Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu in the Covid-Era
After several months of a global lockdown, people are starting to wonder what the future of travel will look like. For the first of our new travel series, we look at the logistics of traveling to Machu Picchu while considering social distancing and traveling within your isolation-bubble for a comfortable and relaxing trip. Click Here to see a video of what airport travel is like during the pandemic.
What does that look like in the Covid era?
The very nature of “Adventure Travel” is self-imposed social distancing. Getting deep into nature and the great outdoors is where Peru excels with its vast biodiversity and larger-than-life landscapes. Within a day you can hike from crystalline lakes nestled below some of the highest tropical glaciers in the world, down to coffee haciendas, deep in the cloud forest. Currently, most historical sites are at limited capacity, which means if you travel here during the pandemic you may have a unique experience. Click Here to see our team’s experience hiking the 1-day Inca Trail into Machu Picchu, right after it reopened for tourism in November 2020.
The Inca Trail(s)
Many of these changing environments are connected by a large Inca Road network known as the QaPaq Na’an which means “The Great Road” the great road in Quechua. Its most famous section known as “The Inca Trail” is the Inca footpath that allows you to walk through the Sun Gate and down into the Machu Picchu citadel from the mountains surrounding the ancient city.
Today this road system is still used by villagers to connect their small villages to the local hillsides for farming, pasturing of animals, and to the long-ago abandoned Incan cities and fortresses that are frequently read about, but are seldom visited. In the spirit of adventure and the climate of social distancing, we are excited to have included some of these sites in our new “Bubble” expedition series for 2021.
The Sacred Valley of The Inca
Approximately 30 minutes from Cusco you will find yourself in The Sacred Valley of the Incas, a deep valley filled with ancient ruin sites, indigenous villages, and is surrounded by the Vilcanota Mountain Range, impressing us with heights that range from 5,500 to 6,384 meters (18,044-20,945 feet). At an elevation of 2,800 meters (9,180 feet), it’s the perfect place to acclimatize. The Sacred Valley is also the principal thoroughfare to Ollantaytambo, an ancient city still inhabited today, where visitors catch the train to Machu Picchu Pueblo, the village right below the infamous Machu Picchu ruins
Basing our tours out of small Villas in the Sacred Valley allows us to protect social bubbles and maintain social distancing protocols. Transport to hikes are with a private vehicle and visits to the main ruin sites in the Sacred Valley can be done using E-bikes which are both sustainable and a lot of fun. Around 30 minutes from the Villas is our Lake Huaypo watersports centre complete with Stand Up Paddleboards and sit-on-top kayaks, the perfect socially distanced sports for enjoying the fresh Andean scenery.
After being voted one of the new “Seven Wonders of the World” in 2007, Machu Picchu was seeing around 2,500 visitors a day, the number recommended by UNESCO World Heritage Committee. A few years ago, this number doubled as the government allowed both a morning and afternoon entrance of 2,500 visitors each in addition to the 500 trekkers that come in through the typically crowded Inca Trail.
Adapting to the “Covid Era” the Peruvian government passed a series of protocols to help tame the crowds. Now only 675 people are permitted to visit Machu Picchu per day, about 25% of the previous limit. Buses and trains are only allowed 50% capacity and tour groups no larger than 8 people per guide. For visitors wanting to hike through the Sun Gate from KM 104 (click here to read more). With the longer Inca Trail Trek of 4-5 days currently closed now only 120 people are allowed per day on the world-famous trail. This is a big change from the previous 200 per day for the day hike and an additional 500 per day for the multi-day version. Guides on the Inca Trail are no longer permitted groups larger than 6 people per guide.
Why Visit Machu Picchu in 2021?
Pre-Covid, Machu Picchu on any given day had 1,000’s of people milling around giving the area a “Disneyland” feel. Currently, the site is limited to 40% occupancy and when our time went up there (as shown in the video link above) we had the site entirely to ourselves. That just never happens. To visit Machu Picchu with so few people will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will perhaps never happen again. This sort of intimate travel experience allows you to see more, have a more relaxed trip, and allows for authentic experiences with the local cultures.
Amazonas Explorer has implemented a new series of company guidelines to keep our travelers safe and healthy during their adventures, with our new Covid -19 Protocols. In addition to basing our tours around private Villas and transport, all our employees have received training to meet all local and international protocols to stop the spread of infections. The health of our clients and staff will be constantly monitored. Click Here to learn more about our new tours for 2021 and click here to learn about our new flexible booking policies to ensure that you get your trip, even if it’s delayed a bit. For more information contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org