Say the words Machu Picchu, and even folks who have never been there, seem to get taken with a sense of excitement.
There’s a wow factor. Perched between the Andes and the Amazon, it’s a beautiful setting, with, one might say, a flair for the dramatic. And from the historical perspective many agree it’s the legacy of the Inca civilization. Exploring is fun, you will no doubt run into one of the nearly 20 resident llamas that not only seem to think nothing of all the visitors, but seem to have a knack for posing in pictures with them.
But Machu Picchu is just one part of an area in Peru known as the Sacred Valley.
And there’s plenty to see, like the salt ponds of Maras. The terraced pools were a main source of salt for the Incas. Today, 400 or so families still harvest salt by hand here. Visitors can walk freely around the ponds. There is a section where you can dip your finger into the water that feeds the pools and taste how salty it is.
My home base in the Sacred Valley was explora Valle Sagrado. Unlike other hotels, the goal is getting guests off of the property, and exploring the area. A staff of full-time guides lead hikes and bikes rides every day, throughout the area. So while most people drive to Maras, we hiked in.
This isn’t a relaxing vacation, it’s an adventure that takes you to sights that almost seems like landscapes from another planet like Moray. Many believe it was an Incan agricultural experiment of sorts with microclimates. Studies show temperatures vary from one level to the next, and that some of the terraces contain soil brought from other areas.
Similar to the salt ponds in Maras, we hiked in from the back side, so we didn’t see another soul on the way in. Just an assortment of farm animals like pigs, sheep, and donkeys.
A trip like this can be intimidating for some travelers. It’s a great amount of time outdoors, and altitude is certainly a factor. But that said, guides made exploring incredibly approachable for folks a variety of ages and fitness levels. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that each night you had gourmet food, a hot shower, and comfy bed to look forward to.
I was especially excited about a day-long remote hike called Lloclla because it’s known for a variety of animals, everything from alpacas and sheep, to donkeys and horses. On the drive there, a boulder blocking the one narrow road in had to moved, or I should say wiggled just enough for our van to sneak through. By the time we reached the starting point, the steady rain had turned into snow. When we started out, I questioned what I had gotten myself into, by the end of the day, I wished I had had time to do it all over again.
Machu Picchu may be the well known bucket list stop that brings you to Peru, but planning on staying awhile to see some of the many the other scenic locales in the neighborhood. You won’t regret it.
Dana’s trip was hosted by explora Valle Sagrado, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.