While there are many excellent places to stay in Ecuador’s corner of Amazonia, the one that garnered Travel + Leisure’s “Best Life-Changing Award (2010)” is the Huaorani Ecolodge, which offers a rare chance to explore the world through the eyes of a totally different culture. Situated at the headwaters of the Amazon on the Shiripuno River, the ecolodge is run by the ethnic group called Huaorani, an indigenous tribe that missionaries first made contact with in the 1950s. At that time they were naked hunter-gathers who still used stone axes to hunt. Today, they still speak a language unrelated to any other, yet are dressed in shorts and T-shirts and embrace visitors as guests. Nomadico Travel offers a 4-night Huaorani Ecolodge Adventure that starts off with a small-plane flight into the Amazon after a drive along the Avenue of the Volcanoes from Quito, followed by a dugout canoe ride to the lodge.
Activities during a visitor’s stay include visits to the various communities, which seek to protect their ancestors’ traditions, but also endeavor to learn more about the outside world. During visits there are household calls, personal chats, and hands-on lessons in how to throw a spear, climb a tree and use a blow gun. With the help of a bilingual guide, clients will learn about the culture, the environment, the flora and fauna and social issues. Jungle walks and canoe outings are times for spotting exotic birds, as well as anacondas, capybaras and caimans. Three nights are spent at the Huaorani-owned and -operated lodge, which accommodates 10 guests in traditionally built, palm-thatched cabins with private bathrooms (with showers and flush toilets), and decks; each has two twin beds (converting easily into a queen) and solar-generated electricity available 24/7. The onsite restaurant features delicious meals prepared by local chefs, a riverside hammock house, and a bar stocking beer, wine and soft drinks (at an extra charge, although fruit, tea, coffee are always on hand). The last night is spent at a prepared campsite with private tents on wooden platforms beneath palm-thatched roofs. Guests then return by canoe to Coca and air to Quito. The 4-night package is priced at $860 pp dbl including accommodations, meals, English-speaking guide and activities; the 3-night package is $690 pp dbl. Additional is transportation from Quito to the lodge ($270) and air Coca-Quito ($87).
Peru offers the ultimate in intrepid travel, permitting adventurers to reach new heights, testing their true grit along the legendary Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. And Lost World Adventures offers three different ways to capitalize on this grandest of Andean experiences, in the company of expert guides and porters.
The 9-day Inca Trail Trek—which reaches heights of more than 13,000 ft. and has hikers spending a night among the Phuyupatamarca ruins—covers high mountain trails and thick cloud forests, starting from Chilca and arriving at Intipunku (the Sun Gate) overlooking Machu Picchu. The tour includes days spent in Lima, Cusco and hiking (read: camping) the Sacred Valley, and at Machu Picchu, of course. The first day of the hike, in fact, is adventure enough with treks through semi arid terrain, views of the snowcapped Mount Veronica (18,000 ft.), and visiting Llactapata (7,550 ft.), the first archaeological remains along the Inca trail, where hikers spend their first night. The trek is priced from $1,122 pp dbl ($883 with three persons, $819 with four), including private guide, porters, food, camp equipment and roundtrip train from Cusco; overnight hotel in Machu Picchu is additional.
For more challenges than the classic Inca Trail Trek, hikers may wish to attempt the 8-day Salkantay Trek with exciting glacier trekking and lots of views of the Andean condors. Campsites during this rigorous trek lie above 10,000 ft.—with the spectacular Salkantay base camp itself at 15,100 ft. Hikers arrive at Machu Picchu on day seven, camping overnight. Rates from $1,265 for each of two persons.
For the ultimate in comfort, sites and challenges, consider the 11-day Salkantay Lodge-to-Lodge Trek, including Cusco and Machu Picchu. On this program, hikers are picked up in Cusco, transferring to the Salkantay Lodge that will be the departure point for the 6-night trek, ending at Agua Calientes and Machu Picchu. Following 4- to 6-hour daily treks, hikers enjoy fine mountain lodge accommodations, complete with hearty meals and hot jacuzzis.
Prior to setting off on their adventure, travelers arrive in Lima at the Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM), get an air transfer to Cusco and then are transferred by bus to Chilca, where they begin the trek. Rates from $2,390 pp dbl.
archived related articles:
In Chile: Going to Extremes (May 2012)
Careli Tours: carelitours.com
Latin American Escapes: (800) 510-5999; latinamericanescapes.com
Lost World Adventures: (800) 999-0558; lostworldadventures.com
Monte Azul Boutique Hotel: monteazulcr.com
Nomadico Travel: (855) 996-6623; nomadicotravel.com