DAY 1: Cusco: Capital of the Inca Empire
Our journey begins with an early morning arrival and transfer to our hotel in Cusco. After settling in, we’ll take an afternoon guided walking tour of Cusco, including visits to: Qoricancha (the Temple of the Sun) displaying the best Inca stonework to be seen in Cusco, the Cathedral, and the Colonial and Inca museums. We receive an introduction to Incan history that will assist us in understanding the many ruins we will visit on this trip. The ancient Inca capital of Cusco (11,000 ft.) was founded around 1100 A.D. and today is a colorful colonial city. There is much to see as we allow ourselves time to acclimate. According to the central Inca creation myth, the sun sent his son, Manco Capac and the moon her daughter, Mama Occlo, to spread culture throughout the dark and barbaric lands. When they reached the site of present day Cusco, Manco threw his spear into the ground where it sank in the lush, fertile soil. This was the sign they were looking for, and they named the place Cusco, meaning “navel of the earth.” Overnight in Cusco
DAY 2: Cusco Ruins Walk
We begin today with a short transfer to Tambomachay (Temple of the Water, 12,000 ft). From here, we gradually descend on local paths back towards Cusco, visiting historic ruins including Puka Pukara (the Red Fortress) and Kusilluchayoq (the Temple of the Moon). The views from these ruins are beautiful, and provide many photo opportunities. We complete our walk in the beautiful archeological park of Saqsayhuamán (11,300 ft) enjoying views of the Vilcabamba range throughout the day.
We continue on to visit the local Cusco market, where there will be time for browsing and shopping.
Walking details: 7.5 miles, approximately 6 hours depending on group energy level. Acclimatization day.Overnight in Cusco
DAY 3: Pisac Ruins - Village Market
After breakfast we transfer into the lush Urubamba Valley, situated at 9,900 ft, known as the sacred Vilcamayo to the Incas. It is easy to understand the reverence for this beautiful, verdant valley and we enjoy a relaxing evening here at our home for the next three nights.
Our walk begins in the mountain top ruins of Pisac, one of the finest in the Cusco region. The complex of ruins features fine examples of Inca architecture, defense, religion, agriculture, roads and residential construction. We wind our way through Inca ruins (11,000 ft) down towards the Urubamba Valley floor and the village of Pisac (10,000 ft) where a traditional Andean market awaits us.
Products from the surrounding communities are displayed in full color: an assortment of weavings, fruits, vegetables, spices, livestock, jewelry and clothing. It is a cultural experience to wander through the market and watch the bartering going on as it has for hundreds of years.
We return to our hacienda in the late afternoon with time to relax before dinner. Walking details: 3.8 miles, 3.3 hours.Overnight in Urubamba Valley
DAY 4: Moray, Maras and the Salinas (Salt Terraces)
Today is sure to be one of the most fascinating walks you will ever encounter. We begin by touring the famous circular agricultural terraces of Moray (11,800 ft). Hundreds of years ago the ancient people created this experimental agricultural laboratory in order to develop different strains of crops. This area was chosen due to the fact that the climates of many different ecological zones were found on this one site.
We walk along ancient farming paths to the village of Maras and continue on to the Salinas or Salt Terraces where salt has been collected since pre-Hispanic times. The snow-capped Andes provide the backdrop for our walk to this unique site still used for salt in the highlands. Upon reaching the Urubamba River we continue past the indigenous cliff village of Pichinjoto (9,800 ft) and on to the historic city of Ollantaytambo.
Ollantaytambo is a traditional little town at the foot of some spectacular Inca ruins and terraces, with a street plan that is basically as the Incas designed it so many years ago. We have time to explore before returning to our Andean Retreat Center for the evening.
Walking details: 12 miles, 8 hours.Overnight in Urubamba Valley
DAY 5: Village of Cancha Cancha
Today we commence our walk with a transfer to the trailhead at Huaran (11,000 ft) and begin our gradual uphill walk to the traditional mountain village of Cancha Cancha (13,000 ft), situated at the base of a glacier. We walk alongside a glacial stream where llamas graze, and enjoy the cool morning shade as the sun rises over the Andean peaks on both sides of our path.
Midday, we enter the mountain community of Cancha Cancha and enjoy a picnic with local families. In the afternoon, we visit the small village school. We descend along the local path and return to our warm hacienda late in the afternoon. Throughout the day, we enjoy spectacular views of the Andes as we gain elevation. This day is one of the most challenging and rewarding that the tour has to offer.
Hiking Detail: Approximately 8 miles, 8 hours walking.Overnight in Urubamba Valley
DAY 6: Inca Trail Walk from Machu Picchu
We make a morning transfer to Ollantaytambo where we board our comfortable train, which takes us along the Urubamba River towards Machu Picchu. We depart the train inin Machu Picchu and begin one of the most spectacular and rewarding hikes of our trip. We walk along an original Inca Trail, beginning at 7,000 ft, passing recently excavated ruins and beautiful waterfalls as we approach the Inca experimental agricultural site of Wiñayhuayna (8,000 ft). The ruins of Wiñayhuayna (“forever young”) offer views of newly uncovered agricultural terraces. The site is named after an orchid with red, violet or yellow flowers that was once abundant in this area, and is still growing. The plant blooms year-round, which is why it earned the Quechua name “forever young.” After enjoying a relaxing lunch within the ruin we return to the trail and proceed towards Machu Picchu. We traverse across open mountainside at first, and then enter into a forest of larger trees and giant ferns. At the top of the ridge, the path passes through a ruined gateway flanked by remains of buildings. We have reached Intipunku, the Gate of the Sun, and the principle entrance to Machu Picchu for the Incas. We enjoy our birds-eye view of magnificent Machu Picchu (7,000 ft.) and a quiet afternoon at the site before descending into the valley and the cabanas of our lovely hotel.
Walking details: 7.8 miles, 6.5 hours.Overnight in the Machu Picchu region
DAY 7: Machu Picchu
Those interested in a morning hike will climb the mountain of Huayna Picchu for sunrise on the ruins before we begin our day with a guided tour of the ruins. Our guide and friend, Edwin Duenas, considers this his “office” and offers us insight into the culture and history of the Inca Civilization. This spectacular site offers a combination of Inca buildings, magnificent views, exotic vegetation and unforgettable mountains, all of which make this place a unique treasure for all travelers. Within the site we visit and learn about the Temple of the Sun, the Inca Drawbridge, Three-Windowed Temple, Royal Tomb and many others. Of course there is also time to simply admire the majesty of the slopes overlooking the Urubamba Valley and the spectacular snowcapped Andes.
Overnight in the Machu Picchu region
DAY 8: Train to Cusco
Depending on our train schedule we will have the opportunity for a morning walk before returning by train in late afternoon to Cusco. There is also the possibility of visiting a local potter in Urubamba, or time for last minute shopping. Farewell dinner and festivities tonight.
Overnight in Cusco
DAY 9: Cusco – Departure
Morning group transfer to the airport for flights to Lima (for flights schedule approximately 10:30 a.m.), and connecting flights back home (generally depart late evening) or flights on to Jungle extension.
Note On Difficulty:
This trip is rated moderate to Challenging in terms of walking due to the
altitude of the walks (most above 11,000 ft) as well as the varied
terrain. Expect long yet rewarding
and diverse days with walks on ancient Inca Stone paths as well as local
village dirt paths used today. Walking sticks and appropriate physical training
is imperative for this trip.
Flight Details: You will need to purchase a roundtrip international ticket to Lima, Peru as well as an internal (domestic ticket) roundtrip from Lima to Cusco. In general we recommend taking an overnight flight from the U.S. and connecting directly early morning on a flight to Cusco. This avoids the tiring transfers and overnights in Lima. On the return from Cusco to Lima most airline schedules force a full day in Lima so you will have time to visit Mira Flores, museums, etc. on your final day before returning to the U.S.
The tour includes bilingual local guide as well as U.S. leader throughout the program; all entrance fees to sites, most meals (with the exception of lunch on arrival day and layover day in Machu Picchu), transportation during tour, permits and all fees associated, train ticket from Machu Picchu. Accommodations include comfortable hotels and retreat center.