In October 2011, Gina Murdock and I led our first service-based yoga trip together to Peru. We both always wanted to visit Machu Picchu, and heard intriguing stories about the Sacred Valley. After 6 months of trip planning with Inkaways, a family-run Peruvian Tour Operating Company, Gina and I and our group of 15 participants embarked on the most enriching cultural experiences in the breathtaking country of Peru.
Trip highlights included Cusco, a picturesque town situated at over 11,000 feet, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountains, steeped in cultural history of the Incans. In and around Cusco, we explored cobblestone streets, historic sites and sacred ruins. Cusco was the site of the historic capital of the Inca Empire, is designated as the historic capital of Peru, and declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1983. After a few days of sightseeing with our knowledgeable guides, we then ventured on to the Sacred Valley, situated between Cusco and Aguas Calientes and encompassing the Heartland of the Incan Empire. Breathtaking as can be, with the Andes Mountain range as the backdrop, the valley is filled with ancient Incan ruins, ceremonial sites and temples, winding rivers, quaint Peruvian villages, high mountain meadows with herds of llama and alpaca grazing.
We found paradise at Wilka Tikka, a luxury yoga retreat nestled in the Sacred Valley with the most elaborate and lush “Chakra Gardens”. Each of the 7 gardens is designed to correspond to the 7 chakras of the human body. Filled with exotic flowers and native Andean medicinal plants, these color-specific gardens are connected by pathways leading to sunlit yoga studios, guest cottages, and dining areas. The property includes an indoor ceremonial temple and an outdoor fire pit, amidst the gardens and used by visiting Andean ritual specialists. We dined on the most delectable gourmet vegetarian cuisine, with ingredients grown on the property. Willka T’ika guest rooms and common buildings are constructed of all-natural local materials, including stone and mud bricks from the land. Local artwork decorates interior and exterior walls of this Incan sanctuary.
We then ventured on to Machu Picchu, situated within the mountainous Urubamba Valley. Machu Picchu was astounding. Situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley, archaeologists believe Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti in 1438. Often referred to as the “City of the Incas”, it is perhaps the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. Its remarkable beauty, extreme location and importance as an ancient citadel of the Incas make it an international treasure. No picture or postcard can begin to do justice to this exquisite and mind-blowing world wonder. You simply must visit and see for yourself.
In addition to introducing our participants to the splendors of Peru, we weaved in fulfilling and fun cause work: organizing visits to Casa de Milagros, an orphanage in the Sacred Valley. Spending time with the children in their isolated high mountain community was memorable and meaningful. The orphanage administrators were grateful for the supplies and clothes we brought, thee children loved to be held and played with, and our volunteers enjoyed sweet and heartfelt moments giving back to the Peruvian people and culture that had been so welcoming and friendly to us.