For those who like their comforts. After acclimatising in Cusco you take the stunning Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu spending each night in a luxury lodge.
Day 1 – Afternoon walking tour of Cusco historic centre
Before you enjoy this spectacular Salkantay trek lodge to lodge you will visit several sites of cultural interest, starting in Cusco, this time is also great acclimatization for your trek. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Cusco is an architectural and cultural jewel of a city set in the South-eastern Andes of Peru. The city is also the gateway for the magnificent Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, the starting point for treks along one of the famous Inca Trails, and the perfect base for exploring the many other sights of the Sacred Valley.
This former capital of the Inca Empire stands at 3350m above sea level a fascinating mix of colonial churches, monasteries and convents, and extensive, pre-Columbian ruins. Almost every central street has remnants of Inca walls and much of this ancient stonework now serves as foundations for more modern dwellings. Originally named Qósqo, meaning ¨Navel¨, the city was considered to be the center of the world by the Incas. From there the Incas expanded outwards to form what was at the time the world´s largest empire.
In the afternoon you will be collected from your hotel for your walking tour of Cusco’s historical centre. You will be accompanied by a qualified English speaking guide.
You will visit Cusco Cathedral which is one of the finest Colonial Cathedrals in the Americas. Building started in 1560 and was completed in 1664. Situated on the Plaza de Armas, this impressive building lies at the heart of many traditional festivals. When the Conquistadores arrived, bringing Catholicism with them, local people combined many catholic feast days and customs with their own Andean customs and rituals, leading to some of the most colorful yet devout celebrations in the world.
We will then take you to San Pedro market, a fascinating place full of tropical Amazonian fruits, colorful flowers, cuts of meat long since disappeared from western countries and local delicacies such as toad soup. With the help of your knowledgeable guide you will receive a real insight into local life here in the high Andes.
Finally you visit Qoricancha (from the Quechua word Quri Qancha meaning ‘Golden Courtyard’), originally named Inti Qancha (‘Temple of the Sun’). It was the most important temple in the Inca Empire, dedicated primarily to Inti, the Sun God. The Church of Santo Domingo was built on the site, using the ruined foundations of the temple that was flattened by the Spanish in the 17th century, and is a fine example of where Inca stonework has been incorporated into the structure of a colonial building.
Day 2 – Cusco Day walk – Tambomachay, Sacsayhuaman and other Inca ruins
Today is both a great opportunity to acclimatize and a fantastic walk in its own right. Situated on the hillside above Cusco are a series of spectacular Inca ruins. We link them by a series of small, little used paths and the good news is it is almost all downhill. Your expert guide will tell you all about the sites and start to explain the history of the Incas and their great empire.
We start by driving to Tambomachay. Situated at 12,300 feet this was an Inca sanctuary dedicated to the cult of water, and it was reserved for Inca Royalty. The waterfalls in these ruins form part of a terrace to the second wall where the drainage cascades on the first and forms a small pool. We shoulder our daypacks and leave the bus behind here to start our gradual walk back down to Cusco.
Next we visit Puca Pukara (Quechua for red fortress). This is an Inca archaeological site located on the peak of a hill and is thought to be a military position and an administrative centre. Due to its proximity to Tambomachay, it is believed to have had a relationship with its defense, as well as the control of the route to Calca that led to the Antisuyo (Forest County of the Inca).
The route then goes cross country past the intricately carved rocks of the Temple of the Moon and through the maze of rocks and tunnels of the Temple of the Monkey before arriving at Qenqo. This was a sanctuary dedicated to the adoration of animals, and consists of ruins formed by rocks with stairs in a zigzag, and a main building similar to a circular amphitheatre where 19 window sills are located as a way of seats.
You then move on to one of the most important Inca sites in South America, the enormous fortress of Sacsayhuaman. Scene of epic battles between Conquistadores and Incas, this cannot fail to impress. While the high towers that once dominated the skyline were long since razed to the ground, the sheer scale of the zigzag stone walls is a sight to behold. Its construction took over seven decades and required the work of approximately 20,000 men. The stone was dragged from 20 miles away and still today we are not quite sure how they moved the huge megaliths into place. Some of its external walls exceed 30 feet in height and the largest stone weighs over 350 tonnes. From Sacsayhuaman we will head down to Cusco leaving you some time to wander these ancient streets, explore some more of the sites or just sit in a café on the Plaza de Armas and watch the world go by.
Day 3 – Unique Sacred Valley tour with lunch at a local farm
Do something unique while on one of our Peru tours and get away from the crowds and off the beaten track a little. Not only are we offering some unique experiences on this day out, we are also doing the normal Sacred Valley route the other way round to avoid most of the crowds who will be going the “standard” way. From Cusco (or the valley itself if you are staying there) we will start in Ollantaytambo and end in Pisaq.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a very beautiful & historic place whichever tour you take but in an effort to offer extra value and something unique to Escaped to Latin America we have developed a dairy and corn farm tour with farmhouse lunch which also includes a brief look at a small Inca ruin people never normally see. You will also visit the Sacred Valley favorites of the bustling market at Pisaq, an animal rescue sanctuary and also have a guided tour of the very impressive Ollantaytambo site too. This tour is included where there are 4 or more people in your group as the farm has a minimum requirement.
Getting the bulk of the distance out of the way first we travel 1.45 hours from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. This is an attractive little town located at the western end of the Sacred Valley. The town has been built on top of original Inca foundations and is the best surviving example of Inca town planning. The town is divided in canchas (blocks) which are almost entirely intact. Each cancha has only one entrance (usually a huge stone doorway) which leads into a central courtyard. The houses surround the courtyard. The town is located at the foot of some spectacular Inca ruins which protected the strategic entrance to the lower Urubamba Valley.
The temple area is at the top of steep terracing which helped to provide excellent defenses. Stone used for these buildings was brought from a quarry high up on the opposite side of the Urubamba River – an incredible feat involving the efforts of thousands of workers. The complex was still under construction at the time of the conquest and was never fully completed. After a guided tour of the site you will drive down the valley towards Calca.
After 30 minutes you will arrive at the small, rarely visited ruin of Urco near the town of Calca (pictured above) where you will be given a description of the site and the ancient farming practices that were undertaken on the extensive terraces which have been now fully restored. It is very unlikely you will see anyone else at these ruins as it is well off the beaten track. You will then walk down the hill to the family-run dairy and corn farm where you will be shown around the facilities, the animals, the machinery, and be shown how the largest corn in the world is grown in this unique climate. This is a working farm, not a staged event, the people you see are doing what they do every day.
You will then have a fantastic farmhouse lunch which you will enjoy, with a family member or two, at a large table with views over the corn fields (or inside the farmhouse if very windy), vegetarians please advise us beforehand as we do have the option to provide for vegetarians. After this hearty lunch and a chat with the locals you will have chance to stretch out in the farm grounds for a short while before continuing down the Sacred Valley to your next stop.
The market town of Pisac is next, which is a great place to buy local artisan goods if you are in the shopping mood, if not just feel free to wander about and see what people are up to. Often you will see the locals that come in from the surrounding hills to sell or barter their goods, you will find locals selling all sorts of things and not just to tourists, but between themselves too. The side streets are possibly even more interesting as you can often see inside houses and patios and witness people going about their daily chores.
Our final stop will be an animal rescue center on the road back to Cusco. This place has been set up to rescue some of the iconic animals and birds of Peru from unscrupulous people who were using and mistreating them. To learn more about this please read our Blog. We make a donation for each passenger to help the efforts, if you decide to donate a little more then the animals and birds will be even safer! After this excellent visit getting up close and personal with huge Condors, among other animals, you will be taken back to your hotel in Cusco to rest after a very full day out.
Day 4 – Cusco to Salkantay Lodge
Overnight at Salkantay Lodge at 3,869 m/12,690 ft
Note: On the evening before this day there will be a briefing with your guide in Cusco. After an early breakfast, we are picked up starting at 7:00 am at your Cusco hotel by a MLP guide and vehicle. En route we take a short break to visit the Inca ruins of Tarawasi near the town of Limatambo (approx. 1.5 hrs from Cusco). After leaving Limatambo, we pass through the mountain village of Mollepata where we stop for a short coffee break before ascending a winding mountain road to a place called Marcoccasa (30 minutes from Mollepata by vehicle). Here, we begin our trek to Soraypampa, on an old route called the “Camino Real” (Royal Path). This is a good opportunity for everyone to acclimate, while enjoying a beautiful six hour trek. Salkantay Lodge takes its name from the majestic peak at the head of the valley – Mt. Salkantay, the second most sacred peak in Inca mythology and, at 6,270 m (20,600 ft), the highest in the region. After a warm welcome by our friendly staff, we are shown to our rooms and have time to freshen-up, before tea and cookies. The trip leader will hold a briefing by the fireplace, followed by aperitifs and dinner.
Trekking Time: Approximately 6 hours (including picnic lunch en route)
Hiking Level: Moderate
Option: Guests who do not wish to trek the whole way may be transported to the lodge by vehicle
Day 5 – A Hike to Humantay Lake
Overnight at Salkantay Lodge at 3,869 m/12,690 ft
Today we take an acclimatization hike on the slopes above the lodge to Lake
Humantay, fed by the hanging glaciers of Mt. Humantay. The hike is optional, but the views are amazing, and those brave enough can even go for a dip. We return to the lodge for lunch with your afternoon at leisure, after which you may choose to trade the glacial swim for a relaxing soak in our outdoor jacuzzi. We spend the night at the Salkantay Lodge with gourmet food and warm, comfortable beds. In the evening, the guide briefs us on gear and the itinerary for the following day. All meals are served at the Lodge.
Trekking Time: Approximately 4 hours
Hiking Level: Moderate to Challenging
Day 6 – Crossing the Salkantay Pass
Overnight at Wayra Lodge at 3,906 m/12,812 ft
This is the big day! After an early start, we hike up the Rio Blanco valley, circling Humantay Peak across from Salkantay Peak. The highest point on the trek is the Salkantay Pass at 4,638 m (15,213 ft). At the pass we stop to take in views of snow capped peaks of the Vilcabamba Range in every direction, the glaciated south face of Salkantay towering above us. We will keep our eyes out for Andean condors
Trekking Time: 6–8 hours (including lunch)
Hiking Level: Challenging, crossing a 4,638m (15,213 ft) mountain pass
Option: Horseback Riding (see additional information on page 10)
Day 7 – Descending into the Cloud Forest
Overnight at Colpa Lodge at 2,870 m/9,414 ft
On this day we enjoy a leisurely breakfast at Wayra Lodge. We then begin our trek by hiking downhill above the Salkantay River, through increasingly verdant scenery. The Colpa Lodge is located in an open promontory at the confluence of three rivers. The outdoor hot tub in this lodge has prominent views of lush green mountains and a small, far-away, local town.
Trekking Time: 3–4 hours
Hiking Level: Easy to Moderate
Day 8 – Following the Santa Teresa River Valley
Overnight at Lucma Lodge at 2,135 m/7,003 ft
We depart early today and head down the Santa Teresa River Valley, through more populated rural areas. We will pass through banana, granadilla, and avocado orchards and coffee plantations (said to be one of the best organic coffees in the world). We stop along the river for a hot picnic lunch. After another hour of trekking a private vehicle arrives to take us to the beginning of the “Llactapata Inca Trail” (30- minute drive). From the head of the trail it is a short climb (30 min.) to the Lucma Lodge, set in an avocado orchard. We arrive in time to allow for exploration of the small village of Lucmabamba and possibly meeting with members of the local community.
Trekking Time: 5–6 hours (including lunch)
Hiking Level: Moderate to Challenging (because of distance, not terrain)
Day 9 – First Views of Machu Picchu from Llactapata Pass
After an early start and a hearty breakfast, we tackle the last day of our trek. We head uphill for 2-3 hours towards Llactapata pass (2,736m/8,974ft), where we come upon a distant but quite special view of Machu Picchu from the southwest, a view few tourists ever glimpse. An added value are the Llactapata Ruins, which have recently been restored. Lunch is provided at the observatory, in view of Machu Picchu. We then begin our final descent to the Aobamba River through lush bamboo forests and more orchards and coffee plantations. Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu are a short (30 minutes), scenic train ride away. We then arrive in Aguas Calientes to check-in to our hotel for the night.
Overnight in Aguas Calientes at 1,900 m/6,232 ft
Trekking Time: 4–6 hours
Hiking Level: Moderate to Challenging
Day 10- Visit Machu Picchu Sanctuary
Return to Cusco at 3,360 m/11,021 ft
We wake up early to have breakfast at the hotel and then make our way to the bus station for the ride up to Machu Picchu. A complete guided tour of Machu Picchu will be provided. Guests will have about 4 additional hours to explore the site on their own—there is a lot to do and see. Afterwards, we will return by bus to Aguas Calientes for lunch and to go to the train station for the afternoon departure. The train takes us to Ollantaytambo, where a private vehicle awaits to take us to Cusco. Upon arrival in Cusco (approximately 7-8pm) we will drop guests off at the hotel of their choice.
Day 11 – Home or on to another tour?
Today we will transfer you to the airport at a pre-arranged time. Or perhaps you would like to add on some extra days in Cusco, or see some more of Peru with one of our fantastic extensions.