Within the majestic Vilcabamba range, the glacier-capped summit of Mount Salkantay rises grandly above the neighboring peaks. Local Quechua Indians consider Salkantay to be sacred, worshiping the mountain as their ancestors have for thousands of years. After exploring colonial Cusco and the Sacred Valley we begin our 6 day trek, making our way through mountain passes, glacier-carved valleys, and over hillsides decorated with a colorful array of wildflowers. We then join the classic Inca Trail, arriving at the Intipunku Sun Gate for our first magnificent view of Machu Picchu. This journey combines the most popular route in Peru with the road less traveled, making it a perfect two-week alpine adventure!
An early morning flight brings you to the Inca capital of Cusco where Quechua speaking descendants of the Incas bustle 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 can 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.
This morning, journey into one of the most beautiful areas of Peru. The Sacred Valley often becomes one of the highlights of your trip and you will soon see why! The day is flexible based on your interests, market days, and the weather. You'll test your bargaining skills with the locals while visiting one of the great textile markets in the area. Take a short walk through the countryside to the seldom-visited town of Maras, where pre-Columbian salt mines still operate today, and visit the Inca agricultural terraces of Moray, thought to have been a nursery to experiment with and modify different varieties of crops. Return to Cusco in the evening and prepare for the trek that starts tomorrow.
Early this morning you'll board a van for the five hour trip to the trailhead. To your right as you crest Tika-Tika pass, the imposing peaks of Salkantay and Humantay are visible in the distant horizon. Continuing along the dusty road, you'll arrive in the mestizo farming village of Soraypampa where you'll meet your arrieros and load your gear onto their mules. From here you'll begin your trek into the glacially sculpted terrain of the Andes. The steep slopes and jagged peaks are a testament to the young geologic age of these snow-capped mountains. Your trail through the Vilcabamba range leads you through magnificent mountain scenery, past glacial lakes and down through the lush greenery and colorful orchids of an Amazon cloud forest. Cresting Incachiriasca pass, you'll reach the highest point of our journey at 15,252 feet and are rewarded with breathtaking views in all directions. On Day 8 you'll pass through the small community of Huayabamba and join the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Falling into step with fellow pilgrims from around the world, you'll pass by ever larger Inca ruins that bring to life the rich history of the area. The carefully laid stonework trail gives way to a well-trodden path as you approach the Sun Gate for your first glimpse of Machu Picchu. After exploring the ancient city, you'll relax in the village of Machu Picchu Pueblo (town formerly called Aguas Calientes) below the ruins.
Day 5 - Trek length: 2 hours - 4 kilometers; Camp elevation: 13,500 ft
Day 6 - Trek length: 7-8 hours - 12 km; Camp elevation: 13,776 ft
Day 7 - Trek length: 5-6 hours - 10 km; Camp elevation: 10,332 ft
Day 8 - Trek length: 7-8 hours - 8 km; Camp elevation: 12,589 ft
Day 9 - Trek length: 8-9 hours - 14 km; Camp elevation: 12,067 ft
Day 10 - Trek length: 5-7 hours - 11 km; Overnight in Machu Picchu Pueblo
Today you can return to the ruins at Machu Picchu for further exploration. Depending on your preference in permits, return early with the hope of catching the sun coming up over the mountains at Machu Picchu or arrive in time to hike to the top of Huayna Picchu for incredible views of the entire area. You can choose to book a permit to climb the sacred peak of Huayna Picchu or take a walk through the lush cloud forest 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!)
This was my first experience with Adventure Life - and I couldn't have been more pleased with the trip. The guides and local staff in both Buenos Aires and Uruguay were terrific - extremely helpful and accommodating. I really enjoyed meeting the friendly staff in Buenos Aires in person (I left my bags with them for the afternoon).