The trip starts in Cuzco today. The group flights usually arrive into Cuzco late morning. The Inca capital - though small enough to be easily manageable - is among the most attractive cities in South America, with much of the centre comprising colonial-era buildings with Inca foundations, and it is full of interesting museums, churches and pre-Columbian sites. We will have a short walking tour around the compact city centre to get our bearings. It is recommended to take it easy upon arrival into Cuzco and to drink plenty of water to allow your body time to acclimatise to the altitude (3,400m). There will be a welcome briefing in the hotel lobby this evening. *Hotel Warari/ Koyllur Inn/ Hotel Garcilazo (or similar) *
Today has been left free for exploring Cuzco, one of South America's most beautiful cities. The Plaza de Armas is a fantastic spot for people watching, and Qorikancha (the ‘Sun Temple’), located in the Santo Domingo Church and monastery is worth a visit. The Mercado San Pedro is the place to try some local produce and there are many handicraft markets to shop for souvenirs such as alpaca jumpers and scarves. If you fancy something more active then there is an array of other optional activities available from Cuzco, although you may wish to leave these until your return to Cuzco after the Inca Trail trek, by which time you will be fully acclimatised. These include paddle-boarding on a lake, mountain biking, or a combination of via ferrata and zip-lining in the Sacred Valley. *Hotel Warari/ Koyllur Inn/ Hotel Garcilazo (or similar)*
We leave Cuzco early this morning, around 5am, and drive for approximately 5 hours to Capuliyoc Pass (approx. 2,915m) in time for lunch, stopping to explore the archaeological sites of Tarawasi and Saywite en route. From the top of the pass, we enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Apurimac River and the surrounding snow‐capped peaks, as well as Choquequirao itself. Descending from the pass, the path zigzags its way through dry forest above the raging waters of the Apurimac River. Our camp tonight is at Chiquisaca (1,950m). *Full-Service Camping - Chiquisaca (1,950m)*
Another very early start for a long day’s trek. Just over an hour of walking downhill brings us to Playa Rosalina (1,500m), from where we cross over the Apurimac River before beginning the long and steep switchback climb up to the village of Santa Rosa. After a rest stop, we continue climbing to a plateau above Maranpata (2,920m) where we usually have a lunch break in a small village. The gradient eases off a little here and the path undulates towards Choquequirao for a couple of hours. The forests here are home to spectacled bears, and we may catch sight of them as we approach the Inca citadel. After walking through the terraces, we set up camp close to the ruins themselves (3,035m). This campsite has cold showers and flushing toilets. *Full-Service Camping - Choquequirao (3,035m)*
We have ample time to fully explore the vast, sprawling ruins of Choquequirao. Larger than Machu Picchu, the site is made up of nine different areas which each had a distinct role covering religious, political and military functions. The quality of the stonework indicates that it housed important Inca officials or royalty, and in common with other important sites, it features ritual baths and temples dedicated to the sun, moon and Pachamama, the earth spirit. Much of Choquequirao is unexcavated and many buildings are still hidden beneath the thick forest which surrounds the main site. There are incredible views of the whole site and the Apurimac Valley from the truncated hilltop of Sunch'u Pata, a short distance up from the main plaza. In the afternoon we will visit the terraces of Pacchanta. *Full-Service Camping - Choquequirao*
We cover a lot of ground today, starting with a short but steep climb to the top of the Choquequirao Pass (3,215m) from where we enjoy our last panoramic view over Choquequirao. After the pass we walk steeply downhill on a wide but dusty road to Pinchinoyoc (2,400m) where we visit Inca terraces that were previously covered in vegetation. We continue our descent right to the bottom of the valley, where we cross the Rio Blanco (1,800m) and begin our ascent up the other side of the valley. This is a long, steep climb up to Maizal at 3,000m. This is a strenuous day, descending over 1,500m and ascending over 1,500m over the course of the day. *Full-Service Camping - Maizal (3,000m)*
We start the day with a steep, switchback climb (approx. 5hrs) up the San Juan Pass (4,170m) - the effort of ascending the pass is balanced with incredible views of the snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Vilcabamba, including Choquetacarpo, Pumasillo and Sacsarayoc. On a clear day you can see the magnificent glaciers and enjoy a 360 degree panorama of these beautiful, serrated mountains. As we near the top, we stop at the 500-year-old La Victoria silver mines. Crossing the pass, we descend for roughly three hours to our camp at Yanama (3,400m), following an old miners track which glitters with silver dust. In May this path winds through landscapes filled with wild lupins in flower. Today you have good chances to spot a mighty Andean condor as it soars on the thermals. *Full-Service Camping - Yanama (3,400m)*
Stunning scenery abounds today as we trek deep in the heart of the Vilcabamba Range, climbing for approx.5 hours up to the highest point of the trek, the Yanama Pass (4,660m). There is a new road from Yanama village up and over the pass, however, our trail avoids it wherever possible – and vehicles are few and far between. Our gravelly trail follows the river up the valley before it begins the climb, crisscrossing the new road until reaching the top of the pass and the high point of the trek where lofty Sacsarayoc dominates the skyline from the pass. A long (approx. 4hr) descent from the pass brings us through along the valley, passing small villages along the way and following the river to Totora campsite (3,440m), where we spend the night. *Full-Service Camping - Totora*
From Totora it is a descent (approx. 7hrs) to Lucabamba. We will notice more trekkers around today as we converge with a section of the Salcantay trail and pass enter a more inhabited area. We follow the road for a short section, then a gravel path beside the river; the surroundings are green as we are walking through cloud forest once again. We’ll also see lots of fruit trees and coffee plantations. Tonight’s campsite is particularly special: your tents will be pitched on Inca terraces, and the campsite is in the middle of a coffee plantation. Time permitting, there is the chance for a tour of the coffee plantation (for PEN10, or free entry should you purchase some coffee, PEN25 for a large bag). *Full-Service Camping - Lucabamba*
Rising early, we follow an original Inca trail which climbs uphill for three hours to the site of Llactapacta. After a final two hour descent, we reach the hydroelectric station at Santa Teresa (1,900m) – a good spot for lunch. After lunch, we cross the Vilcanota River and finish our trek at the train station. We board the train to Aguas Calientes in the afternoon and check into our hotel upon arrival for a well-earned rest and a shower! *Hotel Inti Punku El Tambo (or similar)*
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) where we spend the night. *Tunupa Lodge (or similar)*
We wake to explore the narrow cobbled streets and the colossal Inca stone terraces which dominate the hillside above Ollantaytambo town. The archaeological site at Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Inca Emperor Pachacuti as well as being of religious and defensive significance. Travelling by road we next visit the ruins of the Citadel at Pisac where Inca terraces are carved into the solid rock itself and there will also be time to walk around the colourful market. Afterwards, we continue the drive to Cuzco, passing through high-Andean scenery dotted with old towns and villages dating back to pre-Columbian times. *Hotel Warari / Koyllur Inn / Hotel Garcilazo (or similar)*
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 to catch your overnight flight back to London.
* 5 nights en suite hotels and 7 nights full-service camping * 8 days point-to-point walking with full porterage * Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader. Min. age 18 yrs * Altitude maximum 4660m, average 3000m * Travel by private bus and train
All breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 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. Hotel breakfasts are normally simple buffet-style affairs, usually including bread/toast and jam, cereal, sometimes eggs or a cooked dishes, sometimes fruit, tea/coffee and fruit juice. Regrettably, we cannot guarantee that wheat/gluten-free products will be available for breakfast in all locations - if you have an intolerance you may wish to bring your own breakfast food. Where lunch and dinner is not included in Cuzco/Aguas Calientes/Ollantaytambo we'll visit a variety of cafes and restaurants. During the trek hearty breakfasts are served and good quality cooked lunches and dinners are provided, and usually consist of soup or a starter, a main course with meat/fish and some form of carbohydrates, followed by a dessert. Some snacks between meals are also provided. Drinking water (boiled and filtered) is provided in the mornings and at lunch during the trek so that you can refill your bottles. Bed tea/coffee is brought to your tent each morning and juice or hot drinks are provided with all meals during the trek. 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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