TEAMBUILDING AT SE COCINA
DMC Sportstour can also arrange teambuilding events at Se Cocina, a venue 30 minutes outside of Santiago where groups are welcomed with a pisco sour (local lime cocktail) before joining together to prepare a typical Chilean meal. To start, groups create spinach and cheese appetizers or chicken empanadas. For main courses, we cooked a delicious trout papillote and wood smoked beef. Se Cocina spokesperson Manuela Iturrate tells us that they can work with groups of 10-50.
“We take everyone to buy food at the market for local Chilean ingredients,” she says. “We like to divide the group into sections so each one is cooking one of the courses while they’re entertained with folklore music.”
Manuela smiles and tells me they have a local beer named after their establishment, Se Cocina Cerveza, and the breads and pates are all made here too.
“We use a special cut of beef made in a clay pot cooked on low heat with red and white wine and herbs,” she explains. “They adjust the menu to use the freshest seasonal ingredients.”
Of course food is served with spectacular Chilean wines and traditional deserts, including golden caramel egg pudding with pumpkin ice cream.
Machu Picchu defies belief when you’re standing above the mountaintop Incan citadel, arguably the most impressive historical monument in the world. Groups from North America fly into Lima, Peru and then to the historic city of Cusco, where we were escorted by the DMC, Condor Travel.
Cecilia Ochoa, who heads up the MICE division in Peru for Condor points out, “We really know the American client, and with 35 years of experience, we can say that with confidence. American groups feel like we are part of their team and it is very important to us that they have a good experience in our country.”
Ochoa works with groups of 12-300 attendees. While in Cusco, groups can split up to explore the history, nature, gastronomy and culture. She sends planners a questionnaire asking about the average age and if they prefer soft or adventure activities. This is especially important up at Machu Picchu, considering the amount of walking and stair climbing. Also, Ochoa recommends booking an extra day in Cusco to acclimate to the altitude.
Cusco is a great walking city to explore as a group or individually, starting with the grand colonial cobblestone square. There are also the amazing archaeological Incan sites in nearby Sacred Valley, like the fortress at Ollantaytambo and the village of Chinchero, where you can shop for artisanal artworks and watch Peruvian women make textiles.
For an over-the-top hotel experience, Inkaterra La Casona is a Relaix & Chateau property housed inside a 16th century mansion with 11 spectacular suites surrounding a courtyard, living room and dining room. This is a buyout property that is so tastefully designed and appointed that, trust me, your group will not want to leave.
The mansion is impeccably restored and all rooms feature a fireplace, comfy bedding with down duvets and marble bathrooms with large bathtubs and separate showers. All rooms are designed with intriguing artifacts and artwork.
For larger groups, the 126-room Hotel Monasterio is an Orient-Express property built on ancient Incan walls within a former Monastery. The large courtyard is perfect for events, and the hotel’s interior is decorated throughout with beautiful Old World furnishings and paintings.
“Incentive groups from the U.S. come here often,” says Roxana Gonzales, group sales manager. “One of the most popular venues is the Chapel of San Antonio Abad, where we have 3,100 sf, and it’s a great venue for welcome cocktails.
Total meeting space is 5,500 sf and we now have the 55-room former convent Palacio Nazarenas, which just opened in June. So groups have two beautiful properties to choose from that have kept the original characteristics of these two buildings from the 16th century.”
Another choice for smaller groups in Cusco, the 43-room Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel is only two blocks from the main square. This comfortable colonial property is housed in a late 16th century mansion and national historic landmark. The courtyard area can be used by groups of up to 70 buffet-style or 100 banquet.
Added bonus: all of the rooms are equipped with smart oxygen systems, which supply 30% more oxygen for an easier adjustment to the high altitude. We were impressed with the eager-to-please staff, and the food was excellent. We particularly liked the Peruvian restaurant that served a crunchy pork adobo “Cusco-style” over beans with rice. Outstanding.