Awe Inspiring Vacation – Machu Picchu, Peruvians, and Paleo

My last posts on vacation have been focused on how it’s possible to maintain being Paleo on vacation.  This post is not going to focus on that.  I recently spent 10+ days in Peru, with my husband and best friends, on a 4 day trek to Machu Picchu and it was an AMAZING adventure.  This was an incredible experience, that tested my endurance and physical fitness as well as my patience and willingness to be “comfortable with being uncomfortable.”  I was tested through hiking at altitude, not having access to normal bathrooms or showers, having to carry my own toilet paper everywhere, hiking for 8 to 10 hours a day – 4 days in a row, and giving up control over what we were doing and when (that was our guide, Antonio’s job).  On this trip I did my best to stay true to my normal eating habits, but I ate my fair share of additional non-gluten containing carbs, the fuel of choice for most Peruvians.

Day 1 Hiking the Salkantay Trail (I’m have the blue/gray REI pack)

Day 2 on our way to Salkantay Pass

Starting out in the morning bundled up & with the horses

We did a 5 day/4 night trek that included 4 days hiking the Salkantay trail  and the 5th day in Machu Picchu through Inti Sun Trek.  We had our own private tour lead by an awesome guide, Antonio.  So on our trek it was the 4 of us (2 couples), our guide and then an entourage of helpers: cook, assistant cook, horses and a horseman to help carry our gear across the ~60 miles of hiking we did over those 4 days of trekking and 3 nights of camping.  The trek was an amazing experience where we spent the majority of the day hiking, pausing to have delicious and beautifully prepared (all wheat and gluten free) meals prepared for us on the trail to fuel the 9 to 19 miles of hiking that we were doing each day.  We covered quite a few micro-climates from high white capped mountains (at 15, 200 feet elevation) down through the highlands and into the rainforest (closer 6,ooo feet elevation) and at one point crossed many of these in the same day!  The trek was inspiring, challenging, and beautiful – 5 full days fully disconnected from my normal reality gave me the time to enjoy and appreciate life, nature and reconnect with what actually matters.  More than once I caught myself wanting to pinch myself to see if this was “real life” the beauty, vastness, and impact of nature we were surrounded by and how peaceful our surroundings were was truly amazing.

View of Machu pIcchu!

Some handstand fun on Wayan Picchu with Machu Picchu in the background!

Pistols (one-legged-squats) overlooking Machu Picchu

So, for those astute readers, yes I did say that I didn’t stay Paleo on this trek.  I still did my best to stick to real food.  What I ate that was non-paleo was mostly white potatoes, quinoa, and rice in addition to foods that would be in my normal Paleo meals.  All of my home-brought trail snacks were mostly Paleo as well, sticking to dried fruits, honey stingers, larabars, and nuts in addition to drinking plenty of water.  To spare you a million food pictures, here are a few stitched together.  Some notable and delicious Peruvian foods I tried were Alpaca filets (they tasted like gamey pork…tasty and lean), Andean Stew which was filled with sweet potatoes, yucca, lamb, chicken, and some local beans (which I think were Lima beans), and Trout ceviche with vegetables and sweet potatoes, oh and home-made potato chips that were out of this world (especially since we hiked close to 19 miles that day!).

Food from the Trail – All Cooked by our Chefs!

Alpaca, Coffee & Chocloate, Ceviche, & Sides


One thing we learned when going through Salkantay Pass, after reaching the highest elevation of our trek and the highest I’ve reached on foot as well, is that the Peruvians use the journey to this pass as a chance for a new beginning.  An opportunity to leave behind all that you have done and to start anew.  I am taking that experience and using it to gain a fresh perspective on life, on what is actually important and on trying to be a better person.  Have you been to any awe inspiring places lately?  What have you learned?  I’ve been wanting to visit Machu Picchu for almost 6 years now, since a colleague of mine at Accenture went to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands – Machu Picchu captured my interest and the magic of the place and the beauty of the Peruvian landscape exceeded my expectations for this trip.

Top of Salkantay Pass 15,200 feet!

My trail food of choice, larabars!


About Laura Pappas

Laura Pappas is a health coach whose passion is achieving optimal health and fitness. Her health coaching approach helps busy people balance their lives, training, and food choices in a way that is easy and sustainable. She believes in the power of eating real, whole foods, avoiding processed sugar, and applying the principles of the Paleo Diet to modern living.


  1. […] to this hiking adventure.  Last year we had an amazing and life-changing experience trekking to Machu Picchu, Peru and I had such an amazing time that I wanted to do something similar this year.  A trip visiting […]

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