A Treehouse in Peru

Richard Morgan looks down on the world from his perch in the Peruvian jungle.

Treehouse BedsIf you’re going to go so far as to have a private luxury treehouse in the Peruvian Amazon accessible only by Ewok-inspired treetop canopy wooden bridges, it makes sense to have an on-call jungle butler on the ground. For emergencies. Or for more towels.

That’s the idea behind the recent expansion at Inkaterra’s Reserva Amazonica, about an hour down the river from Puerto Maldonado. The treehouse suite hopes to ameloriate a particular thorny problem Peru has: how to get tourists to enjoy its spectacular environmental splendor – the jungles, the rivers, the mountains, the World Wonder of Machu Picchu, etc. – without having the whole country look like the last day of spring break in Acapulco, all cigarette butts and crushed beer cans and regret.

Much has been written about this dangerous game. There’s the fratty party town at the bottom of Mount Everest. The trashing of the national parks. The concerns about preserving ruins. It’s an especially weird problem for luxury travel; the Grand Canyon gets too touristy, so people head to Arches National Park, which gets too touristy so people head to Denali, and on and on. Like locusts with fannypacks.

Thumbnail image for TreehouseInkaterra, though, has pioneered luxury environmentalism. Its resort menus use organic, local food. Its bathrooms use toiletries made from local herbs. The resorts themselves have carefully small footprints: a restored 16th-century manor house in Cuzco; casitas amid a huge rare orchid arboretum and bird sanctuary in Aguas Calientes (the Machu Picchu base town accessible only by train); or an Amazon outpost that still continues its heritage as research center.

And while the autumnal cold is settling into our daily routines stateside, in Peru spring has sprung. The getting is good. And the conscientiousness is serious. Inkaterra’s founding president, fourth-generation Peruvian José Koechlin von Stein, is a leader in sustainable tourism in Peru, and has sought out opportunities to sync up ecotourism and conservation projects for the past 35 years. He’s partnered with the National Geographic Society to develop treetop canopy research facilites in the southeastern Peruvian jungle, and is currently working with National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations on the creation of a Geotourism Mapguide to the Sacred Valley.

At a recent party honoring the renowned Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Wilson credited Koechlin von Stein with sponsoring his seminal research into the diversity of ants. “If we can get people interested, we can get people to care,” Koechlin von Stein said over evening tea in the backyard of his estate in Lima.

His wife, Denise Guislain, did not recall the particulars of the Wilson episode, but she had a good reason. “I was sitting next to Harrison Ford,” she confessed in a Carolina Herrera dress, her Michael Kors perfume swirling around her, smiling. “I don’t remember anything but him.”

Photos: Inkaterra


  1. Tiffany
    May 11, 2010, 1:20 pm

    I think that staying in a private luxury tree house would be amazing. It would be such an experience, I myself, would love it. To be able to see nature first hand, not to mention right where you will be sleeping would be fantastic. But then on the other hand, what about it being open and what animals could join you for sleep? I also think that it is very interesting that they make all of their bathroom toiletries out of their local herbs and all of their foods are grown locally and are organic. The photos make it seem more home-like and relaxing. This would definitely be a once in a lifetime opportunity. An experience like this would be absolutely amazing and I would love every bit about it.

  2. Kendall
    May 11, 2010, 8:07 am

    I think staying in a tree house in Peru would be an interesting thing. While your there you could see a lot of nature. It would also be neat to see the bathrooms that are made from made from local herbs. I would stay here because I think it would be very neat and its some where’s where you cant sleep or stay at all the time, and its in Peru so that would be very nice.

  3. Oliver
    January 11, 2010, 3:36 pm

    That´s amazing I went to the Amazon last year and was an amazing experience. I visited a lot of places thanks to Kawsay a travel agency that works responsible tourism. I am going to remember this tour always and I recommend you to hire this travel agency. If you want more information this is its website http://www.perufairtravel.com

  4. Aimee Greeblemonkey
    October 3, 2009, 12:40 am

    My husband has been dying to do something like this for years! :)