Explora’s new Sacred Valley hotel
Author: KENDALL HILL
Photography: Courtesy of Explora Peru
Two decades after its groundbreaking Patagonian property introduced sophisticated lodge stays to South America, the Explora group has expanded internationally - over the border from Chile into Peru.
Explora Sacred Valley officially opens its doors on 1 July, but Gourmet Traveller zipped over to the Land of the Incas last week for a sneak preview and can confidently report that the new hotel is a stunner.
Set on a 30-hectare site of centuries-old Incan terraces amid fields of quinoa and giant corn, the 50-room lodge is dwarfed by the towering Urubamba Range to the north and the Maras Plateau to the south, so the views are never short of sublime. And while Sacred Valley and Cusco can become clogged with tourists keen to witness the wonders of this corner of Peru - Machu Picchu chief among them - Explora's setting in the secluded Urquillos hamlet is a sanctuary safely away from the hordes.
Room interiors cosset guests in natural comforts, from bathrooms lined with pink Andean sandstone to a rainbow of rich Peruvian timbers including floors clad in copaiba, doors and windows in pumaquiro and Amazonian ceiba beams soaring above the bar.
The restaurant, bar, living rooms and reception occupy the main lodge, which is airier than a cathedral and looks over the valley oasis. Guests gather here each evening to help themselves to the open bar - pisco sours and New World wines are de rigueur - and to consult with lodge guides on what tomorrow holds.
Explora Peru's twin room.
As with Explora's properties in Patagonia, the Atacama Desert and Easter Island, Sacred Valley is all about the great outdoors. In this case, immersive Andean adventures steeped in heritage, culture and customs that promise authentic encounters with local people and their lives (and, often, their livestock). Guests are urged to fill daylight hours with discoveries, either on half-day hikes to the former Incan centre of Yucay, say, the ruins of Pumamarca, or the outrageously photogenic salt-mines of Maras, or full-day odysseys culminating in the mighty Tastayoc hike that climbs 4,800 metres into the alps.
At day's end, Explora's kitchen rewards the brave with minimum three-course feasts that canvas everything from quinoa tabbouleh to lamb chops with chimichurri and local trout with butter and capers. Come October, intrepid adventurers will also be able to recharge at the lodge's spa, sauna and pool, housed in a 17th-century heritage-listed homestead.
Explora Peru opens on 1 July 2016. explora.com/hotels-and-travesias/sacred-valley-peru/