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.
After an early breakfast, we depart Cusco for the Urubamba Valley, the “Sacred Valley of the Incas.”We drive past Pisac and turn off the main road at Qoya (9,514’/2,900m), with its charming colonial church. After about a 1 hour drive (the last section on a dirt road), we reach the AyarCancha community where we start hiking at an elevation of 12,830 feet (3,850m). The trail winds uphill for two hours to Challwaccasa Pass (13,943’/4,250m), which grants us great views of the peaks of the Vilcanota and Vilcabamba mountain ranges and, in the distance, the giant snow-capped peaks of Ausangate and Salcantay. We then head downhill to the community of Viacha (12,950’/3,950m), where we enjoy a gourmet lunch. After a well-earned rest, we join a restored Inca trail that leads to the stunning archaeological site of Pisac (10,826’/ 3200m), which dominates the valley below. The lower slopes of the surrounding mountains feature impressive agricultural terraces and irrigation systems dating from Inca times. After exploring the ruins we continue downhill for an hour to the picturesque village of Pisac (9,750’/2,972m), well known for its colorful handicraft market held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Our vehicle will be waiting to take us to the town of Lamay (9,649’/2,941m), where we overnight at a comfortable lodge. Dinner and overnight at Lamay Lodge.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: If you would like to take it easy on your first day, you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast and relaxing morning at the Lamay Lodge. In the early afternoon a private van will take you to join the group of trekkers for lunch at Viacha community, this exquisite meal should not be missed! If after lunch guests are feeling active they may join the other trekkers for the hike downhill towards Pisaq archeological site.
Total Trekking Time: 6 hours (including lunch) (This service is on a group basis.)
A great day awaits us as we hike one of the most beautiful trails in the Cusco region! We depart Lamay early in the morning and take a scenic two-hour drive toward Lares, the region north of the Sacred Valley. Leaving the main road, we soon arrive at the quaint village of Quiswarani (12,562’/3,829m), where we begin our hike. Our trail heads westward up a small valley dotted with lakes and herds of grazing alpacas, then narrows into a series of switchbacks to Abra Huchuyccasa pass (14,481’/4,414m), which we reach after three hours. From the pass we have the most amazing views of distant mountain ranges and stunning turquoise lakes, whose brilliant hues are the result of bronze metal elements in their icy waters. Descending slightly, we continue hiking another hour toward our second pass of the day at Phoñoccasa (14,393’/4,387m). From here we descend to Qeywaqocha Lake for a leisurely lunch, then end our hike at the village of Qelqena (11,965’/3,647m). Along the way enjoy spotting native bird species, including Andean geese, ducks, and plovers. Our vehicle meets us at the trailhead for the drive to the famous weavers’village of Huacawasi (12,579’/3,835m). Dinner and overnight at Huacawasi Lodge.
Total Trekking Time: 8 hours (including lunch)
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: In the event that you prefer a softer hike, we suggest the following alternative Trek from Cuncani to Huacawasi: Meet the Communities
A short drive brings us to Ancasmarca (13,267’/4,044m), where we explore an old Inca site that features a variety of ancient food warehouses, dwellings, and farming areas. Its location was strategic since it connected the higher part of the Sacred Valley with the cloud forest communities of Lares. Heading over the Lares Pass (14,501’/4,420m), we arrive at Cuncani (12,742’/3,884m), the starting point of our hike. Walking uphill for about two hours, we pass farmhouses and fields. The local inhabitants, descendants of the Incas, have maintained their traditional way of life, growing an amazing variety of potatoes nearly year-round and using their llamas as transportation and alpacas as food and clothing. Reaching Cruzccasa Pass (13,740’/4,188m), we enjoy an impressive view of Veronica peak, then have an hour’s descent to our picnic lunch spot. Another hour’s hike brings us to Huacawasi Lodge (12,579’/3,835m). In the late afternoon, we have an opportunity to experience a unique cultural encounter with the local community. Dinner and overnight at Huacawasi Lodge.
Total Trekking Time for Optional Activity: 5 hours (including lunch) (This service is on a group basis.)
Huacawasi is a famous weavers’village, where the men still wear traditional colorful ponchos and women’s attire includes wide handmade skirts and decorated hats. Our hike starts right from Huacawasi Lodge, and as we walk through the village we are immersed in scenes of community life, including women working on looms and children heading to school. The wide and easy trail takes us uphill for 2.5 hours to the top of Ipsaycocha Pass (14,757’/4,499m) where we enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains. As we hike, we often meet locals traveling from village to village with their goods and herds of animals. We descend gently for about 40 minutes to Lake Ipsaycocha (14,081’/4,292m) where we may have the chance to see condors circling effortlessly in the sky while enjoying our lunch. We continue our descent for 2.5 hours to the village of Patacancha (12,624’/3,848m) where high quality weavings are also produced. Our vehicle will meet us here to take us to the Inca town of Ollantaytambo (9,160’/2,792m) in the Sacred Valley. Dinner and overnight at a hotel in the Sacred Valley (TBA closer to departure).
Total Trekking Time: 6.5 hours (including lunch) (This service is on a group basis.)
After a leisurely breakfast, we walk through the village of Ollantaytambo which boasts an impressive archaeological site and a well-preserved Inca town structure. This was the estate of Emperor Pachacutec who conquered the region, building the town and the ceremonial center. Ollantaytambo dates from the late 15th century and has some of the oldest continuously occupied dwellings in South America.
Late morning we board our train for the 1.5-hour ride to Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Town, Mountain Lodges of Peru will provide box lunch on board. Free afternoon to explore the colorful town and the magnificent orchid gardens of the hotel. Optional visit to Machu Picchu Sanctuary (on request at additional cost) in the afternoon hours when we can enjoy the site with less visitors. Dinner and overnight at a hotel in Aguas Calientes (TBA closer to departure). (This service is on a group basis.)
After a very early breakfast at the hotel, we walk to the bus station for the 30-minute ride up to Machu Picchu Sanctuary. Our trip leader will give an introductory two-hour guided tour of the evocative ruins, after which we have the option of climbing the sheer Inca staircase of Huayna Picchu, a steep and vertically quite challenging hike that affords encompassing views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountain ranges (about a two-hour hike). Afterwards, we 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.