Classic Inca Trail
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Trek the legendary Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and explore Cusco
This classic trek along the historic Inca Trail is considered by many to be one of the great short treks of the world, and is a great introduction to trekking in the Andes. Importantly we spend ample time in Cusco and the Sacred Valley whilst acclimatising to the altitude before heading onto the trail. During the walk we experience a complete range of environs all in the space of four days. We ascend the jungle trails and cloud forest to appreciate the panorama of Andean peaks that would have inspired the Inca people as we make our way to Machu Picchu. Words cannot describe the exhilaration of first sighting these enigmatic ruins. Rather than heading back to Cusco we spend a night in Aguas Calientes, and this vitally gives us the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu at its best, in the early morning. Before and after the trek we have time to explore the Cusco we know so well, delving into a selection of Spanish taverns, cathedrals and colourful Quechua Indian markets.
- The splendor of Cusco with its churches, cathedrals, plazas, markets and cultural heritage
- Walking in the beautiful Sacred Valley to view ancient Inca salt pans
- Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu with dramatic mountain views
- Visit Machu Picchu on two occasions and at the best times of day
- 3 hearty meals a day on trek prepared by our cooks
- Tourist train to/from Machu Picchu
- Extra day at leisure in Cusco after trek
Day 1 Arrive in Lima
You will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel where you are free to rest in the hotel or just wander around Miraflores, the area of Lima where our hotel is located. Some of Lima's best galleries and shops and restaurants are found in this area. Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, Lima is the oldest capital in South America, with a superb combination of Spanish Colonial and 19th century European architecture. If you have time to visit a museum we would recommend the Museo de La Nacion or the Larco Herrera Museum.
Day 2 Arrive in Cusco
On arrival in Cusco you'll be met by your guide and transferred from Cusco airport to our hotel for a short initial briefing and then a few hours of rest, essential to initiate successful acclimatisation. In the evening you'll have a longer briefing to discuss aspects of the itinerary and in particular the trek.
Day 3 After breakfast we take a tour of the city and nearby ruins.
Every alleyway we enter or corner we turn brings another surprise or enigma in the form of the superbly constructed Inca walls or the more architecturally extravagant colonial churches and palaces. The city, once capital of the extensive Inca Empire, has seen many changes since Francisco Pizarro's men took the city with such apparent ease in November 1533. We also take a short drive to visit the monolithic walls of Sacsayhuaman, spectacularly set above the city. In the afternoon you may have time to explore some of the central parts of the city and a chance to look at some of the great varieties of local craft work on sale in open air stalls and shop.
Day 4 Drive and walk down into the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
We leave Cusco and head to the Chinchero Plateau from where we get impressive views of three mountain ranges. We then down through the remarkable Inca Salt Pans below Maras. We end up in the Sacred Valley near a good restaurant where we can savour dishes made with locally grown produce. After a leisurely lunch we head for our hotel in the valley. The rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy beauty of this famous valley.
Day 5 Second day in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Another day in this beautiful place. The valley actually follows the course of the famous Urubamba River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon River. During our time in the here we visit some of the enthralling citadels, fortresses and temple ruins that are found along the valley including the site at Ollantaytambo. The village itself is a fascinating mixture of Inca and Colonial architecture. If the weather is good and we have time we can enjoy some short walks in the valley - a good way to prepare for the trek ahead. The evening is spent preparing for the trek at our hotel.
Day 6 Inca Trail trek commences
An early morning departure for the drive to Chilca where we start our first day of trekking. At this point we meet some our cooks, porters and camp staff before setting off on this famous 'Royal Highway of the Incas', built more than 500 years ago. The first day involves approximately five to six hours of walking. During the first few hours of walking we follow the course of the famous Urubamba River before perhaps stopping to admire the ruins of Patallacta – 2750m (9000ft) – an ancient Inca city built on a series of terraces below the trail. From here we decide whether to continue to follow the narrow valley of the Cusichaca River or camp near Patallacta. Camp.
Day 7 Trek towards first pass.
Next morning we continue up this narrow valley on the left bank of the river - whose source is one of the great glaciers of Mt Salcantay. We then reach the village of Huayllabamba before starting a relatively steep climb up this classic trail towards our first camp at Lulluchapampa – 3780m (12,400ft) – on. We spend our first night on the trail after what most would agree is perhaps one of the most challenging days. Camp.
Day 8 Cross Warmihuañusca, the highest pass on the Inca Trail
A brisk 2-hour hike up to the 'Inca Trail's' highest pass, Warmihuañusca, at 13,700' (4,198m). After a rest at the pass and time to take in the spectacular views we drop very steeply down into the Pacamayo Valley and then continue up the trail to the small but impressively set ruins at Runkuraqay and on to Cochapata set just below the second pass at 12,800' (3,900m). From here we walk the short distance to the pass and then descend past a mysterious small green lake to the large ruins of Sayacmarca and on to the last pass at 12,450' (3,800m). From here we get a great view down into the forested gorge of the Urubamba River set more than a vertical mile below us. A short hike from here takes us to our stunning campsite set above the ruins of Phuyupatamarca 11,900' (3,600m), so aptly named the 'City in the Clouds'. Below us are laid out the great forest-covered peaks and deep dark valleys - the setting of our goal, Machu Picchu at 7,900' (2,400m).
Day 9 Last day of trek to Machu Picchu
After a good night's sleep at this lower altitude, and an early breakfast, we start the last day of the trek. We walk down along an incredibly well preserved section of the trail with great white granite slab walls and staircases all impressively set in high jungle. On the way we'll take time out to explore the recently cleared extensive ruins of Wiñay Wayna, before covering the last couple of miles to finally reach Inti Punku (The Gateway to the Sun) awe-inspiringly set above the 'lost city' of Machu Picchu. Your first view of the ruins really does take your breath away! After a brief 'first look' at the ruins, we head down to our hotel in Aguas Calientes for a well deserved soak in the nearby hot springs (optional). Please note: It is very important to be aware that, because of all the new rules on the Inca Trail, there may be changes in the actual trek itinerary and the campsites we use.
Day 10 Explore Machu Picchu and return to Cusco
Today we start early to thoroughly explore these remarkable and truly enigmatic ruins. After a professionally led tour of the site we're free to explore the rest of the amazing sights. Mid-afternoon we depart from Machu Picchu for the extremely pretty train ride back to Ollantaytambo where we transfer to our vehicle for the drive back to Cusco. Here we transfer to our hotel for two nights.
Day 11 Cusco - free day.
A good day to relax, do your washing and re pack after the trek and perhaps a chance to do some 'tourist shopping', selecting from a great variety of expertly made craft work - including alpaca sweaters and hats, ceramics, weavings and traditional Andean instruments. In the evening we prepare for the next stage of our journey through the Andes.
Day 12 Trip concludes.
You will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Lima where your trip concludes.
- 11 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 3 dinners
- airport transfers if arriving/departing on first or last day
- expert bilingual guide
- group medical kit
- comfortable and central hotels, primarily Casa Andina Classic hotels
- private internal transportation
- gear pack including sleeping bag, fibre filled jacket and sleeping mat
- group camping equipment
- porters to carry personal gear
- sightseeing and site entrance fees as listed (including Machu Picchu entrance fee)
- 12 day trip
- 4 day trek
- 3 nights camping
- 8 nights hotel
Trip Main Activities
- Adventure Touring
Group Size Min
Group Size Max
Specialist gear required include walking boots and day pack (a comprehensive gear list is provided in the pre-departure information provided on booking).
What You Carry
In your daypack you will need to carry extra warm clothing (depending on the altitude, location and weather), a rainjacket, water bottle, film and camera gear, valuables and personal items such as sunscreen, lip-eze etc. Porters and mules carry all group gear and your trek pack.