chica maker posing in front of her chica making props in Media luna

A Window into the Sacred Valley Customs in Media Luna

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Last Updated on January 30, 2021 by Michelle Moyer

Media Luna: Sacred Valley Customs and Day Trip from Ollantaytambo

Media Luna is a small town, composed of 145 families, nestled in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, near Urubamba, Peru. The Media Luna Tourism Circuit that we participated in included four workshops designed to promote local customs and traditions and was presented by the strong FEMALE members of this rural community.

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Media luna town restaurant
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Peru Rail train going past the weaver’s house

We spent the morning with the ladies of the Media Luna community and were able to participate a little bit in their daily life in order to gain an understanding of some of the customs of the Sacred Valley.  We were still acclimating to the high altitude so this was our leisure day without any hiking. They took us into their homes and taught us what they do every day in order to make a living in their little community.

Medina Luna Tourist Circuit

In order to get there, we found a taxi to drive us from Ollantaytambo to Media Luna.  We speak absolutely no Spanish so I was afraid to take the cheap combi bus that the hotel receptionist suggested. The private taxi was 20 soles, so it wasn’t a big deal.  Well, it was 20 soles after rejecting the first offer of 50 soles and then making two drivers argue about it and finally getting one to say, Fine I’ll do it for 20 soles. 

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Ollantaytambo square while waiting to find a taxi

We arrived at Media Luna and didn’t know where to go because we were never told where to meet anyone. Luckily —and this is the most important part of our day– there was another tour going on (it was the Media Luna hiking tour to the Maras Salt Mines) and one of the ladies on that tour was able to translate our English.

Interested in seeing the Maras Salt Mines? See THIS POST:

This other tour was gathered at the combi bus stop. The nice English-speaking lady relayed to the community member that we were signed up for a community tour and needed a translator, so off they went to arrange everything for us so that we could have an awesome tour.

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Tour group gathered at combi bus stop. Will we get our tour?

We walked back down the dusty road and had a seat at their local restaurant while all the ladies of the community scurried about trying to prepare for us.

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Media Luna Village Restaurant

Somehow they called a translator that lived in the next city and he arrived 20 minutes later. He translated and told us we could pay at the end. I am sad to say that I do not have the contact information for our top-notch translator. I gave him my WhatsApp number so that he could arrange to be our Machu Picchu guide, but I never heard from him again….

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our awesome translator

Now, for the review of the actual tour. IT WAS AWESOME!!!
We were a bit flustered at the start since we had such a rough time in the beginning. Each of the leading community ladies took us into her home and showed us around.  We were welcomed as guests and took part in a small function in each area of their community.

Sacred Valley Customs in Media Luna

The Weaver

Our first tour was with the lady that does the weaving. She explained how she makes the alpaca wool and then she demonstrated the weaving equipment that she uses to make textiles –all with her baby on her back!  I should really have asked for a demonstration of how she manages to tie her baby safely in that blanket.

Weaving in Media Luna
Weaving in Media Luna

She showed us how the wool is colored using a parasite from cactus.  The parasite is squished and its blood turns the wool red.  Lemons and other citrus are used to make orange and yellow from the blood.  From now on we will think of parasite blood when we see a handmade alpaca sweater because that is what is all over that expensive souvenir work of art! 

Parasite blood with lemon = orange color

When she was done making the color wheel from the parasites, she showed us the textiles she had for sale.  It was not a forced sale.  They were all so beautiful that I wanted one of each of them. Throughout the entire weaving demonstration, I was kept company by her preschool-age son.  He allowed me to take a picture of him and then really enjoyed looking at his face on my phone when I played it back for him. He was truly adorable!

Enjoying the locals in Media Luna
Photo-op with local boy while waiting for the weaving demo
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The Medicinal Plant Herbalist

Next, we met with the medicine woman who showed us all the natural herbs that are used for everything from bruises and inflammation to altitude sickness prevention. We smelled them all!!! Hubby has become fond of muna (“moon-ya”). It is an herb that is commonly put into a tea that the locals drink. He had a small cup every morning in hopes of preventing altitude sickness. It must have worked because he suffered no symptoms.

We crossed the street and walked past the schoolyard and waved at all the kids. I did bring donations to give to the kids, but wouldn’t you know it, I left that bag of pencils in the hotel room this morning. I hit myself for being so absent-minded that I brought them all the way to South America and then couldn’t remember to bring them on the last taxi ride.

School with kids on playground in Media Luna
Schoolyard in Media Luna in the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru

The Guinea Pig Raiser

We walked into the barn of the guinea pig farmer, Gertrudis, and saw her stock. Guinea pig served as food is called cuy.  They are a delicacy in the Sacred Valley and are eaten on special days like birthday celebrations. The black ones are used by the shaman to rid the body of diseases and evil. We even got to see babies that were born the previous morning.

Lots of Cuy

Interested in other Traditional Peruvian Dishes? Click on THIS post:

The Chichera

Lastly, we visited the house of the chica-maker. Chicha is a corn beer that is widely consumed in the Sacred Valley. It is home-brewed and you can tell which houses have a fresh batch of chicha by looking for a pole with a large red flower or bag by its doorway. We were given a demonstration of the whole chicha-making process and then given a large sample. Chicha is sold for 1 sole per glass —or 30 cents USD!! She also dressed me up so that we could toast to prosperity.

After all of our tours, we were taken back to the community restaurant and served a delicious lunch! 

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Delicious Lunch served at Media Luna Restaurant

Highly recommended tour! I love that this little town opens its doors to visitors. They still have a lot of old customs and it is very interesting to go into their homes to see how they live and to participate in the work that they do every day.

Looking for more things to do in Ollantaytambo?

Check out this post: 10 OUTSTANDING THINGS TO DO IN OLLANTAYTAMBO, PERU

For more reading material to take on your trip to South America:

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Kristina

Wow, what an experience! I’ve been to the sacred valley, but not to that town. I would go back someday for sure.

Ann

Lovely post, thank you 🙂

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