- Offers some women-only departures.
October 6 (Sat): If you aren't coming early, this is the day you need to leave the U.S.
October 7 (Sun): If you are flying in to Cusco this morning, you will need to leave the day before in order to arrive this morning. We'll meet you at the airport and take you to our hotel. After time to rest and recover from your travel, we will spend the afternoon touring the main sights of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incas. This three to four hour tour will help us start to acclimatize to the altitude (Cusco's altitude is 11,000 feet). Walking along ancient streets, we'll visit the most important places such as the Main Square and the cathedral that was built over the Inca palace of Suntur Wasi; Qoricancha, the temple of the sun, the most important temple for Inca Culture; and the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. We'll have dinner at a local restaurant tonight and undoubtedly go to bed early. Overnight Cuzco. D
October 8: (Mon) Following a delicious breakfast at our hotel we'll take a tour of The Sacred Valley of the Incas. The tour includes a visit to the Chinchero textile coop. A woman named Nilda Callanaupa has set up a weaving cooperative in Chinchero that does demonstrations of traditional weaving, and there are very well crafted textiles available for sale. We'll also visit the fantastic Inca complex of Pisaq and the village of Ollantaytambo where we have a guided tour of the fortress of Ollantaytambo. That night we'll meet with our trekking guide to discuss the itinerary and have a chance to ask last minute questions and make sure we're completely prepared for the trek. B, L, D
October 9: (Tues): After a very early breakfast, we will be picked up at 7:00 am for the drive to the starting point of our trek. Along the way we will take a short break to visit the Inca ruins of Tarawasi near the town of Limatambo. After leaving Limatambo, we pass through the mountain village of Mollepata where we stop for a short coffee break before a half hour drive up a winding mountain road to a place called Marcoccasa. Here, we begin our trek on an old route called the "Camino Real" (Royal Path). On the way we'll stop to catch our breath: you'll have to decide if it's because of the spectacular views of the mountains or because of the altitude. In any case we'll also stop to eat our box lunch. Our destination is the Salkantay Lodge and Adventure Resort, located in the high Andean Valley of Soraypampa at an elevation of 11,800ft. Although we could drive there, this beautiful trek will help further our acclimatization and get us used to hiking at altitude.
The lodge has spectacular views of, and takes its name from, the majestic peak at the head of the valley - the "Salkantay", the second most sacred peak in Inca mythology and, at 20,600 ft, the highest in the region. After having some time to get settled in our rooms, we'll have time to relax before an evening briefing by the fireplace followed by appetizers and a hearty dinner. After dinner we might relax in the hot tub or, on a clear night, gaze at the achingly beautiful star-studded sky. Our hiking time is 3-4 hours, 7.4 miles, and 1950 feet elevation gain B, L, D
October 10 (Weds) We've built in an extra day, partly so that you have one more day to acclimatize before we start and partly to give you a chance to explore this stunning area. Of course the lodge is also a delightful place to relax. If you're up for it, we highly recommend joining us for a hike to a glacial lake at the base of Humantay Mountain. If you like cold water plunges, you could even go for a (very) short dip! The hike takes about 3 or 4 hours and is an excellent activity for acclimatization and a first experience of high-mountain trekking. In the afternoon, we'll have a cooking demonstration and learn about Andean cuisine. For those with no interest in cooking, you might opt for a relaxing soak in the outdoor jacuzzi or curling up in the comfortable reading room with a book. That evening, after another delicious dinner. we'll make our final preparations for our trek. Our hiking time is 3-4 hours, 3.7 miles, and 1450 feet elevation gain and loss B, L, D
October 11 (Thurs) Today is undoubtedly our most challenging day! After an early start, we will hike up the Rio Blanco valley, circling Humantay Peak across from Salkantay Peak. The highest point today, and indeed the whole trek, is a pass at 15,213 ft. We gain 2500 feet in 3 miles and reaching the top of the pass is very welcome! And it is amply rewarded, as we stop to take in views of snow-capped peaks of the Vilcabamba Range in every direction, with the south face of Salkantay towering above us. We will keep our eyes out for the Andean condors that are often visible in this area. Our spirits are further lifted and our body rejuvenated by a hot lunch along the trail. From the pass we descend toward the Wayra Lodge ("Wayra": wind; 'the place where the wind lives') our destination for the evening. After hiking between 6 and 8 hours, we are delighted to reach the lodge where hot showers and hot dinners are most welcome. Our hiking time is 6 - 8 hours, 7.4 miles, and 2575 feet elevation gain, 2410 ft elevation loss B, L, D
October 12 (Fri) Today we leave the land of snow-capped peaks and begin descending to the valley. This an easier day and we can enjoy a leisurely morning and breakfast at Wayra Lodge. After breakfast we begin our trek by hiking downhill above the Salkantay River, through increasingly verdant scenery as we enter a cloud forest. Cloud forests are both fascinating and endangered, with dramatically different flora and fauna than we've just seen.
Our destination for today, the Colpa Lodge, is located in an open promontory at the confluence of three rivers that are all fed by snow melt. The outdoor hot tub in this lodge has prominent views of lush green mountains and a small, far-away, local town. Dinner and overnight at the lodge Our hiking time is 3- 4 hours, 5.5 miles, and 150 feet elevation gain, 3550 ft elevation loss B, L, D
October 13 (Sat) Today's trek is longer so we'll depart early this morning and head down the Santa Teresa River Valley, through more populated rural areas. Our trail rises and falls before descending to the river. We'll stop along the river to relax and enjoy a hot picnic lunch. We'll cross the river on a bridge and then continue up along the side of the mountain. This area is known for banana, granadilla, and avocado orchards, and coffee plantations that are said to produce some of the best organic coffees in the world. After another hour of trekking we'll be picked up by a private vehicle for a 30-minute drive to the beginning of the "Llactapata Inca Trail", a restored ancient Incan trail. From the head of the trail it's a short climb (30 min.) to the Lucma Lodge, set among coffee plants and avocado and banana trees. We may arrive in time to explore the small village of Lucmabamba. Our hiking time is 6 - 8 hours, 8 miles, and 1160 feet elevation gain, 2510 ft elevation loss B, L, D.
October 14 (Sun) After a hearty breakfast and an early start, we tackle the last day of our trek. We head uphill for about 3 hours and 1900 feet towards Llactapata pass (8,974ft). Here we have a distant but amazing view of Machu Picchu, including both Machu and Huayna Pichhu (or "old" and "young" peaks) from the southwest. This is a vista few tourists ever glimpse. An added value are the Llactapata Ruins, which have recently been restored. There couldn't be a better place to enjoy our lunch.
We then begin our final steep descent of 2 - 3 hours to the rushing Aobamba River, through lush bamboo forests and more orchards and coffee plantations. At the end of the trail we hop on a train for a short (45 minutes) scenic train ride to Aguas Calientes. We'll celebrate the end of the hike with dinner in Aguas Calientes, where an early bed time will re-energize us fror the following day's trip to Machu Picchu. Our hiking time is 4 - 6 hours, 6.8 miles, and 2150 feet elevation gain, 3300 ft elevation loss B, L, D
October 15 (Mon) Today is a full day at Machu Picchu, the "Lost City of the Incas". More recent research has shown that it wasn't actually a city; rather it was a retreat for the Incan wealthy. It is truly as stunning as the pictures show, with the sheer rock face called Huayna Pichu towering in the background. We'll start with a guided tour of about three hours. Our guide will explain how the city is divided into three sections- the Sacred District, the Popular District, and District of the Priests and Nobility and help us understand the significance of the various temples and parks. The stonework has been painstakingly restored and the temples in particular are as amazing as you've heard. The rest of the day, 3 to 4 hours, is yours to explore as you want; the guide is always there to answer any questions. After a full day we'll return to our luxurious hotel in Aguas Calientes for dinner and the night. B, L, D
October 16 (Tues) The morning is free to do as you choose. The hotel, which is a lovely place just to relax, offers free orchid tours and nature walks through their extensive property . We'll take a late afternoon train to Ollaytambo, enjoying one final ride through the beauty of the Sacred Valley. We'll arrive back in Cusco to share a final farewell dinner. B, L, D
October 17 (Weds) We'll provide a group transfer to the airport this morning in time to catch the flights to Lima. If you're staying on we'll be glad to put you in touch with people who can help you plan the rest of your time. Peru is a fascinating place and a trip to Lake Titicaca, the Nasca Lines, or into the jungle would all be amazing additions. B
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