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Peru: The Animal Experience

Cusco, Peru was absolutely breathtaking.  From the scenic landscapes to the delicious cuisine, there wasn’t a single part about this city that I didn’t enjoy.  Well, I take it back… long, windy car rides to different points of interest within Cusco can make you Dramamine’s #1 customer.  Ok, so back to the fun stuff.  If you’re anything like me, being able to engage with animals feels like a dream come true.  Especially all those funny looking llamas and alpacas that Peru is so famously known for.

You see these furry guys everywhere.  Within the Plaza de Armas, which is the main town square in Cusco, you will run into the local women dressed in these beautiful and elaborate traditional outfits.  It catches your eye immediately.  Not only are the women dressed up, but each llama is also decked out in colorful pom-pom necklaces.  And of course, they are always ready for their close up.  Ask for pictures, but also make sure to ask how much they want to be tipped beforehand.

My first 20 minutes in Cusco, I grabbed a group of  5 women with the 3 cutest baby llamas.  And boy did I get hustled!  Sixty Soles later ($20US), these ladies had made a fine tip for that picture.

Note to self: Ask before you take the picture.  When you ask them what their price is, they will always say: su voluntad, which means it’s on a donation basis.  Generally I would give them $1 or $2 bucks, which according to my tour guide, was plenty.

Another fun way to engage with animals is at the Alpaca Farm in Awanakancha.  It’s about 30-40 minutes from Cusco.  Here you’ll be able to get up close and personal with the llamas, alpacas and vicuñas.  The vicuñas are the cutest ones, but also the most wild ones so you can’t get super close to them.  These are a few of the things that you’ll learn about these animals when you visit the farm.  Totally worth the stop if you are heading into Pisac and the Sacred Valley.

Lastly, you can’t go to Peru without seeing the majestic Machu Picchu site.  I loved being able to walk around the ruins, with the bonus of bumping into a llama.  These animals are really gentle, but when annoyed they will spit at you!  I felt like the most obnoxious tourist following these animals around.  But to my defense, it felt like a dream come true to be able to get so close to them.  In Los Angeles, there aren’t many opportunities to be around them so I had to take advantage of having them close.

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