PERU: 20th Anniversary Remote Andean Adventure

with Co-founder Tammy Leland

Peru Co-founder Herbacunca boyJoin us in celebration of Crooked Trails' 20th anniversary on a very special travel program led by our co-founder Tammy Leland!

The program begins in Lima, where we'll trace the history of the city and eat our way through its eclectic neighborhoods with our local friend and foodie, Jorge. From there we'll travel on to Cusco, Cusco cityscape by Jay Waltmunson/Riveted Kidswhere walking the cobbled streets and exploring ancient sites such as Qoricancha and Sacsayhuaman shows us that the heart of the Inca Empire still beats strongly, while dinner with a local family brings us into the lives of modern Cusqueñeans.

Next, we'll embark upon a true highlight: we will trek to the remote Q'ero community of Herbacunca in the Andean Mountains on the edge of Peru trekking Andes llamasthe Amazon Basin, where we'll work to build smokeless ovens for 7 families in the small village, which sees no outside visitors. We'll also attend the amazing Paucartambo Festival. Paucartambo is a remote, beautiful high Andean town with the central square, stone Peru Co-founder Herbacunca trekker mealstreets and whitewashed buildings with bright blue balconies everywhere. Returning to Cusco, participants have the option to return to Lima and depart, or continue on optional extensions to the Majes Valley or Machu Picchu & the Sacred Valley.

Peru Herbacunca girl with puppyThis quintessential Crooked Trails experience is a rare and extraordinary opportunity to travel with one of our co-founders and connect with the special local friends we've made over the last 20 years. It's also a remarkable chance to trek to a traditional village that does not see outside visitors and build special new relationships there as part of the first group of travelers.

View details on the two optional extensions offered after the program:
Majes Valley
Machu Picchu & the Sacred Valley 

This program is sure to be popular, and space is limited to an intimate group size, so be sure to apply soon!


Peru Co-founder Tammy Leland trek horse HerbacuncaCultural Immersion Guides

by Tammy Leland

Jorge Riveros-Cayo: I first met Jorge when he accompanied our second group in Peru to the small central Andean village of Vicos.  He came as a journalist for the main newspaper in Peru, El Comercio.  His love and respect for the Andean people were immediately apparent in the way he talked with them and interviewed them about their community and lives with great interest.  After 2 more trips with him to other villages, Jorge and I immediately became good friends.  He was funny, intelligent, offered a wealth of knowledge about Peru and its people, and was an eccentric artist. He introduced me to my love of seafood, the fascination with ancient Peruvian art and the abundance of eclectic music in Peru.  We were roommates for 8 years, living in an adobe apartment in Barranco and living the bohemian life.

Julio Zuñiga: A good friend of mine said I must travel to the desert in Peru to meet one of Peru’s most unique characters, so I immediately left for the south. Upon meeting Julio and his wife Durby, I knew I would be coming back to Majes a lot.  Julio became my Peruvian grandfather and I soon learned what a truly unique individual he is. As we traveled throughout the valley, I learned he used to be a famous matador, respected by mayors and communities across the valley. Julio is so full of adventures that there is never a dull moment. We have looked for lost ruins, climbed unclimbable peaks, discovered dinosaur footprints, motorcycled impassable passes,  stomped grapes to make wine and pisco, fished the river for camarones, and danced and drank pisco for almost every one of my birthdays since I met him.

Rony Gamarra: When I first met Rony, he was adorned in a woven cap and poncho, accompanied by his quena (Peruvian flute).  He entranced me with his stories and songs, and showed the greatest respect for mother earth and the Andean spirits. Rony has a quick wit, a huge smile and is always in a good mood. He believes in the Andean spirits and works with shaman from the Q’ero communities.

Luz Atapaucar: I was introduced to Luz nearly 18 years ago and she became the BEST Spanish teacher I ever had. We've spent so much time practicing Spanish and traveling to all corners of Peru together. We spent many evenings out dancing and days talking about our families, our hopes and dreams for our future.  Luz is an incredible teacher and an even better friend. She is curious, smart and loving.  She has huge respect for Peruvian history and lives with her mother, father and her two kids.  Any questions you have about the Incas, the Andean people’s cultures or modern politics, she has something to say.  We have laughed and cried together.  She will always be my sister.

Paulino and Vilma Llancay: This amazing and sweet couple are very dear to my heart.  They run a very successful weavers’ cooperative in the community of Chinchero. I met them by chance but have spent years with them in their home and became their daughter’s godmother. I have had the honor to watch their children grow up and have children of their own, and to be part of weddings, christenings, birthdays and many Inca festivals with them.  Paulino is the perfect family man, working really hard and taking care of his family.  He runs the cooperative and pays it forward whenever he is able.  His wife Vilma is like my true sister. She is one of the hardest working weavers in the valley.  She is an incredible artist and has the most amazing laugh (giggle) I have ever heard.

Hernan Apaza: Meeting with a true Q’ero Shaman is a real honor, but having the opportunity to visit his community is a chance of a lifetime. Hernan is full of energy and a very accomplished shaman. He works with locals all over the valley helping them to travel safe, find love, gain money and heal. He speaks to the spirits and can read your coca leaves.  Outside of all this serious healing, he is a true jokester.  I love his smile and spirit.

Cusco cityscape photo courtesy of Jay Waltmunson and Travel with Riveted Kids

Sample Itinerary

Our itineraries are designed to let the country and its people guide your experiences. Please be flexible and allow the program to unfold.

DAY 1 - Sunday, July 8, 2018

Arrival in Lima, Peru

Spend the day in flight to Lima. Upon your arrival, you will be welcomed by a driver from your hotel and transferred to your hotel in the beautiful and eclectic neighborhood of Barranco on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Get settled in for a good rest or, if you are feeling active, there are many options for food, drinks and entertainment just outside your guesthouse doors.

MEALS:  None

DAY 2 - Monday, July 9, 2018

Lima, The City of Kings

Today, visit some of Lima’s most important sites, including the catacombs of San Francisco Cathedral and the Plaza de Armas. We will discover eclectic neighborhoods with our guide Jorge Riveros-Cayo, a well-known Peruvian journalist and foodie. With Jorge in the lead, experience Peru’s famous culinary treasures and taste your way through the city. Sample the country’s most beloved drink, the pisco sour, and learn how to make it yourself. Spend time strolling through the bohemian neighborhood of Barranco, ducking in and out of small bars and restaurants with Jorge making introductions along the way. This is an intimate day filled with food, drink, and history.


DAY 3 - Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Cusco, The Imperial Capital of the Inca

After breakfast, we take a flight to Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire. Upon arrival, a quick transfer will bring us to our quaint hotel high up in the hills of the artists’ district of Cusco. Enjoy your first coca tea to help acclimatize, take in the incredible views of the city from the terrace and gardens, and then prepare to stroll to the city center and Plaza de Armas, ending up at the Sun Temple of Coricancha, the heart of the Inca Empire. The late afternoon is free for you to relax or explore on your own.

In the evening, we will meet with good friends and family, Luz and her sister Doris. This is a wonderful opportunity to hang out with a local Cusqueña family and enjoy dinner together. We will share a delightful Quechua meals prepared in an adobe oven and sing karaoke into the evening.


DAY 4 - Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Sacsayhuaman & The Pisco Museum

This morning, we will meet with Rony Gamarra, our guide for the next few days. Rony is an intelligent and thoughtful man who will find his way into your heart. Rony will guide us on a hike up to see the fortress ruins of Sacsayhuaman, where we will spend a few hours walking among the many ruins scattered up on the hilltop terraces above Cusco.

Enjoy free time in the afternoon to relax, shop or explore on your own. We will have a group dinner at the Pisco Museum, owned by Crooked Trails’ good friend Adam Weintraub and his wife, which has flights of pisco, great food and music.


DAY 5 - Thursday, July 12, 2018

Trek to the Q’ero Community of Herbacunca

Up before sunrise, we will travel roughly 5 hours over high mountain passes, through the altiplano, past the incredible peak of Ausangate to a small Andean village that lies just at the edge of the Amazon. En route, we will stop for a traditional Andean breakfast, cross through fields of alpaca and wild vicuña, and have time to watch the sunrise over Ausangate Mountain. We will be joined by our guide, Shaman Hernan Jirillo Apaza, a good friend who grew up in our small host village.

Arriving at the starting point of the trek, we will have lunch with a local community while preparing horses and gear for our trek into Herbacunca. Horses will carry our gear, but the trek is still challenging. We will trek about 5 hours over 6 miles and climb 2,000 feet. We will have lunch en route by the lake, and participate in a small giving ceremony at the pass.

The community will be there to greet us as we arrive in Herbacunca. Our guides and porters will assist us in getting our tents set up and gear unloaded. Dinner will be with our host families.

The Q'ero live in one of the most remote places in the Peruvian Andes. The Q'ero still practice a rich tradition of oral literature, with stories being passed down from generation to generation. The people of Herbacunca live a lifestyle that has changed little over centuries and are well known for their sacred shaman healers.
Some Cusco anthropologists and spiritual pilgrims believe that the Q'ero are the direct descendants of the Inca.

The village of Herbacunca is very small, with only 7 families. The village is above the treeline on the side of a mountain and there are few resources. The ground is not very fertile at this high altitude, and the Q'ero live in modest dwellings. They often live in one-room houses not larger than 20 m², made of clay and stone with roofs of hard grass. The community is not on a trekking route and tourists do not come here. In fact, no one comes here. We will be working on building smokeless kitchens for each home. Expect extremely rustic conditions. Overnight tent camping.


DAY 6 & 7 - Friday & Saturday, July 13 & 14, 2018

Smokeless Oven Work Project

Over the next two days, we will be working with our local host families to construct a smokeless oven in each of the 7 homes. Afternoons will be set aside for downtime, relaxing, talking with locals, taking photos and living the village life.

One evening, we will take part in a very special ceremony by our good friend Hernan, the local shaman and one of our family guides. Overnight tent camping.


DAY 8 - Sunday, July 15, 2018

Herbacunca - Paucartambo

This morning, we will say our final farewells to our families and begin the trek out. The climb is steep and long, and horses will be available for all who wish to ride. Reaching the road, we will have a fresh lunch of fish with the local community and then pack the van for our trip to Paucartambo.

Paucartambo is famous for its wild and colorful celebration in honor of the Virgen del Carmen (Mamacha Carmen) with hypnotic street dancing, wonderful processions, and all manner of intricate costumes. The majority of these sixteen dances are caricatures from different periods from Peruvian history. Accompanied by llamas and adorned with multi-colored ribbons, these dancers represent the moment of encounter with the head of La Gran Mamacha Carmen and are the characters who symbolize those with the most faith in her.

We will arrive in Paucartambo in the early evening in time for the incredible firework display. We will have a prepared meal by our hosts at the hacienda we are staying at.


DAY 9 - Monday, July 16, 2018

Paucartambo Virgin del Carmen Festival

Today each of the comparsas (companies) of dancers perform their hearts out in honor of Mamacha Carmen - the entire day is a non-stop dance party of Andean costume and movement. Each comparsa represents a specific mythical or historical character – the Saqras (devils) and Quyachas (little queens) are some of the most famous. In the afternoon, they all accompany the Virgin through the town in a joyous procession. We have the opportunity to participate and learn about what the dances and costumes represent – everything from comic moments in Peruvian colonial history to the mythic battle between good and evil!

Later, for those who wish, we’ll take a late-night car ride to Tres Cruces, on the very edge of the Andes – from here you look straight down into the Amazon Basin. In June and July, thanks to very specific climatic conditions, sunrise here is often accompanied by optical illusions – a journey worth the drive.


DAY 10 - Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Paucartambo Virgin del Carmen Festival

In the morning, we’ll follow the solemn procession to the cemetery to pay our respects to the departed, and in the afternoon, we’ll take our places for our favorite event of the festival – the playful guerilla (little war) in the Plaza de Armas. Featuring a water fight (among many other things), a war between highlanders and jungle people, and devils dragging souls to hell on fiery carts, it’s a hilarious and unique afternoon of fun.

Most spectators leave Paucartambo after the guerrilla, making this evening the best opportunity of the whole festival to see dancers up close and without crowds to accompany them to private parties in people’s courtyards.


DAY 11 - Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Water Temple of Tipón - Cusco

After breakfast, we will load up and return to Cusco. We can stop on the way to visit the beautiful ruins of Tipón. Tipón is a demonstration of the Incas’ mastery over their environment. This extensive Inca site consists of impressive terracing at the head of a small valley and an ingenious irrigation system.

Returning to Cusco, we'll check into our hotel and have the afternoon and evening free.


DAY 12 - Thursday, July 19, 2018

Return to Lima and depart -OR- Optional extension

Return to Lima for departure flights back home, or begin one of our optional extension programs to the Majes River Valley or Machu Picchu.

Majes River Valley Extension Itinerary>>>

Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu Extension Itinerary>>>



$3,995 per person ($300 single supplement)


12D / 11N


July 8 - 19, 2018




Lima - Cusco - Herbacunca - Paucartambo - Cusco - Lima


Founder-led, Village Experience, Volunteering


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