“Machu Picchu is one of those iconic places you have to see to truly appreciate,” says Natasha Rhodes, a Calgary, Canada-based Virtuoso advisor. “Images don’t do it justice.” The fifteenth-century citadel – a series of plazas, terraces, and stone structures shrouded in cloud forest in Peru’s Andes Mountains – is one of the finest examples of Inca architecture. Visitors can access the mystical city on a 3.5-hour train ride from Cuzco or via a multiday hike on the Inca Trail. The rail journey is the most comfortable choice, while the trek attracts “those who really want to connect with nature and history, and who like to be physically challenged,” says Rhodes, who’s arrived at Machu Picchu both ways.
Both modes definitely require some planning, which is where a Virtuoso travel advisor is key. Only 500 travelers per day can embark on the Inca Trail, and strict new entrance rules mandated by Peru’s government in 2017 mean that all visitors must be accompanied by an official guide and adhere to specific entrance times. No matter how you get there, Rhodes says, little prepares you for Machu Picchu’s magnificence: “It’s more than ruins – it’s the mountains, the sheer scale of the geography, and the landscapes.”
Guests of the 50-room explora Valle Sagrado get reserved seating in one of PeruRail’s panoramic glass-roofed train cars for the ride to Machu Picchu. Back at the lodge, housed in a sleek wood hacienda overlooking a corn plantation, you’ll stay busy on guided hiking and biking excursions to the surrounding villages and mountains. Virtuoso travelers receive a $100 hotel boutique credit.