What to See What To Eat Where to Sleep Alpacas in Peru’s Sacred ValleyOctober 26, 2018
What to See What To Eat Where to Sleep Alpacas in Peru’s Sacred Valley? Palacio Manco Capac, Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado, Mil, Palacio Manco Capac, L’Atelier by Grid and L’Atelier Café Concept and others..
A grassy mountain pass, perfect for hiking, between the Lamay District and Písac village.CreditCreditBen Sklar
Beneath the snowcapped Andean peaks outside of Cusco lies Peru’s Sacred Valley, a fertile and archaeologically rich expanse covering nearly 60 miles from east to west. On one end, you’ll find the ruins of Písac, complete with an ancient sun temple carved from pink granite; on the other, the famed 15th-century citadel of Machu Picchu.
It was the Wari people who, over a thousand years ago, built many of the valley’s stepped hillside terraces, natural irrigation systems that nourished plots of corn and potato. The Inca claimed the terraces in the 13th century and, before the arrival of the Spanish colonialists in 1532, created a vast empire with a formidable infrastructure: several thousand building sites and 25,000 miles of road.
Today, Machu Picchu is by far the valley’s most popular destination for travelers, but it’s no longer the only one. In the last few years, NGOs have helped lay the groundwork for local development projects, such as rural textile workshops. At the same time, creative entrepreneurs from Lima have moved to Cusco and to quaint valley villages such as Urubamba and Písac, opening restaurants that celebrate the local produce (there are around 4,000 species of potatoes here alone) and shops carrying vibrant Andean knits. There’s even a microbrewery, Cervecería del Valle Sagrado, that offers hoppy craft beers and dramatic mountain views. In the morning, it’s back to the trails, and to contemplating the secrets of the stones.
Palacio Manco Capac
A steep march up Cusco’s San Cristobal Hill will deliver you to this elegant 19th-century villa, set within a dense forest. Its 12 bedrooms are decorated with colonial antiques (gilded headboards, carved consoles), while the breakfast room is more modern, with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the city’s historical district, which is dominated by a grand 16th-century cathedral built on the lively Plaza de Armas, over the site of a former Incan palace. Nearby is the imposing fortress-temple of Sacsayhuamán, from which Incan warriors staged a final rebellion against the Spanish in 1536. ananay-hotels.com
Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado
This is the most intimate of the few hotels located along the edges of the valley’s mighty Urubamba River, a headwater of the Amazon that largely accounts for the area’s verdant hues. Its eight low-slung, terra-cotta-tiled houses are built into a hill covered in willow and angel’s trumpets, and, from the hotel’s restaurant (don’t miss the corn-and-quinoa tamales), guests can watch alpacas graze on the front lawn. From January to April, the Belmond Hiram Bingham, a 1920s-style train with wood-paneled carriages and formal dining cars, stops at the property on its way to Machu Picchu. belmond.com
Explora Valle Sagrado
It took 14 years for Explora to build this new 50-room property, its first outside Chile, finished in 2016. Situated on a lush dip near the village of Urquillos, its five sustainable barracks-style buildings are connected by a slatted-wood walkway on stilts. (There’s also a restored colonial-era building that houses a fresco-lined spa.) During construction, the workers unearthed a network of semi-collapsed Incan terraces, which they spent another two years restoring. All guests are assigned an expert guide and encouraged to participate in treks to little-known ruins like Purmamarca and remote villages like Patacancha. explora.com
Half a year after opening, this project from Virgilio Martínez Véliz and Pia León — married chefs best known for Central, their top-ranked restaurant in Lima — and their business partner, Malena Martínez, has established itself as a global destination. Part restaurant and part food lab, it occupies a thatched-roof building positioned over the archaeological site of Moray, a complex of concentric stepped terraces thought to have been an Incan experimental agricultural plot (the higher the terrace, the lower the growing temperature). The couple is using the space to study heirloom seed varieties and work with local farming communities. Martinez Véliz and Leon also oversee the main kitchen, which turns out an ambitious eight-course lunch that, depending on the day, might include lamb crudo with quinoa cream and a dried kañihua crisp or duck confit with caviarlike cushuro (colonies of blue-green algae bacteria). milcentro.pe
Cuchara de Palo at Písac Inn
Just south of the Písac ruins, you’ll find the lively village of the same name, whose main square market has become the place to purchase traditional Andean weaving, much of it made on a traditional loom with naturally dyed yarns, and connect with local shamans, who organize ceremonies centered on ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic plant brew. One of the best places to watch the action is from this restaurant’s ground-floor terrace, which leads to an interior patio with cactuses and pendulous floripondio blossoms. The young chef is known for his new and classic Andean dishes, among them seco de cordero, a cilantro-laden lamb stew, and alpaca steak cooked in a red wine reduction with quinotto. cucharadepalorestaurant.com
Those eager to sample guinea pig, a regional delicacy, should head to this brightly painted high-end Cusco tapas bar, where sculptural bouquets of dried chilies and garlic hang from the vaulted ceiling. The Australian expat Tammy Gordon opened it with her Peruvian husband, José Francisco, in 2003, bringing on the Argentine chef Luis Alberto Sacilotto, formerly of Lima’s La Gloria, to create dishes such as Peruvian potato gnocchi and fillet of alpaca with a creamy pepper sauce and yucca soufflé. There’s also a lengthy wine list featuring excellent South American vintages — and the best pisco sours in town. cicciolinacuzco.com
L’Atelier by Grid and L’Atelier Café Concept
In 2007, Ingrid Thieblemont took a break from Paris, where she was an accessories designer, to go hiking in southern Peru. Six months later, she returned to Cusco for good, opening a pair of adjacent boutiques in San Blas. Both spaces are filled with beautiful handmade essentials, from vintage leather carryalls she finds in local markets to organic cotton T-shirts silk-screened with quirky line drawings to her own jewelry designs — delicately hammered bronze or silver cuffs and pendants. One of the shops also has its own tearoom, serving espresso, chocolate cake and vegan apple-and-chia muffins. gridcusco.com
Tater Vera Ceramica
Of the many talented artisans in the Sacred Valley, Tater Camilo Vera Vizcarra is one of the few to have received a Unesco award for craft excellence. He shapes his pottery into colonial-style forms — rounded vases, scalloped-lipped orzas, Catholic figurines — but covers them with elaborate motifs of Andean flora (coca leaves and the bell-shaped cantuta) and rituals, such as the Pachamama ceremony honoring Mother Earth. Vera Vizcarra sells his work at his two galleries, one in San Blas and the other in the mountain town of Urubamba, but for a look into his process, visit his workshop in Cusco’s San Sebastián district. 011‑51‑84.506.228
On the road from Cusco to Pisac there’s a popular textile museum called Awana Kancha, where you can watch weavers at work dying their wool. It also has an upscale gift shop with high-quality ponchos and leather goods, and even an alpaca petting zoo. For a more authentic experience, contact Naya Traveler, which was founded in 2016 by three cosmopolitan friends (one from Morocco, one from Argentina and one from Spain) who organize private excursions to textile cooperatives in remote villages. In Chawaytiri, a guide and translator (most of the locals here speak only Quechua) accompany the group and introduce them to artisans in their centuries-old workshops. Afterward, everyone sits down for a feast of grilled guinea pig, quinoa stew and potatoes cooked in a huatia, a traditional earthen oven. Visitors may also take place in a traditional Pachamama ceremony, in which Mother Earth is honored with offerings of sweets and cocoa leaves. nayatraveler.com