There’s no better place to fuel up for an Inca Trail trek than Lima, home to a booming food scene full of delicious specialties like ceviche and chicharron. Marvel at the mother of all Inca cities – Machu Picchu – during a guided tour of the site. You can either get there the (very) old-fashioned way via the Inca Trail, or take a train if trekking’s not your thing. Take a guided stroll through Cusco, where Inca temples and Spanish cathedrals alike line the cobblestone streets. Spend time with a community near Ollantaytambo and have a go at the Quechua language over a bite of the local cuisine for lunch
Travel from the heady heights of the Andes to the exotic lowlands of the Amazon on this journey through the best of Peru. Get acquainted with the charm and grace of historic towns before hiking along ancient pathways to Machu Picchu and discovering the heart and soul of the Inca Empire. Then eyeball exotic plant and wildlife in the world’s most remarkable jungle. From vibrant cities to glorious natural wonders, this trip shows you all corners of Peru.
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
After the meeting, go on a walking tour of downtown Lima, one of the most beautiful cities in South America, and an optional dinner with your group. Be sure to get your hands in Peru's national dish of ceviche during your stay. As there's little time spent in Lima, you may like to arrive a few days early to see the sights, including the chic suburb of Miraflores, Central Park, Lovers' Park and the National Museum.
Today, you'll catch an early morning flight to Cusco. You will have a meeting where you will meet the rest of the travelers starting in Cusco. After this important meeting, get acquainted with this charming city's intriguing blend of Inca and Spanish culture on a guided walking tour with your leader. Check out some of Cusco's main attractions, as well as its lesser-known sights such as the Qoricancha temple, San Pedro market, the main square, the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square. End the walking tour with a visit to the Chocolate Museum where you get to sample hot chocolate made from local cacao beans. There’s also a small store where you can shop handicrafts and artisanal chocolate products. Don't miss the opportunity to sample mate de coca (coca tea) while here.
Sacred Valley - Ollantaytambo (2792m)
Travel by private bus through the Sacred Valley for about two hours. Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, the valley has been a source of livelihood to the locals for hundreds of years. You’ll see maize crops covering the terraced valley walls and the sacred river beneath. Stop for lunch in a local community, where you'll also get the chance to learn about their traditional lifestyle and maybe wrap your tongue around a few words of the Quechua language. If it’s market day, you'll have time to browse the local handicrafts on offer, such as beads and ponchos. Continue your journey to the town of Ollantaytambo where we check out the town’s archaeological site – a magnificent example of Inca urban planning – which includes remnants of an Inca city and soaring views over the present-day settlement. Spend the night in Ollantaytambo.
Inca Trail (3100m) or Quarry Trail (3700m) or Cusco
Depending on the travel arrangements you made before the trip, during the next four days you’ll be doing one of the following: hiking the Inca Trail (Route 1), hiking the Quarry Trail (Route 2) or staying in Cusco for another two days before taking the train to Aguas Calientes (Route 3).
While away from Cusco, the bulk of your luggage will be stored at your hotel. If you’re hiking the Inca Trail or the Quarry Trail, the evening before you leave Cusco you'll receive a small duffle bag to carry your clothes in for the next four days (5kg maximum). Your team of porters will carry these bags for you, together with the food and equipment for the trail. Please note that you won't have access to these items until the end of each day, as the porters will always be ahead of the group. If you’re travelling to Aguas Calientes by train, you'll be able to leave most of your luggage at the hotel in Cusco and travel with only a small bag for the excursion by train.
Route 1 Inca Trail:
Today travel by minivan to the 82 kilometre marker and meet your crew of local porters, cook and guide. The first day includes uphill trekking to the campsite, which is at 3100m above sea level. On the way you’ll see the Inca sites of Ollantaytambo, Huillca Raccay and Llactapata, as well as incredible views of snow-capped Veronica Peak. In the evening, unwind at the campsite with a nourishing meal.
The Inca Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but please come prepared, as the trail is 45 kilometres long and often steep. Each day's journey generally consists of seven hours of walking (uphill and downhill), with stops for snacks and lunch. Trekking usually begins at 7 am (except on the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 5 pm. Accommodation on the trek is camping (three nights). Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.
Route 2 Quarry Trail:
Make an early start today and drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Incas worshipped the moon. Drive to the starting point of the trek, Rafq'a, and meet the horsemen who join us on the hike. After an hour’s walk, reach the small community of Socma. Carry on to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout, an opportunity to stop for photos and a food break. Continue to the campsite, which is 3700 metres above sea level. You should reach the campsite around lunchtime. After lunch, set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which once served as a checkpoint to the Incas.
The Quarry Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people. The hike is 26 kilometres long in total and its highest pass is at 4450 metres above sea level. Throughout the trek, horses will carry your gear and camping equipment. The first two nights are spent camping and the third night you will stay at a simple hotel. Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.
Route 3 Cusco:
After spending the night in the Ollantaytambo, leave around 9.30 am and take a short drive to the town of Pisac. Pisac is well known for its market. Here you’ll have the opportunity to shop for souvenirs and perhaps try some local Empanadas. Arrive back into Cusco in the afternoon, where your leader will take you to San Pedro Market in order to buy some things for a picnic tomorrow.
Inca Trail (3650m) or Quarry Trail (3600m) or Cusco
Route 1 Inca Trail:
This is the most challenging day of the trek as you ascend a long steep path (approximately five hours) to reach the highest point of the trail. Colloquially known as 'Dead Woman's Pass', Warmiwanusca sits at a height of 4200 metres above sea level, providing amazing views of the valley below. The group will then descend to the campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3650 metres.
Route 2 Quarry Trail:
This is the most challenging and rewarding day of the hike. A three-hour walk takes us to the top of the first pass of Puccaqasa (approximately 4370 metres high). After enjoying picturesque views of the valley, it’s a short walk before stopping for lunch. Afterwards, make the two-hour hike to Kuychicassa, the highest pass of the trek at 4450 metres. From here, descend to the sacred site the Incas called Intipunku (Sun Gate), with views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. Head to the campsite, only a stone’s throw away and at 3600 metres.
Route 3 Cusco:
Today, take a taxi to Tambomachay, an archaeological site just outside of Cusco. From here you’ll take a short downhill walk (between one and three hours) back to Cusco. On the way, stop to admire some of the archaeological sites, including Puka Pukara, Qinqu Quenqo and Saksaywaman. Arrive back in Cusco in the afternoon and enjoy some free time to go shopping, or perhaps visit Merida, Mendivil and Olave art galleries and workshops. Your tour leader will be able to give you some suggestions or point you in the right direction.
Inca Trail (2650m) or Aguas Calientes (2040m)
Route 1 Inca Trail :
Start the day with a climb through the Pacaymayo Valley to Runkuracay pass (3980 metres). Enjoy views of the snow-capped mountain of Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending for around two to three hours to the ruins of Sayacmarca. Continue over the trail’s third pass to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (3850 metres), also known as 'Town Above the Clouds'. Start the two-hour descent down the Inca steps to the final night's campsite by the Winay Wayna archaeological site.
Route 2 Quarry Trail to Aguas Calientes:
Today’s hike will all be downhill. The first stop is the incomplete Kachiqata quarry, where the Incas were intercepted by the Spanish. Around midday, come to the end of the trek. Explore the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo before taking the short train journey to Aguas Calientes. This is where you’ll meet up with the travellers in your group who didn't hike. Visiting the natural hot springs in town is a soothing way to spend the late afternoon. Spend the night in a comfortable hotel before tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu.
Route 3 Train to Aguas Calientes:
After a drive to Ollantaytambo (about one and a half hours), catch a train through the winding Urubamba Valley to Aguas Calientes (another one and a half hours). The city is nestled in the cloud forest at the foot of Machu Picchu. For those who want a sneak peak, there is time to visit Machu Picchu independently before a guided tour the following day. Otherwise, you can while away the afternoon in the natural hot springs at Aguas Calientes.
Machu Picchu (2430) - Cusco
Route 1 Inca Trail:
This is the final and most spectacular leg of the trek to Machu Picchu. The day starts before dawn with breakfast at 4 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and then begin hiking by 4.30 am. Once the final checkpoint opens at 5 am, begin the final leg of the trek. The walk to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) takes around two-and-a-half hours. Weather permitting, enjoy unforgettable views over the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ as you enter Machu Picchu through the Sungate.
Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail:
Depending on weather conditions, take a bus at 5.30 am this morning along the winding road to Machu Picchu. The journey takes around 30 minutes. At Machu Picchu, join up with the travellers in your group who hiked the Inca Trail. If skies are clear, enjoy a spectacular views over the ancient city from the Sun Gate, before going on a guided walk around the ruins.
Route 3 Train:
Take an early bus up to Machu Picchu at 5.30 am. The city was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for Incan nobility, but there’s evidence that the land had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Take a guided tour around the ruins of temples, palaces and living quarters, and enjoy free time afterwards to wander around on your own before the group returns to Cusco.
Visiting Machu Picchu:
According to Machu Picchu visiting regulations, all visitors must follow a pre-determined route within the site. This route must be followed in one direction only and once the guided visit commences exiting and re-entering the site is not permitted. Once the guided visit concludes, visitors must exit the site and personal exploration of Machu Picchu is not permitted.
For all routes after taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, it's time to return to Cusco for a Pisco sour. Your evening is then free for the last night of your adventure.
UPDATES ON VISITING MACHU PICCHU:
On June 30th 2019 Peruvian authorities released a new list of regulations for visiting Machu Picchu, which came into effect from July 1st. The main points impacting our visits are:
- Tickets are now only valid only for one entry, that means that travellers cannot leave the site and re-enter as we have in the past.
- Once travellers begin on a chosen circuit (out of 3) they cannot walk backwards and once they finish the circuit they must leave the site. They cannot explore afterwards.
- The two allotted times to visit are 6am-12pm and 12-4.30pm
- It will be mandatory to have a guide (official Machu Picchu guide, not our leaders) to visit the site. However, this rule cannot currently be applied as there are not enough official guides to cover the large amount of people visiting so authorities are being flexible.
These new regulations affect how much time our travellers can spend in Machu Picchu. In the past, after a 1-2.5 hour tour passengers could stay longer to explore the site unguided, this is not possible anymore. There is an option for travellers to explore the upper part of Machu Picchu (Sun Gate and Inka Bridge) before their guided tour starts (so about 2 hours before meeting the guide). Your leader will provide more information on what the group options are at the welcome meeting.
Enjoy free time to delve deeper into all Cusco has to offer. Those with weary legs may want to simply grab a coffee from a cafe at Plaza de Armas and do some people-watching.
The Manos Unidas cafe is a great choice for a meal. In addition to serving up delicious food, this central pizzeria also provides vocational training to young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For those who can't get enough active adventure, the hills that surround Cusco are well-suited for some mountain biking. Ask your tour leader for advice on optional activities and how to make the most of your free day.
Say goodbye to your Cusco leader. This morning you will take an unescorted flight to the frontier town of Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon Jungle, where you'll be staying for two nights. Upon your arrival, the lodge staff will take you to their office in town. Pack a small duffle bag with clothing and other items needed for two days in the jungle, stow the rest of your luggage and then travel by private vehicle to the water. Here, board a motorised canoe and cruise deep into the jungle. The journey to your eco-lodge in the Madre de Dios region will take around three hours, and you'll be given a packed lunch on the way. Arrive and settle into your thatched-roof lodge before a short orientation walk of the immediate area and a briefing. Spend the evening getting acquainted with the sights and smells of the jungle and fall asleep to the sounds of nature.
Leave behind the natural wonders of the Amazon and return to Puerto Maldonado where a short two-hour flight will take the group back to Lima. One of our local representatives will meet you at the airport and who accompany you back to the hotel in Lima. The rest of the day is then free to explore more of Lima's sights and perhaps do some last-minute souvenir shopping. In the evening, maybe gather the group together for one last night out on the town.
The adventure comes to an end today after breakfast; there are no planned activities today.