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Calendar of Festivities in Cusco

8 Apr

By Lisa McClendon Sims

One thing that Peruvians are really good at is celebrating! There are a dizzying number of festivities which combine the rituals of the predominantly Catholic population with colorful indigenous earth-based festivals, frequently interwoven throughout the symbology and celebrations and offer an absolute sensory symphony. Peruvians have roots which deeply connect them with their “Pachamama” (Mother Earth). So much of Peru is based on an agrarian culture, insuring good harvests and fertility of their herds is of paramount importance. The majority of the celebrations are joyous in nature and strengthen social bonds and hope for the future.

Aside from “Saint’s Days” which happen daily all over Peru, announced by the blasting of firecrackers in the early hours of the morning and frequently by parading a statue of the Patron Saint of the Day through the streets often followed by a brass band, there are many other festivals and holidays to navigate. It is estimated that there are as many as 3,000 folk festivals throughout the year in various parts of Peru, hundreds of which are celebrated in Cusco. So many opportunities to feast and dance!

Here are a few of the more popular ones based in Cusco:

CARNIVAL – Variable days in February – starts 40 days before Easter Sunday

One of the largest festivals in South America, made famous by the parades in Rio, Carnival is celebrated a bit differently in Peru. The biggest show is in Puno (an 8-hour bus ride south of Cusco) with dazzling costume competitions and parades honoring The Virgin of Candelaria, where they play music and dance in the streets until they quite literally drop! In Cusco, Carnival is celebrated more with water. If you are in the plazas, expect to get drenched with water blasters and balloons, and sprayed with silly string and foam. No one is immune, but if you are armed with any of the afore-mentioned items, you are considered fair game! Join in the fun – and bring a change of clothes!

SEMANA SANTA (Holy Week/Easter Week) all of Peru but most notably in Cusco and Ayacucho

This is the week before Easter, and in Cusco starts on Monday with “Señor de los Temblores” or Lord of the Earthquakes – also known in Cusco as The Black Christ.  In 1650 there was a terrible earthquake in Cusco with much damage and many aftershocks. Particularly interesting is this holiday’s fusion of Catholic and Inca beliefs. The Black Christ is housed inside of the Cusco Cathedral, built upon the ancient Inca foundations of the Wiracocha Temple (Wiracocha is the Inca Creator God). In 1650 the Black Christ statue was carried in procession through the streets, just as the Incas used to parade the mummies of their Incas and high priests before the Spanish outlawed this custom, and miraculously the earthquakes stopped. So many candles were burnt beneath the statue in gratitude that it is now permanently blackened. Today The Lord of the Earthquakes is still paraded through the streets while the onlookers throw bright red ñucchu flowers (salvia esplendes), as they did in ancient times as an offering to their Pre-Colombian god, Wiracocha, now symbolizing the blood of Christ. The Main Plaza in Cusco is jam-packed with people during Monday evening with barely room to move! Peruvians love to celebrate!


In many cultures has traditional fasting as a ritual. In their truly festive style, the Peruvian people FEAST instead of fast! Good Friday is actually the most celebrated day in Semana Santa, much moreso than Easter Sunday. Most businesses are closed and the Peruvians are all at home with their families feasting upon their Doce Platos – 12 special traditional dishes (excluding red meats) representing the Twelve Apostles!

Q’OYLLURIT’I – The Snow Star Festival – coincides with the full moon at the end of May/beginning of June

The ancient Inca used the Southern Cross constellation, visible in the Southern Hemisphere, as a guide as to when to sow and reap their crops. In April, this constellation disappears under the horizon, and to the Inca this symbolized a time of chaos. With the full moon in May/June, the Southern Cross constellation reappears on the horizon and the Q’oyllurit’i festival was originally in honor of this, bringing order again to their world. However, in 1780 a miraculous image of Christ appeared on a huge rock in the Sinakara Valley (15-16,000 feet above sea level) where the festival is held. The rock has since been embellished and had a church built around it. Christ is now considered by many to be the “Lord of Q’oyllurit’i”, and this celebration is considered to be the largest pilgrimage of indigenous nations in the Americas, with tens of thousands of people (many estimate 70,000) making the pilgrimage during the 4 days that it takes place 8 kilometers outside of the town of Mawayani, at the foot of Ausangate Mountain (21,000 feet elevation). There is a fascinating ritual held by “ukukus” – the Quechua word for “bear”. He is a mythological creature deemed to be fathered by a bear and mothered by a human. The people who want to become Ukukus must climb the High Andes mountain to the glacier and survive the night to earn the right to be an Ukuku. They then wear special costumes and masks and are the policing body of this festival, using whips to call into line anyone who is seen to be acting in a disrespectful manner. Historically they cut blocks of ice from the glacier to bring back to Cusco, which when melted was used as holy water. There are virtually no facilities in this valley, so it is a camping event. There is non-stop dancing, music and firecrackers for the 4 days that this takes place – bring earplugs if you intend to sleep!

CORPUS CHRISTI – Body of Christ – 60 days after Easter Sunday

This festival has been celebrated all over Peru since Colonial times, but reaches its peak in Cusco. It takes place 60 days after Easter Sunday. The ornately dressed statues of 15 saints and virgins are all brought from their respective churches in Cusco and paraded around the Main Plaza. They enter the Cathedral one by one to spend the night in the Cathedral to greet the Body of Christ, embodied in the Sacred Host which is housed in an enormous gold goblet. The processions and the excitement and fervor of the citizens are an amazing show.

INTI RAYMI – The Celebration of the Winter Solstice – June 24th

Inti Raymi is the second largest festival in South America (after Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). It is the celebration of the winter days starting to become longer – the solar new year. In Cusco the celebrations begin on June 1st (no kidding – they celebrate ALL MONTH) with various dances in the plazas, art festivals and an endless list of performances and events. This is considered to be the most important expression of folklore in Cusco. The Spanish outlawed this celebration due to its “pagan” identifications and it was lost for 100s of years. In 1944 a group of scholars and artists in Cusco got together and it was decided to reintroduce it based on the historical record.  The peak of this weeks-long festival starts at 8AM on June 24th at the Q’oricancha, The Temple of the Sun (now a Dominican church – Iglesia de Santo Domingo). Hundreds and hundreds of people have roles in this theatrical performance on the green front lawn of what was the Temple of the Sun, which was sheathed in gold when the Spanish arrived into Cusco in 1532. They are all making various offerings of chichi (corn beer), potatoes, corn and flowers. Everyone in the Four Quarters of the Inca Empire, known as the Tawantinsuyo, is represented – from the Inca military to the jungle dancers. They make their way up Avenida El Sol around noon with a spectacular entry into the Main Plaza of Cusco. Actors representing the Inca (King) and Qoya (Queen) are carried on litters above the crowd who throw flower petals as they pass by in procession around the Plaza. The entire procession then ascends the steep mountain streets to Saqsaywaman, the famous Incan ruin overlooking Cusco for the final chapter of this most spectacular affair.


This is an Andean ritual which pays tribute to Mother Earth in honor of all she gives us. A key concept in the Andean culture is that of “ayni” or sacred reciprocity. This is a day set aside to symbolically give something back to Mother Earth. A beautiful mandala is created using many items from nature – seeds, coca leaves, dried fruits, flowers, rice, incenses, sweets and many other items. It is infused with the love that the people of Peru have, who are so closely connected to their Pachamama and it is offered to the spirits of the Andes Mountains and Mother Earth. This also marks the beginning of the Andean New Year. During the first 12 days of August is a period called “Las Cabañuelas”, brought over by the Spanish, where the weather is watched closely and a prediction is made for the weather for the upcoming year, to help the agricultural communities decide when to plant.

SANTURANTICUY – December 24th

This festival dates back to the Spanish Colonial period and is one of the largest handicrafts fairs in Peru. It takes place in the Main Plaza in Cusco and offers various religious images which are all handcrafted by local artisans, many things that are never seen anywhere else, or at any other time of the year. It is the custom of many Cusqueñans (people from Cusco) to have a nativity scene in their home during Christmas. December 24th, known as Noche Buena, is the big day in Peru, moreso than Christmas Day itself. On the 24th at midnight, a small figurine of Jesus is placed in the manger, and everyone goes to bed happy that Jesus has arrived! During Santuranticuy the campesinos, or country folk, come in from all over the region, selling various native plants, mosses and flowers to decorate the manger scenes. They have no place to stay in town, so they camp out in the Main Plaza and it is the custom of the city folk to bring them hot chocolate and snacks to tide them through the night, and you’ll see them standing in long lines waiting for a cocoa!

NEW YEARS EVE – Dec 31st

In the Main Plaza of Cusco New Year’s Eve is celebrated with festivities and bands playing! One thing that tourists notice with some amusement is that there is yellow underwear being sold on every street corner. The yellow represents gold and prosperity and you will even see people wearing their yellow underwear on top of their clothes to pronounce to the world that they are calling in abundance! There is absolutely no doubt when midnight hits as fireworks fill the sky! Everyone turns up in the Main Plaza with their own fireworks and they are going off in every direction! If you are lucky enough to be above the city on one of the mountainsides, looking down – it is a sight to behold! If you are in the Plaza itself – do be careful, as there doesn’t appear to be any supervision whatsoever! The bars and discos are open all night and you can party and dance until dawn!



Eat Like a Local, Street Food in Cusco

17 Dec

By Julian Kircher

So you’re in a foreign country, everything looks and sounds and smells strange, nothing more so that the food. Fruit reminds you of the fruit back home but there is always some important difference: the colour is wrong, it’s too big or the wrong shape or smells funny. The good news however is that locals have been eating these things for a long time and most of them look almost alive and healthy. So we can assume the food here is safe and perhaps even delicious. Well let me try and convince you that with an open mind and empty stomach Cusco can be exceptionally rewarding. So I have compiled a sample menu that will rival any fancy French restaurant, except here you won’t find any snooty waiters floating around the place and you probably won’t be served swan lightly fried in unicorn tears and served on a bed of moonrock. Also the whole thing will cost you less than $10 and you will get to see and experience a handsome chunck of Cusco.


Where to start? Well you will want a hearty meal to start out with. San Pedro is the place to go for this. A bustling hive of vendors that sell fabrics and trinkets and most importantly food. Food of every sort is found here. Hidden away at the back of the market there is a large space where dozens of tiny food stalls, with a small rickety bench in front of them, serve food of all description. Most of these places will have set menus and for around 4 – 6 Soles you can get a starter (usually soup) and a choice of mains. Served with a little fruit juice. This is the authentic experience. You you will set next to the local workforce, enveloped by the steam and the sumptuous smells from hundreds of bubbling pots. This experience will make you feel like a local. Everything is made fresh and personally this is the one place where I have never gotten sick.

Now that your stomach has stopped rumbling you will want dessert. Remember you are on holiday so don’t count those calories. As such I have collected several post-meal options here because let’s face it: that is all we really wanted anyway. But before we become too unhealthy let us make a quick and nutritious stop. Fruit juices!

At the opposite end of San Pedro a horde of waving ladies wait patiently behind unstable looking mountains of fruit and vegetables. Ready to shred and blend any combinations of fruit possible. They will assist you in picking out delicious combinations. So far the following combinations have proven to be the best: banana, mango, strawberry as a milkshake with honey (this is the rich, creamy sweet option) if you want something else (although I don’t know why you would) then a combinations of strawberry, apple and orange or a combinations of banana, mango and papaya will give you slightly fruitier tastes. Juices are approx. 6-8 Soles.

Now we have assuaged our inner Nutritionist it is time to move onto something more unhealthy. Take a stroll behind the San Pedro market. There you will find a street with an army of vendors shouting and crying, their wares displayed at their feet. Among this bee hive of activities and noises you will find one or perhaps several Picarones stands. 12395291_10153859257388258_577545405_nThis is what we have all been waiting for. Sweet dough made from sweet potatoes then quickly deep fried and covered in honey. Go on you’ve earned it. This deliciousness is made fresh in front of your eyes and the smell alone will remain with you for a long time. Around 2-4 Soles.

Now you are probably almost full, your stomach may be hurting since you left self-control behind at San Pedro. Well then the answer is to stop off at an12386752_10153859257773258_236457748_n Emolientes stand. These pop up around evening time and you want have to walk long to find them. A small cart containing a big pot of hot water and about half a dozen bottles, each filled with a different coloured liquid. This cart looks more like a mobile improvised chemistry lab. Don’t shy away! These are all herbal infusions which are mixed, all together, with hot water and a bit of gelatin. This creates a very thick and herby concoction which will act as an internal heating system for you as well as aid with digestion. This is the least you can do for your poor stomach. Usually around 1 or 2 Soles.

Well there you have it. My menu. Hopefully you are feeling as hungry as I am, luckily this is exactly what I will eat tonight, you will have to make the journey over here too in order to enjoy these culinary treats.

A Glimpse of Cusco at Night

10 Dec

By Julian Kircher

Around Cusco there are a lot of great bars that offer a varied nightlife – especially for tourists. However tucked in between these more popular bars there are some true hidden gems. Meeting places for the locals and expats living here and offering a type of entertainment that you won’t find anywhere else.


One of these treasures is called Ukukus. Only about 100meters from the plaza de Armas this bar/club is reached through an unassuming little doorway on calle plateros (the north-west offshoot of plaza de Armas)

You won’t find the normal glitz and glamour of the upscale bars and hotels that seem to cater exclusively to the tourists in Cusco. Here you will find hand painted walls, an eclectic mix of locals and long term travelers and a very intimate vibe. Don’t expect any house/electro or typical Peruvian music that they seem to play everywhere to impress the tourists. The bands here play all kinds of music, though you will see a lot of Rock/alternative fused with Andean rhythms. An amazing sound you won’t find anywhere else. They offer a program most nights of the week featuring art shows, culture shows and of course all kinds of amazing live music. They have a program on their Facebook page – just search for Ukukus Bar.

They refer to themselves as a culture laboratory and that is certainly the feeling you get when you walk in for the first time – the culture seems so different and – dare I say it- alternative that it does feel like an experiment gone right.

This is a perfect place to get to know some of the locals and people from all around South America. The vibe is friendly and very open and everyone seems keen to talk – although a lot of people there may not speak English so a small amount of Spanish would go a long way.

If you want to avoid the throngs of tourists mingling in generic bars, enjoy all kinds of different live music and appreciate a relatively cheap beer (around 10-15 soles although they do have a happy hour) then this is the place for you. Be prepared to dance!


If you prefer places where you can bump into other tourists and will most likely be able to talk in English then here is a list of some fantastic places to visit

Paddy’s Irish Pub – Of course there is one in every town and this is no different. A stylish and traditional Irish Pub, a popular spot for English speaking people this Pub reportedly sells the world’s highest Guinness – unfortunately not on tap. Have a pint here and enjoy the simple but delicious bar food. Also usually shows sports on the TV’s (football and rugby) so come here for important games (located right on the plaza de Armas)

Beer Prices –$5-7 for a pint so a little on the expensive side


Nortons – A self-styled biker bar this is a popular spot with the tourists and has a great vibe. Enjoy one of many local craft beers on the balcony overlooking the Plaza der Armas. Nortons also has an excellent and delicious menu at quite reasonable prices (around 15 soles/5$ for a main course meal). This place will also show all important games though only in football. (located on Plaza de Armas)

Beer Prices – a little cheaper than Paddy’s. Craft Beer will be around $5 a pint and very tasty


Mushrooms – more of a lounge than a bar, here you will always find a DJ playing a mix of electronic and Hip-hop music. A great place to chill, play some billiard and enjoy some delicious Pisco Sours. (Located on Plaza de Armas)

Prices- Around $8 for a Pisco Sour though they are two for one during happy hour


Faces of Cusco – probably the most chilled out place of all of these. A gathering spot for mostly American expats, here you can watch American football, chill with a local craft beer and have some delicious food. During the day faces also offers all kinds of activities such as a tour of the local San Pedro market, dancing lessons, cocktail workshops and many more. Thursday night there is live music from local artists. (Also located right on Plaza de Armas)

Prices: Around $3-5 for a beer. Food will be around $10 for a main course but offers the best food on this list.

machu picchu tours

First Aid Training for ALL Alpaca Expeditions Guides

26 Feb

By Lisa McClendon Sims

11007491_10205473364009279_1592226164_nThe Inka Trail is closed for maintenance during the month of February which gives our busy guides the opportunity to do some additional training and community service projects.

In addition to Culinary Classes for our chefs and a Beautification Project on the Huchuy Qosqo Trail this month, our guides all met in our Cusco office for two days this week for additional training. This included continuing education classes of First Aid, High Altitude Illness Training and Injury Prevention and Treatment courses.

If you have trekked with Alpaca Expeditions, you know that our guides are not only great organizers and motivators, very knowledgeable and entertaining but also very competent at handling just about any situation that can be thrown at them while guiding our trekkers safely through our magnificent Andes Mountains.

Still, on rare occasions something unexpected happens and we want to be 100% certain that our guides are prepared to handle surprise situations. We work in conjunction with O2 Clinics who help us with our annual training. Basic First Aid and CPR Training are obviously valuable as well as training in other health issues that can affect people in the high mountainous regions of the Andes.

It is also very important that our guides understand the basic physics of high altitude and the effects it can have on people who have not acclimatized well to our higher altitudes.  They are trained in how to recognize the symptoms of High Altitude Illness and what to do to help the body with recovery and acclimatization. They carry with them and are trained in how to use a Pulse Oximeter which monitors oxygen saturation and heart rate and also how to administer oxygen if necessary, which they also carry.

We then spent the afternoon on studying various bird and orchid species that are native to the area.

We are now ready to start the 2015 Season! So come and enjoy the majesty and beauty of our Inka Trail and Alternative Treks in and around the Sacred Valley of the Inkas in Peru and know that you are in good hands with Alpaca Expeditions.

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Queuña Trees

19 Dec


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On Monday, December 15th, 2015 Alpaca Expeditions and their staff went to the town of Wakatinku, at the base of the Sacred Valley’s largest peak, Ausangate (elev. 21,000 ft/6400 mtrs,) to fulfill a promise that we made earlier in the year.

Many of the porters that work for us on the Inca Trail come from the village of Wakatinku. They are subsistence farmers who supplement their income by working for us to help support their families.

Earlier this year we started a social project by supporting the 204 children that live in this area (and come from as much as 2 hours away to attend school) with school supplies and some basic hygiene items such as soap and toothbrushes.

We promised to come back and help them with a tree planting project.

A year ago we helped the villagers plant seeds from the only surviving tree which is indigenous to this area, the Queuña tree (Polylepis, also known as the Andean Oak).

This week, we returned to help them plant these 3000 seedlings in the surrounding farmlands of the village and school. Forty-five villagers helped the Alpaca Expeditions team put them in the ground. Within 2-3 years, these trees will begin to contribute to this area with their natural benefits.

Much of Peru has been deforested over the past several hundred years. Eucalyptus trees were brought in from abroad in the last century as they are fast growing trees and provide quick firewood. But there has been much criticism as they can be invasive and have depleted water supplies. The eucalyptus is not indigenous to Peru.

The Queuña (or Qiwiña, as it is known in the native language of Quechua) is the only surviving tree indigenous to the high Andes, growing at altitudes of up to 14,750 feet (4,500 meters). It is known to be one of the most cold-hardy trees in the world.

The Queuña also serves strong ecological functions. It helps to regulate climates, prevent soil erosion and helps by providing a filtration system which helps to feed the natural springs. The forests of these native trees also provide a natural environment that supports the flora and fauna that are unique to these ecosystems – as many as 110 species of birds and 9 species of mammals, including the puma and tiny Andean deer.

And one of the key benefits of this indigenous tree over the imported eucalyptus is that it requires a mere 5% of the water to sustain it as does the eucalyptus, a major consideration in this area which is rain-starved for 10 months of the year.

Alpaca Expeditions also made donations of other plants to individual families to plant on the land around their homes. We are teaching the children to be patient and understand the sustainability of working with their native trees. And we treated them to a little holiday cheer with gifts of T-shirts and Arroz con Leche, a sweet dessert made with rice and milk. Alpaca Expeditions is proud to make this contribution to help support our porters and their families, and to make a difference in our world.


This is our second trip to Wakatinku and we plan on visiting again for the holiday season with some treats. Please let us know if you would like to join us.


Celebrating Inti Raymi tomorrow, June 24th

23 Jun

Inti-raymi-copiaTomorrow, the Green Machine of Alpaca along with all our fellow Peruvians and foreigners visiting our beautiful country will celebrate Inti Raymi.  During the Inca Empire, the Inti Raymi was the most important of four ceremonies celebrated in Cusco, as related by Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. The celebration took place in the Haukaypata or the main plaza in the city.

The Inti Raymi (“Festival of the Sun”) was a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire in honor of the god Inti, one of the most venerated deities in Inca religion. It was the celebration of the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year in terms of the time between sunrise and sunset and the Inca New Year. In territories south of the equator the gregorian months of June and July are winter months.

According to chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega, Sapa Inca Pachacuti created the Inti Raymi to celebrate the new year in the Andes of the Southern Hemisphere. The ceremony was also said to indicate the mythical origin of the Incas. It lasted for nine days and was filled with colorful dances and processions, as well as animal sacrifices to thank Pachamama and to ensure a good cropping season. The last Inti Raymi with the Inca Emperor’s presence was carried out in 1535, after which the Spanish and the Catholic priests banned it.

Today, it’s the second largest festival in South America. Hundreds of thousands of people converge on Cuzco from other parts of the nation, South America and the world for a week long celebration marking the beginning of a new year, the Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun.

Every day has its events, from daytime expositions, street fairs, and people milling and dancing in the streets. In the evenings, live music from the best of Peruvian musical groups draws the crowds to the Plaza de Armas for free concerts. During the preceding year, in preparation for Inti Raymi, hundreds of actors are chosen to represent historical figures. Being selected to portray the Sapa Inca or his wife, Mama Occla, is a great honor.

The centerpiece of the festival is the all-day celebrations tomorrow, June 24, the actual day of Inti Raymi. On this day, the ceremonial events begin with an invocation by the Sapa Inca in the Qorikancha, built over the ancient Temple of the Sun. Here, the Sapa Inca calls on the blessings from the sun. Following the oration, Sapa Inca is carried on a golden throne, a replica of the original which weighed about 60 kilos, in a procession to the ancient fortress of Sacsayhuamán, in the hills above Cuzco. With the Sapa Inca come the high priests, garbed in ceremonial robes, then officials of the court, nobles and others, all elaborately costumed according to their rank, with silver and gold ornaments.

They walk along flower-bedecked streets, to music and prayers and dancing. Women sweep the streets to clear them of evil spirits. At Sacsayhuamán , where huge crowds await the arrival of the procession, Sapa Inca climbs to the sacred altar where all can see him.

Once all the celebrants are in place in the grand square of the fortress, there are speeches by Sapa Inca, the priests and representatives of the Suyos: the Snake for the world below, the Puma for life on earth, and the Condor for the upper world of the gods.

A white llama is sacrificed (now in a very realistic stage act) and the high priest holds aloft the bloody heart in honor of Pachamama. This is done to ensure the fertility of the earth which in combination with light and warmth from the sun provides a bountiful crop. The priests read the blood stains to see the future for the Inca.

As the sun begins to set, stacks of straw are set on fire and the celebrants dance around them to honor Tawantinsuty or the Empire of the Four Wind Directions. In ancient times, no fire was allowed that day until the evening fires.

The ceremony of Inti Raymi ends with a procession back to Cuzco. Sapa Inca and Mama Occla are carried on their thrones, the high priests and representatives of the Supas pronounce blessings on the people. Once again, a new year has begun.

While Alpaca encourages our staff to celebrate this important holiday, we will still be around to answer any of your questions.  Just be patient as the office will be closed from 12 – 4PM tomorrow for us all to have a little celebration.



With May Comes Huge Crowds to Cusco

1 May

Alpaca Logo 2013

Welcome to May everyone! We have officially entered the heart of the busiest time for tourism in this area. Many of you have treks coming up shortly and we just wanted to remind you of some key preparation points.

Cusco will begin getting overwhelmed with tourists and places will be booked.  Make sure you have all your reservations set for your upcoming trek.  Confirm your flights coming into the city – airlines are often changing the times.  It’s good to do a double check on everything about 2 weeks before you plan on arriving to Cusco.

Most important is weather. While May is part of the dry season here in Cusco, weather is completely unpredictable and it can absolutely rain at any moment. Be prepared. I have reminded everyone to bring jackets, pants and waterproof gloves. Especially for those of you trekking, when you are using your walking sticks your hands are exposed. Being wet with frozen hands is not fun. Please bring everything and hopefully you will only enjoy sun and can return it when you get back home.

Passports.  Please remember that not only does the Inca Trail permit have your passport listed on it, but all train tickets and entrances to Machu Picchu also require your current passport number.  You must show this when you enter each of those placesISIC and your passport needs to match what is on the ticket.  If you have received a new passport number, please give us the number immediately.  Also for you STUDENTS – only green ISIC cards will reward you with a discount, but this card must be valid and with you to allow you onto the Inca Trail or into Machu Picchu.  They check and they will not grant you access if you have a student ticket and no student ISIC card.

Pack light.  No matter which tour you are doing – train or trek – the trains to and from Aguas Calientes limit the size of your luggage to nothing larger than 8kg.  If you are doing a tour by train and have no small bag, please let our office know and we will lend you a small duffel bag.  Every hotel in Cusco is used to this and will store your larger luggage safely.  If you are not comfortable with this, we can do so as well.

Checking in to our office is very important.  We need to know that you have arrived safely to the city and are aware of your start times, no matter which tour you are doing.  Our office is located very close to the main square at Calle Heladeros 157, Office 24 – 25 on the 2nd floor. I am sure your hotel can help you to find where we are located. Please note that we are not the blue door that says ALPACA, that is another company across the street from us – we have a small black plaque above the doorframe that says in gold writing – ALPACA EXPEDITIONS and we are on the second floor of that building.

The altitude effects everyone differently and there is no way to predict this.  Even those of you that are avid skiiers and have spent some time in the mountains can suffer and some people have no effects at all.  It’s good to be prepared.  I definitely recommend visiting your Primary Care Physician or a travel doctor and getting some DIAMOX.  This should be a small dosage – either 125 mg twice a day or 250 mg once a day.  Try to not get the 500mg dosage – it is a diuretic.  Also, drink lots of liquid – non-alcoholic guys – this also helps acclimate.

Travel insurance is a good idea for those of you trekking.  Just in case someone does get hit hard with the effects of altitude sickness.  We have recommended a great insurance agent that can help, but honestly you can find others right online.  And this is really inexpensive.  Our point of contact is Jill Roth and she can be contacted at

If there is something you think we should address as far as other advice, please let us know and we will add.  Also check our website with some handy packing lists…

Journey is the Destination




Vaccinations and Travel Insurance

22 Apr

Many of you have asked about what vaccinations are needed for traveling to Peru. We think that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention really offers the best advice for this. Even your PCP will go to this site to make sure you are ready for travel. Below is the link and you will see some vaccinations are required and some are just suggested. If you are travelling the entire country I would do everything suggested, but if you are travelling to just Cusco you will have less worries. Malaria and Yellow Fever are not worries up in the mountains, but again, contact your physician to confirm. We are not doctors.

Also, for you trekkers specifically, travel insurance is strongly recommended. While we plan to take very good care of you and make sure nothing happens while you hike the Andes, some things are just not predicted. Rarely we have someone suffer from extreme altitude sickness, but this does occur from time to time and you might want to visit the clinic or hospital to get your body right. I think being safe and having some sort of insurance to help pay for any strange occurrence is not a bad idea. And travel insurance is not expensive.

We have recommended a great insurance agent for those in the US – Jill Roth from Ahart, Frenzi and Smith agency, but you can find other companies right online pretty easily. If you are interested in contacting Jill, her email address is

Just remember, we are here to help with any problem and will work for you to have an issue free vacation but its always better to be safe and covered.

Alpaca Expeditions Wins Silver for Best Travel Agency in Cusco in 2013

17 Oct

On Saturday evening, October 12th, Alpaca Expeditions won the Silver Q’ente Prize for Best Travel Agency in Cusco in the Adventure Tourism Travel Agent category. Alpaca was one of three agencies chosen out of hundreds that entered this year. The Q’ente Prizes are extremely prestigious as they are chosen by the Regional Tourism Board of Cusco.

These awards are given to companies that are dedicated to corporate responsibility. They encourage companies to create amazing vistor experiences while giving back to the local communinity in the Cusco region. Raul Ccolque, the owner of Alpaca, created this company with those exact goals in mind. While Alpaca aims to create treasured memories for all our travellers, we are also focused on making life better for those employed by Alpaca – guides, porters, office staff. We provide our entire team with proper wages, equipment and healthcare. We understand we would not be where we are today if it was not for our amazing “Green Machine” and are committed to them 100%. We also help all the villages that we pass through on our many different treks. We bring an extra porter with us on alternative treks to help clean the path as these trails are not protected by the National Park and are often left in bad condition from other trekkers. We bring food and provide hot drinks to the families that live there.

Alpaca is a young company but we hope with each year we will learn how we can improve conditions for everyone in the Cusco region and are dedicated to making life better for all.

Alpaca Expeditions founder Raul Ccolque and Manager Ronaldo Ccoqlue accepted the award on behalf of the company. It was a great night for us and we hope with hard work we will be celebrating many more.

Award Ceremony 2

Founder Raul Ccolque and Manager Ronaldo Ccolque accepted the Hummingbird Award

Award Ceremony 3

Presented the award by the President of Cusco Region, Jorge Acurio

Award Ceremony 5

Ccolque Brothers with their awards

Award Ceremony 6

Many of the Green Machine was on hand to celebrate this major achievement.

Peruvian Cuisine Showcased in NY City

25 Sep

untitledFor all of you New Yorkers, or those planning a trip to visit Manhattan next week, the 8th Annual International Chefs Congress will take place from September 29 – October 1, 2013 at Pier 57. And what makes it more special this year, Peru’s Export and Tourism Promotion Board (PromPeru) will attend this year’s showcase and display the international appeal and gastronomic innovation of the Andean country.

The aim is to promote Peru’s cuisine among American opinion leaders and the country as a dining destination in that market.

Likewise, the entity intends to promote agribusiness and fishery products for human consumption that are part of the Peruvian exportable offer and are typical of the food supplies.

This is just another step in establishing Peru as a world leader in culinary art.