Perched precariously on a remote hilltop, protected by huge canyons and fierce rivers either side, lies the lost Inca city of Choqeuquirao. This adventurous trek takes you in the footsteps of Hiram Bingham and connects the three fantastic Inca sites he discovered over 100 years ago. Supported by mules you follow old Inca trails to traverse the entire Vilcabamba mountain range from the Apurimac to Urubamba river connecting the stunning sites of Choquequirao, Llactapata and Machu Picchu. From arid canyons and high mountain passes, to the warm moist air of the jungle this 40 mile journey is one of the most spectacular and diverse treks in the whole of the Americas.
Welcome to Peru! On arrival at the airport, you will be met and escorted to your hotel. After some time to check in we introduce you to our city with the "Locals' guide to Cusco". This short walking tour is a great way to get your bearings and also helps you get used to the altitude. The beautiful historic center was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 with Inca and colonial architecture evident all around. This evening your guide will give you a full briefing for the adventure ahead.
Cusco is filled with well preserved colonial architecture, evidence of a rich and complex history. The city itself represents the center of indigenous Quechua culture in the Andes, and by merely walking the streets one sees the layers of history. Spanish colonial buildings erected directly atop Inca walls line the square, while the modern tourist nightlife flourishes in their midst. Nowadays, Cusco is known for its indigenous population--often seen on the streets in traditional clothing--and its substantial tourist-fueled night life.
You leave Cusco and drive on good tarmac road until turning off to the beautiful village of Cachora. Your trekking team will be waiting for you near the trail head. After an early lunch you start to descend the switchback trail, 1600m (5250ft) into the Apurimac canyon and the small settlement of Chikiska where you camp for the night.
After a delicious breakfast, you continue down to cross the roaring Apurimac river. Now it is time to climb past the small communities of Santa Rosa and Maranpata to your camp next to the Choquequirao ruins. The path is good though steep and it can get very hot. This is a long tough day requiring an early start but the scenery more than makes up for the hardships endured.
A fifteen minute walk takes you to the main square of the amazing Choquequirao ruins. Perched on a tiny hilltop 1,700m (5580ft) above the Apurimac, the location and views are awe-inspiring. The ruins cover an area far bigger than Machu Picchu. Enormous curving terraces, ritual baths and a fine main plaza are just some of the highlights. Those with the energy can even descend to see the famous white stone llamas laid into the rock.
Choquequirao remains a mystery. It was not mentioned in the Spanish chronicles and although Hiram Bingham visited it before Machu Picchu he failed to realize its importance. Large areas still remain covered in the thick cloud forest, giving you a true Indiana Jones experience. Even today it receives very few visitors, protected by its remote location.
After a great day exploring you return to base camp to relax and ponder upon all that you have learnt and seen.
You leave early for the short climb to the pass. Then it is downhill 1400m (4600ft) past the recently discovered ruins of Pincha Unuyoc to the Rio Blanco where you can dip your feet in the cool waters. Just beware of the biting sand-flies. Known as “Pumahuacachi”, their name means “makes the puma cry”.
Refreshed, you climb steeply again, 1,200m (3900ft) to the small and beautifully located campsite of Maizal at an altitude of 3,000m (9840ft). This is probably the toughest day of the trip but if you have prepared well and are determined, you will succeed. And the cold beer on arrival will taste even better.
You leave camp behind and climb past old silver mines to the highest pass of the trip. Abra San Juan at 4,000m (13123ft), affords spectacular views of the Cordillera Vilcabamba mountain range. You then take a delightful and at times precipitous path down to the charming Andean village of Yanama. Here you say goodbye to your arrieros and climb aboard the waiting vehicle for the spectacular drive on a brand new road over the Totora pass and down to the small hamlet of Lucmabamba.
Your final day of hiking: you take a spectacular royal Inca trail up through lush coffee and tropical fruit plantations, into pristine cloud forest. As the path crests the ridge, old Inca walls appear out of the forest and you step into the recently cleared ruins of Llactapata. Hiram Bingham got here too, but the map he drew was so bad, neither he nor anyone else could find the ruins again for 80 years. In the mid 1990’s an Anglo-American team found them once more, totally covered over by thick jungle vines.
Step a few meters further and you will see just why the Incas built here. The view across to Machu Picchu is magnificent. And few tourists have ever seen it from this side. After some time to sit, contemplate the view and watch the Andean Swifts playing overhead, you descend steeply to the Urubamba valley and the hydroelectric plant train station.
From here you have the option to either wait for the short but spectacular train ride, or hike two to three hours along the rail-track to the bustling town of Machu Picchu Pueblo and your hotel for the night.
Relaxed, after a comfortable night, you head up to Machu Picchu for your full guided tour before the crowds arrive. There is time afterwards to hike to the Inca Bridge, Watchman’s hut or else just wander through the ruins soaking up the atmosphere. In the afternoon you descend to the waiting train to enjoy one of the great train journeys of the world back towards Cusco.
Today, you will be picked up at your hotel and transferred to the airport for your departing flight.
The quaint Tupac Yupanqui Palace Hotel is one of Cusco’s most historically significant as well as conveniently located accommodations. It is situated only 2 blocks from the main square, Plaza de Armas, putting you within minutes’ reach of all the entertainment, culture, dining, and nightlife that the ancient city has to offer. The hotel itself is housed within an old Inca palace that once belonged to Tupac Yupanqui, grandson and successor to the great 9th ruler of the Inca state, Pachacutec, in the late 1400s. When the Spaniards arrived and colonized Peru in the 1500s, the noble Don Pedro de Barco became the new owner of the residence. Today, renovated to retain much of the palace’s previous glory and charm, the hotel still features parts of the original Inca walls.
Camping during a trek is an experience like no other. Meet and become friends with the porters and cooks that will support your journey as you weave your way through the Peruvian Andes. While walking all you need to carry is a daypack. Your luggage is carried by the porters, your tents are put up for you and your food is prepared for you. All you have to do is shoulder your daypack and enjoy the walking. Tents are new and sturdy and can fit up to two people each. Nothing beats waking to the smell of breakfast and stepping out of your tent to spectacular panoramic views of the mountains.
Strategically located a 2-minute walk to Machu Picchu Bus Station and 7 km from Machu Picchu Sanctuary, the hotel offers rooms with rustic style décor and garden views. Massage sessions are available. At Killa Inn Machu Picchu Hotel guests can enjoy views of Putucusi Mountain and Urubamba River from the charming public balcony. Rooms are styled with dark wood furnishings and wrought-iron bedsteads. There are work desks, parquet floors and private bathrooms.
*Pricing is based on two persons traveling together, based on availability, subject to change.