The Inca Trails of Cusco

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Why travel with Explorandes?

  • We’ve been adventuring in the Andes since before adventure travel was invented.
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This is a trip that combines the best of all worlds: you’ll enjoy scenic hikes along
ancient pathways, literally following in the footsteps of the Incas, while turning in by
night to a cozy bed in unique accommodations surrounded by Andean mountain vistas
and the serenity of nature.

Enjoy the luxury of a slow and leisurely pace, as we stay in one accommodation for
each area we visit, to bring you the comfort and familiarity of really geing to know a
place before moving on to a new one.

You’ll get to know Cusco and the Sacred Valley on this series of off-the-beaten-path
hikes, where you’ll enjoy amazing panoramic views, get to know local cultures, and
enjoy the vibrant flora and fauna of the Andes; all culminating with the Inca Trail
Express hike, where you’ll have the thrill of entering mystical Machu Picchu from Inti
Punku, Gate of the Sun.

No need to settle for either comfort or adventure: this program offers both!




8 Days / 7 Nights


All year (except February)

Group Departures

1st Saturday of each month


2 passengers

Private Departure

On request




Day 1Free day for acclimatization 

We’ll dedicate this day to resting and becoming accustomed to Cusco’s high altitude of 3399 masl (11,151 fasl). Although there will be plenty of opportunities to sample Peru’s renowned gastronomy, today we recommend eating lightly, as altitude affects digestion, especially as you are acclimatizing. Light soups and plenty of water and tea are in order; it’s a good idea to refrain from red meat and deep-fried food. At 18:00 hrs, we’ll meet with our guide in the hotel lobby, become acquainted with one another, and discuss the exciting hiking adventures to come.

Overnight: Los Portales or similar

Day 2Soft Hiking Cusco´s Backyard and Walking City Tour

Join us for a very easy hike to explore some little-known nearby ruins of Cusco.  

We´ll pick you up from your hotel and take you to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, a mystical place overlooking the city of Cusco. Here, we can admire Inca stonework that is structured to fit together so skillfully that, to this day, archaeologists wonder exactly how these feats of engineering were accomplished. Then it’s on to the Huayllarcocha wetlands, above Cusco, where we can observe the abundant birdlife in this bountiful marshy area. This is the highest point of today´s activity; from here, we’ll walk down towards the city. We´ll hike for approximately one hour until we reach the Cara del Inca (Inca´s face), a rock formation that uncannily resembles a man’s face in profile. We’ll take a bit of time to relax at this tranquil spot, and then continue to the Temple of the Moon, an ancient Huaca, or ceremonial site, consisting of two caves in the side of a hill. Inside the caves are altars and mysterious carvings of animals and unidentified objects. The openings to the caves allow moonlight to touch the altar on certain nights. 

Hiking down a grassy path, we’ll walk a short way until we reach Cusilluchayoc, the Temple of the Monkeys, with ancient stone carvings in the form of monkeys and other animals. We continue descending until arriving at the main plaza of the artist’s district of San Blas, where we’ll stop at a great restaurant and enjoy a traditional Andean lunch.

We will spend a delightful afternoon wandering around the ancient city of Cusco and visiting its main attractions. A city replete with history on every corner, the ancient Inca capital is among the most visited urban areas in South America. You’ll traverse cobblestone streets lined with original Inca walls on the way to the ancient Inca Temple of the Sun (Qoricancha) found inside the Church of Santo Domingo. Once completely covered in gold, and housing hundreds of golden artifacts, the sight of Qoricancha so excited the lust of the conquistadors that they had thousands of irreplaceable artworks and sculptures melted down so that they could send the gold to the king and queen of Spain. Visit the Plaza de Armas, once the Inca’s main city center, and learn about its dramatic and sometimes violent history. Two churches stand on the Plaza, the Cusco Cathedral, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cusco, dating from 1654; and the even more ancient Church of the Triumph, which was built on top of the Suntur Wasi, an Inca religious temple. Note the significant works of art depicting Mary and the infant Jesus, saints, and apostles from the Cusco School of Painting, There is a “Last Supper” painting that depicts the main course in the center of the table as a guinea pig or cuy; it was painted by Quechua artist Marcos Zapata in the 18th century. The Plaza de Armas is a gathering place for locals, especially on weekends, and boasts lovely flower gardens, benches for the repose of locals and tourists, and central statuary. The tour will proceed at a gentle pace to give you time to acclimatize to the high- altitude and to present questions to your guide.

(B / L)
About the hike:
Distance in car: 6 km (3.7 mi) 
Duration transportation (RT): 30 min
Duration of the hike: 3 hours 
Hiking distance: 4.9 km (3.1 mi) 
Min Alt.: 3442 masl (11,293 fasl) 
Max Alt.: 3800 masl (12,467 fasl) 
Ascent: 282 m (925 ft) 
Descent: 378 m (1240 ft) 

About the Walking City Tour:
Duration: 4 hours
Overnight: Los Portales or similar

Day 3Chinchero to Urquillos Hike

This lesser-known hike brings you from Chinchero to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It’s both an easy and picturesque hiking option, with stunning views along the way. The trek is mostly downhill, with many stone steps, on a reconstructed portion of the original Inca trail. Starting out, we’ll pick you up from your hotel and drive to Chinchero, a traditional Inca town located between Cusco and the heart of the Sacred Valley. The village of Chinchero is famous for its beautiful colonial architecture and highly skilled traditional weavers. After a visit to its archaeological complex, we’ll start our downhill walk over the single-track cobble-stoned Inca trail, enjoying the scenery as we descend. After about one hour of hiking, we´ll reach the Inca Trail vista point, where we’ll rest for a bit, taking in the gorgeous scenery. Hiking onward, we´ll reach a zigzag portion of the trail and the starting point of the Urquillos Canal. We’ll observe how the ecosystem changes and the temperature rises as we descend into the protection of the valley. We will be able to enjoy flitting birdlife and abundant, blooming flora along the way. Our hike will end when we reach the Urquillos Bridge, spanning the Urubamba River, where our private transportation will be waiting.

(B / BL)
Distance in car: 40 km (25 mi) 
Duration transportation (RT): 1 hour
Duration of the hike: 5 hours
Hiking distance: 9.2 km (5.7 mi) 
Min Alt.: 2885 masl (9465 fasl) 
Max Alt.: 3759 masl (12,333 fasl) 
Ascent: 163 m (535 ft) 
Descent: 990 m (325 ft)
Overnight: AMAK Sacred Valley or similar

Day 4Hike though Moray, Maras, and Pichingoto

We´ll pick you up at your hotel in the morning and head towards the Sacred Valley. Our first stop will be Moray, where you’ll have the privilege of exploring one of the earliest agricultural experimental “labs” in existence on the planet. It is believed that the beautiful and elegantly constructed spiraling circular terraces were used to support a variety of microclimates, encouraging the growth of specific crops that are attuned to each climate. The temperature difference between the uppermost and lowest levels can vary by as much as 15 °C (59 ℉). Plants that thrive at the deepest level of over 30 meters (98 ft) are different species from those that thrive at the uppermost levels. To think that indigenous Peruvians used experimental techniques to nurture diverse food crops, centuries before modern greenhouse techniques were invented, is truly impressive! After our visit, we´ll start our hike towards the town of Maras to access the famous saltpans. In Maras, residents “mine” 3000 bright white and multicolored salt ponds, which are divided among local families. You will be able to navigate around some of the saltpans and taste the famous Maras salt, known for its beneficial health properties. You’ll get a glimpse into a lifestyle very different from your own, as you learn about the techniques used to extract this mineral-rich condiment. Purchasing a bag of the precious salt will help support this community in maintaining their centuries-old traditional way of life. From Maras, we continue hiking, descending to Pichingoto, a little visited Inca “ghost town.” Here, we will observe ancient stone cave-like houses built into cliff walls; rock homes with several connecting rooms; and a Spanish colonial church dating from the 17th century. After getting a feel for this mysterious place, we will meet up with our vehicle and return to our accommodations.

(B / PL)
Distance in car: 55 km (34.2 mi)
Duration transportation (RT): 1:30 hours  
Duration of the hike: 5 hours
Hiking distance: 12.1 km (7.5 mi) 
Min Alt.: 2842 masl (9324 fasl) 
Max Alt.: 3535 masl (11,600 fasl) 
Ascent: 342 m (1122 ft)
Descent: 1009 m (3310 ft)
Overnight: AMAK Sacred Valley or similar

Day 5Huayllafara  Community Hike

Today we will have an easy morning hike from La Base at Lamay village, following a single track that borders the Carmen River. We’ll ascend through a forested area with an abundance of flora and fauna, to the community of Huayllafara. Arriving at the community, we’ll observe sweeping views of local farms and typical Andean homes. We’ll get a sense of the community life of the villagers as they engage in their agricultural work, herding livestock, working on artisan projects, and caring for children, often all at once! After partaking in a nutritious snack with the villagers, we’ll enjoy amazing views of the village and the surrounding mountain peaks, as we return to La Base Lamay. This short trek will give us a glimpse into how folks live in Lamay and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We’ll return you to your hotel and allow you to enjoy a restful afternoon, in preparation for tomorrow’s more strenuous activities.

(B / L)
Distance in car: 58 km (36 mi)
Duration transportation (RT): 1:10 hours
Duration of the hike: 3-4 hours
Hiking distance: 7.5 km (4.7 mi)
Min Alt.: 3000 masl (9843 fasl)
Max Alt.: 3400 masl (11,155 fasl)
Ascent: 482 m (1581 ft)
Descent: 500 m (1640 ft)
Overnight: AMAK Sacred Valley or similar

Day 6Inca Trail Express to Machu Picchu

Waking early, we’ll drive to Ollantaytambo, where we’ll board the train that takes us in the direction of Machu Picchu. The train will chug alongside the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley; we’ll see a noticeable change in our surroundings as we enter the verdant and misty cloud forest of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary. We’ll disembark and cross a hanging bridge that spans the mighty river, and visit the ruins of Chachabamba, which is believed to have been a spiritual center dedicated to water deities. 

Now it’s a 3-hour ascent to a second important spiritual center, Wiñay Wayna. These ruins are built into a steep slope on the way up to the Sun Gate. After we explore for a bit, we’ll cut across the ridge above Machu Picchu to reach Inti Punku, Gate of the Sun. This is a dramatic moment, as we look down on the magnificent Machu Picchu ruins spread out far below, gaining a glimpse into a mystical, forgotten world. We’ll spend the night in a hotel in the village of Machu Picchu.

(B / BL)
Driving distance: 20 km (12.5 mi) – Time: 35 min 
Train ride: 37 km (23 mi) – Time: 1:10 hours
Duration of the hike: 6-7 hours 
Hiking distance: 11.7 km (7.3 mi)
Min Alt.: 2142 masl (7027 fasl) 
Max Alt.: 2727 masl (8946 fasl) 
Ascent: 163 m (535 ft) 
Descent: 990 m (325 ft) 
Bus ride (RT): 6.2 km (3.9 mi) – Time: 30 min
Overnight: El Mapi or similar

Day 7Machu Picchu Visit – Cusco

After an early breakfast, we’ll hop on board the bus up to the ruins, a half-hour ascending ride. Your English-speaking guide will accompany you as you explore the breath-taking ruins and learn about the various structures and buildings and the lifestyles of its former inhabitants. You’ll be immersed in the sheer beauty of the complex and its verdant surroundings, as you breathe in the rarefied air of the cloud forest. Return to the village below in the afternoon, where you’ll board a train back to Cusco or Ollantaytambo. (Hotel overnight and dinner on your own). 

(B / L)
Duration of the activity: 3 hours
Bus ride to Machu Picchu (RT): 12.4 km (7.7 mi) – Time: 1 hour
Train ride: 32 km (19.9 mi) – Time: 1:10 hours
Driving distance Ollantaytambo to Cusco: 79 km (49 mi) – Time: 2 hours
Overnight: Los Portales or similar

Day 8Transfer to the airport

The day has arrived where we must take our leave of magical Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, carrying with us memories that will enrich our lives for years to come.

End of services 
B – Breakfast / L – Lunch / BL – Box Lunch / PL – Picnic Lunch / D – Dinner 

Not Included
What to take

– Transportation
– Train tickets
– Overnight in double rooms with private bathrooms
– Professional bilingual guide
– Entrance tickets
– Meals as mentioned

– Personal travel insurance
– Laundry service
– Airline tickets
– Personal gear
– Alcoholic beverages
– Additional services
– Tips
– Extras

– Short-sleeved shirts or t-shirts of breathable fabrics, like nylon and polyester
– Light insulation long sleeve jacket
– Waterproof jacket (in the rainy season, we recommend you to also bring rain pants)
– Hiking pants or shorts, preferably made of QuickDry material
– Light cap
– Breathable sports or hiking socks
– Multifunctional headwear (for example, Buff)
– Waterproof and breathable light hiking boots
– Trekking Poles (rent available)
– Day Pack (preferably with rain cover)
– Sunglasses, sunblock, lip balm, and repellent
– Reusable water bottle
– Personal First Aid Kit (recommended)

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