De­ter­mined to veer off the tourist trail in Peru, in­trepid trav­eller Karen Tee takes the road less trav­elled in the Sa­cred Val­ley to get to Machu Pic­chu.

Herworld (Singapore) - - FEB 2019 -

Our in­trepid ex­plorer takes the road less trav­elled in the Sa­cred Val­ley, Peru, to get to Machu Pic­chu.

I’ve dreamt of vis­it­ing Machu Pic­chu since I was a child. Pic­tures of this an­cient ci­tadel – the mas­ter­piece of 15th-cen­tury Inca civil­i­sa­tion – in Peru that I saw in the pages of Na­tional Ge­o­graphic mag­a­zines were so real to me, I’d some­times have vivid dreams of climb­ing the steep stone steps and ex­plor­ing the com­plex.

But it seems that the path to Machu Pic­chu is laid with tourist traps. Many trav­ellers take a multi-day trek along a por­tion of the Inca trail that leads to Machu Pic­chu, but it has be­come so crowded that per­mits of­ten sell out months in ad­vance. Al­ter­na­tively, af­flu­ent glo­be­trot­ters pay top dol­lar to get there via a lux­ury train and put up in posh vil­las, prac­ti­cally bub­ble-wrapped in a co­coon of com­fort.

Ei­ther way didn’t seem au­then­tic to me. So my eyes lit up when my friend, Claire Betts, who also hap­pens to be my favourite South Amer­i­can travel ex­pert at A2A Jour­neys, sug­gested an al­ter­na­tive – a “choose your own ad­ven­ture” lodge-tolodge jour­ney in the Sa­cred Val­ley – ar­ranged by a lo­cal com­pany called Moun­tain Lodges of Peru. This 95km stretch of the pic­turesque An­dean moun­tains is the land the an­cient Inca civil­i­sa­tion claimed do­min­ion over, and is still dot­ted with small towns and farms pre­dom­i­nantly in­hab­ited by the indige­nous Quechua peo­ple.

Un­like a typ­i­cal bus tour with a fixed itin­er­ary, this of­fers daily op­tions for ei­ther a hike in the moun­tains or a cul­tural ac­tiv­ity such as vis­it­ing the work­shops of lo­cal mas­ter weavers, with group sizes kept to about 15 peo­ple. It also fea­tures stopovers in quaint val­ley vil­lages such as Ol­lan­tay­tambo and Urubamba, and visits to lesser-known Inca sites and ar­ti­sanal mar­kets. Oh, there’s no need to hud­dle in camp­sites when night falls; we will stay in dif­fer­ent bou­tique lodges ev­ery night as we go around the Sa­cred Val­ley, each stop get­ting us closer to Machu Pic­chu, which we will visit on our fi­nal day. The lodges of­fer plenty of crea­ture com­forts rang­ing from pri­vate hot tubs, to spa ser­vices and even three-course din­ners. Sold!

The Inca ruins of Ol­lan­tay­tambo – from a dis­tance, they ap­pear to be shaped like a llama.

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