An early morning flight brings you to the Inca capital of Cusco where Quechua speaking descendents of the Incas move back and forth in the busy plazas and markets. Colonial churches sit atop bases of smooth stonework laid centuries before the arrival of the Conquistadors. The church walls have fallen many times throughout the years, but the Inca walls remain.
The morning is yours to explore Cusco's narrow streets and bustling markets. In the afternoon, you'll tour Cusco's traditional markets talking to the women selling natural medicines and charms for curing heartache and other afflictions. You will visit the Center for Traditional Textiles in Cusco, a local organization committed to preserving the region's weaving traditions. (If visiting the Sacred Valley on Sunday, you will visit their center in Chinchero instead). Watch weavers demonstrate their craft and learn about the history and processes of Peru's most well-known art form.
Today is free to relax and explore with your guide or on your own. Travelers can go on a city tour of the churches and surrounding ruins, such as the enormous Sacsayhuamán ruins that overlook Cusco (these ruins showcase building blocks the size of SUVs). You can also wander through the bustling Plaza de Armas in the heart of Cusco, shop for love potions in the local markets, or people watch from the cafes and restaurants that line these lovely streets. For those bursting with energy, horseback riding, mountain biking, or even whitewater rafting (Class III-IV) can be arranged. The evening is yours to take in some of Cusco's varied and exciting nightlife.
Depart Cusco early this morning and drive north toward Capuliyoc. As you leave the city behind, cross into Antamapma, where you can see Mt. Salkantay and Humantay. Leave the high meadows and the impressive peaks of Mt. Veronica, Chicon and Pitusiray come into view. You stop along the way to visit the amazing carved stone of Sayhuite, said to be an ancient carved map of the Incan empire. In Capuliyoc, meet your horsemen and begin the hike toward the Apurimac River. Hike along the edge of the mountain Capuliyoc and get your first views of the mighty Apurimac canyon. The rest of the trail is downhill as you descend to the banks of the river to camp for the night.
Hiking time: 5-6 hours
Distance: 5 miles
Begin this day early, crossing the Apurimac River on a hand-pulled cable car and hiking uphill toward Marampampa. Along the way, you may stop to sample sugar cane juice (called “upi”) at the home of our friend, Señor Cobarrubia who lives in Santa Rosa. Stop for a delicious lunch at a beautiful mountain meadow and continue ascending. The trail begins to level a bit as you approach the hanging valley where the site of Choquequirao is found. Camp near the ruins tonight and ready yourself to explore the isolated Inca site and the surrounding cloud forest.
Distance: 4.5 miles
Time: 7 hours
Today explore the ruins of Choquequirao with our guide. Keep your eye open for the Andean Condor, often seen here. Spend the whole day here and descend to camp at Marampampa this evening.
Distance: 1.5 miles each way
Time: 2.5 hours each way
After a hearty breakfast at camp, descend to the Apurimac River, where you break for lunch. Here you start an ascent towards Capuliyoc, camping en route at a place called Cocamasana which boasts a spectacular view of the canyon.
Distance: 3.7 miles
Time: 6-7 hours
Depart camp for the last ascent to Capuliyoc. Meet your shuttle here for the return ride to Cusco. Overnight in your comfortable hotel.
Distance: 2.5 miles
Time: 3-4 hours
Explore the Sacred Valley and test your bargaining skills with the locals while visiting one of the great textile markets in the area. You may hike to the inspiring ruins of Pisac, or take a short walk through the countryside to the seldom-visited town of Maras and its pre-Columbian salt mines (still in use today with salt being collected in traditional fashion) as well as the Inca agricultural terraces of Moray, thought to have been a nursery to experiment with and modify different varieties of crops. Eventually, make your way to the living Inca city of Ollantaytambo.
In the morning, visit the ruins and town of Ollantaytambo. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo served as a royal estate and later a refuge after the Spanish conquered Cuzco in 1537. The ruins feature expansive terraces and well-preserved architecture, and the town is still laid out as it was during the Incan empire, allowing its visitors to glimpse the history which still exists within its boundaries.
Follow the Urubamba River as it tumbles its way towards the Amazon and the sacred city of Machu Picchu. Ancient canals still bring water from the high mountains to the baths used by Inca priests. As visitors, you're welcomed to respectfully dip your hands in the cool water. After your tour of the Machu Picchu, you'll return to Machu Picchu Pueblo (formerly called Aguas Calientes) to soak in the hot springs and dine on local trout fillets.
Today is your chance to watch the sunrise at Machu Picchu and to listen to the spirits of the city's past inhabitants before the hikers from the Inca Trail arrive. You can choose to book a permit to climb the sacred peak of Huayna Picchu, hike to the Sun Gate which overlooks the ruins or take a walk through the lush cloudforest to the Temple of the Moon. In the afternoon, you'll return by train to Cusco with your guide. (Let us know if you would like help arranging entrance fees or hiking permits for today – these are not included and sell out in advance!)
$675 single supplement