cusco, peru: five findings
A few findings from my time in Cusco, Peru!
1. Visit.org: Salkantay Trek. Although I was not able to do this due to health reasons, I still wanted to write about it to bring awareness to an amazing organization!! Visit.org enables travelers to book authentic, local experiences with do-good organizations and 100% of the revenue is invested back into the local community. I had originally planned to do a 4 day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu and would've been able to meet with local families along the way. I hope to come back and do this some day. Based in New York City, visit.org offers a variety of trips across the globe and many social issues. I highly recommend checking out visit.org for your next trip and making a positive difference in the community you are visiting!
2. Llama Pack Project: my friend, Christa, told me about Llama Pack Project, based about 1.5 hours outside of Cusco. Again, although I unfortunately did not get to visit, I still wanted to highlight this organization!! "The Llama Pack Project works to recover traditional uses and breeding of carrier llamas as a tool for sustainable rural development and conservation of mountain ecosystems in the highlands surrounding the Sacred Valley of the Incas." The goal of the project is to help the environment, llamas and people simultaneously. As a traveler, you can support the Llama Pack Project by booking a program or a trek. There are a variety of different programs available depending on your interests (education, healthcare, environment, etc). You can also do a trek with the llamas and learn more about the community while participating in responsible tourism!
3. Milhouse Hostel Cusco: my hostel was an 18th century monastery, making it an incredibly beautiful place to stay, only a few blocks from the main square, Plaza de Armas. The staircases are covered with colorful, positive art. My favorite said "love" in many languages and was overlapped with "One Love, One Humanity, One Planet, We are One." <3. The two courtyards in the hostel brought the best vibes. At night, I would go read under the stars in the garden courtyard. Fellow hostel-goers would often play their guitar or sing music here, too! Not to mention I met the most incredible people while having dinner in the hostel restaurant. Lastly, the hostel sells products from the social project, Taller Mantay, an organization supporting young mother artisans. 100% of proceeds go back towards the women in the organization.
4. Squares & Markets: Cusco is filled with beautiful squares and markets. The blue skies, green grass, fountains, benches and amazing architecture welcome you to the city. The markets are bustling with all that Peru has to offer, most notably, the stunningly beautiful clothing- that brightens the day! I got the most beautiful sweater that has kept me the most warm!
Additionally, there has been a protest going on for several days all over the city (as seen in the bottom right photo here). All I know is that it is mostly teachers/professors marching, however, have been trying to gather more information (difficult at times w/ language barrier!). Regardless of what the protest is for, always amazing to live in a country where free speech is acceptable.
5. Morena & La Bodega 138: not entirely social impact-related but goodness-related :). These were my two favorite restaurants in Cusco! Morena is a Peruvian kitchen with the most amazing food and decor! I loved the bright, simplistic, colorful yet natural vibe and the art, plants and fruits spread throughout the restaurant. My juice smoothie was beautifully presented with flowers and kiwi galore! I also had the best vegetarian quinoa sandwich- delicious!! La Bodega 138 has amazing wood fire pizza and the best ambiance at night. It even had my favorite... pineapple pizza!
Although it was a very different 10 days than I expected in Cusco, I am still so grateful for my time here and what I have learned about the country and myself. Now, onto Santiago!