Archive for the Category »Cuzco «

  Travel Tip Tuesday: Don’t Talk to the Concierge…

Don’t get me wrong – sometimes hotel concierges can be immensely helpful, and incredibly friendly. They have helped me on many occassions, especially when traveling internationally.

However…. don’t go to them when you need restaurant reservations if you want true local favorites. Or at least, don’t only go to them. Many times they have relationships with restaurants and only recommend certain ones. Ask other hotel staff… or even an employee in a store that you visit and like.

When in Peru recently, we dined in many old, historic buildings, which we absolutely loved. But – you know how this goes – the kids got a little tired of the local, foreign dishes – like alpaca – see menu below.

Se we ventured off and asked a local for some kid-friendly food – and got a great recommendation -

….Italian, in a fresh, hip setting!

The little town of Cuzco, Peru is a gem, with so many wonderful architectural stand outs, you just want to absorb every cultural tidbit possible. But – It is OK to not taste the local fare every now and then – especially when traveling with kids!

Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers… ask for their thoughts on sites, food, shops, etc. Go off the guide book – The more info the more choices for you!

Happy spring!

  Taking the Kids to Peru: Final Days -and Lima WOW!

The last days of our Adventures by Disney tour to Peru found us with a lot of time on our own to wander the streets and ruins of Cuzco and Lima.

I will leave you with the last images I have in my head about these two very different but both wonderful cities.


The doors in Cuzco were amazing – all over the main square. Such craftsmanship.

Lima was breathtaking at sunset on a Sunday, when all the families were out and about.

Lima, Peru

Both are must see stops on any trip to Peru.

Two highlights though…. Our final dinner together as a tour group was made special by the tour guides – They always say when you travel with a tour you really get to know the people with whom you journey. This is especially true for a Disney tour – they infuse every step of the way with fun, and a positive environment.

The final dinner was where we had our “white elephant” exchange – we all bought small tokens from the Pisca market, and wrapped them – you had to be creative because wall you had to work with was what was in your hotel room or your suitcase!

It was a fun night.

Our final lunch together in Lima was a true treat. We got inside one of the oldest private homes in Lima, which has been in the same families for generations. It was right next door to the presidential palace…

Lima, Peru

Downtown Lima is gorgeous. It was such a surprise – the architecture in the main square rivals other world class cities.

It was a perfect way to end our super adventure – in awe and  leaving us wanting more.  We walked away with new friends… and new found appreciation for Peru and the Incas.

Happy Travels to you!

  Taking the Kids To Peru: Day 5 Shopping the Markets and Lovin’ the Llamas!

Day 5 of my family adventure: This could very well be my kids’ favorite day in Peru

We left our home at Sol Y Luna to venture to our next hotel in Cuzco. The way our tour group, Adventures by Disney, broke up the all of the drive time worked really well.

Our first stop along the way: Pisca Market. To make shopping seem fun to kids, the Disney tour guides gave everyone 10 soles to spend… but you had to buy a gift for a white elephant exchange at our group’s last dinner together. Creative and fun idea!

The kids really took pride in picking a gift among the traditional chotchkies you’d find in Peru – hats and scarves made from alpaca, dolls, beaded jewelry, etc. The prices are so cheap  – the dollar goes far. It is not hard to bargain here, by the way.

The kids all made friends .. the young Peruvian girls dressed in traditional garb charge you to take a photo with them and their animals.  Even though you know it is a more tourist trap than National Geographic moment, you can’t resist, and want to give them something because frankly, there are many poor people in that country.

My youngest was particularly drawn to the dogs in Peru… I’ve never seen anything like it, but all the dogs roam freely on the streets. They are not kept in a yard at home…. they are not on leashes. Sometimes they seem so busy running through the cities, it is as if they are late to a very important meeting. My son found every dog and had to pet it. :) The language of dog lovers is the same everywhere.

Awana Kancha Llama Farm

From the market, we headed to Awana Kancha – another place I can’t imagine learning about without the sage guidance of a good tour group. At this point, we were all impressed with how easy it was to be part of a tour – you are able to experience the present better because as parents we weren’ t worrying about where our next meal would be, how we would get to our next location, or where we could buy a bottle of water.

Awana Kancha is an exotic animal farm of sorts -

With Suuth American “camels” to with which to interact!

My kids loved feeding the llamas and alpacas -

Some were aggressive and chased my six year old. They all had a great time.

Part of this living museum is that visitors also learn about how the animals’ soft wool is used to make beautiful woven textiles.  Then the next thing you know you are whisked from a dusty, dirty grass patch with alpaca roaming, into a marble-floored, air conditioned indoor mall selling all sorts of very nice Peruvian sweaters and souvenirs. It felt totally out of place, but was some of the best shopping we’d had – at a llama farm! It is so exclusive, we weren’t even allowed to photograph it…

After fraternizing with our furry friends, we finally reached our destination: Cuzco, a city of about 350,000 that disarms one with it’s unexpected charm.

Cuzco, Peru

Cobblestone streets… Beyond gorgeous churches…And all very clean.

There are 300 Catholic churches in this small town – these churches weren’t like the ones you see in Europe by the way – in general they were more intimate, but equally ornate, with alters of carved gold detail.

Cuzco is an Incan city, and was once headquarters to the Incan Empire.. and our hotel was once the home of one of the Spanish Conquistadors.

The Libertador is a regal hotel, and you can see the Spanish influence in the architecture. It is walking distance to the main square which is great with kids.

Even though it is an ultra elegant hotel, the staff was uber-friendly to children. Some of the nicest staff I have encountered in all my travels. The only bummer was no internet service in the rooms, only the public areas. At this point I had been offline for about a week, and needed to check on some things back at the ranch.

That night we ate a super gourmet meal at a restaurant – Limo. Because Cuzco is of high altitude, many people were feeling the effects – even after being in Machu Picchu. It can hit pretty suddenly so be prepared.

It didn’t stop us from walking back to our hotel from dinner – with the lights on the nearby hillside sparkling as our guide.

Lima, Peru

Tomorrow: The bustling cities of Peru.

  Taking The Kids To Peru: Day 2 & River Rafting

Machu Picchu, Peru, Jan, 2012

This week I am chronicling my recent family trip  to Peru with Adventures by Disney. It will give you insight into taking a guided tour rather than going it alone, and shine a light on a bucket list destination, that is educational for children too.

Day 2 found us waking to a beautiful sunshine morning…. the birds chirping was our alarm clock. Perfect setting for our  thrilling river rafting trip between lush Andean mountains through the Sacred Valley.

You may be asking yourself…. Is she crazy to take her young kids rafting in a third world country? What if something should happen? No, I am not loco.

What you will learn about my particular tour operator, Disney, is that the company is uber conservative, and ultra concerned about safety.

Adventures by Disney Guided Tours Took Us Rafting

Case in point: At the last minute, the guides changed the location of the rafting trip because the rains the day before swelled the river, causing rougher, class 6 rapids. They said the new location had Class 1 and 2, and “Maybe” 3 rapids…. their estimation really ended up being a float, not more than class 1.

They also made sure there was a trained guide on every raft….

and an extra solo guide on a catamaran-like vessel who went ahead of everyone, making sure the path was safe, and also hanging around in case anyone fell out.

Although these mellow waters were not a blood rushing experience that older children may have had bragging rights about, it was perfect for the younger kids… and the adults thoroughly enjoyed the relaxing nature and the incredibly beautiful scenery. We all had fun.

The great thing about this organized tour, is that the Disney guides have bottled water for you anytime you want it, and provide snacks between meals if you need it. So after a snack and a quick change into dry clothes, we were off to the second part of the day – the old Inca town of Ollantaytambo. (If you notice the pattern here, Disney seems to organize the days with 50% something fun for kids, and 50% something cultural and educational that they try to make the most engaging.)

Something struck me about Ollantaytambo… not the largest… not the cleanest or even most developed town… but it felt very authentic, despite being a popular starting point for thousands who hike the Inca Trail.

The guides arranged a buffet lunch of Peruvian fare (as always) at this charming little garden, and then we explored the ancient Incan ruins on the hillside.

What you MUST research about Peru before you go, because it is inescapable once you get there, is a little bit about the Incan Empire… and teach your kids about it too. The Incan Empire was the largest pre-Columbian empire in America. It was headquarted in Cuzco.

Incan Ruins at Ollantaytambo, Peru

The Incas were eventually conquered by the Spanish, but their ruins are well preserved around the Cuzco area. Ollantaytambo is the perfect example – we hiked the hillside to see a 600 year old temple.

Incan Ruins at Ollantaytambo, Peru

This was an intimate intro  to Incan construction style, which we would later in the trip learn more about at Machu Picchu. The Incas were known for their precise joints between boulders – and how tightly each rock fit together. Look how closely the rocks are bound – not even a piece of paper could slip through. More astonishing is that they used no mortar.

After the tour, we wandered the cobble stone streets of this town, then headed back to the hotel for dinner…. and the kids had dinner and movie night with the Disney guides! They loved it, and the parents got a little break!

Tomorrow: Exploring the picturesque salt mines.

  Taking The Kids To Peru: Day 1 – Beautiful Countryside And Culture

In my last post I told you I just got back from an Adventures by Disney guided trip to Peru. In the next week I will describe the experience so you can get a feel of taking a family-oriented tour, and learn about family-friendly things to do in an exotic land.

The first day we arrived at our hotel in Lima, Peru a little past midnight – rather late, and painful because our flight the next morning to Cuzco, Peru required us to be up at 6:30 AM.

Arriving in Lima, Peru after midnight

Even though the Disney Adventure Guides are lively  even at midnight, (note photo LOL,) ***my HUGE recommendation to you is to arrive a day early  before moving around again.  Give yourself and your kids a chance to adjust to the time change. Trust me on this – it sets the tone for the first few days of the trip. It is worth any extra money so you are fresh and alert for the first activities. We were all zombies.

I had never jumped at the idea of an organized tour…but before our flight from Lima to Cuzco the next morning, we gave our baggage to the Disney Adventure guides, and didn’t see it again until we arrived at our next hotel later that evening.

No schlepping – nada.  Disney checked all of our luggage through security. Plus one in “Organized Tour” column.

Andes, Peru

After the hour long flight, we were off to the Andean village of Chinchero, in the mountains of Cuzco, Peru. At  12,500 above sea level, some travelers in our group  felt the altitude effects right away. The kids fared very well – we made sure they drank plenty of water. TIP:  See your doctor before you visit high elevations like Cuzco or Machu Picchu. I took some altitude meds and felt Uh-Mazing the entire trip.

Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco, Peru

At the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco in Chinchero, the ancient custom of weaving is on full display.

We saw demonstrations  on how to weave some of the traditional blankets one would associate with the Latin American country.

We saw the alpaca wool being made into yarn… and the whole loom process, still done by hand.

It can take months to make something like the blanket above.

This stop is one of many cultural experience that Adventures by Disney tries to “weave” into it’s trips.  The benefit of this kind of family-friendly tour is that the guides try to keep it entertaining for the kids… thus, the parade of Peruvian clothes on everyone. The whole experience was an interesting contrast to the fast-paced, commercially mass-produced life in the United States.

We had a nice catered lunch there under a canopy, another plus for the tour to not have to think about where to eat. We then saw our first torrential downpour – and hail! (Which is what my six year old won’t forget) The Disney guides have ponchos for guests – they are prepared for all conditions.

From there, we were ready to crash after the exhausting travel…but made a trek through the beautiful country side of Peru to our hotel in the Sacred Valley.

The scenery is peaceful… Agriculture is big there… We passed many farms, and many poor houses made simply of adobe and grass roofs. The local guides told us most houses are made of adobe because it can cost only $1000 to build.

Sol Y Luna Hotel, Sacred Valley, Peru

The beautiful Hotel Sol Y Luna, surround by the Andean mountains, was our home for the next four nights.

It is not short on charm, but in a third world country, you can’t always have every amenity when you need it – like internet service. If you take a trip like this, I wouldn’t plan on having much time to be on your computer, but also don’t count on a connection 100% of the time in a remote location like this. I only know because I had to get out one document for business.

That night – we ate dinner in the hotel, which has lively and colorful Peruvian decor.

Dining Room at Sol Y Luna Hotel, Peru

The meal preparation was fascinating – an unorthodox BBQ by our standards, but common cuisine in Peru…

The chefs dug a deep hole in the ground, put all the meat in, then covered with burning hot coals. The coals are then covered with blankets to keep the steam in, and waa-laa! The meat is cooked with a flavorful smoked taste. As entertaining as it was delicious.

After dinner,  we watched an authentic Peruvian show, which felt like a performance we would see at Epcot, coincidentally. Credit to Disney  to incorporate the local culture. There is never a dull moment on a this tour, but once in a while you may need some down time. The kids were so tired, we wanted to get them back to their rooms to bed. Once again, arriving a day earlier could help you and your kids adjust and not be so tired.

The Sol Y Luna casitas were cozy, and the next morning we were ready for a thrilling river raft down the magical Sacred Valley. Check back in tomorrow….