One of my greatest pleasures in life is putting together an itinerary for an upcoming trip. As I plan, I always look for out-of-the-box activities or hotels to add some spice to the experience. In Peru, that was the Natura Vive Skylodge in the Sacred Valley.


I was taking my 18-year old nephew, Caeden, on a surfing trip to Panama and wanted to include an additional stop at Machu Picchu. Knowing that our time – and his attention – was limited, I was determined to find something especially spectacular to impress him. As I researched the route from Cusco to Machu Picchu, I stumbled across pictures of a zip line and via ferrata – a steel cable hiking line wrapped up and around the mountainside – in the Sacred Valley. Having experienced the via ferrata at Mt Nimbus in Banff, Canada, I knew it was a unique and unforgettable way to mountain climb – one that Caedan was sure to appreciate.

I clicked around for more information but my search was unexpectedly halted; an image of three alien-looking modules dangling off the side of a cliff caught my eye. Looking a little closer, I realized that they were sleeping modules. We could actually spend the night up there at 1200 feet above the ground? I didn’t think twice about it: booked!


Caeden and I left for our journey as planned. We spent 8 days surfing in Panama, then flew to Lima, Peru and then to Cusco, where we were met by staff from Natura Vive.  They drove us into the Sacred Valley and when we arrived at the base of the cliff we were about to ascend, I told Caeden to look up. “That’s where we’re sleeping tonight,” I told him. “No way! How do we get there?” I was pleased that I had kept our plan a surprise, and even more pleased with his elated reaction. “We climb!”



Natura Vive created their via ferrata using metal rungs that jet out from the side of the mountain. We clipped on a guide line for safety and walked along a wire that quite literally wound its way around the mountainside. The two hour climb was thrilling and we were mesmerized by the views of the Sacred Valley below: the red rocks, the indigenous plants, the rippling Urubamba River. It was our first step into the sleeping pods at the peak, though, that left us truly breathless. We released our safety clip from the guide line and looked around. We couldn’t believe where we were: inside a massive module hanging twelve stories above ground. We looked at each other in horror and amazement and kept repeating: “This is crazy!”


The pods each contained four beds and a bathroom (surprisingly and pleasantly, the best view was from the latter).  Our guide’s pod was used as both a social hall and dining room, and it was there that we ate all our meals, prepared for us by Natura Vive staff. The Plexiglas walls in each space made us feel like we were floating in mid-air, and no matter what time of day, we were offered the most spectacular views of the surrounding Andes mountains. At night, the howling wind made sleeping difficult, but the sight of the stars shining brightly through the translucent ceiling distracted us from our restlessness.



We spent one night there, free and euphoric, our hearts in our throats, high above the world. The next morning, we took a series of zip lines down the mountain then continued repelling until we reached the bottom. Once on solid ground, Caeden and I couldn’t stop talking about how unbelievable our night had been. How were we ever going to explain what we had seen and done to anyone else? We knew how privileged we were to have shared the experience. Holding on to it tightly, we headed off toward Machu Picchu.

Eric Barnes
Eric Barnes is a photojournalist for a national news network. He has traveled the world covering major news events such as the Israel/Gaza war, the Egypt coup, the earthquake in Japan and the war in Afghanistan, to name a few. He is also an avid travel photographer and has traversed the US and numerous countries for a hobby, and enjoys taking his nephew and niece along to broaden their cultural experiences. See more @globalfotog