We begin in Cusco, once the ancient capital of the Inca civilization and inhabited today by the descendants of the Incas and those of Spanish origin. The city’s narrow streets are bordered by Inca and Spanish architecture and the plazas are dominated by imposing colonial-era churches. The hills around Cusco are rich in archaeological treasures, and the Sacred Valley offers ancient remains and living culture. From the city, we venture into the remote Andes. This trek takes us around the sacred peak of Mount Salkantay along little-used trails, before joining other travelers from all over the world at Machu Picchu.
Cusco lies in exceptionally beautiful Andean countryside at 3400 meters above sea level. Its legacy as the hub of the Inca Empire is readily apparent: Most of the streets are lined with Inca-built stone walls and crowded with Quechua-speaking descendants of the Incas.
The city of Cusco and Sacsaywaman (half day)
We begin our tour with a visit to the cathedral. From the cathedral we move on to Qoricancha, the Inca Temple of the Sun, where we will be able to see some of the finest remaining examples of Inca stonemasonry. Leaving the city, in the surrounding hills we will visit Sacsaywaman. We will explore this ancient Inca sanctuary with its immense monolithic walls and then visit the amphitheater at Qenqo, the fortress of Puka Pukara and the ritual Inca baths at Tambomachay.
The colorful markets of the valley are open during the mornings and sell crafts, jewelry and textiles, as well as the produce which local people trade. Pisaq market is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, and Chinchero is open on Sundays.
Ollantaytambo is the only surviving example of Inca urban planning. Our tour will include a visit to the agricultural areas around the village, the irrigation system, granaries and the fortress- temple.
The saltpans at Maras consist of 3000 small pools. A number of salt water springs emerge from the hillside and are channeled along canals using the natural gradient. The water evaporates leaving behind the salt which slowly solidifies.
The Incas built a series of agricultural terraces in the form of a circular amphitheatre 150 meters in diameter as a centre for agricultural experiments and recent research has shown that the different levels of terraces represent different microclimates in the region and that temperatures between the terraces vary greatly.
We journey west through the Anta Valley. Descending into the dry Apurimac Valley we visit the Inca temple of Tarawasi. Further along the road we climb to the village of Mollepata, where our mule drivers will be waiting to load the horses or mules. We then walk to a nearby valley where we will camp at Soraypampa (3250 m / 10,660ft).
We climb a summit above the Rio Blanco. It is common to see condors along this section of the trail. We continue our steep ascent of the enormous glacier, arriving at the pass at 4825 m (15,826ft) below the south face of Salkantay (6247 m / 20,600ft) the highest peak of the Vilcabamba mountain range. Our path continues down to Cruz Qasa, where we will camp at 4490 m / 14,727 ft.
A short hike takes us to Cruz Qasa pass at 4715 m / 15,465 ft. with exceptional views of Mount Ocobamba (5126 m / 16,813ft). We camp at Inca Raqay (4600 m / 15,088 ft).
Crossing the final pass just 200 m / 656 ft above our camp the trail descends to the narrow Chillca gorge and the most fertile area of the region -the Urubamba Valley- where we will camp at 2800 m / 9,184 ft.
Today we leave the camp early to walk to the train station for the ride to Machu Picchu. This so-called “Lost City of the Incas”, 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 1911. Our guide will carefully explain the history of this unique place and guide us around its terraces, temples, palaces and watercourses.
This is an opportunity to explore the ruins independently, before returning to Cusco by train in the afternoon.
To be in good health and shape to be part of this adventure (Try to train by walking each day for at least two weeks before departure).