Inca Trail & Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is an ancient ‘lost world’ in the most amazing setting, hundreds of feet above the Urubamba river deep in the Andes mountains in Peru and recently added to the Seven New Wonders of the World. Until one hundred years ago it was lost to the world, then it was discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham an American archaeologist. The well preserved Inca structures are perched seemingly by magic high in the mountains.
Machu Picchu can be visited as a day trip from Cuzco or the Sacred Valley but I would recommend that you stay overnight at one of the lodges nearby in the mountains, or hike the famous Inca Trail and take your time to acclimatise. There are various train services from Cuzco including a luxury ‘Orient Express’ service but if you have the time and prefer to be active, take a guided trek along one of the many traditional trails through the Sacred Valley. You should spend a few days in Cuzco prior to trekking or any kind of climb into the mountains. Thankfully, permits are now limited to view Machu Picchu, it used to be that 2,000 people walked the trail every day but now, having caused massive erosion of the ruins and path, permits are only given to 500 people per day and as this also includes your guides and support staff, the number of visitors per day is usually only about 200 trekkers. There is also now a ‘Moonstone Trek‘ which takes a much less worn path to Machu Picchu, ask me for details of this alterantive itinerary.
Trekking lodge to lodge to Machu Picchu – a seven day itinerary will take you along the Salkantay Trail staying at lodges all with en-suite rooms and great home cooked food. The trek is still strenuous and the highest point is over 4,600m. Your luggage will be transported between each overnight stop by mules and you will have local guides with you throughout.
Camping trek along the Inca Trail – this is an example of an Inca Trail group trip which, with flights from London and back is 11 days long. Prices are from £1,899 per person
Arrive into the Inca capital of Cuzco and take a walking tour of the city and nearby ruins. The next day is free to explore with optional trips to Pisac ruins or river rafting then leave Cuzco next morning and be driven to the start of the Inca Trail at Piscacucho.
The trail runs alongside the Vilcanota River and is flanked by the snow capped Nevado Veronica. You will pass through cactus gardens and corn fields to reach Llactapata with it’s own Inca ruins and camp up a side valley near Huayllabamba, a small mountain hamlet. Then a long a strenuous day follows as you travel through cloud forest and over the ‘Dead Woman Pass’ which at 4234m is the highest point in the trek. Descend to the scenic vally of the Pacamayo river where you camp at 3600m. An easy climb then takes you past Runquracay ruins and the pass when the Inca Trail itself becomes a clearly defined boulder path. Then, entering a rainforest area at Sayajmarca the trail passes through an Inca tunnel. Camp on the ridge above the site of Phuyupatamarca at 3680, and enjoy the sunset and sunrise.
Embark from the ridge onto the famous Inca steps, a stone staircase taking you downhill with panoramas all around, the river thousands of metres below and the mountain peaks above. Visit the ruins of Winay Wayna then walk high above the river to Inti Punku the Inca Gate of the Sun. There you get the first view of Machu Picchu, with Huayna Picchu rising behind it. Your arrival here will be timed to arrive later in the day after most trekker have left (it’s usually busier at dawn) then descend to the river and Puente Ruinas campsite.
Your trek allows you one entry to the actual site of Machu Picchu so that is used the next morning for the dawn tour, but if you wanted to visit the citadel you can purchase additional tickets. A night camping below Machu Picchu will end your trek and you can upgrade to a hotel if you wish. After the dawn visit you can explore on your own then board the train in the afternoon back through the Sacred Valley and onto the altiplano to Cuzco.
There will be a free day in Cuzco at the end for more sight seeing or shopping before flying back to the UK (via Lima).
This is just one variety of Inca Trail trek – there are plenty of hiking options available, some combining other parts of Peru or elsewhere in South America. There are also alternative treks around the area, so ask me for the best holiday to suit you to see Machu Picchu and the land of the Incas. INCA TRAIL PERMITS ARE FREQUENTLY SOLD OUT SO PLEASE APPLY AS FAR IN ADVANCE AS POSSIBLE.
We had a wonderful time in Peru for this special celebration holiday - Weather was perfect for sight seeing and the local ground handlers were great. We particularly loved the Casa Andina in Arequipa. We loved the trip to islands on Lake Titicaca – it made a huge difference having a private guide, fab old boat with a lovely guide (who looked about as old as the boat!). The Andean Explorer train journey to Cusco was almost the high light for me – good food and wonderful way to see the country and relax. Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu was great. We were given a wonderful tea before getting on the train at the lodge coming back and then a great supper on board and fab service. The Amazon experience was wonderful – highly recommended, we did all the tours day and night. Although the food in Peru was not great, the people are charming, helpful and go out of their way to help. Thank you for organising a wonderful trip!
Camilla & Jeremy – Peru (September 2012)
As Andy was 50 this year, we wanted a special trip and Jules did an amazing job of organising our trip to Peru and Machu Picchu in May. All we had to do was turn up at the airport! We had 3 flights organised, transfers, hostels in Cusco, The Inca trail including porters and guides and it all went very smoothly. The tour guide Carlos was wonderful and the porters made us feel very humble as they ran up the mountain past us with 25kg back packs and wearing flip flops! This is the most beautiful place I have ever visited and we need to take a leaf out of the Peruvians book and worship the Pachamama ( mother earth ). Thanks to Jules the trip was stress free and very enjoyable.