Category Archives: Culture

Travelling Peru – Urubamba and the Sacred Valley

After we spent three nights in Cusco, we started our tour through the Sacred Valley. Our first stop was a nice but very touristic lama and alpaca farm. We fed the animals and watched local women colour the wool and the weave it to truly wonderful patterns. The farm helps local women to preserve their weaving tradition and gives them the opportunity to sell their products to the tourists.

Our next stop then was the Inca ruin Pisaq.

Pisaq - Sacred ValleypisaqThe terraces were breathtaking. I like the idea that the Inca not only had those terraces for crops and stability of their cities but also as a sort of decoration. If you look at this mountain I can see what they liked about it.

On our drive further into the Sacred Valley, we stopped for the special peruvian dish – guinea pig. I know, a lot of especially European people would never dare to eat what is for us a pet. But to be honest I always try to experience the culture of a country also through its food and the guinea pig is such a dish in Peru. So if you are not too light hearted or didn’t have a guinea pig as a pet you should give it at least a try.

As we arrived in our hotel for the next two nights in Urubamba, we still had some time to explore the city. Urubamba itself isn’t that much different from other Peruvian cities. It mainly exists for tourists who head out for the Inca trail and Machu Picchu. However, despite its touristy atmosphere we found two very lovely spots hidden in between.

cafe cielito Linda UrubambaThe Café Cielito Lindo is worth every visit. The girly decoration and perfect cakes combined with great coffee makes this café one of my culinaric highlights of our trip.

The other highlight was a small restaurant called Paca Paca which you have to check out if you are in the area. The restaurant offers a range of delicious dishes from peruvian to european. You can simply have pizza from the stone oven or indulge in a light and modern variation of peruvian food like I did ;).

Paca Paca - UrubambaOn our second day in the Valley, we headed off to the mountains. Our drive dropped us at a small village from where we walked down to the salt mines of maras.

walkIt was a bit rainy and the clouds just looked amazing between the mountains of the Andes. After a short walk of around 30 minutes we arrived at the salt mines of Maras. Local farmers cultivate, harvest and sell the salt to the government and in little amounts to the tourists.

salt mines marassalt mines of marasIt was incrdible to watch people working there. It must be hard to balance 30 to 50 kilo of salt on your back walking on those very small bars between the fields.

From the mines we walked down to Urubamba and enjoyed our free afternoon with some cake and coffee. The next day we visited another breathtaking Inca site – Ollantaytambo.

OllantaytamboOllantaytamboOllantaytamboIn Ollantaytambo you can feel that this site was once a big fortress. It just looks and feels massive. The rocks transported there were the biggest I saw on the whole trip.

On the way back to Urubamba our guide took us to a local bar. We tried corn bear which tasted quite sour. I preferred the local special with strawberry to the normal one. It was much sweeter :). More fun than drinking was playing the typical game of those bars. You get a specific amount of coins which you have to threw into the holes of a table with a frog in the middle.

peruvian bar gameI really sucked but it was soooo much fun to play :). Try to get to a local bar and throw some coins.

Travelling Peru – what to see and do in Cusco

During our trip we stayed most of our time in Cusco and the nearby Sacred Valley. Of all the cities we went to during our tour, I liked Cusco the most. Maybe, one reason for this was that we had more time to explore the town by ourselves. However, with its rich history and great atmosphere, I think I also would have loved it after just having stayed for one day.

We had some tours organised by our travel agency in advance. In the afternoon, we had time off though and enjoyed exploring the area by ourselves. Here are my recommendations for you if you are planning to visit that beautiful town:

1. The artists’ quarter San Blas

My absolute favourite place in Cusco was the San Blas quarter. Walking up from the central square this area felt very modern and young. There are a lot of small shops with handcrafts and local designs as well as some cute cafés and hostels. I just loved walking around the narrow streets peering into the shops we passed.

San Blas QuarterSAn Blas Quarter in CuscoMake sure you walk as high as you can, because the views over the town get better and better.

Cusco
2. The local Market

Unfortunately, I have no picture from the local market. I guess I was so concentrated on taking in all the fruits, fish, meat and other products on offer that I completely forgot to take pictures. If you have the chance, do go to one of the big markets in Cusco and just walk around and enjoy the exotic feel of it.

3. The Temple of the Sun – Coricancha

This mixture of a colonial church with the remainings of the old Incan temple is definitely worth a visit. It is intriguing how perfectly the Incas placed there stones to beautiful buildings which were much more stable than the later colonial ones. Because during an earthquake in the 17th century most of the colonial church was destroyed while the Incan walls remained.

Coricancha - Temple of the Sun in CuscoCoricancha - Temple of the Sun

4. Eating in a local Picanteria

Our tour also included a meal at a local picanteria. Those restaurants serve all the local specials like fried pork or even guinea pig. If you can, go with a local and make sure you order the local anise liquor for your digestion. Trust me it helps!

5. Plaza de Armas – Main Square

Just sitting at the steps in front of the main cathedral on the Plaza de Armas watching people – this was one of our favourite occupation during our stay. It is fun watching the locals and tourists mix on that main square. If you have time also visit the main cathedral which is a great exampl of the mixture of Incan and Catholic religion.

Main Square in CuscoCathedral

6. Saqsaywaman

Another very impressing Incan site is Saqsaywaman at the edge of the city. You can either take a driver there or walk up the hill to the ruins. Saqsaywaman is a huge Incan ruin located in a beautiful park. On weekends the locals come here to picknick and to play with their children.

Saqsawamanstone slide - SaqsawamanMake sure you follow the example of the local children and try the natural rock slides in the park – so much fun :).

Make sure you plan two to three days for Cusco. I asure you, you won’t regret it. Do tell me if you go or already have been there and share your experience in the comments.

 

 

 

 

Travelling Peru – Bustrip from Puno to Cusco

From Puno we drove nearly ten hours to Cusco, the center of the old Inca Empire. Ten hours seem to be a long time to spend in a bus but as I said before the touristic buses in Peru are really luxurious and time passes by very quickly. On our trip we visited some old pre-Incan ruins in the morning.

Some time later we passed the highest point of this journey at 4335 metres above sea level which was also the watershed between Puno and Cusco.

water shed between Puno and CuscoAfter another two hours drive we stopped again for lunch. I have to admit that those organised lunchs were often too touristic for my taste and most of the time I would have prefered to choose my own place. That’s something I will consider for my next trip. Especially because I love to eat very local and enjoy trying new food. The places we went offered mostly the same range of food targeted at the average tourist.

After lunch we visited the Incan temple area Raqchi which is meant to be one of the older temples. I was very fascinated by the size of the main temple which must have been huge.

Raqchi ruin PeruRaqchi ruins in PeruAnother thing which blew my mind was the fact that the Inca placed their buildings and especially their temples according to the sun. So for example the sun would have risen and sunk within this corridor at midsummer and midwinter. Their connection to the sun and the earth was just incredibly deep.

Sixtine Chapel of AmericaContinuing our trip we stopped one last time for the so called Sistine Chapel of America – Andahuayillas. The church is worth every visit. The painting on the outside is just a hint on the beautiful paintings in the inside. With its paintings and later altars, the church symbolises the merge of Incan and Catholic religion very well.

In the evening we finally arrived in Cusco. We stayed in the San Agustin International which was perfectly located in the center of the city.

Travelling Peru – Colca Valley and the Condor

We stayed two nights in the Colca Valley. The Kilawasi Lodge is located in Yanque a little village within the Colca Valley. Like the other villages and cities, Yanque has a central square with a colonial church. But more than this, the Kilawasi Lodge is a perfect spot for exploring the surroundings either by hiking or with local tours to the colca canyon.

colonial church in Yanque - Perucolca valley - PeruDue to the altitude and all the new impressions each day, both of us were quite tired.So, I very much enjoyed the calmness and relaxing atmosphere in the valley.

After our drive from Arequipa to the Colca Valley we checked into our hotel and dropped into bed very early. The next morning we had to get up at around half past five so we were ready for our bus to the edge of the canyon where we watched the condor fly.

peruvian condorperuvian condorperuvian condorI loved those birds. They look so majestic with their wings wide spread gliding through the air. Although it is a very touristic spot and can get crowded easily, it didn’t take away the fascination of watching those beautiful animals.

We were lucky with our guide who suggested to get off the bus before the main viewing spots. Instead of driving there we walked along the edge of the canyon to the viewing platforms. In doing so, we could spot not only the condor but typical flowers and other birds of the Andes.

In the afternoon our hotel offered a guided hike to an old inca ruin nearby. Although I was quite tired and suffered from a headache, I went along.

colca valleyI just couldn’t get enough of the views. Imagine people working on those terraces years and years back in time. It left me with deep respect for all those civilisations who were able to live high up in the mountains.

The hike took around three hours and led us to an very old, probably incan or pre-incan ruin called Uyu Uyu. On the hike, I definitely felt the altitude having to stop much more often to catch may breath.

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incan ruin - colca valleyThis old ruin was my first encounter with the inca culture on our trip and I was already deeply fascinated. It’s simply unbelievable for me to see such buildings while knowing how long back in time they existed.