Off the Beaten Path in the Sacred Valley

Exploring Peru with Mountain Lodges of Peru

By: Kyle Frost + Save to a List

I had the chance this month to return to Peru (I've been once before) and explore the Sacred Valley with Mountain Lodges of Peru. The focus was their Lares Adventure -- a departure from many of the usual tourist itineraries in the Sacred Valley. The majority of visitors follow a pretty standardized path to Macchu Picchu: Cusco to Ollantaytambo, and then the train to Machu Picchu -- MLP's Lares trek get's you off that main path.

I had the chance to chat with Andres Adasme, the experience designer for MLP, and it was great to get his perspective on Machu Picchu and the travel opportunities around Cusco. One of his main goals is to use their tours as a way to get tourists off the main drag in the Sacred Valley. This means seeking out towns, hikes, and experiences that aren't frequented by other tour operators. For their Lares tour, they also focused on providing a flexible schedule and options for both more physical and cultural activities every day. That way in any given group, members can design the tour that fits their interests and daily curiosities on the fly. As someone who really struggles with classic drive-to-site, walk around, drive-to-another-site type tours, I really appreciated this blend.

Day 1 - Cusco

Our trip started in Cusco, at their XO Art House property. For this small BnB, they partnered with a local artist collective to decorate each room. The art is all purchasable, and helpful placards provide more info about each artist and artwork.

Sacsayhuamán is one of the largest structures that the Inca built. Some of the massive stone blocks reach over 100 tons, and were transported to the site from a quarry over 2 miles away! It is estimated that over 20,000 workers were used the build the fortress, and the walls are an incredible example of the stonemasonry of the Inca. Even today, researchers aren't sure how they managed to build massive walls with such precision.

Day 2 - Hike to Pisac

We started the next day of our trip by hiking over a 14,200ft pass on our way to the archeological site of Pisac. For some of the group, it was the highest they'd ever been. The views of the surrounding mountains were incredible.

Pisac was the home to Inca nobility, as well as Hunaca, an important sacred shrine. It was quite an experience coming down from the pass and seeing the site spread out below us. While some tours visit Pisac, MLP is the only group running hikes over the pass that provide this incredible view from above. The engineering prowess of the Inca is breathtaking.

We spent our first night in the Sacred Valley at the Lamay Lodge. The sunset provided an incredible backdrop for our evening. Also, llamas in the backyard.

Day 3 - Choquecancha

After a short visit to the Inca site of Ancasmarca, we headed to the small village of Choquecancha. MLP is the only tour operator that visits this village. Andres, the experience director for MLP, met Senora Maria here quite by accident years ago. They began working with the local community and Maria's weavers to bring visitors here to learn about traditional dyeing and weaving techniques.

After using a variety of natural methods to color the wool, some pieces will take Maria or one of her weavers up to 4 months to complete.

Magic. There's not really a better word to describe what arriving at the Huacahuasi Lodge felt like. Entering through a long valley, and walking into the main living area as the sun dropped on the horizon was simply magical.

Day 4 - Huacahausi Valley

I think everyone in our group got tired of my oooohs and ahhhhs and asking about climbing routes. The mountains around the Sacred Valley are simply stunning, and I really want to go back and climb a few. Unlike Huaraz to the north, the Cusco area is practically undeveloped for more technical trekking and mountaineering.

We stopped at the village of Huilloc, where we participated in a ceremony thanking mother earth (Pachamama) for the continued health of the sheep.

After leaving Huilloc, we hiked up to another Inca site, Pumamarka (and did some afternoon yoga). MLP will have new wellness and yoga focused trips next year. From here, it was a beautiful hike down to Ollantaytambo to finish the day.

Day 5 - Ollantaytambo

Located at an altitude of 2,792 m (9,160 ft) above sea level, Ollantaytambo was once the home of Emperor Pachacuti. Built in the late 15th century, it has some of the oldest continuously occupied dwellings in South America. The beautiful cobbled streets, irrigation channels, and stone foundations have been here since the time of the Inca.

The most prominent feature in Ollantaytambo is certainly the fortress, said to be built in the shape of a llama. Some of the stone blocks that make up the unfinished Temple of the Sun at the top weigh more than 50 tons, and were transported all the way from a rockslide on the other side of the valley.

After spending the morning in Ollantaytambo, it was time to jump on the train to Machu Picchu Pueblo, the town at the end of the train tracks and the base of Machu Picchu.

Day 6 - Machu Picchu

Our guide estimated that it rains at Machu Picchu about 50% of the time, regardless of season. I'll have to believe him, since I'm now 2/2 on cloudy, rainy, days here.

Regardless of the weather, Machu Picchu is always an impressive place to visit. Even now, it is estimated that 35% of the site is still covered in vegetation. The Peruvian government has implemented a few new rules to combat overcrowding -- I think it felt like less people than the last time I was here, but it's still a very popular place.

All in all, this visit to Peru was a wonderful experience, and altogether different than the last time I was here. I can't recommend the people at Mountain Lodges of Peru enough. We spent most of our time off the beaten path, not seeing a single other tourist during the day. Now it's just time to start planning some climbing trips to the Cordillera Urubamba...

More information about Mountain Lodges of Peru: https://www.mountainlodgesofpe...

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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