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Photo story: High in the Peru Andes

The Sacred Valley is a fertile furrow in the Peruvian landscape and cradle of the Incan Empire. Today, it’s a place where traditions meld with culinary innovations and luxury lodges.

By Lianne Milton
Photographs By Lianne Milton
Published 3 Apr 2019, 18:48 BST, Updated 5 Nov 2020, 05:46 GMT
A local braids a child's hair
A local braids a child's hair.
Photograph by Lianne Milton
A local carries wood through the Sacred Valley.
Photograph by Lianne Milton
Sheep are herded across the Sacred Valley.
Photograph by Lianne Milton

Surrounded by snow-capped peaks and beneath a crisp, blue sky, an Andean family rests after harvesting potatoes at around 11,500ft. The land here has been cultivated since the Incas, who used tiered terraces — known as ‘andenes’ — like the ones dominating the landscape here at Moray, to maximise the land for agriculture. The step-like formation allows farmers to grow a variety of crops, such as maize, at different altitudes.

Locals rest in the Sacred Valley, the Andres as a backdrop.
Photograph by Lianne Milton
Tiered terraces.
Photograph by Lianne Milton
Cuchara de Palo restaurant.
Photograph by Lianne Milton

The Sacred Valley’s modern culinary scene is best glimpsed at places such as Cuchara de Palo, the restaurant at the Pisac Inn, where diners enjoy Peruvian fare on the flowery, rose-coloured patio. Elsewhere, 11,500ft above the swirling slopes of Moray, master chef Virgilio Martínez’s newest concept restaurant, Mil, blends ultra-local, farm-to-table experiences with chic, minimalist design.

Mil restaurant.
Photograph by Lianne Milton
Root vegetables in dishes.
Photograph by Lianne Milton
Local herbs crushed in a bowl.
Photograph by Lianne Milton

In the district of Chinchero, a group of Chawaytiri artisans keep the centuries-old tradition of weaving and dyeing alive. The locals, most of whom speak only the native language of Quechua, work solely by hand. Proceeds from the sales of their craft go directly to the community, which helps maintain their art for both visitors and the Chawaytiri, and has greatly improved their quality of life.

Flowers put in a pot over a fire.
Photograph by Lianne Milton
A local holding traditionally-made woven fabric.
Photograph by Lianne Milton

Dotted along the Urubamba River, which snakes along the valley floor, are a string of high-end boltholes in the shadows of the Andes. Explora Valle Sagrado is a modern, airy lodge set on the site of a 15th-century corn plantation, meanwhile at Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado, guests can unwind in lush gardens on the banks of the river or saddle up and explore the region on horseback. 

Staff at Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado.
Photograph by Lianne Milton
The Sacred Valley.
Photograph by Lianne Milton

See more images in our photo gallery:

Published in the April 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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