Salkantay Lodge to Lodge: Adventure, Luxury, Repeat
After a day of trekking amongst some of the world’s greatest mountains through the ancient land of the Incas, imagine slipping into the bubbly warmth of a Jacuzzi, cold cocktail in hand, and every bit of tired strain in your aching muscles relaxing. You’re en route to the sacred citadel of Machu Picchu on the road less traveled via the Salkantay Route, where the journey is just as magical as the destination.
Not sure what to expect on a luxury lodge-to-lodge style adventure? First of all, there’s no less scenery and many more bountiful moments of solitude on the Salkantay Trek. Here are five other things to anticipate for this next trip-of-a-lifetime:
5. Big Mountains
If you’re seeking something that makes you feel small, humbled by total grandeur, then look no further than the Vilcabamba mountain range rising precipitously from the Mollepata Valley and Urubamba River. Looming at an intimidating 20,574-feet above sea level, Salkantay is the highest peak in this vertically-inclined region, and the 38th highest in the Andes. Derived from the Quechua word “saliqa,” Salkantay evokes a sense of wildness and invincibility, translating to “savage mountain.” The trek traverses north to Machu Picchu on a mix of stone and dirt paths, reaching a high point of 15,200-feet. No need for crampons, harnesses or ropes….just a good pair of hiking boots, a couple of poles and these enchanting mountain lodges for that extra motivation when the going gets tough.
4. Thin Air
Besides preparing ahead of time for your Peruvian adventure with exercise and a healthy diet, spend a couple of days acclimatizing to the lofty altitudes of Peru in Cusco before embarking on the Salkantay Trek. As you rove along this olden trade route across windswept grasslands past alpine lakes and curious llamas, up, up, up, maybe you’ll find gulps of air harder and harder to grasp. Take small breaks and deep breaths along the way, and as you reach each nights destination, spend a few moments sipping coca tea in one of the many cozy nooks near a roaring fireplace. As well, take full advantage of the cool, filtered water at each lodge; after all, hydration is the key to an enjoyable hike… and life!
3. Cultural Wonders
Each day, open your eyes to a deeper understanding of why the Incan people choose this area to worship their deities and find reverence in the sun, stones, peaks, valleys, rivers, and every living thing. Fascinating remnants of this mysterious culture are seen not just at Machu Picchu, but along the Salkantay Route, and a knowledgeable guide can effortlessly fill you in on the history behind the scenes. Throughout the expedition, you’re welcomed by hardworking locals who call these hillside villages home and introduced to a remarkable way of life in this harsh environment. In the evenings (while you’re sipping your coca tea!), enjoy sampling local fare, like Pachamanca, granadilla, bananas, and make notes of all you’ve discovered and take advantage of the literature at the lodges, resources that can help fill in the gaps of your pressing questions.
2. Ultimate Comfort
From the Wayra Lodge at 12,812-feet, the “place where the wind lives,” to the balmy avocado orchards and coffee plantations of Lucma Lodge at 7,003-feet, find rejuvenation in these gorgeous outdoor settings of each eco-minded architectural marvel. Rather than sticking out like a sore thumb, the mountain lodges represent well the surrounding environment, mixing traditional Incan heritage with contemporary design. These six-room lodges are crafted from materials and decor relevant to the landscape. Inside each locally-run accommodation, enjoy the ultimate in refreshing beverages, hot showers, regional gourmet cuisine, select wines, massages, and divine, feather-soft beds that will provide you with all the downy goodness your body craves at the end of each action-packed day. A steaming cup of locally-sourced organic coffee and healthy breakfast gets you on your way again, alert and excited for the next adventure.
1. Mother Earth in her finest
There’s no overselling the landscape along this “back way” to Machu Picchu. The Salkantay Route features a breathtaking hike through 15 different ecosystems, from subtropical rainforests brimming with butterflies and orchids; to misty cloud forests and foggy boulder fields; to Llactapata Pass with singular views of Machu Picchu from the southwest that most never see. Whether you’re taking a primitive dip in a natural hot spring or soaking away the day’s strenuous efforts in a plush Jacuzzi, your eyes won’t stop gazing at the engulfing majesty, and your camera will feel subpar as you click away and never quite capture the feeling of soul-satisfying days spent moving and restorative evenings spent relaxing and recapping, prepping yourself for the grand finale of a sunrise over Machu Picchu. Expectations exceeded around every corner.
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