Welcome to our blog. We hope you enjoy our posts on Peruvian history, archaeology, cultural insights, events such as festivals, and travel tips.

Join us for archaeological, arts and textile small group tour

Elvi Bjorkquist - Saturday, May 14, 2016

Join Elvi for the ultimate archaeological, cultural arts and textiles small-group escorted tour to Peru group tour – 14 days, Oct. 8-21, 2016.
Experience Peru as few others do. For details.

Age-Old Dyeing Techniques

Elvi Bjorkquist - Saturday, May 14, 2016

Artisans Use Age-Old Dyeing Techniques

Peruvians have been creating colorful yarns, threads, and textiles for centuries from the abundant natural plants and insects of the Andes. Although in the 20th Century some artisans used synthetic dyes, there's a rebirth in the use of traditional natural dyes.

Red, the brightest of colors, is a favorite for clothing and other woven products. The dye is made from dried Cochineal, a tiny insect often found on prickly pear cactus.

Orange is often made from the orange bark of the Yanali tree. The bark is chipped into small pieces, boiled, and is fixed with salt.

Peruvians have many ways to produce green dye for their textiles. They use three different plants, Ch’illia which is mixed with a natural chemical compound found in the jungle, or Mutuy, or Nununqa. all indigenous plants.

Purple is made from a hard-to-find mountain plant, uncommon in the Sacred Valley, called Awaypili, and a seed called Mote Mote. Many artisans now purchase their Awaypili at markets.

Blue is often created with a combination of a bean-like pod called Tara, and blue collpa (a local form of copper sulphate) as a fixative. When weavers can find it in the market, they will also use the plant, Indigo, for the color blue.

Many different plants and flowers can be boiled to produce Yellow. The leaves of a Peruvian pepper tree, Molle, also create yellow dye.
On our tours, you will visit markets where the plants, flowers, and dyes are sold. Plus you’ll attend dyeing, spinning, and weaving demonstrations, visit specialty shops selling colorful contemporary textiles, and museums in which ancient textiles will be on display.  Read more about Peruvian textiles

New discovery of female mummy

Elvi Bjorkquist - Saturday, May 14, 2016

Artifacts Found With The Female MummyAlthough most archaeologists believed ancient cities north of Lima were 2,500 years old, a new discovery dates civilizations there at 4,500 years old. The new discovery, a high-status female mummy was probably a noblewoman who died between aged 40 to 50 years old. She was buried with carved bone objects of monkeys and birds, and other diverse artifacts made from seashells. She was recently unearthed in Aspero, an ancient fishing village, about 14 miles from Caral.

Other signs of the importance of the arts are bone flutes found at several sites indicating that music, in addition to the textile and visual arts, played an important role in Peru’s ancient civilizations.

Our small group tours highlight these types of artifacts with hosted visits to museums. Of course, you will also tour the archaeological sites from which these items were excavated.Read more about Peru's ancient cultures

Peru Textiles as Sacred Objects

Elvi Bjorkquist - Thursday, July 24, 2014

 
Peru Textiles as Sacred Objects

In our culture today, our mass-produced textiles are seen as functional or decorative articles. 

But the Pre-Columbian cultures placed a high value on textiles as ritual and symbolic works of art. Some were sacred objects, others were politically charged gifts, some indicated the wearer’s status and function in society, some the community in which they lived, and some fibers and designs were reserved for distinct categories of individuals. 

Incredibly complex technically, textiles consumed the largest percentage of human labor in the Andean world. The entire society was dedicated to fiber. Fibers included pima cotton, plant-fibers, and Camelid fibers (from llamas, alpacas, vicunas, for example).  

For cotton textiles work entailed planting, tending, harvesting, removal of seeds, cleaning, combing, spinning, loom construction, warping, weaving, extracting dye from plants, wetting, steeping and drying. Camelid fibers required years of herding, attention to animal fertility and health, sheering, washing, carding, spinning and dyeing of threads.

Artisans, primarily women, then tightly wove the fibers into intricate patterns requiring skill, dedication, and often years of labor for one garment.

The Priority of Textiles

The Peruvian priority of textiles over pottery was different from the artistic practices of Old World Europe, in which pottery was the earliest and most basic art form.  Although textiles were the predominant medium in ancient Peru, the other media were stone, gold and silver, and ceramics.

Andean textile tradition spans more than ten thousand years, starting with plant-fiber basketry. Fiber basketry, Carbon-14 dated to between 8,600 and 8,000 B.C.E., was found high in the Andes in the Guitarrero Cave in Peru. A plain-woven fabric from 3,000 B.C.E. was found in the Ecuadorian site of Valdivia. The Pre-Ceramic site of Huaca Prieta in Peru on the North Coast yielded over nine thousand fabric fragments dated at about 2,300 B.C.E. They included double readings of animal imagery more sophisticated than those on other media such as pottery and metal. 

The oldest tradition of textiles is found in Peru. Today many Peruvian textile weavers keep the tradition alive using ancient methods and imagery.  And some push the boundaries with innovative techniques and designs. 

Cultural Expeditions, with its extensive knowledge of Peruvian arts, offers in-depth tours revealing the history, imagery, and techniques of ancient and contemporary Peruvian textiles. Check out Peruvian fibers on our website.



Textile Treasures and Social Goals

Elvi Bjorkquist - Friday, June 27, 2014

 

Textile Treasures and Social Goals

 

Breeding of alpacas for fiber was developed around 500 BCE by the Pukara in the Lake Titicaca region of Southern Peru. Centuries later, the Incas were remarkably successful in refining the domesticated alpaca. Archaeologists have found mummified alpacas at Incan burial sites whose fleece is far finer than any known today. It was the Incas who developed the alpaca into two distinct fleece types, the huacaya and the less common suri. The huacaya alpaca produce crimped fleece appropriate for bulkier yarns, while the suri produce a silkier texture used to make refined wovens.

 

Mallkini is an alpaca ranch, research center and hotel complex in the highlands of Puno by Lake Titicaca in Southern Peru. Their main thrust is its role as a social project. They improve the animals and share them with the communities so they too can produce fiber that can be sold at a good price – which gives them a dignified life in the mountains. They have started a boarding school near Mallkini so that kids that live three hours away on foot or horseback can get a good education and have personal and professional choices.

 

The Mallkini camelid produce fibers which compete with mohair, cashmere and quiviut worldwide. In Arequipa they show the most important aspects of the business to visitors. Their camelid fibers are competitive internationally along with pursuing clear social goals.

 

You can learn more about Peruvian textiles and our textile tours to Peru on our website.

Cusco Popular Destination for Families

Elvi Bjorkquist - Sunday, July 21, 2013

 

By María Elena Tord for El Comercio

Translated by Alix Farr

There are many activities in the Sacred Valley that are suitable 

for family members of all ages.

Cusco is becoming an ever more popular destination for families.

The charm of the city that so delights the adults can also be 

something to please the kids, though they may not immediately 

realize it. Once there, your family will see that the number of 

activities for children is on the rise. 

It is recommended that the first stop of your trip, after arriving in

Cusco, be Urubamba, because it is at a slightly lower altitude, 

which can help prevent altitude sickness. 

Children love walks to the river and through the valleys. A little 

bit of fresh air is always nourishing, especially for those who 

live in the city. 

One outing that the kids  always like is to the salt-evaporation 

ponds of Maras, where wells of salt create a sea of white 

surrounded by mountains. This is where salt is extracted and t

hen sent to the regional markets. Those who extract the salt 

come on foot or by car in the dry season.

Not far away are the circular terraces of Moray, which served as 

an agricultural laboratory during Inca times. Today it is a fun place 

to visit. The kids can run around, up and down, through the terraces.

Also near by, only 20 minutes by car from Moray, is Chinchero. 

When there, ask for the textile workshops, where local women 

do demonstrations of the weaving process. These textiles are known

as being the most beautiful of the region, and they preserve the 

ancestral techniques that you will be able to appreciate in a class.

In Chinchero, you can also visit the church and the archaeological 

complex located next to the main plaza.

An option for the afternoon is Wayra, which is part of the 

Sol y Luna Hotel. It offers a number of different experiences for 

those in the Sacred Valley, including many that would appeal to young

people. The concept of Wayra is to introduce the culture and art of 

the local people to children by way of workshops in ceramics, textiles 

and cooking.

In Wayra, as well as in other rural centers in the area, there are 

opportunities to go horseback riding, as well as go on mountain biking 

and kayaking expeditions. In Pachar, Natura Vive has alternative

adventures in scaling a 300-meter rock wall that are suitable for 

children, from 6 years old. 

In the valley, there is a chicken restaurant called Wallpa Wasi, 

which is a nice country-style restaurant, in the style of Lima’s famous 

Granja Azul. Kids will be able to enjoy pollo a la brasa and play 

on a playground. This is a great lunch option.

In the city of Cusco there are also many options for the youngest 

members of our families. Just outside the city is the archaeological 

complex of Sacsayhuaman, where there are a number of natural

rock formations that are used as slides.

If you would like some fresh-air activities, you can ride horses to 

“Zona x” where you can explore the mysterious caves.

In the city, you can also take tours that start at the Plaza de Armas.

In the afternoon, what could be better than something sweet in a 

place full of toys? In Cusco there exists such a place, called Yanapay, 

which has a “village” for children. There are tables and chairs

sized just write for the kids, as well as games, desserts, and storytime.

Another option is El Hada where Alessandra Pinasco, inspired by the 

culinary passion that she inherited from her grandfather, offers artisan 

ice cream in 40 flavors, which are 100 percent natural. Options include 

lavender, baked apple, Doña Pepa, vanilla and “suspiro.” And for the 

adults in the group, there is also coffee.

The Choco Museo is another great option. Visitors here can learn 

about the process of preparing cacao and chocolate. For kids, there 

is the workshop called “From the Tree,” which includes two very

fun hours where they will make their own chocolates and have a 

dozen flavors to choose from. This is recommended for children 8 years 

old and up, and the experience can be shared with parents. 

For the smaller children 4 years old an up, there is a mini-workshop 

that takes 45 minutes. Kids will mold their own chocolates with flavors 

of their choosing. And at night, what better than a pizza? In the San Blas 

neighborhood, you will find Pacha Papa, a great restaurant with a big patio. 

From the clay ovens come pizzas of a variety of flavors.

Contact Us for special tours with kids.


First Unlooted Tomb Found In Peru

Elvi Bjorkquist - Sunday, July 21, 2013




El Castillo de Huarmey, the stepped pyramid 
mausoleum on the coast of southern Peru, 
has been dubbed the “Temple of the Dead.” 
Peru announced Thursday the discovery of 
an ancient tomb filled with golden treasure, 
three queens and the servants who 
accompanied them into the afterlife some 
1,200 years ago.

The Wari (Huari) were ancient rulers of 
southern Peru before 1000 A.D. and the 
advent of the Inca Empire. The 
archaeologists collected more than a thousand 
artifacts, including sophisticated gold and silver 
jewelry, bronze axes, and gold weaving tools, 
along with the bodies of three Wari queens 
and 60 other individuals. For archaeologists, 
the greatest treasure will be the tomb’s wealth 
of new information on the Wari (Huari) Empire. 
The construction of an imperial mausoleum at 
El Castillo shows that Wari lords conquered and 
politically controlled this part of the northern 
coast, and likely played a key role in the 
downfall of the northern Moche kingdom.

Explore our Cultures & Arts Timeline and 
Pre-Columbian Art Gallery, plus our timeline map.

We provide tours to these magical wonders.

The Orchids of Machu Picchu

Elvi Bjorkquist - Sunday, February 20, 2011



The Orchids of Machu Picchu

The country of Peru has 84 of the 103 biodiversity zones found on earth, 
is home to more than 3,000 of the 30,000 known orchid species, but it is 
estimated that only about 50% of the Peruvian species have so far 
been discovered.
 
If you like orchids and adventure, and you are not afraid of heights and 
walking then I recommend you visit the Machu Picchu sanctuary. 
The starting point is the city of Cuzco, where you take a train to 
Aguas Calientes. In Aguas Calientes you can visit the Thermal Baths 
that are situated about 800 meters from the railway station, on the 
way you can find three different orchids in flower, Alstenstenia fimbriata, 
a pink Epidendrum secundum and a Lycaste trifoliate.
 
At the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel you can admire their gardens where 
they claim to have over 140 species of orchids from the region although 
not all are from the sanctuary. The gardens consist of a native forest where 
a lot of orchid plants can be seen, the best months for floration are 
October and November, during the month of April you can see the 
following species: Phragmipedium caudatum, Hofmeisterella eumicroscopica, 
Oncidium scansor, Encyclia fusca, Oncidium pentadactilon, Pleurothalis 
ruberrima, Scaphiglotis leucantha, as well as various unidentified species. 
On Machu Picchu itself there is also an orchid garden that visitors can enjoy.
 
From Aguas Calientes if one walks 300 meters down the railway line there 
is a path that will take you to the "Mirador", recommended only for young 
adventurous people, since in three places along the path one has to climb 
150 feet of ladders that are stuck against the rock. Nevertheless, in the first 
half of this path, besides the good view of the river, one can see Sobralia 
dichotoma, which by itself makes the effort worthwhile. The Inca Trail is an 
exciting experience that takes on average four days, the highest point is 
the pass at Warmiwanuska at 4800 meters (14500 feet). There also exists 
 
the possibility of doing the Royal Inca Trail, and takes only two days, it 
starts at Km.104 and climbs from 6500 feet to 10000 feet at Winay Huayna 
(which means "always young" in the Quechua language) this is also the 
name given to Epidendrum secundum that grows throughout the year in 
this region. This is where they usually spend the night. The ruins at 
Winay Huayna are worthwhile visiting, they are surrounded by lush forest, 
and of special interest are the row of baths which still have water running 
between the stone masonry. For the orchid lover, the walk from Winay Huayna 
to Machu Picchu is an unforgettable experience since it is full of bromeliads and
orchids, you can see Epidendrum secundum, a pink and a white variety, 
Lycaste longipetala, Masdevallia veitchiana, Pleurothalis stenophilla, two 
types of Elleanthus, one Odontoglossum, Maxillaria gigantea and the ever 
present Sobralia dichotoma. The distance from Winay Huayna to Machu Picchu 
is six kilometers that will take from three to six hours, depending on the amount 
of orchids you come across.  See orchids of Peru on our website
 

Peruvian Cooking Class

Elvi Bjorkquist - Sunday, February 13, 2011


Fabulous Causa Recipe is on our website

Last week I participated in a Peruvian cooking class at the
Kitchen Table Cooking School in Denver with Patricia Belaire.
What a fun and tasty experience with the interesting
combinations of ingredients used in Peru. I came away with
new ideas and great recipes which I will share with you on
our website. Fabulous Causa Peruana and Seco de Cordero
and a final dessert of Alfajores Rellenos con Dulce de Leche
provided by the Kitchen Table Cooking School.

Peruvian cuisine is nothing like Mexican food. Almost
unknown until recently, Peruvian Cuisine is steadily
conquering the taste and interest of the best chefs worldwide.
The wild choice of fresh ingredients and the gentle blend of
immigrant traditions -such as Spanish, African, Chinese, or
Japanese- have created one of the World's most unique and
delicious cuisines.
Go back in time through its millenary
cultures, smell the impressive biodiversity surrounding every
corner of the country, taste a bit of heaven with its huge and
world renowned gastronomy. Go beyond an ordinary tour to
Peru and indulge in your culinary interest. Attend classes with
chefs, trips to the markets, superb restaurants, wineries, and
fall in love with its people, their customs, arts and beliefs.

See recipes on our website

View our Cuisine Tour of Peru

 

Amazing Orchids of Peru

Elvi Bjorkquist - Sunday, February 13, 2011



Hey, you orchid lovers Peru is home of 3000 orchid species.
The greatest diversity of species is found in the High Amazon
Jungle located between 500 and 3,600 m.a.s.l. Peru surpasses
the number of native species found in Colombia and Ecuador,
countries that are known because of their orchid variety. 

Orchids were highly prized by the Inca and pre-Inca cultures as
is described in ancient records. Check out our orchid page for
all the locations and genera pictures in each area. 

http://www.culturalexpeditions.com/orchids.html

Machu Picchu Sanctuary

The estimates for diversity within the sanctuary reach 200 species.
Among the species that can be found (take a walk in the crossroad
Ollantaytambo Machu Picchu) are Aa, Epidendrum, Masdevallia,
Maxillaria, Oncidium, Odontoglossum, Phagminpedium and the Sobralia.

Tambopata Candamo Reserved Zone

Orchids studies do not show significant diversity but do include some
interesting species of the genera Cataseum, Mormodes, Psychopsis
Only by request:

Huascaran National Park

The National Park has High Andean species that have been studied
recently. One of the most representative species is the Masdevalia
amabilis, which grows in rocky mountain slopes. Other genera

are: Aa, Altenasteinia, Epidendrum, Stelis and Trichocerus.

Land of Orchids (also Chachapoyas is possible, beautiful, but remote)

The watershed of the Mayo river (Department of San Martin) is known
as the land of orchids. There are great numbers such as Anguloa,
Brassia, Cataseum, Cattleya, Bollea, Coryanthes, Lycaste, Masdevallia

and many more. The most representative is the Cattleya, locally
known as "Golondrina".

Loreto and Ucayali (beautiful, but remote)

Amazon lowlands have not much diversity. The great attractions are the
species of the genus: Caryanthes, Gongora, Maxillaria, Mormodes
and Cataseum. 

Podocarpus Forests in Cajamarca

The high Amazon jungle is known for the podocarpus forests, the forest
with the highest number of orchids. Many are quite exotic varieties such
as the Masdevalia setacea, Masdevalia glandulosa and Lycaste

denninginia.

The Valley of Orchids (beautiful, not far away from Lima)

The Valley of Chanchamayo (Department of Junin) is a fantastic place
for orchid funds, although nowadays highly depredated. The zone
requires immediate protected area status.The Masdevallia can reach
up to 30cm. The Pschopsis sanderae, known as the royal butterfly,
is a rare endemic species. The majority of genera in Peru are
found in this valley.