By Way Of The Incas
For those visiting Peru for the first time, it’s easy to understand why Machu Picchu is the big draw. It’s magnificent, one of the world’s greatest sights, the high point of the trip in more ways than one. But with that renown come crowds, especially if you want to do as the ancients did and hike the Inca trail direct to the site. A cool experience for sure, but these days it’s heavily oversubscribed and rather well worn – a bit of a backpacker highway, if you will. So, if you don’t want to join them, I say beat them. Here’s how.
The Sacred Valley and Lares Adventure is a lodge-to-lodge journey by foot through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, taking ancient routes away from the modern day crowds, connecting villages only accessible by foot, crossing mountains and streams over 5-7 days of hiking and exploring through some truly magnificent landscapes.
Along the route, there are various cultural or adventurous activities on offer, and since the groups are tiny (up to 16 people at a time) and looked after by numerous guides, it is rare that everyone is doing the same thing at the same time, setting the stage for really intimate experiences. Without another tourist in sight, you’ll cross paths (literally) with indigenous Andean people who use these parts of the Inca trail as their regular route between the villages, dressed in their traditional wear, going about their daily routine.
Chilly nights under canvas this ain’t – you end each day at one of the excellent mountain lodges, run in partnership with local communities. You’ll find it’s pretty easy to summon the courage for another day on the trail, resting your sore muscles in an outdoor hot-tub with views spanning across the mountains, an ice cold pisco sour in your hand, before a delicious hearty meal. Luggage is transported between the lodges for you, so you only need a day pack each day. My tip for your hike is to head to the local market to stock up on bread and fruit to give to the welcoming children and families you meet along the way. Owing to the remoteness of these villages, it could be a day’s hike or more to get food that can not be grown on their high altitude farms.
The itinerary also includes exploration of the breath taking Inca sites of Pisac, Ancasmarca and Ollantaytambo. And a visit to Machu Picchu itself completes the journey, although you don’t hike directly in on the Inca Trail. That direct path to Machu Picchu may get all the fame, but we think that the experience of this trek is easily worth the sacrifice of not hiking right to Machu Picchu. The activities are outstanding, the lodges comfortable and the panoramic views breathtaking. And on top of that, it is the unique interactions with the indigenous people, and the cultural insights gained by following the ancient pathways through these high Andean communities that sets this experience above the rest.