Fueled by coca tea and an explorer’s curiosity, I discovered the beauty of Peru’s Sacred Valley and its cuisine. From the red-tiled roofs and ruins of Cusco to the Urubamba River to the view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, I climbed countless stairs, gasped for breath at unforgettable vistas, and guiltlessly savored the rich food and drink.
If you are an adventurous, active nomad, you too can explore the Sacred Valley, but don’t miss these highlights, nor skip a meal. Each and every bite leads you to further understanding of the Incas, the land, and the fusion with all of the cultures making Peru what it is today.
In as little as five days, start in Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, and its elevation of 11,000 ft. Whether young, old, athletic, or not, the elevation’s effect will make you tired, perhaps with a slight headache, and shortness of breath.
The common cure is to drink coca tea, but some need a combo of coca tea and elevation medication commonly marketed under the name Diamox. Don’t be scared. Take things nice and easy the first day for your body to adjust.
With that advice, the first day in Cusco can be done on foot starting with the Inca ruins of Coricancha, which was an important Sun Temple of the Incas. The sheer size of the ruins highlights the role of Inti, the Sun God, as well as the opulence of the Inca Empire. In fact, at the time of the Spanish arrival, the temple’s walls were covered in gold. However, in typical conquistador style, the Spanish took over, emptied the gold, and built atop a religious building of their own, the Santo Domingo church.
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