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As I started packing for my first big solo trip, I debated whether or not to bring my selfie stick. It seemed kinda silly, and I wasn't sure if I'd really use it that much. But in the end, I decided to toss it in my suitcase and I'm so glad I did. That selfie stick ended up being absolutely crucial for capturing amazing photos throughout my journey across Peru.
Having the selfie stick with me everywhere I went enabled me to get shots I never could have gotten otherwise. Like that epic selfie I snapped at Machu Picchu with the full landscape behind me. Or the one of me "holding up" the Rainbow Mountains. Without extending my arm out with the selfie stick, the photos would have been zoomed in and lost the grandeur of the incredible scenery. The stick allowed me to get the full picture.
It also helped me take great selfies with locals I met along my travels. Instead of having to hand my phone off to a stranger, I could connect my phone to the stick and take crisp, clear photos of us together. This made the experience less awkward and resulted in much better shots. I have so many great photos with new Peruvian friends thanks to my trusty selfie stick.
In addition, the stick let me capture unique angles during adventures like paragliding over the Sacred Valley. I was able to get an awesome selfie with the valley far below that I never could have achieved just holding my phone in my hand hundreds of feet in the air. The stick let me position my phone exactly where I wanted it for dramatic aerial selfies.
As I embarked on my journey through Peru, one of the top spots on my must-see list was the magnificent Machu Picchu. This 15th century Incan citadel sits high in the Andes mountains and can only be accessed by foot or train. I couldn't wait to explore the ancient ruins and of course, take plenty of selfies along the way!
Before heading to Machu Picchu, I spent a few days acclimating in Cusco. The high altitude of Machu Picchu can cause dizziness or nausea if you don't give your body time to adjust. I made sure to take it easy, drink coca tea to ward off altitude sickness, and get a good night's sleep before my early morning train.
When the big day arrived, I triple checked that I had everything I needed in my backpack before heading to the train station. My charged selfie stick, extra batteries and memory cards were all packed. I also brought snacks, water, sunscreen and my Machu Picchu entrance ticket. The train left Cusco early, winding through the Sacred Valley with views of the Andes Mountains out the window.
Once at Aguas Calientes station, I stored my main backpack at the hotel and kept only my small daypack. The bus ride up the mountain was a thrilling way to take in the increasing elevation and switchback roads. My excitement grew as we approached the iconic Machu Picchu entrance gate.
Walking through the gates felt like stepping into an ancient world. Stone structures and terraces were everywhere I looked. I was in awe of the incredible architecture and the surroundings. One of my first selfies was at the classic Machu Picchu sign to commemorate the occasion.
Throughout the day I explored as much of the expansive site as possible, taking selfies at the most picturesque spots. My favorite was the Sun Gate, where I framed myself with the iconic peaks behind me. Using my selfie stick enabled me to get the full backdrop in the shot.
The perspective from the top of Huayna Picchu mountain provided a jaw-dropping selfie overlooking all of Machu Picchu below. It was an amazing place for panoramic views. Being able to take photos at famous landmarks like the Temple of the Sun and the Intihuatana stone was the perfect way to remember my visit.
One of the best parts of solo travel is meeting local people. In Cusco, I had the chance to connect with Peruvians from all walks of life. Taking selfies with them was a way to build bridges across cultures and capture the true spirit of this diverse city.
Cusco attracts visitors from around the globe, but it's the locals that make it so vibrant. I met welcoming seniors in traditional dress near the Plaza de Armas, hip young artists in San Blas, and hardworking market stall owners. Though we didn't always share a common language, posing together for photos forged bonds.
Selfies with children especially warmed my heart. Their innocent joy and enthusiasm brought smiles all around. Like the kids I spotted playing soccer in a neighborhood square. We paused their game for a quick group selfie, with the rusted goal posts behind us. And the shy girls dressed in colorful, layered skirts who giggled excitedly when I asked for a picture. These moments provided glimpses into everyday life.
Taking selfies with locals offered opportunities to showcase Cusco's culture. I met a weaver named Paulo demonstrating his crafts near SacsayhuamÃ¡n. He proudly held up intricate tapestries for our photo. A mother and daughter in flowing pollera skirts welcomed me into their shop to pose with handwoven alpaca wool blankets.
Selfies also led to invitations to experience local customs. A friendly fruit vendor draped a colorful Andean shawl around my shoulders for our shot. She then welcomed me to sample her fresh-squeezed juices. A lively band let me try the charango guitar as they posed mid-performance. These friendly encounters enriched my time in Cusco immensely.
The backdrops visible in the selfies evoked Cusco's diverse neighborhoods. Shots against art-covered walls in San Blas and the imposing Cathedral on the Plaza showed contrasts between old and new. Cobblestoned streets winding up to SacsayhuamÃ¡n portrayed Cusco's long history. Market stalls overflowing with handmade crafts and textiles captured the city's creative spirit.
Paragliding over Peru's iconic Rainbow Mountain provided the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture an incredible selfie soaring high above this incredible natural landscape. Known as Vinicunca, Rainbow Mountain earns its name from the array of vivid mineral colors striping its peaks. Hues of crimson, ochre, turquoise, lavender and gold make it one of the most spectacular geological formations in the Andes. Though Rainbow Mountain has gained popularity with hikers in recent years, paragliding above it offers a breathtaking new perspective.
As my paragliding instructor and I took off running down the steep slope, my heart pounded with equal parts fear and exhilaration. The moment my feet left the ground, all anxiety evaporated. We were airborne, gently sailing over the mountain as the valley fell away below us. Crisp mountain air rushed past as I took in unobstructed views of the candy-colored ridges. From my lofty vantage point, I could fully appreciate the vibrance and diversity of the mountain's banded sediments. It was a mesmerizing sight.
Though I was enthralled with the scenery surrounding me, I wanted to capture this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Safely securing one hand on the paraglider harness, I used my other hand to retrieve my selfie stick and phone from my jacket pocket. Extending the stick enabled me to get the ideal framing for an epic aerial selfie with the mountain's ridges providing a burst of color behind me. The shot encompassed the entire wingspan of the paraglider and the vast landscape below.
Looking at that selfie transports me right back to gliding high above the Andes, with the wind in my hair. The photo evokes the exhilaration of flying over one of the world's most incredible natural wonders. Other travelers who have paraglided at Rainbow Mountain also tout it as an unforgettable experience. The unique perspective paragliding offers can't be matched by hiking. One avid hiker said paragliding provided his first birds-eye glimpse of the mountain's brilliant colors, which he had only glimpsed from below on previous treks. The sweeping views make for selfies you simply can't get any other way.
Paragliding selfies also capture the stark contrasts of Rainbow Mountain's terrain. Dramatic cliffs, green valley meadows and snow-capped peaks surround the ridges' Technicolor strata. Photos show the true splendor of this remote region of the Andes that relatively few experience. Adventurers say the memories and spectacular selfies make braving the extreme heights and chill winds worthwhile.
While selfies captured unforgettable moments throughout my trip, I didn"t want to experience Peru solely through a phone screen. Taking time to savor authentic Andean cuisine allowed me to connect more deeply with the culture. Lima is considered the gastronomic capital of South America, fusing indigenous ingredients with global techniques. From hearty stews to lightly fried fish, I delighted my taste buds with Peru"s complex flavors.
Indulging in lomo saltado, a rich beef stir-fry with onions, tomatoes and potatoes, provided fuel for long days of exploring. The contrasting sweet and salty flavors were balanced by a hint of spice. This filling dish has Chinese influence but uses Peruvian ingredients, exemplifying the cuisine"s fusion origins. Hearty corn, meat and veggie stews like cau cau, stuffed with potatoes, reminded me of Peru"s ancient roots.
Ceviche, raw fish marinated in zesty citrus, exemplified the coastal cuisine. The lime juice "cooked" the tender white fish, which I savored alongside corn, sweet potato and crunchy cancha corn nuts. This bright, refreshing dish was the perfect recharge on sweltering afternoons.
While indulge in gastronomical delights, I gained perspective on the culture behind Peru's cuisine from locals. A chef explained how altitude affects cooking as I sampled her quinoa soup in Cusco. The grains took longer to soften at higher elevation. At an outdoor market in Aguas Calientes, a mother cooking anticuchos"grilled beef hearts"on skewers shared how the dish connects her to ancestors who sold them for pennies.
These conversations enriched my understanding of centuries-old food traditions. Travel blogs underscored how food tells Peru"s complex history. "With every bite, hundreds of years and civilizations reveal themselves," one blogger wrote of her culinary journey. She noted tasting indigenous, African, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese influences that collided over generations.
Experiencing the array of unique ingredients also gave insight into Peru"s biodiversity. From purple potatoes to giant white corn kernels to hundreds of potato varieties, products I"d never seen before filled market stalls. Seeing cacao, quinoa and other superfoods thrive in their native regions emphasized Peru"s rich landscapes.
While photographing meals provided fun memories, setting aside my phone reminded me to be fully present. I noticed more details, like the intricate knife skills of a chef slicing raw fish for tiradito. Without glancing through a screen, I better appreciated the textures and flavors. Each morsel told a story.
The lively Plaza de Armas in the heart of Cusco provided the perfect spot for posing with locals and capturing the essence of this bustling square. As the center of city life since Incan times, the plaza buzzes with musicians, artists, and food vendors. The endless photo opportunities in this UNESCO World Heritage Site made me grateful I had brought my selfie stick to get the full scope of the scene.
Positioning myself by the towering statues of Incan leaders allowed for selfies incorporating the imposing ancient architecture framing the square. Locals expertly angling cell phone cameras demonstrated this was a prime spot for portraits. One man showed me how backing up to line the statues up just right created a forced perspective making it appear as if an Incan ruler loomed over your shoulder.
Capturing the impressive Baroque Cusco Cathedral in the background of photos also took some finesse. I needed the right angle to fit the entire building into the shot. Watching a newlywed couple posing joyfully on the steps, massive wedding gown train spilling over the edge, gave me inspiration for framing the perfect selfie featuring the cathedral's ornately carved stone facade.
The most lively selfies featured the street performers who animate the plaza daily. Andean musicians in woven alpaca wool ponchos paused mid-melody for a photo, traditional instruments called zampoÃ±as poised. We framed the shot so embroidered cloth wall hangings were visible behind them. Energetic dancers in colorful, swirling pollera skirts mid-spin provided eye-catching backdrops.
But the real stars were the llamas decked out in elaborately woven blankets who frequented the plaza for photo-ops with tourists. Getting the ideal selfie with my new fuzzy friends took patience, as they wandered to graze on grassy patches. I learned kneeling down at their eye level while holding out a snack helped convince the llamas to turn my way. But the hilarious "kissing" shot I captured when a llama leaned towards my phone made the wait worthwhile.
Fellow travelers who lingered at Plaza de Armas also relished the selfie possibilities. "It was like every corner revealed a new photo scene!" one backpacker enthused on travel forums. Visitors agreed selfies with the colorful characters who regularly populate the square offered wonderful memories. "The street performers and llamas were fantastic models," an Australian commented.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas, located between Cusco and Machu Picchu, offers abundant opportunities for scenic selfies showcasing the rugged natural beauty and ancient ruins of this historic region. But llamas roaming the valley have perfected the art of hilariously photobombing unsuspecting tourists' pictures. Their expert timing and penchant for popping into shots has made them internet celebrities. For many travelers, getting photobombed by a goofy llama mugging for the camera ends up being a highlight of visiting the Sacred Valley that provides plenty of laughs and social media fodder.
Llamas were revered by ancient Peruvians and remain a vital part of Andean culture and livelihoods. As relatable, fluffy pack animals who trek the same trails as people, llamas have personality that shines through in photos. Locals in the Sacred Valley use llamas to transport goods or shepherd tourists. This proximity to people's paths increases the likelihood of llamas blurring into the background of someone's selfie before the shutter clicks.
Adventure blogger Martina joked, "We didn't choose the llama life, the llama life chose us," after llamas crashed most of her Sacred Valley photo attempts. Yet a perfectly composed shot at the Moray Agricultural Terraces was utterly ruined and utterly improved when a llama head popped into the frame. Photobombs capture the llamas' mischievous charm.
Part of the hilarity stems from the juxtaposition. A bright-eyed llama sprouting up beside someone in yoga tree pose on the train tracks to Machu Picchu provides an unexpected interruption. The astonishment on travelers' faces when a llama edges into their selfie is obvious and relatable. Posting photobombed pictures on social media amplifies the comedic effect.
Professional photographers have noticed the trend. A travel shooter explained, "Llama photobombs have blown up. People go crazy for those ridiculous images!" Wedding photographers increasingly scout llamas ahead of time, hoping to incorporate them organically and spontaneously in shoots. Brides pose serenely with a llama peeking over their shoulder.
But while llamas crashing photos can frustrate photographers' carefully composed shots, most roll with the humor. "Many brides embrace llama photobombs, since those photos grab attention when shared," a photographer commented. Photos showing genuine surprise and laughter feel more authentic than posed, perfect portraits with llamas.
Part of the appeal of llama photobombs is they offer a bit of whimsy and connection with nature. A boring landscape snapshot transforms into entertainment when a curious llama enters unexpectedly. People bored with overly curated, filtered Instagram feeds appreciate the spontaneous ridiculousness. "A good llama photobomb instantly makes any picture better," an influencer raved.
The Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu winds over 26 rigorous miles, ascending and descending steep stone steps at lung-bursting high altitude. While tackling the four-day trek, the last thing on most hikers' minds is looking cute for photos. Yet influencers and fashion bloggers take outfit planning for the Inca Trail as seriously as training and packing electrolytes. For them, capturing #traillooks in stunning backdrops boosts their brand.
Influencers feel pressure to post envy-inducing vacation content nonstop. "Even trekking the Inca Trail, I still had to get content," admitted lifestyle blogger Chloe. She couldn't risk losing followers by going off the grid during the four days of limited electricity and cell service on the trail. Outfit photos along the route enabled Chloe to queue up posts.
Fashionistas believe looking good while feeling awful reflects their adventurous spirit. "I'm panting, soaked in sweat, and delirious from waking up at 3am to reach the Sun Gate before sunrise, but I still slayed in my leggings and sports bra," one influencer captioned her Machu Picchu selfie. Brands supply free hiking clothes to influencers expecting sponsored shots on the trail.
Striking athleisurewear against stunning backdrops drives engagement. In a coordiated purple sports bra and leggings, a fitness influencer framed herself with the snow-capped peak of Dead Woman's Pass behind her. "Even at 14,000 feet, I'm stylin' in this look from @gymsharkwomen," she wrote. The contrast makes both pop.
Some pose in impractical looks mere mortals wouldn't dare wear on a grueling hike. An Instagram model clung to stone ruins in a flowy maxi skirt and booties, casually resting her Prada bag atop a boulder. While internet haters mocked her improper footwear, the breathtaking setting captivated her fans.
However, hiking influencers often use clever tricks to fake perfect trail looks. Some change clothes immediately when they reach a photogenic spot after slogging there in practical shorts and tee shirts. They whip out cute hats and flowing kimonos for quick styled shoots before resuming trekking.
Renting pack horses to carry heavy gear is another influencer secret. Not having to carry camping equipment and multiple days' food enables breezy athletic wear. "I wouldn't have survived the Inca Trail in a crop top and jorts [jean shorts] without my pack horse to haul supplies," one model admitted.
But prioritizing fashion over function can be perilous. Twisting an ankle during a photo shoot halfway up the rocky trail would be disastrous. Influencers know any slips destroying the illusion of effortless glamour could cost them.
Most hikers view the trail as a personal journey, not a backdrop. Comfortable, broken-in layers that wick away sweat take priority. Functional clothing enabling freedom of movement matters more than style. Breathable fabrics, quick-drying socks, and sturdy boots better equip hikers for diverse terrain and changing microclimates.
One backpacker who completed the Inca Trail in simple zip-off hiking pants said she appreciated blending in rather than standing out: "No one judged my lack of style. We all looked equally exhausted and elated." For her, reaching Machu Picchu was achievement enough without hunting for the perfect 'gram shot. She saved style for celebrating in Cusco after completing the challenge.