Peru’s Sacred Valley: Day 1

Editor’s note: After a brief hiatus, we hope you enjoy our travels in Peru:

After an early 6:30AM start out of Porto Alegre, Brazil with a connection through Lima, we arrived in time for a late lunch in Cusco, Peru. The flight into Cusco is quite scenic with 15-17,000 foot snow capped peaks in the distance, reminiscent of flying into Jackson Hole, Wyoming with its majestic Teton Range. Cusco, however, sits almost twice as high as Jackson at 11,200 feet, and about 700 feet lower than Lhasa.

wpid-20140119-094011.jpg

The airport is located in the center of the city, with homes sloping up the surrounding hills.

20140119-085050.jpg

wpid-20140119-084558.jpg
We were met at the airport by our guide, Valentin, from Alpaca Expeditions .  He took us for a quick bite to eat in Cusco before heading out on our first day in the Sacred Valley.  We will be back to explore Cusco in a few days, but we wanted to stay in Urubamba (Sacred Valley), and we didn’t want to back track.

Saksaywaman

Our first stop was Saksaywaman (Saqsayhuaman/Sacsayhuaman–all pronounced “Sexy Woman”), a large Inca fortress that sits on the hill above Cusco. It’s built in a zigzag pattern that resembles a jaguar.

This fortress was our first introduction to the massive granite stones used in Inca construction.

Saksaywaman is located above the city of Cusco and provides a great vantage point to see the city and beyond.

In the distance, about 100km (60 miles) away, you can see the snow-capped, almost-21,000-foot peak of Ausangate.

Adjacent to Saksaywaman is Cristo Blanco (at the left in the photos below), a smaller white version of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer, which was built in 1945 and overlooks the city of Cusco:

Cristo Blanco also can be seen from down in Cusco:

Alpacas!

Our next stop was the alpaca farm which had a variety of breeds of alpaca and vicuña. No trip to Peru can be complete without seeing alpacas! We had fun feeding them–or rather being stalked by them when we had food.Who me?Dredded-out in black and whiteOf course, they were less pleased when food was withheld.  The alpaca farm also had a store filled with every imaginable alpaca product as well as a few local artisans. There were displays showing how the alpaca wool was dyed and a table showing all the different varieties of corn and potatoes.

 

Sacred Valley and Pisac

This was our first view of the Sacred Valley as we wound our way down towards Pisac (home to one of the well-known outdoor markets) just as the sun was about to disappear.

20140127-212706.jpg20140127-212716.jpg

It was late in the day, but the market was still bustling. Lots of touristy hats, shirts, bags, and souvenirs, but several tables also sold powdered dye for coloring wool.

Unfortunately, the early morning departure from Brazil and the altitude were starting to take their toll.  Most of us slept the final 20 minutes or so of our journey to our hotel in Urubamba, the amazing Tambo del Inka, previously part of the Starwood Luxury Collection, but now part of the Libertador hotel group.  More on the hotel in an upcoming post.

We checked in, took a short nap, had dinner, and looked forward to exploring more of the Sacred Valley tomorrow.

Happy RTW Travels!