Scenes from the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu & Cusco Peru

We spent about a week of our recent South American vacation visiting the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Cusco in Peru. It’s hard to say which part of Peru was the most beautiful. I feel pictures can’t even do the country justice, but here they are anyways… I hope you enjoy taking a glimpse…

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Machu Picchu is awe-inspiring – the landscape around it is unlike anything I have ever seen before.

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We had every kind of potato imaginable!

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I drank lots of fresh coca tea – the cure for altitude sickness.  I didn’t get sick, but was definitely feeling the change in my breathing patterns. Exercising while in this part of the country was SERIOUSLY difficult! It was worth it, but I was huffing and puffing my way through it…

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We had back up oxygen in our mini bar – definitely a first.

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I ate quinoa everyday – this is a risotto with mushrooms and olives. Do you see the foam?  Another first – Gastronomique quinoa.

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After a long day of activities in the town of Urubamba - we went to the cutest place to have homemade pizzas cooked in a wood burning oven.

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More quinoa, this time with shrimp – it was a beautiful take on shrimp and grits…. It was so good I ordered twice over 2 days.

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Staying at The Sanctuary Lodge was surreal!  We were literally right next to Machu Picchu and had the opportunity to relax between hikes.  Here, I am hanging out in my robe enjoying dessert waiting for some rain to subside and for my clothes to dry.

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Llamas!

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Horseback riding in Urubamba Valley

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We rode through gorgeous farms – everything from agave to broccoli to cabbage and corn.

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Quick travel tip – Since we were gone almost a month, we decided to take less stuff and do our laundry a few times during our trip. We found a full service laundromat (who did everything for us) and ended up paying only about $9 dollars for 1.5 week’s worth of clothing. If we had gotten it done at the hotel where we were staying in Urubamba – it would have been 20 times more expensive!  This place was literally right across the street from our hotel – Tambo Del Inka. Incredible right?!  The next long trip we take, I plan on emailing our hotel concierge to inquire about the closest laundromat and/or googling it in advance – I never want to pay hotel prices again!

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Amaranth growing beautifully next to corn and quinoa… Many farmers diversify their crops by growing all three at the same time.

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This is purple quinoa – BEAUTIFUL!

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Guinea Pig is the local delicacy… I wasn’t brave enough to throw one of these cute little guys into the oven (which is unpictured and right next to them!)

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This was one of my major splurges on several occasions – fried yucca with a turmeric based sauce.  SO GOOD.

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Climbing above the Urubamba River…

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Zip-lining down after the long climb up…

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A lot of people suggest not eating raw greens in foreign countries – but I alway ignore that advice and listen to my gut – which says to eat them till I drop! Ha.

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Quinoa pasta filled with ricotta on top of pesto.

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We took a fancy old school train called the Hiram Bingham to Cusco from Machu Picchu. They served us a full 4 course meal with live entertainment and dancing…SO MUCH FUN!

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Fish on top of a quinoa cake… of course!

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The view after a hike to the top of Cusco…

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Having breakfast at the Hotel Monasterio was a delight…

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Quinoa pancakes made to order – my husband’s favorite.

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Amaranth = Kiwicha in Peruvian – I loved these biscuits with tea.

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Lots of fresh juice was available all over Cusco.

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I ordered the kidney juice…with carrots, celery and cucumber.

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Fresh raw lucuma  - an amazing super fruit.  FYI – you can get it in powdered form in the U.S. – it’s a great low glycemic sugar substitute.

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Lucuma chocolate – Mmmmm.

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I could have spent days in the San Pedro Market in Cusco…

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Fresh yucca… looks and tastes very much like a potato, but better.

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Are you tried of seeing quinoa yet?

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Black (Non – GMO) Corn… OH YEAH. Peru has banned GMOs.

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In the market they had a lady mixing up all sorts of medicinal cocktails using the natural healing powers of food. I wanted to pick her brain – but her Spanish was way to fast for us!

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Awaymanto Mermelada = Goldenberry Jam. YUM.

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This is prickly pear fruit – also known as “atun.”

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Another great salad… this one from one of our favorite restaurants we visited in Cusco – Greens Organic.

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Green’s thai curry was OMG good.

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The chef at Chi-Cha taught me about all the different kinds of mint available in Peru. My favorite andean mint makes the most DELICIOUS tea. I am going to try to find it here… I’ll let you know if I do – it has this natural kinda of sweetness to it that is so soothing!

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THIS WAS A RIDICULOUS dessert served to us at Chi-Cha. Lucuma ice-cream with fresh golden berries and raw cacao. I’ve never had such a “SUPERFOOD” gourmet dessert like this before. I wanted to lick the plate after we were done.

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Cusco the day before Christmas Eve….

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Getting back to our hotel room, we found mistle toe on our door. It was like we never left home…

On Christmas Eve we traveled to Paracas to spend the holiday with some friends before heading to Ecuador. Those photos will have to be for another time.

Until then…

Food Babe

P.S. If you are considering traveling to Peru (or have been) – please leave a comment and/or ask questions… Our itinerary played out so perfectly and wish everyone could experience this beautiful country the same!

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61 Responses to “Scenes from the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu & Cusco Peru”

  1. Uma J

    Hi Food Babe,

    I love your website! I found it over the summer, and since then my mom and I have been trying out your various recipes and juices-they have been delicious! I wanted to ask you about your recent trip to Peru, is there any way you could give me more information about your itinerary? Did you go on this trip along with your Amazon cruise? I’m trying to plan a trip for my family to South America, and your trip looked like it was incredible! Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Food Babe (to Uma J)

      Hi Uma – this was our complete Peru itinerary – here you go!

      13-Dec Lima
      14-Dec Amazon
      15-Dec Amazon
      16-Dec Amazon
      17-Dec Lima
      18-Dec Sacred Valley
      19-Dec Sacred Valley
      20-Dec Sacred Valley
      21-Dec Macchu Picchu
      22-Dec Cusco
      23-Dec Cusco
      24-Dec Paracas
      25-Dec Paracas
      26-Dec Paracas
      27-Dec Paracas

      Reply
  2. Sheryl Branyon

    Not heading to Peru anytime soon but heading to Costa Rica in May…have you been there? Any suggestions? I am so excited!

    Reply
    • Food Babe (to Sheryl Branyon)

      Yes! I’ve been, it is awesome! We did 4 days in Arenal and 4 days on the North West coast on the Gulf de Papagayo… We stayed at Tabacon – but if I went back, I would stay at the lodge overlooking the volcano in Arenal. We went waterfall repelling – it was so much fun, if you are adventurous. Also do ziplining and check out the hanging bridges. The hot springs of course are amazingly relaxing after a long day hiking and exploring. If you have any specific questions – let me know – I’d love to be able to help.

      Reply
      • Josh hackney (to Food Babe)

        The hotel in Costa Rica you want to stay at is Arenal nyara it’s unbeleivable. It overlooks Arenal volcano.

    • Mary (to Sheryl Branyon)

      I’ve been to Costa Rica! It was so beautiful. Definitely make it to Arenal. The volcano is beautiful, the hot springs are wonderful and you can even see some exotic birds. I stayed at The Springs Resort & Spa one night. We actually booked another hotel, but went over to The Springs and got a discount since they had unbooked rooms! It was definitely worth it, luxurious! There is a zoo somewhere that I visited, but I don’t remember where or what it was called. They had amazing trails, waterfalls, animals (especially birds) and a huge butterfly section. The hotels and the zoo both had great buffets. Be wary of the “juice” at The Springs. You don’t taste the alcohol but it definitely is in there! I also stayed at the “airplane” hotel near Manuel Antonio. One of the restaurants nearby had an amazing Mango margarita. We watched the sunset there. It was so beautiful. The food there is different from what I expected. The fajitas I had had no tortilla shell and the “shell” was the cheese crusted on the outside. My brother loved the beans and rice with Lizano sauce (you can get the sauce in the states). My family says the coffee is great, but I don’t drink it. So, if you do you should bring some back to enjoy later. I never had Papaya before, but let me tell you it tasted like barf…literally. Gag!

      Reply
  3. Sheryl Branyon

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures with us! What an amazing trip!

    Reply
  4. Danielle

    we spent two weeks in Belize this past fall and Peru is on our list to see next! Your itinerary is exactly what we’d love to do-Machu Piccu, Cusco, everything!! Not sure when it will happen but is it best to travel in the summer or winter? I’d love to hear more!

    Reply
    • Food Babe (to Danielle)

      I LOVE Belize! I want to go back really bad to track whale sharks. Did you happen to see any?

      I like going to South America in general when it is cold here (summer over there)… but it was just on the verge of rainy season for Machu Picchu when we went in Dec….I’ve heard the dry season can be very crowded… there were times where we were the only people on the site – which was surreal! I highly recommend not going when it is crowded. The rest of the country, the temperature is pretty constant.

      Reply
  5. Meghan

    Hi Food Babe! Your pictures look amazing!!

    I was wondering what your response might be to this article I recently read on the growing and purchasing of quinoa from Peru.

    http://m.guardiannews.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/16/vegans-stomach-unpalatable-truth-quinoa

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Food Babe (to Meghan)

      I didn’t find this to be true while I was in Peru. The farmers I met eat it almost everyday! One farmer told me quinoa was the secret to his mother’s ageless beauty. Did you happen to read the Peta response to this article? It is dead on and echo my thoughts exactly.

      http://m.guardiannews.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/22/quinoa-bolivian-farmers-meat-eaters-hunger

      Reply
      • Anne (to Food Babe)

        very interesting article that makes me feel a lot better about our almost daily quinoa intake. thanks for posting.

        just love the peru adventure/foodie pics. my husband has been talking about wanting to see machu picchu, and i’m on board now. :-)

      • Meghan (to Food Babe)

        Thank you for reminding me of this truth!! I actually was first made aware of Peta’s after watching the documentary Forks over Knives. I was devastated.
        Also, thanks for your most recent article on 100 days about food bans in other countries… thank you, thank you, thank you for your research. I’m looking forward to hear what you and Lisa will come up with on how we can hopefully change how our food can be fixed! I’m onboard with you!

  6. Tiffany

    THANK YOU for posting all these wonderful pictures! I absolutely LOVE quinoa and already eat it almost everyday…sounds like I would fit in wonderfully! Did you have a guide in any of the places or did you coordinate everything on your own? Is it necessary to speak Spanish??

    Reply
  7. Dr. Deborah Epstein, ND (Naturopathic doctor)

    I want to follow you around on your next vacation, since it looks like you know how to find exactly what to EAT. These pictures make me hungry.

    Reply
  8. Eco Mama

    Thanks for sharing your fantastic photos! Isn’t the pizza in Peru crazy good? Best pizza I’ve ever had anywhere ever. Never did feel the altitude, but chewed on cacao leaves a lot. That train looks so fun, would love to do that. This makes me want to visit Peru again so bad. Some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered as well…great place. Really fun post!!

    Reply
  9. Susan

    My husband and I are going to Peru on Feb 23 with OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel). We are very excited! Your pictures were wonderful and make me even more excited. I have made notes of the restaurants, the food looks amazing! Any hints and what to pack? I am trying to not take more than we need. Thanks for all your great articles. Susan

    Reply
    • Food Babe (to Susan)

      How long is your trip? I felt like I really didn’t need much of my travel food in Peru – the food was so fresh, delicious and healthy. Take very comfortable clothes – there’s not much to dress up for – it’s very casual. I didn’t bring a single pair of heels :)

      Reply
      • Susan (to Food Babe)

        We will be there 10 days. You talked about being wet, did you feel the need for waterproof athletic shoes or were reg shoes enough. I will definitely leave the heels at home!

  10. Nicole Marie Story

    OMG! The Guinea Pigs are so super adorable! I am so happy that you chickened out on sacrificing them. :)

    Reply
    • Food Babe (to Nicole Marie Story)

      I know – they all jumped up on the railing for me to take a picture. It was so crazy.

      Reply
      • Juli (to Food Babe)

        They are tasty though and a traditional source of protein in the Andes. I was a vegetarian my first three years living in Ecuador but in the last six months, threw it all out the window and cuy was one of those things I decided I had to try. It’s not on my regular rotation, but I was pleasantly surprised. In Peru, I had to again get over the cute factor when I ate alpaca – it was also surprisingly delicious.

      • Nicole Marie Story (to Food Babe)

        I appreciate your reply so much, Food Babe! You have a fabulous blog, and I’m so happy that you didn’t sacrifice the piggies (my dog sort of resembles one, he he!). :) xo

  11. Aurora B.

    Thank you Food Babe for sharing those beautiful pictures of Peru. I hope you are able to find the mint, because I sure would like to try that mint tea too!

    Reply
  12. Mary D.

    I am very new to your site and find it so interesting. The food in Peru looks like a vegetarian-leaning-lately fantasy which of course leads me to the guinea pigs….need I say more – :)? The picture was adorable and would have made it impossible for most people to then eat one of them…..I am not going to think about it. I was amazed at your hanging off that sheer rock face over the river – I would need a good stiff drink after that. Thank you for sharing your trip – I am now inspired to travel to Peru.

    Reply
    • Food Babe (to Mary D.)

      Mary – welcome! I’m so glad you are here – thank you for taking the time to leave a comment too! That rock climbing was seriously scary – the zip-lining down – even more!

      Reply
  13. Lel

    I love how you share your vacation pictures with us – especially the food, they look so fresh and delicious. I hope you continue to share your world travels with us. You give us inspiration and educate us with other cultures and their traditions like no other.

    Since many of us will never get the chance to visit these countries, your stories and pictures give us a peek at the beautiful pastoral sites.

    Reply
  14. Jacqueline

    Looks like it was an amazing trip!!!

    Reply
  15. Carolyn

    Great pictures! I love the llamas one and the one with you and your husband with the bright shirts on! Looks like a blast!

    Reply
  16. Carolyn

    Someone may have already mentioned this, but you should enter some of those pictures into the world photo contests that Sony and National Geographic do. You might win!

    Reply
  17. Jason Leake

    Thanks for sharing this amazing trip. Bonus…all I have to do is come back to your blog when we decide to go! The itinerary is key. – Jason

    Reply
  18. Natalie

    Hi! It looks like you both had a fabulous time in Peru. Is there any way you can cook up a recipe for the scrumptious dessert you displayed? I’m thinking this would be phenomenal for Valentine’s day :)

    Reply
  19. Tina Newton

    Hi! Thanks for sharing. My husband and I have our 10 year honeymoon planned for the first week of December to Cusco. We read that you need to buy your ticket to Machu Picchu 2 days in advance. Did you find it hard to get a ticket as they only allow so many in per day. Also I have read on people getting really itchy bug bites while visiting the ruins, did you or your husband experience this? We are staying at the Hotel Midori right in the middle of the square. Any recommendations on the restaurants around there? Thanks so much!!!

    Reply
  20. Andrea

    AMAZING trip you had! I would have eaten the green too. The food looks incredible! Makes me wonder what these GMO’s are doing to us here in the states… Poor guinea pigs. LOL!

    Reply
  21. Scott

    So sad you would even show the pic of the guinea pigs. It really breaks my heart to see those poor creatures (about to be) murdered for no reason. Love the no GMO message, can’t wait until you go vegan!

    Reply
  22. Brian Sweeney

    I took my wife to Peru in 1988. She speak a spanish if you ever need an interpreter.

    Peru was the High Point of our lives!

    Do Iquitos! Bravo!

    Reply
  23. Tammi

    Thanks for sharing your photos! I’ve now added Peru to my “Buckey List”!

    Reply
  24. Dianna

    Going to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic in 3 weeks for our 10 year aniversary! Hope we have as great a time as you did in Peru, Food Babe! Have you been?

    Reply
    • Food Babe (to Dianna)

      Never been – please tell me how it is! I’d love to go sometime.

      Reply
  25. tish

    We did Peru last year. We did the 4 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu. It was exhausting and satisfying all at the same time. In Lima, our hostel owner took us around. Loved every bit of Peru. This year we are going to Ecuador.
    here are some pics of my Peru Trip
    http://chezrivegauche.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/the-travel-bug/

    Reply
  26. Janick

    Food Babe the pictures are awesome! The cactus we see with the horse is Opuntia, not agave, it’s more like nopales and it gives the pricly pear fruit (tuna not atun, atun is tuna the fish). Also we saw in Chile and Peru they harvest “carmin de cochinilla” cochineal from the paddles. Love to travel and learn! Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  27. Kelly

    Hi Food Babe! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful pictures. You two looked like you had a blast. My sister and I were planning on going to Peru later this year and would love to do your exact trip. Did you plan it yourself or did you go through a travel agency? I would really appreciate any recommendations!

    Reply
  28. jana distefano

    Hello! Hello! My husband and I are heading to Peru in mid-May, we will be in Lima, Cuzco, Machu Pichu, and Puerto Maldano, I noted in your post you ate at greens organic and chi-cha…any other restaurant recommendatons? Also, do you have the name of the climbing adventure you all did? Thanks!

    Reply
  29. Martin

    Aamzing photos – very jealous of many things, Hiram Bingham trains and Green’s Organic in particular. No one else does breads & oil like it haha!
    For anyone here who was asking about Peru – check out this blog about the sacred valley, from which point you can go to Aguas Calientes & Machu Picchu easily.

    http://www.southamericatravelblog.com/travel-blog/2013/02/sacred-valley-tour-quad-biking-in-cusco-peru/

    Reply
  30. Misty Sheppard

    My husband and I are trying to plan a trip for Ecuador but do not know where to start:( Any suggestions on ‘must see’ places?

    Reply
  31. dotcomsecrets

    Hi there, I read your blogs on a regular basis. Your humoristic style is witty, keep it up!

    Reply
  32. Michael Kors

    Visiting from SouleMama and all I can say is…..YEA!! Flip flops! Welcome spring!

    Reply
  33. Supriya

    Hi Vani,

    Your blog is very interesting and documents awesome recipes and travel ideas. Isn’t it interesting that countries like Peru understand the importance of banning GMO and here we are passing GMO friendly bills? I wish we people could do more about banning GMO which takes out the “intelligence” away from the plant genes in the name of making plants more resistant to pests and increasing the yields of crop.
    Thanks for posting the list ingredients which contain GMO; it was very helpful. Wish you could include GMO vegetables and fruits too in the list.
    I loved all your recipes and am planning to try out the detox juices soon.

    -Supriya

    Reply
  34. Spanish Fiestas

    Hi Food Babe

    What an amazing set of photos. We’re heading over to Peru next year to take in some Peruvian festivals. Your food information is inspirational. Can’t wait to get tucked into some of those amazing dishes.

    Love your website & looking forward to delving deeper into it.

    All the Best

    Gerry

    Reply
  35. Holly

    LOVED this post!
    I just got back from Peru myself… :D

    Reply
  36. Holly

    p.s. your train to Machu Picchu was so much more exciting than mine! haha

    Reply
  37. Gabriela

    Same here! I just got back from Peru last week. I had the best time of my life. I also visited urubamba as well as colca canyon and we were lucky enough to see several condors. Cusco was amazing, sand Pedro market was absolutely amazing I mean they literally have it all. Did you try their quinoa water or chicha (purple corn water) amazing stuff!!!!

    Reply
  38. Avonne Mejia

    Your life looks incredible Vani,

    You are living the dream. I want to do everything you are doing with your life but I’m not sure where to get started. I want to travel the world, meet new people, experience other cultures ,and foods plus help save the world too! Can you make a post about your life and tell us readers how you created this dream of yours into a reality? I would love to know what you studied, how you started, and how you became your own boss that gives you the freedom to see the world and I’m also wondering how you fund your dreams.. I want to create that life and I want to learn as much as possible from people who have already done it! Thanks Vani:]

    Reply
    • SRC (to Avonne Mejia)

      She did it by first obtaining higher education (bachelor’s degree and higher)in a high demand career field (IT or Computer Science like Food Babe) and working in it for a number of years earning a high paying salary. This afforded her the financial resources to travel and fund the running of this website. If you want to live the dream like hers it begins with higher education in a progressive career field that provides a substantial income. The key is finding what you do best obtaining higher education in it and work hard, save, contribute to a good 401k, spend wisely, avoid debt, then you too can live the dream. Make no mistake about it, however, you are reading a post from an educated individual who has been working hard for years, she did not become the Food Babe without a college education or hard work over a number of years. It takes money to do a lot of these exotic trips but dont forget to plan for retirement. Every year of under earning in wages means less in your retirement years when health care costs can really add up! hope this helps!

      Reply
  39. Shelley

    My husband and I spent two weeks in the Sacred Valley a couple years ago. We hiked around everywhere and loved it! You took some great photos.

    Reply
  40. michele

    I’m hoping they don’t throw the little guinea pigs into the oven alive. That would be too cruel.

    Reply
  41. Sunny

    Hi Food Babe!

    My husband and I are hiking the Inca Trail in Machu Pichu in a few weeks. Do you have any restaurants you care to recommend in Cusco? How about Lima?

    Reply
  42. Paola

    Hi Vani,
    I just wanted to tell you that you did a magnificent job at showcasing my country with this post and you might have made me drool a little. Keep up the great work with your website, I’m always reading your blog as I make my path to a healthier lifestyle. Thanks so much for all the work you do!

    Reply
  43. jose bocanegra

    Hi Vani, my name is jose bocanegra i am from Peru living in usa california, i saw all your pictures i put here from Peru is a nice place to visit and you found QUINUA, for me it is the food of the future, thanks for all your articles

    Reply
  44. Alba

    Hi Vani! I imagine you are ridiculously busy these days but could you please post photos from your time in Ecuador? Thanks for all the information you share with us! XO

    Reply
  45. SRC

    She did it by first obtaining higher education (bachelor’s degree and higher)in a high demand career field (IT or Computer Science like Food Babe) and working in it for a number of years earning a high paying salary. This afforded her the financial resources to travel and fund the running of this website. If you want to live the dream like hers it begins with higher education in a progressive career field that provides a substantial income. The key is finding what you do best obtaining higher education in it and work hard, save, contribute to a good 401k, spend wisely, avoid debt, then you too can live the dream. Make no mistake about it, however, you are reading a post from an educated individual who has been working hard for years, she did not become the Food Babe without a college education or hard work over a number of years. It takes money to do a lot of these exotic trips but dont forget to plan for retirement. Every year of under earning in wages means less in your retirement years when health care costs can really add up! hope this helps!

    Reply

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