New Inkaterra Property in the Sacred Valley

Luxury + commitment to preserving and rescuing Peru’s geography, nature, customs and cultures.

Inkaterra-logoWhen I was in Peru recently with the Society of American Travel Writers Freelance Council, we made a brief detour to visit a new boutique lodging property, the lovely and luxurious Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas between Cusco and Machu Picchu. Our group witnessed a shamanic ceremony, but I neither understood the symbolism of the solemn ritual nor prosaically, did I have a clear idea of when it was supposed to open. Now it has.

Shaman ceremony to inaugurate the new Hacienda Urubamba.

Shaman ceremony to inaugurate the new Hacienda Urubamba.

Set deep in the countryside up a dusty road (at least it was when I visited), it is set on about 100 acres overlooking a vast panorama of the Sacred Valley. The Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba opens with 12 rooms, including a three-room “Owners Suite,” all featuring views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Guests experience the expansiveness of open space, serenity and relaxing solitude.  At approximately 9,515 feet in elevation, the property offers some of the  best climate in the Cusco region. This summer (which might be next winter in the Northern Hemisphere), 24 stand-alone luxury casitas will be unveiled, set among the property’s native pepper trees, high grass, cactus and wildflowers.

The grand entrance to the Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba.

The grand entrance to the Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba.

With architecture and interiors inspired by the area’s cultural history, the contemporary hacienda-style hotel was designed by Denise Guislain-Koechlin, the talented wife of Inkaterra founder and CEO, Jose Koechlin. She was in charge of the hotel’s layout, surrounding gardens and all interior décor, which includes custom-made furniture and the use of rare pre-Columbian textiles that adorn the property’s high walls. The property, which is in an agricultural area, features a 10-acre organic plantation, where guests are welcome to pick their own produce.  Crops include red, black and brown quinoa, artichokes, a unique Urubamba giant corn, purple corn, colored potatoes, lima beans, onions, beans and broccoli. Traditional medicinal and culinary herbs are also farmed and include lemon balm, rosemary, sage, green grass, mint, chamomile, cilantro and anise, among others. All crops are completely “carbon-free” — that is, farmed with traditional hand tools and oxen as was done centuries ago.

Organic farming at the hacienda includes traditional agricultural methods.

Organic farming at the hacienda includes traditional agricultural methods.

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‘Western’ Ideas for Colorado Visitors

The West of visitors’ expectations easy to find in Colorado.
ColoradoFlagSpring has arrived, and with it, the customary communications from distant friends asking what there is to do in Colorado that brings the Old West to modern life. I get such requests for suggestions every year (more and more from people planning to bring their grandkids), and thanks to a press release I just received on behalf of Colorado Tourism, I can just refer my friends to this blog post. There’s plenty more around the state, of course, but this is a good start.
Dude and Guest Ranches
Across the state more than 30 dude and guest ranches offer the grit and adventure of the old west, mingled with modern charm and comfort. From luxury family ranch vacations that include riding programs, mountain biking, hiking, fly-fishing, kid and teen programs, cooking classes, wine tasting, rock climbing and more, to working ranch vacations including calving, branding nights filled with county western music, square dancing and just plain ole’ conversation, these ranches provide the best in Western hospitality and genuine authentic experiences. If your vacation time is limited, several ranches offer “dude ranch lite” stays of 3 to 5 days.
Cowboy Craftsmen
The rugged ways of the old west resulted in some crafty trades and traditions; try your hand at blacksmithing at The Fort in Morrison, leather working at Smith Fork Ranch or taste chuck wagon and Dutch oven cooking at Doc Jones’ Cookoff. For leather crafting, admire a saddle from world-renowned craftsman, Rusty May, who has been refining saddle and leather accessory techniques for more than 40 years. Learn to paint or master your technique in a horse painting class at Zapata Ranch.
Museums: History, Horses and Heroes
Museums attest to Colorado’s proud cowboy heritage. The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame for foundation stallions recognizes Hayden, Colorado as the home of the Quarter Horse sire bloodlines of Old Fred and Peter McCue. In the Gunnison-Crested Butte Valley, visit historic schoolhouses and rail yards at the Gunnison Pioneer Museum and the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum, originally a blacksmith shop, for a glimpse of what life was like in the early days. Outside La Junta, visit Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, a reconstructed 1840s adobe fur trading post on the mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail.  In Denver, History Colorado Center is a must see for locals and visitors who want to experience early life on the prairie dustbowl and across the state.

K-to-5 Kids Free at Four Vail-Owned Resorts Next Winter

Keystone, Breck, Vail & Beaver Creek part of new Epic SchoolKids deal.

Vail-logoVail Resorts Inc. is the 800-pound gorilla of Colorado ski resorts, and it has raised the bar for parents of grade school children. If you are among them, as you contemplate which season pass to purchase for 2015-16, there’s a very good reason to go with Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass. Epic SchoolKids is an awesome new program with free skiing and riding for all Colorado kindergartners through fifth graders next winter.

Family skiing at Vail -- one of four of Vail Resorts Inc.'s resorts offering free skiing to Colorado grade-schoolers next season.

Family skiing at Vail — one of four of Vail Resorts Inc.’s resorts offering free skiing to Colorado grade-schoolers next season.

Parents can already enroll their kids by visiting participating Colorado Ski & Golf locations or Boulder Ski Deals. The program provides four days of free skiing and riding at each Vail’s four resorts in their backyards – Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone. In addition, Epic SchoolKids also can get started at the ivy league of ski schools with a FREE full-day beginner lesson and equipment rentals at any of those resorts during the month of January, outside of holiday periods, as part of Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month. Parents, click here for details various adult season pass options to maximize family ski time; put $49 down and pay the remainder in fall.

In all likelihood, competing resorts — except perhaps those in Colorado’s southwestern corner — are brainstorming ways to come up with competitive offers, and Colorado families will be the beneficiaries. Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass offers are unbeatable, but other things are not such comparable bargains. At Breckenridge the other day, every single sunscreen product available at the rental shop carried a double-digit price tag, and a 1.4-ounce bag of SmartFoods popcorn was improbably priced at $3.79. I expect to pay more at a resort base with its captive audience, but these prices are over-the-top ridiculous. Moral of the story if you want not to overspend: never leave all your sunscreen at home, and stick some energy bars in your pocket or pack.


The ‘Isle’ of Mont St.-Michel

Supertide phenomenon covers causeway to French coastal community.


Once every 18 years, a supertide turns France’s famed Mont St.-Michel into an island — a visitor attraction that never gets old.  Very high tides are part of the reality along France’s entire northern  coast, the periodic supertide is especially dramatic. One such tide occurred yesterday. Legend has it that the supertide comes in the pace of a horse’s gallop. It briefly turns into an island, while the day’s low tide allows people to walk on the expansive flat seabed off the coast of Normandy. Mont St.-Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some 30,000 people reportedly came to Mont St.-Michel to witness the first supertide of the 21st century.

Actually, the supertide effect is evident elsewhere as well, including the Bay of Fundy on the Atlantic Coast between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Tierra del Fuego off the southern tip of South America, the northern coast of Australia and the Bristol Channel in Britain.

Road Trip on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

Sixteen hundred miles around the Emerald Isle with a small adventurous group.

Ireland-mapI can’t possibly write about every group trip that I hear about, but St. Patrick’s Day seems to be the perfect day to write about a really interesting adventure-heavy trip to Ireland — especially since it is well priced and looks to be gorgeous. Turns out that Wild Atlantic Way is the longest defined coastal touring route in the world, embracing Ireland’s wild West Coast landscape, ancient monuments and historical sites.  This  stunning route twists and turns for 1,600 miles along an undulating coastline from the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork. A route that long around a very small island seems quite remarkable in and of itself.

The Wild Atlantic Way is not just a driving route, it’s an invitation to adventure with sea kayaking, hiking, mountain biking and even surfing, Vagabond Adventure Tours of Ireland’s smartly planned multi-sport scheduled trips that take travelers to these authentic, off-the-beaten path areas along the route.  Utilizing custom-designed Land Rovers that take no more than 13 passengers, Vagabond trips explore the area in depth with daily adventures. One day it might be sea kayaking in sheltered waters off the coast of Cork, while another day might be horseback riding along a beach in Kerry. Nightly stays are in coastal villages and towns, in locally owned guesthouses and small hotels. Rates for a seven-day trip along the Wild Atlantic Way start at just $1,340 per person.

Icelandair’s New Northern Lights Aircraft

Natural wonder in the sky replicated on planes interior and exterior.

Icelandair-logoLast fall, flying Icelandair, we were alerted  by the flight attendant that the Northern Lights were visible from the left side of the aircraft. Now, Icelandair has commissioned interior and exterior design of its aircraft.


The world’s first Aurora Borealis-themed plane‘s exterior is painted with luminescent colors and the cabin is outfitted with mood lighting that mimics the Northern Lights. The plane is named Hekla Aurora (a reference to one of Iceland’s most popular names and also the name of an active volcano in the country), the brilliant Boeing 757 airplane is the newest addition to Iceland’s ongoing and the #MyStopover campaign promoting seven-day layovers, free of charge, to those flying between Europe and North America.

Gran Hotel Bolivar’s Great Value in Lima

Terrific location, elegant architecture and down-to-earth prices. GranHotelBolivar-logo

The Gran Hotel Bolivar, located on Lima’s gorgeous Plaza San Martín, was very grand when it opened in the 1920s and was the social center of Peru’s capital. It faded and was even closed for a number of years, but it reopened with a bit less luster, to be sure, but with that enviable location, affordable prices and what I’m told are some of the city’s best Pisco Sours in the bar. The lobby is sparsely furnished these days, but the leaded glass dome is in place, recalling the original grandeur.  I didn’t stay there. I didn’t see any rooms. But I did wander around the main floor and think how fortunate it is that this landmark hotel has been preserved and is welcoming guests.

Glass and international flags above the main entrance.

Glass canopy and international flags above the main entrance.

Magnificent leaded glass dome.

Magnificent leaded glass dome.

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Book Recommendation for Peru

Adams followed Bingham’s footsteps to Machu Picchu and wrote about it.

MacchuPichu-coverMark Adams is a non-fiction travel and adventure writer and editor. He got it in his head and his heart to follow the route that Hiram Bingham — thought by many to be the model for Indiana Jones — took to discover the great Inca site of Machu Picchu. When Bingham undertook to find the lost city, or at least a lost city, roughly century earlier, he did a lot of reading and research and enlisted the services of an Aussie-born guide and Inca expert named John Leivers. He also has a lot of Indiana Jones in him.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu is the travel book that Adams about this epic trek. He writes with insights, information, humor and the right amount of self-effacement to make the reader — well, a reader like me — briefly and fleetingly think, “I could do that.” Or at least, “I could have done that when I was much younger.” Truth of the matter is that even the tourist version of Peru’s Inca Trail would bee though for me now. I did hike a section of Ecuador’s Inca Trail between Achupallas and Ingprirca some years ago. It was remote and exhilarating — and uncrowded.

I am leaving for Peru on Tuesday, but there will be no trekking. This trip, an adjunct to the Society of American Travel Writers’ Freelance Council meeting, will be by plane, train and bus. No step-by-step journey as undertaken by Bingham in the early 20th century and by Adams and Leivers. Still, I had to read the book to walk with them vicariously. And I enjoyed the book — a lot.

Powderhorn Upgrade Announced

Powderhorn-logoPowderhorn Mountain Resort, on the north side of the Grand Mesa in western Colorado, has long seemed like an immutable ski area, few and infrequent changes. There was little need since the Mesa is the winter playground for the captive audience from the area around Grand Junction, which I think of as the capital of western Colorado. Now, it is due for some major upgrades — though, alas, lodging does not seem to be part of it.

Nearly four years after being purchased by Gart Capital Partners and Andy Daly, Powderhorn will be investing $5 million in the coming year to improve the slopes for winter and summer recreation. The big news is a Poma high-speed quad chairlift along the same alignment as the current Take Four lift to cut ride time and adding comfortable seats and footrests. The bottom terminal will be lowered by approximately eight feet for easier access to lift loading area. Also on the docket: additional snowmaking on the lower portion Bill’s Run, the intermediate trail for assure high-quality conditions on opening day in mid-December. The new quad will feature bike carriers to access the first phase of a comprehensive new mountain bike system.

For all sorts of reasons, what is not in the plan is additional lodging or anything resembling a village — just a mid-range condo development with a restaurant that is sometimes open, sometimes not. I love the notion of an upgraded lift along with base area improvements in the last few years, but using the word “Resort” as part of the name is really hyperbole. Grand Junction, with an abundance of affordable accommodations, is a doable commute, but it still doesn’t provide the feel of a ski destination.



50% Off Everest Base Camp Trek

Himalaya adventure company seeks to rebuild visitation.

AceHolidays-logoIf I thought that I were still able to make a 15-day Himalayan trek, I’d sign up in a heartbeat for this great deal. Sure, I’d have to get myself half-way around the world from the US, but what an opportunity. I hope you or someone you might know is up for it. Think of me.

Guides don't need such signs! they know the route, but trekkers like seeing such markers. (Ace Adventures photo)

Guides don’t need such signs! they know the route, but trekkers like seeing such markers. (Ace Holidays photo)

Ace Holidays (a division of legendary Nepal operator, Ace the Himalayas) has announced 50 percent savings to guests who   book an epic 15-day Everest Base Camp Trek by February 28.  “Our rationale for offering this incredible price is to re-introduce people to Nepal after last year’s Everest issues,” said Prem K. Khatry, founder and director of Ace Holidays, referring to the April 18, 2014, tragedy that killed 16 Nepali mountain workers. Since then the number of foreign trekkers to this part of the world has declined.

There is no substitute for seeing the great mountain wonders one step at a time. (Photo courtesy Ace Adventures photo)

There is no substitute for seeing the great mountain wonders one step at a time. (Photo courtesy Ace Holidays photo)

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