Set amidst hills in the altiplano, the Imperial City of the Incas, Cuzco (3,400) was the geographic, cultural and political centre of a vast empire which, at its peak, stretched from present-day Quito in Ecuador to Santiago in Chile. After the Spanish conquistadores invaded the city they started building on top of the Incan structures, resulting in unique architecture, a fusion of the Incan and Spanish colonial styles. The group flights usually arrive in the mid-afternoon, giving time to wander the cobbled streets, visit the museums, churches and pre-Columbian buildings, such as Qorikancha – the Sun Temple, or to sit in a café and enjoy a coca-tea. There will be a briefing in the evening. Accommodation: Hotel San Agustin Plaza / Eco Inn (or similar) *Comfortable Hotel*
Today we visit the magnificent Sacred Valley of the Incas and the incredible ruins at Pisac before continuing on to Ollantaytambo, where we spend the night. The Sacred Valley, which runs along the Urubamba River near Cuzco, is the true heartland of Incan culture and tradition, which is still strong today. The high-Andean scenery is dotted with old towns and villages dating back to pre-Columbian times. The ruins of the Citadel at Pisac guarded a road from the lowlands and gives way to a picturesque landscape of terraces carved into the solid rock itself. Whilst the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo give you a sense of the scale of what is to come as huge stone terraces scale the valley sides. This was the royal estate of Inca Emperor Pachacuti as well as being of religious and defensive significance. Accommodation: Hotel Pakaripampu (or similar) *Comfortable Hotel*
Those who are doing the Moonstone Trek will join a separate transfer to the trailhead - please refer to the https://assets.exodus.co.uk/pdf/tripnotes/tpm.pdf" target="_blank">Moonstone Trek trip notes for your trek itinerary. The Classic Inca Trail is a tangential branch part of a 45,000km road network linking the whole empire to Cuzco. It was built in the 15th Century to reach Machu Picchu but was abandoned soon after the Spanish conquest. American adventurer, Hiram Bingham travelled along the trail when he came across Machu Picchu in 1911. The trail opened to the public in 1970. We leave Ollantaytambo this morning and take a short drive (approx. 45 minutes) to the start of the Inca Trail at Piscacucho, commonly known as Km82. After greeting our trekking crew we show our passports at the checkpoint and begin the Inca Trail trek. The trail runs alongside the Vilcanota River beneath the impressive snowcapped Nevado Veronica, passing through cactus gardens and fields of corn until we reach the enormous Inca ruins of Llactapata, where we continue up a side valley to camp near the hamlet of Huayllabamba. Huayllabamba Camp *Full-service Camping*
This is the longest and most strenuous day of the trek. A long climb takes us first through an area of cloud forest to the meadows of Llulluchapampa, then over the Warmihuañusca (Dead Woman's) Pass, at 4215m the highest point on the trek. After quite a long, steep descent we camp in the scenic valley of the Pacamayo River (3600m). Accommodation: Pacamayo Camp *Full-service Camping*
We start the day with an easier climb which takes us past the ruins of Runquracay and over the Runquracay Pass (3930m). From now on the Inca Trail becomes a clearly defined path made of flat boulders. We pass the ruins of Sayajmarca and suddenly enter rainforest; at one point the trail passes through an Inca tunnel. We camp on the ridge above the Inca site of Phuyupatamarca (3680m) to benefit from the views of sunset and sunrise. Accommodation: Phuyupatamarca Camp *Full-service Camping*
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, with the peaks of the Vilcabamba range above, and the river thousands of metres below. After visiting the attractive ruins of Wiñay Wayna, we have an undulating walk through cloud forest high above the river to Inti Punku, the Sun Gate. From here we get our first full sight of Machu Picchu itself, with Huayna Picchu rising behind. Traditionally busy with groups of trekkers clamouring for photos, we plan our arrival at Inti Punku later in the day so we can enjoy unobstructed views of the magnificent ruins. Passing around the edge of the ruins, we exit the site and descend to Aguas Calientes for a well-earned rest, a shower and a comfortable bed for the night. Our trekking permits allow us one entry into the site, which we use for our tour tomorrow, but anyone wishing to visit the citadel on both days can purchase an additional entry ticket today – your tour leader will assist with this. There is usually time for an optional visit to the hot springs in Aguas Calientes, however, in recent years they have become over-crowded and the water quality can suffer as a result. We will be reunited with those who have been on the Moonstone Trek at the hotel this afternoon. Accommodation: Hotel Casa Andina, Aguas Calientes (or similar) *Comfortable Hotel*
In order to beat the day-trippers arriving from Cuzco and reach the ruins as early as possible, a very early start is required to queue for Machu Picchu; only government-registered buses can make the 30-minute drive up the winding road to the site entrance and during high season (May-October) queues can be hours long. Machu Picchu is one of the architectural and engineering marvels of the ancient world and what makes it all the more dramatic is its mountain backdrop of staggering immensity. The Spaniards never found it; the Incas left no records of it, and so Machu Picchu remained a great enigma, a city lost for centuries in the jungle until it was rediscovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Having been trialled in 2017, new regulations for visiting Machu Picchu will be fully enforced for 2018; of the three possible visiting slots, Exodus will purchase the morning slot from 06:00 until 12:00 (unless unavailable), you will be limited to a maximum of four hours within the site and must be accompanied by a guide. There will also be three set routes to follow around Machu Picchu; Exodus selects the most comprehensive route. We catch an afternoon train back to Ollantaytambo (1hr 30 mins) and continue by private bus to Cuzco (2hrs 30 mins). Accommodation: 2 nights - Hotel San Agustin Plaza / Eco Inn (or similar) *Comfortable Hotel*
Today has been left free to relax after the trek or explore Cuzco further. There are a number of optional excursions available which your tour leader can arrange for you. If you still have the energy you could choose to mountain bike in the Sacred Valley, taking in a 30-35km ride through Moray, Maras and the small village of Pichingoto. Alternatively, you could try your hand at paddle boarding on Lake Piuray near the town of Chinchero. Or, if feeling more subdued, take it easy and watch the world go by in Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas. *Comfortable Hotel*
For land only travellers, the trip ends in Cuzco after breakfast today. Those who are travelling on the group flights will be taken to Cuzco airport this morning for your overnight flight to London. If you have the time and would like to see more of beautiful Peru, we also offer an Amazon Rainforest extension or a Lake Titicaca extension after the trip. Please see below for further details.
* 5 nights premium hotels and 3 nights full-service camping * 4 days point-to-point walking with full porterage * Group normally 4 to 16, plus local leader. Min age 16 yrs * Altitude maximum 4215m, average 3050m * Increased personal weight limit of 10kg on trek * Travel by private bus and train
All breakfasts, 5 lunches and 3 dinners are included in the price of the tour. Peruvian cuisine has developed a reputation for its flavours and originality and it’s well worth trying out a few of the local delicacies. Amongst these are ceviche (a spicy dish of seafood or fish marinated in lime juice), lomo saltado (a Peruvian take on a beef stir-fry) and various hearty soups such as the delicious quinoa soup. Other dishes include roasted cuy (guinea pig), Alpaca steak, and to drink, the national beverage: Pisco Sour. In the hotels breakfasts are normally buffet-style. While on the trek itself, we also offer a more varied range of meals than on our standard Inca Trail itineraries to give that little extra comfort. For instance, substantial breakfasts including a cooked dish, a cooked lunch including soup or a starter followed by a hot main dish (usually with hot drinks), and a hearty three-course cooked dinner, are typical. Drinking water is provided. The tap water in Peru is not safe to drink; boiled and filtered drinking water is provided on the trek and elsewhere your leader will buy large water containers for you to refill your bottle from.
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