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The Explora Group was the lone-wolf trailblazer for immersive off-grid experiences in remote landscapes, spawning a whole new movement. The group’s openings were rare, and became major happenings. Now its first hotel for almost a decade has landed in Peru.
The best way to view dawn over Peru’s Sacred Valley is through a picture window at the new Explora Valle Sagrado – preferably wrapped in one of the hotel’s alpaca-wool blankets. Tucked into a cleft at the base of the Urubamba mountain range, and facing com fields and an enfilade of receding, snow-topped peaks, Valle Sagardo comprises several long, low buildings made of stone, wood, plaster and glass, each with a vast louvred roof linked by elevated walkways. The whole place is designed to melt into the landscape.
The Chilean hotel group’s existing outfits in Patagonia, Easter Island and Atacama set the standard for adventures in Latin America, and indeed for wilderness properties around the world. Founded in 1993 to great acclaim with an extraordinary hotel in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, Explora continues its mission to revolutionise our relationship with nature, grafting sustainably designed hotels into the most remote landscapes, and opening up places previously available only to hardcore trekkers. Its first outpost outside Chile is a well-matched pairing for Peru, which is already known for adventuring and has a growing number of places to billet those who are past gap-year age but still have a hunger for the intrepid.
Of course, other hotels offer wonderful views in far-off destinations – there’s an Inkaterra property close to Explora’s new set-up – but few take it quite as far in terms of experience or ethos. While derring-do comes with the territory when guests are taken to the back of beyond (dry-wicking jackets and fleeces are the dress code here), there are shades of a spiritual quest at Explora, where the point of its excursions is a complete engagement with wilderness – something few of us are exposed to. I got my first taste of this philosophy in Patagonia, where the original Explora hotel straddles a waterfall, and pumas stalk the surrounding hills.
Valle Sagrado is equally impressive. It was going to be built higher up the slope, but a series of Inca terraces were discovered when digging for the foundations. These narrow, stepped fields now passed on the way down to the hotel entrance – give a vivid sense of having landed in a place where history collides with daily life, a place where Inca ruins lie scattered among the hills like dropped pearls. At almost 3,000 metres above sea level, the air is clear as glass and rinsed of oxygen. There are views over a patchwork of fields fed by gullies, and eucalyptus trees marking the banks of the silvery Vilcanota River.