15 Countries You Should Visit Before You Die


Why to go when you’re young: Because hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is damn difficult. Not to say you can’t do it when you’re older, but with elevations over 13,000ft, the sooner the better.
Where to head first: Even if you’re on your way to Machu Picchu, be sure to spend time in Lima, one of the most overlooked food cities in the world.

Machu Picchu can be reached by train; you should go on foot. It’s the finest way to explore Peru, an amazing, beautiful, historically important country. I showed up in Cuzco a spry sprout of 21, and signed up for a five-day expedition to Machu Picchu. Thank God I happened to give myself a stopover in town beforehand, because those first couple days I couldn’t even walk down the street without feeling like I was going to pass out. Take those two days in the former Incan capital to bone up on your pre-Columbian history and acclimate to breathing the oxygen-poor air at 11,000ft above sea level. You’ll need to adjust before trying to climb a flight of stairs, much less rambling through the mountains.

It hadn’t occurred to me that the trek itself would be so demanding — nothing built for tourists ever is. But then, neither Machu Picchu nor the Inca Trail were built for tourists. Before the sun had set on our first day of hiking, I saw more than a few beet-faced baby boomers go belly up on the side of the trail and head back into town, disappointed and dazed. This is why you go to Peru early in life. It’s best when you have an open mind, a willing spirit, and strong legs that can lug one foot in front the other, even when you’re gasping for air.