The group flights from London leave this evening, flying via Madrid and Lima and arriving in Cuzco the following morning.
The group flights arrive in Cuzco this morning. In the afternoon we will have short walking tour of the Inca capital, including a visit to the Qoricancha Sun Temple.
The hills above Cuzco city are dotted with some of the most interesting Inca ruins. We drive to the highest, Tambomachay, and return on foot to Cuzco via Puca Pucara, Qenco and Sacsayhuaman: an easy acclimatisation walk to get used to the altitude. An open-air picnic lunch is included during the hike near the spectacular ruins.
Free day in Cuzco to relax and further acclimatise before starting the tour. If feeling energetic, rafting, cultural tours or a visit to the Rainbow Centre can be organised.
A few hours drive via the interesting Inca remains of Tarwasi takes us high to the hill town of Mollepata. We start by walking from Mollepata to our campsite near Marcocasa where we spend our first night under canvas. The total driving time is approx. 3 hours, and the walk will take around 3-4 hours of steady climbing along well-made tracks. From the campsite we have excellent views of the Apurimac Valley.
Our trek today begins on the southwest facing slopes of the Andes where moderate precipitation generates coarse bushes and gnarly trees, small parrots can be heard, if not seen. We climb gradually northwards, heading through the farming hamlet of Soraypampa, towards the broad snowy peak of Humantay (5917m). Soon the whole of the massive bulk of Salcantay (6271m) dominates our view. We camp at around 4200m in the high grassy meadow of Ichu Pata, below the south face and glaciers of the impressive peak.
The high point of the trek and this morning's goal is the Inca Chiriasqa pass at almost 5000m. Climbing more steeply now we walk close to the spectacular glaciers and ice walls of Nevado Salcantay. Passing through Pampa Japonesa, base camp for a Japanese mountaineering expedition, we finally top the pass and gain some excellent 360° views. Inca Chirisaqa means 'the Inca fell ill from cold', and the exposed situation makes it easy to see why. Descending from the pass, we drop down into the upper reaches of a broad valley where Salcantay reappears in a new profile. After passing a huge ridge of terminal moraine, once the snout of the East Salcantay Glacier, the river suddenly becomes dead straight, canalised by the Incas centuries ago. We camp alongside the canal close to the hamlet of Pampa Cahuana.
Setting off from camp this morning, we follow the canal, which soon drops into a steep-sided valley. The path follows the side of this valley all the way to our next camp at Paucarcancha (an Inca watchtower), close to the start of the Inca Trail. We normally have a free afternoon here to relax, buy a beer and prepare for the second half of the trek, and there is time for a short walk around the small fortress, which guarded the entrance to the Pampa Cahuana valley.
Today we join the main Inca Trail, the classic trek to Machu Picchu. From the village of Huayllabamba, a long and steady climb takes us first through an area of cloud forest to the meadows of Llulluchapampa, then over the Warmihuañusca (Dead Woman) Pass at 4,234m. After quite a long, steep descent we camp in the scenic Pacaymayo valley (3600m).
Another easier climb, past the small ruins of Runcuracay, takes us over the Runcuracay Pass, and from now on the Inca Trail becomes a clearly defined path made of flat boulders. We pass the ruins of Sayajmarca and suddenly enter cloud forest. At one point the trail passes through a short Inca tunnel before crossing onto the Amazon side of the continental divide. We normally camp on the ridge above the Inca site of Phuyupatamarca (3700m) to benefit from the views of sunset and sunrise, and to avoid the crowded Wiñay Wayña campsite.
From the ridge we embark on the infamous Inca steps: a two kilometre stone staircase taking us rapidly downhill amid a panorama of overwhelming immensity, the peaks of the Vilcabamba range above, and the river thousands of metres below. After visiting the attractive ruins of Wiñay Wayña, we have an undulating walk through cloud forest high above the river to Inti Punku, the Inca Gate of the Sun. From here we get our sudden first full sight of Machu Picchu itself. Descending to the city, we have a short introduction to the site before descending to the river to relax in camp at Puente Ruinas, near Aguas Calientes, a busy village with thermal springs. It is usually possible to stay in a hotel for this night at the nearby village of Aguas Calientes for an extra fee (paid locally) - please speak to your guide at the start of the tour if you wish to arrange this.
We return to Machu Picchu early for a guided tour, having the site almost to ourselves until the trains from Cuzco start arriving around mid-morning. There will be free time to explore the ruins further before we board the afternoon train to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, where we stay for the night.
A day exploring the Sacred Valley of the Incas, visiting the famous Inca fortress ruins of Ollantaytambo and Pisac which tower over the villages below them of the same name. We will also have time to look around Pisac Market, famous for its handicrafts, before returning by road to Cuzco.
Free time to relax in Cuzco after the trek. There are a number of optional excursions available which your tour leader can arrange for you.
After a free morning, the group flights to London (via Lima and Madrid) depart Cuzco this afternoon
The group flights arrive in London this afternoon.