Category Archives: Travel

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 – Puno and the Titicaca Lake

After two nights in the Colca Valley we headed off to Puno around midday and arrived there in the evening. The touristic buses are really comfortable and driving for six to ten hours really isn’t that much of a problem. Especially because the buses stop regurlaly at different sights on the way.

In Puno, we stayed in the Royal Inn which is directly around the corner of the main square. Arriving late that evening we stayed in the hotel for dinner and went to bed quite early. The next day we met our guide early in the morning – this became a habit on our trip –  and set off to the Titicaca Lake.

Titicaca LakeWe boarded one of the touristic boats and started our journey to the floating islands of Uros. The islands are made from sea weed growing in the lake. People layer it up until it is fat enough to carry them and their houses.

I have to admit that I found it very interesting to see how people lived on those islands. It was truly fascinating. However, I got the feeling that people only still live on those islands because so many tourists come there every single day craving to see the “original living”. The younger generations are leaving the islands to study and work in the cities if they can afford to do so.

floating islandssea weed boatAfter we had explored the islands by foot and with hand made boats of the locals, we headed towards Taquile another island on the Titicaca Lake.

Taquile is famous for its nitting men. Following their customs men learn to nit when they are little and keep nitting until they are adults. The nitted hats and clothes of the people on this island are very traditional and show for example if people are married or not. A white and red hat for example means unmarried while a red hat means married.

Taquile island - Titicaca LakeWalking up the steep hills of the island we felt the altitude. With nearly 4000m above sea level the Titicaca Lake belongs to one of the highest lakes in the world. Not only the location but also the size of the lake is impressive. From the center of the island one has a fantastic view over the lake. If the sky is clear you can even spot the mountains of Bolivia.

On the Taquile island we had one of our best lunch of the whole trip. Our guide took us to a local bar where we ate delicious grilled fish with potatoes and rise – so yummy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After lunch we walked back down to our boat and drove to Puno. We took the chance of a free evening and explored the inner town. Right next to the cathedral is a former kind of monestary complex where you can find nice shops and a great café.

Puno, PeruAfter just one day, we left Puno the other morning continuing our trip towards Cusco.