Dispatch, Peru 5: The highs of traveling in low season

MBPERU162x120Travel Weekly reporter Michelle Baran just spent two weeks in Peru. Her trip included an Amazon River cruise and a visit to Machu Picchu. Baran’s fifth and final dispatch follows.

I'm becoming a huge convert to low-season travel. This trip to Peru solidified the reformation.

High- and low-season variability is mainly attributed to weather. Operators have been increasingly touting the value of the precariously unpredictable low season, especially during these trying economic times. Perhaps I shrugged it off as another desperate marketing ploy. No more.

There is value to visiting a destination during its low season, and not just monetary value. The risk of being wet, cold or uncomfortable is outweighed by the potential to see sites virtually free of other tourists. I'll take cloudy Machu Picchu over crowded Machu Picchu any day.

And then there's just plain-old luck. It was the rainy season while I was in Peru, yet the weather was excellent for the most part.

My fears of constant rainfall hampering the ability to sufficiently explore the Amazon River and its winding tributaries and canals gave way to long and gorgeous days of bird-watching, animal sightings, enlightening village visits and fishing for piranhas, plus the added bonus of unanticipated tanning opportunities.

PERU-MBWaynaAt Machu Picchu, I climbed the somewhat treacherous Wayna Picchu, the mountain that is the well-known backdrop to the archaeological site. After an hour of huffing and puffing, grasping the rails to prevent myself from slipping on the rocks in the rain, I reached the top, where they say you get some of the best views of Machu Picchu.

I wouldn't know. I was in a cloud.

So, yes, had it been the dry season, there probably would have been an awe-inspiring view of the Incan remains.

I and the dozen other climbers atop the mountain sat and waited, and waited. We weren't going anywhere until the clouds parted.

When the clouds barely opened for a brief second, we triumphant climbers cheered. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, not even a perfect aerial view of Machu Picchu.

As luck would have it, the sun came out after I descended Wayna Picchu. Most of the tourist buses had departed at 2 p.m., and I had some of the most amazing views of the site almost completely to myself.

There is a lot of planning and expense that goes into assembling the perfect vacation at the perfect time of year. But what many people forget is the value of believing, even for a moment, that there is some part of experience that is completely their own, something completely unpredictable.

The Amazon and Machu Picchu are humbling places where I realized that observing these ethereal destinations without hoards of tourists enabled me to connect with them more intimately.

That's worth more than the comfortable climate promises of any high season.

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