For the Incas, the great mountain Apu Salkantay was the home of the gods (in Quechua, Apu means “mountain god”). The highest peak visible from Machu Picchu, this gigantic mountain continues to be important to the descendants of the Incas, the Quechua people of the high Andes, and to safeguard walkers in the highlands. As we walk below the sacred mountain Salkantay, we will be following trails that touch upon white glaciers, and we will pass Quechua livestock herding communities.
From Cusco we will head west, crossing the Anta Valley and descending towards the Apurimac Valley. We will visit the Inca temple of Tarawasi (30 minutes). Continuing this journey, our route will take us up to the village of Mollepata, where we will have time to visit this picturesque community. A dusty narrow road will take us to 3869 meters (12,690 feet), where our wranglers will be waiting to load our gear on to horses or mules.
We will then begin our walk to Soraypampa, crossing beautiful scenery as far as Ichupata (4176 meters / 13,700 feet). We will then continue our steady ascent as far as Campo Japonés, where we will make our first camp at 4753 meters (15,593 feet).
Cusco – Mollepata: 99.5 km (61.8 miles) (paved road: 88 km (54.7 miles); highway: 11.5 km / 7.1 miles); 3 hours 3 minutes.
Mollepata – Soraypampa (narrow road): 22 km (13.6 miles): 1 hour.
Walking distance: Soraypampa – Ichupata – Camp 7.4 km (4.59 miles): Time: 4 hours (gentle gradient).
Altitude: Cusco 3400 meters (11,152 feet), Mollepata 2835 meters (9298 feet), Soraypampa 3869 meters (12,690 feet), Ichupata 4176 meters (13,700 feet), Campo Japonés 4753 meters (15,593 feet).
Meals: Lunch and dinner
We will begin this day by ascending to the pass. It is common to see condors along this section of the trail. This is a steady ascent beneath enormous glaciers as far as the pass at Inka Chiriaska, below the southern face of Mount Salkantay (6247 meters / 20,600 feet), the highest peak in the Vilcabamba range.
Our route will keep us between 4200 and 4800 meters above sea level, as we cross three successive passes of 4825 meters (15,826 feet), 4810 meters (15,780 feet) and 4609 meters (15,121 feet). Hiking at this altitude will enable us to enjoy views of the enormous glaciers of the Vilcabamba mountain range.
In the afternoon, we will arrive at our campsite at Qelloqocha (4283 meters / 14,051 feet).
Hiking distance: Campo Japonés - Qelloqocha 13.29 km (8.25 miles): Time: 7 hours
Altitude: Campo Japonés 4753 meters (15,593 feet); Inka Chiriaska Pass, 4825 meters (15,826 feet); Tocto 4600 meters (15,091 feet), Cruz Qasa Pass 4810 meters (15,780 feet), Millpo 4200 meters (13,779 feet); Chusquiñay Pass 4609 meters (15,121 feet); Qelloqocha camp 4283 meters (14,051 feet).
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
A short walk will take us to the Qera Qasa pass at 4330 meters (15,465 feet), with its exceptional views of the surrounding mountains. We will then continue by descending as far as Lechería, at 4086 meters (13,405 feet), where we will rest before beginning the ascent to the high pass at Aqoqasa (4682 meters / 15,360 feet). Another easy descent will take us as far as Inca Raqay (4430 meters / 14,534 feet).
After a good rest, we will head towards the final pass at Huayanay (4624 meters / 15,170 feet), from where we will descend to our next campsite at Anqasqocha, or “Lake of Eagles”, at 4196 meters (13,766 feet).
Hiking distance: Qelloqocha - Ancasqocha Qasa 9.12 km (5.66 miles) 6 hours
Altitude: Campamento Qelloqocha 4283 meters (14,051 feet); Qera Qasa Pass (4330 meters / 15,465 feet); Lechería (4086 meters (13,405 feet); Aqoqasa (4682 meters / 15,360 feet); Inca Raqay (4430 meters / 14,534 feet); Huayanay (4624 meters / 15,170 feet); Anqasqocha campsite (4196 meters / 13,766 feet).
Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Today we will descend through a narrow gorge to the Chillca Valley. In this area of contrasting landscapes, we will pass through high Andean forests, ravines with waterfalls fed by glaciers, and into a fertile ecosystem where local people continue to intensively farm Inca terraces to produce abundant harvests of the finest quality corn.
At the end of our trek, near the village of Chillca, our private vehicle will be waiting to take us to the Ollantaytambo train station, where we will board the train to Aguas Calientes, the small town where we will spend the night in a local hostel.
Walking distance: Ancasqocha - Chillca – 15.3 km (9.5 miles): Time: 7 hours Altitudu: Anqasqocha 4196 meters (13,766 feet); Chillca 2794 meters (9166 feet); Ollantaytambo train station 2807 meters (9209 feet); Aguas Calientes 2020 meters (6625 feet).
Traveling time: Chillca - Ollantaytambo 13 km (8 miles) by road (25 minutes)
Ollantaytambo - Machu Picchu 55 km (34.2 miles) by train (2 hours)
Meals: Breakfast and lunch.
After breakfast, we will walk to the bus station, from where we will start the 20 to 25 minute bus ride by road up to the ruins of Machu Picchu. Known as the “Lost City of the Incas”, Machu Picchu has survived intact because it was never discovered by the Spanish. Built high above the Urubamba River, Machu Picchu remained hidden by dense vegetation until its discovery in 1911.
During the 3 hour tour of the ruins, your guide will explain in detail the history of this unique place, and escort you around its agricultural terraces, temples, palaces and water channels. You will then have time to explore the site independently before returning to Aguas Calientes for the return train journey to Cusco.
Tour of Machu Picchu: 3 hours.
Optional walk to Huayna Picchu: (2-3 hours) subject to availability.
Altitudes: Machu Picchu 2460 meters (8068 feet); Huayna Picchu 2720 meters (8922 feet) ; Aguas Calientes 2020 meters (6625 feet).
Meals: Breakfast and lunch.
Travel time: Ollantaytambo 55 km (34.2 miles) by train (2 hours); to Cusco by bus 85 km (53 miles).
Please note: We recommend that participants get in shape by taking regular short walks during the weeks before trekking with us.