1. Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu is a bucket-list trip for a reason. And while the archaeological site jutting high along the Peruvian Andes is the crown jewel of the adventure, the journey there is just as sublime. Joining a group tour like Mountain Lodges of Peru is the way to go, because you’ll choose an adventure suited to your thrill-seeking needs. The Sacred Valley and Lares Adventure is a five- or seven-day trek through ancient Incan sites, uncrowded trails, and small mountainside communities where you can learn how local weavers and potato farmers perfect their trade. The Salkantay Trek is a week-long affair best suited for iron-legged backpackers who want majestic sprawling views of jewel-hued lakes and snow-capped mountains.
Where to stay: When you book with Mountain Lodges of Peru and join the Sacred Valley and Lares Adventure, you’ll stay in a number of luxe (you guessed it) mountain lodges nestled along the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Lares Region. Each lodge is bursting with its own treasure trove of amenities and unique flair. You can relax in Lamay Lodge’s communal hot tub while the resident llamas mosey about the yard; watch the fog roll in from the Amazon in Huacahuasi Lodge; and enjoy unexpected indulgences like welcome tea upon arrival and a hot water bottle tucked into the foot of your bed at night.
Best time to go: Mountain Lodges of Peru offers group tours from March 1 through December 31, starting at $2,400 for 5 days/4 nights and $3,100 for 7 days/6 nights. Peru’s dry season stretches from May to October, while November through April marks its rainy season (January through April is typically the wettest). It’s best to go in the dry season, since many of the steep roads and trek paths can become unnavigable with flooding.
Expert tip: Make sure you build your mountain legs and work on your cardio. You don’t have to hone the superhuman-mountain-climbing-prowess of a sherpa, but the altitude poses a lung-busting challenge to the already rigorous hikes, so stellar conditioning will help. Also, bring along comfortable, worn-in hiking boots, solid trekking poles, and trustworthy hiking gear. Your feet (and knees) will thank you.
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