As an adventure company rooted in culture, Mountain Lodges of Peru has emphasized a truly off-the-beaten path Peru for the past 12 years.
There are 26,000 miles of Inca trail throughout the Sacred Valley, all leading to the star of the show—Machu Picchu—and MLP has curated itineraries to showcase these quieter parts of the Valley.
Today, their two most popular itineraries include the Sacred Valley and Lares, along with the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. With starting prices at $1899 and $2990, respectively, the itineraries are increasingly attracting millennials for their multi-activity itineraries combining soft adventure with luxury lodges, and exclusive cultural interactions.
Think two grand sounds expensive? Try putting down that $4.50 oat milk cappuccino for a year, delete a pesky subscription of $1.99 that you don’t use anymore… those vacation dollars will add up faster than you think. Plus, you pay it upfront then everything is taken care of. Do you know how many logistics go into planning hiking routes, purchasing access tickets for Machu Picchu, and the opportunities you’d miss planning a cultural excursion for yourself?
The latter is what we’re all looking for these days; experiences. So let me tell you about one of the most impressive experiences I had on my trip with MLP last week: getting my coca leaves read in the middle of an Incan weaving village, the healer of whom is the husband of Senora Maria—a strong, talented weaver who introduced herself to Andres Adasme, Head of Product Development and Exploration, in 2014 when he was scoping out Choquecancha as a destination to bring guests.
“We are always looking to get off the beaten path because what we believe is that the luxury of experience is in the field—not in the lodges, not in the food we offer, not even in the guides we have even though they are really important, but the experiences in the field,” says Adasme.
On a drizzly morning, we pulled up to a deserted square with dilapidated buildings covered in last year’s political graffiti. Stray dogs welcomed us and I turned to Adasme to ask, “How many people live here?” His response, “Around 400 families, 1200 people.”
We wandered through the abandoned streets as I looked around in awe but also a little dumbstruck about this “luxury” experience—but Adasme’s words ran through my head about the same time that we ran into our first resident—Valentin. Adasme turned to me and said, “That’s the town healer, Maria’s husband.”
Two hours later, I sat face to face with Valentin as he prepared to read my coca leaves. (Though they are reputable for their healing powers for altitude sickness among tourists, coca leaves are more than that to locals, used as a cultural offering throughout Peru).
Valentin asked my name and what I wanted to know. I’ve never been to a palm-reader or had my cards read, in fact I didn’t much believe in it up until visiting this town, this country; the spirituality spoke to me. Valentin spoke to me. So I told him to tell me what came to mind, after all, he began his path as a healer through a dream—through what organically came to him.
As he performed his ritual of chants, my stomach turned, anxious as to what he may say. Though the readings are quite personal, I can tell you his advice on career, and speculations on my future seemed to align. I digested it all with a grain of salt and watched the faces of my peers as they exited after having their leaves read too.
Yes, the weight of what he says swirls in my mind but more so, the experience of sitting across from a healer who found crystals in his backyard after a dream, who cures ailments of all the village-people, who genuinely welcomes you to feel what he sees, was touching. To know people like this exist and to be in their presence, it’s powerful and for a cultural experience, once in a lifetime.
And this is what MLP is all about—once in a lifetime. “There has to be value in an experience to give more and more connection to a place,” says Adasme. “Avoiding the crowds is the first thing that we think of when we design an itinerary, to make a really unique and private experience, but value is what’s really important.”