Category: Cusco

How to spend a week in Cusco

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How to spend a week in Cusco

Even a month is not enough time to visit all the stunning places in Peru. From Iquitos in the Amazonas, to the white city of Arequipa and the Cordillera Blanca and its astonishing high mountain peaks in Huaraz, this amazing country offers many picturesque corners. Definitely worth a visit is the beautiful colonial city of Cusco which is full of Incan history and furthermore it is the perfect starting point for your tour to Machu Picchu. We guarantee you that a week is by far not enough to explore the region. Find below our selection of our favourite Cusco Tours that you can add to your Peru Travel Package. At Andina Travel we understand that not every passenger has the same needs and wishes, therefore we categorized the trip itineraries according to different travel profiles:

Culture travel

You came to Peru to experience the rich customs and traditions, culture and history of the country? The following Cusco tours might be exactly what you’re looking for: Start your visit to Cusco with spending the first night in Raqchi, a small Andean village about two hours South of Cusco where you’ll be warmly welcomed by the most accommodating Peruvian ladies. Visit the pottery market, learn more about the daily life in the Andean Highlands, dress up in Andean clothing and enjoy a delicious typical meal cooked by your hosts. Next morning visit the arqueological site in Raqchi and on the way back you can do a tour of the Valle Sur which includes visiting the beautiful church in Andahuaylillas, also called the Sistine Chapel of South America, and the arqueological centres in Tipon and Pikillaqta. On Day 3 you’ll have a free day in Cusco to either relax and discover the city on your own or to take part in a city tour where your guide will lead you to the most important monuments of Cusco and you’ll learn more about the city’s past.  On Day 4 we’ll take you to the Sacred Valley of the Incas to explore the ruins of Saqsayhuaman, Pisac and Ollantaytambo where you’ll stay overnight. Next morning of your Peru Travel Package you’ll start your Short Inca Trail Hike to the famous citadel Machu Picchu.

Pottery market in Raqchi

Adventure Travel

Cusco has a lot to offer for adventure travellers, whether it is wilderness trekking, ziplining, rafting or Paragliding in the Sacred Valley, thrill seekers will have a good time in Cusco. We´d recommend you to start your Cusco trip with a rafting tour in Chuquicahuana in the South of Cusco. This rafting section is waiting with class II-III rapids for you. Spending three nights in the Andean Highlands without seeing another soul and far away from civilisation sounds tempting to you?  Join the Quillatambo trek, our own route that leads through the majestic Andean Highlands and is characterised by its absence of other tourists, in short, this trek is a real adventure.  After you hike you can also choose to visit Machu Picchu as part of your Peru Travel Package.

Family Travel

Exploring Peru with the kids? Cusco is the perfect destination for a family holiday. Upon your arrival in Cusco head straight to the Manu National Park where you can go on animal hunt and spot birds, alligators and monkeys. During your time in the city of Cusco you can explore its Incan history and culture and participate in a chocolate making workshop, an entertaining experience for both children and adults alike. And your Peru Travel Package wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the world-famous citadel Machu Picchu, therefore add a one-day tour by train to your Cusco Tours. At the citadel you can explore the ancient ruins with your kids and your guide will teach you more about the history of this magnificent place.


Travelling America on a shoestring? No worries, Peru is one of the best destinations in Latin America to travel on a budget and also in Cusco you can add many inexpensive tours to your Peru Travel Package. After staying in the city for two days and exploring its surroundings, we’d recommend you to join the following Cusco Tours: The Salkantay Trek and the Rainbow Mountain. These Cusco Tours have daily group departures at affordable prices. The Salkantay Trek is the most popular trek after the Inca Trail in the Cusco area and is spectacular because you’ll experience various microclimates, from the Andean Highland climate at the Salkantay pass to the Cloud forest the closer you get to Machu Picchu, within a short amount of time. On your last day in the region you can either visit the instagrammable Rainbow Mountain, one of the most stunning natural wonders of Peru.

A unphotoshoped picture of the Rainbow Mountain

Classical Tourist

There are many must-sees in Cusco and it is possible to visit the most important attractions within a week. Upon your arrival in Cusco in the morning of Day 1 you’ll be transported to your hotel and can participate in a city tour in the afternoon where you’ll visit the most-important monuments in the Cusco area. The next day we would recommend you to add a Sacred Valley Tour to your Peru Travel Package which involves visiting the archaeological sites in Pisac and Ollantaytambo. After an overnight stay in this town you’ll start your Classis Inca Trail where you’ll follow the footsteps of ancient populations for four days to the world-famous lost city of the Incas Machu Picchu. At your last day in Cusco profit by visiting the Rainbow Mountain, also known under the original Quechua name: Vinicunca.

One of our groups arriving to Machu Picchu

Off-the-beaten track travel

You want to skip the crowds at your Cusco Tours? No worries, this region doesn’t only have Machu Picchu and the Rainbow Mountain to offer but there are many, lesser known, unconventional attractions to discover. Head to Palccoyo instead of the Rainbow Mountain where you’ll see five Rainbow-coloured smaller hills instead of one big one. Many people consider this hike even as more beautiful than the classic Rainbow Mountain tour thanks to its tranquillity and absence of people. Furthermore, it is less physical strenuous since Palccoyo is located at a lower altitude and therefore it is suitable as an acclimatisation hike before starting one of your treks in the region. Already heard of Choquequirao, an archaeological site similar and even bigger than Machu Picchu but only reachable via a four- or five-day trek which is supposed to be the most strenuous in the area. However, if you’d like to enjoy the ruins without the crowds you need to visit Choquequirao within the next year since the government is planning on building a cable car to transport more people to this magnificent archaeological site. So head there before it becomes the next Machu Picchu!

The archaeological site in Choquequirao

You like our Cusco Tours and itineraries? Please contact us for more details, we are happy to answer all your questions.

How to get to Machu Picchu…

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How to get to Machu Picchu…

In 2007 this beautiful Inca Citadel was nominated as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Each year one million visitors come to Cusco to visit the colonial city but their main purpose is to travel to their final destination of Machu Picchu, the highlight of many travellers time in Peru. Still, there are plenty of options for every budget how to reach the citadel during your Machu Picchu Cusco Tour…

Another perspective of Machu Picchu

Classic Inca Trail

On Peru’s most sought-after trek you’ll hike in the footsteps of the Incas by following an ancient stone path from Chica all the way to Machu Picchu. During this 4-day Machu Picchu trekking tour you’ll enjoy breath-taking panoramas, pass by ancient, well-maintained arqueological sites and experience different ecological areas from the Andean Highlands to the subtropical Cloud Forest. Your Machu Picchu Cusco Tour ends by hiking through the famous Sun Gate where you’ll have an excellent view on Machu Picchu which is lying below you.

Difficulty: +++

Price: $$$

Keep in mind that entrances are restricted by the Peruvian Ministery of Culture and therefore for this Machu Picchu trekking tour you need to reserve your spaces tour well ahead of time especially in the high season between May and August.

The views during the Classic Inca Trail

Short Inca Trail

The 2-Day version of the Classic Inca Trail is the perfect option for everybody who doesn’t want to challenge themselves for a four day trek but still wants to catch the first glimpse on Machu Picchu at Inti Punku, the famous Sungate. After a night spent in Aguas Calientes you’ll visit the famous citadel on the second day of your Machu Picchu trekking tour.

Difficulty: +

Price: $$

Also entrances to the Short Inca Trail are limited by the Ministry of Culture, however, they don’t sell out as quickly as its longer version.

Full Day Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

You want to visit Machu Picchu in one day and enter through the Sungate? The Full Day Short Inca Trail is exactly the same as its 2-day version with the small difference that Machu Picchu will be visited on the same day as the travelers are hiking through the Sungate. After a guided tour through the stunning ruins of the old Inca Empire, visitors take the bus down to Aguas Calientes from where they will return in train and bus to Cusco.

Difficulty: +

Price: $$

View from the Sungate

Machu Picchu by Train

This is the most comfortable Machu Picchu Cusco tour although switching from your private transportation to the train in Ollantaytambo or Poroy normally is necessary. After the departure of the train you can experience the change from to the cold Highland to sub-tropical climate the closer you get to your destination Aguas Calientes. From the train station Machu Picchu is only a 20-minute bus ride away.

Difficulty: /

Price: $$

Machu Picchu by Bus

This is the Backpacker version of visiting the world-famous citadel. For this Machu Picchu Cusco Tour you’ll be picked up by your transportation around 7 a.m. in the morning, then leave Cusco and first drive through the Sacred Valley, stop in Ollantaytambo and continue to Hidroelectria where you’ll spend the night. Early next morning you’ll start hiking along the rails and then up to Machu Picchu. After visiting the arqueological city and eventually hiring a guide who will explain you more about the history of this important complex and the ancient culture of the Incas, you’ll hike back to Hidroelectrica from where your bus departs in the early afternoon.

Difficulty: +

Price: $

After an Alternative Trek

A more authentic option is visiting Machu Picchu directly after some of the various treks in the region of Cusco. The advantage of travelling to Machu Picchu this way is that you’ll also see the non-touristic, more off-the-beaten path side of Peru and experience the beautiful Andean Landscapes without the crowds. Join the Lares, Salkantay, Huchuy Qosqo or Quillatambo trek and arrange your visit to Machu Picchu directly after your hike.

Difficulty: Salkantay (+++), Quillatambo (+++), Lares (++), Huchuy Qosqo (+)

Price: $ – $$

Beautiful landscapes at one of our alternative hikes – The Quillatambo Trek

Lares Hot Springs Trek

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Lares Hot Springs Trek

This popular alternative hike from Cusco to Machu Picchu today counts to one of the Classic Cusco Treks. However, not many people know that everything started back in 2004 when Jose Luis Olivera, the general manager of Andina Travel, started discovering the area together with the local people and established 16 different routes in the Lares district, one of them the Lares Hot Springs Trek.

Thanks to his efforts, Jose Luis secured an economic activity and a regular income for the local people in the tourism industry. Together with his business partner Dragoman Overland from the United Kingdom, Andina Travel established several community projects for example the reforestation of unused spaces in the Lares district, the maintenance of the schools in the local villages of Cuncani and Quishurani and the donation of camelids to the communities.

The local people of Lares are working for us as horsewranglers during the trek.

Let’s explore the stunning route of the Lares Hot Springs Trek, one of the most picturesque Cusco Treks, together.

Day 1: Cusco – Lares Hot Springs – Cuncani

On our first day we were picked up at 07:30 in the morning from our hotel Garcilaso in the center of Cusco. After loading all our belongings in the minivan, we started our journey towards the district of Lares, a four-and-a-half hour ride away from Cusco. However, the time passed quickly since we stopped at several viewpoints along the route. On our first stop we had an amazing view on the Sacred Valley and could purchase some traditional handicrafts and clothing from the local people. Ymail, our tour-guide, also explained the typical crops and native products of the region to us like choclo, beans, maiz moraya and many others.

Yamil, our guide, explaining the local products of the Sacred Valley

On our next stop we enjoyed the views on the town of Pisac and its terraces, built by the Incas for cultivating their plants and crops under a better microclimate.  After this visit to the viewpoint we drove down the hill, through Pisac and the Sacred Valley of the Incas and we crossed more mountain passes to reach the district of Lares.

Around midday we finally arrived at the Lares Hotsprings, a beautiful complex with various termal baths with different temperatures where we had the possibility to go for a quick swim before lunchtime. Our chefs served us a delicious mushroom soup, noodles with soy sauce, vegetables and qorn and some fruit for dessert. This meal gave us plenty of strength for the upcoming hike.

The Lares Hot Springs

The first portion of the trek was a bit steeper until we arrived at a football field where we took a little break and relaxed. From then onwards the well-marked gravel-path was less demanding and after about three hours of hiking we reached the road leading to Cuncani. We passed herds of llamas, alpacas and after another one-and-a-half-hours of hiking we reached our campsite at the school of Cuncani. This school has profited from the several community projects of Andina Travel and gives the local children the possibility to study in their native language Quechua.

We camped at the school’s playground and dinner was served in one of the classrooms. After our meal and a briefing for the next day we want to bed early since our wake-up call was set for 4:30 a.m.

Day 2: Cuncani – Playa Laberinto

Early the next morning the travellers where woken up by the guides and the cooks with a warm cup of coca-tea. Everybody got ready for the day, packed together their belongings and the whole group found themselves at breakfast about 45 minutes later. After enjoying a hearty breakfast, that included porridge, toasts and fruit salad, we all found ourselves at the campsite for the warm-up and then started hiking uphill into the mountains behind the school of Cuncani for about three and a half hours.

Views on the snow-capped mountains

Reaching the saddle and today’s highest point we were rewarded with a view on a lake with crystal clear water. Although the view was stunning, we didn’t stop for a long time since the cold wind on top made us descend. We walked along the lake and then reached a valley where we spotted little, adobe houses and two small girls from the community dressed in traditional clothing who were waiting for us to sell us some souvenirs and refreshing drinks. Although we didn’t buy much, they were happy about the cereal bars and fruits we left for them. After the second lake we climbed uphill again and then we descended into another valley to our lunch spot next to a small stream.

In the afternoon we hiked along the river where we had our lunch. After a relaxing two hours walk we reached the campsite at around 5 pm.

Day 3: Playa Laberinto – Yanahuara Alto

Business as usual – we were woken up by the mountain staff at 4:30 in the morning. We were lucky since shortly after our wake-up call we experienced a beautiful sunrise in the majestic mountains of the Lares district.

We watched the beautiful dawn for a couple of minutes before we all found ourselves in the dinner tent to enjoy a hearty breakfast that included some heavenly pancakes. After a short warm-up we were ready for the first challenge of the day: crossing the stream next to us. Our guides reached for our hands and were helping us over the little river and thanks to them all of us made it safe and sound on the other side without getting their feet wet.

After the first challenge follows the second challenge of the day: our highest mountain pass of the tour at 4700 m.a.s.l. which we would reach shortly before midday. To start with, we ascended through a high-mountain valley where we spotted several llamas and alpacas along the way.

Then after walking for about one-and-a-half hours the hike got steeper and we started to walk steadily and slowly in babysteps in order to save our energy until the highest pass of our hike from Cusco to Machu Picchu. We also took a couple of breaks to catch our breath, eat some snacks and recharge our energies for the next part. Around 11 a.m. we finally reached the highest point our tour, a big achievement for all of us. Another turquoise lagoon was lying in the valley below us and after taking several pictures, alone and as a group, we descended towards the beautiful lake.

The group made it to the highest pass at 4700 m.a.s.l.

It took us another two hours to reach the lunch spot where we could recharge our energies by taking a break and some of us even took a short siesta in the grass next to the dinner tent and enjoyed the warm sunrays.  For today’s lunch our cooks prepared Chaufa, a fusion-dish of Andean and Chinese cuisine made out of natural quinoa and fresh vegetables, and sweet potatoes as a side.

In the afternoon we hiked downhill through a forest located at an altitude of 4500 m.a.s.l. We descended for about four to five hours and while walking we noticed that the microclimate changed from cold Andean Highland Climate to the more pleasant climate in the valleys. We arrived at our final, well-equipped campsite of our hike from Cusco to Machu Picchu shortly before sunset and after three days in the mountains we all appreciated a hot shower even more.

Around 7 p.m. the last dinner on our hike from Cusco to Machu Picchu cooked by our mountain chefs was ready in the dining room of the lodge located next to the campsite and we celebrated the fact that all of us made it safe and sound over the mountains on one of the most beautiful Cusco Treks.

Day 4: Yanahuara Alto – Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu

For the first time in the mountains our alarm wasn’t set for 4:30 in the morning, instead we had a lay-in until 7 a.m. and then prepared us for breakfast and our upcoming visit to Machu Picchu. After an English Breakfast we packed together all our belongings, said good-bye to the mountain staff and our assistant guides and boarded our minivan that would take us to Ollantaytambo.

Farewell ceremony

As soon as we arrived to Ollantaytambo, a one-and-a-half hour train ride was waiting for us that would take us to the tropical town of Aguas Calientes where we had to take the bus up to the arqueological site of Machu Picchu.

The first sight of Machu Picchu was stunning and the complex was bigger than everybody expected. For two-hours our tour-guide Yamil showed us around the ruins and shared with us the interesting history of this sacred site for the Incas. We visited agricultural site of the ancient town, the old village and took several pictures as souvenirs. To sum up this afternoon was for all of us a dream come true.

Exploring Machu Picchu

After getting down to Aguas Calientes we enjoyed the evening in this small, tropical town by strolling through the market and going out for dinner.

Day 5:

On the last day of our hike from Cusco to Machu Picchu we returned by train back to Ollantaytambo and then by bus back to our starting point, the hotel Garcilaso in Cusco.

The Lares Hots Springs Trek counts to one of the most beautiful and lesser known Cusco Treks. This activity can booked as a 4-day trek without Machu Picchu or as a 5-day tour that includes a visit to the world-famous citadel. At Andina Travel we can offer you our best service in a private departure. You’ll head off to the mountains with your guide, your personal cooks and horse-wranglers who’ll be responsible for the mules that carry your baggage – an authentic and once-in-a lifetime experience.

¡Buen provecho!

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¡Buen provecho!

Thanks to Gaston Acurion the Peruvian cuisine is world-famous and for a good reason it has its reputation to be one of the best of the world. Indulge yourself into a gastronomic experience during your trip to Peru and taste the delicious authentic dishes and distinct flavours of the Peruvian cuisine.

3800 Potatoes…

…and more than 55 sorts of sweetcorn can be found in Peru. On local

You can find at least 20 different varieties of potatoes on the San Pedro Market in Cusco

markets you can find a variety of vegetables and fruits that Western countries can only dream of. If you are a foodie you should definitely visit the local markets are even join a gastronomic experience as one of your tours from Cusco!  It is also thanks to this diversity in raw products that Peruvians can be on the markets that their dishes are full of flavour. Another must do between one of your tours in Cusco is to enjoy one of the following traditional dishes in a local restaurant. In Cusco most of them offer cheap lunchtime menus which normally are not more expensive than 15 Soles. Simply pop into one of the restaurants and you might be lucky to find one of the below-named dishes on the menu and if not there are many more delicious Peruvian dishes to try out.

Cusco’s typical dishes

Ceviche – a typical seafood plate that has its origin in the coastal areas of Peru, however you can also enjoy this delicious seafood plate in the Andean Highlands. For ceviche white fish is cooked in lemon-juice with onions and hot peppers and it can be served with corn-on-the cob, yuuca, toasted corn and sweet potatoes.

Trucha Frita – another seafood dish that often can be found on menus in Cusco. This fried trout is served with potatoes, rice or a salad.

Chiri Uchu – This is the typical food of Cusco and it is normally eaten around the festivities of Corpus Cristi and the Fiesta del Cusco on the 24th of July. This plate is rich in history as it has its roots in the Incan times when all the farmers from the district came together in Cusco to exchange their goods at the market. It is a mixture of local products including chicken, carrots, chorizo, cream cheese, spicy pepper, alga and is served with a corn tortilla.  When the Europeans came to Cusco they kept the traditional plate and linked it to the festivities in July.

A typical Pachamanca – containing corn, potatoes, cheese and meat

Pachamanca – originally from Huancayo and already prepared by the Incas it is the most typical food of the Andean Highlands. The ingredients for this dish are meat (pork, lamb, chicken, …), vegetables, potatoes which are slowly cooked in the ground.

Sopa a la criolla – graving for some warm soup during a cold night in Cusco? Look out for this dish which is made out of brouillon, noodles, vegetables, egg and beefheart.

Choclo con queso – Good news for vegetarians, the Peruvian cuisine also has got a handful of vegetarian dishes to offer. This snack made out of sweetcorn and cheese can be found in Cusco, Urubamba and the Province of Anta. It is popular snack among locals and travellers alike.

Papa a la Huancaina – another veggie-friendly snack that consists of potatoes and a spicy sauce made out of milk on top

Eating out in Cusco with dietary restrictions

Different types of corn

As you can see above Peru is a true heaven for carnivores and the choice for vegetarians in typical Peruvian restaurants that are serving to locals normally is small or non-existent. It’s a shame considering the variety of vegetables and fruits that are cultivated in the country thanks to the various microclimates. However, most touristic restaurants in Cusco have already started to offer vegetarian and vegan options and restaurants like Greenpoint in San Blas and el encuentro close to the Plaze the Armas in Cusco have started to serve traditional meat- and diary-free versions of typical Peruvian dishes to their clients. If you fancy eating out in Cusco I’d recommend to check them out after one of your tours from Cusco.

Also lactose- and gluten-free options are hard to find in the Peruvian cuisine but especially restaurants that are catering to tourists start to offer food for travellers with dietary restrictions. For example Greens, an organic restaurant in Santa Catalina Angosta, offers a choice of meals for travellers who are looking for gluten-free options.

Meals on treks

Want to join one of the tours from Cusco but worrying that you won’t be served vegetarian, pescetarian, vegan, gluten- or lactose-free food? Andina Travel is working together with excellent mountain-chefs who are capable of preparing food suitable for every dietary restrictions on their tours from Cusco to the Andes. Fancy some lactose-free porridge in the morning, some gluten-free pasta for lunch and a vegan rice-dish for dinner? Our mountain chefs are happy to prepare it for you!

Alternative tours from Cusco: Authentic Homestay in Raqchi

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Alternative tours from Cusco: Authentic Homestay in Raqchi

Raqchi – At first sight this community seems like a typical Andean village, however, by taking a closer look you’ll notice the rustic pottery market at the main square, one of the highest arqueological sites in the area and the several homestays that are operated by the most warm-hearted mamis and papis in the village. In short, Raqchi –  a must-do as one of your tours from Cusco.

Pottery market in the main square with a colonial church in the background

Welcome to Raqchi

From the first minute onwards, we were welcomed with open arms by the community of Raqchi. Some of the mamis picked us up from our arrival point and led us to the other part of the village where our different homestays were located. At the end of the path, which is connecting the two parts of the village, Lorenzo was waiting for us and led us to our accommodation, a little, adobe house. Lorenzo and Catalina, our hosts, led us around their home and showed us our newly constructed, super comfortable rooms. The apartments were simply furnished, containing one to three beds covered with heavy blankets for the cold nights and a little table next to each bed.

After the arrival of our tour from Cusco to Raqchi we had some time to explore the village and to get to know our guide, Carlos who introduced himself to the whole group.

Andean food

At around 7 pm dinner was ready. Our mamis served us a delicious three-course-meal containing soup, potato curry with chicken and a dessert made of bananas. They prepared traditional meals for us so that we could get to know a bit more about their gastronomic culture.

After dinner our mamis borrowed us some traditional clothing and we dressed up exactly like the locals from Raqchi for the evening programme. Our whole group and the locals gathered in our homestay and Lorenzo and our guide Carlos explained us the traditional Pachamama ceremony. We were provided with coca leaves that we had to put in different cups, a gesture of showing gratitude to the Pachamama and the Apus, which are the Sacred Mountains for the Incas.

Pachamama ceremony

The next item on our agenda were some typical dances with the locals. The people from the community played traditional music on their flutes and guitars and invited us to dance with them. Afterwards we showed them a bit more about our dancing culture. To sum up this joyful evening, dancing definitely connects people and brings cultures together.

The boys got to wear traditional ponchos and hats for the ceremony and the dances

The next morning our mamis served us a hearty breakfast at around 07:30, a vegetable paddy with boiled egg and some bread with butter and jam. Directly afterwards it was time to explore the ruins of Raqchi with Carlos who explained us more about the local history of the community and its Incan roots.

The Temple of Raqchi, also known as the Temple of Wiracocha, was constructed for religious purposes under the order of Pachacutuec, and some of its columns reached 25 meters of height, however, the temple was destroyed by the Spaniards upon their arrival.

Our guide Carlos explaining the history of Raqchi

As part of the tour we also climbed the hill next to the ruins from where we had a great view on the valley above us and we could even spot an inactive volcano far away in the distance.  We enjoyed the panorama, then started our downhill hike back to the ruins and returned back to our homestay, where Lorenzo was already waiting for us.

Our host had already prepared a pottery demonstration and for the following 45 minutes he explained how the locals of Raqchi produce their handicrafts. Pottery is the most important economic sector in this village followed by tourism and therefore this artisanry has got a long tradition in Raqchi. After forming the clay they paint the pots, bowls, plates, jars and more in either natural, red, white and black, or other artificial colours. After Lorenzo had finished his demonstration one of us also tried doing some pottery, definitely a natural talent!

Figure Pottery class

The pottery demonstration was the last activity of this tour from Cusco and we all returned to our homestays for lunch where another traditional meal of quinoa soup and some meat with corn, potatoes and vegetables waited for us. Unfortunately, after dinner our hostmoms accompanied us to our meeting point where we met for saying goodbye and thank you for this amazing stay.

Visiting Raqchi definitely is one of the unconventional, off-the-beaten track tours from Cusco. The little village can be visited during a Cusco day tour or for visiting the pottery market or the ruins of Raqchi. However, for an authentic experience we’d highly recommend you to add the homestay as one of your tours from Cusco to fully emerge into the local culture.

5 Best Food Markets in Cusco

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5 Best Food Markets in Cusco

Cusquenos still do most of their food shopping at the traditional markets in their neighbourhood. Those places are normally much cheaper than the supermarket chains Orion, Supersol and Canasta and at the same time by buying at those markets you can support the local economy. A win-win situation for all of us! Here you can find a list of Cusco`s markets that are easily reachable from the centre.

What you should know before visiting a market…

Already ticked the Cusco treks and the Cusco city tour off from your bucket list and you are looking for an unconventional program? Head to the local mercados and keep those things in mind:

Negotiation is common in Peru and vendors start with a higher price for locals and an even higher price for foreigners. If the amount doesn’t seem appropriate either try to bargain to a lower price or pass on to one of the next stalls and have a look what they have to offer. Don’t say yes to the first offer you get.

Bring your own reusable bag. Most plastic bags are only used once, they will last for hundreds of years and will cause irreparable damage to the environment. Also our staff at Andina Travel tries to reduce plastic during our Cusco treks and in the office.  Keep in mind, there is no planet B!

Keep care of your belongings since most markets can be busy and pickpockets might try to snatch some of your personal possessions away from you. You’re familiar with our advices? Listo, let’s check out the markets together.

Mercado de San Blas

This small market is located in the neighbourhood of San Blas and although it is still a touristic place it is much calmer than the market of San Pedro. You’ll find a good choice of fruits, vegetables and basic groceries at this place for cheaper prices than at the supermarkets but due to its central location and its popularity by tourists prices are higher than at the local markets of Wanchaq, Huancaro and Ttio.

Choice of fruits at the mercado San Blas

Visiting San Blas market is a good choice if you’re looking for an affordable lunch or breakfast as half of its space is dedicated to stalls that will sell you freshly cooked food. For breakfast and as a dessert you can reward yourself with one of the delicious, freshly made juices at the market and ask for your tailor-made mix. At midday, you can find a typical, ample Peruvian lunch menu for five soles and there are also plenty of international dishes available at the market for a couple of soles more. Simply order your food, have a seat at the bench of your chef and enjoy the typical atmosphere at the market.

To sum up, San Blas market is the perfect place if you’re looking for a more authentic experience not too far outside the Cusco city centre.

Opening hours: 07:00 – 18:00, every day

Mercado de San Pedro

This market is probably the most touristic market that you can find in Cusco since it is located only ten walking minutes from the city centre. Next to food and snacks that you can buy for one of your next Cusco treks, you’ll find stalls selling refreshing juices, places to eat out for breakfast or dinner and even plenty of people selling souvenirs like traditional textiles and jumpers. When you enter the market you’ll first pass the souvenir section, followed by juices, fruits, meat, potatoes, and beans and at the end you’ll find the freshly cooked meals.

This market is quite busy and especially while joining a Cusco city tour in the market you should take care of your belongings since there are pickpockets in the area.

Opening hours: 06:00 – 18:00, every day

Mercado de Wanchaq

Looking for an off-the beaten track experience close to the centre? Head to the market of Wanchaq which sees little tourists every year and profit from cheaper prices and an ample choice of products. At this market you’ll not only find food but also household articles, handcraft items, cleaning utensils and there is even a hair salon on the premises – in short here you’ll find everything you need at this market.

At first sight this market might seem a little chaotic and its different sections are hard to divide since there is a hall in the middle of the market where you can find vegetables and meat. Potatoes, fruits and all the other services can be found outside.

The non-touristic market of Wanchaq

Mercado de Huancaro

This market is located about 30 walking minutes away from the city centre. It is one of the smaller markets in Cusco but has got a local vibe. Outside the market you’ll find small stores and many stalls selling pretty flowers. As soon as you enter the market hall you’ll find an organised market as the different sections are well signposted. You’ll also find everything from fruits, vegetables, meat and fish to household articles and clothing. There is an especially big choice of meat and fish, however the vegetable and fruit section are small in comparison to the other markets.

One of the few fruit stalls at the market of Huancaro

Mercado de Ttio

The market in Ttio is the local market of the same-named district. It is a bus ride or a 35 minutes’ walk away from the centre and smaller than the markets of San Pedro, Huancaro and Ttio. Head there for good prices and for a really local experience. They offer a wide choice of fruits, potatoes, meat and vegetables however you can find a bigger choice of everyday items at the other markets.

Opening hours: 06:30 – 18:30, everyday

Mercado de Ttio

We’d advise you to explore the markets before one of your Cusco treks for buying some fresh fruits and snacks or during a relaxing day in the city. Some markets, especially the one in San Pedro, are also part of a Cusco city tour where you’ll learn more about their history.

In my backpack there is

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In my backpack there is …

You have recently booked a Cusco trek with Andina Travel and you’re worried to forget anything back home? Then have a look at these 15 hiking and trekking essentials that you don’t want to miss during one of your tours from Cusco.

Trekking shoes

Your first item on your list should be good footwear. Since we are spending our time in the nature, paths are often wet or slippery and in order to avoid sliding and falling your shoes should have a good profile. Furthermore water-proof gore-tex boots are advantageous for crossing little streams and they keep your feet dry when it rains.

Layers, layers, layers

During our tours from Cusco you will experience freezing cold nights and warm, pleasant days. In your duffle bag and your daypack, you should carry easily removable layers that you can put on and take off according to the current weather situation. For hiking Ausangate, Quillatambo, Lares, The Classic Inca Trail and Salkantay you should pack especially warm layers since most of the time you are at an altitude of 4000 m.a.s.l and for Choquequirao light but also warm clothing is recommended due to the warm microclimates in the jungle and the cloud forest.

Rain gear

A poncho or a raincoat are essentials that you don’t want to miss during your trek. Normally, the rain season is throughout November to April and during this time good raingear is a must on your packing list, however, the weather in the Andes can be unpredictable and quick changes of weather conditions can occur all-year-round, so be prepared. Especially for hiking Choquequirao you should take a good raincoat and waterproof shoes with you since a part of this Cusco trek is located in the rainforest.

One of our groups well prepared for every weather condition

Towel and Bathing suit

Are you hiking the Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu or the Lares Hot Springs trek? On these routes you can tip into the hot water of the thermal paths on the route, so don’t forget your towel and bathing suit!

Sleeping Bag

You can either take your sleeping bag with you or you can also rent one from Andina Travel (US$15 for one trek). It is necessary to consider that your sleeping bag should be suitable for nights that will drop below the freezing point on all the Cusco treks that we operate, therefore we recommend to take a sleeping-bag with a comfort temperature of -10°C/15°F. The sleeping bags that you can rent from our company all comply with those criteria and you can choose between synthetic or down.

Day Backpack

On your tour you should take a day backpack with you that is big enough to carry all your personal belongings that you need from the morning until the night. The perfect size for your backpack is between 20 to 35 litres. Consider that some of your layers should also fit in your daypack but don´t forget to pack as light as possible since carrying a heavy backpack all day can be strenuous.

The Fjällraven Classic is an example of a well-sized daypack

Water Bottle

We normally provide you with boiled water to refill your bottles during breakfast, lunchtime and dinner because staying hydrated during your trek is important. All you need is your water bottle filled with water for the first day. Many of our passengers prefer taking water purifying tablets or straws with them.  We´d recommend that the size of your water bottle is around a litre. Please also consider that disposable bottles are not allowed in Machu Picchu. For this reason, the conservation of our treks and the protection of our environment we kindly ask you to take reusable bottles with you on the trek.


In our opinion snacks are the most important things after water in your daypack. They provide you with energy that keeps you walking for some more time. We will also hand out some snacks each morning, but we’d recommend packing your favourite ones as a treat during the trek. Fruits, cereal bars, chocolates are the perfect choice since sugar provides you with energy and also helps against altitude sickness.

Fruits are the perfect snack during the trek, buy them at one of the local markets the day before your trek

Coca leaves

Another magic cure against altitude sickness are coca leaves. They are legal in Peru and can be found on all the markets in Cusco. In case you struggle with the altitude it is helpful to chew some of the leaves and your health condition will soon improve. However, we advise you that before all the treks you should spend at least two days in Cusco in order to acclimatise. If you already suffer from altitude sickness in Cusco, take some rest and consider spending some more time in the city before starting your Cusco trek. In case you encounter severe health problems it is advisable to get to a lower altitude.

Personal First-aid-kit

Although we are also carrying an extensive first-aid-kit and oxygen shots please take your personal medicine with you. We’d recommend you to take some aspirin, band-aids, pills for sore throat, pills for diarrhea, disinfection spray etc.

Sun protection

At an altitude of 4000 m.a.s.l. and close to the Equateur the solar radiation is a bit stronger than in the United States, Australia and Europe and we advise you to take certain precautions. Sunscreen is a must also on a cloudy day and we’d recommend you also to take a cap or a hat and your sunglasses with you.

Protect yourself against the sun by wearing sunglasses, a sunhat or cap

Insect repellent

Although you won’t find any mosquitos in the Andean Highlands they are omnipresent as soon as you enter the jungle area which includes Machu Picchu. For this zone a yellow-fever vaccination is recommended however there is no risk of Malaria. To protect yourselves from the itchy insect bites take a strong repellent with you because some mosquitos got resistant to natural and light repellents.

Camera, phone

This trek will be one of the most amazing, unforgettable experiences of your life and therefore we highly recommend you to take some photos that you can show to your loved ones at home or simply for reminiscing after your trek. So pack your camera or your phone and shoot the most instagramable photos during your tour from Cusco.

External battery

Don´t forget that we are in Andean Highlands and electricity doesn’t exist on the campsites. Pack your external batteries or a small solar panel in order to charge your phone or electronical devices because you don’t want to arrive at Machu Picchu with no battery left…

More questions about what to pack for your trek? Contact us at and we’ll happily answer all your questions.

The Quillatambo Trail – A Five Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Hike far away from the crowds

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The Quillatambo Trail – A Five Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Hike far away from the crowds

With 75, 000 people hiking the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu each year more and more people are looking for less crowded alternative hikes from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Lares, Salkantay and Choquequirao have gained in popularity in the last years but few people have yet heard about the Quillatambo Trail. This five day Inca Trail Hike leads over High Mountain passes, through the majestic plateaus of the Andean Highlands and along river valleys filled with clear, turquoise water.

Day 1 started with an early pick-up from our hotels. Still a bit sleepy we boarded our private bus which took us to our first stop, Saqswayhuaman, where we visited the arqueological site and got into first contact with the ancient Inca culture.

Our next stop on our tour: Chinchero, a typical village in the Andes where the majority of people is still wearing their traditional clothing. However, we soon noticed one difference. Our tour guide explained to us that their red, beautifully decorated hats are typical for this region and that we won’t find them in Cusco. Afterwards the local women introduced us the production process of their products. They explained us all the steps in detail, from colouring the wool to weaving lovely patterns. Our group was amazed by the effort they put into producing their textiles and at the end we had the chance to buy some souvenirs. Chinchero is a village that is not only rich in culture but also rich in history. For this reason, we ended our visit of Chinchero by exploring the arqueological site.

Our tour continues with lunch at the Pumatambo guesthouse, a colonial house that is full of history located in the village of Zurite. After enjoying our delicious lunch, we board the bus again and drive to Quillaromiyoc, the temple of the moon. Our guide Juan told us about the rich history of this place and its meaning during the Incan times. This temple is a true off-the-beaten track attraction in the Cusco area.

After our visit we started hiking back to the guesthouse in Zurite where we spent the night. The trek was an easy 4-hours hike, mostly downhill. It led us through the beautiful landscape of the Sacred Pampa Valley and during the hike we met some local people and could observe the beautiful flora and fauna.

We spent our evening in the Pumatambo guesthouse where we enjoyed another delicious diner. The best part is that we learnt that our chef will also join us on our trek.  While playing board games, sitting and singing around the campfire and chatting with the other passengers the time passed extremely quickly and it was soon time for a good night’s sleep.

The second day of our five day Inca Trail trip is called the challenge day and we soon learned why this part of our Machu Picchu Adventure Trek earns its name. Our day started early at five in the morning with a hearty breakfast that prepared us for our trek. We ascended through a mountain valley passing by an arqueological site called the Hummingbird Temple, walking through the grasslands of the High Andes and around midday we finally reached the first pass at 4, 450 meter above sea level. There we took a break and enjoyed the view on the Vilcabamba and Vilcanota Mountain ranges.

We continued hiking for about an hour to our lunch spot where our champing chefs already have prepared our lunch and set up the tables in our dining tent. We even got to take a short siesta to recharge our energy for the afternoon.

After the strenuous ascent in the morning in the afternoon we descended for about two hours to our first camp. On the way we met some shepherds who accompanied a big flock of sheep.

After sunset we admired the clear sky, its star constellations and shooting stars. Even the Milky Way was clearly visible, an exceptional sighting for all of us who live close to urban areas. However, our fatigue forced us to go to sleep early and we all knew that another early morning lay ahead of us.

On the third day of our hike from Cusco to Machu Picchu we were woken up by our guide Juan at six in the morning with a hot cup of tea or coffee. After a quick breakfast we got ready for our next portion of the Quillatambo trail.

The first part of the hike was flat and we were following small paths that were already used by the Incas hundreds of years ago. After two hours we reached our second pass at an altitude of 4650 meter above sea level. It was a steep ascent but once arrived at the top nobody could hide their happiness that we finally made it. From the top we enjoyed a magnificent view on the rock formations below us.

After another two hours of hiking we arrived in a highland valley where our lunchspot was located. In the afternoon we followed the canyon which is filled with crystal blue glacier water until our campsite in Ancascocha, where an old, abandoned school is located. A couple of years ago this building was used as a classroom by the children of the community of Ancascocha. However, many families moved to the valleys looking for better opportunities and a higher living standard. Today the community of Ancascocha counts a population of two people living in small houses and using traditional farming methods.

Since we arrived early at the campsite the old classroom was used for playing card games and relaxing and later on our chefs served us our dinner. For starter we enjoyed a warm soup followed by some delicious pasta as a main dish. Although our camping cooks had to prepare our meals under difficult conditions they never disappointed us and even prepared vegetarian and vegan options. This evening we went to bed next to a large glacier.

The fourth day started like the third day of our Machu Picchu Adventure Trek. We broke camp after we were woken up early by our guide with a hot cup of tea and after taking a hearty breakfast.

We started our day by visiting the two locals still living in the community of Ancascocha. They showed us some of their farming techniques they use to make a living and gave us a tour of their home. It was fascinating to learn more about their way of life in the Andean Highlands without running water and electricity.

After our visit we continued our trek through the narrow Silque Canyon. We always followed the turquoise river and crossed it a couple of times by passing over wooden bridges built by the local people. On the way we spotted many different varieties of orchids. These flowers are typical for this region and a huge variety like that even cannot be observed on the Inca Trail. Our guide Juan, a specialist for spiders, turned almost every stone looking for these little creatures. With success, he showed us different species and taught us a lot about their natural habitat and their characteristics. We finished our trek in the community of Chilca where our transport was waiting for us to take us to Ollantaytambo.

Once arrived in Ollantaytambo we were given some time to relax and take a shower at our hostel. Afterwards everybody who was interested got the chance to visit the arqueological site of Ollantaytambo which is the most important and biggest in the Sacred Valley. Again Juan provided us with many interesting information about the Incan and pre-Incan history.

In the evening we wandered through the streets of Ollantaytambo, some of us on the hunt for souvenirs and others simply appreciating the charm of this little village. For dinner we enjoyed typical Peruvian dishes but you can also encounter restaurants serving international food.

Last but not least on the fifth day of our trip we finally got to travel to Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the New World. We boarded the Expedition Train departing from Ollantaytambo at six in the morning. After a one-and-a-half hour ride we arrived in Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, from where we took a bus to arrive at the ruins of Machu Picchu.

The first sight of the arqueological site was breath-taking. The citadel was bigger than everybody imagined. It’s true that seeing Machu Picchu once is better than seeing a thousand pictures. Our guides lead us through the arqueological site and taught us about the history of this magic place. We visited the agricultural and urban sector and their stories took us back into the Incan times. After three hours visiting Machu Picchu we unfortunately had to leave the site. At this point I told myself that this won’t be the only time that I visit this truly special place.

In the same afternoon we returned to Cusco with a bunch of memories and impressions that we’ll never forget.  Curious about the Quillatambo Trek? Contact us and reserve your departure!

Day Trips from Cusco: The Laguna Humantay

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Day Trips from Cusco: The Laguna Humantay

A lake filled with clear turquoise water and an immense glacier in the background – the first sight of the Laguna Humantay is truly breath-taking. From this moment on everybody agreed that the challenging hike to this magical place located at 4200 meter above sea level was totally worth it.

The crystal blue lake on the foot of the Humantay glacier

In recent years this Cusco excursion gained in popularity and is one of the must-do day excursions from Cusco. However, it is still one of the alternative treks in the area and less crowded than some arqueological sites in the Sacred Valley and the Rainbow Mountain. Many agencies in Cusco operate this route offering different classes of service from private tours to group departures in a minivan of maximum twenty people. We opted for a private departure since we wanted to participate in a more personalized day trip from Cusco.

In my backpack there is …

Layers, layers, layers. Since we did the tour in July, one of the coldest months, it was freezing cold in the morning and we were all packed in several jumpers and jackets. As soon as we arrived in Soraypampa and started hiking it got warmer and warmer. Sun rays were shining on us and we constantly took off layers, however the cold breeze in the mountain highlands made us quickly regret this decision. Another must-bring item are your hiking boots. It is possible to hike the trail in sneakers, however everybody wearing inappropriate footwear struggled downhill on the gravel path. Therefore we would also recommend renting some walking poles.

Furthermore don’t forget your camera. Thanks to the picturesque nature during the trek and the crystal clear water of the lake you can shoot amazing images of your Humantay lake daytrip from Cusco. And last but not least you should pack your raincoat or a poncho from November to March because the weather can be unpredictable in this season.

Physical condition

Prior to the trek you should spend at least one day in Cusco in order to acclimatize yourself to the altitude. If you already struggle with mountain sickness consider spending more time in Cusco or opt for another tour that takes you to a lower altitude. You don’t need any mountaineering experience for this day trip from Cusco, but overall you should be in a good physical condition for doing this trek due to the altitude and the steepness.

How to get to the Laguna Humantay?

The first challenge in the morning was the early start into the day. The alarm was set at four in the morning and our sympathic driver and guide waited half an hour later in front of our hotel. Still a bit sleepy we got into

Plaza de Armas in Mollepata

the car that would take us out of city. Along the route we passed through little villages before we ascended to Mollepata where we stopped for some breakfast.

The meal at the touristic restaurant Casa Salkantay was delicious and served in form of a buffet. However, not only the food was exceptionally good, also the view from the balcony on the valley was fantastic – the first highlight of our Humantay Lake day trip from Cusco.

From Mollepata it was another hour’s drive to the start of the trailhead. Our minivan ascended on a singletrack, gravelpath road up to Soraypampa, located at an altitude of 3 875 meter above sea level. To be honest this road is not for the light-hearted. At the start of the trailhead we prepared ourselves for the track and bought some little snacks from the local people.

The hike

Enjoying the views on the Laguna Humantay

The first thirty minutes of the trek only include a slight ascent. Afterwards the trek gets tougher and the air thinner. Our group had to stop several times in order to catch our breath and after a couple of minutes we continued the trek. Finally, after another hour of steep ascent you’ll reach the lake at the feet of the Mountain Humantay at 4200 meter above sea level.

Arrived at the Laguna Humantay we took a break to absorb the beauty of this place and enjoyed our snacks that we bought at the start of the trailhead. Afterwards we decided to walk around the lake, a bit further away from the viewpoint, to avoid the crowds and enjoy the tranquillity.

Returning to Cusco

After an hour of appreciating the beautiful landscape we decided to start our downhill hike to Soraypampa where our driver was waiting for us. Back in Mollepata we stopped for lunch and got some time to relax from the strenuous hike. Once back in the car all of us fall asleep and woke up again at our arrival around 6pm in Cusco.

Back in our hotel we all were of the same opinion: The Humantay Lake day trip from Cusco was a though one but totally worth it!

Working together for a better future

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Working together for a better future

At Andina Travel we believe that only by working together and including everybody we can achieve our goals for sustainable and eco-tourism. That is the reason why we consider the local people as our most important partners.

Community involvement – From Lares to Anta

A classroom in the Lares Community

What started in Lares fifteen years ago now reaches the Province of Anta: the operation of authentic tours and treks in the region by including the communities. Andina Travel constantly tries to introduce new Cusco treks into the more remote regions in order to better distribute the tourist masses that visit the region each year and to offer visitors less discovered, off-the-beaten track Peru Travel Packages far away from the crowds.

Most importantly, responsible tourism can provide a new opportunity for people living in those areas and improve their standard of living. By paying fair wages to the chefs and horse wranglers who mostly come from the regions in which we operate our Cusco treks, we support the families and local communities. A win-win situation for all of us.

However, the partnership doesn’t end here. Together with Dragoman Overland, a British tour operator, Andina Travel has helped to rebuild a primary school in Cuncani, giving local children access to education in their mother-tongue Quechua. Also the wages of the professors were paid by the company.

400 Alpacas and Llamas

A llama herd donated to a community in the Sacred Pampa

For 200 years alpacas were extinct in some parts of the Andean Highlands surrounding Cusco. In 2014, after a study of the grass, which serves as food for the camelids, Andina Travel and Dragoman Overland have reintroduced alpacas to this region. It wasn’t the first re-introduction of alpacas, a few years ago the two companies already gave animals to the communities of the Lares Valley.

Purchased from Lorenzo Yupanqui a herder from Patacancha Community, little by little Andina Travel donated alpacas and llamas to different communities in the Anta Province. Today there are an estimated 400 alpacas, including their offspring, living in Lares and the Sacred Pampa of Anta. Andina Travel is still providing financial support for buying medicine and vaccination, however it is the local communites who are keeping care of their animals and are responsible for their well-being.

The local communities of Lares passed their expertise of shearing the alpacas, spinning and dying the wool to the people living in the Sacred Pampa. The wool is used for producing traditional clothing like ponchos and scarfs.


Planting trees with one of our travel groups

A few weeks ago the burning Amazon was on the headlines of all the newspapers around the world and global leaders all over the world promised to take action to save the rainforest that produces twenty percent of our CO2. Not only the rainforest was burning there have also been fires in the Sacred Pampa close to Zurite. Long before those happenings we have decided to take action to protect our environment.

In the province of Cusco we have established various reforestation programs in order to preserve our environment, flora and fauna. In the Sacred Pampa in the Andean highlands the trees also serve as a protection for the grass and therefore contribute to the survival of the alpacas. In total we have planted 6,000 trees in between Zurite and Ancuahuasi and in the Lares Valley and we’re still counting.

Sustainable Development Goals

Children in the Lares community

Our actions align with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and we are working in nine out of seventeen categories. By providing fair wages to our employees who are living in the communities we fight poverty, reduce inequalities and positively contribute to decent work and economic growth in rural areas. We always encourage our passengers to donate prescription-free medication in isolated communities to ensure good health and wellbeing of the locals. For our Cusco treks our chefs buy local ingredients, support farmers of the region and at the same time make a contribution to responsible consumption and production.

Andina Travel also takes climate action and has planted 6,000 trees in the Lares Valley and the Sacred Pampa since its foundation. Thanks to our ‘no-trace-policy’ while operating our Peru Travel Packages, clean-up actions and the protection of our surroundings we protect life on land.

And last but not least we are investing into quality education for children by reconstructing school, paying wages for teachers and donating learning material. All this wouldn’t be possible if we haven’t established partnerships to achieve these goals – with the municipalities and the local people because together we are working for a better future in the Andes.