Martine Bury embarks on a voyage through South America’s most exquisite destination and shares her Sacred Valley Travel Guide with usin this three-part series on Peru.
The Inca Heritage
A short flight and winding drive land us in the Sacred Valley to acclimate before ascending to Cusco. Peru’s secrets are kept in this maze of rural life and ancient Inca ruins, sheltered by the Rio Urubamba Foothills. We tuck into the contemporary Tambo Del Inka Resort & Spa, which boasts its own private train station for the journey to Machu Picchu. The hotel’s minimalist design captures the region’s peaceful vibe, spurring us to go out and experience everything we can. We pass hours on a guided bike ride through unchanged Andean villages, where for miles we see only mountain peaks, all stripes of grazing sheep and indigenous women in their heavy, bright woven shawls, long skirts and smart montera hats. After an excellent picnic, we partake in a private blessing ceremony with a shaman.
Days of adventure require rest. We check into Sol y Luna Lodge & Spa, a complex of stone casitas surrounded by colorful flower gardens and trees that reach for the sky. Exploring the grounds we discover the adjacent stables with friendly equine residents, Peruvian caballos de paso.
It’s a moonlit evening—so bright the night sky is still quite blue. Our dinner at the hotel restaurant is long and relaxed, beginning with ceviche followed by a parade of dishes that flaunt the local produce.
Weekly, Sol y Luna offers a festive, barbeque-style dinner near the stables. Everything about the Sacred Valley coexists in harmony at this enchanting oasis. And staying here is an opportunity to do good, as the property’s Association Sol y Luna provides education for local children.
Guest rooms are cheery and luxe painted fuschia, ochre yellow, bright peach or electric blue, and decorated with collected things like folk art and textiles crafted by local artisans. We return to our big, comfy bed, turned-down for dreaming. I do just that.
The not-so-secret secret of traveling to Machu Picchu is to take the Belmond Hiram Bingham Train. There’s a world of natural wonder on the multi-day Inca Trail pilgrimage, but this rail ride is a posh party, round-trip. Lounging in a coach decked in polished wood and brass, we meet the neighbors and enjoy formal meals on crisp white linens. We take in waterfall and forest views as we cut through the mountains, arriving, awestruck, at the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site —the mysterious Inca citadel perched on a peak almost 8,000 feet high. On the return, we venture to the Bar Car surprised to find ourselves in the midst of raging revelry in a tiny space with a band playing traditional Peruvian songs on flute, guitar and cajon.
The next couple of nights are spent in Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, which is packed with cosmopolitan diversions—acclaimed eateries, wine bars and 5-star hotels. Wandering the city, I fall in love with the old monasteries, the town squares, the ornate doors of giant cathedrals and the occasional llama. Home base is Palacio del Inka, a richly restored 15th-century palace close to Plaza del Armas. Known for its world-class spa and elegant piano bar, it’s the perfect retreat in this tourist-filled town.
Continue following Martine’s journey through Peru – she ends her journey on the Amazon.