Cultural experiences in Cusco
Peru has the richest cultural history in the world. The main native languages are Quechua and Aymara. Modern metropolitan Cusco is a fascinating mix of traditions from the mighty Inca civilization and Spanish conquerors. The greatness of the Incas, is made evident by how the Spanish couldn’t wipe out their culture and history, even though they tried.
There are many holidays celebrated in Cusco that showcase the deep-set cultural rituals of the people of Peru. June is the liveliest month in the country, most holidays take place this month, the streets are buzzing with color, food, music and dance.
Inti- Raymi (Festival of the sun) takes place on the 24th of June to celebrate the winter solstice which is on the 21st of June. This is the biggest festival in Peru and was important to the ancient Incas for their agriculture.
Corpus Christi, a color and traditional ritual celebrated 60 days after Easter Sunday. There is an abundance of local Peruvian food.
Qoyllur Rit´I (snow star) a festival held at the summit of the sacred Ausangate Mountain. The ritual celebrates the shared love and adoration for Apus in indigenous communities. Apus is a representation of the spirits of the mountains. This mythology dates back to the Inca Empire, they view the mountains at great spiritual beings, that radiate special energies capable of providing protection and prosperity.
Peruvian culture is also represented in the way the more traditional locals dress. The art of weaving is still very much alive and still part of the daily lives of the people in the highland regions. They create beautiful colorful garment from the wool of Alpacas and Llamas. They use natural dyes from roots and plants, to make those vibrant colors.
Another great thing about Peru is the food. The food is world famous and has had a lot influence from the many different settlers of Peru over the years. They have dishes that represent both their culture and spiritual side like Pachamanca.
Dance and music are a big part of their lives. In the historical center (Plaza De armas) of Cusco, you will find random shows being performed just for your entertainment.
The best Culture hikes in Cusco
The Lares Trek is a multi- day hike that goes through indigenous communities high up in the Andes Mountains. Most of the communities did not have electricity until recently. They sustain themselves through farming, weaving and raising alpacas and llamas. The Lares Trek remains mostly untouched by the modern world. It has breath taking glacial lakes and surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountain peaks. Also found in the penultimate point of this hike are natural and therapeutic spring waters. This hike gives a great opportunity to interact with locals, learn some weaving, peak up a few Quechua phrases from the locals using your guide as a translator, learn how they still continue their ancient Inca farming practices using the star constellations and also interact with local kids by visiting a family or school. Unique Lares Trek.
Huchuy Qosqo is the shortest trail to Machu Picchu. Meaning ¨little Cusco¨, a royal palace or government center modelled right outside of Cusco. Cusco was the capital city of the Incas, so there is great significance to the ruins that can be found flanking the city. During the Huchuy trek you get to spend the night with a local family and enjoy a scrumptious dinner with them. You get insight into authentic Andean Communities. This community also uses ancient farming techniques and will gladly teach you this art before it becomes a lost art. Huchuy Trail to Machu Picchu
Since 2003, Pachamanca has been declared a cultural heritage of the nation and National Pachamanca day is celebrated on the first Sunday of February. It’s also a popular dish on special occasions like birthdays, weddings and many other special holidays.
Pachamanca is a Quechua (indigenous language of Peru) word that directly translates to Pacha¨earth¨ and Mancha ¨pot¨. It’s a traditional mixed dish made from hot stones underground and it dates back to the Inca Empire. This type of cooking has had a major ceremonial significance to the people of Peru for many generations. A ritual that’s regularly performed in the highland regions. It does not have a set date. The locals perform this ritual to give back to Pachamama (mother earth) by cooking the food in the earth (underground) and when the food is ready, expressing gratitude to what Pachamama has provided.
The dish includes a variety of ingredients, like different types of potatoes, corn, pineapple, fava beans, plantains and a variety of meats like chicken, beef, pork, llama, alpaca, all depending on your taste and preference. Lastly, they add herbs and spices to taste. Try a pachamancha tour to experience this: Cusco, Chinchero, Salt Mines, Moray, ATV and Pachamanca.
The Sacred Valley goes through a very important section of the Cusco region. Most indigenous communities live in small communities scattered all through the valley.
Just outside Cusco is an amazing farm with a collection of the Camelid family which is made of seven main species. Yes, this is the camel family, four are found in South America and the other 3 are only found in Asia. The four species in Peru include the Llama, Alpaca, Guanos and the Vicuna which is the National Animal of Peru.
Inside the farm, you get to pet, feed and take pictures with these weird and wonderful animals. Going through the center, you can watch the ladies in their traditional garments weaving different things, using wool from the camelids. You also get to experience the natural way in which they dye the wool, using roots and indigenous plants. At the exit, there is a museum with a souvenir shop. You can buy the most authentic alpaca garments and if your budget allows, the more luxurious and protected Vicuna creations. The Vicuna has the softest material, it feels lush and luxurious.
The salt mines of Salineras gives you a taste of an age-old tradition, that has no changed for many generations. The people in this community have been harvesting salt for many years. It’s a rich custom and tradition that has passed saltpans from one generation to the next. This has been their main source of income and they have exclusive rights to these mines. Salineras is one of the very few salt mines thats left in the world to have not switched to more modern techniques.
The Incas created a natural greenhouse to test the optimal growing temperature for their crops. The locals were still using it for growing their crops, until the 1970s when it was recently reserved and protected for tourism. The town of Moray is surprisingly flat, compared to the hilly parts of the Sacred Valley. It’s also much warmer, which could have made food storage difficult. When you drive towards Ollantaytambo, you notice on the outskirts of the town, how they are trying to preserve this old age tradition and still farm on different levels of the mountain sides.
Try this tour to experience the Sacred Valley: Luxury Sacred Valley Tour.