Click to view Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Cuzco and Machu Picchu, Peru.
One of my favorite things about Sol’s Inca Trail guided tours is visiting the city of Cuzco. At 11,000 feet in elevation, the old city of Cuzco is a delightfully vibrant hub of activity and culture. Cuzco, ancient Royal City of the Inca, was captured by a small army of Spanish invaders who destroyed the native people, their indigenous culture, and their temples of gold. Evidence of the Spanish victory is the enormous Catholic Cathedral was erected virtually on top of one of the holiest sites of the Inca.
Aside from the learning the history of Cuzco, my favorite Cuzco past time by far is seeking out the delicious Peruvian cuisine. I need to fuel-up for the challenging Inca Trail guided tours, after all, and what better way to acclimate than eat and rest?
Tucked away among the narrow cobblestone streets are hidden eateries, food stands, and markets offering everything from papas fries to creamy vegetable soups. My first visit to Cuzco required a visit to the eatery of Central Market. My friend Ami and I ate 30 cent tamales at the same stand where TV food critic Anthony Bourdain sat during his 2006 visit. I watched the market happenings with amusement as we devoured several tamales and made small talk with the vendors. There was a poor beggar kneeling in the entrance, babies sleeping on the mothers backs at the spice sacks, toddlers running around in spider man costumes. The most shocking sight was this dog who decided to take a leak between the food stalls! What stunned me more was the fact that nobody seemed to mind! It was evidence of what Maribel, our local Cuzco guide, told us, that “these are happy dogs, because they are free!”
Perhaps the most memorable Cuzco eating event happened the next day at lunch. Amie and I once again set out to find a tucked-away restaurant serving a local specialty: guinea pig. WAIT – did I say, guinea pig, as in the popular American pet, guinea pig? Yes, that’s right, cobayo. And yes, it’s a popular childhood pet here in Peru, too, but that doesn’t stop them from enjoying a good meal. As we waited with great anticipation for our delicacy of a lunch, the sound of a screeching rooster being strangled and beheaded echoed off the outdoor canopy covering of the restaurant. We were happy that we didn’t order the chicken. Our guinea pig feast arrived on a platter of roasted vegetables, head, whiskers, organs, and all. There wasn’t a lot of meat on the little guy, but there was was delicious!
There is so much wonderful Peruvian food that I could go on and on for days. But what would a food-lovers blog be without mention of the enticingly pink indigenous beverage chich de moran? Perhaps the oldest home brew, chich originates in Chincheron, site of an ancient brewery dating back to 1,000 years ago. Locals of all ages imbibed in tall glasses of the frothy flavor, its pink color perfectly suited to the colorful traditional costumes worn by co-op vendors.
If you enjoyed this post of a food-loving, hiking, camping traveler, join Sol Fitness Adventures on one of our Inca Trail guided tours. Our 8 Day/9 Night excursions include a visit to Cuzco as well as a 4 day Machu Picchu backpacking trip on the Inca Trail. Click to view Sol’s Inca Trail Trek photo gallery.