Lucy Laucht’s Guide to the Sacred Valley

Take a taste of Peru’s awe-inspiring beauty in preparation for our upcoming FP Escapes retreat…

A visit to Peru’s Sacred Valley is one of those bucket list, once-in-a-lifetime kind of trips. Not only is the verdant region in the Andean highlands home to the ancient city of Machu Picchu, but it also houses the charming town of Cusco and a number of small colonial villages as well.

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The region is a vibrant feast for the senses, from the lush, green landscape to the bright, graphic local textiles worn (and sold) by local villagers. And, at the height of the Incan Empire, this was the civilization’s capital, lending it a rich cultural heritage, too.

A couple of months ago, writer and photographer Lucy Laucht was lucky enough to make the journey to this magical place. Her wanderlust-inspiring Instagram account and beautiful blog gave us a taste of the Sacred Valley’s awe-inspiring beauty. Here, her guide to this otherworldly region, a taste of what to expect on our upcoming FP Escapes retreat with Yogascapes and guide Ashleigh Sergeant into the heart of Peru.

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Where to stay:
Inkaterra La Casona in Cusco is an exquisite 16th century colonial mansion which was, at different times, a training ground for Incan soldiers, the home of a conquistador and his family and lodging for Simon Bolivar, Peru’s “El Libertador.”. Today, that heritage is evident in antique furnishings, local art and bright traditional Peruvian rugs in each of the rooms.

Also in Cusco, Los Ninos is run by a Dutch-founded non-profit foundation that serves underprivileged children in the town. It’s a rambling colonial home with a sunny courtyard and a little store selling great textiles woven by local artisans.

In the mountains, Inkaterra Machu Picchu in Aguas Calientes is a haven nestled in the cloud forest below the Incan ruins. It’s a lovely, welcoming, sustainability-focused hotel.

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Where to Eat and Drink:
In Cusco, UCHU Peruvian Steakhouse had amazing smoked alpaca (really!) and steaks and an awesome wine selection. Plus, the food is served on cool volcanic stones.

Limo is another great option in town. The menu is a fusion-style mash-up of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines. The ceviche, tiradito and sushi are excellent, but there are also many traditional Peruvian dishes on offer.

Before or after dinner, head to El Pisquerito, a pisco bar with delicious cocktails and a sophisticated vibe.

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What to do:
In Cusco…

Visit the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales, a great artisan workshop that promotes the empowerment of local textile weavers.

San Pedro market is great for souvenirs and flowers, as well as for cute little cafes that serve food and fresh juices.

El Barratillo is a sprawling market with three streets dedicated to textiles. Go on Saturday and you’ll find street vendors with stacks of beautiful old woven mantas (the traditional woven cloths used to carry everything from food and firewood to small children). Be careful with cameras and wallets, as pickpockets ply these streets.

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In the colonial villages…

The Pisac markets on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday are an incredible place to find woven fabrics, embellishments and pottery.

In Chinchero, a little town about an hour from Cusco, you’ll find Incan ruins, views of snowcapped mountains, colonial churches and colorful markets. The markets here, too, are open Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday but slightly less touristy than those in Pisac. On market days, the locals come down from the hillside villages to sell their wares. And don’t miss the church or “Iglesia Colonial” in the small town center. It’s one of the most beautiful examples of colonial architecture in the Sacred Valley, its interior walls covered with ornate fresco paintings.

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Take a car or bus up to the remote weaving community of Huilloc, perched high in the mountains above the Urubamba Valley. The town is known for its textiles and the locals are clothed in brightly patterned pink and red wool garments.
In and around Machu Picchu…

Down the mountain from Machu Picchu is Ollantaytambo, the best surviving example of Inca city planning. This is a common starting point for hiking the Inca trail.

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A base camp of sorts for those heading to Machu Picchu, the town of Aguas Calientes is cut off from main roads and enclosed by dramatic stone cliffs, towering cloud forests and two rushing rivers. While most people take the bus up to Machu Picchu, there is actually a winding path up the mountainside from Aguas Calientes, which passes through dense rainforest and gives you glimpses at untouched (and crowd-free) Inca ruins. The hike is strenuous, but the amazing experience is well worth it.

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