Amid the Peruvian Andes sits the Sacred Valley of the Incas, transected by the Urubamba river that created it and famous as home to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Now imagine spending the night tucked into bed in a glass capsule suspended 1,200 feet up a mountainside, overlooking the valley and surrounded by stars.
That's just what you'll experience during an overnight stay at Skylodge Adventure Suites.
The unique "hanging" hotel, which is made up of four transparent pods secured to the side of the mountain, is the brainchild of Ario Ferri, a project developer and avid rock and mountain climber from Carhuaz, Peru. Ferri says Skylodge Adventure Suites came from the idea of a portaledge, or a hanging tent system used by mountain climbers for overnight stays on rock faces. He built the lodge to allow travelers without serious climbing chops to feel what it's like to have a mountain adventure, as well as for accomplished climbers to enjoy.
After all, as Ferri tells CNBC Make It, "Why not?"
Getting to Skylodge is not for the faint of heart — it requires climbing and a solid sense of adventure. Guests can choose their route, each of which takes about an hour: You can hike up the entire 1,200-foot via ferrata (a path used to climb a mountain with a safety system permanently installed) or choose a hike-zipline combo and climb a 13-foot via ferrata at the end (all accompanied by professional guides).
Once at Skylodge, you'll find three overnight capsules (each with room for four guests and an attendant) and one for dining. Each of the sleeping pods measures 24 feet long and 8 feet high. They have solar-powered lighting and a private bathroom with a dry ecological toilet and sink, separated from the bedroom by an insulated wall.
Down pillows and quilts will keep you warm, as temperatures generally range from about 40 degrees Fahrenheit at night into the 70s during the day. All the capsules can sustain 21 times the weight of five people, explains Natalia Rodriguez, Ferri's wife and business partner, who is an engineer.
Since its opening in June 2013, around 3,500 adventure travelers have stayed overnight in Skylodge Adventure Suites' glass capsules.
"Climbing up to the capsules is really adventurous and you kind of get nervous," says Austrian traveler Nina Huber, who experienced Skylodge with her boyfriend, Michael Mitterdorfer, in August 2017.
"The capsules themselves where you sleep are simply extraordinary," Huber tells CNBC Make It. "You sleep in a romantic canopy bed with a view of the stars, on a very comfortable soft mattress and a soft, thick blanket. You sleep like heaven."
And the views.
"From above, you see the Sacred Valley stretching out for miles on either side of you, and across you see more of the amazing Andes mountains," says Scott Carr of Tulsa, Okla., who visited in October 2017 with his fiancée, her daughter and a small group of friends. "I could see [the Urubamba river] clearly, and it is beautiful to watch. And the periodic train would rumble through the valley as it makes its way from Machu Picchu," Carr tells CNBC Make It.
After sleeping in the pod, "In the morning, everything is blue skies and the rising sun," says Carr. "It is an amazing sight, and the entire Sacred Valley in the morning was something to behold. We spent about an hour drinking tea and just soaking in the view before it was time for us to gear up and head over to the 'bubble' for breakfast."
When it comes to dining, the guides are also chefs who prepare locally inspired meals in the sky-high hanging kitchen: think pumpkin soup, chicken and quinoa, and Peruvian Malbec wine.
"This food is better than in many restaurants in Cusco," the nearby gateway city to the Sacred Valley, says Huber.
Skylodge Adventure Suites can be booked 365 days a year. Rates vary depending on what method you choose to get to Skylodge, but range from $411 to $439 per person. You can also book day trips with lunch at Skylodge, which range from about $237 to $265 per person. (All prices depend on exchange rates.)
For those who have been there, it's worth the price of admission.
"It's all the adventure combined with adrenaline-pumping high-altitude action that creates a once-in-a-lifetime memory," says Carr. "It is the perfect experience for those who seek adventure — and I'm so glad we did it."
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