Cusco and the Inca Trail
How unbelievable is it that you can actually walk the footsteps of the Incas to an ancient citadel in the heart of the Andes? Discover a breathtaking hike to Machu Picchu as you explore the Inca Trail on a 4-day journey. This top-rated trekking route will take you through ever-changing ecosystems, from high Andean plains to lush green cloudforest, leading you to enigmatic archaeological sites hidden under jungle overgrowth in such a way that it’ll make you feel like you’re discovering it for the first time. The trek finishes with an awe-inspiring sunrise at the lost city of the Incas: Machu Picchu.
- Try a traditional Peruvian dish Pachamanca or “Earth Pot”
- Hike the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
- Enjoy an active biking excursion to Maras and Moray
Arrival to Cusco and transfer to the Sacred Valley
Welcome to Peru! Upon arrival to Cuzco airport, we will be met by our local staff who will welcome us and take us on our private transportation to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Because of its lower elevation (2,870 meters above sea level or 9,415 feet) and its peaceful atmosphere, the Sacred Valley is the perfect place to enjoy your first days in Cusco as you adapt to the high altitude. Our guide will handle your travel kit and brief you quickly on your upcoming adventure. Then you’ll have free time to have lunch and enjoy the rest of the day at your own pace. We recommend walking through the cobblestone streets of Ollantaytambo.
Ollantaytambo fortress and Pachamanca experience
This morning we’ll start our day with a nice breakfast and a picturesque walk to the archaeological site of Ollantaytambo. This impressive Inca complex is one of the best-preserved examples of Inca architecture in the world, and it is said to have protected the area from invasions from the Amazon Basin. We’ll also be able to explore Ollantaytambo’s village and its colorful, cobblestone streets. Our day’s excitement will continue with a traditional Andean experience when we participate in the cooking of a “Pachamanca”. Literally translated as “Earth Pot” from the Quechua language, Pachamanca is a traditional technique where food is prepared below the ground with pre-heated stones and covered with banana leaves to protect the ingredients from the soil. A typical meal will usually consist of potatoes, sweet potatoes, fava beans, corn, oca and other Andean native products, as well as beef or lamb and Andean aromatic herbs.
In the afternoon, you’ll have some time off to rest or keep exploring Ollantaytambo at your leisure. We recommend going on a short hike to Pinkuylluna, located on the mountain opposite of Ollantaytambo, and believed to have been Inca storehouses for crops that were harvested in the surrounding agricultural terraces. The 30-minute long, free hike is definitely worth the effort, especially as you’ll have unparalleled views of the village and the fortress of Ollantaytambo. Another option is for you to relax and enjoy a good cup of coffee in the village.
Inca Trail – Piscacucho to Huayllabamba
The famous Inca trail starts in Piscacucho, a community located at kilometer 82 of the railway from Cusco to Quillabamba, where we’ll meet with a team of porters, cooks and assistants that will help us during the whole trek. After passing the registration checkpoint at Piscacucho (the first checkpoint of the route where our guide will check the group, giving passports and entrance tickets to the officers) we’ll cross the Urubamba River, from where we’ll start a gentle climb alongside the valley until reaching the Llactapata Archaeological Site. This amazing place is where we’ll set up our tent for lunch time. Here, we’ll also leave the Urubamba Valley behind and set off up the Kusichaca River. The trail will take us uphill to our first campsite in the community of Huayllabamba, where we’ll spend the night.
Inca Trail – Huayllabamba to Pacaymayo
Behold! For many travelers, the second day of the trek is the hardest because we have to climb from 3,000m/9,842ft to 4,200m/13,776ft and then walk back down to 3,590m/11,788ft. We’ll leave our camp in Huayllabamba and start a steep climb of one hour until Ayapata. We’ll continue to follow the trail, climbing steeply alongside the Llullucha River in a zone with dense forests and lush vegetation, from where the trail becomes even steeper along a narrow 3km hike. The landscape is usually blooming with humid polylepis woodlands, bromeliads and quenelles which definitely reward the effort! Finally, we’ll reach Llulluchapampa which is the last point of the trail where we can buy snacks and bottled water; also, restrooms are available at this point. From here, a path on the left side of the valley climbs up to Wamiwañusca pass known by the local villagers as the “Dead Woman´s Pass”, the highest point of the Inca Trail (4,200m/13,776ft). This wonderful spot is where we’ll savour our day’s victory, taking in the superb views of both sides of the mountain range. We’ll rest for a while on this amazing place at the top of the mountain until we start our steep descent to the Pacaymayo campsite, where we’ll rest for the night.
Inca Trail – Pacaymayo to Wiñaywayna
The third day of the trail is certainly a wonderer. You’ll hike wide-eyed as you try to take in all of the surrounding beauty from the moment we leave Pacaymayo in the early morning. Our steep ascent will take us to Runcurakay, a circular, archaeological site with a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. Then, we’ll continue our climb up to the second pass of the route, the Runcuracay pass at 3,950m/12,960f, from where we’ll enjoy pure magic in the scenery around us. In front of us, the Vilcambama mountain range and Pumasillo peak sit majestically, and behind us, the snow-capped top of the Veronica Mountain guards the valley. We’ll descend passing close to the Qomercocha lagoon until we reach the archeological site of Sayaqmarka (3,600m/11,811ft). After visiting the site, the trek will take us to climb more stairs and cross an Inca tunnel carved from rock. Once in the Puyupata pass (3,660m/12,007ft), we’ll make a short stop for lunch and a brief rest to enjoy the landscape. Ten minutes later, we’ll reach the Phuyupatamarka site or “Town above the clouds” at 3,630m/11,909ft. After that, we’ll continue our way to Wiñaywayna, our finish line for today. The descent from Phuyupatamarka into the cloud forest is a perfect example of the excellent engineering skills the Incas developed. Then, three hours after leaving Phuyupatamarka, we’ll reach Wiñaywayna or “Forever Young” at 2,700m/8,858ft, which is one of the most beautiful Inca sites on the route and where we’ll spend our last night before heading to Machu Picchu!
Inca Trail – Wiñaywayna to Machu Picchu
Rise and shine! On our last day, we’ll leave our sleeping bags really early! The checkpoint at Wiñaywayna opens at 5:30am, so nobody can leave before that time. Nevertheless, it’s worth getting to the checkpoint early enough to be amongst the first ones in line, because this will increase our chances of getting to the Intipunku or “The Sun Gate” before this morning’s first rays sunlight shine upon Machu Picchu. This is something we definitely don´t want to miss! The rare chance to see the long lost Inca citadel bathed in the golden light of the day’s first rays. From Wiñaywayna to Intipunku it’s just a two-hour hike and the final descent to the citadel takes about 15 minutes. After passing the official checkpoint and last control point, we are ready to explore Machu Picchu. We´ll visit the citadel with a professional guide and then have some time to explore it by ourselves. In the afternoon we’ll take the train back to Cusco.
Day at leisure in Cusco
You made it! After an exhausting but incredible hike, today you finally have a free day to relax and regain some energy. Cusco, ancient capital of the Inca Empire, is a gorgeous city with rich history and architecture with which you’ll fall in love from the moment your start exploring it. Its historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site,a and you’ll find plenty of colonial mansions built next to perfectly preserved Inca walls – talk about a city of contrasts! We’ll be happy to give you plenty of recommendations to make the most of your days, and we guarantee you’ll enjoy the city’s streets, plazas, colorful markets and exquisite restaurants.
Biking to Maras and Moray
This morning, we’ll leave our hotel and drive to Cruzpata, starting point for our mountain bike adventure. This tour is perfect for people wanting to enjoy the Sacred Valley of the Incas in an active way. During our mountain adventure, we’ll delight ourselves in the views of Andean peaks and local villagers working on their daily activities. We’ll visit the Inca experimental agricultural terraces of Moray and afterwards proceed on a downhill dirt road to Maras, where we can stop to visit these incredible salt pools. Our adventure will end at the bottom of the valley, in the small town of Pichingoto, from where our transport will take us back to Cusco.
Today, we’ll have some free time to enjoy a last walk around Cusco’s shops and markets and then, at the coordinated time, we’ll head to Cusco’s airport to board your flight to Lima and international connecting flights to your next destination.
- What’s Included
- Brief presentation prior to departure
- All transfers and transports with the exception of domestic flights (Lima/Cusco/Lima)
- Train tickets (Aguas Calientes/Ollantaytambo/Cusco)
- Bus tickets (Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu/Aguas Calientes)
- All excursions and entrance fees
- English speaking guide in each destination
- Porters for the whole camping equipment
- Meals as detailed in the program (Full board during the Inca trail)
- Specified meals
- Accommodation as specified, including 03 camping nights at the Inca Trail
- Entrance tickets to all tourist attractions mentioned in the itinerary including the Inca Trail