The Top Five Things To Do In (And Around) Lima, Peru

Lima, the capital of Peru, is one of South America’s largest cities and sprawls along the Pacific Coast in a swirl of beautiful beaches, bustling metropolis and Colonial design.

We landed in Lima after a week of hiking, biking, backpacking and climbing around Cuzco and frankly, I was tired. If you are going to visit both Cuzco and Lima on a trip to Peru, I would ABSOLUTELY recommend doing Cuzco first. Lima is a nice treat during the second phase of your trip and it is much less intense, depending on what you do.

1. Parque Kennedy/ La Lucha Sangucheria

I am going to outline the five things I think are must do’s in Lima, trust me- you will thank me later!

Nestled in the heart of the Mira Flores district of Lima is Parque Kennedy, a small park that hosts hundreds of cats… and no one knows how they originally got there! The area is well maintained and a lot of the cats are really friendly and will even sit in your lap! Others scale trees, lay just out of reach from petting or aloofly prowl for food as cats love to do. The park was named after President John F. Kennedy in honor of the support he gave to Peru. The park is surrounded by streets of shops and is also near a shopping center called the Indian Market that has booth after booth of handmade Peruvian goods.

Also across from the market is La Lucha, a sandwich shop known for their delicious chicharrón (fried pork belly) among other favorites with chicken, beef and pork. They also sport a list of native fruit juices such as lúcuma or guanabana which are fun to try with a savory sandwich! They are open until 3 a.m. on the weekends so make sure you swing by to pet a cat and grab a juice and a sandwich on your way to some shopping!

2. Barranco

Barranco, considered the most romantic and bohemian area of Lima, was my favorite district. It is home to many of Peru’s leading artists, photographers, designers and musicians. Aside from the park sculptures, intricate graffiti and cobblestone pathways that showcase Barranco’s vibrant energy- it is a place that allows for beautiful discoveries such as unique architecture, buzzing cafes and seaside landscapes. If you are looking for thriving culture and an array of restaurant choices- head to Barranco for a Pisco Sour and a stroll across the Bridge of Sighs, the wooden bridge that spans across the main area of Barranco, to see some art and watch life unfold in front of you.

3. La Candelaria (located in Barranco)

Located in within the confines of Barranco is La Candelaria, a dinner show that puts on an array of traditional Peruvian dances such as La Marinera, Huayno, and Supaypa wasin tusuq (dance of scissors). The show goes into the wee hours of the morning with one performance after another, an eccentric presenter and delicious lomo saltado which we feasted on with our pisco sours. They also have performance breaks where people are invited on stage to dance, it is a unique experience to be had and one that you do not want to miss in Lima.

Supaypa wasin tusuq Dance
Lomo saltado at La Candelaria

4. The city center of Lima/ China town for Chifa

The Presidential Palace built by Francisco Pizarro in 1535

The city center of Lima is a colonial extravagance not to be missed. The central square known as Plaza De Armas has a lovely walking area with beautiful architecture and lots of street vendors ready to sell you keychains! The changing of the guard is every day at 11:45am, we missed it due to security reasons but if you plan your day around the city center make sure to meander over around that time.

Catacombs of the Church of San Francisco

Also nearby is one of the city centers main tourist attractions, the Church and Cathedral of San Francisco. I wont advise you to visit the catacombs if you are claustrophobic- I am and it was challenging to weave myself down into the eerie darkness of the catacombs without having a panic attack. However, I love history (especially morbid history… I know I’m a weirdo) and the story behind the troughs and troughs of bones is this: Wealthy Limeños thought that their final resting place would be in plots purchased beneath the monastery. The catacombs ran out of room eventually but were still burying wealthy catholics on top of each other. Now the bones are arranged in patterned formation and displays fragments of the rumored 75,000 souls buried in these dark trenches.

After the sinister bones display, we worked up an appetite!! So we headed over to China Town…

Whilst in China town we feasted on Chifa. I was not prepared for the Chifa pleasures awaiting me in Lima. The food was so fresh and flavorful. It’s literally the best Chinese food I’ve ever had in my life. It was super fresh, the portions were HUGE and the table spun so there is always the option of stealing the last dumpling from across the table! Chinese immigrants came to Peru in the early 20th century and infused their traditions with Peruvian cuisine making a culinary child worthy of the gods… and my taste buds. Make sure to stop in China town for some Chifa dishes on the way through the city center of Lima!

5. Paracas, Ica and the Huacachina Desert

Islas Ballestas- Ica, Peru

The small coastal town of Paracas is a spot that is overlooked in many travel itineraries but not something to be missed. It lies in the Ica region which is 152 miles from Lima. The streets of the town host restaurants, shops and hostels but the main attraction is the boat tour (which you should book in advance) that you can take to Islas Ballestas to see lots of sea life such as penguins, seals and various types of birds. The boat tour lasts about two hours and covers three islands. Tip: Don’t leave your mouth hanging open, the birds chose victims a plenty as the tour boats innocently float beneath their prepped and feathered… wings.

Another treat on the tour is seeing the Nazca lines carved into the side of the first island called the candelbra which was made around 200 BCE! No one is sure how exactly the ancient people of Paracas constructed this drawing, but they were aware of the wind direction and because of that, the drawing has never withered away.

Candelbra Nazca Lines in Ica, Peru

Another thing we all learned is that seals make noises that sound like they “want to speak to a manager.” I was mind blown by the sounds that come out of their mouth… (video below).

A wailing seal?!
Precious lil penguins taking a dip

Huacachina Desert


The Huacachina desert is a tiny oasis surrounded by sand dunes in southwestern Peru. The village itself only has a population of 100 people but thousands of tourists visit every year. For this reason there are a fair amount of party hostels, bars and restaurants that surround the lagoon that sits in the center of town.

Sand dunes of Huacachina

Legend has it that the lagoon was created because a beautiful native princess took off her clothing to bathe but saw a male hunter approaching from behind through her mirror. She was startled and ran from the area but left behind her mirror which turned into the lake. The woman is rumored to still live in the oasis as a mermaid!

We took a bus tour called Peru Hop that left from Lima and stopped in Ica and then Huacachina. It was a very full day of adventure and the tour guide was very nice. However the tour itself was a little like hurding cattle and it felt extremely rushed. We had to rush through lunch when we got to Huacachina to do our dune buggy ride. So if I went back again I would go to Huacachina seperatley and spend the night in order to have a day of relaxing and heading up into the dunes at my own pace.

With that being said the actual dune buggy ride was a blast! I do wish we had had a little more time to explore the dunes and walk around but we raced around with our driver on the dunes and had the option of sand boarding which I didn’t opt to do because I didn’t want a mouth full of sand. When our tour was done and we drove back into town I had sand on very orfiice of my body. Hair, shoes, mouth, underwear. So be prepared to get covered. I dumped probably a pound out of each shoe when we got back to the bus to head back to Lima.

Trying not to think about all the sand in my shoes…

The entire time we were on the dunes I couldn’t help but think about how much my dad would have loved it. He always wanted to ride dune buggies in Traverse City, Michigan with me but we just never got around to it. I know he was smiling down at me and getting a kick out of all of us screaming on the buggies and dumping sand out of our shoes. Our buggy ride ended in serenity, watching the sunset between the dunes.

Peru is a fantastic country with SO much to offer. Although we were there for two weeks I could have easily spent a month and had plenty to do, see and taste! What stories do you have about your travels to Peru?

Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors: One of the Most Influential Artists Still Living

Yayoi Kusama

Over the last handful of years, Yayoi Kusama’s work has gone from psychedelic installation to instagram sensation. I am not going to lie, I saw my feed polluted with selfie-crazed art lovers taking pictures in glowing spaces I had never seen before, and I was immediately intrigued.

I forked up the money to go to her installation in Atlanta, which was sporting the last leg of a collection of her infinity mirror rooms: small chambers that catapult you into a swirling warp of infinite space. Think “circus-fun-house-on-steroids.” The only reason I was able to go to the exhibit is due to the swift realization that 1. I was late to the game and needed to act quickly and 2. because I was scouring the cockles of the internet for weeks reading twitter feeds and looking at stub hub and craigslist to try to get my paws on these illusive tickets. The alternative was lining up at 1 am and standing in line through a cold rainy night in February (which I was prepared to do) to MAYBE getting to see her works.

The reason I am writing about this is because, like so many others, I think her work is stunning. Yayoi is a 90 year old Japanese woman who still has millennials scraping at tickets for her sold out shows. If that doesn’t hold some serious pop culture power, I don’t know what does. The reason she is appealing to so many is the frantic way that she propels people into her visions, through a small cube that warps your perception of space. You are also well aware you have only a precious 60 seconds to absorb it all (Yayoi requested the rooms be timed this way).

I fight pain, anxiety, and fear every day, and the only method I have found that relieves my illness is to keep creating art. I followed the thread of art and somehow discovered a path that would allow me to live.

– Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi’s work is meant to purge her aching mind of the accumulations, obsessions and repetitions that haunt her… by sharing her visions with the world. I don’t think it gets much more intimate than that.

“The Infinity mirror rooms allow us to reassess Kusama’s entire artistic practice by offering a new understanding of the corporeal limits of perception under conditions that define optics, tactility, and intuition of matter.”

Mika Yoshitake
Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009
Fireflies on the water, 2002- Toledo Museum of Art
Lets Survive Forever, 2017- WDNR Chicago

All I can say is that if you haven’t seen her works in any major exhibits around the world, find one and fight for tickets. Even if you aren’t a big art lover, her spaces transform the senses and it is both memorable and therapeutic. I know that her works will be swirling around museums for years to come.

If you have any questions regarding the rooms or the process of viewing them, comment below.

5 Self-Care Tips From a Beauty School Dropout

Guess what? I know what I’m talking about:

Who knew I would be following the footsteps of my Grandmother when deciding to drop out of beauty school, or that it would put me an extra 5,000 in debt. 

My Grandmother

Hopefully I can relate to most of you when I say- “I still have no idea what the heck I’m doing, but truly none of us do. I have changed my career goals at least 132 times. I went from wanting to be a nurse anesthetist one day, to a criminal prosecuting attorney, to a supply chain analyst and… well you get the picture.

It’s not that I don’t know what I want to do, its that I want to do EVERYTHING. I want to try out every path possible until I find the one that excites me. 

I had already graduated college by the time I enrolled in beauty school. My degree was from Wayne State University in global supply chain management. Although that sounded rather exciting, I decided to go the path of sales. I started as a mortgage banker at the largest online mortgage company in Detroit. I really loved it at first, until I felt like I really wasn’t putting people in better financial situations… just cranking out corporate one-liners. I made great money and even met my boyfriend there. But as the 12-hour workdays were not getting any shorter, we decided to both quit on the same day. We didn’t think about our finances, or our future. We just quit and didn’t look back.

We took a few weeks to really understand what it is we were passionate about. He was already on his path to law enforcement and I was stuck really trying to understand what I wanted out of life. In my mind I wanted to wake up every day and feel passionate about my job. I wanted to do something creative, since I had been stuck in a cubicle for over 6 months without even a ray of sunlight. I kept repeating over and over…

“What have I been great at my whole life?, What am I passionate about?”

Then I realized, friends and family would always ask me to do their hair and makeup for events. I was always the friend that could do the perfect beach wave or Jersey Shore tease by the time I was 14. Skin care, makeup, and hair have always been a huge part of my life. My Italian mother had a huge influence on my passion for beauty. From the beginning I can remember her never daring to leave the house without her hair teased, a full face of makeup, fresh manicure and stilettos. Even my beauty queen mother would ask me to put on false eyelashes for family parties.

My mom and I

I knew beauty school was the path for me, or at least that’s what I thought at the time. 

I enrolled in beauty school and realized on my first day I was one of the oldest students at 25. It was an exciting first few weeks in the classroom learning about hair color, skin tone, PH levels… everything. School was all that I wanted it to be. Except financially, I knew I couldn’t stretch myself 9 months until graduation. I was picking up part time jobs at night as either a Lyft driver or server at a Mexican restaurant in town. These jobs did not begin to cover my bills… my debt was piling. One day I received a call from a software company asking if I wanted an interview. I did not want to give up my dream, but I told myself if they offered me a deal I can’t refuse, I would consider it.

A month later I was employed at the software company. It was in a great location and in a role that I wanted. Frankly, I did not think beauty school through before actually going for it, but I’m glad I didn’t. If I hadn’t held out for this software position, I might have taken the first offer thrown at me somewhere else. I would probably be stuck at another unfulfilling job with no hope of seeing daylight, once again.

I realized I don’t have to go to beauty school to still make this a passion of mine. My dad gave me great advice, “Work doesn’t have to be your passion, but it can provide you with the tools needed for your passion.” He is right, work is work. Not everyone is going to love their career day in and day out. My current career has given me stability and resources to fuel my passion. 

So here I am.

I’m a software sales representative by day, and beauty enthusiast by night. As you will see in my upcoming blogs, I am not here to sell anyone on “perfect skin.” It doesn’t exist.

What I will do is take my research and experience throughout my life as an everyday woman going through everyday things, and share them with you. I will never tell you that you need to spend $100 dollars on anti-wrinkle cream to completely remove wrinkles. I will not compare products endorsed by an Instagram model because well… its not real.

This blog is for the working woman. The fierce, badass, powerful, fun, charismatic queens that don’t have a filter on every aspect of their lives. I am still early in my career, with a lot of student loans, and great advice on how to be able to feel beautiful on a budget. 

So, let’s talk about budget… Here are some easy beauty tips, even if you have a very small budget. 

Girl, I understand. If you are student, recent college grad, or mother just trying to make sure you have time to brush your teeth every day… these tips are perfect for you. 

  1. Put Vaseline on your eyelashes every night before bed
    • Vaseline is one of the safe products that you can actually put near your eyes
    • After washing your face- (TWICE LADIES)- apply Vaseline to the stick of the Q-tip and brush your lashes upward. I usually only need about a dime size for both eyes.
    • Vaseline acts like a moisturizer to your lashes. With all the breakage from your mascara, you need to condition those babies too! 
    • Vaseline will make your lashes grow longer, thicker and stronger. (When I get my eyebrows done, the women always ask how my eyelashes are so long. This is my dirty secret!)
  2. Before putting on lipstick, make sure to put on your DIY sugar and honey lip scrub
    • No lipstick will look good if you have dry, flakey lips. Take some sugar and honey from your cupboard and mix it into a small bowl. 
    • Dip your toothbrush into the bowl and start scrubbing your lips gently. This will get rid of any dead skin while also giving you a smooth canvas for your lipstick.
    • Make sure to rinse the scrub off with warm water. 
  3. Turmeric Turmeric Turmeric
    • 3 years ago, my skin was constantly inflamed, the only thing that has worked is turmeric. There are many ways to use turmeric. I mix turmeric powder into my smoothies. You can also purchase turmeric capsules and you can use the turmeric powder as a mask.
    • Take 1 tsp of turmeric, 1 tsp of honey, and 1 tsp of milk 
    • Mix the ingredients into a paste and apply to your clean face for 15 minutes.
    • Wash the mask with warm water. You can repeat this mask daily if you want better results. 
    • Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, but it can also lighten dark spots, fight acne causing bacteria, help with oily skin, and help with Psoriasis. (We need a whole blog on Turmeric)
  4. Toner is important
    • Toners are meant to bring your skin back to the proper PH levels after cleansing. The reason why so many women hate their moisturizer has nothing to do with the actual moisturizer, its because they aren’t using toner!
    • Without toner, your skin doesn’t have the proper PH levels in order to absorb the moisturizer. Toner is life from now on. Use it every time you wash your face. 
    • You can go to the store and purchase witch hazel (the safest toner) for only $4 dollars. 
  5. Take Collagen
    • Yes, the sad age of 25+ when your collagen production declines, but no worries! We can consume collagen! 
    • Collagen creams do not ADD collagen to the skin. The best way to build collagen is consume it from foods rich in antioxidants such as avocado oil, blueberries, leafy greens, eggs, and of course collagen powder. 
    • Personally, I bought “Pure Collagen” by Genesis Today its only $14.96 at Walmart (
    • I take a scoop and put it in a glass of water every morning and chug. There’s really not a taste and drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up is great for you. Your body will easily absorb the powder on an empty stomach. 
Angelina Todd- Beauty Enthusiast/ Writer
I am the beauty guru you never knew you needed. When I’m not chasing around my bull terrier, Julius- I’m making masks, testing products and picking out my color palette that speaks to me each day. Follow me on instagram: @angelinamariet

Peru: Tips for the short(ish) hike of the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu and the city of Cuzco.

The “Short” Inca trail and Wiñay Wayna:

Views from the Inca trail

Maximum Altitude: 2732 m / 8964 ft
Minimum Altitude: 2088 m / 6850 ft
Distance Travelled: 10.79 km / 6.67 ml (to Inti Punku)
Approximate Walking Time: 7 hours

We decided to do the “short” Inca trail which is a seven hour hike on a mountain path paved by the Incas which ends after the Sun Gate, a post that looks over Machu Picchu. The Inca trail that we walked was the last leg in a longer 4 days and 3 nights hike that many other crunchier, rustic and bolder hikers brave to get the ultimate satisfaction of reaching the Sun Gate on their last day. However, I was content with a one day sweaty trudge up to the architectural glory awaiting me.

A couple of tips before attempting the hike:

DO bring a camelback. I didn’t have one and I wish that I did. You are sweaty, sticky and constantly moving. Having the ability to drink water as you walk is essential and important.

DO wear sunscreen AND bug spray (and re-apply). The bugs are vicious and hungry. Even if it is overcast, the sun still scorches your skin and you are rarely in the shade the majority of the hike.

DO wear water-wicking clothing that covers you. It is humid. It is hot. No one wants a chafed ass. There are lots of sticks and stones that will break your bones… or just scrape your skin.

DO race ahead of the crowds when you first get off the train to the Inca trail. Everyone starts the trail at the same time and the bathrooms at the front of the trail slow people down. We literally ran to the front of the crowds with our guide and staying ahead made it much more peaceful and relaxing. You feel like you are the only one on the trail and you don’t have to listen to every other guides conversations.

DO hit the gym/ train before doing the trail. You don’t need to be an athlete by any means but building up some stamina will make the day much more enjoyable and will you will avoid feeling light-headed.

The Inca trail route
A waterfall right before Wiñay Wayna

The first treasure that is seen on the Inca trail is the ruins of Wiñay Wayna, a mid-15th century Incan site that was used for possibly a resting place or religious purpose and construction-wise is honestly, a human miracle. (They had to have been rolling stones for YEARS). Its a steep climb up to the site and will give you some serious vertigo. There are government protected llamas- or as I call them, “llamas gone rogue” that gorge on grass on all of the ridiculously steep terraces that carve along the mountain. As long as you drink plenty of water, say a little prayer to the Incas, and don’t think about how high up you are- I cannot recommend enough the delight that is Wiñay Wayna. 

Wiñay Wayna in the distance 
Rouge Llamas

After a few more hours of hiking we reached the Sun Gate, which overlooks Machu Picchu…

Machu Picchu in the distance

The Sun Gate is a small structure that allows you to stop and take some photos of the sights and get a drink of water. Going with a guide on the trail is best because they will have much more knowledge on the history of each stop.

The trail finally descends down to Machu Picchu where it ends. A lot of people will do the Inca hike one day and come back the next day to visit Machu Picchu, which I will touch on next.

The end of our hike leading to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu:

Ahhh Machu Picchu. The holiest of holy’s. People wait lifetimes to have the opportunity to experience this place. It is truly magnificent. An impossible feat for people 600 years ago to build. But that is the mystery of it all. What was used to construct this place? How were these massive stones placed on the edge of a mountain, with perfect precision?

Upon entering Machu Picchu there will be lots of crowds and people, even on the first trips to the site. I highly recommend going as early as you can. It will be less hot, there will be (maybe) less people. And the morning fog is still hanging beautifully above the city.

Some guides will be better than others. I highly recommend doing your research on specific guides/tours and companies to see what their reviews are. Our guide booked through our tour company kept us ahead of the crowds, found the best spot for pictures, and kept us on time because lines to take the buses back down the mountain pile up and curve down the road. The earlier you can get back to the bus, the better.


The city of Cuzco:

Cuzco is a large, colorful city that somewhat surprisingly looks Spanish in design. The streets are adorned in cobblestones and flowers with open communal squares sporting fountains and fruit stands.

*one thing to note: there are women in traditional Peruvian clothing holding baby llamas or carting around grown llamas both in the city and at historical sites and monuments. These animals are taken from their mothers as infants and bottle fed. They are usually abused, underfed, and not socialized with their own kind. DO NOT take pictures with them or give them money, it supports animal cruelty.

San Pedro Market:

Our first stop in the city was at the San Pedro Market. It is a Cusqueñan market famous for its exotic produce, long lines of fresh-fruit smoothie makers, flowers, meat market, alpaca textiles and medicinal herb stalls. We purchased Peruvian chocolates and candies, some home made cheeses, a wheel of fresh bread, coffee, tea, place mats, and blankets at the market.

Tips on the market:

-Be careful about what you try at this market (assuming you are coming from somewhere outside of South America). Although the soups, meats, and produce look tantalizing- the water has elements in it that make people unaccustomed to it very sick.

– Ask people before you take pictures of them. It is super tempting to take pictures of stall owners at the market but many do not want to be photographed and get angry, even if you offer to buy a product from them. Be respectful.

– Barter. People at the market expect it and you can get items at insanely good prices.

– Always watch for pick pocketers. That goes for the market or any public place that is crowded.

Here are my favorite components of the market:

The Sacsayhuman fortress:

This fortress is where the Incas made their final stand against Spanish conquistadores in 1536. It is known for its large stone walls that again, are a human architectural miracle considering their size and precise shapes. I highly recommend visiting this site, it is very impressive and gives great insight into the labor and structure of ancient Incan spaces.

The San Blas neighborhood and Cuzco’s city centre:

San Blas was my favorite walking area of Cuzco due to its bohemian vibes. It attracts wanderers, hippies and artists because of its laid back energy and artisan shops. There are lots of interesting cafes and restaurants. The streets are decorated in art and flowers. Its worth a nice stroll to take in all the charm of the district!

With a fusion of Incan and colonial architecture, the city center of Cuzco has its own unique charm that you don’t want to miss. Cathedral Basilica is a must-see because of the famous guinea pig last supper painting, featuring Peruvian Quechua painter, Marco Zapata’s work.

City centre of Cuzco

For our final meal in Cuzco we feasted on lomo saltado, a stirfry of beef, onions, fries and tomatoes as well as papa a la huancaína, boiled yellow potatoes in a spicy cream sauce with hard boiled egg. We also had empanadas, tamales, and sangria. I honestly didn’t have one bad meal in Peru and even lost weight despite how much I was eating. The food is THAT fresh, and its also extremely cheap compared to the United States.

And that concludes my thoughts on Cuzco. I could honestly do a completely separate blog just on the food in Peru because it blew me away in quality and flavor but regardless, I hope you find this information useful in booking your trip, and feel free to reach out with questions!

Happy Travels,


Peru: My dish on Ollayntantambo, Maras salt mines, and a Pachamanca feast!

Well hello there again!

I have been MIA for quite some time. A lot has happened in my life since my last post about Hawaii in April 2018. Right before my trip to Peru, my dad passed away. It was very sudden and very heartbreaking. I considered not going on the trip because I wasn’t sure how I would handle it but in the end decided to go to lift my spirits (as travel always does) and because it is the last thing I have ever done that my dad knew about. My dad is the biggest reason I have been able to travel so much over the years and I owe a lot of my cultural experiences and sense of adventure to him. I knew he would want me to go and enjoy it.

With that being said, this trip to Peru has been in the works for a little over a year. It started with me mentioning the notion to my boyfriend Kevin’s mother Norma about how much I would love to experience the country with their family (she is a native Peruvian from Lima). After that was retaliated with much enthusiasm it was full gear coordination mode and reaching out to a travel agency to set up our itinerary.

It is recommended if not CRITICAL that you book a trip to Peru through an agency. This is because of how spread out everything is, what types of needs you will have (specifically if you are coming from North America and are not accustomed to the altitude) and also for safety.

We used Quechua Treks to plan our trip and as a collective group we have nothing but amazing things to say.

But now I will get into the juice regarding my favorite activities, food and thoughts on Cuzco. We were there for a 14 day whirlwind and it was very exhausting but also completely wonderful and I learned so much! So again to avoid writing a novel about every thing I did and saw I will highlight my favorites starting with the town of Ollayntantambo and our hike in Yucay.

*I will also note here that my trip had too many things I wanted to discuss and show so there is a second part of this post focused on the city of Cuzco and Machu Picchu and another post solely focused on Lima.


A restaurant in Ollayntantambo selling Cuy (guinea pig) a national dish. 

Ollayntantambo is a small mountain town in Cuzco and flush with tourists since it has a direct train to Machu Picchu. The town revolves around one square that is dotted with shops and small eateries and it feels relatively safe and is quite charming. We stayed at El Albergue which was directly across from the train station. It was very rustic and had its own restaurant and small cocktail bar (pisco sour, anyone?). The food was so FRESH and excellent (but more on this later).

Ollayntantambo is a good place to get souvenirs because they have some unique tapestries and other hand made goods that are cheaper than in Lima or larger towns  around Cuzco like Aguas Calientes and are guaranteed to be authentic. I got a beautiful hand-made hot pink tapestry telling an old Peruvian folk tale for under 100 dollars and didn’t see anything like it anywhere else.

Restaurant-wise we ate our breakfasts and dinner at the hotel and one night we dined at Chuncho which is in the heart of the square. Let it be known that I had no idea Peru had such a wide variety of potatoes and corn! Each potato has its own distinct flavor and texture as well! Chuncho had delicious cocktails and farm to table dishes like the spicy chicken stew we ordered. Also- Kevin tried Cuy and hated it. (He said it was too fussy with the tiny bones and it had a greasy, gamey taste).

Hike in Yucay:

Yucay (as our guide, Zac said) is an overlooked activity in Cuzco. We did a walking tour of a trail following a wide channel stream that trickles down from Mt. San Juan. It was a beautiful day for the hike and we were the only people out and about on the trail (the benefits of it being overlooked) and all I can say is WOW!

It was extremely serene and relaxing (also challenging and dusty (BUT DO IT ANYWAY). We also made a doggy friend who followed us back down the mountain and who shared our lunch with us.

*Side note: the amount of stray dogs in Peru (specifically Cuzco) is astronomical and I was beside myself each time I saw one. If only I could leave the United States behind and start a dog resort in Cuzco!

Maras Moray Mountain Biking:

I have one word to sum up mountain biking: In insanely high altitude. Literally closer to the sun. That word is WATER. Say it with me. WAHHHTERRRR.

My aunt calls me an aquarium because I could probably slam a few fish bowls of the stuff over a light lunch that only lasts an hour. I am no weakling when it comes to how much H2O I can chug at all hours of the day. The reason I am making such a fuss about this is because I was doing my usual fish-bowl ingesting during our mountain bike exploration and it STILL wasn’t enough. I felt overheated and sick after 20 minutes of biking. The sights were gorgeous and it was worth the views but the terrain was rough, the road was dusty, and the air was dry (and devoid of oxygen a.k.a high altitude).

To sum this up: if you are a biking enthusiast who is okay with not breathing or at least feeling very out of shape- go to Maras Moray to mountain bike. But for the rest of us mere mortals, I would recommend staying on the bus.

Vilcanota Mountain Range: Chicon and the Pumahuanca

Our Pachamanca meal at the El Albergue hotel in Ollantaytambo:

I am now going to circle back to our hotel, El Albergue. The hotel is a rustic treasure nestled in the heart of an organic farm growing vegetables, farming llamas, and guinea pigs and even has its own distillery, all encompassed by gorgeous mountain views. All of our meals (and cocktails) were farm to table deliciousness.

view from our room at the El Albergue
Pisco sour (a Peruvian classic) at the El Albergue cocktail lounge

Cuisine-wise my ultimate highlight was the pachamanca feast that was made personally for us and presented by the Albergue chef himself.

What is a pachamanca you may ask? Listen well because this style of Peruvian cooking will change your life… and it should be a new mini-mission of yours to have at some point.

Pachamanca (meaning “earth oven”)  is a traditional Incan meal that is seared on hot stones underground. The stones are layered on top to create a steam that slow cooks the meat. It is similar to the kalua Polynesian pig roasting style typical for a luau. Our lunch consisted of chicken, pork, and lamb with andean potatoes and camote, organic vegetables, chicha morada (which is a purple corn sweet beverage) and house salad. The meat, vegetables and spices are covered with the stones and a tarp is laid over top and then buried with dirt to create mouth-watering smoke perfumed meat that falls off the bone in juicy tenderness.

Below shows some samples of the process…

Once this meal was graciously served to us, we were able to hear more about the history of the farm and the traditions that they have in place to ensure authenticity and exciting flavor in their dishes.

Andean potatoes
An assortment of lamb, chicken and pork
Fresh salad from the garden
Sweet corn cake and cafe for dessert
Our group with the chef
El Albergue organic farm 

After a delicious meal we headed over to a Cañazo (sugar cane liquor) distillery and coffee roasting facility located on the property.

The distillery was very impressive given the fact that they are constantly experimenting with different flavors and textures. They also produce an assortment of spirits such as rum, gin and vodka using Cañazo. These spirits can be found around Peru but I don’t believe they can be found in North America or the majority of South America.

Selection of artisanal spirits 

Maras Salt Mines:

Let me start by saying I have seen pictures of the salt mines on social media for a while now and originally, this was the site that I was most excited about going to. Most of the images I saw showed people walking around within the mines and I was so excited to see the squares of salt up close…

Our tour guide informed us that just this spring they had restricted people from walking within the mines because they were damaging them. I was SO disappointed I could only see them from afar and also… PEOPLE SUCK. Why can’t you just go and appreciate natural beauty without defiling it?!?! Anyways, rant over.

The salt mines aesthetically did not disappoint. But other than taking in the views there isn’t much else to do in this location. There are little market stands aligning the path down to the views of the mine selling the regular tourist garb, though.

Worker at the Maras salt mine

And that concludes one of THREE blog posts I have about Peru. My other blogs focus JUST on Lima and the city of Cuzco and Machu Picchu (including the Inca Trail)

Go check them out!