Posts Tagged ‘Sacred Valley’

Lobby Bar at Tambo del Inka

Saturday, December 4th, 2010 by virginia

After getting caught in the rain and rushing back to the hotel, we ended up staying in for dinner rather then venturing back out into the town of Urubamba. Our options were pretty limited, just the hotel restaurant, Hawa, or the Lobby Bar. We were pretty tired, not very hungry, and not feeling up for a formal dining experience so we opted for grabbing a casual bite to eat at the bar.

Grand mosaic behind the bar

The bar itself was really quite nice, with tall ceilings, interesting lighting pieces, and a beautiful mosaic art piece behind the bar.We had the option of sitting inside or outside but because it was kind of cold out we chose to stay inside where we settled in at one of the many open tables. While there were people drinking and smoking on the terrace, we had the indoor section to ourselves, which I kind of liked because we could chat without bothering anyone.

Cool lighting

We were in the mood for wine so Josh selected a bottle of red from Chile. We found that while wine was definitely not cheap in Peru, the South American wines provided more bang for our buck. We could usually get some sort of gran reserva wine for about US$40 a bottle, which isn’t too bad. We ended up drinking a lot of Argentinean malbecs on our trip, which is just fine by me. The Chilean wine we got that night was a variety we had never heard of, carmenere. Apparently it’s related to the cabernet grape family. This wine had a rich, deep flavor that was fruity but not sweet, and a velvety mouth feel. We both took a sip and looked at each other at the same time and said “wow!” While we love to drink wine, we’re not exactly wine connoisseurs (for example, my standard everyday drinking white wine is 3 buck chuck chardonnay). We just like to drink what tastes good, and this definitely fit the bill. Appropriately, it was a “max reserva”, and I took a picture of the bottle so we can look for it here. (Note to self: look for this wine).

Great wine

In terms of food, I was actually pretty shocked by how expensive the dishes were at this hotel. We looked at both the restaurant menu and the bar menu, and things were pretty much double the most expensive prices we had seen our trip. Lomo saltado, for example, which I found pricey at 35 soles in Puno, was over 70 soles here. I guess it’s understandable considering this was by far the most luxurious hotel we stayed at on our trip, but I found it kind of ironic that it was also the most expensive place even though we were in one of the poorest cities on our trip. The huge difference made me feel a bit guilty. I just hope that our tourist dollars are helping out the people in town!

We really weren’t that hungry so we ended up sharing a shrimp appetizer and a chicken sandwich. After we placed our order, we settled in to snack on the basket of potato chips they brought to us with our wine. Hands down, these were the best potato chips we’ve ever eaten. Freshly cut, sliced super thin, perfectly fried, and well seasoned, these chips were absolutely fantastic. We could see the skin still on the edges, and they were delicately crispy without being greasy. They had the intense potato flavor we found in most Peruvian potatoes, and we could not stop crunching on these awesome chips.

Awesome potato chips

The shrimp appetizer we got was shrimp in a curry, coconut, and cilantro sauce. The shrimp were served three to a skewer, and there were three skewers. We were intrigued by the sauce, which was a great blend of flavors. It was sweet and savory at the same time, and no one component overpowered the others. The shrimp were perfectly cooked so that they were delicate and tender, not tough or chewy. It didn’t seem like a big portion at first but the sauce was rich enough to satisfy our meager appetites.

Shrimp in curry, cocounut, and cilantro sauce

The chicken sandwich was sort of a random selection on our part but I was in the mood for something simple. Nothing else on the menu really appealed to me, plus it gave me an excuse to be able to eat french fries. The chicken was breaded in panko and served with avocado, lettuce, and tomato on a whole wheat roll. Certainly not very Peruvian or exciting, but it was perfectly cooked and perfectly tasty. The avocado added a nice creaminess and richness so that it didn’t need mayo. The fries on the side were made from assorted potatoes, some more starchy than others. I was super excited when I asked for ketchup and got Heinz. The ketchup I had on the trip so far, whenever I could find it, was always fluorescent pink and watery, not tasting very similar to the ketchup I’m used to. Josh laughed at me because I was so thrilled with the Heinz, but he just doesn’t understand the different nuances because he doesn’t eat ketchup. Personally, I don’t understand how anyone can get through life without eating ketchup. He’s just weird like that.

Panko crusted chicken sandwich on a whole wheat roll, with french fries

Overall we both liked the food we got at the Lobby Bar but it was definitely overpriced for what we got. Despite having just an appetizer, a sandwich, and a bottle of wine (albeit a really nice one), the bill was US$70 after tax and tip, or about 200 soles, which made it the third most expensive meal on our whole trip. The shrimp was really tasty though, and the sauce was really an intriguing combination that I wouldn’t mind trying again. The chicken sandwich was standard but well executed. I also loved the fries and potato chips, and the wine was superb. My favorite part though was the company, and the vibe of the bar. We were relaxed and at ease in the low key environment. They kept playing the same music over and over but we didn’t mind, since one of the songs was Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight”, which has special meaning for us. Service was attentive but not overbearing. It could have been easy for them to hover since we were the only people dining inside but they gave us our space and still came promptly whenever we needed anything. I would highly recommend staying at Tambo del Inka, though I’m not sure how expensive (or not) it really is, since everything was booked through our tour company. It’s definitely worth looking into if you plan on staying in the Sacred Valley.

Lobby Bar at Tambo del Inka
Av. Ferrocaril s/n, Valle Sagrado
Urubamba, Peru

Alhambra Hacienda Restaurant

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 by virginia

After spending the morning and early afternoon in Pisac and Ollantaytambo taking in some Sacred Valley sights, we had lunch at Alhambra Hacienda Restaurant. I’m guessing the place caters mostly to tourists but the food was good, the grounds were beautiful, and there were lots of animals wandering around to keep us entertained. There was an indoor section of the restaurant but the weather was so nice that we sat outside under a large gazebo. The area that held the buffet items was sort of inside and outside, in a covered courtyard that was definitely built in the Spanish style.

An overview of the restaurant grounds with grazing animals, the gazebo we ate inside, and the main part of the restaurant in the back

Our lunch was included with our tour and was served buffet style. We walked around looking at all of the offerings before loading up our plates. We started off with bowls of vegetable soup that was simple but flavorful, and perfect for dunking with crusty bread.

Vegetable soup and bread

We basically both got a few “feeler” plates so that we could taste as many different things as we could fit in our stomachs:

Beets, roast beef, bean salad, baked pasta, causa (a layered casserole with potato, tuna, and avocado), and giant cancha (fried corn kernals)

Bread, lima beans, orange chicken, refried beans, beef, trout, pork, more bean salad in the middle

We didn’t really linger over our meal because we were eager to get up close with the animals that were grazing in the field behind us.

Shaggy llamas

Alpacas and a vicuna (Josh really wanted to pet it but didn't have the guts)

There were also a pair of colorful parrots hanging out in a tree.

Pretty birds

While Josh was playing around with his wide angle lens, I walked around and took some flower pics.

Overall the food at Alhambra was pretty simple and rustic but very hearty. Some of the meats were a bit tough but everything tasted pretty good, even the orange chicken, surprisingly. There was dessert too but we weren’t in the mood for sweets. The atmosphere is casual and laid back, and we kind of felt like we were at a picnic or barbecue. I’m not sure if the restaurant is always a buffet, or if they serve a la carte meals as well. It is close to a few major hotels in the area, so it might be something worth checking out if you’re there.

Alhambra Hacienda Restaurant
Carretera Urubamba-Ollantaytambo Rd.
Urubamba, Peru

Peru Day 9 – Sacred Valley (Pisac and Ollantaytambo)

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 by virginia

We had yet another early morning flight, departing Juliaca (the closest airport to Puno) at 7:30 in the morning and getting to Cusco around 8:30. We were pretty exhausted and the flight was too short to get in a good catnap. When we arrived in Cusco, we dropped our bags off at the hotel we would we be staying in two days later and took with us just a small bag with enough supplies for the next two nights. The reason for this was because we would be taking the train to Machu Picchu the next day and there are luggage limits on the train.

Our tour guide picked us up from the hotel and we began our Sacred Valley tour, driving up into the mountains away from Cusco. The first stop on our tour was an animal sanctuary where rescued animals are nursed back to health. There are lots of really cool animals there, including a pair of pumas and a few condors. The sanctuary is a bit small but they’re in the process of expanding. We were able to walk around and get up close and personal with a few of the animals. The sanctuary is run by a family and relies on donations and I think it’s a very worthy cause.

Gorgeous puma


Condor up close (kinda looks like a turkey!)

Adorable but vicious Andean kitty (seriously, if you waved your hand in front of it, you'd probably lose a few fingers!)

Hairless Peruvian dog

Our next stop was Pisac, and more specifically, the famous Pisac Market. The market is ginormous and filled with stall after stall of people selling all sorts of wares. We were there on Sunday, which is one of the busier market days. It was pretty packed and there was a lively, festive atmosphere to the place. Before setting us loose to shop our hearts out, our guide took us to a bakery in the market that is famous for its empanadas.

The location of the bakery

The big oven used by the bakery

The empanadas were not like the ones we’re used to at home. The outside was more like bread rather than a pastry, and the filling was chunky. There were potatoes, vegetables, and cheese in the ones we had. The bread was a little thick but when we hit the filling, the combination was really tasty and savory. Plus they only cost 1 sol each, a true bargain.

Empanada innards

I wish that we had more time to explore the eating options in Pisac Market but we only had 45 minutes to shop and we had a lot of souvenirs to buy. It seemed like a lot of stalls were selling the same kinds of things so basically we just picked the one with the most options and did a bit of haggling since we were buying a lot of stuff. Once we got everything we needed, we only had a little bit of time left to wander around and take a few photos.

After Pisac, we headed to Ollantaytambo to visit an Inca archaeological site. It was our first true taste of Inca architecture, and the site was absolutely fascinating. The main structure had lots of steps and terraces, with alcoves carved into the rock and trapezoid-shaped doorways, an Inca signature. In the more sacred temple areas, the rock is smoothed down and are cut perfectly so that each rock fits into the next without any mortar, and the angles are really precise.

Huge Inca structure at Ollantaytambo

Steps and terraces

Trapezoid-shaped alcoves cut into smooth rock walls

Trapezoid-shaped doorway

The rougher stones in the lower, "less important" sections

It was super windy at the top of the structure, but we also had a wonderful of the city down below and the surrounding mountains. The town itself still has some of the original Inca walls and trapezoid-shaped doorways, as well as the same water channel that runs through it.

A view of the city below

There are Incan storehouses in the mountains where they used to keep their grain, which are still intact. The more interesting thing about the mountain right in front of the large structure, however, is that archaeologists believe the Incas carved the mountain so that it follows the different solstices. At one solstice, the sun bursts out right over the top of the mountain, which has a cradle shape at the peak. At another solstice, the sun appears from behind the side of the mountain, where there appears to be a profile of an Incan face. It’s actually pretty incredible if they really did manipulate the mountain in that way.

A view of the mountain. The markings around the middle are the storehouses. See the flat cradle shape at the top.

Can you see the profile of the Incan face? Look to the bottom right of the hole in the clouds.

An evil face carved into the mountain?

There was a fountain at the base of the structure that was also really neat. There was a trapezoid-shaped window behind the fountain that framed the mountain perfectly. And, unsurprisingly, during one of the solstices, a ray of sunlight shines directly on the point where the water starts to fall into the pool.

Water fountain with picture perfect window view

After leaving the wonders of Ollantaytambo, we were taken to lunch at a restaurant called Alhambra. The restaurant has beautiful grounds and we spent a little time wandering around after we finished eating. Our guided tour was over after this, and we were dropped off at our hotel, the Tambo del Inka. It was by far the most luxurious and beautiful hotel we stayed in our entire trip. We had a king sized bed, a sitting area with a couch and a desk, a walk in closet, and a huge bathroom with separate stalls for the shower/tub and toilet. It was awesome.

The ironic thing was that while we were staying in the lap of luxury, the town the hotel was in, Urubamba, was the poorest town we saw on our trip. We took the short walk to the center of town, and it was kind of run down and nothing appeared to be open. We walked through the Plaza de Armas where there was a church (of course) and not much else.


There is an Inca wall at one end of the town, which we walked to. The wall itself is pretty well kept and if you stare at the rocks long enough, you can start to see flower shapes.

Inca wall

There was supposed to be another Inca ruin to visit in the town but dark clouds quickly started rolling in (we had heard thunder rumbling in the distance earlier but didn’t think much of it) and all of a sudden the skies opened up and it was pouring rain. It got really dark almost immediately and there was thunder and lightening all around us. It was kind of scary, actually, and we started running back to the hotel which was a good 15-20 minutes away by foot. We had no jackets and no umbrella of course so we were getting soaked. While we didn’t care much about ourselves, we didn’t want Josh’s camera to get ruined.

While we were running down the road back toward our hotel, we saw a “taxi chola”, which is kind of like a motorized pedicab. We flagged the guy down and hopped into the back, which is covered in vinyl, happy to get out of the pouring rain. We asked him how much it would cost to get back to our hotel, which was about a mile away. Keep in mind that this was a torrential downpour, with gusting winds and lightening and thunder. He could have quoted us an astronomical price and totally ripped us off because we were clearly desperate. There was nowhere for us to duck in out of the rain since nothing was open. So what price did he tell us? 2 soles. Yes, 2 soles. About 75 cents. Unreal!

The ride itself was kind of fun, with us bouncing around in the back while the moped drove through puddles and over potholes. He dropped us off at the entrance gate to our hotel (I guess they don’t let taxi cholas up the fancy driveway!) and we gave him 5 soles, which was still a bargain in our minds.

Because of the rain and because we didn’t see any restaurants to try (the one our concierge recommended was closed) we decided to stay in and eat at the hotel bar. We actually had a great time eating, drinking, and chatting, and then we went to sleep in our fluffy and comfortable bed. It was definitely one of the best days that we had on our trip, and we were giddily excited for what was still to come (hint: Machu Picchu).