The peruvian pisco path


Original from the cultural and ethnic mix of Spain and Peru’s native roots, Pisco is a pure distilled from grapes that represents feast and celebration. About the origins of the word “pisco”, the lexicologist Cesar Angeles Caballero identifies four causes; the first one situated in pre columbian times that blends with hispanic elements set up by the spanish Colonies.


On the other hand, quechua natives of the now Ica region used to call  “pisku” the diverse species of birds that inhabit the place, a word that eventually would transformed into “Pisco” and identified the same geographical area. About its ethnic origins, Angeles also indicates that from pre hispanic times, groups descendents from Paracas, who lived in the area where the port of Pisco is now located, were very handy with pottery. This community, that would have been conquered by the Inca Pachacutec, elaborated containers from clay that were used to store all kind of liquids -mainly chicha-. These containers were called “piskos” and, when the spanish arrived, it started to be used to kept brandy made of the grape that was produced in the area.


That is why drinking pisco in one of the best ways of getting to know Peru. If you haven’t try it like it’s supposed to, we recommend you to follow the path of the Pisco Route.


Departing from Lima, the first stop is Lunahuaná. There is no better start than El Paraiso’s pisco cellar. This place produces one of the most awarded Pisco Italia. Other pisco cellars, such as El Olimpo and Los Reyes, are also quite emblematic. But if you really want to soak up the whole experience of the variety in the zone, stroll around La Casa del Pisco, located in the main square of Lunahuaná.


Nowadays, Ica is know to be the land of pisco. Over there are so many pisco cellars that is hard to pay a visit to all of them; nevertheless, you can’t go without tasting the Cholo Matías pisco and, if it is possible, visiting the family that produces it: they a great variety of grapes and the best pisco made ​​from them: Quebranta, Italia, Albilla, Torontel, Moscatel, among others.


In the same area, Caravedo’s pisco cellar offers the best macerated pisco in Peru. Their preparations contain ecological pisco, very characteristic of this cellar owned by Rodrigo Pesquiera. There is also Mrs. Juanita, from the estate Tres Esquinas, known to everyone as “La Dama del Pisco” or the Lady of Pisco. It’s worthy to pay a visit to Mrs. Juanita and listen to her singing to her grapes. But if you want to meet the bad boys of pisco, the pure strain “pisqueros”, ask for the FBI (Federation of Drinkers of Ica), leaded by Chaucato Mejía -permanent president-. The vivid group will surprise you with the Pisco Macho of 48°.


Another land that is also known for its pisco tradition is Moquegua, were cellars are very close to each other and connected by perfect signaling (the only signboards in Peru that indicate the route of Pisco). It is very common to see in this area to all of the producers of this beverage passing to one and other a little glass of pisco; they start with a bottle and finish “testing” all of the pisco offered in the region.


Biondi is a pisco cellar we also recommend in Moquegua; aswell as El Mocho pisco, from Norville’s cellar, with its one liter alembic, and the pisquero Tito Paredes, three treasures you can’t miss.


We hope you take advantage of these tips we shared you and include your own personal variants in your pisco path. You never know what surprises you may find in the way…


Juliaca: a town of history

The history of Juliaca -from the quechua word xullasca, which means covered in snow- goes back thousand of years. The first evidence of life ever found was from the year 10000 a.C of hunters and gatherers. The reason for this, it is believed, was the weather -less aggressive in those years- which contributed to the proliferation of many animals like vizcachas, deers and camelids (llamas, alpacas, vicunas) and birds, all of these, apparently, favorite food of the new habitants.


Then, with the discovery of pottery, a new culture emerged. Qaluyo -the first of the area-, later followed by cultures like Pukara -around mountain Waynarroque- and Tiwanaku, and by the III and IV century d.C, Qaluyo became a society now known as Waynarroque Culture. The Waynarroque dedicated to agriculture, livestock, fishing and hunting.


Approximately from the VII to the X century, Tiwanaku’s colonist state -the most important pre Inca civilization- took control of great part of the plateau that would later became into Kollasuyo. The Juliaca people, however, in spite of geographically being under the domain of Tiwanako, did not receive much of its cultural influence -this allowed them to developed almost independently- because Juliaca belonged to the Aymara Kingdom of Qolla.


The Incas would have come later. Guided by Pachacutec, they fought -and won- against the Qolla army that was ruled by Chuchi Capac. The victories occurred in Ayaviri and Pukara, which would have become from that moment a part of Tawantinsuyo´s territory. The Qollas rebelled in many occasions but by 1474 they were subjugated and later relocated to settlements, where they were found by the spanish that came with the conquest around the XVI century and with the purpose of transforming Xullaca town into Juliaca, incorporating it to the Buenos Aires viceroyalty.



Millenarian Taquile


Floating in the vastness of Lake Titicaca, three hours sailing from Puno, you can find Taquile, a small island inhabited by an ancient Quechua community that has kept intact its traditional customs and forms of social organization -former to the Incas- where common life and collective decision making are priority. From here it can be appreciated the expanse of the Titicaca and, in the distance, the snowy Cordillera Real in Bolivia, certainly a spectacular view.


One of the main attractions of Taquile is that its people are owners of a weaving tradition that dates back to the ancient Colla, Pucara and Inca civilizations. Even today, they use old techniques to produce their tissues, considered among the finest in the world. UNESCO even named them “Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.


And for a community that stands out for its beautiful looms, its inhabitants could not be left behind; taquileños have a peculiar way of dressing, men wear black pants, white shirt and a short jacket, that depending on its color and shape defines the role of each person in the community. Likewise, the way they use the chullo separates married man from singles, and those in search of a partner. Women, on the other hand wear red blouses and multicolored skirts that they cover with a black one. And to protect their faces from the strong sun, they use a hat typical of the place.

Taquileños are also known for the innovative tourism model implemented by the community since the seventies, offering tourists to stay at their homes and share their daily life activities, such as sheep and guinea pig breeding, fishing on Lake Titicaca, and potato crops.


There are two seasons in Taquile, a rainy and a dry one. Nonetheless in both seasons the days are warm and the nights are cold, so it is advisable to go prepared. The experience is unforgettable.


Inexplicable Markawasi


Markawasi (4000 m) is an enigmatic stone forest, located in the mountain range of Lima, on which much has been written. Several authors, fascinated by the mysterious and imposing landscape, have attributed the origin of its unusual geological formations to ancient cultures that are lost in time, while others have attributed it to beings from other galaxies.


In this regard, it is known a study made ​​by Dr. Daniel Ruzo in 1952, “Marcahuasi, history of discovery”, which postulated that the plateau was inhabited, in ancient times, by the so called “culture Masma”, a civilization which would have left stone figures around the world. This is why the eerie silence surrounding the plateau, the huge mountains around and the energy that seems to radiate from the stones, make this place one of the most mystical of the planet.


The fact is that Markawasi is important not only for its stone sculptures, but for being the center of origin of the early history of Andean culture, with its archaeological remains in the area known as Fortaleza, the pre-Inca chullpas, irrigation channels, its observation center and stunning volcanic stone amphitheater, to which are added the lagoons and the biodiversity of the high andean ecosystem, making it an ideal place to practice ecological and cultural tourism.


The first references to Markawasi Plateau are in the chronicles about the myths of the area, as well as notes from explorers like Dr. Julio C. Tello. But the most important contribution is that by Dr. Ruzo, who photographed hundreds of human and animal sculptures -of which the best known is, perhaps, the Monument to Humanity-, that must be observed from a specific angle and when the sun is in an exact sector in heaven.


The Quechua name “Markawasi” means “house of the people”. It is a plateau glacier -probably once ice covered- with volcanic rocks which form a spectacular site with cliffs, large flat areas, ponds and of course, abundant rocks are carved by abrasion and other geological agents such as rain and wind.


To get there you must go first through San Pedro de Casta (90 km from Lima), a town renowned for its traditional water festival. From there you walk three hours to the area known as Amphitheatre. You can contact guides in town. We recommend warm clothing for the night and if you plan to stay overnight at the site is essential a tent and a good sleeping bag.



The Magical Iscata Island


Located in the “capital of Aymara folklore “, also known as the district of Acora (Puno) Iscata Island is a destination that is little known and not part of traditional tours that take place on Lake Titicaca. However, its bucolic landscapes, white sandy beaches and its typical houses built of adobe with roofs of reeds -which are known as Q’otos-, transform this picturesque town in a magical place .


The Iscata Island , 50 km of Puno, is where the festivities are held annually on the anniversary of the ancient highland city, which portrays the output of Manco Capac and Mama Occlo -founders of the Empire of the Incas- from lake Titicaca. Also, each September 15 they celebrate their traditional festival in honor of the town’s patron, the Virgin Mary of the Nativity -image brought by the Spanish in 1580- with native dances and costumes from the region.


If you are around Puno, be sure to visit Iscata. You will be surprised with this little known and fascinating side of the plateau of Collao.


A walk through Nor Yauyos – Cochas

The Landscape Reserve Nor Yauyos – Conchas is considered one of the most beautiful sceneries of Peru. Within the reserve you can enjoy several interesting and attractive activities, as it has beautiful snow capped mountains, turquoise lagoons, multiple waterfalls, canyons, gorges, forests of queñual trees, archaeological remains and a variety of flora and fauna.


To get there, you need to take the Panamerican South Highway to Cañete (km 140), then turn in to the path that leads to Lunahuaná. From there, proceed to Huancaya, main town of the reserve, located 320 km from Lima (about 6-7 hours). It is advisable to make the trip in a 4×4 truck if possible, if you want to continue the path to Vilca and Pachacayo.

Historically, the area is extremely rich, having many evidences which indicate the advanced agricultural development that have come to have the old Yauyos. In the reserve we can observe ruins, canals and pre-Inca terraces. Yauyos was a warrior culture that came to dominate the Valley of Santa Eulalia and a part of the Rímac. Their living spaces were authentic vertical archipelagos and spoke a set of dialects of Aru language, from which survives, until today, the Jaqaru.


In the area of the Reserve Nor Yauyos Conchas temperatures can exceed 20 ° C, so it is advisable to protect yourself with sunscreen and wear a hat or cap. The nights are cool, below 10 ° C, so it is necessary to carry coats and warm clothes. The rainy season goes from November to March, as in the other villages in the mountains. The best months to visit are April and May when the rains have ceased and the entire landscape is covered with a green mantle.

In the villages of Huancaya and Vilca is possible to find many accommodations as well as ideal areas for camping and enjoy a day outdoors with family or friends. Don’t stop coming.



Quechua Cultural Corridor


What we generally know as “Quechua culture” is, contrary to what is believed, previous to the Incas and would have been built since the earliest times of the Chavin culture. Its latest cultural expression was the language Quechua or Runa Simi -the language of the people- which would expanded through the central Andes to encompass the full extent of the territories currently occupied by Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia and part of Argentina. Quechua would have reached the southern Peru -Cusco and Puno- later, where it was influenced by the other native language of this part of the world, the Aymara.


And Puno, cradle of culture Tiahuanaco, is the region where the Quechua-Aymara culture shock has been perpetuated on two routes that have been called “Quechua Cultural Corridor ” and “Aymara Cultural Corridor”. In this note we will tell you about the first and, the tourist attractions found on this route.


Quechua Cultural Corridor consists of a journey through picturesque villages located on the banks of Lake Titicaca. The journey begins with a visit to the village of Paucarcolla, its church, the cave mines,Totorani Falls and Vizcacha Pucara.


The next stop is in Hatuncolla, a small village with houses that have been prepared for tourists to see the way they live and organize their people. The architecture of the houses introduces elements brought by the Spanish conquerors, as the arch -an unknown structure to the indigenous populations-, on top of which is usually place the famous “little bulls of Pucara”.


In Sillustani, on the shore of the lagoon Umayo, you will see the pre-Inca (Kolla) and Inca cemetery. The tombs, called chullpas, built in stone, are shaped like inverted cones; constructions that are also found in fewer amount in other places of the plateau, as Acora or Ilave.


The Isle of Taquile (Intika in Quechua), on Lake Titicaca, belongs to the district of Amantani, and is located 45 km from Puno. Intika was part of the Inca Empire, so that even today you can see some archaeological remains. This was one of the last places that capitulated against the Spanish in the sixteenth century.


For its part, on the island of Amantani -where 800 families live spread across 8 communities- the people are engaged in agriculture -cultivation of potatoes, oca, barley and beans-, and raising cattle. The textile industry is similar to that of Taquile, both in variety and design.


Pucara will enrapture you. With its pre-Inca ruins, old colonial churches, and rich clay crafts (their little Pucara bulls are famous). The Pucara culture history dates back to 500 BC. -having as main background the cultures of Qaluyo in the north and Chiripa in the south of lake Titicaca, and is characterized by its large constructions shaped as pyramids that integrated a great pre-Columbian city with sculptural monuments.


Considered the cattle capital of Peru, Ayaviri has several attractions such as the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi (1696), one of the most beautiful historical monuments of the department, with its baroque architecture and its walls adorned with oil paintings of the Cusco School.


In Lampa, city known as “City of the 7 Wonders” we find the Temple of Santiago Apostle, built between 1675 and 1685. Within the images of the temple is the image of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, made in plaster and brought from Spain between the years 1792-1795 (late sixteenth century) with the name of Virgen del Pilar. Among its attractions is also include Sutuca chullpas, Tarucani, Tacara, Huayta (Inka times), Ccatacha, and strengths or pukaras of Aukyni, Pukarani (Nicasio) and Lamparaquen.


Like most of the Andean people, Azangaro‘s primal foundation is lost in the darkness of time, so it is estimated to have had two foundations: one pre Inca or Quechua, and the other as a result of the Spanish conquest.


The origin of its name is not clear, but the local writings assign different stories for the creation of Macusani. One of them related to a princess named Maicusa, whom would have been rescued and protected in their places during a chase of war. It is unclear, however, the “kingdom” to wich she belonged. Among its attractions we have the imposing mountains surrounding it, its thermal springs, and the archaeological remains of Pitumarca, phusa ruins and mysterious paintings.

The tour ends in Sandia, a nice little town at Candamo’s river basin, an ideal place to practice adventure tourism and ecotourism in their tropical forests.


If you are in Puno, you can not miss the opportunity of visiting the Quechua Cultural Corridor, a route steeped in history and Andean tradition.



Millennial Chinchero


As frozen in time, surrounded by the majestic Salkantay, Veronica and Soray is Chinchero, the tranquil village of weavers and, probably, the best preserved Andean traditions keeper -costumes, quechua and ancestral customs- wide Sacred Valley.

The villagers still live in Chinchero Inca constructions inherited from their ancestors, here stands out the Church of Our Lady of Monserrat, built in 1607, on what would have been the palace of Inca Tupac Yupanqui. Inside, we found an altar carved in gold leaf Baroque, dedicated to Our Lady of the Nativity. Its walls are decorated with works by Diego Quispe Tito, leader of the Cusco School.


The fabrics made by the people of Chinchero are loaded with symbolism and is a great way to keep alive their history, expressing, in their designs and colors, their knowledge about planting and harvesting seasons as well as the reproductive cycles of the herds, both transcendental activities for the community.

There are several shops in the village where you can see the textile production -process that develops in the same way that was done since the days of ethnic Killke before the Incas- and buy one of these looms full of history and Andean tradition.

Another attraction is the Chinchero Sunday market. In this fair, which lasts one day, the native settlers, dressed in colorful costumes, come down from their communities and crowd into the main square to exchange their products, some using the ancient technique of barter or exchange.


Chinchero is 28 km northwest of Cusco and is a must to learn more about the traditional customs of the Andes resident.


The mysterious convent of Santa Catalina


Behind its heavy wooden doors and completely isolated from the external vicissitudes, lived the nuns at the Monastery of St. Catherine of Siena, a religious citadel founded during the reign of Viceroy Francisco Toledo, at the request of council, in 1579.


Located in the historic center of Arequipa, a city founded by the Spanish in 1540, would be Doña Maria de Guzman, widow of Diego Hernández de Mendoza, the first settler and prioress of Saint Catherine, who after the death of her husband decided to retreat to the monastery, to which she gave all of her possessions. From 1580, she would allow the entry of other women -Creole, mestizo and daughters of noble families- to take the habits and by the mid-eighteenth century, the citadel was known to be the home of 300 nuns, who could not leave the monastery or be seen and could only talk to their families -and maidens of service- with a permission and under supervision.


In 1970, 391 years after its foundation, the Monastery of Santa Catalina opened its doors to unveil its secrets and mysteries. Currently, 26 religious live there between mothers and novices.


The architectural style is mainly colonial monastery, but, unlike other colonial centers in this part of Latin America, of mixed nature, resulting from the fusion of Spanish and native elements. The charm of this citadel lies in the strength and plasticity of their volumes, and beauty, that teachers and masons achieved in the architecture of the enclosures.


Other attractions of the monastery are the splendid works of art, such as its impressive baroque altar, its important art gallery -which contains paintings of the Cusco School-, a series of paintings depicting the life of St. Catherine of Siena, and the murals -some still in restoration- that can be seen all over the place.



San Blas: Art, faith and tradition


The centenary district of T’oqocachi (“salt cave”),  is already part of the oldest legends that are told in Cusco. During the Inca times, it’s believe that the people who inhabited it dedicated to agriculture. Two Ayllus coexisted here: Hatun Ayllu and Capac Ayllu. The water abundance, which came out of its valleys, its excellent microweathers and and strategic location from where you could see the entire land, made it the ideal place to live.

T’oqocachi rose from the city of Cusco, surrounding the Tullumayo river, in a series of steep terraces where we found fields and diverse sanctuaries, like the one dedicated to Illampa, god of thunder and rain. This is the area where the huacas of Huiracocha Incas, Tupac Yupanqui and Huayna Capac, were located and was also the way from where, through Sacsayhuaman, came the Inca Trail to the rugged mountains of the Antisuyo jungle.

In 1562, San Blas church was raised on the Inca temple of Illampa, an austere chapelle in honor of bishop and martyr Blas of Sebaste, with the idea of catechize the indians. This is how the colonial invasion of T’oqocachi began. The district became a crossbreed of races and albergued many artists and artisans. To them is attribute the elaboration of one of the most representative pieces of jewelry from the colonial art of our continent: The Pulpit of San Blas.

Impeccably carved in cedar wood, it cannot be established who was the creator of The Pulpit of San Blas, nor how much time lasted its creation, but documentation says that to 1677, master Mateo Tuyri Tucap, neighbor of San Sebastian’s parish, agreed that the chapel altarpiece were decorated with gold leaf. It is very likely that Tuyri Tupac had made these crafts with his son Juan Tomas, who worked at the church from 1677 to 1679.


These days, San Blas -just a few blocks away from the Plaza de Armas of Cusco- is full of craft shops and sophisticated restaurant, bars and cafes. Nevertheless, workshops of Cusco artists can still be observed on the outside of the Plaza, this are the ones that keep the tradition and essence of the ancient Inca district of T’oqocachi alive.


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