Embark on a cultural exploration of the Urubamba Valley, the celebrated “Sacred Valley of the Incas,” and the spectacular archaeological site of Machu Picchu, combined with a hike in the less visited and uncrowded Lares region north of Cusco, noted for its rural atmosphere, traditional weavers attired in colorful dress, and roving herds of alpacas and llamas—an authentic slice of Peruvian life. Comfortable mountain lodges serve as deluxe “base camps” for daily hikes that bring you to remote passes with views of a panorama of waterfalls, snow peaks, and turquoise glacial lakes, with the occasional condor soaring above, and to tiny Andean highland communities unchanged for centuries, where you can meet local weavers and farmers and get a glimpse of the distant past.
In the morning, you will be picked up at the airport in Cusco and transferred to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
Cusco is a beautiful city 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.
The city is surrounded by a number of ruins, the most impressive being Sacsayhuaman, the site of the 1536 battle in which dozens of Pizarro's men charged uphill to battle the forces of the Inca. Nowadays, Cusco is known for its indigenous population--often seen on the streets in traditional clothing--and its substantial tourist-fueled night life.
This morning you will be met at your hotel in Cusco to begin your journey to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the start of your adventure! The town square is often the center of activity throughout this region, but so too is the town market, and none is more alive than the famous market at Pisaq. A morning visit to check out its unique array of products will inspire you with a small taste of the rich culture yet to be explored on your journey. Travelers seeking inspiration in nature can opt for an invigorating morning hike surrounded by amazing views of the Andes Mountains that guard this magnificent valley. Later, enjoy exclusive access to the isolated community of Viacha, where you will learn about its artisan potato farming practices and enjoy a traditional “Pachamanca” meal, cooked under hot stones. After lunch you will visit the archaeological complex at Pisaq, an afternoon excursion that offers a unique opportunity to explore the complex free of crowds, with the sun setting behind the peaks.
Activity Menu (morning to noon):
- Cultural activity: Visit Awanakancha (an Andean camelid exhibition and traditional textile center), the town of Pisaq and local market, and experience an encounter with members of the local community of Viacha.
- Hike: From the local community of Amaru to the local community of Viacha / Duration 2.5-3 hrs. / Moderate / Mountain pass at an elevation of 14,200´ - 4,328m.
Group Activity: Group lunch at the local community of Viacha. In the afternoon, the whole group visits the Pisaq archeological site together, before heading to the lodge. (This service is on a group basis.)
Now that you have gotten a glimpse of the rich Andean tapestry, today you will have the opportunity to go even deeper with an exploration into the heart of the Lares Valley. A scenic drive into the mountains, along the celebrated “Inca Weaver’s Trail”, allows you to visit the unique and uncrowded archaeological site of Ancasmarca along the hub-town of Lares. After lunch, you can choose between visiting the traditional and ancient weavers’ village of Choquecancha, or opt for hiking amidst turquoise blue lakes and towering peaks to the remote village of Huacahuasi, where you willl meet to spend the night. This lodge, which is run in joint venture with the local community and aims to protect the cultural heritage and the environment, provides an interesting insight into the evolving role of the original Andean people in both the culture and commerce of modern-day Cusco.
Group Activity (morning to noon): In the morning, briefly explore the town of Lamay and visit the archaeological site of Ancasmarca. Group lunch at the town of Lares.
Activity Menu (afternoon, after the group visit):
- Cultural activity: Visit the town of Choquecancha, meet with local weavers and visit the old church.
- Hike: From Quelquena to Huacahuasi / Duration 2-2.5 hrs. / Easy to moderate / Mountain pass at an elevation of 12,595´- 3,839m.
- Hike: From Cuncani to Huacahuasi / Duration 3.5-4 hrs. / Moderate / Mountain pass at an elevation of 13,838´- 4,219m. (This service is on a group basis.)
Spend some time in the morning learning more about the heritage and day-to-day activities of the Huacahuasi community. Then, you can choose to embark on a spectacular hike through varied terrain and over a high pass, to the adjacent valley leading to the ancient town of Ollantaytambo, the oldest living city in Latin America. If you prefer to see more of the Sacred Valley, you can drive back for a visit to an ethnographic museum featuring the history of Peru’s rich civilizations of the past or choose to explore the valley on mountain bike. Afterwards, enjoy lunch in the Urubamba River countryside on your way to Ollantaytambo, where you can spend time meandering through its charming maze-like streets.
Activity Menu (all day):
- Cultural activity: Drive back to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, visit a local farmer’s market and a Pre-Inca and Inca cultural museum. Enjoy lunch at a countryside restaurant and in the afternoon explore the town of Ollantaytambo.
- Optional bike excursion: Drive back and explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas on mountain bike (2 hrs.). Enjoy lunch at a countryside restaurant and in the afternoon explore the town of Ollantaytambo.
- Hike: From Huacahuasi to Patacancha / Duration 7 hrs. / Moderate to challenging / Mountain pass at an elevation of 14,646’ - 4,464m. Route lunch at Ipsaycocha lake. Afternoon arrival in Ollantaytambo.
Please Note: Guests that opt for the cultural activity and guests that opt for the optional bike excursion will meet for lunch in Urubamba at a countryside restaurant and visit the town of Ollantaytambo together in the afternoon. Guests that opt for the hike will meet up with the rest of the group late in the afternoon at the hotel in Ollantaytambo. (This service is on a group basis.)
From its beginnings as the royal estate of Inca-Emperor Pachacutec, to a stronghold against the Spanish conquistadors for Manco Inca Yupanqui, the temple at Ollantaytambo was regarded by the Incas as one of their most important ceremonial centers. On this day, an optional and short early morning hike to Inca storage structures high above Ollantaytambo will give you a magnificent view of the town as well as of the main archaeological site across the valley. Afterwards, as your guide leads you through a morning tour of the temple and explains its strategic architectural planning, you will also get a sense of its mystical history…a perfect introduction to the wonder of Machu Picchu. Around noon you will embark on a scenic train ride along the famous Urubamba River to Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu, whose charm lies in a history that began as a small railway stop and evolved into a bustling town still bisected by the train tracks.
Activity Menu (early morning, before the group activity):
- Hike: Lower Pinkuylluna Mountain above Ollantaytambo / Duration 1-1.5 hrs. / Moderate.
- Hike: Higher Pinkuylluna Mountain above Ollantaytambo / Duration 2-2.5 hrs. / Moderate to challenging.
Group Activity: In the morning, after the optional early morning activities, explore the archaeological site of Ollantaytambo, before boarding the train to the town of Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes). (This service is on a group basis.)
At dawn, you begin your journey to Machu Picchu with a short and rollicking uphill bus ride. As you enter the “Sanctuary” (as locals refer to it), the morning sun rises over the iconic Sun Gate and washes the structures and terraces with resplendent light. Prepare to be awed by the imposing and skillful architecture of the Watchtower, the Temple of the Sun, and the royal Inca residences, among many others. Take a moment to quietly sit and listen to the wind…or to meditate and absorb the mystical energy that envelops you. Your imagination will soar as you contemplate the history of Machu Picchu and its mysterious origins. Some may even choose a hike to Huayna Picchu, the iconic towering mountain often seen in photographs, for dramatic views that stretch from the Urubamba River valley to the edge of the Amazon Jungle.
Group Activity: Early in the morning visit the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
Activity Menu (late morning, after the group activity):
- Cultural activity: free time to explore the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu (el. 7,872´ - 2,400m.).
- Hike: Guided hike of Huayna Picchu Mountain / Duration 2-2.5 hrs. / Moderate to challenging / Mountain pass at an elevation of 8,924´ - 2,720m.
Afterwards, you will meet up with our guide again and return by bus to Aguas Calientes for a late lunch. The afternoon train ride from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo takes about 1.5 hours, and then a private vehicle drives us back to Cusco (an additional 1.5 hours). Upon arrival in Cusco (approximately 7 or 8 p.m.), you will be dropped off at your Cusco accommodations. (This service is on a group basis.)
Today, you will be picked up at your hotel in Cusco and transferred to the airport. (This service is on a private basis.)
El Mercado is a lovely boutique hotel with 32 rooms in the heart of Cusco. It boasts original and eye-catching interiors and exceptional customer service. This three story hotel is equipped with high speed internet. The central, open square integrates seamlessly into the cobblestone streets of Cusco while remaining private and cozy. Modern design meets traditional art in this, one of Cusco's newest and best accommodation options.
Enjoy the evening at this recently refurbished lodge nestled into the Sacred Valley. Being part of the Lares Lodge to Lodge trek, you will enjoy a similar style in accommodation with charming rooms, communal areas and a beautiful garden to relax in after a long day's hike.
Located on the side of a hill overlooking a local village deep in the Sacred Valley, The Huacawasi Lodge is a beautiful place to call home for the evening on your Lodge to Lodge trek to Machu Picchu. Newly built, this lodge is unique as the local village in the valley below has played a large roll in it's construction as well as operation. The lodge offers a glimpse into the life in these valleys as well as comfort after trekking all day.
Hotel Pakaritampu is located in the city of Ollantaytambo, in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, an hour and a half by car from the Cusco. The train station of Ollantaytambo offers easy access to Machu Picchu, an hour and fifteen minute ride away. The 37 guestrooms have spectacular views of the area, picturesque balconies, and private bath with hot water and shower. The hotel is surrounded by lovely gardens featuring a variety of flora typical of the region, and offers extraordinary views of the archaeological center and the nearby mountains.
Rated by Travel + Leisure as ‘one of the ten best hotels in South America’, Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel is an intimate 85-cottage luxury hotel surrounded by 12 secluded acres of exquisite beauty. With its sublime Spa services and a first-class restaurant that overlooks the stunning Vilcanota River, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel provides a tranquil retreat at the base of Machu Picchu. Scattered among lush gardens, accommodations range from the opulent Villas Inkaterra, with private terraces and plunge pools to more intimate lodges that provide a perfect sanctuary for simple relaxation. Overlooking the Vilcanota River, discover Andean cuisine with a contemporary twist at Cafe Inkaterra. Under the traditional Amazonian palm-thatched roof and surrounded by regional crafts, Cafe Inkaterra is as much of a destination as it is a culinary experience.
*Pricing is based on two persons traveling together, based on availability, subject to change.