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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Sacred Valley – Tentative Itinerary

Hi everyone,

We’re a little less than a fortnight away from converging together in Peru, or Tawantinsuyu, the land of the four suyus.

This yak is to share our tentative itinerary with you.   The “Tentative” label is a cornerstone of our philosophy and reflects how flexible, adaptable, and alive an adventure with Dragons can be.  It also hints at the ethos that what we do, where we go, and what we see are less important than what our reflections of those experiences are.  Please note that dates and places are subject to change based on our needs and wants, as well as some of the unique surprises that arise in the landscape of Peruvian culture.

March 20: Arrivals: Folks will be arriving into Cusco throughout the day, and although our journey formally begins on March 21, we’ll help facilitate a transfer from the Cusco Airport to our eco-lodge in Urubamba (about an hour away).  We will provide dinner at the lodge that evening.

March 21-22: Urubamba: We’ll start our journey based out of a quiet eco-lodge, where we’ll spend two days orienting ourselves to our surroundings, getting to know each other, and learning about the cultural and spiritual significance of this sacred landscape. A day hike takes us to little-known Incan ruins tucked away in the surrounding mountains, as we learn about Quechua traditions and the legacy of the Incan empire in modern day Peru.

March 23-26: Parque de la Papa: Heading deeper into the mountains above the Sacred Valley town of Pisac, we spend three days in Parque de la Papa, a collection of remote Quechua villages working to preserve their cultural and agricultural traditions. Staying with local families, we learn about the more than 1,000 varieties of potatoes produced in this region, and the ways in which community members are adapting to changing climate conditions. Hikes take us to sparkling alpine lakes, while workshops with families engage us in traditional textile traditions, medicinal plants, and Andean spirituality. Conversations with our hosts explore the oftentimes incongruous forces of development and the preservation of cultural heritage and indigenous identity. We’ll share in the everyday tasks of our home-stay families: harvesting potatoes, herding sheep, milking or spending hours hunched over a fire preparing meals. By the time you’ll learn your first few phrases of Quechua, the mother-tongue of the Incas and their descendants, you’ll see why some potatoes are for everyday use, while others only for special occasions like weddings or funerals or dessert puddings!  Oh, and there’s the taste of each unique potato!

Descending from the Potato Park, we spend an afternoon at the Pisac Archaeological Complex, an elaborate fortress and burial site that once protected the southern entrance to the Sacred Valley. This lesser-known site offers sweeping views of the valley, intricate agricultural terraces and irrigation systems still in use today, and a window into the dramatic rise and fall of the Incan empire.

March 27: Travel to Ollantaytambo: We leave our gracious home-stay families behind and continue our travels across the Sacred Valley to the quaint little town of Ollantaytambo, where people still live in houses that were originally built by the Incas.

March 28: Machu Picchu: A mandatory sunrise start today has us boarding a train (yes, harkens back to a different era!) towards the lush cloud-forests that guard the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu. Our early efforts will be rewarded as we will see the mist rise off the mountain, revealing the Lost City of the Incas. We will explore and learn about this magical site and there will be free time for all to soak in the energy of this awe-inspiring place.  During our excursion we also discuss the impacts of tourism on cultural patrimony in the midst of the most visited archaeological site in the Western Hemisphere.

March 29-31: Cusco: By now, we’ll have explored the entire length of the Sacred Valley, landing us back to Cusco, the capital of the Incan empire.  We spend two days exploring this ancient city, where past and present co-exist in a bewildering and captivating union. Our final days together will be spent navigating the city’s winding streets, enjoying the rich flavors of Peruvian cuisine, visiting local experts and guest speakers, and reflecting on the enduring lessons of modernity, adaptation, and cultural resistance in southern Peru. We’ll be accompanied by our friend Siwar Qente, a Q’eros spiritual leader and descendent of the Inca. Siwar will guide us in a traditional ceremony in the Q’eros tradition as we complete the program honoring this sacred landscape, reflecting upon our journey, and preparing for the transition home

March 31: Departures:  Our experience together will officially come to a close after a group lunch together. Some folks are continuing on their journeys, while others will be catching a flight back home.

With care,