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Published on September 16th, 2016 | by Nick Dall

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Lodge to lodge treks near Machu Picchu

Dilemma: You’ve always wanted to do the Inca Trail but you also value the finer things in life. Get the best of both worlds by doing one of the luxurious lodge to lodge treks on offer near Cusco.

You’ll get the chance to hike in one of the most spectacular corners of the Andes and you’ll visit remote villages and Inca ruins. You’ll experience a way of life that modernity has passed by and you’ll spend your last day immersed in the majesty of Machu Picchu.

machu-piccchu-philip-dixon

New perspectives on Machu Picchu (Photo credit: Philip Dixon)

Lodge to lodge treks give you the chance to live out an authentic Andean trekking experience without having to sleep on hard ground or eat stodgy pasta. On both the Lares and Salkantay treks you can rest assured that the locally-inspired cuisine will be gourmet, the showers hot and the beds luxurious.

If the idea of a less crowded, more luxurious and ultimately more spectacular experience appeals, read on to find out more about the various options.

The Salkantay Trek

This is a bona-fide Andean trekking experience which requires you to hike from one lodge to the next. Over the course of seven arduous days you will summit immense mountain passes and ford torrential snowmelt rivers. You will hike through some of the most magnificent and diverse mountain scenery on the planet and bathe in glorious outdoor Jacuzzis at the end of every day.

dondi-joseph-salkantay

In the shadow of Salkantay (Photo credit: Dondi Joseph)

You will visit glacial lakes and summit a 15,200ft pass. You will tread sections of the Qhapaq Ñan (the ancient Inca road network) and come face to face with the mighty 20,000ft peak the trek takes its name from: Salkantay, the second-most sacred peak in Inca mythology. You will trek through cloud forests which teem with lush vegetation and colourful butterflies and you will even visit a remote coffee plantation.

And when, on the seventh day, you finally reach the sanctuary of Machu Picchu you will know that you have gotten there ntirely on your own steam, in much the same way that the Incas would have done. Watch the video below for inspiration and then check out this link to the Salkantay itinerary. If all this hiking sounds like too much for you, you’ll be relieved to know that you can also experience the Salkantay Trek on horseback – just ask your Destination Expert for details.

The Lares Trek

The Lares Trek is an irresistible combination of adventure travel and cultural immersion. There are five and seven-day options, with several ‘a la carte’ activities to choose from every day. You’ll be driven between the lodges but will also get plenty of chances to hike in the Andes, including a couple of (optional) full-day hikes over immense mountain passes.

The itinerary takes in many of the highlights of Sacred Valley, including Pisaq, Ollantaytambo, Maras and Moray but it also gives guests an opportunity to visit remote traditional villages in the almost impossibly picturesque Lares valley. And of course it culminates in a day-long excursion to Machu Picchu.

lares-paulo-philippidis

The Lares trek passes through some pretty spectacular scenery. (Photo credit: Paulo Philippidis)

You don’t have to select the a la carte activities beforehand, so you can tailor the experience to suit your mood and energy levels. What’s more different members of your party can opt for different experiences on any given day – useful if you’re travelling with teenagers! Oftentimes it’s really hard to make a decision, as all of the options are equally appealing. On Day Five, for example you can choose between visiting a local farmer’s market; exploring the Sacred Valley by mountain bike; or hiking seven hours from Huacahuasi to Patacancha.

You’ll stay in a combination of intimate, remote lodges and slightly more conventional hotels…Although the focus on luxury and attention to detail will remain the same throughout. Unlike the Salkantay trek, you’ll often spend two nights in the same establishment.

If this sounds like your cup of emoliente why not watch the official video to seal the deal? Now all that remains is choosing between the five-day and seven-day itineraries.

Still can’t decide?

Members of the SA Expeditions team have completed both the Lares and Salkantay treks. Why not contact one of our Destination Experts to discuss which experience is best for you.

Credit to Arup Malakar for the cover image of this blog, which was taken during the Lares Trek.

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About the Author

Nick is a nomadic freelance writer with a particular passion for Latin America. He has lived in Argentina and Bolivia and traveled just about everywhere else. He gets excited about wine, language, literature, trout and cheese.



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    *Versión en español abajo*

    In the end, we made the 170 miles walk from Jauja to Antioquia in seven days, two day less than planned. The improved management and behavior of

    In parallel with sharing the historical, ecological and cultural marvels, we aim to place the Qhapaq Ñan alongside the great long distance walking trails on the planet . The 2000 miles path from Cuenca, Ecuador to Cusco, Peru can become a vein of economic activity through tourism. A feat that will require persistence and common vision from local and national governments alongside private industry. The Pacific Crest Trail going from Mexico to Canada along the spine of the Sierra Nevada’s and Cascade ranges was a vision began in 1932 by Clinton C. Clark, which took 60 years to be considered complete and with a network of “trail angels” overseeing its maintenance.

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    ________________

    Qhapaq Ñan – Día 8

    Culminamos con la expedición de 320 kilómetros desde Jauja a Antioquia en solo siete días, dos días menos de lo planeado. El progreso en el manejo y control de nuestras llamas en esta caminata significó poder dedicar unas horas extras al día explorando en lugar de re-ordenar la carga o tener otros retrasos que se producen con un equipo menos entrenado. Durante siete días caminamos en promedio alrededor de 40 kilómetros por día, distancia que equivale a la caminata de cuatro días en el tradicional camino inca desde el Valle Sagrado hacia Machu Picchu – 41 kilómetros en total.
    Si buscamos un punto de comparación podemos decir que caminar estos 40 kilómetros cada día por el Pacific Crest Trail desde Sierra Nevada hasta los andes Cascade en Estados Unidos es la misma distancia que caminaremos por día en la expedición que realizaremos por el Qhapaq Ñan en nuestro gran proyecto durante cuatro meses en Abril del próximo año,

    No solo queremos compartir las maravillas históricas, ecológicas y culturales del Qhapaq Ñan, si no también queremos establecer a este gran camino inca a la par de grandes caminos de larga distancia en el mundo . El tramo de 3,200 kilómetros de Cuenca, Ecuador hacia Cusco, Perú puede convertirse en una principal actividad económica a través del turismo. Una hazaña que requerirá persistencia y trabajo de la mano de los gobiernos locales y nacionales junto con la industria privada. El Pacific Crest Trail que va de México a Canadá a lo largo de las cordilleras de Sierra Nevada y Cascade fue una visión que Clinton C. Clark tuvo en 1932, la misma que tomó 60 años para ser considerada completa y con una red de trabajo de personales responsables que se encargan del mantenimiento de la misma.

    Desde el año 1400, el Qhapaq Ñan fue un camino de piedra del Imperio Inca construido a lo largo de la cordillera, su tradicional estructura y el mantenimiento vial era realizada con trabajo en conjunto de las personas de los andes. Esta práctica cultural era organizada y dirigida por los “ángeles del rastro” del Pacific Crest Trail. El Qhapaq Ñan es una de las mayores obras públicas del hombre antiguo, con culturas milenarias que existen aún a lo largo de la ruta.

    Se convertirá en uno de los grandes senderos de larga distancia en el mundo, y esperamos que nuestras exploraciones e historias a lo largo del camino sirvan para las generaciones de caminantes que vienen después de nosotros.

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    The journey continues…

    *Versión en español abajo*

    Qhapaq Ñan – Day 1

    The team departed this morning from Jauja with 12 llamas heading along a transversal Qhapaq Ñan towards Pachacamac, 200 miles west, near the

    In three days by foot west, we’ll arrive to the great Inca stairway in the shadows of the great Apu Pariacaca (mountain deity). The set of 1800 steps will be the entry to another three days on some of the most spectacular Qhapaq Ñan anywhere on the 25,000 mile network. Ten days from now, we should arrive to our finish point at Antioquia, where the Qhapaq Ñan starts to disappear closer to the coast. The terrain for most of our trek will float between 11,000 and 16,000 feet above sea level, perfect for the llamas with plenty of Ichu grass along the way.

    Our first day on the route covered 15 miles and with better behaved llamas and more efficient llameros (llama handlers). Our llameros, Flavio, Nicolas and Valentine are getting better at their craft. We also have two local llameros, Tito and Antonia, the latter being our first female llamero in 500 miles of Qhapaq Ñan we’ve trekked thus far and adds an interesting dose of female energy into the group. She’s probably the most able llamero of the group and it’s her animals were working with while in the region. The majority female team at SA Expeditions might find this amusing that even on the Qhapaq Ñan I find myself collaborating with strong and talented women.

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    Chief Explorer
    SA Expeditions
    ___________________
    Qhapaq Ñan – Día 1

    Desde Jauja, esta mañana el equipo inició la expedición junto a doce llamas a lo largo de una transversal del Qhapaq Ñan en dirección hacia Pachacamac, 320 kilómetros al oeste, cerca de la costa sur peruana en el Océano Pacifico.

    Hace 600 años, en la cima del reinado del Inca, Jauja fue un importante centro de administración que apoyó la expansión del imperio hacia el norte desde su capital, a 770 kilómetros al sur, en Cusco.

    Pachacamac, fue un importante centro religioso que se remonta a dos milenios e influyó en las siguientes culturas incas. Tiene sentido que el camino que une estos dos centros antiguos haya contado con tal planificación y grandeza. Es un ejemplo que se suma a la lista de obras extraordinarias a gran escala del imperio.
    Luego de tres días de caminata en dirección al oeste, estaremos llegando a la gran escalera Inca localizada en las sombras del gran Apu Pariacaca. El conjunto de mil ochocientos escalones será la entrada durante tres días a uno de los lugares más espectaculares de todos los 40,200 kilómetros que conforman el Qhapaq Ñan. En estos diez días de expedición llegaremos finalmente a Antioquia, más cerca a la costa donde el Qhapaq Ñan comienza a desaparecer. La mayor parte de nuestra caminata se realizará en alturas que van desde los 3,350 y 4,900 m.s.n.m, lo que es perfecto para las llamas ya que encontraremos abundante hierba de Ichu a lo largo del camino.

    En el primer día de ruta se ha cubierto 25 kilómetros. Las llamas se han comportado mejor y los encargados de ellas, los “llameros”, están realizando su trabajo de manera más eficiente. Flavio, Nicolás y Valentín están mejorando en su labor. A ellos se han sumado dos llameros locales, Tito y Antonia, siendo esta última la primera mujer en acompañarnos luego de 800 kilómetros de expediciones por el Qhapaq Ñan. Ella añade una interesante dosis de energía femenina al grupo y debo mencionar que, probablemente, es la cuidadora con más capacidad dentro del grupo.

    La mayor parte del equipo de SA Expeditions, conformado por mujeres, encontrara divertido que incluso en el Qhapaq Ñan me halle trabajando de la mano con mujeres fuertes y con mucho talento.

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    Today we’ve arrived to the town of Hospicio after the pass at Apacheta Chico, the highest point of this expedition at 16,000 feet. In the 12 years since I arrived to Peru with

    Getting to Hospicio took us 8 hours of walking through remote Andean puna on a Qhapaq Ñan preserved by cold dry air and almost no people. We passed dozens of native flocks of Vicuña, a rare and prized Andean camelid, and a stunning virgin landscape of Queñua forests. I had my doubts that in 2016 such an Andean world still exists, but I am now a believer and more humbled by my complete vulnerability to the mountains and the local inhabitants of this place.

    Also an important note for anyone interested in exploring the remote sections of the Qhapaq Ñan by foot…Do not take the venture lightly. Be absolutely sure that you are with native Quechua speakers and either yourself or someone else on your team has deep experience in the Andes. Had our team not spent many months planning for all eventualities, our arrival to Hospicio could have been a much more serious had things got lost in translation. We had maps of our route, letters of introduction, native Quechua speakers and a team with decades of experience in similar situations. This is the moment in the story when I say…Don’t try this at home! Unless of course your adventurous soul is accompanied by a strong sense of preparation.

    Nick Stanziano
    Chief Explorer
    SA Expeditions

    _________________

    Qhapaq Ñan – Día 8

    Hoy llegamos a la ciudad de Hospicio después de atravesar el pase de Apacheta Chico a una altura de casi 4,900 m.s.n.m., el punto más alto de esta expedición
    Hace doce años llegué a Perú con una mochila y después de haber explorado gran parte del país, puedo decir que Hospicio es el pueblo más desconectado del mundo exterior que conocí. Los locales solo hablan quechua y solo las personas que son autoridades del pueblo tienen un nivel de español muy básico. La explicación del por qué llegamos de entre las montañas con diez llamas escapa de toda lógica en este lugar. De alguna manera logramos convencer a la supersticiosa población de que no tenemos intensiones siniestras como un pishtaco (alguien que roba órganos humanos) o ladrones. Luego de esto, nos brindaron un pequeño espacio de tierra en donde pudimos acampar con un poco de pastizales decentes para nuestras llamas.

    Llegar a Hospicio nos tomó ocho horas, caminando a través de una remota puna andina sobre una parte del Qhapaq Ñan muy bien conservado por el frio aire seco y por la escasa presencia de personas. Pasamos junto a decenas de rebaños de vicuña, un camélido andino muy apreciado, además de poder contemplar un paisaje impresionante de los bosques vírgenes de queñua. Tenía mis dudas de que en este 2016 todavía existiera un mundo tan “andino”, pero puedo confirmar que ahora soy aún más creyente y además me siento vulnerable contra estas montañas y los locales de este lugar.

    Para cualquier persona interesada en la exploración de las secciones remotas del Qhapaq Ñan a pie, tengan en cuenta la siguiente nota… no tomen el riesgo a la ligera. Deben ser capaces de comunicarse con los locales de cada lugar, tener en cuenta que deben estar acompañados con quechua hablantes o nativos y expertos que tengan amplia experiencia en temas relacionados con los andes. Al no haber tenido muchos meses para planificar todas las posibles eventualidades que se podían presentar, nuestra llegada a Hospicio podría haber sido más grave si no hubiéramos sido capaces de conversar y poder explicar los motivos de nuestra presencia. Sin embargo, teníamos con nosotros mapas de la ruta que estábamos tomando, cartas de presentación, quechua hablantes nativos y un equipo con décadas de experiencia en situaciones similares. Este es el momento en la historia que digo… ¡no intenten esto en casa!, a menos que, por supuesto, su alma aventurera vaya acompañada de una fuerte preparación.

    Nick Stanziano
    Jefe Explorador
    SA Expeditions See more

    5 months ago

    Shopping for souvenirs in Buenos Aires, Argentina

    Heading to Argentina? You’ll want to see this…

    Argentina is a shopper’s paradise – If you know what to look out for and where to find it. This blog gives you the inside scoop on three quintessentially Argentinean gifts

    5 months ago

    SA Qhapaq Ñan

    Tune in daily for captivating updates from SA Expeditions’ Chief Explorer, Nick Stanziano, and his team as they set out on their second ambitious expedition along the Great Inca Road, Qhapaq Ñan, See more

    Our Second Expedition Begins…

    Qhapaq Ñan – Day 1

    After 14 hours of traversing treacherous Andean roads, in route from Cusco towards Ayacucho, we arrived to Vilcashuamán. Vilcashuamán was a

    Being in the Andes, we will also be supported by our team of 12 llamas which arrived by truck after two days on the highway from Northern Peru. While llamas are an iconic Andean symbol, their use and familiarity has been declining since the Spanish introduced hooved animals as the principal beast of burden. Although the llama, in its elegance and native familiarity in the high Andes, give it certain advantages on long distance travel here. We want to understand and rely again, as the Inca’s did before us, on how to use of the llama as a pack animal.

    Today though, in our efforts just to get them loaded, we were reminded we were no Incas…The circus that ensued brought more than a 100 townsfolk and gawking tourists to watch us chase llamas around the archeological park in town that is the tallest ushnu (raised ceremonial platform) in the whole Inca empire. We had gangs of young children, in an amazing display of ability skipping across the terraced Andes, pursuing llamas that were on the loose escaping their load.

    Half the town must have been in some way part of the llamas’ presence and our ragtag team of 3 Cusqueños and two gringos, as we chased them down. In the end, we found one of the llamas so ornery and with a zeal to run, that we decided to sell it for 300 soles (90 dollars) to the man who also played dressed as the Inca king to take pictures with tourists. We declined his first offer, but soon found it a convenient way to find it a home that wasn’t part of our expedition. In the end, we decided to camp another night and think about things and find some more clarity on how this is all going to work out.

    I’ll close this first post with optimism and braced for the 200 miles of adventure ahead on the great Qhapaq Ñan.

    Nick Stanziano
    Chief Explorer
    SA Expeditions

    _________________

    Qhapaq Ñan – Día 1. Comenzando la segunda expedición..

    Luego de catorce horas de atravesar dificultosos caminos andinos, desde Cusco hacia Ayacucho, llegamos a Vilcashuamán. Vilcashuamán fue el centro del Imperio Inca durante el siglo XV, siendo el punto medio geográfico del mundo Inca que iba desde el norte de Argentina hasta el sur de Colombia a lo largo de la costa occidental de América del Sur. Se dice que Vilcashuamán fue la casa de retiro de Pachacutec, el gran inca rey que muchos creen construyó Machu Picchu. Vilcashuamán toma aproximadamente cuatro semanas a pie o en llama en el gran camino del Inca, el Qhapaq Ñan, trayecto que estaremos haciendo el año que viene. Pero esta visita comienza con otra expedición a lo largo del Qhapaq Ñan por una distancia de 320 kilómetros en ruta hacia el Pacífico a un oasis en el desierto cerca de la moderna ciudad de Ica, a donde llegaremos a finales de octubre.

    Estando en los Andes, también recibimos el apoyo de nuestro equipo de doce llamas que llegaron en camión después de dos días de viaje por la carretera desde el norte de Perú. Mientras que las llamas son un símbolo icono de los Andes, su uso y la familiaridad ha ido disminuyendo desde que los españoles introdujeron otros animales principales de carga. Sin embargo, la llama, con elegancia y familiaridad nativa de los Andes, tiene ciertas ventajas en viajes de larga distancia en este terreno. Queremos entender y confiar de nuevo, como lo hicieron los incas antes que nosotros, los contextos de uso de la llama como animal de carga.

    Sin embargo, hoy en nuestro esfuerzo de alistar a las llamas, recordamos que no somos Incas… lo que a continuación pasó fue un circo que logró que más de cien ciudadanos y turistas nos observen en una persecución de llamas por el parque arqueológico de la ciudad que es el más alto ushnu (elevada plataforma ceremonial) en todo el imperio Inca. Tuvimos bandas de niños pequeños, dándonos una impresionante muestra de la capacidad de saltar al otro lado de las terrazas andinas, persiguiendo llamas que estaban a punto de escapar de su carga.

    La mitad de la ciudad fue partícipe de la organización de las llamas, junto a nuestro equipo de tres Cusqueños y dos gringos. Al final, encontramos una de las llamas tan intratables y con un afán de correr, que decidimos venderla por 300 soles (90 dólares) al hombre que estando ahí vestido como un Inca aprovechó en tomarse unas fotos con los turistas. Inicialmente rechazamos una primera oferta, pero pronto pareció una manera conveniente de encontrarle una casa a esta llama. Al final, decidimos acampar otra noche y pensar en las cosas y encontrar algo más de claridad sobre cómo todo esto va a funcionar.

    Voy a cerrar este primer post con optimismo y preparándome para los 320 kilómetros de aventura por delante en el gran Qhapaq Ñan.

    Nick Stanziano
    Jefe explorador
    SA Expeditions See more

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