September 8, 2015

Our 10 Favorite Llamas in Peru

One of the best parts of any family vacation is getting to know the locals and making connections that you could only make through traveling. This holds true no matter where in the world you travel to. One place that we can’t get enough of, and neither can our traveling families, is Peru. Between our Friends Across Borders program, meeting Quechuan weavers, and sharing lunch with a local family in Cuzco, there are plenty of people to people opportunities in Peru. What about the other locals? What about a people to llama experience? These are also just as great. Here are 10 of our favorite llamas we’ve seen during family vacations in Peru.

1. This little llama family getting a snuggle in on Machu Picchu

llama on machu picchu, as seen on a family vacation to peru

2. This solo llama who goes out and grazes on her own

llama grazing for food, as seen on a family vacation to peru

3. This llama who stayed out too late last night

sleeping llama, as seen on a family vacation to peru

4. This philosopher llama sitting in deep thought

llama on a cliff, as seen on a family vacation to peru

5. This llama that loves to take selfies

girl taking a selfie with a llama while on a family vacation to peru

6. This ‘two-toned’  llama

brown and white llama

7. This suspicious llama

a skeptical llama

8. This llama that took over the screen, and probably everything else he does

photobombing llama

9. This tiny baby llama in a tiny purple hat

baby llama wearing a hat, as seen on a family vacation to peru

10. This llama who needs a haircut

llama with long hair

You can make all kinds of friends in Peru, whether it be locals, fellow travelers, or llamas. No matter who you meet, this is one of the best places for your next family vacation! Or you can see all of these reasons not to go to Peru… 

August 18, 2015

20 Reasons Not to Go to Peru

Peru is obviously a terrible place to take a family vacation and we don’t know what good things to say about it, if there are any.

1. There’s nothing beautiful or magical about Machu Picchu

beautiful Machu Picchu - a perfect family vacation destination

2. Really, there isn’t anything worth seeing

Machu Picchu

3. Everything is old, who likes finding ancient Incan ruins anyway?

Incan Ruins

4. Llamas aren’t cool or fun animals at all

Llamas in Peru

5. And why would you ever want to meet one?

up close with llamas on a family vacation to peru

6. The weaving isn’t colorful or artistic

Peruvian art

7. There isn’t anything good to buy in the markets

shopping at the markets while on a Peru family vacation

8. The fruit doesn’t look appetizing either

delicious looking fruit at a market in Peru

9. San Blas seems like a drag and unoriginal

San Blas

10. All of the cities seem pretty bland

Peru City

11. The churches aren’t beautiful by any means

a church in Peru

12. Or unique

Peru churches

13. Nothing exciting, fun, or different ever happens

a performance in Peru

14. No one ever has fun river rafting

a family river rafting while vacationing in Peru

15. Or taking mountain valley train rides

riding the train while on a family vacation in Peru

16. All of the birds are boring

Colorful birds in Peru

17. And who would want to see this?

Peruvian reed boats

18. Or hike here?

hiking in Peru

19. Or sleep next to this terrible view?

a family camping in Peru

20. There is also no way your family has fun

family having fun while on vacation in Peru

Check out these Peru itineraries to see what you won’t be missing out on!

June 19, 2015

Photo Contest Winners Donate Prize Money to Peruvian Community

Chan Family in Peru

In every destination and on every Thomson Family Adventure, we care deeply about the relationships we’ve formed with you, our travelers, as well as the people we interact with around the globe. After all, you’re part of our family — and we want to offer you the many wonders of the world. We also want to “give back” to each culture and country we work with and visit. It makes us very proud when our traveling families share the same philosophy. The Chan family of Wayne, PA, is one of them.

Edward Chan, his wife Shobana Sood, their 12-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son visited Peru last December with us. When they returned, they entered — and won — our photo contest, and with it a $500 prize. Rather than use the money to treat the family to something special, the Chans very generously decided to donate their winnings to a Peruvian community that touched their lives.

On April 4, 2015, the remote Cachicata community in Peru received the Chans’ $500 donation. The small neighborhood is located near the quarry where the Incas extracted and carved the boulders used for the construction of some of their fortresses, such as Ollantaytambo. Although off the beaten path, Cachicata is an easy hike out of Ollantaytambo, and en route during our Peru Family Trek, that winds its way up the mountain and past some half-finished stones. However, in its heyday, Cachicata was abuzz with activity when hundreds (or maybe thousands) of Incan men worked relentlessly to construct their amazing works.

Community leaders in Cachicata haven’t determined the final use of the money, but they have the authority to decide what to do with it. Ideas being considered are maintenance of the trails that give access to the quarry and camping areas or opening trails to homes that are close to the main path to the quarry. That would give visitors better access and the opportunity to see the homes and learn a little more about Peruvian life.

Thomson Family Adventures has donated to Cachicata in the past; contributing money for things such as school books and supplies, pick axes, shovels, and irrigation canal maintenance.

At Thomas Family Adventures, we believe that travel wields incredible power and offers countless opportunities, a myriad of perspectives and lifelong memories. It’s also one of the greatest gifts you can give your family and yourself. Engaging, entertaining and educating families with kids of all ages through travel is something we feel is essential to enhancing our travelers’ experience in a destination.

Every time we — and our traveling families — make a connection with local residents, we not only learn about them, but we learn a little more about ourselves. For our children in particular, it means exposing them to different ideas and ways of life, making them much more aware and respectful of our multi-cultural world.

We thank you, Chan family, for being part of our family and touching the lives of others.

June 16, 2015

Machu Picchu: What You Need to Know

There is a reason that Machu Picchu is on the bucket list for almost all travelers- it’s quite marvelous. The stone architecture of this deserted city is fascinating and after you remember that this entire complex was built before the invention of any machinery, it becomes that much more impressive. Although a well-known site, here are a few things you should know before embarking on your trip to Peru and the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu


Machu Picchu is a 15th century Inca site found just outside of Cuzco on the edge of the Sacred Valley. The complex was abandoned around the 15th century and remained hidden until 1911 when an American historian, Hiram Bingham, came upon the ruins and spread the word about what he had just found. There is no definitive answer as to why the city was abandoned or what it was used for in the 15th and 16th centuries. All we know is that the mystery is part of the fun when exploring the ancient grounds!

Be Ready for an Early Start

Waking up early to start your exploration of Machu Picchu is essential to making the most of your time there. Machu Picchu is popular and gets very crowded throughout the day. The earlier you can get there the more you’ll be able to see before the congestion gets too bad. Don’t get set on the idea that you and your family will have the ruins to yourselves, but getting there early does give you more options and less of a crowd!

Sites Not to Miss

There is a lot to see in Machu Picchu and it’s good to go in with a plan because it can be easy to get overwhelmed. A couple of the main sites you won’t want to miss are Huayna Picchu and the Gate of the Sun. These are two of the more popular landmarks that are sure to be full of people. If you want to see incredible sites that see a significantly lower amount of traffic…


How to Get Away from the Crowds

You can hike Machu Picchu Mountain or go to the Temple of the Moon. Machu Picchu Mountain is at the end of the complex opposite Huayna Picchu and sees fewer visitors. This is because the trail is a tougher climb and at 1,640 feet, the peak is twice as high. For those inclined and able, this is an opportunity that should not be missed! The Temple of the Moon on the other hand is tucked away in a set of caves hidden away from the main site. Taking the time to find it will give you a unique Machu Picchu experience that not many people have.

Now you have the basic information to get excited about your next family vacation to Peru where you and your family will make the memories of a lifetime hiking around Machu Picchu!

June 5, 2015

6 Great Family Hikes

There are many great reasons to go hiking. Hikes are great for both physical and mental health, it’s simple to do, it’s low-maintenance, and hiking is also a great activity for kids. Hiking is a good way to get your kids off of the computer and out into nature! The best family bonding happens while everyone is unplugged and hikes are a fun and effective way to do just that. Here are six of our favorite places to hike that are perfect for all types of families.

Irazu National Park

A couple of kids gazing into the Irazu Crater

A couple of kids gazing into the Irazu Crater

A favorite from Costa Rica, the Irazu Volcano is the tallest volcano in the country. There are few trails here and they aren’t very long or arduous- typically a vehicle takes people up most of the way. These trails are very good for young kids and grandparents who may have difficulty with long hikes. The trails all offer great views of the volcano’s crater which holds an acid lake that has changed size and color over time.

Isabela Island

The hiking on Isabela Island in the Galapagos is beautiful and leaves little to the imagination. Many of the animals you’ll see traipsing around the different paths can only be found in the Galapagos making this an extremely unique experience. Whenever on Isabela Island, we always recommend taking a short boat ride out to the smaller island of Las Tintoreras for a hike. Here, your family can hike shark canal and get amazing up close views of resting white tip sharks. You also can’t go wrong with hiking along the beach!

Macchu Picchu

A family poses for a photo in Machu Picchu

A family poses for a photo in Machu Picchu

One of the more famous destinations on our list, Machu Picchu, is popular and famous for a reason. The history and mystery of Machu Picchu leaves all of its hikers in awe. We love this hike for families because the educational aspect is almost unmatched anywhere else in the world. This massive city hidden in the mountains was abandoned for an unknown reason. The mystery of the ruins will make your kids curious and engaged through the whole hike!


This national park in Costa Rica was called “the most biologically intense place on earth” by the National Geographic Society. This gives hikers ample opportunity to see beautiful and rare animals in their natural habitat. The jaguar, tapir, scarlet macaw, and red-eyed tree frog are all locals in these jungles and seeing them in the wild is an education your kids can’t get anywhere else. With a countless number of trails you can find one suited best for your family’s experience level.

Doi Inthanon National Park

Just taking a break by the waterfall!

Just taking a break by the waterfall!

Bringing you out to the Far East, Doi Inthanon is an amazing hike in Northern Thailand. Parts of this hike can be difficult but, as all of our recommended family hikes, there are options available here to adapt the hike to your family’s needs! Doi Inthanon is a great place to hike not only because it is the tallest mountain in Thailand but the paths are accompanied by beautiful forests and waterfalls for you to get the perfect family picture in front of!

Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley is another great place in Peru for a family hiking vacation. We’ve included it on this list because it’s important to note that Machu Picchu isn’t the only good area to hike in Peru! The Sacred Valley is full of lesser traveled routes and beautiful landscapes that are begging to be explored. Your family can have quiet stretches of trail all to yourselves and have great conversations along the way!

Hiking can be the best way to spice up any family vacation and create great memories. With Thomson Family Adventures we make sure that you get just that- great memories at every turn!

August 19, 2014

Wait! I Thought I Spoke Spanish!

This week’s post from the Gamel family’s yearlong journey around the world, written by Noemi Gamel, with photography by Chris Gamel:

Practicing local Spanish at the market

Practicing local Spanish at the market

While traveling through Peru and Bolivia, I have experienced some comical results using my native Mexican Spanish in South America. Just as my British friends look at me quizzically when I say “y’all” and I do not understand them when they say “lorry” instead of truck, I am finding that different colloquialisms can cause confusion in Spanish.

When we first arrived in Lima, Peru to start our Round the World trip, I went to a small Mercado (market) to find dinner items. I found tomatoes, bananas, bread, and cheese. In Spanish, I asked the woman if she had “aguacates” or avocados. She looked at me as if I had asked for chilled monkey brains. I described the avocado as a black vegetable with a “hueso” (which literally translates to bone) or large seed inside. She said she did not know what I was talking about.

I panicked at the notion that we would not eat avocadoes for 5 weeks while in Peru. My panic struck further when I thought that maybe there were no avocadoes in South America! The horror!

At a restaurant the next day, I found out that avocados are called “paltas” in South America and that they are green, not black. I also found out that the large seed inside is called a “pepa” or “semilla.” I can only imagine what that poor woman at the market in Lima thought about the crazy Mexican-American asking about a black vegetable with a bone inside!

I also found out that “ya” means “yes” or “certainly”. In my native Mexican Spanish, “ya” translates to “be quiet” or “stop it”. It is not a nice phrase. I was jarred by how often Peruvians and Bolivians say “ya” until I realized it was a positive, friendly term.

The lesson learned? Not all Spanish is created equal. And don’t punch the waiter when he says “ya” in Peru or Bolivia.
In future blog posts, I will list some useful Spanish phrases to know when traveling through Latin America, except Brazil of course, where they try to confuse you by speaking Portuguese.

Have you ever had a comical experience due to a misunderstanding withregional language? Share it with us in the comments below!

August 12, 2014

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Another post from the Gamel family’s year around the world:

Why would anyone wake up at 4:30 in the morning? There are only three
good reasons I can come up with:

1) Your  child is sick.

2) A job-related emergency.

3) To watch the sun rise over the majestic scenery of Machu Picchu.

The enigmatic ruins came into view as our bus wound up the
mountains. With that first glance, I understood why Machu Picchu is one
of the seven wonders of the world. Not only are the ruins an architectural
masterpiece, but the city still has a mystical quality that is palpable.

If you go to Peru, you must see Machu Picchu. If you do not hike the Inca
Trail to get there, take the earliest bus available at 5:30 am to get there
in time for sunrise. Take a boxed lunch so you are not in a hurry to get
back. Stroll through the ruins, sit facing Wayna Picchu while the sun
hits your face, and feel the energy in the rocks. Book your train out of
Aguas Calientes in the late afternoon so you can spend as much time as
possible in this wondrous place.

August 4, 2014

Cristo Blanco in Cusco, Peru

Cristo Blanco in Cuzco, Peru

Cristo Blanco in Cuzco, Peru

This week’s post from the Gamel family’s yearlong journey around the world, written by Noemi Gamel, with photography by Chris Gamel:

On July 28th, Peru celebrated its Independence Day, commemorating its proclamation of freedom from Spanish Rule in 1821. Chris and the kids had no Spanish classes that day, so we decided to spend the day as tourists in Cusco.

We started the day by having breakfast at Jack’s, a breakfast institution in Cusco. Then we walked to the Plaza de Armas to hop on one of the double decker city tour buses. The tour started through the main Plaza and worked its way up the valley until culminating at Cristo Blanco or White Christ. The structure is eight meters high and overlooks the beautiful Cusco Valley. I was struck by the history behind the Cristo Blanco. The structure was created by local artist Francisco Olazo Allende, who also built the arc of Santa Clara. The funding for Cristo Blanco was a donation by the Arabic Palestinian community who sought refuge in Cusco after World War II, in gratitude for the Cusquenos’ hospitality and sanctuary.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ― Mark Twain

I thought about this quote by Mark Twain as our guide told us the story of the Cristo Blanco. As a traveler, who is neither Catholic nor Muslim, I saw beauty in its marble, stone, and history.

July 31, 2014

Peru’s Delicious Huancaína Sauce

Watch this video to see how Huancaina sauce is made!

Watch this video to see how Huancaina sauce is made!

Peruvian cuisine is quickly gaining worldwide esteem for its bold flavors and the increasing diversity of international influences. Despite recent culinary innovation, the traditional staples are still a huge part of daily life in Peru; authentic dishes combining native ingredients with both indigenous and colonial cooking methods remain common fare.

The country’s Andean highlands benefit from an unbelievable variety of potatoes and corn, as well as grains like the quinoa that has grown so popular among health nuts in the U.S.

But one particularly delicious staple of traditional Peruvian cuisine is Huancaína (wahn-kah-ee-na) sauce. It’s a thick, spicy (due to yellow aji peppers), yellow cheese sauce that every Peruvian knows intimately and every visitor falls in love with. The name just means that the sauce originated in the Huancayo region in the central highlands, but it’s now typical of the country in general.

The most common usage of Huancaína is in the dish “Papa a la Huancaína,” which consists of boiled and sliced potatoes, placed atop a salad and smothered with a generous helping of the addictive sauce. It would be difficult to find a home or restaurant in which Papa a la Huancaína isn’t served.

On her recent Peru Family Trek, our Family Travel Advisor Grace was lucky enough to watch our friend Cristina preparing the classic sauce — check out the video she recorded of the process!

July 21, 2014

Serendipity in Huacachina, Peru

The dunes of Huacachina, Peru

The dunes of Huacachina, Peru

Below is the second weekly blog post from Noemi and Chris Gamel and their family, currently on a yearlong journey around the world: 

We learned an important lesson in Huacachina, Peru. Well, two lessons if you include that we can survive cold showers. More importantly, we learned that beautiful experiences often happen when your best-laid plans are derailed.

Huacachina is a fresh-water oasis surrounded by sand dunes near the city of Ica. We arrived by public bus to our hostel/home stay mid-afternoon and then walked over to the dunes for Kara and Tristan to play in the sand. Chris and I were still recovering from the early wake-up that morning, so our plan was to save the hike up the massive 300+ foot dune for the next day. Tristan had different ideas. Nothing was going to stop him from reaching the peak, not even tired parents. He raced to the top as fast as his legs would carry him, Kara not too far behind.

When I finally reached the top of the dune, I found Kara and Tristan sitting on the sand looking out at the majestic scenery. At that point, I was so grateful that Tristan had dragged us to the top. When Chris, who had paused to take photographs on the way up, finally sat down beside me all sweaty and huffing, we agreed, “It is worth it.”

If our children had followed our plans, we would have missed a serendipitous, radiant sunset among the dunes. Chris took this photo as we all admired the sublime view over the Huacachina sand dunes. Disobedience never looked so magnificent.