The Explora properties in Chile have long been favourites of Imagine clients. Here, our Latin America specialist Eli tells us all about her experience visiting their newest property, in the beautiful natural surroundings of Peru’s Sacred Valley.
I had no idea what to expect when embarking on my bumpy journey from Cusco to Explora’s newest lodge in the Sacred Valley. Would it live up to what their well-established counterparts offer in Chile? How would it compare to the other accommodation options in the Sacred Valley? I needn’t have had any doubt – for those wanting to explore the outdoors through different, unique and more off-the-beaten track experiences, this newest addition to the Explora collection is a must-visit.
What makes Explora really stand out from any other accommodation in the Sacred Valley is the fact that those who stay are not classed simply as visitors, but explorers. Explora has established great relationships with the local communities, who have allowed them unique access to certain areas within the valley that are not otherwise visited by tourists, offering a completely different experience. There is nothing quite like turning the corner to a picnic lunch set up for you complete with an epic backdrop and not another person in sight (bar the occasional local herding their sheep!).
There are, of course, the classic trips to places like Ollantayambo, Maras and Chinchero on offer, but what Explora does differently is allowing you to really get under the skin of the local culture and Peruvian heritage. Instead of feeling like an onlooker, you’ll feel involved in a unique cultural exchange, learning about the daily lives and traditions of the Peruvian people.
I highly recommend heading straight to the Sacred Valley after arriving in Cusco, as it helps greatly with acclimatising to the altitude. Shortly after my arrival, I had a quick lunch and headed out on the local ‘Huertos de Yucay’ exploration, which offered a lovely introduction to the area and local farming cultures. Day two was time for ‘Chinchero Salineras’ – a full day hike incorporating the textile markets of Chinchero and salt mines of Maras along the way. There are a wide range of excursions on offer at the lodge, from biking to hiking and horse riding, available at different levels of altitude from ‘valley’, to ‘plateau’ and finally ‘mountain’. Four to five nights here are recommended to allow time to build up to the higher level activities and properly experience the valley.
The lodge itself is beautifully decorated and perfectly in line with all other Explora properties. The use of local woven goods adds to the lodge’s authenticity and the views of the old corn plantation against a backdrop of rugged mountains are lovely to wake up to. I found the staff welcoming and the guides as knowledgeable, enthusiastic and encouraging as ever – certainly a great help on one of my full-day hikes! The social areas are welcoming and cosy; there’s nothing quite like curling up by the fire in a comfy armchair after a long day of exploring, whilst you contemplate what the next day will bring. And last, but certainly not least, the food was organic, local and delicious!
Whether you have stayed at an Explora property before or this is your first introduction to the collection, you will certainly not be disappointed by the exquisite service, magical landscapes and exceptional experiences of true Peruvian culture offered by Explora Valle Sagrado.