The soaring peaks of the Andes and the cultural legacies of the Incas are two of Peru’s most compelling attractions. We discover both and much more on this amazing 2 week adventure.
After savouring the historical and cultural highlights of Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas whilst taking our time acclimatising, we commence our trek. For a week we explore the wilderness following trails to 5000m in the Cordillera Vilcabamba and establishing camp beneath the spectacular 6220m Mount Salcantay.
This stunning trail is much quieter than the busier Inca Trail and is highly regarded by past trekkers. On the final day we join the classic Inca Trail for the dramatic view of Machu Picchu from the ‘Sun Gate’. Rather than rushing back to Cusco, we spend a night in Aguas Calientes for a well deserved soak in the hot springs before heading back to Machu Picchu at the best time of day, as the sun is rising.
You will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel where you are free to rest in the hotel or just wander around Miraflores, the area of Lima where our hotel is located. Some of Lima's best galleries and shops and restaurants are found in this area.
Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, Lima is the oldest capital in South America, with a superb combination of Spanish Colonial and 19th century European architecture. If you have time to visit a museum we would recommend the Museo de La Nacion or the Larco Herrera Museum.
FLIGHT ACROSS THE ANDES TO CUSCO
Early morning wake-up call (in some cases very early as most flights leave for Cusco early morning!) for breakfast and short drive to the airport for spectacular 55-minute flight across the Andes to Cusco set at 11,200' (3,400m). If possible try and get a seat on the left side of the aircraft as some of the best views of the Andes can be seen during the last 20 minutes of the flight.
You'll be met by your guide and transferred from Cusco airport to our hotel for a short initial briefing and then a few hours of rest, essential to initiate successful acclimatisation. In the evening you'll have a longer briefing to discuss aspects of the itinerary and in particular the trek. B
TOUR OF THE CITY AND NEARBY RUINS
Every alleyway we enter or corner we turn brings another surprise or enigma in the form of the superbly constructed Inca walls or the more architecturally extravagant colonial churches and palaces.
The city, once capital of the extensive Inca Empire, has seen many changes since Francisco Pizarro's men took the city with such apparent ease in November 1533. We also take a short drive to visit the monolithic walls of Sacsayhuaman, spectacularly set above the city.
In the afternoon you may have time to explore some of the central parts of the city and a chance to look at some of the great varieties of local craft work on sale in open air stalls and shop. B
DRIVE AND WALK DOWN INTO THE SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS
We leave Cusco and head to the Chinchero Plateau from where we get impressive views of three mountain ranges. We then walk down through the remarkable Inca Salt Pans below Maras.
We end up in the Sacred Valley near a good restaurant where we can savour dishes made with locally grown produce. After a leisurely lunch we head for our hotel in the valley. The rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy beauty of this famous valley. B
SECOND DAY IN THE SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS
Another day in this beautiful place. The valley actually follows the course of the famous Urubamba River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon River. During our time here we visit some of the enthralling citadels, fortresses and temple ruins that are found along the valley including the site at Ollantaytambo.
The village itself is a fascinating mixture of Inca and Colonial architecture. If the weather is good and we have time we can enjoy some short walks in the valley - a good way to prepare for the trek ahead. The evening is spent preparing for the trek at our hotel. B
ON THE TRAIL TO SALKANTAY
Early morning departure for the beautiful 5-hour drive north to the trailhead at Mollepata 11,200' (3,400m), where we meet up with the muleskinners and their pack animals. After a picnic lunch we start hiking (3 to 4 hours) steadily upwards towards our first night's campsite below Soraypampa 12,300' (3,750m). We also get our first views of Salcantay's sister peak - Humantay 19,700’ (5,950m). BLD
TREK UP THE VALLEY BETWEEN SALKANTAY AND HUMANTAY
Early in the morning we have a wake-up call with a cup of tea brought to our tent. A relatively early start to the day's hiking begins just after breakfast. Up to the lunch spot will involve about 3 hours of hiking steadily gaining altitude. We stop for lunch at Salcantaypampa 13,600 (4,150m), set at the foot of an enormous glacial moraine.
Two or three more hours of steady hiking after lunch brings us to Ichupata 14,400' (4,400m), set on the flanks of the great 20,574' (6,271m) peak, Salcantay ('The Maker of the Skies') which dominates the skyline for most of the trekking days. This camp tends to be fairly cold because of its proximity to the Salcantay Massif, but since our pack animals and cooks will have set out earlier, we should find the camp already set up and a fresh pot of tea awaiting our arrival! BLD
THE HIGHEST PASS - INCACHIRIASCA
Superbly set on one of Salcantay's ridges, this 'classic' mountain pass affords wonderful views of the dramatic surroundings. After a relaxing photo stop and rest at the pass, we start to head down to follow the ancient trail to our next camp set on a lovely little plateau at Acobamba above Sisaypampa. BLD
WE DESCEND TO PAUCARCANCHA AND UP TO THE VILLAGE OF Q’ESCA.
From the foot of Salcantay at Acobamba we descend the Pampacahuana valley with its small and primitive shepherds homes and its impressive pre Inca canal to the fairly extensive set of ruins at Paucarcancha set at around 11,000' (3,350m).
After a short visit to this outpost of the Inca empire we start to trek up a beautiful hanging valley, through the village of Q’esca towards the Ancascocha Pass. We camp just above this small village – home to shepherds and potato farmers. (We might also consider staying higher up and taking an alternative route to Quesca) Camp. BLD
TREK OVER THE ANCASCOCHA PASS
Another early morning as we say farewell to the Q'esqa valley and start climbing up to our second pass. Called Ancascocha Casa - this pass affords us superb views of three mountain ranges including the Vilcabamba, Vilcanota and Urubamba. From the pass we descend fairly steeply past two lovely lakes - from above we often see large trout in their deep waters - to the village of Ancascocha itself. We camp near this classic farming village. BLD
DESCEND TO THE SACRED VALLEY AT CHILCA
From Ancascocha we head down a narrow valley whose rivers run right down into the mighty Amazon. As we descend the vegetation becomes less alpine and we start to encounter larger trees - a good chance to spot some of the most common Andean birds in this region - black throated flowerpiercer, great sapphire wing, rusty fronted canastero, creamy crested spine tail, and, if we remember to look up, the Andean condor - the heaviest flying bird in the world! Near the end of our days trek we reach Hatunrumiyoq which affords us perfect views of the large snow peak of Veronica - 19,500' (5,980m).
We camp near the large village of Chilca. If time permits the cooks will prepare a 'pachamanca' - a traditional feast of meat and potatoes cooked in the ground. BLD
WE START THE LAST DAY OF THE TREK
Early morning trek down to railway at Chilca and then take the tourist train to Kilometre 104 on the railway line. From here we trek up to join the last few hours of the fabulous Inca trail to Machu Picchu. On the way we'll take time out to explore the recently cleared extensive ruins of Wiñay Wayna.
Our walk today takes us along an incredibly well preserved section of the trail all impressively set in high jungle. We finally reach Inti Punku (The Gateway to the Sun) awe-inspiringly set above the 'lost city' of Machu Picchu before heading down past great walls made of impossibly large stone blocks and staircases to the this monumental site.
Your first view of the ruins really does take your breath away! After a brief 'first look' at the ruins, we head down by bus to our hotel in Aguas Calientes for a well deserved soak in the nearby hot springs (optional). BL
After a professionally led tour of the site we're free to explore the rest of the amazing sights. Mid-afternoon we depart from Machu Picchu for the extremely pretty train ride back to Ollantaytambo where we transfer to our vehicle for the drive back to Cusco. Here we transfer to our hotel for two nights. B
CUSCO - FREE DAY
A good day to relax, do your washing and re pack after the trek and perhaps a chance to do some 'tourist shopping', selecting from a great variety of expertly made craft work - including alpaca sweaters and hats, ceramics, weavings and traditional Andean instruments. In the evening we prepare for the next stage of our journey through the Andes. B
FLY TO LIMA WHERE TRIP CONCLUDES
After checking out of your hotel you will be transferred (if requested) to the airport for your flight to Lima airport where services end. B
Accommodation: on a twin-share basis throughout.
Meals are as indicated in the itinerary below (14 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 6 dinners)
Internal flight with LAN Peru, the best airline in Peru, between Lima & Cusco return approx US$238
Transport: all private group transfers between airports and hotels etc. and all group transport throughout.
Tours: All guide fees and entrance costs are included on all sections mentioned in the trip itineraries (including: the Machu Picchu National Park entry)
Equipment: All group camping equipment, good quality fibre-filled sleeping bag, fibre-fill jacket, duffle bag, basic medical kits, oxygen (for emergency use only), tents, eating utensils etc. Inflatable mats not included although an Ensolite pad for sleeping on is issued to each person (ThermaRest inflatable mat, can be hired locally)
Trekking Services: Guides, cooks and porters
Cost of laundry and alcoholic beverages (except wine on last trek day)
Excess baggage costs
Original passport (student + ISIC card valid)
Cash in small denominations
Hat or cap
Medium back pack for the way
Rain coat or ponchos
Bottle of water (water to drink the first day)
Sun blocker with high protection factor
Additional storage memory