29 September 2016
Follow in the footsteps of the Incas as you walk from the Peruvian city of Cusco to the spectacular citadel of Machu Picchu. This moderate-to-challenging hike is an unforgettable experience, as you take in breathtaking mountain vistas, trek though lush cloud forests and visit this region's numerous archaeological sites.
An early start this morning, as you're collected from your hotel before sunrise and driven to Piskacuchu, at an altitude of 2,700m, a community located on the 82nd kilometre of the railroad from Cusco to Machu Picchu, and the starting point of the Inca Trail. You'll begin your hike by crossing the bridge over the Urubamba River, then following the trail along flat terrain to Miskay (2,800m). Here you'll ascend and admire the views of the Inca city of Llactapata before continuing along the Kusichaca River valley, gradually climbing for about five hours, taking in the spectacular views of the Vilcanota ridge and the magnificent Veronica peak, 5,832m above sea level. Your final destination today is the community of Wayllabamba (3,000m), where you'll camp tonight after around six hours of hiking.
You'll wake early again today and enjoy a hearty breakfast to fortify you for the most difficult part of the trek, a 9km steep ascent during which the landscape changes from sierra to dry puna with little vegetation. As you continue to Abra Warmihuañusca, or Dead Woman's Pass, at 4,200m, you may see llamas and alpacas grazing on ichu, one of the few plants that grow here and, as you cross an area of cloud forest, you may see hummingbirds, sparrows and the Andean bear, also called the Spectacled Bear. After the pass, you'll descend into the Pacaymayo Valley (3,600m), where you'll make camp for the night after about seven hours of hiking.
Today is your longest day, with about eight hours of walking, but is also the most dramatic and interesting, as you take in numerous archaeological sites, as well as the lush cloud forest. First you'll climb to the Abra Runkurakay pass (3,970m), stopping halfway up to visit an ancient watchtower. After going over the pass, you'll descend through the cloud forest to Sayacmarca (3,624m), a beautiful complex of narrow streets, liturgical fountains, patios and irrigation canals. Continuing up, less steeply now, along the ancient Inca paths and through a tunnel, you'll arrive at the Abra Phuyupatamarca pass (3,700m) and one of the best-preserved archaeological complexes of the Inca Trail. From here you can enjoy the impressive views of the Urubamba River valley. Next you'll descend the stone steps to Wiñaywayna (2,650m), an Inca complex made up of an agricultural centre with numerous terraces, a religious sector and an urban sector. Finally you'll make camp close by and relax over dinner.
You'll start before sunrise again today to climb to the Intipunku, or Sun Gate. You'll spend the first hour hiking along the cliff edge, through highland jungle, and may be lucky enough to catch the sunrise over Machu Picchu before you descend into the citadel, entering through the House of the Guardians. You'll enjoy a two-hour guided tour, then will then have free time to explore, climb Huaynapicchu mountain to admire the incredible views, or visit the Temple of the Moon or the Inca Bridge. This afternoon you'll visit the town of Aguas Calientes and perhaps relax in its hot springs before taking the train back to the city of Cusco.
Superior fr £713pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated