Andean Woman

Peru’s Sacred Val­ley weaves together past and present in col­or­ful fab­rics and fla­vor­ful foods that can be hap­pily explored in a day before embark­ing a lux­ury train to the most famous des­ti­na­tion: Machu Pic­chu. Fly­ing from Lima, the cur­rent day cap­i­tal, to Cuzco, once a cap­i­tal of the vast Incan empire, I trans­ferred from the mod­ern day Pacific sea­side to the cul­tural gem in the Sacred Val­ley of the Andes moun­tains. After a savory fusion lunch in Cuzco, I then enjoyed a road trip to more rural sites worth visiting  – Chimchero, Moray, and Ollantaytambo- to experience the cultural weave of old and new.
Gastronomic Pleasures

Gastronomic Pleasures

The Incans grew thousands of different kinds, sizes, and colors  of potatoes in the 15th century and even invented “freeze dried” long before the space program. Hip restaurants now are being creative at serving potatoes and all kinds of culinary pleasures these days as Peru increasingly becomes a gastronomic destination.

The waiter of Limo restaurant in Cuzco brings in an appetizer described on the menu as “Golden fried yucca balls stuffed with andean cheese in a huancaina sauce and micromix salad on the side.” My selection for main course: “Trout prepared in a sudado of its own broth, aji amarillo, tomato, onion and white wine over tender yucca.” For dessert : “Purple corn shimmered with spices, apple, pineapple and quince fruit.”

Coca tea and Cola

Coca tea and Cola

At almost 12,000 feet altitude, Cusco can take some acclimatizing. In fact check with your doctor before going from sea level  (coastal Lima) to Andean Cusco. Locals recommend the Coca tea saying the stimulant makes breathing easier in the thinner air. Warning: My doctor says the coca could show up in a drug test even three weeks later. The original Coca Cola drink so popular in the US had cocaine in it, now illegal.




Tea Time in the Andes



Tea was also offered to wel­come us to Chinchero, 35 kilometers north­west of Cuzco in the Sacred Valley. Chinchero is a work­ing demon­stra­tion cen­ter of Andean tex­tiles.   Lla­mas, vicu­nas and alpacas all pro­vide raw mate­r­ial, and dif­fer­ent nat­ural sub­stances are used for dyes. The women weave scarves, blan­kets and hats for their own use and for sale.

The colors are created from natural ingredients









Final Products

Final creations for sale


Many kilo­me­ters on a dirt road later,  Moray is an impres­sive archeological site believed to be an Incan Agri­cul­tural exper­i­men­tal sta­tion designed with tem­per­a­ture vari­ances at dif­fer­ent lev­els to test and adapt foods gath­ered within the Incan Empire.

Moray -Incan Labs for Food

Pre Incan Agricultural Center
















The Andean Village of Ollantaytambo near the PeruRail train station is well worth a visit before trekking or training to Machu Picchu. Some of the narrow streets, water channels and stone homes date centuries back to Incan times, reminders of the sophisticated irrigation systems and urban designs of the mighty Empire.

Ask your guide or hotel to help with a peek into a working home. My guide, Ruben Tello Velasque, said, “The typical family has six or seven kids, four or five dogs, three or four cats and 200 guinea pigs.” The Guinea pigs that live with the family are a popular food source.

The past and present weave in this home too. Both electrical power and a skylight offer illumination. One corner of the home has guinea pigs and in another corner a kitten sits near fabrics for sale to tourists.  A potato dish is being prepared next to a plastic pitcher under a stone wall which holds ancestor skulls. Nearby woven goods are available for visiting tourists.

Old and new, potatoes and plastic, skulls and commercial goods

Guinea Pigs and kitten in one corner

Kitten and fabrics for sale in the other corner.



A beautiful train ride away, Machu Picchu sits majestically as a monument to the Incan past. Around it, in the Sacred Valley, the new and old ways intertwine for the curious traveler to explore.

For more information on travel in Peru and for road trip bonuses between Cuzco and the train ride to Machu Picchu, contact www.Peru.Travel

Lisa TE Sonne for

All photos by © Lisa TE Sonne  from October, 2012 trip, to be used only with permission. Please add comments below about your own travels or write her  Follow her on Twitter: @ExploreTraveler


Train view of the Andes

Train view of the Andes, going through the Sacred Valley formed by the Urubamba River, called Wilcamayu (meaning sacred) in Quecha, the Incan language still used today.


  1. Once again, you bring the reader with you on your travels. The photos in this story are amazingly beautiful, filled with color and giving us an inside look into the Incan culture. It really does show the past mixed with the present. Colors, family, old traditions and new- you shared a wonderful experience, as a writer and guest. Great article!

  2. Thank you for taking me back to Peru! And, the pictures you included captured the richness, the vibrancy of the people and their lifestyle. A great read.

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