|by Maureen Santucci||Alternative Lodging, BandB's/Inns and Lodges, Art + Culture, Historical Travel, Literary Travel, Nature Appreciation, Pop Culture and Travel, Thermal Springs and Baths, Wildlife Appreciation, Aguas Calientes||0|
One of Peru's best kept secrets just keeps getting better and better. If you're looking for a trip that won't cost a fortune and takes you a bit off the beaten path, look no further than EcoQuechua Lodge, situated in Santa Teresa, Peru, not far from Machu Picchu.
Located in the high jungle, it offers a lovely and tranquil getaway. Like a jungle lodge in the Amazon, some windows are open to nature so that you feel like you're part of it all (beds have mosquito netting). There's just something about this place that makes my stress melt away as soon as I arrive. Let me stretch out in a hammock with a good book and one of their awesome pisco sours and I can spends days at a time here, forgetting the outside world even exists.
The entire lodge uses natural materials, including wood, rock, and bamboo, and its newest rooms feature private bathrooms. Ever dreamed of living in a grown-up's treehouse? This is that dream come true. The owners and staff couldn't be friendlier and are genuinely interested in ensuring that you have everything you need and are having the best time possible. Make your reservation includes dinner as these are bound to be some of the tastiest that you will have in Peru—lunch can also be added and breakfast is always included.
Massages can be booked with advance notice and an outdoor Jacuzzi is currently in the works. The nearby Colcamayo hot springs are actually much nicer as well as hotter than those in Aguas Calientes, the town right below Machu Picchu, despite it being named after the springs. You are much better off getting your fill of the soothing waters here.
Other outings that can be arranged through the lodge are zip-lining, a tour of a coffee plantation, and a hike to Llactapata, an Inca site from which you may catch a glimpse of Machu Picchu. If you're a coffee lover, the coffee plantation tour is highly recommended, mostly so that you can buy one of the world's best coffees, organic and grown here in the high jungle.
To get here does require a bit of planning but don't let that keep you away. If it was any easier, there would be hordes and then you wouldn't want to go! Basically, you can either take the train or a bus. To take the train, you will need to get a ticket first to Aguas Calientes and from there to Hidroelectrica. At this point, you cannot buy tickets for the second leg until you get to Aguas Calientes so, if you are coming direct from Cusco or the Sacred Valley (recommended) be prepared to get off and have a cup of coffee until your next train leaves. From Ollantaytambo, the trip to Aguas Calientes takes about 1.5 hours and from Aguas to Hidroelectrica, about 30 minutes. The downside to taking the train is that it can be expensive and there are only a few trains per day between Aguas Calientes and Hidroelectrica. For this reason, you can't just go from the lodge to Machu Picchu and back in one day. On the other hand, if you're up for a hike, it's about a two-hour walk from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes and it's a flat, easy trip.
Taking the bus from Cusco is infinitely cheaper but will require a bit more investment in time. You will take the bus to Quillabamba but get off at Santa Maria. From there, you can get a shared car to Hidroelectrica and get off at the EcoQuechua Lodge. The entire trip will take between six and seven hours. Spend a couple of nights at the lodge, walk to Aguas Calientes, spend a night there, and then visit Machu Picchu first thing the next morning. You can then do the trip in reverse or take the train back.
A couple of notes of warning are in order. The bus trip is not recommended during rainy season when the road can be more dangerous. If you are afraid of heights, you should be aware that the road travels along the edge of mountains so can be a bit awe-inspiring or nerve racking, depending on how you feel about such things. Also, while mosquitoes as we know them aren't a huge problem (ie. no jungle diseases), there are small biting flies that can be problematic at some times during the year. Always carry repellent with you and you should be fine.
Despite all of this, the lodge is a truly unique and special place. It's a great way to get away from it all and feel like you're on a secluded retreat without breaking the bank or having to make a huge detour from your trip to Machu Picchu. Pull up a hammock, and I'll see you there.
Originally from the U.S., Maureen Santucci now calls the ancient Peruvian capital of Cusco home, where she has lived for almost six years, working as a travel consultant and writing for Fodors Travel Guide. This article was written on behalf of Tucan Travel, experts in adventure tours to Machu Picchu and all over Peru.