This truly amazing trek takes us below and beyond the well-known Machu Picchu to a rarely visited place – Espiritu Pampa - the definitive final outpost of the Inca Empire. Following an in depth exploration of Cusco and the Sacred Valley, we visit the fabled Machu Picchu before heading further into the jungle by train and vehicle to the start of our trek into the Vilcabamba region. Following the footsteps of the Incas, we retrace their final journey into the jungle to their recently cleared final hiding place – Espiritu Pampa. This rewarding low altitude trek offers the seasoned traveler a chance to truly experience a spectacular journey, one that is rarely undertaken. In 2012, less than 250 people visited this site – this is jungle exploration at its very best.
Day 1 - Cusco Arrival
On arrival from your spectacular flight along the Andes to Cusco, we transfer you to your hotel and start acclimatizing to the rarefied air of this beautiful city (3,326m). In the afternoon, we take a short walking tour of the center of Cusco to familiarize you with the main sights, restaurants and a chance to stretch your legs and experience hiking at 3,300m. At a convenient time you guide will arrange a full briefing for the days ahead.
Overnight: Casa Andina Private Collection Cusco
Day 2 - Cusco: Local Ruins
Your guide and minibus are at your disposal for the day to explore Cusco and its outlying ruins. A 9:00am pick up for the ten kilometer drive out of Cusco to the Inca ruin of Tambo Machay. This is popularly called the Inca’s Bath due to its finely preserved waterfalls, carefully diverted through fine stone channels. The Incas acknowledged water as one of the principal elements of life and revered it accordingly.
A few hundred meters back towards Cusco we visit the site of Puca Pucara. This delightful ruin on a small prominence is believed not to be the ’red fort’ its name suggests, but a ‘Tambo’ – a rest house for traveling animals, goods and travelers. We now cut across country following the old Inca road from Cusco to Pisac. The traditional farming methods and highly adapted Andean crops are a treat to see still functioning.
With Cusco now in our sights we visit the fascinating Q’enko. This ‘waca’ contains some of the finest examples of Inca carvings in-situ. The eroded limestone fissures have been artfully carved into zigzag channels (from where Q’enko derives its name), pumas, condors, snakes and houses. Bountiful Mummy Niches in the caves, an amphitheater and the central phallic column all add to the mystery of its multi-functional use. After a picnic lunch we visit our final and most stunning ruin is the extensive Sacsayhuaman. Although the smaller stones of Sacsayhuaman were used to build modern day Cusco, the remaining stones are up to 8.5m high and weigh over 360 tons. The distinctive zigzag ramparts that form are attributed to being Puma teeth, lightning and also fortification. This major center obviously had many functions with storehouses, administration buildings, reservoir and play area. It was also site of a crucial battle between the Incas and the Spanish. We return to our Cusco hotel to pack and prepare for the big trek ahead.
Overnight: Casa Andina Private Collection Cusco (Breakfast, Lunch included)
Day 3 - Sacred Valley - Machu Picchu
Your guide and minibus are again at your disposal for the day. An early pick up for the thirty two kilometer drive out of Cusco to the picturesque Andean village of Pisac. The village is famous for its Sunday market and superb Artisan stalls. Old Pisac ruins have much to explore with a circular hike along a well-defined trail through Royal buildings, look-outs, terraces, tunnels and irrigation channels before returning on another good trail to the bus. After lunch near Urubamba, a short drive down the Sacred Valley of the Incas brings us to Ollantaytambo, site of the last battle between Incas and Spanish before the remaining Incas rebels fled into the jungles of Vilcabamba. In this well-preserved village and ruins you can still feel the true magic of the Incas. Heading to the train station, we take the late afternoon train down the Urubamba River gorge to Machu Picchu Pueblo and check into our hotel for the night.
Overnight: El Mapi Hotel (Breakfast, Lunch included)
Day 4 - Machu Picchu
Early this morning we set off to the fabled "Lost City of the Incas- Machu Picchu". A short bus ride takes you directly to the ruins. Once there your guide gives you an extensive walking tour of the ruin and explains the fascinating history of the Incas to you. If time permits you may wish to explore further to the Inca bridge, walk back up the Inca Trail to the sun gate or try the strenuous climb to the top of Huayna Picchu (due to permit restrictions, please let us know at the time of booking if you want to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain) for an awe-inspiring condor's eye view of Machu Picchu. Some may prefer to just relax and take in the unique location. We return to Aguas Calientes from where we catch the afternoon local train to the end of the line at Hidro Electrica, (or hike the 2-3 hours). Here, our waiting vehicle drives us via Santa Teresa, Santa Maria, Chaullay and so to Huancacalle and onto our charming lodgings at Hostal Sixpac Manco, home to the Cobos family of muleteers and pioneer explorers of the region.
Day 5 - Vitcos & Nusta Hispanan (the White Rock)
Today we spend the day exploring the fascinating local ruins surrounding Huancacalle. A short steep climb brings us to Rosaspata, the site where Manco Inca settled, when they first fled from the Spanish out of Ollantaytambo. It was here too that sadly his life was ended by a group of renegade Spaniards whom he had befriended. They believed that by killing the emperor they could gain favor with the Spanish – however they did not survive long enough to find out, being set upon and killed by Manco Inca supporters shortly afterwards. We then hike onto the famous “White Rock” or Ñusta Hispanan as it is known locally. Despite having been badly damaged by the Spanish priests convinced it was a place of devil worship, the unique carvings and niches as well as the surrounding terraces and outbuildings make for a very interesting visit. In the afternoon, we return to our lodging and prepare for our next day’s hiking.
Day 6 - Begin The Trek to Espiritu Pampa
Departing early, we transfer to the Q´ollpaq´asa pass where hopefully we have spectacular views back toward the snowy Andean peaks and onward deep into the Amazon rainforest. Following the very footsteps of the fleeing Incas, we descend for most of the day and can find occasional parts of original Inca trail and even the odd Inca ruin such as Aucapata and Incapata (though there’s not much left of them to see!). We pass Ututo and the small hamlet of San Fernando before arriving in the afternoon at Vista Alegre, where we set up camp beside the local school and the brave can bathe in the crystalline but chilly headwaters of the Rio Concebidayoc. This is camping and trekking in style. While walking all you need to carry is a daypack, all camping equipment is carried by the porters. All camp chores are done for us and delicious food is served by a cook and his helpers. Total Distance: 11 miles
Day 7 - Vista Alegre - Concebidayoc
A full day’s hiking, we set off early to avoid the stifling heat, as we descend further along the water shed of the Rio Concebidayoc, through the beautiful cloud forest, passing small hamlets and farming communities. We pass the Inca site of Urpipata and can see up to the ridge where the Incas planned to hurl rocks down onto the Spanish near Corcopata, a plan sadly foiled by traitors in their own midst. We cross the Rio Tunkimayo - Tunki is quechua for Cock of the Rock and hopefully we may spot these majestic birds along the way. In the afternoon we arrive at the small village of Concebidayoc where we camp on the football field beside the local school. Concebidayoc was built on the site of an Inca Settlement – although little remains today for the passing visitor, some of the houses sport Inca water channels and Inca stones as part of their structure. The whole Concebidayoc valley is home to some of the best coffee in Peru as well as jungle fruits such as papayas, oranges, lemons and of course the ubiquitous coca leaves. Total Distance: 10 miles
Day 8 - Concebidayoc - Espiritu Pampa
A shorter but no less spectacular morning of hiking again follows an ancient Inca trail this time climbing up to a spectacular view point with great views over the rainforest and down to our destination - Espiritu Pampa. The well preserved and slightly restored Mirador would have served as a lookout point to protect the Incas from any invading forces. As we hike down the vast and impressive Inca staircase to our campsite nearby the actual site of Espiritu Pampa, one can only imagine the trepidation the Spanish must have felt as they entered this final place of Inca refuge and base to the guerrilla resistance of the final embattled Incas. We set up camp for the next two nights and in the afternoon can take our first visit around the recently cleared main square of Espiritu pampa. Total Distance 5 miles
Day 9 - Espiritu Pampa
The last city of the Incas, Espiritu Pampa, while visited by Hiram Bingham in 1911, was so overgrown by jungle, he dismissed it as an unlikely contestant for the Incas final settlement (and such was his obsession with Machu Picchu). So it wasn’t until the 1950s expeditions of Gene Savoy and later Vincent Lee managed to clear the incredible overgrowth, that this place was finally declared as the true site of their last refuge. Even then it continued to disappear back into the jungle fairly regularly and it has only recently been cleared and rebuilt by the efforts of the Peruvian Instituto de Cultura. The site covers a vast area, much is still not cleared so we can still experience the feeling of past explorers as we uncover walls almost completely destroyed by jungle trees, or small outbuilding’s covered in the overgrowth. As one past client put it - “It was like being Hiram Bingham for the day!” We explore the extensive ruins with options for side hikes to even more obscure Inca sites, returning to our campsite for our cook’s delicious dinner. Amazingly less than 2,500 people have visited Espiritu Pampa since records began in since 2002 – That’s less than Machu Picchu gets a day! Total Distance 3- 4 miles
Day 10 - Espiritu Pampa - Azul Mayo - Quillabamba
Our final day’s hiking follows the trail probably taken by the very last Inca, Tupac Amaru as the Spanish hunted him and his pregnant wife down deeper and further into the jungle. We meet our vehicle at the road head of Azul mayo and start an epic journey back via the jungle town of Kiteni and so to Quillabamba where we spend the night in a local hotel and can enjoy either traditional “Chicken and Chips” Broaster style or the local pizzeria is surprisingly not bad, especially if accompanied by a few “cold ones.” Total trekking Distance 5 miles
Overnight: Hostal Don Carlos (Breakfast, Lunch included)
Day 11 - Quillabamba - Cusco
We complete our epic journey by road, heading back up into the Andes via the 4,300m Abra de Malaga, finally joining the asphalt (tarmac) at the tea growing town of Alfamayo. A short stop in Ollantaytambo to stretch your legs; we plan to be back in Cusco by mid-afternoon, in time for those with enough energy to clean up and enjoy a night of fine dining and eclectic night life that Cusco is so famous for.
Overnight: Casa Andina Private Collection Cusco (Breakfast, Lunch included)
Day 12 - Cusco Departure
Today, we transfer to Cusco airport in time for your domestic and international flights home.
Casa Andina Private Collection Cusco
A beautifully renovated 18th-century manor house, just 3 blocks from Cusco’s Plaza de Armas, replete with authentic colonial character. It offers the intimacy of a boutique hotel but the comforts and services of a much larger property.
The hotel is distinguished by its 3 interior patios with wooden balconies. The principal patio, featuring a gurgling stone fountain, is one of Cusco’s emblematic colonial courtyards. In the hotel’s cozy lounge and reading room is a massive stone fireplace that’s always crackling, while the romantic gourmet restaurant invites guests to dine by candlelight in one of 4 connected salons richly decorated with 18th-century Cusco School paintings. Several rooms in the original structure of the hotel feature surviving colonial frescoes unearthed during renovation.
El Mapi Hotel
Smart and contemporary are the defining elements of this hotel, amidst the commercial village of Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes), from where you can admire and interact with the quaint folksy town and get a different perspective.
The hotel is efficient, playful and people friendly; it welcomes a wide range of guests expecting an uncomplicated visit. Turn into an amiable and healthy environment after your enlightening visit to Peru’s most distinguished destination, the Machu Picchu Archaeological site.
Hostal Don Carlos
Quillabamba is one of the largest towns in the Cusco province, being the capital of the province and a natural hub of local activity. Not often visited by international travelers, there are few more authentic Peruvian experiences than spending time here. Hostal Don Carlos offers some of the nicest accommodation in town, including clean rooms, hot showers, and an attentive staff excited to welcome international travelers to Quillabamba.