5 Delish places to eat in Cusco that won’t bust your budget

 

Peruvian cuisine is one of the most diverse in the world. Peru is considered to have the most traditional dishes in the world with 491.

This affluence comes from three sources :

  • The geographical regions of the country
  • The mix of ethnicities and cultures
  • The adaptation of traditional cultures to modern cuisine

The four traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine are corn, potatoes and other tubers, the popular grains of the Amarinth family (Quinoa, Kañiwa and kiwicha) and legumes (beans and lentils).

In this article I would like to give you an example of the most delicious and traditional Peruvian dishes, and some tips where you could try these delights in Cusco.

 

Churros

Churros are one of the most famous desserts in Peru, especially in Cusco. A delicious treat introduced from Spain, made with a doughnut type batter, deep fried and typically served with powdered sugar, cinnamon and sugar or dipped in chocolate. You can find these easily on most street corners. They are normally eaten for breakfast or as a snack, dipped in chocolate, with a cup coffee, hot chocolate or tea.

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In our opinion, the best place to enjoy Churros is in a small store called  Muchaway, on Pardo Avenue, (Number 510) In this shop you can find many different types of Churros and even choose your preferred filling or topping !

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I have tried quite a few of them (fillings and toppings), and they were very tasty ! The aroma in the cafe is  incredible and they have great ambient music. The toffee filling is thick, rich and pudding-like, and the churros are light and crisp on the outside and very soft ‘melt in the mouth’ on the inside.

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Muchaway is open from 2:00 PM to 9:00 PM, and the prices vary between S/.2 and S/.5 (for the most gourmet churros).

Link for Churros recipe : http://allrecipes.com/recipe/24700/churros/

Link Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/churros.muchaway/?fref=ts

 

Picarones

This is another famous traditional dessert made in Peru made of fried dough and sometimes in the mix is the natural sweet potato ! Once again the origins of this dessert are from Spain. Picarones are always topped with an unprocessed sugar cane syrup, locally called «piloncillo or chancaca. This syrup mix usually has the added ingredients of cinnamon, cloves, and fig leaves.

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The best place to try Picarones is located on Ruinas Street (number 200), on the corner of Tullumayu Street. There is a river flowing, of the same name, underneath  this street,  which even to this day, defines Cuzco’s city limits.

This is the most famous place in Cusco to enjoy picarones. They are very large, rich and freshly prepared with a sweet honey based sauce. For five soles you receive four picarones, and to be honest it is difficult to finish ! I advise you to share with your friends and to combine that with a chicha morada (purple corn drink). You can enjoy this dish between 4:00PM and 10:00PM.

Link recipe : http://perudelights.com/picarones-peruvian-doughnuts-bunuelos-or-beignets-are-one-of-a-kind/

Link recipe in video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKtJJHsa478

 

Anticucho

 Anticucho’s are one of the most famous street foods in the highlands of Peru. Indeed, with the aroma that fills the streets when they are being prepared it is reminiscent of a barbecue, however Anticuchos vary in a couple of ways. At first glance they look like kebabs, as the meat is always on skewers and they always have a potato on then end of the stick. These kebabs tend to use the hearts of the cows, however occasionally you can find a chicken anticucho.

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The word Anticucho comes from Quechua, the main indigenous language of Peru. One of the oldest typical dishes in the Andes they can be made of any type of meat, the most popular being beef heart (Corazon).

Arguably the best place to eat Anticuchos is the « Condorito on Cultura avenue and you can certainly find anticuchos in many restaurants however this is traditionally a street food and that’s the best place to try them !
This delicious dish is surprisingly nice ! The only difference between this and beef is in the texture. They tend to be a little more fibrous, but is surprisingly tender, as is the marinated chicken option.  Tasting this popular Peruvian Street food is an experience and one you should try on your next trip to Peru.

Link recipe (beef heart) : http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anticuchos-grilled-beef-heart-recipe.html

Link recipe (chicken) : http://perudelights.com/chicken-anticuchos/

 

Cuy chactado

If you would like to enjoy an authentic Peruvian dish, you should not miss the Cuy Chactado which is a fried cuy (a guinea pig). This is a traditional dish from the Andes for over 5,000 years. Cuy chactado was consumed by the nobles and was used not only in sacrificial ceremonies but also to foretell the future. However, now you could find Cuy chactado in all the most restaurants, even though this kind of dish is usually reserved for special occasions – birthdays, fiestas, and holidays.

The main ingredients of this dish are very nutritious in minerals and proteins  it includes   guinea pig, vegetable oil, cornmeal, garlic, pepper, salt and lime.
Link recipe : http://gosouthamerica.about.com/od/cuisine/a/cuy.htm

Traditional video to cook the cuy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEFOt79lXaU

 

Chicharrones

 
Chicharrones are associated with a lot of events and traditional festivals throughout the year, for example Corpus Cristi, Inti Raymi ( fiesta  of the sun) and the  Qollor’iti pilgrimage in and around the Cusco region. It would be shameful not to try this very Cusqueñan dish, and would be an opportunity missed. The Chicharonnes (deep fried pork ) originated in Spain and spread to Latin American countries. This dish is generally served  on a bed of typical accompaniments such as corn, red onion, mint and fried potatoes.

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After trying several places to define which was the best restaurant to enjoy eating Chicharrones, I choose a small restaurant located on the Pulluchapata Street, 128 (Avenida El Sol), and every day it is full of local people. You could enjoy Chicharron for only S/.10, and also appreciate other Peruvian dishes such as Abodo (traditional soup with pork), or Escabeche de Gallina (chicken marinated in vinegar). The restaurant on San Andres is only open during  lunchtime,  11:30AM to 5:00PM.

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Link recipe in video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZVLe6dOqgI

Step back in time at Hotel San Agustin Monasterio, Urubamba

When the wrought iron gates part and you step into this distinctive hotel, be prepared to step back in time to Peruvian yesteryear.

The San Agustin Monasterio of Recoleta hotel offers the once in a lifetime opportunity to stay in 17th Century Franciscan Monastery and convent!    Such an opportunity is relatively rare in this price range and this is a wonderful chance to stay in an extremely atmospheric cloister, located alongside a beautifully renovated chapel.

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There are two parts to the hotel, in the original section there are small, and simply decorated rooms around the Cloister which includes tiles from the original building.  It is also decorated with artefacts from the church and other relics). The other part of the building is a newer wing done in keeping with the original building and includes very cute suites with two stories including a romantic loft for the bed.

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Rustic, old world and charming the Monasterio de Recoleta is run by the 3-4 star San Agustin hotel chain and has a cute personal restaurant, lovely gardens and places to connect.  They are extremely proud of their ‘Bio Huerto’ (organic orchard) and have numerous fruit trees around the property and their own fruits in season in their restaurant. They also offer a magnetic healing garden.

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For those considering an un-paralleled and unique Peruvian wedding or renewal of vows, the chapel has been restored with attention to detail and there is a beautiful atmosphere.   Weddings can be arranged at this hotel, please contact Apus Peru for more details.

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The Hotel San Agustin, Monasterio of Recoleta, is technically in Chichubamba (and the community apparently still use the church on festival days) but on the outskirts of Urubamba, but it feels very remote and isolated.   There are opportunities to walk around the hotel, or, if you wish, into Urubamba itself, though this would be a longer walk.

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A luxurious retreat at the Rio Sagrado…

Nestled into a hillside alongside the roaring Urubamba River and with the craggy mountains of the Sacred Valley as a backdrop, the Belmond Rio Sagrado property is beautifully placed for those looking for a serene getaway, located halfway between Machu Picchu and Cusco.

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Rio Sagrado means ‘Sacred River’ in Spanish and the connection with the river, mountains and earth are evident in many aspects of the hotel.  When you arrive you are seated in a cosy study, filled with books and with a huge telescope for viewing the night skies, which were so important in Incan times.

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Originally constructed as a family vacation spot, with the original villas now accommodating larger groups of up to 10 people,   the Rio Sagrado hotel has expanded out over a hillside, with a variety of different rooms and options. Natural materials are a feature, and the way that the rooms and casitas mould over the hill makes you feel that it’s grown organically.  With only 23 rooms in total, it’s a small, boutique hotel with a feel of exclusivity.

Food is a feature, and we were offered a delicious pachamanca picnic by the river.  El Huerto (the Orchard) restaurant is a delicious fusion of Urubamba’s best-kept culinary secrets and provides elegant dining by the river.

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A highlight is an outdoor heated pool, fantastic for year round relaxation, which sets this hotel apart from most other SV Hotels which only offer unheated (and therefore cold!) pools.   A beautifully appointed spa is located in a wooden and stone building and offers a luxurious range of treatments using local therapies.

As you would expect for a property of this standard, the Rio Sagrado rooms have been created with careful attention to detail.  Balconies are carefully concealed from their neighbours using plantings of indigenous trees, and you can shower looking out over the landscape –with your private parts modestly obscured by clouded glass! Large beds, pima cotton sheets – and heated wooden floors, as expected from a hotel like this, your stay will be extremely comfortable.     We also were pleased to see recycling options in the rooms.

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As the aim of the hotel is to getaway from the busy world, relax and connect with nature there are no televisons in the rooms, but wifi is accessible if you wish.

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Finally a word on access – the hotel does offer one disabled/easy access room at the top of the hill and provide a golf buggy to access all locations in the hotel, including the restaurant located near the river. Otherwise, access to the rooms is via a series of steep steps and may not be a wonderful option if you struggle with climbing or descending steps!

 

Mother Daughter Trip to Machu Picchu

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Machu Picchu

A few years back, my daughter, Angela and I, took a mother-daughter trip to Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. The trip was an effort to spend time together in a serene and beautiful place, in order to recapture the feelings of peace and companionship that had previously characterized our relationship with each other.

My daughter had reached the age (15) where she looked upon most of my behavior, if not grounds for outright disownment, as utterly cringe-worthy to say the least. Where previously we had gotten along famously, now she could hardly stand to be in my presence, and she let me know it with sarcasm and eye-rolling, many, many times per day.

I know I was supposed to know this would happen, but it hurt anyway. I guess nothing really prepares you for the arrival of this phase. I mean my daughter and I had been best friends. Until she turned 13, we did everything together. We knew one another’s thoughts. We even looked alike. So when my daughter felt the need to rebel against a mother as open and wonderful as I knew myself to be, I felt bewildered and hurt. The trip to Machu Picchu was an attempt to spend time together in a tranquil setting and to allow ourselves to relax enough to remember the basic connection that must be still there, lurking underneath the turbulent waters of our current interaction.

The turbulent waters of the Urubamba River below Machu Picchu seemed to define our current relationship.  (“Rio Urubamba” by Manuel Menal licensed under CC BY 2.0)

 

Did I forget to mention that we were living in Peru? We had moved to Cusco several years before, as a family, and Machu Picchu was a three-hour train ride from the ancient Inca city. So when I was at my wit’s end with Angela’s distance and sarcastic attitude, I suggested that the two of us take a trip to Machu Picchu together.

We boarded the train to Machu Picchu at Ollantaytambo, early ion a Friday. morning The spectacular views of the Andean countryside outside of our train window were intriguing. I tapped Angela on the shoulder to point out a young woman herding sheep on the hillside of a thatched-roof village. Once I convinced her to stop playing with her I-phone and take a look, I could see she was impressed. There were country folk at work tilling the fields, lambs bleating beside their mothers, and a mist that caressed the hills and inspired a curious sorrow inside me that felt like a longing for something I could not name.

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A shepherdess and her flock on the route to Machu Picchu

My daughter and I arrived in the village of Aguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu.We checked into our hotel and went for a soak in the Aguas Calientes hot springs, Aguas Calientes means hot water, and these enjoyable thermal baths are only a five-minute walk from town.

After pizza at a local restaurant, of which there are many, we tucked in for the night. In the morning we took the bus up to the ruins, a fifteen-minute ride that ascends a narrow and steep road. Not for the faint of heart, as looking down below at the rapidly churning Urubamba River can make one quite giddy.

We entered the citadel, and a profound sense of mystery and awe overcame us, a feeling that’s hard to convey in words. There, laid out before us, was the ancient stone village, its structures seemingly a part of the surrounding woodland. We climbed around the original Inca steps and stooped to crawl into the stone houses. A people of long ago, a people we could barely imagine, had made their home here, in the midst of the cloud forest. They had lived, breathed, ate and slept here, worshipped their gods, danced and dreamed in ways that we knew nothing of, but which had profound meaning for them.

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A people we knew nothing about had lived, breathed, ate, and slept  here…

My daughter and I climbed up on a ledge and sat down on the escarpment. We looked across at the Huayna Picchu (Young Man) Mountain. Machu Picchu Mountain, across from it, is the Old Man. They towered over us, seeming to communicate with their solid presence and to be alive in ways we didn’t understand, yet could sense

Silence fell. And for a moment in time, a young woman and a not-yet-old woman allowed the magic of this amazing place to fill us, momentarily pausing our struggle and allowing each other to just be.

by Laurel Thompson

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Angela and I after our mother daughter trip to Machu Picchu

The Two-Day Inca Trail Family Hike

Maria, Jesus, and their teenage daughters, Itzia and Maria, are about to start a new adventure in Cusco: a trek along the 2-day Inca trail. With their guide, José, this family from Spain is all geared up to experience the amazing natural beauty  and explore the ancient Inca ruins along this route.

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Ready to Start the Trek!

As we descend from Cusco to Km 104, passing through the towns of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo, the scenery changes dramatically. Jesus and Maria mention that it feels as if they are in the jungle. Actually, as we get off the train at Km 104 and cross the suspension bridge above the Urubamba River, we find ourselves hiking in the middle of the dense cloud forest with its many different hues of green.

My skin senses the warm air and the humidity. With every breath I take, comes the fresh smell of dew. That fragrance and the roar of the river accompany us for most of the day as we hike the opposite hill. Our guide emphasizes that the scenery here is green all year round.

In addition to the green color of the forest, we admire yellow, red, and pink orchids as well as white, brown, yellow, and black butterflies.

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The Wiñay Wayna Orchid, (Epidendrum Secundum) is  often found along the Inca Trail.

We hike past Chachabamba, an administrative post located near the starting point very close to the river. We can also see, at a distance, the sites of Choquesuysuy, also by the river, and Intipata, perched upon a hill, as we approach Wiñay Wayna.

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The Chachabamba Ruins

After passing through a few streams and a couple of waterfalls, we reach one of the most impressive Inca archaeological sites known as Wiñay Wayna, (Forever Young), named for the orchid of the same name that can be found in this area. Wiñay Wayna features a ceremonial section with a double door and a room with 7 windows, as well as several finely carved water fountains.

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The ruins of Wiñay Wayna

José says that he was lucky enough to see a spectacled bear as well as a puma and a wolf during his previous treks towards Machu Picchu.

Suddenly, the family and the guide spot a bright greenish blue object on the branch of a tree. It’s a type of jungle bird known as a quetzal. As a matter of fact, there are a couple of quetzals playing cheerfully in the tree.

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The family spots a Quetzal in a nearby tree.

A few minutes later, a hummingbird flies above us. We are excited about these encounters, but we are still anxious to find the most famous endemic bird of this area, the Gallito de las Rocas, or Cock of the Rock, Peru’s national bird. It is sometimes spotted in this excellent bird watching region.

We pass Wiñay Wayna, and after a couple of hours we reach a steep section of stairs: the last stretch before reaching the Sun Gate or Inti Punku, from which we attain our first spectacular view of Machu Picchu, the most important and magnificent archaeological site of the Americas.

We walk down the ancient Inca trail listening to José’s explanations about the two huacas or temples we pass on the way down to the archaeological site itself. We are tired but very happy because we have completed this challenge and we are excited to explore Machu Picchu more thoroughly first thing tomorrow morning.

Maria and her daughters admit they were a little bit concerned about the hike at first, but now realize that it was not as difficult as they had feared. They add that the experience surpassed all of their expectations.

Maria exults, “I will definitely recommend this trek.”

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Both tired and happy, the family enjoys their accomplishment!

For more information about this trek, see: Apus Peru Two-Day Inca Trail Trek

First Aid Training for Apus Peru Staff

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Popular guides Arturo and Urbano Enjoy  A Lighter Moment During First Aid Training

Recently, Apus Peru’s guides and a few others from the office who have been long-term employees took the opportunity to refresh our skills in wilderness first aid during a two-day course.

This was our chance to enhance our knowledge of dealing with problem case scenarios in remote areas, as well as to become empowered to administer ‘duty of care’ to our trekkers and clients across the board, if it ever becomes necessary.

Apus Peru continues to enforce our policy of appropriate training for all of the team, especially our guides.

The photos included below are intended to illustrate some important aspects of mountain safety that must be considered when on the trail; as well as depicting the serious fun we at Apus Peru have out in the wilderness.

You are in great hands when you trek with Apus Peru, in large part due to our well-trained staff.  We ensure that our guides and other faculty are well-equipped to handle routine first aid as well as emergencies. Visit our trek page to view our 2016 offerings.

-Matt Waugh April, 2016

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Guide Mery and Erika from the Apus Peru office learn how to administer an injection.

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Learning how to perform CPR

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The mannequin is used as an aid for teaching CPR

Day time practical

We continued the training outdoors, practicing on a live person who pretended to  faint.

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Practicing CPR in the field.

 

Everyone passing their examination

Happily, everyone passed the exam and received their diplomas.

 

 

 

A Trip to the Rainbow Mountain of Peru

 

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Communing with the Rainbow Mountain

Introduction

The ‘Rainbow’ mountain, ‘Stripy’ mountain, ‘Colored’ mountain…call it what you will, this natural geologic formation is fast attracting large numbers of visitors and is becoming as popular as more well-known attractions of Peru; and with good reason!

The mountain is known locally as Vinicunca. Cunca in Quechua means ‘neck.’ The meaning of Vini is unknown but could possibly refer to the different colors of mineral layers that comprise the rock formation. Therefore ‘Neck of Colors’ could be one likely interpretation.

The Route:

Ten members of the Apus Team drove the three hours from Cusco to Pitumarka, and then it was another hour on some fabulous winding roads through local farming terraces, rock formations and picturesque canyons to reach the village of ‘Hanchi-Pacha,’ a small farming village located at 4180 meters above sea level. From here we began our hike, which gradually ascended out of the valley to reach K’airahuiri, after another 1.5 hours and 400-meter altitude gain.

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Apus Team at the starting point for the trek to Vinicunca

 

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Getting ready to trek out of the valley 

 

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Matt Waugh, from the office near the tiny hamlets of K’airahuiri

K’airahuiri actually consists of two villages: ‘K’airahuiri Bajo’ or ‘lower’ and ‘K’airahuiri Alto’ or ‘higher.’ After a half-hour hike, we passed through K’airahuiri Alto, where the local community greeted our team. We discussed some options with the villagers for future groups that we plan to bring to the region. We then trekked for another 1.5 hours to the pass. Our climb quickly became steeper and our breathing more labored, as we reached an elevation of 5000 meters in this last section.

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Locals from K’airahuiri 

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 Route to the top

All our hard work was rewarded as we crossed over the Vinicunca Pass and attained magnificent views of the mighty glacier, Apu Ausangate!

We had reached our final destination and attained a height of 5000 meters with a total hiking time of 3.5 hours and a distance of 9.5 kms. trekked. However, just a few more meters of climbing up the “neck” gave us a better glimpse of why we had come to this particular spot. At last we could see the amazing view of Vinicunca and its fantastically colorful layers of rock sediment…turquoises, oranges, browns, and reds! We never would have believed this brilliant natural beauty existed had we not seen it with our own eyes!

 

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Team Vinicunca: A Feast for the Eyes

Summary:

I first saw a photo of Vinicunca in a gallery and art shop in Cusco called ‘Tawa Concept’ back in 2015; I honestly thought an artist had drawn a very imaginative painting and I subsequently wondered where he had drawn his inspiration. I was then informed that this was actually a photo of a real place in Peru.

Now I know that the place is indeed ‘real’ and not just a figment of someone’s imagination!

Vinicunca, The Rainbow Mountain of Peru: truly a glorious feast for the eyes!

For further information and bookings, go to;

http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/vinicunca_rainbow_mountain2d.html

By Matt Waugh   April 2016