I slid open the curtain at Lamay Lodge to reveal a lush courtyard with two llamas grazing next to the gardened fire pit. I gazed beyond them to behold the entirety of my vista; 9,705-feet above sea level, terracotta roofing framed the Andes Mountains.
After my first day hiking through Peru’s Sacred Valley with Mountain Lodges of Peru, my muscles ached and an altitude-induced drowsiness washed over me. As grateful as I was for the view before me, I couldn’t be more relieved to trade in the typical hiking accommodation of a tent and sleeping bag for a welcoming bed adorned with a plush duvet and a hot shower—I was glamping my way to Machu Picchu.
My journey started in Cusco at XO Art House, one of several boutique accommodations within the Mountain Lodges of Peru portfolio. As its name suggests, the adventure company encompasses a series of solitary, avant-garde lodges throughout Peru’s Sacred Valley. The luxury accommodations are in harmony with their surroundings but adapted to ensure modern comforts for guests participating in their exclusive, lodge-to-lodge routes, including 5-, 7-, and 10-day hikes through the Andes.
I glamped my way through the 5-day program: Sacred Valley and Lares Adventure to Machu Picchu. Rather than joining floods of backpackers on the traditional Inca Trail routes, I was taken off the beaten track (literally) on remote treks amidst 26,000 ancillary miles of ancient Incan trails. It is on these side trails that Mountain Lodges of Peru settled their luxury lodges: fitted with personal, ensuite hot tubs overlooking the Andes, airy yoga platforms for stretching after hours of steep climbs, wood-burning fireplaces to cozy up next to, and fully staffed kitchens often preparing the local style of Pachamanca cuisine.
As I dug into tender pieces of lamb and earthy blue potatoes cooked under hot stone, all my worries about my body cramps and the drizzly weather forecast ahead faded away. While I relished in the luxe amenities I would never expect to find in such a remote valley, Andres Adasme, Head of Adventure, Exploration and Product Development at Mountain Lodges of Peru, explained how the company thinks beyond designer lodges, to incorporate luxury into all aspects of their itineraries.
“We are always looking to go off the beaten path because we believe the luxury experiences we offer are in the field; to avoid the crowds and make a really unique, private experience,” Adasme told me.
I recognized the extent of these luxurious experiences as the trip progressed: cultural activities were presented as alternatives to hiking to offer a well-rounded immersion into some of the most spiritual and remote mountain villages. Admittedly, I am not a pro-hiker so I appreciated the flexibility of intermixing cultural activities into a day of trekking. As the only operator with access to certain villages, Mountain Lodges of Peru enabled us to connect intimately with locals, such as the weaving community of Choquecancha, where I had my coca tea leaves read by the local healer.
I soon realized that the cultural experiences offered more than a welcome respite from hiking—they made the entire trekking experience more meaningful by connecting me to my surroundings. “It’s getting involved with the soul of these people and the connection with mother earth; I think that’s the most important ‘luxury’ experience we offer,” said Adasme.
Adasme joined the Mountain Lodges of Peru team in 2005 when they were building their first, and now flagship, lodge, Salkantay, in the Rio Blanco valley. “It’s really inaccessible; as you know, you have to hike to every lodge, so it was difficult to start any project, yet alone an ecological project,” said Adasme on the challenges of designing an eco-conscious lodge with modern amenities, under such isolated conditions.
Yet with a commitment to mother nature—Pachamama, as the goddess is referred to by the indigenous Andeans—the team pursued in their efforts to respect the mountains and local communities. Aside from renewable energy and waste reduction strategies, such as solar panels, recycling, minimizing trash, and incorporating fresh garden ingredients into their menus, the team has established long-term partnerships with the local communities, like with the Huacahuasi community of which Huacahuasi Lodge garners its name. Prior to the building of the lodge, the Huacahuasi community had limited access to clean water. Now, Adasme told me the company assists the community with cleaning their water tanks and filters as well as handling water distribution. The thoughtful approach resonated as I reflected on my journey through the valley and the underlying mission of the company surfaced—Mountain Lodges of Peru cares most about strengthening ties to the land and people of the Sacred Valley.
I didn’t need to pitch a tent and sleep on the literal earth to feel at one with it. For the Incans, and today’s mountain tribes, experiencing their land encompasses far more than physically feeling close to Pachamama, it’s an entire symbolism, which you can truly relate to in moments of solitude; the farther you wander, the more you’ll absorb. In this case, the luxury aspect of the trip didn’t just make the trip more enjoyable, but it intensified my connection to the Valley, both in nature and culture—and I couldn’t imagine seeing Machu Picchu any other way now.