A luxurious retreat at the Rio Sagrado…

Nestled into a hillside alongside the roaring Urubamba River and with the craggy mountains of the Sacred Valley as a backdrop, the Belmond Rio Sagrado property is beautifully placed for those looking for a serene getaway, located halfway between Machu Picchu and Cusco.

Rio Sagrado (19).jpg

 

 

Rio Sagrado means ‘Sacred River’ in Spanish and the connection with the river, mountains and earth are evident in many aspects of the hotel.  When you arrive you are seated in a cosy study, filled with books and with a huge telescope for viewing the night skies, which were so important in Incan times.

Rio Sagrado (20).jpg

Originally constructed as a family vacation spot, with the original villas now accommodating larger groups of up to 10 people,   the Rio Sagrado hotel has expanded out over a hillside, with a variety of different rooms and options. Natural materials are a feature, and the way that the rooms and casitas mould over the hill makes you feel that it’s grown organically.  With only 23 rooms in total, it’s a small, boutique hotel with a feel of exclusivity.

Food is a feature, and we were offered a delicious pachamanca picnic by the river.  El Huerto (the Orchard) restaurant is a delicious fusion of Urubamba’s best-kept culinary secrets and provides elegant dining by the river.

rio-sagrado-picnic-by-the-river-3

A highlight is an outdoor heated pool, fantastic for year round relaxation, which sets this hotel apart from most other SV Hotels which only offer unheated (and therefore cold!) pools.   A beautifully appointed spa is located in a wooden and stone building and offers a luxurious range of treatments using local therapies.

As you would expect for a property of this standard, the Rio Sagrado rooms have been created with careful attention to detail.  Balconies are carefully concealed from their neighbours using plantings of indigenous trees, and you can shower looking out over the landscape –with your private parts modestly obscured by clouded glass! Large beds, pima cotton sheets – and heated wooden floors, as expected from a hotel like this, your stay will be extremely comfortable.     We also were pleased to see recycling options in the rooms.

Rio Sagrado Junior Deluxe (higher than Standard) (5).jpg

As the aim of the hotel is to getaway from the busy world, relax and connect with nature there are no televisons in the rooms, but wifi is accessible if you wish.

Rio Sagrado Junior Deluxe (higher than Standard) (2).jpg

Finally a word on access – the hotel does offer one disabled/easy access room at the top of the hill and provide a golf buggy to access all locations in the hotel, including the restaurant located near the river. Otherwise, access to the rooms is via a series of steep steps and may not be a wonderful option if you struggle with climbing or descending steps!

 

Advertisements

Hotel Sol Y Luna: Heaven on Earth

The name, Sol y Luna evokes a connection with the stars, sun and moon which in turn reminds us of the Incan connection with the heavens.  The Incas believed that the Sacred Valley was a reflection of the Milky Way and with warmer climes, lush vegetation and flowers; the Sacred Valley was literally heaven on earth.

2013-07-04-13-42-38-2

The 2013 Trip Advisor Traveller’s Choice Awards placed the Sol y Luna Hotel at Number 1 Hotel in South America, – and it was included in the list of top 25 hotels in the world  – no mean feat!

And yet, despite being located in ‘Heaven on Earth’ and such a prestigious accolade, these rammed earth, rustic bungalows, set in abundant, beautiful gardens are natural and not in any way overconfident or boastful.  They fit in with their surrounds, and are in harmony with the earth.

On the day of our visit, it rained and we ran from Casita (little house) to Casita, enjoying the space, winding paths and flowers.  Each room has its own unique touch, decorated in a simple, yet elegant manner and you can imagine enjoying the space with your family.

2013-07-04-13-45-45

 

The decoration in common areas (reception, library etc.) has been done by a Limeno artist…. and is very memorable, quirky and fun!  Contemporary pieces are found throughout the property, including in the restaurants and guest rooms. This really adds to the atmosphere of the site and sets this hotel apart from the other hotels in this price range in the Sacred Valley which belong to chains and are a little less personalised.

2013-07-04-13-48-21

Their spa is housed in a stunning building, surrounded by extensive stained glass walls, and named Yacu Wasi – “the house of water”.  It is a space that seems made for a peaceful, pure restoration, but possibly also an understated indulgence!

2013-07-04-13-47-19

Having grown organically since being first built in 1996, the Hotel Sol y Luna now offers a series of different standards of room, all of them bungalow style.  The Casitas are very nice, well decorated but a little older and simpler. The Deluxe Casitas are very large, luxurious and decorated with attention to detail – they are clearly Peruvian, yet with modern amenities to complement.

The property has two restaurants, both known for their great meals and high quality cuisine.

2013-07-04-13-49-35

And perhaps if we haven’t provided enough superlatives about this great experience, there is the fact that Sol Y Luna has a foundation that supports children’s education in the Sacred Valley.  This belief that tourism needs to give something back mirror’s Majestic Peru’s own beliefs.   Sol y Luna’s Association now supports not just local schools, but provide Vocational training and other initiatives that support a stronger local economy.

Sol y Luna is much more than a hotel – it is an experience.

 

Travel to Cusco in February, the wet season

Why should you visit Cusco in February, the height of the wet season?

Here at Apus Peru we can’t take credit for this great piece written by someone at the the South American Explorers Club some years ago, but we are publishing it because its so TRUE!!

misty machu picchu, wet season travel to peru

machu picchu

 

We firmly believe that February is THE time of year to be in Cusco – and here’s why:

• It is the warmest time of year, meaning that you will not find yourself wearing Llama blankets wrapped around your waist as your new stylish evening attire.

• Carnival in Peru is celebrated by perfect strangers attacking each other in the street with water bombs, foam, eggs etc. It is taken for granted that anyone who ventures out of their house is “playing” – there are no rules, other than that your attacks must be directed at a member of the opposite sex.

• Ever wanted the chance to visit Machu Picchu all by yourself, or alone with your loved one? Well, now is the time to do it – with the Inca Trail closed and wimpy tourists favoring the coastal sunshine of Lima, you can enjoy an almost deserted Machu Picchu – the mist just makes it more atmospheric.

machu picchu in the rainy season,  visiting cusco in the wet season

visiting machu picchu on a rainy day (with a baby – who is under the umbrella on the back!!!)

• February is one of the best times to appreciate the natural beauty of Cusco. The valley turns a lush green, and due to the bursts of sunshine and intermittent torrential rain, there is a very high chance of glancing impressive rainbows over the Imperial City of Cusco. Just remember to bring your rain jacket.

• Low season means high bargaining power for the tourists who are here, and some discounts on accommodation and food.

Apus Peru addition:  it is true that the Inca Trail is closed for maintenance during February but that doesn’t mean that you can’t trek in the Lares region or on short day hikes.  It also doesn’t mean that the Inca Trail is closed.

for more information on wet season in cusco check out our wet season trekking inforrmation

 

Six things that may surprise you on a trek in the Andes!

Even for experienced campers and trekkers, a trip in the Andes is often a unique experience with new challenges.  Here are a few ideas and suggestions to take into consideration as you prepare for your trek!

Trekking in the Andes is challenging – but easier if properly acclimatised. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

  • Altitude can greatly influence how you feel and what you are capable of. Depending on how long you are in Cusco or other high-altitude areas before you depart, the altitude of most Apus Peru treks can be very physically challenging!  For this reason we recommend at least 2, ideally 3 days at altitude pre trek, in order for your body to acclimatize and to recover from any symptoms of altitude sickness. During this time, it is a good idea to drink plenty of water, try the coca tea (it works 🙂 ) eat lightly and get plenty of rest the first day. After that, mild to moderate physical exercise can help you prepare for your trek.
  • You will get very dirty! Depending on the length of your trek, quite a long time can pass without an opportunity to shower or bathe.  While most people expect plenty of sweat during a long day of trekking, there is also dust and mud to deal with depending on the season. Wet wipes, plenty of clean socks and liquid hand sanitizer go a long way toward making you feel comfortable at the end of the day.

Trekkers on the hike to Huchuy Qosqo, a little known ruin in the Sacred Valley. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

  • Reading up on the region and route before departure will enhance your experience. The Andes and Cusco area have rich cultural histories and natural diversity, which you will be experiencing first hand! Our guides are well prepared to teach you about all of this, but arriving in Cusco with background knowledge in areas you are interested in will provide context and allow for deeper understanding.
  • The sun is extremely strong! Sunshine and UV rays are much stronger close to the equator and at high altitudes. You will be very happy to have your wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunblock once your trek is underway! If you have lighter skin or are especially sensitive to the sun, lightweight clothing to cover your arms and legs is useful for sunny days.

Guide Herbert provides an overview of the ruins at Huchuy Qosqo. Photo by Isaiah Brookshire.

  • Communicating with your guide before and during your trek is important. Our guides are professionally trained and experienced in what they do. That said, every client is different! Letting your guide know about any new medical issues or dietary requests before departure helps them prepare. Updates regarding how you are feeling, walking pace, if you need more drinking water, or any other question or concern will help your guide ensure that you have a rewarding and enjoyable experience during your trek.
  • Be prepared for surprises. Many times, the most memorable events on a trek are the ones you don’t anticipate! Because Apus Peru tries to give our clients unique, “off the beaten path” experiences, treks and tours often include unplanned sights and opportunities. Keeping an open mind can help you make the most of your trip!
Nosey llama, early morning misty clouds and Machu Picchu!!

Nosey llama, early morning misty clouds and Machu Picchu!!

Many thanks to Amanda Zenick for this article, updated for 2015

For more information please visit our pre trip planning page on our website:

http://www.apus-peru.com/trip-planning/

Why change a trekking route?

Hot off the press: Choquequirao to Machu Picchu hikes to follow new itineraries!

Everyone agrees – the Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek is a wonderful hike through the high, isolated Andes visiting amazing Incan ruins along the way.

First glimpse Choquequirao

First glimpse Choquequirao

“I clearly remember talking to an old campesino as he pointed over the mountains and said – well of course you can hike to Choquequirao from here, and Machu Picchu too. It seemed so obvious to him, that all sites were linked by Trails, as they were in Incan times,” says Ariana Svenson, Co Founder of Apus Peru. “Six months later, in 2003, we armed ourselves with topographic maps, and old trekking guide books and set out to hike those Trails. But the key was that we hired local muleteers and they guided us from place to place. To them it was just following a trail, from A to B, that they had known their whole lives. To us, it was a great adventure.”

simply natural beauty

simply natural beauty

Several years later, Apus Peru was established as a travel agency and given the incredible nature of the route, the Founders felt that it was a “must see” trekking route for visitors to the region.  Memorable ruins, stunning mountain scenery and plunging river canyons – the glorious isolation of the Andes, Choquequirao and beyond became accessible. Two great ruins in one great trek!

Now, many years later, we have had many trekkers pass through our doors and enjoy this wonderful route with us, whether it was our 7, 8 or 9 day trek. However, Apus Perú strive to offer great experiences, and are constantly listening and responding to our clients’ needs, suggestions and feedback. This brings me nicely on to the reason for this blog.

choq 4 day 2

We have taken the plunge and recently made some necessary changes to these classic routes. Here we would like to take the opportunity to explain why – and how excited we are to be offering new itineraries!

As mentioned, back in the day of ‘trail blazing’, the tiny village of Yanama, situated about half way between Choquequirao and Lucmabamba and home to some of our arrieros, was exceptionally isolated and only reached on foot.

By 2012, with the onward march of progress, a road had been bulldozed in allowing vehicle access.  It has to be acknowledged that this is great for locals, easing the task of transporting goods and general all round connectedness. For more perspectives on roads and what they mean for small Andean villages, please read Co-Founder Ariana Svenson’s thoughts on roads accessing other remote villages: http://threadsofperu.com/road-to-chaullacocha/

So while we celebrate better services for the locals, we recognize it is not so great for the purist trekker looking for solitude and a taste of Andean wilderness!

Walking the last day of any trek along a road is not ideal, in addition to meeting a section of the now very popular and busy Salkantay trek, we felt that our guests were looking for remote hiking experiences – and it was time for change.

Now, our new, revised 9 day  Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek route as goes via Vilcabamba!! Three great ruins in one great trek!

IMG_5718

Our 8 day trek option has been created with the purist in mind and is a real adventurer’s option. We get off the beaten path, literally, at Yanama and take our new alternative route to the Qhiswa Pass and on to Totora. Difficult? Most definitely. Worth it? Ultimately. However, this is not a trek to consider unless on day 6 of an already tough trek you will have the physical capacity for a long and demanding 22km one day loop!

mapi 3

Our 7 day itinerary, removed the Yanama – Totora hike section and created an extra day to play with. The 7 day Choquequequirao to Machu Picchu now includes a very special introduction to Machu Picchu – the hike of Lucmabamba to Llactapata ruins. A wonderful way to end a memorable trek – by hiking back into civilisation with your first glimpse of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu from the East.

We look forward to exploring with you! For more information please contact: reservas@apus-peru.com

How to choose your tour operator.

With this week being the annual registration period for licenced Inca Trail operators, we thought we could offer a little advice when choosing who to trek with.

Thanks to Megan Gaston for this tantalising foto - 'Inca Trail - the start!'

Thanks to Megan Gaston for this tantalising foto – ‘Inca Trail – the start!’

1. Not all agencies are licensed tour operators:
There are two types of companies that will sell you an Inca trail package: registered tour operators and middle men also known as ‘endosars’. The registered tour operators are a handful of companies that run, sell, and operate their own trail packages. Companies like Apus Peru, Llama Path, Peru Treks, Quechuas Expeditions and G Adventures are all licensed operators who will personally take you on the trail. The representatives that you speak with are the ones who you will be working with directly, so if you have an issue, you can go straight to the source.

Middle men on the other hand, are companies that sell the trail package for each day, and then pool all these people together. So for example, if you buy a package through company X, they may send you along to tour operator Y or Z, where you will be joined by others who might have booked with Company A or B. So if you are having an issue on your trail, or would like to register a complaint, it’s much more challenging to report. Do you contact the original company you booked through, or go through the channels to find the office of the tour operator you were eventually placed with?

This also means that during the high tourist seasons you can be thrown together with much larger groups than are ideal. Registered tour operators will typically run tours every day, no matter how many people they have registered. If you are looking to join a smaller or larger group, you can always contact them to see what they have scheduled for your available dates, while with middle men operators you never know what you will end up with.

2. You get what you pay for:
One perk of booking with these middle men, is that they tend to offer much cheaper rates than the licensed operators. This can be great for the budget traveller, as well as the experienced trekker, who does not need much hand holding along the way. However, consider what things you may be giving up in exchange for a cheaper deal.
Registered companies offer superficial perks like group t-shirts, and uniformed porters for a more polished feel. They also tend to serve higher quality food, arrange personalized transportation from Machu Picchu and will accommodate most dietary and religious requests.

dessert Apus Peru

dessert Apus Peru

With middle men, you usually don’t know which company you are being placed with until the start of the trail. So it’s much more challenging to make special requests. The overall experience is decidedly less glamorous and less reliable.

If you are looking for a truly budget Inca Trail experience, and have relatively few demands, you may be fine using a middle man touring company. Just make sure you are completely informed on what you will be experiencing, prior to booking your tour. However, make sure you consider the things you may be giving up for a better price. At the end of the day, it all comes down to you, your priorities and expectations for this trip.

The Inca Trail is all about YOU. Why not have the best possible experience?

Many thanks to Leora Novick for this great information!

http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/inca_trail.html

Family trekking in the Andes.

My name is Matt, I work as a Travel Consultant for Apus Peru. I’d like to introduce myself as a new and regular blogger to report first-hand information on some of the Apus Peru treks and to obtain up-to-date relative trip information and experiences of the treks associated with Apus Peru. I am absolutely mad for the mountains and since I am in the middle of the Andes why not take the chance to explore what’s just a stones-throw from our office.

So here goes the first blog! This week I had the pleasure to accompany 2 families with children aged between 8 and 10 walking 16 miles (just under 26 kilometres) over 2 days across the high Andes to the ruins of Huchuy Qosqo in the Sacred Valley.

This would be a tough test for all!

6 Walking through Pongobamba village1 hour in and I caught the first, “are we nearly there yet?” from one of the kids. This did not become a habit I am pleased to announce. The reason for this may well have been the opportunities of interaction with animals, the locals, ever-changing scenery and great weather that we had ensuring that the younger trekkers did not become bored in any way.

One of the children could speak some Spanish, which was a blessing as at one point several children from a local school caught our eye whilst picnicking. She was gently encouraged to go over and make introductions and soon followed a little bit of banter and exchange of conversation.

Local children during the trekA little later, as we made our way onwards we were accompanied on our journey by some more locals who asked us where we were going – easy to answer that  “Huchuy Qosqo” – understood in Quechua as ‘Old Cusco’ – the language of which most people of these parts speak.

17 Chatting with the locals

Our climb to the top was hard-going but we made it to our camp spot.

The following day we passed through a very remote village called Pucamarca, which still uses thatched roofs that are rarely seen amongst the modernization of Andean villages these days!

IMG_0105

Then we ran into some problems. We were stopped in our tracks. We could not go any further for at least 30 minutes. Our trail was blocked!!! Landslides no, llamas were the issue here!

They had our route guarded and were not moving – that was that!

27 Llamas!!! 50 of them

We met a local trader who offered to sell some handicrafts. We liked buying from her and giving some income to someone who probably doesn’t see tourists coming through her village often.

Did we pass any other tourists along the way of the entire trip?  No, not one!

31 Maybe a little more than the first price given though

The next section on from the village was rather ‘cool’ as we proceeded through a canyon where there were some waterfalls and wooden bridges – could well have been a set off an Indiana Jones movie!

33 Bridge 1

We arrived at the Sacred Valley in dramatic form. There were some amazing panoramic vistas and all the way to the site of Huchuy Qosqo itself. It is claimed these ruins were built under the orders of Viracocha –  the 8th reigning Inca and were constructed to house Stone Masons working in the area while they were constructing the surrounding villages and temples.

A 2 hour, steep descent on switch-backs to the valley floor got us to our final stop of the journey, Lamay. This town was definitely not like that of Pisac or Ollantaytambo and full of tour groups.

41 making our way down some seriously steep switch-backs to our final goal, the village of Lamay

A nice shaded spot with a cold soda and beer was just the right touch to mark the end; flake down on to the grass with weary legs but contented trekkers, before heading back to Cusco.

42 Happy ending, although tired

We asked the kids at the end of the trek, to count how many kinds of animals they had seen on the way and they got to 11 – Pigs, sheep, llamas, Condors, Ducks, Chickens, Cows, Donkeys, horses, Guinea Pigs, Alpacas – this took a while, but then they started on the bugs….!

Are you an adventurous family with children that would like to trek in the Cusco region?  Missed out on the Inca trail, then why not contact our family oriented sales consultants who can offer honest and helpful advice about trekking with kids? We run many private treks for families all over the Andes and our guides are experienced in making your trek a family adventure work for you and your children!

Huchuy Qosqo trek http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/huchuy_qosqo_adv.htm, being “easy” by Andean standards (that is, with not too many climbs) and also short with just 1 nights camping, is the perfect way for a family to test their trekking abilities as a group, while also having an adventure right on the doorstep of Cusco!

Matt Waugh, 3rd of June 2014