To the Incas, the great peak of Apu Salkantay was the home of the gods (in Quechua, “Apu” means “mountain god”).The highest peak visible from Machu Picchu, this snow-capped giant is still central to the beliefs of the Incas’ descendants, the Quechua people of the high Andes, and it provides an absolutely stunning backdrop for this trekking route. As we hike below sacred Mount Salkantay, we will follow trails skirting the edges of blue-white glaciers, and pass traditional Quechua herding communities.
From Cusco we will drive west across the Anta Valley. Descending into the dry Apurimac Valley, we will visit the Inca temple of Tarawasi (30 minutes). Continuing our journey, the road climbs to the village of Mollepata, where we will have time to visit this picturesque village. A narrow dirt road will take us as far as Lecheria, where our mule drivers will be waiting to load our gear onto horses or mules.
We will begin our hike through beautiful scenery as far as Ichupata, where we will make our first camp.
• Cusco – Mollepata: 99.5 kilometers / 61.8 miles (paved: 88 kilometers / 54.7 miles; Dirt road: 11.5 kilometers / 7.1 miles); 3 hours 30 minutes
• Mollepata – Dirt road: 22 kilometers / 13.6 miles: 1 hour
Trekking distance: Lecheria – Ichupata 5 kilometers. Time: 1.5 hours (Gentle uphill walk) Total: 5 kilometers / Time: 2 hours.
Altitudes: Cusco 3400 meters (11,152 feet) / Mollepata 2835 meters (9298 feet) / Lecheria 3703 meters (12,145 feet) / Soraypampa 3869 meters (12,690 feet).
Meals: Lunch, dinner
We will begin today by climbing to a pass above the Blanco River. It is common to see condors along this section of the trail. We will continue our steep ascent, skirting the enormous glacier, as far as Inca Chiriaska Pass, at 4825 meters (15,826 feet), below the south face of Salkantay (6247 meters / 20,600 feet) the highest peak of the Vilcabamba mountain range. Our route will take us down and then back up to Chachani Qasa, where we will camp at 4490 meters (15,088 feet).
Trekking distance: Ichupata (3869 meters / 12,690 feet) – Inca Chiriaska Pass (4825 meters / 15,826 feet) 7 kilometers / Inca Chiriaska Pass downhill to 4547 meters (14,914 feet) and up to Toctoqasa Pass at 4776 meters (15,665 feet) / 5.3 kilometers.
Toctoqasa Pass (4776 meters / 15,665 feet) to camp at Chachani Qasa (4600 meters / 15,088) / 4.5 kilometers
Total: 16.8 kilometers / Time: 6-7 hours.
Altitudes: Soraypampa 3869 meters (12,690 feet) – Inca Chiriaska Pass 4825 meters (15,826 feet) - Toctoqasa Pass 4776 meters (15,665 feet).
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
A short hike takes us to Cruz Qasa Pass at 4715 meters (15,465 feet), with exceptional views of Mount Ocobamba (5126 meters / 16,813 feet). We will then continue downhill to 4150 meters (13,612 feet), where we will rest before the ascent to Chuqeñan Pass at 4302 meters (14,110 feet). Our hike will then continue across an area of extensive grasslands at around 4100 meters (13,448 feet) for about 7.5 kilometers as far as Aqoqasa (4234 meters / 13,887 feet) where we will camp.
Trekking distance: Chachani Qasa (4600 meters / 15,088 feet) to Chuqeñan Pass (4302 meters / 14,110 feet): 5 kilometers.
Chuqeñan Pass (4302 meters / 14,110 feet) to Aqoqasa (4234 meters / 13,887 feet): 7.5 kilometers.
Total: 12.5 kilometers / Time: 6 hours.
Altitudes: Chachani Qasa 4600 meters (15,088 feet) / Chuqeñan Pass 4302 meters (14,110 feet.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Today we will cross the final pass at 4446 meters (14,582 feet), before descending to the ruins of Inca Raqay and the village of Ancasqocha, from where we will descend through the narrow Chillca gorge to the village of the same name. From here we will continue to Ollantaytambo by private vehicle, where we will take the two-hour train ride to Aguas Calientes, where we will spend the night in a local hostel.
Trekking distance: Aqoqasa (4680 meters / 15,350 feet) to Huayanay Pass (4618 meters / 15,147 feet): 2.2 kilometers.
Huayanay Pass (4618 meters / 15,147 feet) 1.2 kilometers / Chillca (2769 meters / 9082 feet): 18.5 kilometers
Total: 20.7 kilometers / Time: 8 hours.
Altitudes: Aqoqasa Pass 4680 meters (15,350 feet) / Inca Raqay ruins 4300 meters (14,104 feet) / Ancasqocha village 3990 meters (13,807 feet) / Chillca 2769 meters (9082 feet).
Meals: Breakfast, lunch
After breakfast we will walk to the bus station for the 20 to 25 minute ride up to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Known as the “Lost City of the Incas”, Machu Picchu remains intact because it was never discovered by the invading Spanish. Constructed on a high, forested mountain overlooking the Urubamba River, Machu Picchu was lost in time and dense foliage until its rediscovery in 1911.
During your three hour tour, our guide will explain in detail the history of this unique place and guide you around its agricultural terraces, temples, palaces and watercourses. You will then have time to explore the ruins independently before returning to Aguas Calientes for the return train ride to Cusco.
Machu Picchu tour: 3 hours.
Optional hike up Huayna Picchu peak: (2-3 hours) subject to availability.
Altitudes: Machu Picchu 2,460 meters (8068 feet) / Huayna Picchu peak 2,720 meters (8922 feet) / Aguas Calientes 2,020 meters (6625 feet).
Meals: Breakfast, lunch
Travel time: 55 kilometers to Ollantaytambo by train; 85 kilometers to Cusco by bus.
What to bring
Please note: Participants must be in good physical condition for this adventure (try to train by walking every day for at least two weeks before departure).