Review: Mountain Lodges of Peru - The Best Way to Experience Machu Picchu

A few years ago, I was reading through the annual “50 Trips of a Lifetime” published by National Geographic Traveler magazine. The trips were remarkable, to say the least. Cruises to Antarctica, trekking through the Himalayas, and around the world packages filled each page with wanderlust. One trip, however, stood out in a different way. It was a 7-day trek through the Andes mountains, staying in luxurious lodges along the way, culminating in a visit to one of the most awe-inspiring locations in our world: Machu Picchu. How is that different than the other once-in-a-lifetime adventures? It had all of the attributes of the other incredible journeys, sure, except for one key difference: you didn’t have to take out a second mortgage to pay for it, nor quit your job in order to have enough time off. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t what I would call cheap. Yet for all that this trip had to offer, saving a little extra over the course of a year or two was more than worth it, and is something I recommend to traveler I meet.

 

THE EXPERIENCE

Machu Picchu is certainly a sight worthy of your bucket list, but if you simply take the train/bus to the visitor center entrance you will be cheating yourself from a truly memorable experience. Instead, spend 7 days trekking through the spectacular scenery of the Andes, the mesmerizing mountains the people who built this wonder of the world call home, and gain a little understanding of their way of life. When you reach your reward, the experience gained, culture learned, miles covered, and energy exerted pay off in a way more remarkable than simply hopping off of a bus. Standing at the top of Machu Picchu, looking back across the mountains and valleys you walked to get there gives a perspective that cannot be gained in any other way than walking those miles yourself. Unless, of course, someone could make the journey a little more comfortable…

 
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Mountain Lodges of Peru has accomplished something truly spectacular by building luxurious lodges deep within the Andes, greeting you at the end of each day’s hike with drinks, a hot shower, gourmet meals, soft beds, massages, Wi-Fi, and even outdoor jacuzzis. Now you can have the amazing trekking experience you’ve dreamt of without the cold, wet nights in a tent surrounded by the noise and odor of other hikers.  Each lodge is equipped with all you need for a comfortable, relaxing, 5-star stay in one of the most remote places of the world. Not only are the lodges immaculate, during each day’s trek you only need to pack what you personally want with you for that day. A few snacks, some water, a poncho, and a camera, all fit easily (and more importantly, are lightweight), in a daypack. The rest of your luggage, along with your lunch and the chefs to cook it, are carried ahead of you, out of sight, by horse or donkey. All of this service comes together in such a way that you can focus on the beauty all around you.

 
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THE GUIDES

With any guided tour or adventure, the people leading you have the power to take a great site and make it miserable, or a truly unforgettable experience. With MLP, it is certainly the latter. MLP’s guides are highly trained experts in their field. Their knowledge of the local history and cultural traditions is extensive, as is their understanding of the local flora and fauna. They convey all of this with great communication and group management skills. At all times we felt safe, well cared for, and included in the group.

 

THE MEALS

Food may not be the first thought that comes to mind when people think of Peru, but that is quickly changing. The range of fresh ingredients, combined with a culinary melting pot of Inca and Spanish flavors make for some extraordinary dishes. Mountain Lodges of Peru is a worthy contributor to the Peruvian food scene, providing amazing dishes in some of the most remote places of the Andes. Don’t worry about missing out on all of the specialties found back in Cusco, you won’t be missing in out. In fact, you will get to enjoy them all surrounded by incredible company and in a beautiful setting.

All of the staples can be enjoyed, including wonderful uses for avocado, quinoa, traditional spices, and fresh seafood. Seafood also plays a prominent role, as the entire length of Peru borders the Pacific Ocean. This means ceviche was certainly on the menu. Upon arriving at each lodge at the end of the day, we were greeted with warm tea, but would quickly follow it with the national cocktail: a pisco sour. We also would try the local alpaca, chew on some coca leaves (which help with altitude sickness), and even the local specialty of cuy, or guinea pig, cooked in a traditional earthen oven. No matter the strange pork, we left with full bellies, and the knowledge that you were never far from a good meal in Peru.

 

REVIEW

For a truly impactful experience at one of the most incredible wonders of the world, hike the Salkantay trail with Mountain Lodges of Peru. The evidence for the purpose of Machu Picchu lies in its orientation to surrounding sites, landmarks, and trails. Many landmarks, man-made, astronomical, and mountainous appear to align with the site. To more fully understand them, and appreciate Machu Picchu and the Incan empire, trekking through the sites leading to Machu Picchu is a must. The experience will be unforgettable, and made even better by the delightful guides and staff, amazing food, and first class comforts. This is a trip to place at the top of your list.