Alfredo mans the bar at Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba in Peru’s Sacred Valley. He is a small man behind a massive copper counter, surrounded by wall-sized windows with towering Andes just beyond. Ask for a pisco sour, and the glory is his. Eggs and bottles fly, shakers flip toward the ceiling, and out pours a foam-topped drink for which he has won awards. If you linger at the bar, Alfredo will show you his real passion: bottles of pisco, a grape-based grain alcohol invented by Spanish colonists, that he has infused with native Andean plants from the lodge’s vast organic garden. He brandishes bottle after bottle with a grin. Quinoa! he declares. Sweet potato! Purple corn!
These staples are the essence of the Sacred Valley, where Quechua farmers tend their crops amid Inca ruins, 16th-century Spanish churches, and mountains said to embody the spirits of ancestors. The Urubamba River curves through this valley, eddying and splashing toward Machu Picchu. Tourists seem to follow its momentum. They touch down in Cusco and hurtle through the Sacred Valley to get to that Inca citadel in the sky. Beyond a token stop at an alpaca farm or a weaving workshop, the Sacred Valley rarely gets more than a passing night’s stay.
But if it weren’t for Machu Picchu, this place would be what you came to see. Along with enigmatic Inca sites, there are hiking trails to tackle, adobe villages to explore, incandescent green fields backed by snowcaps. At artisan cooperatives, traditionally dressed weavers show how their ancestors made natural dyes, pointing out that the crimson of a certain crushed beetle can also be used as a lipstick that lasts for a thousand kisses.
This is the Sacred Valley Jose and Denise Koechlin set out to celebrate when they built Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba on a slope near the village of Urubamba. Following a vision, not a blueprint, they oriented the lodge to face a breathtaking panorama of mountains. They combined Inca-inspired masonry and Spanish colonial architecture, commissioned locals to weave blankets and other textiles, and planted a 10-acre organic garden filled with curious species like Andean mint, golden berries, and tree tomatoes. You can learn to make chicha de jora, or corn beer—a typical drink of the Andes—on site, or follow a guide up the slope behind the lodge at twilight for a lantern-lit hike. And on your return from whatever ruin or trail you find in the Sacred Valley, Alfredo is there to greet you, flinging shakers to the sky as sunset lights up the great wrinkled flanks of the Andes.
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