In his deep resonate voice, the shaman says prayers in the ancient Peruvian language as the sun slowly rises over the peaks of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu. A small group of guests from Sumaq Machu Picchu gazes down at the ancient Incan city as they begin their tour of of the Peruvian site, led by the shaman and a seasoned tour guide and interpreter.
This tour is a highlight of a stay at the luxurious family-owned Sumaq Machu Picchu. Guests here can also participate in authentic Peruvian ceremonies, dine on gourmet Peruvian food and sleep surrounded by Peruvian art and artifacts. Those opportunities to immerse yourself in the Peruvian culture and its perfect location just at the base of Machu Picchu with its views of the roaring waters of the Vilcanota River make this hotel a top choice for a visit to Machu Picchu.
The Mystical Machu Picchu Experience
You won’t mind the early wake-up call and departure time of 7:00 a.m. – it’s the best chance to beat the crowds at one of the most visited sites in the world. After meeting the private guide and Peruvian shaman in the lobby, guests take a short walk to board the busses that wind their way up the narrow roads to the entrance to Machu Picchu.
If you can overcome any fear of heights or visions of tumbling down the cliffs during the winding 25-minute bus ride, you can enjoy the spectacular views of the mountains as the bus climbs to almost 8,000 feet to the most visited tourist destination in the country. At the top, you may encounter a wait to enter the site with your guide. (The rules for visiting Machu Picchu changed in July 2017 and all guests have to be accompanied by a guide.)
The shaman leads the group up to a grassy area by La Roca Sagrada (The Sacred Rock) with a view of the sun rising over the ancient Incan ruins. Here he performs the “Hayway” ceremony in the language of the Incans, followed by an individual cleansing session for every member of the group.
The English-speaking guide then takes over for a comprehensive tour and history of the maze-like site and its sacred temples. While 5,940 people are allowed to visit Machu Picchu every day, a number regulated by the government, few are able to see it led by an authentic shaman from the Sacred Valley and participate in the ancient ceremonies, which add a new dimension and richness to the experience.
Peruvian Cooking Classes, Rituals and Spa Treatments
Guests at Sumaq Machu Picchu can learn to create their own Peruvian dishes and drinks, like ceviche and Pisco Sours, with Peruvian cooking and bar classes. They can watch a Pachamanca cooking class, employing the ancient technique of digging a hole in the ground, placing firewood and rocks in the hole and heating up the rocks. When the rocks are hot enough, food is layered in a stone oven on top of them, then covered with banana leaves and cooked for 60-90 minutes.
Participating in the ancient rituals surrounded by the Incan art and artifacts immerses guests in the culture of the area. One of the most moving of these is the Andean Offering Ritual performed by the shaman, interpreted by a translator, while he is sitting cross-legged on the floor with his large array of offerings to the gods, which he offers up one by one.
The hotel also has the Aglla Spa, with massage, sauna and hydrotherapy treatments.
Other outdoor adventures include guided hikes of nature trails and ruins. Hike along the river, go deep in the jungle along old Incan trails to waterfalls on the Mandor Excursion, where after about an hour you’ll come to a path that leads you slightly uphill to magnificent waterfalls. Bird watchers will want to pack the binoculars to spot the exotic species.
Accommodations and Dining
Sumaq Machu Picchu has 58 deluxe rooms, two junior suites and one Imperial Suite. Of those, 32 of the rooms have views of the Vilcanota River and Machu Picchu. The lobby bar, Suquy, serves native-inspired drinks and specialty cocktails. Unwind here with a Pisco Sour by the fireplace after a hike or day of exploring the markets in Aguas Calientes.
The critically acclaimed restaurant, Qunuq, serves Peruvian fusion cuisine made with local ingredients. Executive Chef Carlos Pardo Figueroa Thornberry and Resident Chef Ribelino Alegría were recently invited to join chefs from around the world at the 33rdAnnual Chefs’ Tribute to Citymeals held in New York City.
If romance is on the table, opt for the seven-course “Munayki” (I love you) dinner. Another option for guests is the six-course tasting menu, Apucc Mikhuna (food provided by the mountains), with dishes that are as beautiful as they are tasty. These include dishes like corn soup, Andean leg of lamb and trout ceviche.
Getting to Sumaq Machu Picchu
From the United States, a great option to get to the first stop, Lima, is LATAM. It’s Latin America’s largest airline, with flights from JFK, Miami and Los Angeles. The seats are comfortable and the food above average, with complimentary beer and wine, making it a pleasant journey to Peru.
The next step is traveling from Lima to Cusco, and LATAM runs several flights a day for the popular 1.5-hour trip. Travel tip: Get to the airport early for both flights as the airports are bustling pretty much any time of day. From Cusco you can take a train or bus ride to a train station in Ollantaytambo, followed by a 1.5-hour train ride – you can only reach Machu Picchu by train to Aguas Calientes. It’s a comfortable, scenic and relaxing journey through the Sacred Valley with incredible views. Keep your camera handy.
Inca Rail features four types of services for the journey. The First-Class Machu Picchu Train includes a welcome cocktail, delicious three-course gourmet meal with Andean ingredients paired with local wines. The scenery is so spectacular, you’ll want to keep your camera close at hand. When you’re not dining, make your way to the open-air car for photos unobstructed by glass or railings.
Inca Rail has three other services: the 360 Machu Picchu Train with an observation deck with an outdoor viewing platform; the Voyager Machu Picchu Train with recliner seats and the Private Machu Picchu Train, a charter service for up to eight passengers that includes a tasting menu and open bar.
From the train station in Aguas Calientes, Sumaq Machu Picchu is a 10-minute walk. Make some time to stroll around the town and pick up a few hand-made souvenirs. The train station also has several stalls where you can pick up a few things before your return trip.
For a five-star, luxury visit to Machu Picchu with gourmet cuisine and immersion in Peruvian culture, Sumaq Machu Picchu has what you are looking for.
Written by DLX contributor Jan Schroder, an award-winning journalist and author based in Atlanta, Georgia. All photos courtesy of Sumaq Machu Picchu except the shaman photo, taken by the author.