Peru: Paradise for Cuisine and Exploration

Peru is an ancient land with a rich culture and history. The landscape of Peru varies from ice-capped mountains to deserts, coastal plains, and steamy jungles. The result is a rich culinary tradition that you now have the opportunity to explore as part of Condor Tours & Travel’s new Peru package, Peru: Paradise for Cuisine and Exploration. IMG_5377The different regions and climates of Peru led to the development of many regional foods prior to the coming of Europeans. For example, did you know that potatoes are indigenous to the Peruvian highlands? First cultivated here thousands of years ago, Peru boasts many varieties that are found nowhere else, and they come in many different shapes and colors that you may not be accustomed to. Following the Spanish conquest, the flavors of the Iberian Peninsula were added to the rich Peruvian stew to create modern Peruvian cuisine!

This exciting nine-day exploration of Peruvian cooking starts in Lima, Peru’s capital. After breakfast, you will be treated to a cooking demo and lunch followed by a tour of a typical Peruvian market. There you will find a variety of exotic Peruvian fruits, such as cherimoya, lucuma, and aguaymanto. You will also be pleasantly surprised at the amount of seafood that is available from the nearby Pacific Ocean. That afternoon, you will visit an exclusive restaurant in Lima where you will learn to prepare pisco sours and ceviche (a type of preparation that involves cooking fish in citrus juice). After lunch, you will be free to explore the beauties of Lima, such as the famed Larco Museum with its incomparable collection of ancient Pre-Columbian artifacts. One of the most striking displays is of ceramic items from the Mocha Culture, known, for reasons that will become clear, as “erotic pottery.” You can then end the day with a delicious dinner in the museum’s charming restaurant.

Days three and four of your trip will be spent near Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. You will visit the famed Wayra Ranch and enjoy a Paso Horse Show while eating the very best of Andean cuisine. Later you’ll visit the ancient Inca military and religious center of Ollantaytambo and see the narrow streets and canals, unchanged since Inca times. The next day continues on in the Misminay community, located in the Sacred Valley of the Inca. Known for their hospitality, the people of Misminay will demonstrate local dances and music for you and let you explore the Andean lifestyle up close. A cooking class will teach you all about the local foods and how they are planted, grown, and prepared. The day ends with music and singing as you make your way to the spectacular Moray viewpoint, giving a privileged view of this Inca sacred region.

Day five begins with a visit to the town of Pisac and a tour of the impressive archaeological site on the mountaintop, featuring incredible terraced hillsides and a high degree of ancient urban planning. During the middle of the day, you can visit the local market, interact with the residents, and do a little shopping. Lunch includes a visit to the Hacienda Sarapampa and a scrumptious farm to table lunch made with Andean corn and other local organic products. Machu Picchu 5Day six of the trip takes you to one of the seven modern Wonders of the World, the fabled mountaintop city of Macchu Picchu! Certainly, a highlight of any trip to Peru and a chance to take some spectacular photographs!

Following breakfast, on day seven you will board a Vistadome train back to Ollanta and transfer to the hotel. Should you choose, you can enjoy a luxurious dining experience at Ciccolina restaurant in downtown Cusco and sample some of the best Novo-Andean dishes. You will find a very relaxed and welcoming environment with rustic wood and iron decorations as well as colorful paintings to enhance the beauty of the establishment. Day eight begins with a walking tour of Cusco, the old Inca imperial capital. You will begin at the Koricancha, an ancient sacred space that the Incas dedicated to the worship of the Sun and Moon, over which the Dominicans built their Church of Santo Domingo. You will also see many excellent examples of Spanish colonial architecture. IMG_4593What could top all of this? How about a gourmet cooking class at the Museum of Pre-Hispanic Art! Following this class, you can enjoy a delicious lunch in a sophisticated and convivial atmosphere. For a small additional cost, you can take a class in the afternoon and learn how to make chocolate. Peru is a producer of many fine varieties of cacao, and you can learn all the steps from harvesting the pods to the production of a chocolate bar. After a final glorious night in Cusco, you will depart in the morning to the airport and begin your trip home with enough memories to last a lifetime!

Your fabulous Peruvian culinary adventure awaits, but to go, you need to take that first step and contact Condor Tours & Travel, Inc. The owner is fluent in Spanish and has a strong tie to Latin America. The members of her US team are the experts on travel in Latin America, while her in country ground team will give you service levels unmatched in the travel industry. We can also arrange optional excursions and tours to extend your trip, like a visit to the Peruvian Amazon or up to IMG_5718Lake Titicaca. You can explore all of Peru for your next bucket list experience. Contact us today at info@condortoursandtravel.com or 770-339-9961 and begin exploring the rich and beautiful world of Peru!

Travel Central America: Nicaragua

Are you someone who likes adventure? Looking for something a little off the beaten path? Then look no farther, your Central American experience awaits you in beautiful Nicaragua! Geographically, Nicaragua is the largest nation in Central America and is bordered by Honduras to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, Costa Rica to the south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Nicaragua has a rich multi-cultural heritage and is a warm and welcoming location for visitors. The multi-ethnic population includes people of European, Asian, and African heritage as well as various indigenous tribal societies. The predominant language and culture are Spanish, but various native languages and English are also widely spoken. The mix of different cultures has contributed to a wide diversity of music, literature, folklore, and cuisine. You will find something for everyone in Nicaragua! The Caribbean coast is more like the African heritage while the Pacific coast leans toward the Spanish and European heritage.

Nicaragua can be divided into three main regions geographically: the lowlands of the Pacific Coast, the highlands of the Amerrisque Mountains, and the steamy jungles of the Mosquito Coast in eastern Nicaragua. The bulk of the population and most major cities, including the capital of Managua, are located in the fertile lowland plains of the Pacific Coast. These lowlands are also home to the two largest freshwater lakes in Central America, Lake Managua, and Lake Nicaragua. The soil of this region is enriched by ash from neighboring volcanoes in the mountains of Cordillera Los Maribos. The area around Lake Nicaragua is a biodiversity hotspot and is home to some of the world’s only freshwater sharks. The “hot lands” of this region are generally less than 2,000 feet in elevation and temperatures remain virtually constant throughout the year. The best time to visit is during the dry season from November to April, from May to October the region is visited by heavy rains. The capital of Managua boasts excellent restaurants and an active nightlife; for those of a more historical bent, you can admire the museums and colonial architecture of cities like Leon and Granada. church in LeonOne interesting fact is that the southwest shore of Lake Nicaragua is only 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and for this reason, Nicaragua has often been considered as a location for a second canal across the Central American isthmus.

The north-central highlands region offers an array of opportunities for ecotourism and a diverse variety of landscapes to visit. The rugged highlands are much less economically developed than the Pacific Coast and produce some agricultural products such as coffee, cattle, vegetables, and flowers. Gold can also be found in some areas of the highlands. The region averages between 2,000 and 5,000 feet in elevation and is considerably cooler than the coastal lowlands; it also has a longer and wetter rainy season so you might want to consider appropriate rain gear if traveling in the highlands. The cloud forests of the region offer a rich array of plant and animal life and resplendent tropical birds such as quetzals, goldfinches and toucanets are a common sight.El Castillo

The lowlands of Mosquito Coast make up over half the country’s territory; this region is sparsely populated. Cut through by large rivers, it is a hot and humid land but with a vast amount of biodiversity. The enormous Bosawas Biosphere Reserve protects more than 1,800,000 acres of the La Mosquita rain forest, making it the largest rainforest north of the Amazon. The Mosquito Coast is also rich in mineral wealth, and there are still many active gold mines in the region. Panning for gold in the rivers is quite common. Native birds found in the area include eagles, turkeys, toucans, parakeets, and macaws. Monkeys, anteaters, deer, and tapirs are also widespread. Culturally, the Mosquito Coast is somewhat distinct from the rest of Nicaragua. In addition to native languages, English predominates in the northern parts of the region due to a period of British rule. The population and culture here more closely resemble those of the Caribbean islands rather than the Spanish culture found elsewhere.Isla de ometepe shoreline

The main industries of Nicaragua are agriculture and tourism. Ecotourism, in particular, has seen a boom in recent years. During 2010 the country welcomed over one million visitors! Beautiful wind sand beaches and historic colonial architecture offer some of the main attractions. corn island beachYou may also want to take in the diverse flora and fauna of the Mombacho Volcano reserve, which includes cloud and dwarf forests that are unique to the region. The island of Ometepe in the midst of Lake Nicaragua is home to ancient pre-Columbian petroglyphs and archaeological sites. The island is composed of two very symmetrical (and beautiful!) active volcanoes and is definitely worth a visit. If adventure is what you desire, we can do sand boarding on a volcano or some high-intensity hikes along the avenue of the volcanoes of Nicaragua. For fishermen, the offshore and deep sea fishing from the Pacific coast are amazing.isla de ometepe volcano 2

Are you intrigued yet? If so, contact Condor Tours & Travel, Inc. today so that we can get you started on your Nicaraguan adventure! We are the go-to experts for travel in Latin America, and we have the local knowledge to plan the perfect vacation for you. Nicaragua, land of lakes and volcanoes, awaits you! Reach out to us via our web site at www.condortoursandtravel.com or email us at info@condortoursandtravel.com