If you are only going to trek to Machu Picchu once in your life, do it in style with this high quality 9-day itinerary including time to acclimatize and enjoy Cusco. Our Inca Trail programs can add one day onto the Trail. On this itinerary, we start the Trail a half day after the largest tourist groups. In this way, our camp sites are always half a day behind the big groups, ensuring quieter, more private nights, and a less crowded Trail during the day. Similarly, we arrive in Machu Picchu after the morning crowds have left the site, allowing for a more relaxed introduction to this legendary place. Rates vary depending on hotel choice and group size, we offer 3 star, 4 star and 5 star hotel options.
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.
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, most agree the Incas built this as an experimental agricultural centre. Concentric circular terraces allowed them to simulate different facing slopes and different growing temperatures to see which crops would grow where. They then used this knowledge to cultivate the varied terrain of their vast empire providing abundant amounts of food to feed the people,
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 for a homemade picnic with marvellous views across to the snow capped Viilcanota 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.
Distance: 5 or 12 km (3 ¼ or 7 ½ miles)
Time: 1 or 2 ½ hour
Descent: 485m (1600ft)
Altitude: 2900m - 3385m
Your five day Inca Trail is carefully tailored to avoid the crowds. By leaving later than everyone else, and allowing an extra day, you spend the whole trail out of sync with other tourists. Thus you will literally have the trail to yourselves.
This morning you visit the old Inca town of Ollantaytambo. After a look around and some lunch you have a short drive to the trailhead at Piscacucho (km 82). Here you meet the porters and cooks that will support your journey to Machu Picchu. With the crowds now long gone, you hike an undulating trail above the Urubamba River to camp beside the spectacular ruins of Llactapata (2,788m/9,146ft). While walking all you need to carry is a day pack. 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 day pack and enjoy the walking.
After a hearty breakfast you climb gently up the Cusichaca valley to the small hamlet of Huayllabamba. This is the last inhabited place on the trail. A little steeper now, you head up the beautiful Inca path, past hummingbirds and stunted cloud forest to your camp at Llulluchapampa (3,680m/12,073ft). This beautiful grassy area has outstanding views and you may be even see the Andean deer that come to feed here.
Today is the most challenging day but also the most exhilarating. You climb to Dead Woman’s Pass (4,212m/13,819ft) the high point of the trail before dropping into the Pacasmayo valley. Climbing once more you pass the Inca control post of Runkuracay to the second pass of the day (3,998m/13,117ft). On a clear day there are spectacular views towards Pumahuanca mountain in the Vilcabamba range.
You continue on well preserved Inca trail to Sayacmarca. Located at the junction of two old Inca roads, historians still argue over its exact purpose. A few more gentle ups and downs and you arrive to your stunning campsite for the night, Phuyupatamarca, or ‘the place above the clouds’ (3,650m/11,975ft).
This is the day you finally reach Machu Picchu. As you step out of your tent the views are stunning. Perhaps you will see the sun rising over the snow capped mountains of Salkantay (6,200m/20,341ft) and Veronica (5,800m/19,029ft). Or perhaps you will have a cloud inversion, with the clouds filling the valleys beneath your feet. After saying a fond farewell to your porters it is time to put on your boots and head to Machu Picchu.
You descend through the cloud forest on beautiful Inca stairways, to Winay Wayna, another interesting ruin full of swallows and orchids. Finally you contour the hillside to arrive at Inti Punku, the gateway of the Sun. As you step through the old stone gateway 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 colorful town of Machu Picchu Pueblo and a well deserved hotel and shower.
Relaxed after a comfortable night, you head back 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.
Sadly this is your last day in Peru. You will be transferred to the airport for your departing flight.. Buen Viaje! (This service is on a private basis.)
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.
With massage services, a 24 hour reception and free parking, the Villa Urubamba Sacred Valley Lodge offers a comfortable setting while in Urubamba. All of the charming rooms at the Villa Urubamba Sacred Valley Lodge are equipped with heating. A buffet breakfast and dinner is available daily in the Villa Urubamba Hotel's restaurant. Room service is also offered during certain times. The property offers a convenient place to explore nearby Ollantaytambo and Maras. Urubamba town center is just an easy 10-minute car ride.
Camping on the Inca Trail is an experience like no other. Meet and become friends with the porters and cooks that will support your journey to Machu Picchu. 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 Andes.
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.