Sure, you could fly into Lima, change planes, fly to Cusco, then do the whole Sacred Valley in a blur of trains, taxis, and buses in five days or less. But is that really the way to treat one of the greatest destinations on Earth? Or your body?
Peru is not a quick in and out destination. Sure, you may have succumbed to the media pressure to create a bucket list of things that must be checked off, Macchu Pichu being one of them. But put the checklist aside and realize this place is special. Really special. If you come in and leave as a tourist on a quick standardized tour, you’ll leave with a standardized experience. The same as a million people before you and a million after.
Instead, stick around for a while and go where the others are not going. The photos posted here are from just three days on the Lares Adventure itinerary set up by Mountain Lodges of Peru. You can do a five-day version or a seven-day version, but either way you’ll come back with mind-blowing photos and memories that nobody else can top. You’ll be hiking in areas where you may go the whole day without seeing another foreigner who is not in your group. You’ll visit villages where there only way to get there is how you’re getting there—on foot.
The real thrill though is seeing glorious Peru in its natural state. Sure, some ladies will set up blankets to hopefully sell you some things they have made in their spare time. Some kids might ask you for money or candy when you pull out your camera. It doesn’t take long for natives anywhere to figure out that these travelers clad in Gore-tex gear are a fountain of wealth. But it’s a mellow pitch, devoid of desperation. This is a sideline, not a livelihood. Quinoa sprinkled on the dessert, not the staff of life.
These people are farmers and weavers. They till the soil by hand and make clothing from what they shear from the alpaca. Their houses are made of stone and they are so tough that they walk around in sandals while we visitors cover our feet in thick socks and waterproof hiking boots. Our jackets display status in logos and labels we pulled out a credit card to buy. Theirs display status in the months it took to create the intricate embroidery.
The traditional Lares Trek has long allowed a trek through these villages and the stunning scenery along the way. With the Mountain Lodges of Peru version, however, there’s a serious step up in comfort. Their two lodges serve as base camps for adventures in the region, then at the end you spend the night in Ollaytantambo before making your way to Machu Picchu. The lodges employ plenty of local workers, like the lovely villagers here who bid us goodbye as we set off with our daypacks and walking sticks.