The knowledgeable accept that rather flying into Cusco (3,416 metres ASL) and going straight on to Machu Picchu, it is much better to spend at least a night in the stress-free Sacred Valley, 2,870 metres ASL and an hour’s drive from Cusco. Continue on to Machu Picchu feeling relaxed, and acclimatised to the altitude.
Willka T’ika, one of the Sacred Valley’s resorts, stresses its concentration on genuine mind, body and spirit experiences. Nearby ancient Incan ruins, ceremonial sites, temples and an abundance of cultural activities beckon. For hikers, winding rivers, charming villages and high mountain meadows where herds of llama and alpaca graze await exploration.
Willka T’ika was founded 1994 by Carol Cumes. The 26 rooms range from single to three-person, and minimum stay is one night. Meals here are an exotic, vegetarian fusion of Andean, American, South Asian and African flavours. The dishes incorporate high-protein Andean grains and legumes, as well as organic, freshly harvested vegetables and salads grown on-site. All guests can take part in daily yoga sessions, and spend healing relaxation time in the tranquil environs of the lush 7 Chakra Gardens, which is also home to an ancient Lucuma tree, the fruit of which is an antioxidant-rich superfood. The Willka T’ika experience can also include such traditional spa treatments and ancient healing arts sessions as crystal light therapy sessions and outdoor floral solar baths. Traditional Andean healers guide guests through ancient Incan and Quechua rituals including a ceremony of offerings to Pachamama, and a chakra-energising, two-hour Earth dance known as a Panchadanza.
There are other Sacred Valley resorts, say Belmond‘s Hotel Rio Sagrado and Marriott’s Hotel Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection Hotel. What makes Willka T’ika stand out is WTCF, Willka T’ika Children’s Fund. From its start, the hotel has supported local Andean schools. Etelvino Quispe Huaman, one of the earliest beneficiaries, is now a graduate law student in Cusco. At his elementary school, WTCF provided transport to overcome the need to walk 90 minutes each way, it supplied books and other necessities, and hot lunches, and it has followed through so that Etelvino Quispe Huaman still has lodging and transport support.
As he says, today, “My dream is to be able to use my studies to help people in my local community improve their lives. I want to work with the communities, legislation and government to bring the same opportunities I had to other people”.