Friday, October 30, 2015

Cusco Beyond Machu Picchu

Cusco Beyond Machu Picchu
PHOTO: Lobby of the Palacio del Inka in Cusco, Peru. (Courtesy Libertador Hotels, Resorts & Spas)
Cusco is well known as the jumping-off point for tours to Machu Picchu, but the city itself, and its surrounding areas, have a lot more to offer travelers than just this one iconic site. Cusco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the capital of the Tawantinsuyu Inca Empire and was developed as a complex urban center. When the Spanish invaded in the 16th century, the Inca city was preserved and baroque-style temples, monasteries and manor houses were built on top of the existing city.
Therefore, Cusco and its surrounding areas are definitely worthy of further exploration. Here are several diverse offerings for those looking to spend more time in the area.
The Sacred Valley is a mecca for those looking to get their hike on. The options are varied from high-intensity exploration to casual, shorter walks. A unique offering is trekking with llamas, which can be arranged by Tambo del Inka and Palacio del Inka hotels through the Llama Pack Project. One of the walks begins in the gorge of Pumahuanca and lasts for approximately four hours. Another option explores the area known as Quebrada de Loros, in Urquillo. This trek is three hours long and promises views of Sawasiray and of the Urubamba Valley.
The city of Cusco offers a wide range of gastronomic experiences. There is always a new restaurant or bar opening, offering a fresh take on modern and traditional cuisines. One of the most popular dining experiences is at Marcelo Batata. Chicha gives visitors the chance to experience the cuisine of one of the country’s most celebrated chefs, Gaston Acurio. Incanto offers a variety of fusion dishes with a menu that has something for the adventurous as well as the more traditional diner. Cicciolina is another of the city’s most well known establishments in the chic San Blas neighborhood, using hand-selected local ingredients, and Papacho’s and Uchu are other well known restaurants.
Organic Experiences
Continuing the culinary theme in Cusco is the farm-to-table trend which really caught on in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Tambo del Inka Luxury Collection Resort & Spa offers a culinary experience with fruits and vegetables from its own garden. The hotel, which is also one of the few LEED-certified properties in the area and operates its own train station to Machu Picchu, works on achieving sustainable practices. One of these practices is in its kitchen. The garden at Tambo del Inka grows high-quality seasonal vegetables, and offers guests a cooking station along with tables that seat up to eight people for guests who would like to harvest their own vegetables, cook and eat there, surrounded by nature.
Fair Trade Purchases
The farm-to-table trend is not the only movement that brings out Cusco’s local traditions. There is also an interest in making authentic purchases and promoting fair trade. For visitors who are looking for quality gifts at affordable prices in Cusco, shopping at Palacio del Inka is another way to give back to the community. When you buy there, you help Mantay, a shelter home for teenage mothers who have no one to protect them and help them raise their babies.
Girls living in Mantay facilities are encouraged to finish high school and learn some skills that allow them to support themselves. One of the skills they can learn is leatherworking, and the store features high-quality leather items made by these women, including wallets, briefcases, purses, key ring and more in the store.
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