Having started to work with the Mountain Lodge of Peru because it sounded like a really good alternative to the normal trek done by nearly all the usual tourists I really wanted to try the 7 day trek to Machu Picchu. The added value of combining it with time in the beautiful Sacred Valley & Cusco was an absolute bonus.
What an amazing experience – I was so impressed with how friendly and clean everywhere was in Peru right from the time we arrived in Lima. We spent our first night at the beautiful colonial Country Club Hotel as we arrived late in the evening and took an early morning flight to Cusco the next day.
Our first flight seemed to take us to the top of the world, as Cusco is 3550 metres above sea level, and straight away you feel the affects of the high altitude! So even at the airport slightly short of breath I was wondering whether I was going to acclimatise in time for our trek.
So to give yourself time but not wasting a minute we headed off to the Sacred Valley which has the added bonus of being slightly lower at 2900 metres. What an amazing place, walking around the slightly eerie ruins of the Inka civilisation reliving their way of life and then looking out across the stunning views of the mountain tops - wow just mind blowing. Coming down to earth a little we were then escorted by a guide around the Pisca Market which offers great shopping but is also an insight into the Inka beliefs through the silver and textiles still used today.
Having thought we were going back to the hotel to rest our over stretched senses we arrived at the The Sol y Luna Hotel to be bowled over again – what a haven of tranquillity – the walls beautifully decorated with local art made it the perfect place to rest in the Sacred Valley (Bono thought so too). Each individual traditional stone ‘casitas’ or cottage, all with private terraces, is sympathetically furnished and decorated with local textiles and fully equipped with everything you need. Within the grounds, where each building is painted a different vibrant colour matching the local flowers, there is a wonderful Spa offering all kinds of treatments to suit all visitors.
Part of the hotel complex is its own Ranch with the famous Peruvian Paso horses which put on a daily exhibition for your entertainment with lunch – you see the horses at their very best. If you are very brave you can even try riding at the end of the show or book a ride around the local village and surrounding areas. Although the horses are wonderfully responsive, just a finger on the reins to change the direction, the gait which has evolved over the years because of the steep terrain, is very difficult to get used to.
After having spent two nights in Cusco – the least amount of time recommended to acclimatise before setting off on the trek – we were sad to say good bye. It would be very easy to spend a week in Cusco as it is a lovely city, I have never been to such a beautifully clean, safe place and with the knowledgeable guides to escort you, you learn more and more about the culture and history with every turn you make.
So on our last night in one of the many great restaurants in Cusco we had our final briefing before our departure the next morning. Everything was explained in full detail – pick up times, what to take, what to leave in Cusco, what to expect and also giving you a chance to meet the group who you would be spending the next 7 days with.
Waking the following morning, everyone full of excitement, we set off in mini buses to the start of our 7 days trek making our way though local towns where we stopped to buy local jams and marmalades.
Day 1 – The first day was a half day walk, not too punishing, to get you warmed up for the rest of the trip, ending at Salkantay Lodge at Soraypampa @ 3850m. The lodge with its wood burning stoves, luxury duvets and even hot water bottles for the night, looked out over the stunning views of the snow capped Salkantay Mountain & glacier. With the added bonus of a communal hot tub in the grounds, a welcome treat after our first walk.
Day 2 – This is the largest lodge on the trek and you spend two nights here with the second day of trekking to the glacier lakes at a height of 4300 metres getting you slowly used to the altitude. Returning for lunch you can then either just relax for the afternoon or go horse riding on their large super quarter horses. There is also an option to do the 7 day trek on horse back, the climax of this challenging riding experience is riding up to a huge Inka cross right at the very top of the mountain. We just took photographs!
Day 3 – is the big one! An incredibly long days walk, reaching the summit of 4600 metres – such an achievement – and by this time we are a really a group – all getting to know each other, we had: Americans, Brazilians, Mexican; Spanish and the 2 Peruvian guides. It proved to be a fantastic combination of cultures, languages and fun. I would say I had the best group, but I am sure the type of people who choose such a trip would always make a very interesting mixture. So walking with Condors flying high above the mountain and Chinchillas the size of large rabbits all around us we seemed to cover so much ground without even realising it.
Wayran Lodge, our second stop is the most remote @ 3920 meters and is the cosiest place to stay with the obligatory hot tub- a lovely way to relax the aching legs and revive yourself for another lovely dinner. The food in all the lodges and Peru generally, is superb, usually consisting of loads of vegetables tastily prepared – a welcome feast especially following a Pico Sour! – but watch out for the alcohol not always a good idea at that altitude.
Day 4 and only a half day walk to the Colpa Lodge – a welcome descent of 1000 metres along the canyon and down the valleys with the river running along beside you. A complete change of scenery from the mountain tops, with an abundance of flowers and birds as you head into the tropical climate of the lower areas. So now at 2150 metres you are met with an already prepared feast from the BBQ before you spend a relaxing afternoon in the grounds. The hot tub waiting to relax those aching muscles but now in lovely warm and sunny temperatures – but again watch out for the sun at this altitude.
At the beginning of each day, before your trek, there is always a good supply of snacks and water for you to collect before you leave – it is recommended that you drink at least 3 litres of water a day. There is even a supply of toilet paper and a bag just in case of emergencies! Mountain Lodges think of everything.
I did unfortunately succumb to altitude sickness, not the first time I have suffered, however with the expert care,once I was taken to lower altitude, I recovered very quickly, and it still wouldn’t stop me returning – I thought this trip was amazing.
Day 5 is an easy walk, some of our group headed off for a Zip Wire trip – reporting back that it was amazing. We walked the last part on a restored Inka trail – through coffee and avocado fields finally arriving at Luma Lodge which is the lowest @ 1900 metres. We visited a local farmer who made coffee for us in his house with Guinea pigs running around the floor while his wife roasted the coffee bean before grinding them to make the fresh coffee.
Day 6 is a complete change and full of excitement again walking early morning to an Inka ruin not yet restored and finding on arrival that we were looking over to Machu Picchu on the opposite mountain. You can see why the Spanish did not rediscover it until 1911 as it is completely hidden, nestling in the stunning green mountains which surround it.
Lunch provided by a local farmer of avocado and trout was an extra bonus whilst sitting in awe with your own peaceful, private view of Machu Picchu. After lunch we were off ever downwards now to the valley floor to the top of the station at the top of the railway for Machu Pichu an alternative way to reach area.
The whole group was on the most fantastic high with the sense of achievement, the wonderful wellbeing of the comradeship that had built up between us or perhaps it was the injection of plenty of oxygen but anyway we all felt so good.
We checked into the amazing Inkaterra Hotel – a very gentle introduction back to some reality. There is an option for a second night here with very good rates so that you could enjoy the best nature trails and different restaurants at your leisure.
Day 7 is Machu Picchu! Up at 5am to get the 6am bus for the 20 minute drive to the ruins. Nothing prepares you for how huge it is! It’s hard walking in the warm climate, but with stunning views every way you look, in ever changing cloud formations, it’s truly amazing. The guided tour here is essential to understand the construction and beliefs of the Inka civilisation. An expression we made up on our trip which means Wow was ‘Offda’ which this certainly was.
After a nice lunch back down at the Inkaterra hotel where we caught the train for our journey back to Cusco.
All in all this is a trip I would recommend to all – incredible to be away from the crowds, in the remote Peruvian mountains occasionally coming across locals taking their mules & horses along the same trails they have used for centuries. In luxury and safe hands you can just enjoy the stunning scenery and envelope yourself in the history & culture.
Comments from my fellow travellers:
‘It was truly a trip to remember for ever’
‘Really was an unforgettable trip, which we will really miss!’
‘We also will never forget the trip and time together with the group’
I would really like to help you plan a perfect trip including this 7 day trek walking or on horseback – I have some great suggestions which could include this trek into a 15 nights trip so that you see everything that Peru can offer. Please contact me on 01202 606160