Cultural Expeditions, inc.

Exquisite Tours since 1999

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

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

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.

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


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.

Cusco is Great for Family Vacations

Elvi Bjorkquist - Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cusco is a Great Destination for Family Trips.

However, it is time to start considering Cusco as an option
for a family vacation. The charm of Cusco that attracts adults
is also appealing to children. 

Cusco has many activities for kids. There are many
alternatives to have fun with your children in Cusco.

Just outside of Cusco there is an archaeological complex
called Sacsahuamán. There, you will find natural rock
formations that are used as slides in many different
sizes and shapes. You can also hire horses to go to the
Zona X to see mysterious caves. Have coffee in a place
filled with toys. In the city of Cusco there is a place called
Yanapay that has a children’s village made with money made
in the restaurant. Everywhere there are tiny tables and
chairs for the kids, as well as desserts, games and books.

Good cuisine for kids. While walking around Cusco, you will
come across a Bembos, which is located right across from
the Main Square. It offers children’s menus which include
surprises inside. In the town of San Blas, the Pacha Papa is
a cozy restaurant that serves pizza and has a big patio that
is always warmed by its stoves and ovens where all kinds
of delicious plates are cooked. Many times a harpist will
play while you eat.

The Sacred Valley is great for kids. The fresh air of
Urubamba Valley and its open spaces are wonderful for
children. The circular terraces of Moray are a great source
of fun for children where they can run around as much as
they please and climb up and down, all with a magnificent
view of the mountain range in the background. Nearby Moray,
only 20 minutes away by car, is Chinchero. There you can
participate in textile workshops, where the local women perform
interactive demonstrations of the process of spinning and dyeing
of the fabrics. Chinchero textiles are known for being the most
beautiful in the area and for maintaining their ancient techniques.
Check out our website

Another great place to bring kids are the salt mines of Maras
where kids will be fascinated by walking the slabs of natural salt.
For feeding your kids, Wallpa Wasi is a cozy countryside
restaurant that serves grilled chicken buffet-style and has a big

yard with trampolines and games for children. An additional
option is to spend the afternoon at Wayra, which is a countryside
center of the Sol y Luna hotel which offers different hands-on

experiences for the visitors of the valley, most of which are
dedicated exclusively to children. The concept of Wayra is to
teach young kids the art and culture of the place’s settlers
through ceramic and textile workshops. They also offer
horseback rides and mountain bicycle excursions of the valley.

Machu Picchu: The City in the Clouds

Elvi Bjorkquist - Thursday, November 18, 2010

Machu Picchu:

The City in the Clouds

Machu Picchu stands in luxurious vegetation above the rushing waters of the Urubamba river in the valley below. Many different theories have been made to account for the magnificent city, its strange and imposing buildings, its temples and altars. Recent studies have led to new and interesting interpretations of function of the site, for instance that it was a place of worship linked to observation of the stars. The great Intihuatana, the fountains, altars and other enigmatic buildings demonstrate that rites and ceremonies were practiced here but their significance is still a mystery. 

Machu Picchu's architecture is skillfully adapted to the natural form of the mountain tops. There are around 200 buildings and are arranged on wide parallel terraces around a vast central square. The various kanchas or compounds are long and narrow and extensive terraces were used for agricultural purposes and sophisticated channelling systems provided irrigation for the fields.

One section of the city was residential, while the other, separated by the square, would have been for religious and ceremonial purposes. The ceremonial section contains the building called the Torreon, a massive semicircular tower with rounded walls, niches and windows. The windows in the center look towards the point where the sun rises on the summer solstice. The rocky wall below the tower has a cleft and cave it. The cave was carved out to form a small room which can be reached by a diagonal stairway. The ceremonial area also includes architecturally unusual and highly accomplished structures, such as the Principal Temple, the Temple of the Three Windows, the Temple of the Sun and the famous Intihuatana (the hitching place of the sun). Mysterious carvings are found almost everywhere on the walls of small caves or on natural rocks, but their meaning remains an enigma. There is a high level of craftsmanship involved in building these structures.  The stones are cut, smoothed and placed on one another with great precision.

Machu Picchu, with its magnificent ceremonial buildings, temples, houses and monuments, is surrounded by precipices and walls that were designed to make access difficult and have the appearance of a city-fortress. Machu Piccu never fails to amaze and intrigue and someday will yield the answers to its secrets.