Hard Days, Soft Nights in Peru

Featured — By Josh Steinitz on October 6, 2012 at 3:38 pm
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Practically Speaking

Mountain Lodges of Peru offers the 7 day/6 night lodge-to-lodge Salkantay trek. The trips run daily outside the rainy season from March through November, and fill up quickly, so it’s best to book well in advance. A solid level of fitness is required, though you certainly don’t need to be an athlete, and riding muleback is always an option if the altitude or terrain gets the better of you. The trek costs $2,990 per person ($600 lower in shoulder season), and includes transport to the start of the trek from Cusco, one day’s entry to Machu Picchu, one night’s lodging in Aguas Calientes, and a Vistadome train to Ollantaytambo.

Salkantay evening alpenglow

Orient-Express operates five fantastic properties in Peru. While traveling through Lima before or after your trip, the Miraflores Park offers an excellent home base with all the modern amenities and a great location on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean (visible if/when the famous Lima fog lifts). Lima is worth a day or two in its own right, if only to take a quick spin around the historic center and then sample some of its famous cuisine and nightlife in neighborhoods like Barranco, San Isidro, or Miraflores.

Evening in Barranco, Lima

In Cusco, the Hotel Monasterio and Palacio Nazarenas are both excellent choices. The former is long-established and popular with high-end tours, so you might consider the Nazarenas before the word gets out too much – you won’t be sorry.

Ornate bathroom at Palacio Nazarenas

In the Sacred Valley, the Hotel Rio Sagrado has an enviable location and a truly serene setting, making for a great home base for several days of exploring the area or simply relaxing. The staff is friendly and exceedingly helpful.

In Machu Picchu, the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge is the best choice if you want to stay close to the ruins and in the forest, far from the hustle and bustle of Aguas Calientes. It can be busy during the day while buses disgorge a constant stream of visitors at the park entrance, but it’s a welcome refuge in the evening when everyone else has left. Plus, since it’s right next to the entrance, you can skip the bus rides and come and go as you please between the ruins and your room. If you prefer to stay in town to access more services, or if the Sanctuary Lodge is full, the Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel is a great option. At the far lower end of town, it’s relatively removed from the noise and crowds, and offers well-appointed rooms with breakfast and dinner included. If you’re on the Mountain Lodges of Peru itinerary, you’ll likely already be booked into the Inkaterra hotel, so if you want to stay a second night, you’ll have to decide whether to stay on there or move to one of the alternatives.

The Sumaq Hotel in Aguas Calientes enjoys a nice location along the Urubamba River at the base of Machu Picchu

Several train companies compete to bring visitors to and from Aguas Calientes. The Hiram Bingham, named after the famous “discoverer” of Machu Picchu, is the luxury service, complete with private dining and musical accompaniment. The Vistadome will be the train of choice for most discerning travelers, as it’s much less costly but still offers a higher class of service than the basic train and perhaps most importantly, per its name, has overhead viewing windows, the better to see the towering peaks above the gorge of the Urubamba. Both are available for purchase through the Peru Rail website.

If you’re hoping to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, be advised that both require an advanced-purchased ticket. The former is especially popular, and sells out quickly as it’s limited to 200 people for a 7-8am departure and 200 people for a 10-11am departure. The round-trip takes most people around 2 hours, with plenty of time to enjoy the view from the summit. Machu Picchu Mountain is a longer and higher hike, and somewhat less popular (though many claim, equally beautiful). You can also easily get a great bird’s eye view of the ruins by walking up the Inca Trail to the Inti Punku, or Sun Gate, which takes about 30-40 minutes.

Many airlines offer service into Lima, including LAN, Delta, United, and American. From Lima, LAN offers frequent service into Cusco. Be advised that connections with flights to North America are not ideal, usually necessitating an overnight stay in Lima and/or a long layover in the airport.

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Tags: Cusco, hiking, Hotel Rio Sagrado, Inca, inca trail, Llactapata, luxury travel, Machu Picchu, MLP, mountain lodges, orient-express, Peru, Pisac, sacred valley, Salcantay Lodge, salt mines

    1 Comment

  • Jane says:

    That remote valley in the Cordillera Vilcabamba looks so perfect for travelers and hikers. The pool looks odd in the middle of open area. Though, it must be a great feeling to be there!

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