Experience a Pachamanca Earth Oven Meal in the Sacred Valley of Peru

By: Shelley Seale

Travel with Trading Places to the beautiful little town of Ollaytaytambo in the Sacred Valley of Peru, and experience a traditional Pachamanca (earth oven) meal at the Tantakuy Eco-hostel.

This year I fulfilled a longtime travel dream when I visited Peru for the first time. Traveling through the Sacred Vally — including Machu Picchu and Cusco — was amazing: stunning natural mountain scenery, fascinating and impressive ancient Incan ruins, incredibly warm and friendly people….and the food!

Peruvian food is, rightfully, becoming much more recognized on the global food scene in recent years, with restaurants from top Peruvian chefs opening around the world. I had many fantastically delicious meals in my 10 days across Peru, from country specialties such as causas, lomo saltado, empanadas and ceviches, to fine dining tasting menus like the “ Culinary Trip Around Cusco” that we enjoyed at the Qespi Restaurant in Cusco.

Incredible array of food we enjoyed throughout Peru
Incredible array of food we enjoyed throughout Peru

Authentic Pachamancha, a Peruvian Tradition

But one of my favorite experiences of the entire trip, both from a culinary standpoint as well as a cultural one, was the pachamanca lunch that our hosts Lucho and Chloe made for us one day. The couple — Lucho is from Peru and his wife Chloe is a transplanted American from Boston — live in a very unique house they call Tantakuy, that is completely off the grid. Lucho built the house with his own two hands, in the most stunning spot of the Sacred Valley, nestled between three Andean mountains. Tantakuy has no electricity and no running water; it is completely self-sustaining, and they love hosting people for this unique experience (check out their Facebook page for more information).

Tantakuy off the grid eco-hostel
Tantakuy off the grid eco-hostel

Off-the-grid Living in Peru

I cannot recommend the experience enough. First of all, Ollantaytambo — or as the locals simply call it, Ollanta (pronounced Oh-yanta) — was my favorite town in Peru. Small, beautiful and charming, with Incan ruins that rival the masterpiece of Machu Picchu, though many people simply pass through Ollanta to catch the train to Machu Picchu, it is well worth spending a few days here. And the Tantakuy experience is one you’ll never have anywhere else; it’s so interesting and the house itself is really pretty and comfortable. Don’t worry, you have all your basic needs met: Lucho and Chloe use solar lighting and provide battery banks to recharge your electronics, as well as heat water for bucket showers and provide breakfast items every morning.

The living room at Tantakuy earth house
The living room at Tantakuy earth house

They are very interesting and hospitable people, and we really enjoyed getting to know them as guests in their amazing home. The off-the-grid earth house is also a very unique experience; maybe it’s not for everyone, but believe me I am no roughing-it camper type of person and it was one of my favorite things on my trip.

Our room at Tantakuy
Our room at Tantakuy

On our last day in Ollanta, Lucho and Chloe prepared a traditional pachamanca lunch for us. The Quechua word literally translates to earth (pacha) oven (manca), and involves digging a hole in the ground, making a fire to the right temperature, and then cooking marinated meats and vegetables, covered with herbs and grass, in the earth oven. The process takes several hours, and is something that Peruvians do to socialize with neighbors, on a special occasion, or to receive blessings from the gods.

Lucho begins preparing the pachamanca, chopping wood for the earth oven.
Lucho begins preparing the pachamanca, chopping wood for the earth oven. You can also see the incredibly gorgeous setting that he chose to build Tantakuy.

Read more about Pachamanca at Food & Wine, Culture Trip and Serious Eats.

How a Pachamanca is Prepared

Lucho spent the morning creating the pachamanca oven in the ground, getting the fire burning to create the right temperature of coals, and preparing the foods along with Chloe that they had purchased that morning at the local market: chicken, beef, potatoes, carrots, corn and beans. (Oh, Lucho also surprised us with another ingredient: bull testicles! Check out the video at the bottom to watch the whole process!)

Lucho prepares the food that will go into the pachamanca.
Lucho prepares the food that will go into the pachamanca.

The Finished — and Delicious! — Feast

Once the food was carefully covered by the coals and herbs/grass layer for cooking, it was about 45 minutes for it to be ready. Lucho and Chloe carefully unpacked all the food from the pachamanca, and along with some delectable sauces and local chicha to drink, our feast was ready!

The finished pachamanca lunch - amazing!
The finished pachamanca lunch – amazing!

Are you interested in this experience? You can book it directly with Lucho and Chloe on Trip Advisor!

Check out a video of the entire process, and more photos below the video:

Photo gallery: