Skylodge Peru – The Edgiest Hotel in the World
We had some pretty incredible experiences during our six months in Peru; it felt like we were bouncing from one awesome adventure to another. But our outing to the Skylodge with Natura Vive was taking those adventures to new heights… literally.
The Skylodge just might be the world’s “edgiest” hotel as you literally sleep hanging off a thousand-foot cliff overlooking Peru’s famous Sacred Valley. It’s seriously cool, but sorry jet-set crowd, there’s no pulling up to this hotel in a taxi. The Skylodge was built by adventurers for adventurers. If you want to sleep suspended on a sheer Andean wall, you have to earn it.
Via Ferrata to the Skylodge Adventure Suites
The main way to get there is a two-hour via ferrata which winds its way straight up. For those who are new to the concept, a via ferrata is a pre-laid cabled climbing route supported with iron stepping rungs and pegs as well as cabled bridges and ladders. Via ferratas are harder than normal hiking, but they don’t really require specialized climbing skills. You just need a sense for adventure, a strong grip, and no fear of heights.
I had done one via ferrata before in Catalonia, but this was Thomas’ first time (although he did just recently do the canopy climb in Tambopata National Reserve, which uses similar equipment). Starting was a cinch: we got harnessed up, listened to a quick introduction from our guides Micher and Guillermo, and off we went up the cliffs.
The climb was exhilarating with views out over the Urubamba River as well as the surrounding mountains. Natura Vive’s via ferrata route was actually the perfect level of difficulty: not too hard for newbies, not so easy that it would bore experienced climbers. Indeed, it was quite a thrill as we moved up sheer rock faces, inched along narrow ledges, and made our way over a tightrope-like cable bridge.
Along the route, we stepped across 1,400 iron stepping rungs and passed around 400 cable attachment points. As you can see in the video, those cable attachment points were a big part of the trip: each time we got to one, we had to de-couple and then re-couple the carabiners that secured our safety lanyards to the cable.
Arriving at the Skylodge
The via ferrata was a total blast! But as crazy as it might sound, the accommodation felt like an even bigger adventure. Clinging to the cliffs a thousand feet above the valley floor, the Skylodge Adventure Suites are actually three space-age capsules manufactured out of aluminum and polycarbonate.
Approaching our capsule at sunset, we inched along the cliffs to the entry platform and descended into our suite through a submarine-like door in the roof. The ceiling and walls of the suite are all transparent providing what has to be the most insane hotel view on the planet. Curtains are provided to block the sun and the views of fellow guest, but we kept them open to fully enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime view.
The capsules are fascinating feats of engineering and surprisingly comfortable considering that you are dangling off a thousand-foot wall. Each suite sleeps up to four people in very comfortable beds with bizarrely luxurious bedding and spectacular pillows. (Good pillows are worth their weight in gold to full-time travelers.)
The bathrooms are also very intelligently designed to maximize views and minimize embarrassment. There’s a small sink and a very cleverly designed dry toilet unlike anything I’ve seen before. Honestly, it’s almost worth the entire trip just to experience the bathrooms. Of course, water has to be carried up the mountain and waste has to be carried down, so visitors have to be realistic about the limits of living on a cliff. Having said that, I was stunned by the level of luxury Natura Vive has achieved.
That luxury extended into their amazing dining experience. Food is prepared in Urubamba and carried up during the via ferrata. We watched through our walls as Micher climbed from his capsule to ours through strong winds loaded down with a backpack full of food. After he descended into our suite and started unloading our dinner, we actually started laughing.
To start, Micher pulled out two wine glasses and served us a glass of red each as well as a separate glass of freshly made passion fruit juice. Amazingly, each course was actually served in a ceramic serving dish with a tin liner to minimize washing. (How do the glasses and ceramic serving dishes survive all that climbing?) The food was equally impressive. We began with pumpkin soup with fresh cilantro and croutons followed by a full dinner salad topped with apple slices, sunflower seeds and honey mustard dressing. The main course was delicious grilled chicken with a fantastic quinoa side dish.
And the biggest surprise, the dessert was a brownie topped with a passion fruit glaze and fresh strawberries. Micher actually apologized because the dessert had slightly shifted to the side of the dish during the climb up from the valley. To us, it was nothing short of a miracle that he had managed to climb a thousand feet with all this food on his back and the only issue was a slightly off-center dessert. Insanity! This is one meal I will remember forever.
Since we did our Skylodge adventure in 2014, Natura Vive has added a large dining capsule with an equally fantastic view over the Sacred Valley. It’s a great addition to the Skylodge Adventure Suites. And what better place for guests to share a meal and discuss their views (pun intended) than 400 meters above the ground.
I actually found it a bit difficult to sleep in our transparent polycarbonate capsule. Every time I closed my eyes, I felt like I was missing out on an exceptional once-in-a-lifetime experience. How often do you lie suspended in space bathed in moonlight surrounded by mountains and stars. Just behind my pillow an epic 1,000 ft drop which I rediscovered every few minutes. We both lay there for hours reveling in what is certainly the coolest hotel in the world. (If anything even comes close, tell us about it in the comment section below; we want to experience it.)
After one of our greatest nights ever, we woke to discover one of our greatest breakfast experiences ever. Clear skies and no winds meant that a group breakfast was served on the entry platform of the guides’ capsule. We sat on the exposed wooden platform (secured to the safety cables) feasting on fruit salad, muesli, yogurt, a ham and cheese platter, eggs made to order, fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee, tea… and the ultimate 360 panorama.
Breakfast also gave us a chance to really get to know fellow guest Kesav, a lawyer/entrepreneur who spent his spare time traveling the globe seeking out the world’s most extreme experiences. Wing walking, alligator wrestling, bungee slingshots, cheetah racing, great white shark diving… he had done almost everything. And now Kesav had experienced the world’s edgiest hotel.
Ziplining from the Skylodge down to the Sacred Valley
After breakfast, we continued our climb up to the first of five ziplines. Thomas and I had done a zipline once before in the Philippines, but this was a definite step up in skill level and speed. Guillermo instructed us on how to sit, position our hands on the zip roller, and how to slow ourselves if we were going too fast. He also demonstrated a series of hand signals he would use to communicate with us while we were mid-zip (is that actually a word?). Micher also offered a bit of advice, “Don’t hit the rocks on the way down.”
The first line was fast and furious… and a bit intimidating to us relative newbies. It’s quite a rush flying through the air with rocky outcroppings zooming by. But everyone did quite well, so we advanced to zip #2. The second zipline was a bit of a shock, a 500 m (1,640 ft) stage that took visitors soaring way out over the cliffs. The ride felt REALLY fast to me, but Thomas calculated we topped out at about 45 kph (28 mph). If you’ve ever dreamt of playing Andean condor for a day, this is the trip for you.
And down we went, a mix of hiking, via ferrata and adrenaline-pumping ziplines. Zip #3 was another 400 m monster. Both Thomas and I did not gain enough speed to make it to the end point, so we had to drag ourselves along the line. Guillermo, the muscle man, took pity on us and came to our rescue. (We’re honest bloggers, we even show that rescue in the video.)
Achieving speed was not a problem on zip #4. The line was so steep and fast that they had to use a special breaking mechanism at the end to slow us down. Let’s just say that line really makes an impact. 😉 There was also something especially beautiful about zip #4 to me; I think it was the way you glided just above the rocks and slopes.
The last stage of the zipline is really more of a rappelling-zip hybrid, so you get to throw an extra sport in for free. Visitors rappel a few meters down a cliff and then are manually lowered along a steep zipline to the ground. It was an odd feeling which required a certain leap of faith, something which was a bit hard for a control freak like me. Luckily, Micher and Guillermo had everything under control; they were exceptionally professional guides who communicated well with us and provided the perfect amount of motivation and support.
I think it goes without saying that professionalism and safety are vital with such adventure sports. We have to say that we were exceptionally impressed with every aspect of our Natura Vive experience from the well designed via ferrata route to the elaborate construction of the capsule suites to the safety-conscious ziplining experience. The fantastic dinner, the luxurious bedding, and the thoughtful construction of the bathrooms speak volumes about their dedication to quality and the environment. We also had the opportunity to meet Natalia, one of the owners of Natura Vive. She told us that her children Llana and Silvestre had actually done the via ferrata when they were three and a half and four years old. I think that fact says a lot about their faith in their construction and safety standards.
More Info on the Natura Vive Experience
Natura Vive offers a variety of packages. You can choose a via ferrata trip, a ziplining experience, or combine the two sports and stay in the Skylodge Adventure Suites. Alternatively, you can just visit the Skylodge’s dining capsule for a four-course lunch. You will probably never work as hard for a meal, but the rewards are phenomenal.
At present, there are three capsule suites for visitors each holding up to four guests. The trip is also suitable for adventurous families, but it is important to understand the climbing and heights involved. Natura Vive suggests a minimum age of 7, but they are flexible and understand all people have different skills. Our tip: Do the whole overnight package – it’s AWESOME!
Plan your Trip to the Skylodge
Accommodation – The Skylodge is getting increasingly popular so we highly recommend booking your overnight trip in advance, especially during high season which runs from May to September. You can either contact Natura Vive through their contact form or book directly on Viator, which frequently offers special discounts.
After your one-night stay at the Skylodge, we recommend sticking around a little longer to explore the gorgeous Sacred Valley, one of Peru’s top highlights. Visitors can stay at either end of the Sacred Valley, in lively Cuzco or in quieter Ollantaytambo. Both towns have plenty of accommodation options. To find great deals, check out Hotelscombined.com, a site which offers the best deals across numerous top hotel booking sites.
Guidebooks – We usually travel with a Lonely Planet. During our six months in Peru, we used the Lonely Planet Peru guidebook and really liked it. It’s great for cultural and historical info, maps, hiking tours, itineraries, and includes highlights such as Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon, the Peruvian Amazon, the Salkantay trek, Apu Ausangate, Machu Picchu, and many others. For a more visual guidebook, we recommend the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Peru. All guidebooks can be conveniently purchased on Amazon.
Travel Gear – One piece of equipment we highly recommend for the Skylodge adventure is an action camera such as the GoPro to capture everything on film. Since you will be climbing and holding on to rungs and cables, a GoPro head strap is absolutely necessary. Looking back at our video, we think this was money well spent.