A second visit to South America has been on our short list of destinations for some time, with Peru at the top of the list. When I got my invitation to a high school reunion (50 years!!!!) in New Jersey (where I grew up), I decided that this would be a good opportunity to do both - visit Peru and go to my first reunion of any kind. Here is a link to our first trip.


Peru is considered one of the top destinations to visit in South America, especially since its main attraction, Machu Picchu was voted one of the new 7 wonders of the world. We decided to visit Lima, and then move on to the Sacred Valley of the Incas,  situated along the Urabamba Valley between Cusco and Machu Picchu.  We spent  about 10 days in all in Peru, and then flew north to New Jersey and New York City.

One of the most important things to consider if you decide to visit Peru is your ability to cope with the high elevation. Cusco is almost 3400 meters, while Machu Picchu is around 2400 meters. Many people who aren't used to these elevations react in varying ways and altitude sickness is very common, and can be serious. Don't let this prevent you from visiting high elevation countries as there are lots of things to do to prevent this. To the right are a few links about altitude sickness and its prevention. There are medicines to take, although they have side effects, and the most important thing is to go up in elevation gradually, not exert oneself at high elevation, and follow the natives' advice - eat coca candy, chew coca leaves or coca gum, and drink coca tea. More practical advice is to drink lots of water (not alcohol), and eat lightly.


how to avoid altitude sickness

We didn't get sick, although we definitely felt the effects of the elevation. We were constantly out of breath while in Cusco, but otherwise we felt OK. We did try the coca leaves, tea and candy, although the best capsule advice I found on the internet was "be fit, be informed, walk slowly, and go up gradually". As for the coca, it's illegal in most parts of the world, but it's perfectly legal in Peru.
peruvian elevations

We started our trip with 3 days in Lima, and then flew to Cusco. At the airport, we were met by our guide. We did some touring in the Cusco area, and then drove to Ollantaytambo for 2 nights. Ollantaytambo is at 2800 meters (lower than Cusco but higher than Machu Picchu). From Olantaytambo, we went to Machu Picchu. After Machu Picchu, we spent 3 days in Cusco.

Lima is Peru's capital city. Metropolitan Lima has a population of close to 10 million, and is the third largest city in  the Americas, behind Sao Paulo and Mexico City. It has areas considered dangerous, and the most popular and safe part of the city for tourists is called Miraflores. Lima is today considered the culinary capital of Latin America with several Michelin starred restaurants, and one - "Central" which has been selected as the number 4 restaurant in the world and the number 1 restaurant in South America. We had to check it out - more about that later.


While planning this trip, we ran into a serious problem and that was because of the World Bank and the IMF, who decided to have their annual meeting this year in Lima exactly during the week we would be visiting. This meant that many of the best hotels were already booked when I started checking, and even the best flight connections were already booked solid. We had to add another leg to our flights (a stop in Bogota), which made our overall time to get from home to Lima more than 24 hours(!!). After much searching, I found a very nice hotel in Miraflores, and everything worked out in the end.


36 hours in lima
(ny times)

all about lima

For Lima, we booked the services of a guide and driver with a local company called "Integrity Tourism & Transportation". Our guide and driver was called Sergio, and he drove us to and from the airport and gave us a 6 hour tour of Lima and environs during our stay. Sergio was an excellent guide for us. He is a native of Lima, but lived in the US for many years so he speaks excellent English.


While in Lima, we stayed at the Luxury Hotel Inkari in Miraflores for 3 nights Our room was a junior suite, so it was large enough, but it didn’t really seem like a junior suite. It was  just a slightly larger version of the regular double room. Breakfast was excellent. The hotel’s location in Miraflores is great, right around the corner from a large local handicrafts market, and a 5-10 minute walk from Kennedy Park. There are lots of restaurants and shopping places in the area.

casa del ceviche
On our first full day in Lima, we strolled around by ourselves as we acclimated to the 8 hour time difference. We visited Kennedy Park, and had lunch at a great little restaurant called Casa del Ceviche, which is the epitome of a “hole in the wall” restaurant. However, it serves the best ceviche in Lima. It is located on Calle Berlin not far from Kennedy Park, and is frequented mainly by locals. We were the only tourists there. The ceviche was great (the best we had during our stay in Peru), and the ambiance definitely local and friendly.

the best ceviche
in lima!

On our tour with Sergio, we visited the following places:

La Huaca Pucllana: a ruin within Lima developed by a pre-Incan civilazation called the Wari. We drove around it but didn't go inside.

the historical center of lima 
Plaza San Martin: part of the historic center

Plaza de Armas: The center of the old historical part of the city. Here we found both souvenir shopping and a police or army marching display, perhaps in honor of the world's bankers who were visiting the city.  The cathedral and other historical buildings are located here.

San Francisco Convent and Catacombs: we had a very interesting guided tour here. 

El Morro Solar: an area just south of the city with lovely views in every direction

Barranco: The Barranco neighborhood is a “fun” area on the southern part of the city. It's a neighborhood which has undergone a rennaissance during the last few years and today is an entertainment and restaurant "hotspot". It’s full of life, visitors, restaurants, shops, and is a great place to visit if you are in Lima. You can get here via bus from the center of the city, which is preferable to driving as parking is at a premium here.

We ate lunch at a fish and seafood restaurant called Mirasol. which is south of the city near the area of El Morro Solar, in a town called Chorrillos. It's right above the beach and has great views and a nice menu. The most interesting aspect of the restaurant is the tables and chairs, which are made of wood taken from recycled fishing boats and refinished with bright and lovely colors. See the picture to the left.

They made several Peruvian specialties with their own Mirasol twist, and we enjoyed our lunch there. We had a seafood seviche with calamari and octopus, duck with rice, marinaded smoked tuna with avocado, and the most interesting dish, which was the “tiradito al estilo Marisol”, which is a Peruvian dish of raw fish, cut in the shape of sashimi, in a fruity but spicy sauce (picture to the right).  It seems like a simple restaurant but they know what they are doing in the kitchen.

We spent some time in Lima's supermarkets. Peru has over 3000 species of potatoes and they are served at every meal and with just about every dish. To the right is a small sample of the potatoes we saw in the supermarket.  To the left is me holding a bottle of Porton Pisco, the most famous Peruvian brand of Pisco, the national "after dinner drink". It's made from grapes and is similar to Italian grappa.


We didn't visit two of the best known attractions of Lima. The first is the "Magic Water Circuit" (Circuito Mágico del Agua), which is located in the Parque de la Reserva. The attraction is an impressive array of fountains, and operates from Wednesday to Sunday. The big show is in the evening when the fountains are lit up. Unfortunately, they were closed due to repairs or renovations during our visit to Lima.
more on the fountains

The other attraction we didn't visit was the "Larco Museum".  This museum contains one of the most extensive collections in the world of Peruvian pre-Columbian art. The museum is housed in an 18th-century royal building built over a 7th-century pre-Columbian pyramid. It showcases chronological galleries that provide a thorough overview of 4,000 years of Peruvian pre-Columbian history. It is well known for its gallery of pre-Columbian erotic pottery. We just didn't find the time to visit.

To the left and right are a couple of more popular typical Peruvian items. To the left is the black corn found all over.  Corn is very popular here, but we found it not too tasty. To the right is a selection of the colorful shoes made in Peru. Our grandson specifically requested that we bring him back a pair (which we did)!



The culinary highlight of our visit to Lima, was our dinner at Central Restaurant which was recently voted number 4 in the world and number 1 in South America. I was surprised that we got a reservation at all because of the World Bank meetings, but we did, and we weren't disappointed!

The restaurant isn’t very big, but the kitchen is incredible. The dishes were unbelievably creative and delicious. There are 2 different tasting menus – one of 17 courses and one of 11 courses. We took the shorter one, called “Mater Ecosystems”. The service was perfect, and we were totally surprised when they offered us a tour of the restaurant after our meal. We toured inside the kitchen, the wine room, the upstairs area and the herb gardens on the roof.


Unfortunately, leaving Lima wasn't nearly as pleasant as visiting Lima. The Lima airport is a total disaster. The chaos is indescribable. Arriving was no problem, but leaving was unbelievable. Our flight to Cusco was at 9:05 AM. I had read stories about people missing this flight because of the chaos, so we left our hotel at 6 AM. We were at the airport by 6:35 AM accompanied by our driver Sergio. The airport departure hall was completely filled with people with their luggage.The waiting lines weren't defined and there were no signs or indications on the computer screens what was what. Even Sergio couldn't figure out where we should wait. Fortunately, we guessed right and after about an hour in line, we made it to the check-in desk and made our flight in plenty of time.

We went through a similar experience on our way out of Peru, when we flew from Cusco back to Lima, with a connecting flight on Delta to Atlanta. We had to pick up our baggage and recheck-in at the Delta desk. Again, the scene was chaotic, and everything was guesswork as to where to wait. Fortunately, we had four hours betweeen flights, so despite the chaos, we made our flight to Atlanta.


As I noted above, we flew to Cusco, visited some sites in the Cusco area, and ended the day in Ollantaytambo, where we spent 2 nights. We did this in order to acclimate to the high elevations. Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu are lower than Cusco which we saved for the end, as it is the highest place we visited.

For our 6+ days in the Sacred Valley, (including Machu Picchu), we booked with Inkayni Peru Tours. As I did when looking for a guide in Lima, I checked out 5 or 6 companies. Inkayni made the best impression, and were easy to work with. Our contact via email was Alex, and our guide was Percy who made our visit really special. Percy was an excellent guide, who explained very clearly the Incan beliefs and culture. I think he knows every rock in the entire area, and is very proud of his Andean heritage and background.

The Sacred Valley is the Urabamba River valley between Pisac (near Cusco) and Machu Picchu. Here is an excellent site, "Peru Guide" which has an very clear map of the Sacred Valley, and which shows all of its major attractions, most of which we visited.

Below are the main places we visited in the Sacred Valley:

Ccochawasi animal sanctuary, which is located not far from Cusco, and which rescues and looks after animals who have been mistreated, primarily by poachers or hunters. Here we saw llamas, various exotic birds, mountain cats, condors and other animals. The puma and the condor are 2 of the 3 animals sacred to the Inca . (The third is the snake.)They also had a beautiful selection of hand made weavings, which were made on the premises. (picture to the right).

a blog about a visit to ccochawasi (with lots of pictures)
The Pisac ruins and local town market are among the most popular places to visit in the Cusco area. The market is a major attraction by itself and the ruins, which feature large agricultural terraces are fascinating. The accepted opinion about the purpose of these ruins was to defend one end of the Sacred Valley, and to grow and store food at a safe and high elevation. We had lunch at a restaurant in Pisac which was a combination of restaurant, souvenir and jewelry store. Alisa found nice earrings.



Maras Moray: Without question, this site was the most interesting after Machu Picchu. This enigmatic archaeological site was apparently a laboratory the Incas used for developing new crops.  The vast circular terraces are built in a large bowl like depression, such that there is a large temperature difference between the top terraces and the bottom terraces. It is visually stunning. 

more about moray

the mysteries  of moray

an interesting blog about a visit to salineras
Near the town of Maras is the complex of Salineras, where a salt water spring gushes forth from the high up in the mountains and tumbles down the mountainside into individual evaporation chambers which allow the local farmers to remove and gather the salt. The site has been fully operational ever since Inca times. The Incas developed the system, and the local farming communities have greatly expanded them over time.

Chinchero is the home town of our guide, Percy. It's located up on the plain above the river valley. I think this represented the highest point of our trip, as Chinchero is listed as being at an elevation of 3750 meters. Chinchero has a respectable ruin, and Percy proudly showed us around town, where he knew everybody. We visited the ruin, toured the town center, had lunch at a local restaurant, but the highlight of our visit was our time at a local weaving shop.
a visit to chinchero and pisac

25 incredible things about the Inca

Chinchero is known as the weaving and textile capital of Peru. Here the people are well known as being very closely attached to the Incan traditions and crafts, including weaving. Even the Inca language of Chechua is still spoken here by more than 20,000 people. There is also a "barter market" which operates on Sundays. Back to the weaving; there are many small weaving shops where you can get a weaving demonstration and buy beautiful hand woven products. We visited just such a shop which is a cooperative run by a group of 7 women. To the left is a picture of Alisa and Percy with one of the young girls who was spinning yarn, and inviting us to come and visit the cooperative.
the textile center of cusco

inca weaving in chinchero

the chinchero center for traditional culture.

The name of the cooperative is "Centro Textil Awac Ñusta", and it is run by Yolanda, who is apparently the "coordinator" (that's what's written on the business card). Yolanda speaks enough English to give a full demonstration of the weaving process, from spinning the yarn to dying and then to weaving the material. It was quite fascinating. Then we were invited to view their products, each woman with a stand of her own. We liked Yolanda's items best, and we bought a couple of beautiful blankets. They were so happy, they broke into song and dance, and made us join in. See the picture to the left.
national geographic on chinchero weaving

Olantaytambo is called the "living Inca village", and for good reason. It has a very impresssive Incan site right in the middle of town, and has a neighborhood called "the Inca urban area" where people live in the remains of original Incan buildings built in the 15th century. The Ollantaytambo ruin is a massive site starting at ground level with a variety of structures, and ascending long stairs through huge terraces and ending with the temple of the sun on the very top. It's very impressive although we only went half way up. Here's a site with a good description and some great pictures.

We also visited the old part of town - the "urban Inca area". The alleyways are narrow (there were no cars in the 15th century), and most of the homes are built around small courtyards. We visited 2 of these courtyards and chatted with the locals living there. In one of them we found several women doing various household chores (like laundry on a "washboard") and a display of woven garments. Alisa bought an incredible alpaca scarf for $5.


In another of these courtyards, we found a woman who makes "chicha", the  popular local drink made of fermented corn.  The woman ran (or worked in) the little restaurant located in the small  courtyard. The restaurant specialized in "broasted chicken", which is cooked in a 55 gallon drum shown in the picture to the right. We had a glass of chicha which cost about a quarter of a dollar. It tasted like weak sour beer, although its alcoholic content is supposed to be about the same as commercial beer.  In the picture to the left is Alisa with the chicha lady. You can see the corn drying on the ground behind her.


While in Ollantaytambo, we stayed at the "Pakaritampu" which is a lovely garden hotel with its rooms divided among several buildings, and which is located right near the Ollantaytambo train station. This makes it very convenient for those on their way to Machu Picchu, which is just about everybody who visits Ollantaytambo. It’s literally a 1 minute walk to the train station. It’s a bit farther (and uphill) to get to the center of town, but it’s easy and convenient to take one of the “tuk-tuks” which are always waiting by the train station. It’s a 5 minute ride and costs less than a dollar.

The rooms are simple, but adequate, and our room had the best arrangement we’ve ever seen for laying out the suitcases and clothing. The hotel has a rustic charm and lovely views. In the garden is a woman selling weavings and souvenirs (most of the day), and in the lobby there is hot coca tea brewing all day. Breakfast is OK, but nothing special. As with all the hotels in Ollantaytambo, they will hold keep your suitcases while you visit Machu Picchu.

While in Ollantaytambo, we ate at a couple of different restaurants, although the only one I remember was "Gusteaus" (not sure of the spelling), located right in the center. We were told that the restaurant was new, and I couldn't find any web site. The food was local, typical and acceptable, and we got to watch a soccer game on the wall mounted TV.


There has been so much written about Machu Picchu, that I feel totally inadequate to add anything meaningful. It is one of the 7 new wonders of the world, and certainly the most impressive of all the Incan ruins, and it is the number one tourist attraction in Peru. It is largely intact, and that is because the Spaniards never found it during their conquests of the area. It was rediscovered in 1911 by American adventurer Hiram Bingham.




the travel channel on visiting machu picchu

6 alternate routes to machu picchu
We enjoyed every minute of our visit. The day started out a bit cloudy but by 10 AM, the sun had come out and it got hot. Our guide Percy has been there hundreds of time, and explained everything very clearly. We took lots of pictures and the mosquitos nearly ate me up. One of the sites linked on the right explains very clearly what the options are if you want to get to Machu Picchu.
This is what we did. We drove to Ollantaytambo and stayed there for 2 nights. We took the "Vistadome" train in the afetrnoon to Aguas Calientes, the closest town to Machu Picchu. There are 3 levels of train to take - the "Expedition" which is the cheapest, the "Vistadome" which is the most popular among tourists, and the "Hiram Bingham", which is a first class luxury train. On the Vistadome back to Ollantaytambo, we were even entertained with a "dancing bear" and a fashion show.

We spent one night in Aguas Calientes, and early in the morning took the bus to Machu Picchu. We toured Machu Picchu until about 12 noon when we took the bus back to Aguas Calientes and had lunch there. After lunch, we took the train back to Ollantaytambo, where our driver picked us up and took us to Cusco. That made for a long day and we didn't get to our hotel in Cusco until 8 PM, however our visit to Machu Picchu was worth all the effort. For the more adventurous visitors, there are several treks which can be done in order to reach Machu Picchu. The most popular are the 4 day trek which starts in Ollantaytambo, and the 4 hour trek which starts in Aguas Calientes.

Here are a few bits of advice I can offer if you plan to visit Machu Picchu.
1. It's not difficult to visit Machu Picchu, but due to the logistics, it is best to plan ahead. They only allow 2500 visitors in each day.
2. Reserve your train tickets in advance. The trains we were on were 100 % full.
4. Do not visit Machu Picchu without a guide. There is so much more to appreciate when you have a professional guide explaing things.
3. Bring lots of bug repellent. The mosquitos are tiny, almost invisible, and vicious.


5. Keep in mind that Machu Picchu is close to the jungle, and probably lower than the other places you have been to on the way (Ollantaytambo and Cusco), so it will be warmer. Just the same, wear a hat and long sleeves and pants to protect against the bugs.
6. Unless you are in very good shape and love scary heights, do not attempt to climb Huayna Picchu, which is the rounded mountain seen in most pictures of Machu Picchu. It is a dangerous and scary climb. (it also has a seperate admission fee.) Huayna Picchu is the peak in the picture to the right.
7. Be prepared for the physical exertion of visiting Machu Picchu. There is lots of walking, and lots of stairs, and you are at an elevation of 2400 meters. To the left is a small sample of stairs.


As I explained above, Aguas Calientes is the last stop for most of the people who visit Machu Picchu. The town is hard to describe. It's a cross between the "wild wild west" and  the worst tourist trap you have ever been in.  It is full of hotels, hostels, restaurants,  souvenir vendors, tourists of all shapes and sizes, and lots and lots of backpackers.  Its only redeeming quality is that there are no cars. The only access is by train from Ollantayyambo, or bus to and from machu Picchu.

In Aguas Calientes we stayed overnight at the "Tierra Viva". This is a beautiful hotel, which seems brand new, and still suffers from all kinds of little technical problems. While we were there, we experienced several things which didn’t work properly, and during the night we were there, the water was shut off in the hotel for several hours to make some sort of repair. The hotel is perfectly adequate for a one-night stay on the way to Machu Picchu, but one big disadvantage is that it is located downhill from the bus stop for going to Machu Picchu. That means that you have to trudge a long way up the hill to get to the bus stop, and then another 100 meters or so to get to the end of the long line waiting for the bus.  The first bus is at 5:30 AM, and the line at that hour is already about an hour.

THIS MACHU PICCHU BUS IS MAKING A U-TURN on a very narrow street.

On arrival, If you request it, a hotel porter will meet you at the train station to take your bags, and, (again - only if you request it), will bring them to the train station when you leave. The hotel keeps your bags while you visit Machu Picchu, and, it’s great to have somebody take your bags to and from the hotel, because, as I wrote above, it’s a hike up and down the hill. The hotel does everything according to the schedule of those going to Machu Picchu, like starting breakfast at 5:00 AM

After Machu Picchu, we had lunch at Toto's House, which is located right in the center of Aguas Calientes. It overlooks the river, and is between the “bus stop” where you get the bus to Machu Picchu, and the train station.  The bus station is the only bus stop in town, as the only bus goes to Machu Picchu and back. Actually it's a whole bunch of busses which run all day as they ply the route between town and Machu Picchu.

Toto's is a convenient place to eat lunch while waiting for the train back to Ollantaytambo. Our lunch here was excellent and the place is very nice with a lovely view of the river and an open hearth, where the food is grilled. There was also live music while we were there.  They serve a popular buffet lunch, but you can also order from the menu, which we did. We had perfectly done trout and chicken. The place is quite large and obviously caters to large groups.


After lunch, we still had an hour to kill before our train back to Ollantaytambo, so we went to "La Boulangerie De Paris", a real French pattiserie located right across the street and the river from Toto's. Unlike many places in Aguas Calientes, it is clean and the food is authentically what is advertised - real French coffee and pastry, which is what we had for our dessert.

Cusco was the capital of the Incan empire. At the empire's height, Cusco was the capital with a population of fifteen million people, and the empire included the whole territory of present-day Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and parts of Chile, Argentina and Colombia. This was apparently the greatest empire in the history of South America. Today Cusco is a city of 150,000 inhabitants, full of Incan ruins, and churches built upon Incan or pre-Incan foundations. There's a lot to visit within Cusco and nearby, and it is one of Peru's most popular tourist destinations. cusco - center of the world

cusco - the belly button of the world

explore cusco

a nice blog with great pictures about a visit to cusco

We spent 3 nights in Cusco at the San Augustin Eldorado, which is located  just a few- minute walk from the main square – Plaza de Armas. It's a lovely hotel, with an "adequate" breakfast  but nothing special. We had several technical problems in the bathroom, and most were dealt with promptly. The lobby staff seemed somewhat indifferent, although on our second day, we met Marta, who seemed sincerely interested in taking care of everything properly. I got the feeling that she was part of management or ownership. The Wi-fi was problematic and worked decently only in the lobby. The hotel has a connected coffee shop, and an upscale shop selling local Andean garments. All in all, our stay here was satisfactory.


We toured Cusco the city as well as several sites not far from Cusco with our trusted guide Percy. Inside the city we visited the following sites.

Santo Domingo Monastery: This massive monastery is built upon Incan foundations and includes parts of an Incan temple, as well as a subterranean catacomb. The Incan temple upon which it was built was the grandest and most important temple in all of the Incan empire, and was called the Koricancha. You can only visit the monastery with a guided tour, so we went with an informal small group and an English speaking guide.

Plaza de Armas, which is the main city plaza, and which is the home to the main cathedral and colonial houses. The plaza was always buzzing with people and there were several celebrations and processions during the evenings.

We also visited the Plaza Nazarenes, the Plaza San Francisco (where there was an Andean street food fair), the San Blas neighborhood, the local market area, and the most famous Inca stone - the "twelve angle stone", which can be found in an impressive Incan wall which is part of the present day Archbishop's palace.

To the right are 2 pictures of the local market area. There are several of these markets, and in most of them the vendors sit on the ground, either on the street or on the sidewalk. It didn't seem to be very sanitary. The main market is called the San Pedro market. It's an enclosed market, but on the day we were there, there was repair work going on inside, so all of the San Pedro vendors were also on the street. It was quite chaotic.

Below are the sites we visited outside of Cusco.

Saqsaywaman: This is a beautiful Incan ruin located just outside Cusco and well known for its incredible and beautiful walls. The name is also the easiest Incan name to remember as if pronounced properly, it comes out as "sexy woman". Here's a nice site with some great pictures. This is probably the most impressive Incan site after Machu Picchu.
more about saqsaywamen

Qenko: an unusual ruin quite close to Saqsaywaman

Tambomachay: just a few kilometers from Cusco, this is a peaceful Inca site consisting of a series of delicately carved aqueducts, canals, and waterfalls that run through the terraced rocks. We found it to be a tranquil and relaxing sites. Also, the path leading in was lined by very interesting trees. See to the right.


Puca Pucara: this is a site just 5 minutes down the road from Tambomachay. Most archeologists believe it was either a guardpost, or a customs checkpoint. It's a quick visit as there's not a lot to see.

the condor:
one of the 3 most  important incan animal symbols
We also visited the "southern valley", which is about 30-40 KM southeast of Cusco. Here is a link to a tour which is very similar to what we did. Sorry to provide only a link to a tour company page (and not even the tour company we used), but this route is not that popular, and it's tough to find a good description of the main attractions it has. I don't really understand why, as we found the tour here to be very interesting and worthwhile.

the puma:
one of the 3 most important incan animal symbols
There are 3 main attractions in the area - Tipon Ruin, Piquillacta (a pre-Incan ruin), and the town of Andahuaylillas (with a couple of interesting churches). There is also the town of Tipon, but there's nothing to visit there besides the ruin, unless you are interested in eating one of Peru's national dishes - "cuy". More about cuy later.

Tipon Ruin is located right near Tipon town. The ruin was unquestionably one of the highlights of our stay in Cusco - maybe the number 2 attraction after Machu Picchu. It is called a ruin, but it far from ruined. Its beauty and serenity are still very evident.  The water it was built for still runs in the stone channels, and the atmosphere is  tranquil and beautiful. There were only a  few visitors there besides us. It features massive agricultural terraces, typical Incan walls, water channels and streams, and beautiful views. If you visit Cusco,  and you have half a day free, I highly recommend visiting Tipon.


Pikilaqta is located about 12 KM from Tipon. It is the ruin of a whole city built and used long before the Inca were here. It was apparently a major city of the Wari  dynasty which was dominant in the area between the 6th and 9th centuries - about 400 years before the Inca. The name means "city of fleas". It's hard to describe and is best understood by seeing pictures of the site, which you can see here. To the right is a picture of the best preserved part of Pikilaqta. It's a beautiful sort of archway or perhaps an entry into the city.


Andahuaylillas is a few KM further down the road away from Cusco. . It is another dusty quiet town in this area, and it is one of the stops on a church route called "The Andean Baroque Route". I gues that's because of the interesting churches in the area. We visited one of them - the church of San Pedro Apostol Andahuaylillas. It was built by the Jesuits in the 16th century and some call it the Cistine Chapel of South America. Every square inch of the inside, including the ceilings and support beams are covered with paintings and frescoes. Some of the paintings are weird, if not downright disturbing. (I wouldn't bring little kids here.) 

They charge an entry fee of 30 Sol (close to $10 which is rather steep for Peru), and they don't allow photography of any kind inside, so I don't have any weird pictures to post. In fact, I found it quite difficult to find good pictures of the interior on the internet. Here is a site with a collection of decent pictures, and here is a great Youtube video about the project to restore and preserve the church by the "World Monuments Fund". It includes the best shots of the interior which I have found.

the andean baroque route

Tipon is the main town in this area and is known as the "cuy" (pronounced "koo-ee") capital of Peru. What's cuy? Cuy is guinea pig, and it is a delicacy in Peru. In most of the western world, guinea pigs are small furry creatures usually treated as children's pets. Not in Peru. They are actually high in protein and very tasty when prepared right. The guinea pigs in Peru are bred for eating. That's actually the reason I started looking into visiting the southern valley. I wanted to eat cuy in the capital of cuy. The Incas ate cuy, and so would I! why more & more people are eating cuy

eating cuy in peru

conde nast
on cuy

a personal take on eating cuy

guinea pig and other delicacies in peru

Tipon is not much of a town and the main cuy restaurants (known as "cuyeria") are located on the main road and are pretty scruffy places. We stoppped at one where Alisa could eat trout while I ate cuy. Our guide and driver were absolutely ecstatic when I told them we wanted to eat at a cuyeria. They split one but ate it with gusto and real enthusiasm. I had a whole one but didn't eat every bit as they did. They particularly enjoyed eating the head. They ate my head as well (that is, my cuy's head).

At the place where we ate, the cuy was served with inedible spaghetti, a roasted tomato with an unidentifiable stuffing and a couple of potatos. All this was served on a plate about half the size needed for the amount of food which was on it. I enjoyed the cuy. It was tasty and reminded me of rabbit as it is prepared in Italy.

While in Cusco we ate at 2 very different restaurants. At one we had lunch and that was an organic restaurant called "Greens", and their menu was healthy and I believe vegetarian. The food was tasty and quite different from anything else we had eaten in Peru.   Here's an article about the restaurant that is far more informative than any web page (which there isn't, anyway!)                      

The other restaurant was the Inka Grill, and I'm pretty sure that this is one of the best restaurants in Cusco. Percy brought us here and said they had the best pisco sour in Cusco, and we tried it, and agreed 100%. In fact, it was the best we had anywhere in peru, and we tried a few. The food was great too, and we went back a second time. We had dinner once and lunch once. 

The restaurant is located right in the main square (Plaza de Armas), and is upscale but not too fancy. It has a very nice menu and the motif is serving upscale versions of Peruvian spacialties. One good example is the "causa", which is a popular dish served all over Peru. It's a dish made of layers, with different types of fillings layered between slices of potatoes (may be mashed or not). Chicken salad and tuna salad are favorites.  At the Inka Grill, the dish was called "causita", and was served in a very elegant fashion. Picture to the right. 

As I wrote, we had one dinner and one lunch. At the dinner I had the Aji Gallina, one of Peru’s most popular dishes. It’s essentially a chicken stew that comes in a somewhat spicy and bright yellow sauce, the coloring derived from the aji peppers. I enjoyed it very much. During the lunch we had there, there was live music played up in a cage just under the ceiling. There are apparently a couple of very upscale restaurants in Cusco, as described in the link to the right, but we enjoyed the Inka Grill very much.
the ten best restaurants in cusco

all about
pisco brandy

We also visited New York City on this trip. Whenever we travel to the North or South America, I always plan a visit to New Jersey and New York City. My family lives in the area and we love to spend time in New York City. This time it was "built in", as my high school reunion was in Park Ridge, New Jersey. Before the reunion, we spent a few days with my sister and after the reunion, we went to New York City. I won't belabor you with details of the reunion, beyond saying that it was an interesting experience.

While at my sister's, who lives in  Hopewell Borough in New Jersey (not far from the beautiful town of Princeton), we met friends of 40 years for dinner at a restaurant somewhere "in the middle" between their home and my sister's home. They live in Pennsylvania, so "in the middle" usually means either New Hope Pa/ or Lambertville, NJ. Both these lovely little towns are popular tourist stops, full of artists' galleries, restaurants, antique shops, and a chronic shortage of parking. This time, we decided to look elsewhere.

We found a nice restaurant a little "down the road a piece", at Washington Crossing, where George Washington made his famous crossing of the Delaware River during the American revolutionary war. It's a lovely wooded rural area. The restaurant is called "Francisco's on the River", and it has plenty of parking. It advertises a Mediterranean - Italian menu, and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal here. It was a nice break from New Hope and Lambertville.

The morning after the reunion, we drove about an hour to get to new York City. We stayed in the Elysee Hotel on East 54th Street for 4 nights. This is the same hotel we had stayed in during our visit 2 years earlier. We weren't disappointed. The hotel has a great location, and is first class all the way. It's not cheap but it's worth every penny. The rooms are probably the biggest standard rooms in the city, and they have a very nice free wine and snack time between 5 and 7 every evening.

While in New York, we went to 2 plays - "Kinky Boots" and the "Book of Mormon". Both were great, although we enjoyed the Book of Mormon more than the other.

We visited the Neue Gallery, where Klimt's "Lady in Gold" is on permanent display, the Museum of Modern Art and the 9/11 Memorial Museum. We had been to the 9/11 memorial during our previous visit when the museum was still under construction. The museum was opened not long ago and we had to visit. We were very impressed with the museum. It memorializes the event and the victims in a dignified and suitable manner.


We also attended a concert at Carnegie Hall with the Hungarian pianist and composer Balázs Havasi. He puts on an incredible mutli-media performance which we enjoyed immensely.

And, of course, we ate at some nice restaurants.

ALFREDO 100: We had a lovely lunch at Alfredo’s. This is one of the few restaurants which can rightly claim a connection to the inventor of the original fettuccine Alfredo, Alfredo di Lelio. The name of the restaurant was changed in 2014 from "Alfredo's" to "Alfredo 100" to honor the original recipe made by the original Alfredo in Rome in 1914. 

Alisa had the fettucine with a tomato sauce while I had the classic fettucine Alfredo. Both our dishes were excellent with absolutely perfect fresh fettucine. My classic Alfredo was delicious, but was even better when I mixed in some of Alisa’s red sauce. It made a magnificent “rosé sauce”. We also had appetizers. Alsa had a nice salad, and I had an excellent seared tuna with roasted tomato, portobello and pesto. There was even live music to enjoy with our lunch. It's located right on 54th Street just a few steps from the Elysee Hotel.

BLUE WATER GRILL: This is a very fashionable and apparently very popular restaurant located right on Union Square (Broadway and East 16th St), and specializes in fish and seafood. They have a nice selection of raw oysters, and fresh fish. The oysters and the salmon we had were both great. The service was very hospitable and they sat us at a very nice table upstairs with a view of the entire restaurant.

THE MODERN: As part of the MOMA, this restaurant has a perfect setting, with just a glass wall between it and the MOMA sculpture garden. It’s a 2 star Michelin restaurant, and the service was perfect, but the food didn’t seem anywhere near 2 star Michelin quality. We were with a pair of friends, who are long time NYC residents and who had selected the restaurant for our meeting. We had the 3 course prix fixe menu for $98. The dishes we ordered were scallops, foie gras, duck and turbot. I had the duck, which was superb, and my wife had the turbot, which was a tad overcooked All in all, a little disappointing.

IL TINELLO: On one of our days in New York, we met 2 of my lovely cousins. We had a nice long family walk from Herald Square up to 56th Street where this restaurant is located. Il Tinello is a wonderful “old school” Italian restaurant. The service was reserved, but friendly. The fresh pasta was absolutely great, and the wine list extensive and mostly Italian. We had a 2010 Vino Nobile. It’s a lovely restaurant and we enjoyed our lunch here very much.

SMILER'S GOURMET DELI: There's more than one Smiler's in Manhattan, but the one at the corner of Madison and 54th was right near our hotel, and we were familiar with it from our previous visit 2 years earlier. We ate lunch there several times during our stay. We’ve eaten at several of the “gourmet delis” which now are all over Manhattan, but this is the best we’ve found. The buffet is large and varied, the food fresh and tasty, and there’s also a sandwich grill which will make hot sandwiches of all sorts to order. Best of all, there’s lots of neat and clean seating upstairs where you can eat. Since we were there 2 years ago, they have completely renovated the upstairs, and today it is a really pleasant place to sit and eat and have a nice view of 54th street below.  And, it's open 24 hours a day!

LA GRENOUILLE: This restaurant is generally considered the best french restaurant in New York City. We haven't been to all of them (not even many of them), but we wouldn't argue with this description. The food was great, the service perfect, and the place is absolutely beautiful, filled with mirrors and extravagant flower arrangements. The tables are close to one another, but they are arranged in a very clever way so that you don't feel right next to your neighbors. It also has a dress code - men are required to wear a jacket.

Everything was perfect and they were very accommodating. We had a 3 course menu, and Alisa didn't want any of the desserts on the menu, so  instead of dessert, she had one of the appetizers, the mushroom soufflé, which the waiter recommended. It was delicious, and in our opinion, it was as good as any of the desserts that were on the menu. Alisa had an assorment of salads, and duck for a main. I had an appetizer of sweetbreads, and a main dish of oxtail, and crème brûlée for dessert.


If you want to have dinner here, you will need to make a reservation at least a month in advance. We were amazed to find out that this restaurant has no Michelin stars.

All in all, this was a great trip. We spent some time in New York City, we visited with family, but the highlight was Peru and Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is trully a wonder of the world. If you haven't been there yet, don't wait - just go!










This is a page from our site "Travels with Steve & Alisa".  It describes one of the many trips we have made together. We've built these pages not just to describe our trips, but to help other travelers if we can.  Please use the information we've provided freely, and let us know if you have any questions we might be able to answer about your own planned trip, or just let us know if we have helped you. Or perhaps you have some information we could add to the site. Visit our home page using the link to the right.   

            Enjoy your next trip!!                                                                                                      ~Steve & Alisa~

UPDATED: December 21, 2015