Imagine being perched up on the edge of a mountain and staring at the picturesque Urubamba river and the colorful valley as far as your eyes can see.
Now imagine actually sleeping there in your own little transparent pod hanging off the side of mountain.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it!
This post is part of the Peru Series. Other posts in this series:
- An unforgettable Peru and Machu Picchu Itinerary
- Arriving in Cusco and heading to Sacred Valley
- Treasures of Peru’s Sacred Valley
- Spending a night in a transparent capsule at 1300 feet (Skylodge) – This
- Exploring Cusco city and an unconventional visit to Saksyahuman and other ruins – Upcoming
- Hiking the rainbow mountain – Upcoming
- Hiking the Inca Trail – Upcoming
- Other locations to visit in Peru Upcoming
- How we visited Peru and Dominican Republic using miles and points – Upcoming
- When to visit Peru and Machu Picchu – Upcoming
- Ins and Outs of preparing and hiking for the Inca Trail – Upcoming
- How to prepare for high elevation and avoid altitude sickness – Upcoming
From the moment we were picked up at our hotel in Urubamba, we knew we were in for an exciting day. In the van we met two other couples who were nervously waiting to get to the base of the Skylodge. Predictable jokes about fear of heights and a likely rain storm were shared as we passed through the town of Urubamba during this 40-min drive.
We passed several houses with flags raised indicating that they had fresh supply of “chicha” – alcohol made from fermented maize. We all certainly could have used a frothy glass of homebrew to calm our nerves.
It was late afternoon, around 3.30 pm when arrived at the base of the mountain. After the usual formalities of signing waivers and donning protective gear, we immediately got into the 15 min instruction demo on how to climb safely.
In essence, the process is simple – you wear a harness with two leads connected to carabiners. As you start climbing, you clip both the carabiners to the load bearing cables that are anchored to the mountain every 20 feet. To move, you unclip one carabiner and clip it to the next section of cable and repeat with the second carabiner. This way, you and your harness are always connected to at least one cable at a time.
After a mandatory photo session, the friendly Peruvian guides lined us up and asked us who would like to go first. After several hesitant looks, Hemali scrambled up first after the lead guide.
It had been years since we had rock climbed and we were anxious to see how we would do on this 1300-foot ascent.
From the moment we set the foot on the wall, our bodies lit up. The muscle memory kicked in and we were totally in the groove. All the fear was translated into excitement and it felt just like the hours upon hours we used to spend climbing at Brooklyn Boulders each week.
Within the first 15 min, a fellow climbers’ fear of heights kicked-in. One of the guides had to return down with her and escort her to the top using an alternate route. At this point, we still had another guide with our climbing party but he stayed at the end behind the last climber.
This means – Hemali gets to lead the group….hooray!!
With our new found confidence, we climbed up swiftly and waited intermittently to stare at the beautiful views from enviable vantage points.
The guide was fantastic – he would catch-up to take our pictures and then let us continue on and explore at our own pace. He was always aware of everyone’s safety in the group, and he’d be sure to tell us where to wait if a difficult stretch of trail was upcoming.
This was great because we certainly needed help on this next section –
Affectionately referred as “Tibetian bridge,” this loose bridge is just made of two cable ropes woven together providing the footing, and a loose cable at the top to hold on to. The guide had to keep the top rope taut as we stepped sideways slowly heading to the other side. This was the only “heart-racing” part of the climb. Technically, it is not dangerous because you’re still clipped on to the top rope. However, if you slip, it would be pretty difficult to pull yourself up because you are hanging by your own weight.
After un-clipping / clipping the carabiner about a thousand time we were almost at the top. After 1.5 hours of steady climbing, we turned our headlamps on while our eyes feasted on the magical sunset miles away into the horizon.
From being nervous about climbing to swiftly going up the mountain in the dark as if it was second nature – It is surprising how we can get used to anything in a matter of hours.
Rightly referred to as the “Condors nest,” the entire group cheered when we saw the lights of the latest addition to the skylodge, the dining capsule which is the 4th and the most recent upgrade to the existing network of 3 skypods.
We didn’t have high expectations for dinner. You are here for the once in a lifetime experience of sleeping in a pod hanging off a mountain, not having a Michelin star meal – right? To our surprise, the guides effortlessly whipped up a mouth-watering 3 course meal.
After a delightful nosh and a lot of fun conversations with our new friends, it was time to explore some of the most unique lodging that this world has to offer. After a short sideways climb, and the remaining bottle of wine sloshing in our packs, we stepped into our home for the night.
AND…IT. WAS. MAGICAL!
The views of the valley were phenomenal. With low ambient light the milky way was clearly visible. We laid down staring at the sky for as long as we could before drifting off to sleep.
Before tucking us in – the guides gave us a walkie-talkie to communicate with them in case of emergency. They also told us not to fret in case of a lightning or a storm because the pod has 6 redundant anchor points, shock absorbing connectors and plenty of lightning rods.
The only down-side of the entire excursion was that we had to wake up early and wolf down a hurried breakfast before 7am due to a scheduled worker’s strike that occurs routinely each year in hopes of bringing an international airport to Cuzco. This meant inadequate morning light to enjoy the pod, but our dismay was quickly alleviated when we began zipping down the mountain at 60+MPH!
Instead of being a grump, I decided to opt out of breakfast and spend the time climbing between pods. The guides were very understanding and tried to give us as much extra time on the mountain and in the pods as possible.
After our fill of the views, we were excited for the next phase of the adventure.
Returning back down via 7 different zip lines. We are used to the pre-set zip line, where the instructor sends down one person after another as he/she is yawning and trying to get through the day.
This was different!
The zip-lines were much more rugged. For each one we had to be careful about our speed and which side we were leaning so we wouldn’t slow-down in the middle of the zipline (and to avoid boulders & branches). It felt like we were in a real grown up jungle-gym!
As soon as we completed the 7th zip line we could have gone right back for a repeat ride.
We did some searches but couldn’t find any similar hotel / lodging options anywhere in the world. As we day-dream about heading back to this place, here are some things to note while planning your visit:
Book in advance:
With only 3 pods available per night, the lodgings get booked months in advance. We booked almost a year prior to our visit. The last booking in our party of 3 couples was made 6 months prior to the stay. Don’t be dismayed if you don’t see availability though, there are options – which brings us to #2
Day time visit:
You can experience the same climb and zip-line if you go for a day visit to the skylodge. The only catch is that you will not be able to spend a night in the skylodge. Not our first choice, but it is still worth it. You will have to climb with a lot more people compared to the intimate group staying at the sylodge at night.
The 1300-foot ascent is by no means strenuous. However, it will leave you exhausted and sore if you don’t exercise regularly. Climb several flights of stairs the month prior to the trip. This way, you will be able to enjoy the climb much more. Luckily, we were exercising regularly in preparation for the Inca trail so we didn’t feel any soreness.
This once-in-a-lifetime experience isn’t cheap. Be ready to pony up some moolah for the booking. It cost us about $725 for 2 for the entire experience (including transfer, stay and meals). We booked all the flights and other hotels on points so we didn’t mind the cost.
We hope our experience inspires you to spend a night in this skylodge to create your own memories. Not only it is a unique location, it fits perfectly well with the rest of the must-see places and experiences in Peru.
Stay tuned for our next post in the Peru series!
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