On the Pumamarca Trail, en route to glimpse some pre-Inca ruins, my hiking guide Rafael and I pass farms, Peruvian women with towering hats and colorful cloaks, goats, alpacas and the occasional farmer working the earth. Like old friends, we chat unceasingly, as if we’ve known one another forever. Because we’re at such altitude (nearly 12,000 feet) that means we should be breathless, but somehow the talking propels us upwards, and we only stop occasionally to stand in awe of the view. As a guest at Explora Valle Sagrado in Peru’s mystical Sacred Valley, I am partaking of one of my included cultural and athletic adventures, one of some fifty that guests can choose from each day. While Rafael and I hike alone (and at top speed apparently as when we return we discover we’ve achieved the Explora world record for this trail), most of Explora’s hikes, bike rides, tours and cultural excursions include other guests, but always merely a handful, as the small boutique adventure lodge only boasts 50 rooms—and a maximum of around 100 guests at a time. This attentive guide-to-guest ratio combined with the retreat’s abundant daily offerings means that each guest has the chance for a bespoke experience every day. And, that’s Explora’s mission.
While many guests take the day long slog to bucket list Machu Picchu, Explora would rather its guests experience some of the Sacred Valley’s lesser known and lesser trammelled portions of Peru. Proponents of slow travel, deep travel and thoughtful travel, Explora pushes to achieve its goal to unveil layers in Peru, and to take you places you didn’t know existed. Operating a bit like a safari lodge in Africa, all inclusive Explora Valle Sagrado includes meals, snacks and excursions. Each night guests gather in the great room, sipping Pisco Sours by the fire and chatting with guides and other guests. There, adventuress are shared, as well as recommendations and options for the next day. During this convivial time, guides customize tomorrow’s itinerary.
If you want to stay in and lazily recharge in the spa (a true haven, ensconced in a stunning colonial building), nobody judges; at the same time if you want to take on an intense fourteener hike and scream from the top of a mountain, there’s an excursion for that.
Built on the grounds on an ancient hacienda, Explora Valle Sagrado mesmerizes with its one of a kind architecture. Mirroring nature with its organic shapes and sleek ruggedness, the horizontal lodge building resembles a train. It took archeologists working deftly with architects to place the hotel safely amongst Inca ruins, neatly laid out on the grounds of the old ranch, between flowers, artifacts, corn and quinoa—all in the shadows of the Andes.
Most will feel they’ve been invited to be part of something sacred—if only during their stay. Rooms are huge, but cozy, with deep soaking tubs and beds built for wearily hiked and biked bodies.
The lodges main rooms, bar and restaurant invite connection—and most guests happily chat together and share stories of their day.
The culinary program is gastronomic and top notch. Envisioned, implemented and led by Michelin-starred chef Virgilio Martinez of Central Restaurante fame, the restaurant serves locally inspired food with products and ingredients gathered from farms around the valley. In keeping with sense of place, the gorgeous Pumacahua Bath House, Explora’s spa, also coddles with treatments that incorporate the culture and history of the region.
Pro Tip: Since mountain temperatures and weather in the Andes can be mercurial and not everybody owns a closet of mountain fashion, pack layers, but prepared to load up and things you forgot at Explora’s well stocked store.
Location: The Sacred Valley, Peru
Food + Drink: One restaurant and bar feature a range of cuisine inspired by the Andes and its bounty. The culinary program was developed and continues to be led by Michelin starred chef Virgilio Martinez, owner of the acclaimed Central Restaurante in Lima. Don’t miss the Pisco Sours—and if you’re brave, nibble some guinea pig.
Our Favorite Part of the Hotel: The architecture and setting of the hotel quicken the heart. Horizontally laid out, contemporary and organic, the lodge building fuses mindfully with the terrain: quinoa fields, the adjacent river valley and towering, surrounding mountains. Its spa, kitted out in the bones of an ancient colonial house by the water has a soulful feel, as if the walls could talk. It’s all grand, but we love the large common area, but elegant and rough hewn, where guests and guides meet each night to discuss the next day’s excursions.
Amenities: All-inclusive programs including meals, beverages, transportation and a choice of more than 50 exclusive guided excursions, which include bike-rides, hikes and overland explorations to nearby villages. A spa, swimming pool, restaurant, well stocked gift shop, library and lounge with fireplace await.
Both far from everything and near all that you’d wish to do, secluded Explora Sacred Valley is an hour by train from Cusco and close to myriad mountain trails, quaint villages, and historical sites. Machu Picchu lies 90 minutes away by train from Ollantaytambo Train Station.
Any personal neighborhood recs?
Explora is situated in one of the region’s most remote ancient corn plantations close to the Urquillos village. Guests experience the region on intimate, guided excursions. Its not the sort of place where you leave the property, but, rather, delve into its offerings.
Rooms: 50 rooms, including six suites
Pricing: All inclusive room rates start at $1000
Closest Airport: Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco
Other articles you may like: