Explore the spectacular trail to Machu Picchu!
Aug. 15 – Aug. 22, 2021
Follow the footsteps of the Incas who built a high route from their capital city of Cuzco westward through the rugged cordillera, and filled their empire with amazing temples and royal residences. You will camp high, and discover the beauty of tranquil Andean valleys with sublime views toward the 18,000-foot snow-peaks of the Urubamba and Huayanay Ranges. You will also explore amazing Inca stoneworks in an enormous 15th-century quarry site of Cachiqata. After descending into the Sacred Valley of the Incas you will reach the royal Inca town of Ollantaytambo, with its remarkable sun temple. On your final day of the trek, travel to Machu Picchu by train for a full exploration of the famous city.
Day 1: Upon your arrival to Cuzco, you will be greeted by your guide and escorted to your hotel, located in the heart of Cuzco. Today is your day to rest from travel and begin the acclimatization process. In the evening, feast on a traditional Peruvian dinner in the Cuzco Square and get to know your fellow travelers for the week.
Your time spent today and tomorrow is strategically planned to give your body adequate time to acclimate to the high altitude. The two days spent in Cuzco at over 10,000 feet will help make your experience on the trek enjoyable and free of problems related to altitude.
Day 2: Explore Cuzco and the surrounding region today with a guided tour. Cuzco is an architecturally-rich city, perched high in the Andes at 11,000 feet. For centuries, Cuzco was the center and capital of the Inca Empire. Even today, you can witness the historical significance through the Inca stonework throughout the streets and buildings. Explore the city and it’s sites, notably the Plaza de Armas, the Santo Domingo Church, and the imposing hilltop ruins of the monolithic Sacsayhuaman fortress.
Day 3: You will be picked up from your hotel and transferred by van west across the high Anta plain, following the route of the royal Inca Road which led from the capital toward the northern quarter of the empire. First, we must stop at the sacred Inca shrine known as Quillarumi (Moonstone in the Quechua language of the Incas), one of the finest of the carved rock huacas in the vicinity of Cuzco.
We continue to our trailhead by the Huaracondo River where it drains the western edge of the plain, and meet our trail crew, who arrive from nearby communities. Commence trekking on a broad trail northward, above the west bank of the Huaracondo River. After an easy two-hour hike, we reach Huatta, a substantial pre-Inca fortress dominating the crest of a ridge at 12,645 feet. After lunch we continue on our way westward into the range and camp at 12,300 feet next to a rural school in the hamlet of Chiripahua.
Meals: B, L, D
Hiking Distance: 6.5 miles
Day 4: Today, you will climb gradually through fields and glades of the indigenous Chachacomo tree, in a landscape of pastures and small fields clinging to the steep mountainsides. You will climb to a small knoll at 14,432 feet for delicious lunch, then continue up to the col.
From our location atop Accoccasa Pass (15,170 feet) we enjoy breathtaking views of immense snow peaks – the Huaynays to our west, the Urubamba range to the north. We enjoy an easy descent to camp at 14,268 feet in the broad valley of Chancachuco, facing the glaciers of the Huaynay Range.
Meals: B, L, D
Hiking Distance: 5.5 miles
Day 5: Begin your trek westward, gradually descending the high valley, to the headworks of a now-abandoned Inca aqueduct that transported water from the Chancachuco valley north to supply the otherwise-arid north-facing slopes above Ollantaytambo.
While we descend through a flower-filled notch in the valley wall, on the mountainside above us we can glimpse traces of the original stonework, testimony to the extraordinary engineering in the project. We reach our final pass (12,923 feet) and visit a spectacular ridge-top Inca shrine called Huayrapunku (Gate of the Wind), with an astonishing view towards Nevado Veronica (18,637 feet) directly across the valley. The site offers unsurpassed views to the terraces and temple site of the royal town of Ollantaytambo, over 4,000 feet below us. We descend past the curious Inca administrative site of Llaqtallaqtayoq to our camp on a broad terrace at 11,562 feet, at the edge of the enormous Cachiqata quarry.
In the afternoon you will explore the intricate quarry workings including the ramps and work platforms around the largest of the stones.
Meals: B, L, D
Hiking Distance: 7.4 miles to camp, plus optional additional walking in the Inca quarry.
Day 6: Descend on a broad Inca road down through the lower quarry zone, and stop at a key hilltop, from where the worked stones were skidded down the steep slope to the Vilcanota River below us. We continue down, cross the river, and arrive finally at the famous Sun Temple in Ollantaytambo. You will have time to explore the temple and the adjacent village, before catching a late afternoon train to Aguas Calientes.
We will check into a hotel for the night, resting up for our exciting day in Machu Picchu.
Meals: B, L
Hiking Distance: 5 miles
Day 7: Rise early today to enter the site in the morning for an in-depth guided tour of the ridge-top citadel of Machu Picchu. After a day of discovery and wonderment, you will descend to Aguas Calientes and return to Ollantaytambo, continuing by chartered bus to Cuzco in the late afternoon, arriving around 9.30 PM.
On your final day of a trip that you will never forget, take some time to walk around Cuzco and pick up last-minute souvenirs. Before heading to the airport, say your final farewells to Peru and your new travel friends.