Salineras and Moray, agricultural jewels of the Incas in the heart of the Sacred Valley, by Matt Waugh.

The Sacred Valley can be reached from Cusco in less than 70 minutes by car.

“What is so special about the Sacred Valley anyway?” people may ask. For anyone who gets out and explores the area on foot, or bike for that matter, they will soon understand the answer to that question!

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The Incas thought it was somewhere pretty impressive to make it their own. It’s a place where many of their ruins are still prominent features, that once upon time stood strong against the mountainous back-drop.

Most were created in places for strategic, agricultural or sacred purposes. Almost every sub-valley heading out of the ‘Valle Sagrado’ hosts something rare and unique.

On one side of the Urubamba river, just outside of the town of Urubamba, sit the Saltmines (or Salineras) of Maras. These provide the visitor something of a unique photographic opportunity, nestled into the canyon.

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Moray also offers something special to the visitor with its conundrum of concentric cylindrical terraces, which is very different to other Inca sites across the Andes. This is thought to have had an agricultural purpose, possibly test-farms but there are many other theories to the origins of this complex. 

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There are several ways to get to this wonderful place, it can be hiked or biked from the top to bottom!

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As part of the trip Apus Peru clients have the choice to do some down-hill mountain biking through the specatular surrounds, to get you down to the Sacred Valley floor. 

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Here is one of our guides, Jose, showing Apus Peru trekkers around.

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Many thanks to Thayer Allyson Gowdy http://thayergowdy.com/ and her partner for the great shots of this location from our Apus Peru ‘Shapes of the Past’ hike http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/shapes_past.htm that they took with us this year. We offer this hike on any day of the year, as well as a number of other one day hikes all within close reach of Cusco. For more information, please drop us an email at reservas@apus-peru.com . Happy Trekking!

Eastern to local, Cusco has it all… foodie review, Megan Malley

If you’ve had your share of Peruvian food and are looking for a different ethnicity, try the fabulous Japanese restaurant Kintaro only one block from the main plaza. The dining room is open and elegantly decorated, and the food is served on Asian-style wooden planks.

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The sushi menu here includes bizarre combinations like the bacon avocado roll, which, I concluded, is much better than it sounds. The large noodle soup bowls, however, are the star attraction of Kintaro. I ordered the curry bowl and absolutely loved it, making sure to finish every last spoonful of spicy broth. http://www.cuscokintaro.com/en/

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However, if you are looking for an authentic Peruvian dining experience, head to Encuentro on calle Ruinas for a typical local lunch. This vegetarian restaurant offers a daily “menú” for a set price of about 8 soles. The menú includes a “refresco,” or juice, a small plate of salad and potatoes, a large bowl of veggie or quinoa soup, and a main course of your choice depending on that day’s available dishes.

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Their saltados, which are vegetable stir fry plates with rice and soy sauce, are delicious and very healthy. They also have chaufa, which is fried rice with tofu or vegetables. If you are sitting at a table with an empty seat during the rush hour, expect a Peruvian stranger to come up and sit with you. A great way to eat the way the locals do! http://restaurantelencuentro.blogspot.com/2008/04/comida-saludable-y-sabrosa.html

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Descending to the Sacred Valley – a rewarding route, suitable for most levels of hikers!

As I have the opportunity to do some of the treks that Apus Peru offer, I can only be inspired every time I go on one. Every day hike that is available offers something different, new views of the surrounding mountains of the Cusco region and always an experience to be shared.

Photos and words tell only half of the story – you have to go there to really understand!

Last week I had the pleasure to accompany a group of keen and able trekkers on a stunning route through to the Sacred Valley.  It took approximately 4 hours to cover the 7kms (about 4.5 miles) of traverse down into a lush valley of trees and farms from the Inca market town of Chinchero to Urquillos in the Sacred Valley. We started from 3600m and ended down by the Urubamba river by the small town of Urquillos at 2900m.

We started by descending from some awesome Inca terraces at Chincheros.

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We then headed on down an ancient Inca trail that skirted some small streams and miniature waterfalls

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About 30 minutes in, the valley opened out and we were left with jaw-dropping views of the way down to the Sacred Valley

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On the way down we encountered a little forest and took shelter for a bit of a picnic

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At the bottom where we ended our trek we found the quaint town of Urquillos. I think most gave it a mark of 10/10

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Simply put, this is a great little intro to the Andes and an adequate warm up hike for those going on to do the 4 day Inca Trail, Salkantay or similar.

To book this trek or similar 1 day hikes within close reach of Cusco, please see our link at -http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/descending_sacred_valley.htm

La Veronica –the mightiest mountain of the Cordillera Urubamba in the Andes

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Veronica is the mightiest mountain in Urubamba Mountain range and here she stands at a height of 5860m/16830ft overlooking all of the Cusco region. She is coated in a horn of snow most of the year round and named Wakay Willca, or Sacred Tears in Quechua. This is taken in the valley of Urubamba and not far from Ollantaytambo, a famous town of the Inca’s. This is part of the trail to the Inca Quarries of Cachiccata, a good days warm up hike on the way to Machu Picchu if you happen to be staying the night in Ollantaytambo or the close-by in the Sacred Valley.

For more information on our Sacred Valley tours and 1 day hikes please see other options at our links: http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/sacred_valley.htm and http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/one_day.html

Thanks to Matt Waugh, Apus Peru Travel Consultant, for his local insights!

Curry in Cusco!! Foodie review – a continuation. Megan Malley

Last year Megan Malley, Threads of Peru intern, had the delightful task of sampling a variety of Cusco’s restaurants for our Blog. A continuation from her earlier posts, here is another to wet your appetite for a cuisine other than that you may have expected in Cusco!

As surprising as it may sound to find Indian food in Peru, make sure not to skip over Korma Sutra in the artsy and quaint San Blas hillside neighborhood.   With a completely open kitchen, this small candlelit restaurant allows the mouth-watering scent of curry to waft out onto Tandapata street to lure in passersby.

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Although the curry bowls aren’t cheap, they are sometimes discounted for occasions such as the restaurant’s anniversary. If you order the “very spicy” level of chicken, lamb, or tofu curry, make sure to accompany it with a mango or banana lassi to cool off your mouth!  Run by the owners of the former innovative Sumaq Misky, they bring the same Andean pizzaz to Indian food.

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Alpaca Curry anyone? https://www.facebook.com/KormaSutraCusco For alterntaive suggestions see our restaurant link: http://www.apus-peru.com/trip-planning/restaurants.html

A special thank you!

Apus Peru has always been interested in being a responsible business that treads lightly and ‘gives back’ to the communities where it travels.

This desire eventually grew to be a not for profit organisation, Threads of Peru. $15 from every Apus Peru client is donated to Threads of Peru as a way of directly supporting these high Andean communities.

coin purses - a selection

coin purses – a selection

Now, as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for your support, Apus Peru has ordered coin purses from Huaran, a weaving community at the beginning of the Lares trek. Every Apus Peru traveller will receive one of these gorgeous coin purses, perfect to stash your stuff or even carry your USB.
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“These coin purses provide Apus Peru clients with a reminder of their Peru visit while also providing a tangible investment in local communities,” said Ariana Svenson, Apus Peru Co-Founder.

Here we have two of the wonderful weavers, Bacelia and Juana.

Bacelia Condori Quispe

Bacelia Condori Quispe

For more information about Threads of Peru, go to http://www.threadsofperu.com
Or, should you love the coin purses and want more please check them out here

http://threadsofperu.com/alpaca-clothing/accessories/wool-bags/

Juana Paola Siccus

Juana Paola Siccus

Family trekking in the Andes.

My name is Matt, I work as a Travel Consultant for Apus Peru. I’d like to introduce myself as a new and regular blogger to report first-hand information on some of the Apus Peru treks and to obtain up-to-date relative trip information and experiences of the treks associated with Apus Peru. I am absolutely mad for the mountains and since I am in the middle of the Andes why not take the chance to explore what’s just a stones-throw from our office.

So here goes the first blog! This week I had the pleasure to accompany 2 families with children aged between 8 and 10 walking 16 miles (just under 26 kilometres) over 2 days across the high Andes to the ruins of Huchuy Qosqo in the Sacred Valley.

This would be a tough test for all!

6 Walking through Pongobamba village1 hour in and I caught the first, “are we nearly there yet?” from one of the kids. This did not become a habit I am pleased to announce. The reason for this may well have been the opportunities of interaction with animals, the locals, ever-changing scenery and great weather that we had ensuring that the younger trekkers did not become bored in any way.

One of the children could speak some Spanish, which was a blessing as at one point several children from a local school caught our eye whilst picnicking. She was gently encouraged to go over and make introductions and soon followed a little bit of banter and exchange of conversation.

Local children during the trekA little later, as we made our way onwards we were accompanied on our journey by some more locals who asked us where we were going – easy to answer that  “Huchuy Qosqo” – understood in Quechua as ‘Old Cusco’ – the language of which most people of these parts speak.

17 Chatting with the locals

Our climb to the top was hard-going but we made it to our camp spot.

The following day we passed through a very remote village called Pucamarca, which still uses thatched roofs that are rarely seen amongst the modernization of Andean villages these days!

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Then we ran into some problems. We were stopped in our tracks. We could not go any further for at least 30 minutes. Our trail was blocked!!! Landslides no, llamas were the issue here!

They had our route guarded and were not moving – that was that!

27 Llamas!!! 50 of them

We met a local trader who offered to sell some handicrafts. We liked buying from her and giving some income to someone who probably doesn’t see tourists coming through her village often.

Did we pass any other tourists along the way of the entire trip?  No, not one!

31 Maybe a little more than the first price given though

The next section on from the village was rather ‘cool’ as we proceeded through a canyon where there were some waterfalls and wooden bridges – could well have been a set off an Indiana Jones movie!

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We arrived at the Sacred Valley in dramatic form. There were some amazing panoramic vistas and all the way to the site of Huchuy Qosqo itself. It is claimed these ruins were built under the orders of Viracocha –  the 8th reigning Inca and were constructed to house Stone Masons working in the area while they were constructing the surrounding villages and temples.

A 2 hour, steep descent on switch-backs to the valley floor got us to our final stop of the journey, Lamay. This town was definitely not like that of Pisac or Ollantaytambo and full of tour groups.

41 making our way down some seriously steep switch-backs to our final goal, the village of Lamay

A nice shaded spot with a cold soda and beer was just the right touch to mark the end; flake down on to the grass with weary legs but contented trekkers, before heading back to Cusco.

42 Happy ending, although tired

We asked the kids at the end of the trek, to count how many kinds of animals they had seen on the way and they got to 11 – Pigs, sheep, llamas, Condors, Ducks, Chickens, Cows, Donkeys, horses, Guinea Pigs, Alpacas – this took a while, but then they started on the bugs….!

Are you an adventurous family with children that would like to trek in the Cusco region?  Missed out on the Inca trail, then why not contact our family oriented sales consultants who can offer honest and helpful advice about trekking with kids? We run many private treks for families all over the Andes and our guides are experienced in making your trek a family adventure work for you and your children!

Huchuy Qosqo trek http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/huchuy_qosqo_adv.htm, being “easy” by Andean standards (that is, with not too many climbs) and also short with just 1 nights camping, is the perfect way for a family to test their trekking abilities as a group, while also having an adventure right on the doorstep of Cusco!

Matt Waugh, 3rd of June 2014