Looking for the greatest nature escape during your stay in Cusco? Try out the Gea Lodge.When traveling to Machu Picchu, the main tourist attraction in Peru, the crowds and kitschy apparel may seem unavoidable. However, if you are willing to hike a short ways, you can find a tranquil retreat at the Gea Lodge
For tourists traveling to Machu Picchu, there are many options for lodging one may consider. My friend and I faced this decision while booking our accommodation last month. We settled on the Gea Lodge, a quaint, 5-room hotel. What started as a swift decision to find an open room turned into the *greatest nature-escape during my time in Peru*.
I learned quickly that light hiking shoes are a must for those who are staying anywhere outside of Aguas Calientes, as well for those choosing to hike up to Machu Picchu rather than take the bus. I say this because in order to reach Gea Lodge, guests walk 1.8 km along the path next to the train tracks. It is well worth it. Throughout the walk, harmonious sounds of rushing water and bird calls welcomed us to our new abode.
_Water rushes freely throughout Mandor Gardens (Photo courtesy of author)_
When I arrived to the charming Gea Lodge, deep in the mountains, I felt at peace. The *train tracks*, although a sign of human infrastructure, are rarely used and only add to the picturesque charm of the place.
The owner, a woman who goes by *Nellie*, welcomed us warmly to her tucked away sanctuary. She proudly gave us a tour, showing us the open dining area with cottage-like stone walls and the spacious backyard and patio, featuring a hammock, where guests can lie down or read or enjoy the view of water below the mountain. Her family worked collectively in the kitchen to prepare dinner, making the lodge feel like home, rather than simply a temporary place to sleep. After trekking up to Machu Picchu, the *home-cooked, hot meal* featuring _sopa de pollo_, _arroz y carne con vegetales_, and of course _un postre_ (dessert), was this hungry hiker’s dream. The day before, Nellie had also packed us plentiful lunch boxes for free, insisting hikers needed energy for their big adventure.
Nellie even insisted on waking up at 4 am to walk my friend and I to the small town of Aguas Calientes where our bus stop was located. She informed us about subjects such as the history of the area, her family, the weather patterns, and the locals’ typical work, all the while, patiently deciphering our broken Spanish. Nellie noted how the seasons were lasting longer, and shifting to later in the year, and the winters were becoming milder in her area. She hopes that the future will not bring big changes, because her family enjoys running the lodge and meeting new travelers from all over the world.
Additionally, Gea Lodge is conveniently located *1.8 km from the hot springs*, and it is a brisk, 15-minute scenic walk away from los Jardines de mandor, otherwise known as Mandor Gardens, where people can witness the beauty of the waterfall- and even swim below it during the warmer months. Also, ambitious hikers are in luck, because the lodge is only *1.7 km from Huayna Picchu*.
Certainly, Gea Lodge provides guests with the typical commodities of a hotel, including free Wi-Fi, hot water, towels, and toiletries. However, its extraordinary features give this place an authentic, memorable character, which left me wishing I had more time to spend at this quaint, yet grand, escape.