While the full-time travel influencers and adventurers we see on social media are certainly inspirational, or at least fun to follow, it’s nice to know that people with everyday jobs can travel the world too. Rhaven McIver, for instance, is a nurse anesthetist, who just happens to spend whatever free time she can scrounge exploring new places around the globe.
When she’s not in the doctor’s office, she’s sharing her travels on on Instagram and her YouTube channel, “Time With Rhay” in the hopes of encouraging people of all kinds to get out there and adventure.
“I have been coined ‘the trip planner’ by all my friends and family,” McIver says. “They know when they travel with me, they don’t have to worry about anything but having a great time. Recently I’ve begun planning trips for other people who have no idea where to begin, and I’m launching my group trip business this spring!”
McIver’s love for travel has connected her to an abundance of new people and wonderful places, and one of her favorite destinations to date is Peru. From Machu Picchu and the striking Rainbow Mountain to the mouthwatering food and lively culture, Mclver is sharing her guide to Peru and why everyone needs to visit below.
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I chose Peru because I want to visit all of the World Wonders and that’s where Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is located. After some research, I realized there was a lot of other stuff to see and do in Peru, and it was also a relatively inexpensive country to visit with maximal enjoyment, which was a plus!
What’s one thing that every first-time visitor should see or do in Peru?
Well if you’re going to go all the way to Peru you must see Machu Picchu! It’s so amazing to see something most of us have seen or read about in history books. When you go there, a guide will show you around and you will learn the history behind, which is pretty amazing. You can book a tour to Machu Picchu from Cusco, which is one of the cities you’ll definitely want to visit there. You’ll have to take a train ride to get there and then a bus, but don’t worry, it’s super scenic!
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What was your absolute favorite meal of your trip?
I spent a lot of time in Cusco, and my favorite dish happened to be a signature Peruvian dish called Lomo Saltado. It’s a stir fry that typically combines marinated strips of sirloin (or other beef steaks) with onions, tomatoes, french fries, and other ingredients, and is typically served with rice. I ordered that meal on four separate occasions because it was that good!
As far as drinks go I enjoyed the signature drink called Pisco Sour. I’d never had Pisco before my trip, but the best way I could describe the way it tastes would be a mix between wine and brandy. Two restaurants I really enjoyed in Cusco were Inka Grill and Morena Peruvian Kitchen. I’d definitely start by ordering the signature dish and drink!
What’s the best Peruvian destination for spending time in nature?
I would say Cusco is a great city to visit because it’s a gateway to get to must-see places like Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain. You’ll get amazing photos and views at these two places (may even see an alpaca or two on your journey) and there are tons of tours to choose from. The city of Cusco itself was also just a nice place to walk around and explore as well. Llamas and Alpacas were everywhere, so you’ll definitely be able to meet one if you so desire!
Do you have a favorite outdoor excursion or adventure activity to do in Peru?
Aside from Machu Picchu. Rainbow Mountain is a mountain that literally looks like a rainbow once you get to the top. You can take a horse up most of the way or walk, but either way, there’s a point where the horse cannot go because it’s too steep and you’ll have to walk up. The hardest part about the hike is the altitude sickness many people experience due to the elevation. Please don’t do this tour on your first day to Cusco as it takes a day or so to get somewhat used to the elevation change. It’s also super cold up on Rainbow Mountain so dress warm!
Another super cool excursion was visiting Huacachina, Ica which is a desert. On the tour I booked, I did sandboarding and rode the dunes which was a lot of fun! I didn’t know there was a desert in Peru until I booked my trip. The best way to get there is a tour from Peru’s capital, Lima. The tour leaves super early and comes back late at night, but it’s totally worth it! I stayed in Lima for two nights specifically to do this tour, then I headed to Cusco for the remainder of my trip.
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What was the coolest hotel or place you stayed?
I really enjoyed staying at the JW Marriott El Convento in Cusco. It was a beautiful hotel with hospitable staff and it was within walking distance from everything in the city. Every morning they have a baby alpaca visit the hotel’s courtyard and you can feed her and take photos with her as well.
If you’re looking for something more relaxing and even more upscale, Tambo Del Inka was a great stay. It’s about an hour and fifteen minutes from the center of Cusco. They had a beautiful spa and pool and the lobby is beautiful. As soon as you walk in you feel relaxed, and staying there at the end of an adventurous trip was everything I needed.
Lastly, if you’re feeling daring, the Sky Lodge is a very cool place to stay. They built mini lodges on the side of a mountain and you have to climb up to get there. The climb was not bad at all, but if you’re scared of heights this isn’t the stay for you. I didn’t stay here but I went up for lunch, which is another option if you’d rather not stay the night.
What’s something most people don’t know about Peru?
People may not know that in Cusco specifically, the altitude is much higher than what most of us are used to, to the point that it can cause altitude sickness — which most people experience when visiting Cusco. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can include nausea, headaches, and feeling short of breath.
I was super exhausted my first day in Cusco and I knew about the altitude sickness so I was prepared to just rest that first day. One remedy is coca leaf tea or coca candy which helps alleviate the symptoms, and you can get those everywhere in Cusco including at your hotel. Some people also buy a small oxygen canister to help with the shortness of breath.
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Best time of year to visit?
The best time to visit would be between May and October which is the dry season. I went in September and the weather ranged from 65 to 75 degrees (the desert was about 80 to 85) which was perfect.