We begin in Cusco, once the ancient capital of the Inca civilization and presently inhabited by the descendants of the Inca’s 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.
Upon your arrival at Jorge Chávez International Airport you will be picked-up by one of our staff and transferred to your hotel in Lima, where you will spend the night.
Lima to Cusco
Today you will fly from Lima to Cusco, where a transfer to your hotel will be waiting for you at the airport.
Cusco lies in the exceptionally beautiful Andean countryside at 3400 metres 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 Saqsaywaman (half day)
We begin our tour with a visit to the Cusco 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. We will afterwards explore the ancient Inca sanctuary of Ollantaytamb with its immense monolithic walls and then visit the amphitheatre at Qenqo, the fortress of Puka Pukara and the ritual Inca baths at Tambomachay.
The Sacred Valley of the Inca's and Pisaq market
The colorful markets of the Sacred Valley are open during the mornings and sell crafts, jewellery and textiles, as well as the produce which local people trade. Pisaq market is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, and Chinchero market 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 of Maras and the ruins of Moray
The saltpans of Maras consist of 3000 small pools. A number of saltwater springs emerge from the hillside and are channeled along canals using the natural gradient. The water evaporates leaving behind the salt which slowly solidifies.
Moray The Incas built a series of agricultural terraces in the form of a circular amphitheater 150m in diameter as a center 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.
Cusco / Mollepata / Soraypampa
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 camp at 4490 m / 14,727 ft.
A short hike takes us to the Cruz Qasa pass at 4715 m / 15,465 ft. with exceptional views of the 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 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.
Free day in Machu Picchu
You will have the opportunity to explore the ruins independently, before returning to Cusco by train in the afternoon.
Transfer to airport
Today, after breakfast, you will be transferred back to the airport to catch your flight back home or continue your trip in Peru.
Book an extra one or two days in:
The Tambopata National Reserve
Spend more time in the Amazon forest! Our experienced naturalist guides are on hand to reveal to you the many wonders of the rainforest and to answer your many questions during forest walks and while travelling on rivers and lakes. In the evenings we hold brief conferences and presentations on different aspects of the fauna, flora and ecology of the tropical forest. And of course, you might choose to remain an extra day or two at our Eco Lodge in order to simply relax and enjoy its comforts and cuisine.
Why not choose to extend your stay in Peru and visit the shores and islands of Lake Titicaca?. Among the attractions of Lake Titicaca are the many archaeological sites in the area around the lake, and islands where life has gone on largely unchanged for centuries. The floating Uros reed islands were established by a pre Inca culture to isolate themselves from more dominant ethnic groups, while the picturesque islands of Taquile and Amantani are inhabited by descendants of the Incas who continue many of the customs of their forebears.
Trekking in the Andes
Our experienced staff has been outfitting and leading treks in the Andes for more than 34 years. Choose from one of our many programs and join us on a journey into Peru’s ancient past and living cultures travelling on foot as the people of the Andes have always done. Peru is a trekker’s paradise.
Trek to the ruins of one of Peru’s most remarkable Inca sites. Choquequirao is as impressively located as its more famous sister city Machu Picchu, but this route through the remote Vilcabamba triangle is less well-known than the Inca Trail.
From the colonial and pre-Columbian grandeur of Cusco, with all the comforts it offers to travellers from all over the world, we explore the land of the Incas. The Sacred Valley of the Incas was the fertile heart of the Inca Empire and its people still farm amid the ruins of their ancestors’ culture and trade in their colourful markets. From the valley we journey by train to Machu Picchu, still surrounded by the dense tropical forests rich in biodiversity that hid it from view for so many centuries.
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