offering exquisite woven textiles, hand-crafted wares, painted artwork, dried sweet corn and spices. But the most prolific and must-have item: baby alpaca. I recommend you stock up on all forms—sweaters, hats, scarves—of the soft luxury fabric. And don’t forget plenty for gifts!

Baby alpaca!

Experience a welcoming country and people

One of my first sights ambling around Cusco was a large rainbow flag hoisted high and proud. The familiar multi-colored flag is the dominant symbol of the city of Cusco, and while it’s not considered the Pride flag, the Peruvians are an open and accepting people known to be respectful of all. The locals are innately kind, friendly and warm, without any agenda to upsell you.

Cusco’s colourful flag is deceptively similar to the LGBTQ Rainbow Flag.

Observe the local art scene

Known for its exquisite ceramics, textiles, and paintings, Peru is a literal treasure trove for art lovers and artifact aficionados. Lima boasts several museums that showcase the culture’s finest, from archaeological gems in the Pre-Columbian Museum of Art to contemporary masters in Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino’s MATE gallery. And if you’re as taken as I was by the little Pucara Bull sculptures perched atop local homes, on Out Adventures’ tour you’ll have the opportunity to make one of your own in a Colonial Cuzqueña Glassed Ceramics workshop.

Challenge yourself

There’s much about Peru that is unfamiliar and wild. The landscapes alter from urban centers to settlements engulfed by the soaring Andes to formidable jungles. To truly experience Peru is to open yourself to this vibrant, rich culture—sometimes at the cost of your comfort zone and sore muscles. Push beyond these boundaries to reveal a Peru that can’t be mapped out in guides or history books, and you’ll walk away with an experience that is uniquely yours.

Natalie clambers her way through the Andes en route to Machu Picchu!

Natalie is a Director of Content and freelance writer and photographer based in New York City. Share her penchant for travel, eating everything, and Pomeranians – @natalieneu and @outofherebuhbye.

Interested in experiencing Peru with a group of like-minded women? Join our Peru The Amazon & Machu Picchu Luxury Lesbian Escape!

Header photo from Shutterstock. All other photos courtesy of Natalie Neusch unless stated.

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