This little-known route takes hikers into the mountains surrounding the Sacred Valley of the Incas, high above the Urubamba River. For those unable to find a place on the two-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, this trail offers an excellent alternative, providing a full day’s hiking to the fascinating ruins of the Inca administrative center known as Huchuy Qosqo (“Little Cusco”).
From Cusco you will be driven to the small village of Patabamba, situated high above the Sacred Valley of the Incas at an altitude of 12,733 ft/ 3881 m. From this typical community we will follow the trail to the small village of Qenqo, where our route involves an ascent to a pass at 13,323 ft/ 4061 m. Before beginning the descent into the valley beyond the pass, we will have plenty of time to enjoy panoramic views of the Urubamba mountain range.
Following the valley, we will pass the small village of Pucamarca, beyond which the valley narrows to form a dramatic gorge. Following the stream, we will emerge from this gorge with superb views of the Urubamba Valley far below, before veering to our left and heading down Inca steps towards the main entrance to the ruins of the Inca settlement known as Huchuy Qosqo. From the ruins, the large village of Lamay can be seen on the valley floor, far below. Like the more accessible ruins of Pisaq, Huchuy Qosqo was once an administrative center, and its main structures retain their fine stonework, built in the Inca imperial style. The outer buildings of the site would originally have served as storehouses for the crops grown at this major agricultural production center. Soaring above Huchuy Qosqo, the jagged black crag of Pitusiray dominates the horizon, its peak rising to 16,564 ft/ 5050 m and ahead of us as we continue past the Inca gateway the white peak of Sawasiray stands high above the Sacred Valley at 18,791 ft/ 5729 m.
We will make our descent into the Sacred Valley via a steep, zigzagging trail that will take us as far as the village of Lamay, crossing a bridge over the Urubamba River. In Lamay our private bus will be waiting to take us to Ollantaytambo (a 50-minute bus ride following the course of the river). The train to the village of Aguas Calientes, located below the ruins of Machu Picchu, leaves from Ollantaytambo.
Meals: Box lunch
Driving travel time: Cusco – Patabamba: 21.1 miles (34 km) (paved: 12.4 miles/ 20 km; dirt road: 8.7 miles/ 14 km; 1 hour and 30 minutes
Trek length: 10.5 miles (17 km); 8 hours
Main altitudes: Cusco: 11,152 ft (3400 m); Patabamba: 12,733 ft (3881 m); Highest pass: 13,323 ft (4061 m); Huchuy Qosqo: 12,352 ft/ 3765 m; Sacred Valley: 9865 ft/ 3007 m
You will be picked up from your hotel in the village of Aguas Calientes at around six in the morning for the 30-minute bus ride up to the ruins of Machu Picchu. After arriving at the entrance to the remains of the Inca city, you will be escorted around the entire site by a knowledgeable and experienced guide for approximately two and a half hours, after which you will have plenty of time to explore the ruins independently, before boarding a shuttle bus again for the return trip to the station and the train ride back to the city of Cusco. Upon arrival in Cusco, you will be escorted to your hotel in the city.
Main altitudes: Machu Picchu: 8071 ft (2460 m); Aguas Calientes: 6791 ft/ 2070 m.