Peru is a destination that engages families in a myriad of cultural activities spanning all levels of activity from walking to hiking to intense climbing. It’s an exciting destination for families because every day can be tailored to their level of adventure and sightseeing priorities. At explora Valle Sagrado, located in the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley, the emphasis is on discovering through local exploration, which often includes guides born and raised in the surrounding communities.
The explora all-inclusive concept works well in Peru, where transportation logistics can leave little room for downtime. This is a one-stop experience; everything is taken care of for guests so there are no worries about what to do, where to go for dinner or how to get to the next activity. It’s Peru made easy.
The Sacred Valley is an essential stop on a first-time Peru itinerary. It’s usually the spot where travelers head after Lima to begin their exploration of Peru before continuing to Machu Picchu and Cusco. Visitors often only spend two or three nights in the Sacred Valley, but at explora Valle Sagrado, the recommended stay is five nights to allow for in-depth exploration.
The philosophy of explora is to immerse guests in the destination through physical activity and cultural discovery. After an orientation meeting upon arrival, a guide sits down with guests to review options for the next days. A five-night stay typically includes a mix of full-day and half-day hikes and cultural day trips like Cusco as well as Machu Picchu.
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The excursions often include hiking or biking through areas where there are no tourists. On the Maras y Moray hike, we walked through farmers’ fields and watched as they plowed the land with oxen; were greeted by schoolchildren running out to see us; and arrived at the Moray terraces via a hillside path, a view that no other group has as they arrive in vans and groups at the main entrance. The experience is unique and special because it’s not possible to do on your own. On the same hike, we not only saw the salt ponds at Maras, but we also crossed through them on our way to the end of a seven-hour hike (and a little van ride) that included a gourmet picnic lunch in the fields.
Explora is an all-inclusive 5-star experience with above-and-beyond service. The staff is attentive and anticipate what guests need, especially when it comes to altitude challenges. My daughter became ill one day as we hiked at 14,000 feet, and by the time we arrived back at explora the staff had already ordered her an altitude sickness dinner and asked how she was as we entered.
The guides especially are well trained in the excursions and actively engage guests in conversations, which bring everyone closer to the culture. They feel more like very physically fit friends than tour guides.
I wondered before the trip if I would feel isolated in the luxury experience and miss the local vibe of Peru, but I ended up feeling the opposite. Not only did we discover and do things that we could never have done on our own, our time was so culturally rewarding that I wished I had extended my stay to five nights.
The 50 modern rooms at explora are designed for relaxation, with soothing natural materials. Each has one or two beds and are designed for two guests, with some able to accommodate a child under 12. Rooms are purposely designed without TVs or WIFI. Wall-to-wall windows look out toward cornfields and mountain and valley views.
Most explora guests are happy to have downtime after a day of hiking and excursions. Many head to the well-designed interior spaces for small-group socializing, or the lounge area where a fabulous bar staff mixes local concoctions both with and without alcohol. Others take a walk to the pool and spa area, which includes a steam room, a sauna and a whirlpool tub. For families, the pool is a perfect afternoon activity after a half-day excursion.
As mentioned, the lounge area is a focal point at explora. Because altitude and alcohol don’t mix well, there is a large variety of interesting juices and mocktails, though the alcohol and wine selection is excellent. The food always has local options as well as international cuisine. We did not worry about eating anything that would bother our stomachs, but did consider eating lighter foods that are easier to digest in the altitude. There is always a fish and vegetarian option on the menu.
Activities in the Sacred Valley are more demanding because of altitude and are better suited to tweens and teens.
All-inclusive rates begin at $700 per night per adult. There sometimes are promotional rates for children under 12 that sleep in the same room with parents.
Editor’s Note: Kristi received a media package to experience explora Valle Sagrado. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Kristi Marcelle.
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