Smithsonian Journeys Inca Road Issue
The Skylodge with the sun peeking over the mountains. (© Natura Vive)
Inside one of Skylodge's sleeping modules. (© Natura Vive)
Entrance into the Skylodge is through the third module, which is the one with the bathroom. (© Natura Vive)
One of Skylodge's capsules, complete with sleeping accommodations of up to four people and a bathroom. (© Natura Vive)
Inside one of the Skylodge's bedroom modules. ( © Natura Vive)
The Skylodge glowing in the darkness of the Sacred Valley's night. (© Natura Vive)
An adventurer zip-lining to the Skylodge. (© Natura Vive)
The three capsule suites of Skylodge from afar. (© Natura Vive)
Inside the third module of one of the Skylodge's capsules. This module contains the toilet and the best views. (© Natura Vive)
Overlooking one of the Skylodge's capsules with the mountains in the background. (© Natura Vive)

Sleep With the Condors at This Peruvian Hotel Hanging Off a Cliff

The cliffside Skylodge hotel dangles 1,300 feet above the ground

smithsonian.com

There are few sights more majestic than watching the endangered Andean condor soar over Peru’s Sacred Valley along the Inca Road in southern Peru. And there's a hotel that allows guests to do just that, while hanging off the side of a cliff 1,300 feet above the valley floor.    

Natura Vive’s Skylodge Adventure Suites, located near the city of Cuzco, is a hotel dangling above the Sacred Valley and the Urubamba River. In total, there’s room for up to eight people in the hotel's three capsules: Two of the capsules are divided into modules that contain sleeping arrangements for four, a dry toilet bathroom and a wooden folding table for meals. The third capsule is the service capsule, where guides prepare breakfast and dinner for the guests.

While experienced mountain climbers often employ suspended cots known as portaledges on multiple-day climbs, the Skylodge is meant for those who may not be as experienced. “I wanted to give the chance to those who weren’t experienced climbers to feel what we feel,” says Arios Ferri, owner and operating manager of Skylodge, who has also been a rescue instructor since 2003.

The entire structure is constructed of super-light aerospace aluminum and illuminated inside by solar panel lights. A shiny metal alloy means the hotel doesn’t have to be re-painted each year, “which would be kinda difficult anyway,” notes Ferri. Each capsule is covered in floor-to-ceiling, weather-resistant transparent panels (with optional privacy curtains), providing breathtaking views of the valley below and the sky above, even from the bathroom. “The toilet has the best view, even though people usually close the curtains,” Ferri laughs. 

While fear of heights may scare some people off, the Skylodge experience is actually geared toward inexperienced climbers. Ferri says, “99.9 percent of our clientele have never, ever done something like this before.” The cliff’s via ferrata—a Italian system of easy-to-maneuver ladders, bridges and cables attached to the cliff—allows those who are in reasonable physical shape to descend (and ascend) safely while still enjoying fantastic views. It also provides access between each capsule in case one wants to give a quick hello to fellow travelers. For those feeling a bit more adventurous, a rather rigorous rock-climbing route can be taken to the Skylodge, and there are hiking and ziplining options for access as well.  

The beautiful Andean condor also has a habit of flying around the hotel. According to Ferri, a family of condors nests above the Skylodge, and can be seen nearby for two to three months a year, starting in July. However, Ferri’s first interaction with them was almost his last. “We were climbing … and two condors were looking down in the valley. We didn’t notice them and I don’t think they noticed us. They almost crashed into us … they were within [four feet] of our bellies,” he says. Now, the condors fly around the Skylodge and often peer in, giving visitors a fantastic, up-close view of this rare bird.

This Skylodge experience isn’t cheap ($340 per person per night), but the price includes accommodations, access to the via ferrata, ziplining, transportation to and from Cuzco (via a Mercedes-Benz bus), breakfast, dinner and a bottle of wine. It’s basically glamping, but with a valley and a river 1,300 feet below.

(© Marc Noël/iStock)
A condor soars over Colca Canyon (© Jean-Paul Bagur/iStock)
The wingspan of Andean condor can reach 10 feet. (Franck Camhi-Vision/iStock)
People sit at an observation point and wait to see condors fly by in the valley below. The Colca Canyon, with a maximum depth of 3,386 meters (11,110 feet), is one of the deepest in the world. (© Pilar Olivare/Reuters/Corbis)
Two condors rest at the edge of a cliff. Because of their large size, Andean condors prefer to live in areas with strong winds, like canyons, where the currents help keep their bodies aloft. (© Tui De Roy/Minden Pictures/Corbis)
Tourist watching condors at an overlook at Colca Canyon. (© Franck Camhi-Vision/iStock)
About Matt Blitz

Matt Blitz is a history and travel writer. His work has been featured on CNN, Atlas Obscura, Curbed, Nickelodeon, and Today I Found Out. He also runs the Obscura Society DC and is a big fan of diners.

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