We were in a remote valley in the Cordillera Vilcabamba, with no other people in sight. The sun’s last rays were lighting up the fluted snow-covered ridges of Salkantay in a soft pink, creating a stunning alpenglow effect on the highest peak in the range. Where exactly were we? High on a mountain ledge, looking out from our tent, shivering inside our sleeping bag? In a rough stone mountain refuge, looking at maps by headlamp? No, we most certainly were not. In fact, far from roughing it, we were enjoying this spectacular mountain scenery from the comfort of a piping hot jacuzzi at the Salkantay Lodge. Did it feel like cheating? Maybe a little. But after hours of gorgeous hiking up the valley, everyone in our group felt perfectly happy to enjoy the day’s last light from the comfort of a lodge, with a glass of wine or a cold cerveza in hand.
Peru has long been on the backpacker adventure circuit, but only recently has it come into its own as a true luxury travel destination, combining incredible experiential travel options with top-shelf lodging and guiding services. For too long, while the magnet of Machu Picchu drew itinerants and travelers from around the world, the country didn’t offer the more discerning traveler experiences comparable to other global adventure destination draws, like Patagonia, New Zealand, or Africa’s high-end game lodges.
Two companies have recently changed all of that in a material, and quite satisfying way — Orient-Express and Mountain Lodges of Peru.