Gentle hotel based walking to Machu Picchu
A wonderful week of day hikes in Cusco and the Sacred Valley culminating with hiking the Inca Trail through the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu Each day you will hike along little known Inca Trails and learn about the fascinating cultures of Peru, both past and present. These gentle hikes show you all the main sites and allow you to walk away from the crowds and see the real Peru that lies beyond. And at the end of each day, you can relax in comfortable local lodgings.
Visit the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral and the Qoricancha temple of the sun and perhaps take in the sights, sounds and smells of San Pedro food market too.
Welcome to Cusco- touch down, collect your luggage and meet your guide, then drive twenty minutes through the colorful South American streets to your hotel.
Check in and freshen up then enjoy a tasty lunch in the Coffee Museum where you can learn about the story and people behind this popular drink.
After lunch step out into the Cusco streets and explore with one of our carefully chosen guides. They are not only very knowledgeable but also great fun to be with. You do not want to cram too much in on your first day at altitude, so relax and get used to being up high with a gentle walk around this old Inca capital.
Visit the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral and the Qoricancha temple of the sun and perhaps take in the sights, sounds and smells of San Pedro food market too. If you normally shop in supermarkets and farmers markets, you are in for a surprise. Stands full of juicy exotic fruits, counters heaving with cow heads and sheep hooves and cheerful local women selling handmade cheeses, local bread, healthy juices, and even toad soup.
The evening is free to relax and wander around the UNESCO World Heritage Site city center. Night in Cusco.
Today you stretch your legs with a delightful hike in the hills above Cusco. First, you visit the impressive site of Sacsayhuaman. Huge stone ramparts surround a beautiful grass amphitheater. Once the scene of fierce battles it now hosts the annual re-enactment of traditional Inca ceremonies such as Inti Raymi and Warachikuy. Sundays also see families from Cusco head up here to play, fly kites and dig the traditional huatias, a method of cooking potatoes in the ground.
Next is the Inca water temple of Tambo Machay lying at 3700m (12,000 feet) followed by a special picnic lunch. A trail through the fields leads you to the intricately carved Inca Temple of the Moon. From here a beautifully preserved section of royal Inca Trail leads you down into the old San Blas district, home to the city’s artists and finally into the Plaza de Armas.
Leaving Cusco behind you start your journey to Machu Picchu. The hike starts at the fascinating circular ruins of Moray. While some think it was a landing pad for alien spaceships, more likely is that the Incas built this as an experimental agricultural center. Concentric circular terraces allowed them to simulate different facing slopes and different growing temperatures to see what crops would grow where. After exploring Moray you take a mainly downhill trail through the fields. Depending on the time of year, you may have a chance to stop and chat with local farmers digging their fields of corn or planting potatoes. Perhaps you could have a go with the hand tools that have been used for centuries.
Along the way, you stop for a homemade picnic with marvelous views across to the snowcapped Vilcanota mountains before carrying on down to the spectacular salt pans of Maras. Here you can stop and watch as local families extract the salt by hand, much as they have done for centuries. You could even buy some of the famous Maras Pink Salt as a souvenir. Finally, you take the old track down to the Sacred Valley, where once llamas, then horses carried out the salt to be sent across the empire.
Your support vehicle is on hand most of the day, should anyone prefer to take a ride rather than walk at any point.
Lace up your boots for a challenging twelve-kilometer hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Whilst walking all you need is your daypack as your over-night luggage will be transferred to your hotel in Machu Picchu town to await your arrival. You start the day with an early transfer to catch the train towards Machu Picchu. Jumping off at km104 you pass through the control point and begin your Inca Trail trek.
First, you visit the recently restored ruins of Chachabamba before gradually ascending through tropical cloud forest up towards the base of Wiñay Wayna. Here you climb more steeply on old Inca stairways through these beautiful terraces, stopping to explore the various buildings and water features. This is also a lovely spot to have your specially prepared boxed lunch.
You then continue on perhaps the loveliest part of the whole Inca Trail. Lush vegetation flanks you on either side, the scent of wild orchids fills the air, and all around you brightly colored tropical songbirds fill your ears with song.
Soon you will reach a final set of stairs to arrive at Inti Punku, the gateway of the Sun. As you step through the old stone gate-way, Machu Picchu appears laid out before your eyes. After plenty of photos, you carry on past this wonder of the world to catch the bus down to the lively town of Machu Picchu Pueblo and a well-deserved hotel and shower.
Total hiking distance: 11 km
Today you explore the pinnacle of Inca engineering – Machu Picchu. For years it was lost to the jungle. Rediscovered in 1911 by the Yale professor Hiram Bingham, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Machu Picchu exceeds all expectations.
This astounding site lies in an even more astonishing location. Perched high on an inaccessible hilltop it is protected by huge cliffs and the raging Urubamba River. Things are slightly easier now than in the time of the Incas and so you start your day with a twenty-minute bus ride up to the site.
You will arrive early, allowing you to explore the ruins in the company of your guide, before they get too busy. The guided tour takes around two hours leaving you a few hours free to wander amongst the old Inca walls and just sit and take in the scale of the place on your own. For those who want to walk a bit more, you could take the hour-long trail up to the Sun Gate, or a shorter trail to visit the Inca Bridge which once spanned a sheer cliff face.
Eventually, the time comes to catch the bus down to Machu Picchu Pueblo and board your train back along the Urubamba River. The scenery is beautiful and the train jolts softly along, allowing you to sit, stare out the window and reflect on a wonderful week.
Back once more in the old Inca capital, you have time to enjoy all that this city has to offer. Coffee museums, cooking classes, chocolate making, souvenir hunting or even just sitting in one of the many cafes and watching the world go by. The new late flights out of Cusco allow you to really maximize your time and get the most out of this holiday of a lifetime. Your airport transfer is included.
For those with more time, we can offer you extensions to the Amazon rainforest, Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon, and Arequipa or even to little-visited northern Peru.