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5 Really Cool Places to Go in Peru

Machu Picchu

My friends and family always want to know why I keep going back to Peru. I’ve been going to Peru at least once a year since 2008! My answer: there is just so much to see and do in Peru that I never get tired of it.

Here are my top 5 favorite places I love to go in Peru. (It was so hard to choose!)

Machu PicchuMachu Picchu is Peru’s crown jewel. Named a new 7 Wonder, exploring this UNESCO world heritage site is a bit like wandering through an Inca ghost town. Stone buildings, winding staircases, still functioning aqueducts, and farming terraces hint at what life must have been like during the time of the Inca.

Machu Picchu is so strategically located that the Spanish never found it during their conquest of Peru. In fact, it wasn’t until 1911 that the existence of Machu Picchu was revealed to the world when Hiram Bingham re-discovered it while he was looking for the lost city of Vilcabamba. (more…)

Posted in Peru | By

Our Bolivia Adventure: Discovering La Paz

Amazonas airlines

Guest Blog by Lili Mahlab

Today was a very long day. We woke up at 4:30 AM and were out of the hotel by 5:00. As soon as we walked out the door, we were hit by a cold blast of air. It was about 22 degrees Fahrenheit that morning so our driver gave us blankets since it was super cold in the van. The drive from Colchani to the airport in Uyuni took about 40 minutes.

It was so early, we actually caught a glimpse of the moon setting over the horizon.

Our Amazonas airlines flight left at 6:45 and landed in La Paz about 50 minutes later where we were greeted by our guide, Cesar.  We first made a breakfast stop in the old city at café Banais. You know it’s cheap to travel in Bolivia when American breakfasts for 6 people cost $20 for everyone.

(more…)

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Our Bolivia Adventure: Back to El Salar

Salt Flats

Guest Blog by Lili Mahlab

We woke up at 5:30, had breakfast by 6:00, and were in our jeep in the predawn hours of the morning.

Finally, as we entered into the salt flats, we had an appreciation for this incredibly vast expanse that gave way to miles and miles of salt. (more…)

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Our Bolivia Adventure: Lagoon Hopping & Flamingo Spotting

Guest Blog by Lili Mahlab

Bolivia altiplano

Getting up in the wee hours of the morning was becoming routine for us. At 5:30, we used our headlamps so we could find our way in the darkness, pack our few remaining things, and head to breakfast at 6:00. By 7:00, we were on our way through the Paso de Los Incas, a winding, heavily pitched canyon of rocks and boulders.

This was the ultimate in off road driving where our driver, Luis Mario, was an expert at climbing over boulders and then plunging into ravines of crushed rock.

For the next few hours, we went “lagoon hopping.” Our first stop was at the Laguna Honda – a relatively shallow lagoon of perhaps only a foot and a half. (more…)

Posted in Bolivia, Bolivian Salt Flat | By

Our Bolivia Adventure: Lagoons, Flamingos, & Geysers

Stone tree

Guest Blog by Lili Mahlab

Thankfully, our guide changed our departure time from 6:00 to 7:00. We had breakfast at 6:15 and by 7:00 we were off to the Siloli desert and nature reserve.

It took an hour and a half to arrive at the Red Lagoon situated at the entrance to the reserve. Prior to arriving at the entrance to the national park, we made an obligatory stop at the Stone Tree.

This is a remarkable boulder, chiseled by the elements, that looks like different animals depending on where you are standing. After much picture taking, we continued on our way to the Red Lagoon.

In the morning, the Red Lagoon isn’t really red. But, by the afternoon, it’s a beautiful crimson color. So, our guide explained that we would first head to the geysers some 15,700 feet above sea level, which would be the highest point during our entire trip.

For some reason, the geysers spout high into the air early in the morning and peter out by the afternoon. The landscape looked like the moon filled with bumps, craters and rocks. However, unlike the moon, the craters were filled with bubbling cauldrons of mud. (more…)

Posted in Bolivia, Bolivian Salt Flat | By

Our Bolivia Adventure: Exploring the Altiplano

day 2

Guest Blog by Lili Mahlab

It was tough getting up at 3:00, but we managed to get ready, pack a few last items, and meet everyone in the lobby by 3:45. By 4:00, we headed to the airport to catch our flight on Amazonas airlines.

If you fly on Amazonas, BE SURE to bring the SAME credit card you used to pay for the tickets. Otherwise, they will make you pay for a whole new ticket. It makes absolutely no sense why they would do that when you clearly have identification. Check in was fairly easy, albeit there weren’t too many people checking in at that hour.

The flight took barely an hour for us to arrive in Uyuni, some 12,000 feet above sea level. Uyuni is essentially a trading post established in the late 1800’s. Water is scarce. And what little water there is, has a pretty high saline content rendering the land inhospitable to agriculture. Today, Uyuni is really just a jumping point to the Salt Flats and the highlands. There are an incredible number of young people, mostly backpackers, who head to Uyuni for fun and adventure.

At 7:00, we had a great breakfast and then went on our way to the Bolivian highlands – the “altiplano.”

Our first stop was the Train Cemetery located just a couple of miles outside of Uyuni. As the story goes, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid met their fatal ending while attempting one more heist in Bolivia. While these British built rail lines are no longer in use and are nothing more than a decaying, rusted hulk, they once carried minerals from the Andes Mountains to ports on the Pacific Ocean until the mining industry collapsed in the mid 40’s partly due to mineral depletion. (more…)

Posted in Bolivia, Bolivian Salt Flat | By

Our Bolivia Adventure: Visiting Tiawanaku

wearing indigenous

Guest Blog by Lili Mahlab

I was awakened at 6:20 when the person at the hotel front desk called to let me know that Michael was sitting outside the door. The doors lock from the inside. Since they didn’t have another key, the desk clerk woke me up to let him in.

He was totally exhausted and still feeling drugged from the Ambien he took soon after takeoff.  In addition, he had caught a cold just prior to his departure from New York.  He took off his shoes, socks, and pants and flopped into bed.

While Jean, Joe, and I met for breakfast in the dining room, we let Michael sleep. We thought that he would stay at the hotel and relax that day while we went to Tiwanaku. At 8:40, the sound of the door being unlocked woke Michael up. When I suggested he stay in bed and just relax, he would have none of that. He was ready in 15 minutes and met us downstairs at 9:05. Our cab driver, Fabio, was already waiting for us.

There was a big demonstration of students marching right past our hotel, which caused a terrible traffic jam. It took us about 15 minutes just to go around the corner and head north back up and over the mountain towards Tiwanaku. The drive was incredibly interesting. It took us through towns jammed with people selling all sorts of paraphernalia. Almost all of the women were wearing indigenous clothing. (more…)

Posted in Bolivia | By

Our Bolivian Adventure: Arriving in La Paz

Guest Blog by Lili Mahlab

La Paz Hotel

We arrived at 5:25AM at the La Paz airport. Llama Expeditions arranged to have a guide and driver pick us up to take us to the hotel. Check in at La Casona, a newly renovated hotel (renovated 8 years ago) and a landmark in the heart of the old city, was very smooth. After catching another couple hours of sleep, we had the complementary breakfast in the hotel dining room.

Last year, I didn’t take Diamox when we went to Cusco and I had a hard time adjusting to the altitude. This time, I started taking Diamox two days before our departure. La Paz is even higher in altitude than Cusco. But with Diamox, I had only the very faintest of headaches. Diamox The drug really works in terms of building up your red blood cells so you have more oxygen and can hit the ground running when you arrive. On the flip side, Diamox is not without its side effects. First, you have to drink a lot while taking it or you end up with a really bad headache. Second, it’s also a diuretic. So, between the water you have to drink and the pills, you end up going to the bathroom quite often. (more…)

Posted in Bolivia | By

Machu Picchu New Rules

Machu Picchu

New rules affecting visitors to Machu Picchu are already afoot. Recently, our guests reported that park rangers would not allow them to bring their camera tripods and monopods into the park. The use of hiking poles, even with rubber tips, was also prohibited.

When I was at Machu Picchu in early May, these rules were not in effect.

In addition, I’ve learned that Machu Picchu will also be debuting a new schedule designed to increase the number of visitors who can access the park. The park will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and again from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (more…)

Posted in Machu Picchu, Peru | By

6 Ways to Get Out of Your Travel Bubble (and Why It’s a Good Idea)

bubble

During my many trips scouting itineraries for Llama Expeditions, I have met a number of people who travel in a bubble. The bubble is a way to re-create the familiar experience of home abroad. It allows you to bypass the inevitable discomfort of anything foreign.

The problem with traveling in a bubble is that you sacrifice some of the benefits of going on an adventure in a foreign country for the sake of staying in your comfort zone. It will be comfortable for sure. But, it won’t be especially memorable.

And, I don’t know about you, but when I was in my travel bubble, everywhere I went started to look suspiciously the same. Nowhere and no one really captured my imagination, made me question my perspective, or even more importantly, touched my heart. (more…)

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