Travel: Do Not Disturb

Explora Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu

Lodge with daily explorations and sophisticated dining


More info

If you love exploring but don’t love the rigidity of retreats or trust yourself to do it alone, then Explora will likely be for you. A company set up by three friends in ‘93 to fill a gap – to offer extremely comfortable bases that allow you to explore remote areas with experts – stays here include rooms in award-winning lodges, breakfast/lunch/dinner and drinks, daily explorations, use of their spa, plus transfers and any special events. They’re a certified B Corp Company, carbon neutral, and recognised as the best exploration company in the world by the World Travel Awards.

The Lodge

José Cruz Ovalle, architect of Explora Valle Sagrado (and five others), designed this property the way all Exploras are designed: to fit into their surroundings. They say Explora has “unique buildings nestled harmoniously in the wildest of landscapes” and that perfectly describes the property here. Set in corn fields, with the Andes as a backdrop, the focus from any angle is the breathtaking (no other word) view.

The Vibe

It’s an interesting crowd that’s drawn to Explora. Families, heads of banks and media moguls, entrepreneurs and artists, all with something in common: to trek the path less travelled in comfort. The lodge is warm from day to night, and everyone is friendly. The central bar serves as a gathering point to share stories of the day and the lounge is a great place to relax and plan explorations.

The Rooms

The design here may be Chilean, but also feels Scandi, with warm wood and uncluttered, clean lines. The focus is the panoramic views and comfort; everything has been carefully considered. Beds have fluffy comforters (a treat to get into); closets have ample space, which is useful for hiding your clutter; bathrooms make the most of their space, with a jacuzzi and stone shower that fit together nicely; and one switch for all the lights makes bedtime easy. Details like thermoses, filled each night for after-dinner tea, drybags with useful hiking items, and hooks everywhere for wet gear, are appreciated. Even the information pamphlets are carefully designed and eco-friendly. Water bottles are provided on arrival, and there’s not a plastic bottle anywhere on site.

The Explorations

On your first day, you’ll have an intro session where they’ll tell you more about your options (hiking, biking, half/full day, overland vans) and help you come up with a plan. Top tip: when they talk about altitudes and lengths, listen. When they say 13,000 ft, think about what that actually means. Choose wisely, and make sure you have the necessary clothes or buy them quickly (they have a shop). There are three levels of explorations, and guides will work with you to make the most of your stay – for example, they’ll make sure you’re okay with the altitude on a lower hike before they let you go up up up, which is helpful. All explorations are led by their extremely knowledgeable and personable guides, who not only lead the way but provide nature and history lessons, too.


Virgilio Martínez – chef/founder of Central, currently number one in World’s 50 Best – has designed the menus, and although haute, they are approachable and truly showcase the ingredients from the area. On-property lunches, which serve a selection of starters for the first course, are a highlight, and all explorations include mountaintop tablecloths with things like hot soups and plates of smoked trout (no salmon here) to accompany the sandwiches and containers of pastas/grains that you carry up.


The Pumacahu Bath house, a restored colonial manor, serves as the spa, with treatment rooms, a yoga studio, outdoor pools and two jacuzzis, self-serve fridges stocked with beer, Champagne, water and sodas, with a backdrop of the Andes. Go out the back door to access running routes into town – the Urquillos village.


It’s all really, really, great. The staff, the clients, the cuisine, the lodge, the views, the early to bed… The Inca history lessons along the way are excellent too and bring the terrain to life – it all reminds you how good it is to learn something. There are also no TVs, which is a nice change.

Anything Else

As mentioned, they have a shop with outdoor gear, should your bags not make it or you forget something, as well as local products for souvenirs. They have Peruvian cookbooks (including Martin Morales’ Ceviche) placed gracefully around, books, and games, should you have extra energy. Don’t leave without trying their non-alcoholic drink made with corn or their pisco sour menu, and make sure you take a half day for yourself to just enjoy the property. They do day trips to Machu Picchu for an additional fee, and don’t miss the artistic town of Pisac for Incan ruins and an artisanal market for great ponchos, crystals, silver, baby alpaca throws, bags, and more. This town is also known for Ayahuasca retreats, so expect hippies, hipsters, and woke city slickers.

What to Pack

You’ll need all the usual trekking items, including layers as it gets cold at night, and rain gear, depending on the season. For evenings, anything goes, but chic casual seemed to reign.

Top Tip

Come here for at least four to five nights if your time and budget allow. This will enable you to build a program that starts slow, and ends with one of the more challenging hikes. It will also give you the time to explore and have some downtime too.

Explora is 90 minutes from Cusco and one hour from Ollantaytambo, where you catch the train to Machu Picchu. They have seven other lodges, including Patagonia National Park, El Chaltén, Torres Del Paine, Atacama, Atacama & Uyuni and Easter Island.

Originally published on
26th February 2024


Then subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter here: