Peru: Machu Picchu & Classic Inca Trail Private Trek

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller

Peru offers great civilizations, vast landscapes, and a people rich and alive in their culture and history. Find yourself wandering colonial cities, visiting the Inca capital of Cuzco, exploring the lost city of Machu Picchu and walking the ancient trails and ruins of the Incas. The four days and three nights we spend on the Inca Trail are the highlight of this trip.

Hiking the Classic Inca Trail has been immortalized as a phenomenal adventure travel feat. It is a remarkable hike that crosses Dead Woman’s Pass (4,200 meters or 13,860 feet in elevation), offers stunning views of the surrounding cloud forest and peaks of the Andes Mountains, visits several isolated Incan ruins en route, and ends at the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu.

Our days on the trail are filled with the astonishing sights, while nights are spent swapping stories and learning about the area from our local guides. You’ll sleep in tents for the three nights on the trail and have local staff that carry your equipment, cook your meals, and cater to your every need. They’ll even deliver hot tea, coffee, and hot water to your tent door each morning. While this is camping, it is luxurious and truly exotic. This trip includes airport-to-airport service, acclimatization hikes in the Sacred Valley, a scenic train ride through the Andes, and a post-trek day in Cusco.

Trip Favorite Moments & Reviews

“Fabulous – HIGHLY recommend it to anyone – in fact I have told a number of people it has to be on their Must Do List. Trip was well organized, perfectly paced, great mix of rugged (camping) and luxury (Sol y Luna and Machu Picchu Inkaterra were both fabulous!).”

Sue R.

“Best trip I’ve ever taken. Fun from start to finish. Well above expectation. Exhilarating. Spectacular views, educational, finishing the journey was a satisfying achievement. First class experience. Highly recommended. I have been telling everyone I know directly and through Facebook.”

Stuart M.

Details

Other Info: A $200 per person supplement will be added to groups of 2.

Because we must provide a deposit to ensure space on the Inca Trail, which is limited in numbers, the $500 deposit for this trip is not refundable or transferable to another trip, starting seven days after you receive your trip confirmation email and Pre-Departure Packet. Please strongly consider trip insurance!

$82 for Huayna Picchu hike (see information under More Details)

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Trip Highlights

  • Explore the lost city of Machu Picchu, the fascinating relic of a past civilization.
  • Hike in the footsteps of an ancient culture on the Inca Trail.
  • Live deeply in the rich and diverse culture of Peru.
  • Experience "luxury camping" while on the trail and wonderful 3- and 4-star hotels before and after the trek.
DAY 1

We will meet you at the Cusco airport at 11 AM, or our downtown Cusco hotel at noon and head for a wonderful introductory lunch. Our destination today is the quaint village of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley outside of Cusco, which is at 2750 meters (over 9000 feet) above sea level. We’ll spend our afternoon acclimatizing to the altitude while we hike around town for several hours and visit the archaeological remains. Ollantaytambo was an important fortified city, built to control the roads to the jungle and, according to many historians, to allow the great Incan capital to protect its people from their enemies, the Antis.  From there, we will check into our hotel and enjoy dinner and perhaps our first wonderful sips of coca tea.

DAY 2

After breakfast, we shuttle to the Moray agricultural laboratory, also located in the Sacred Valley. This impressive off-the-beaten-path site has a cavernous ampitheater-like bowl with dozens of concentric terraces, each with its own microclimate. The Incas used this outdoor laboratory to determine the optimal conditions for growing crops of each species. From there, we hike to the nearby town of Maras for a lunch prepared by our local guide and staff. Afterwards, we’ll continue on foot to visit the nearby salt pans, where local families make their living mining salt. Our total hiking time today is approximately three hours and will help us acclimatize for our trek. We’ll return to Ollantaytambo for a pre-trek route talk about packing, a wonderful dinner and our comfortable beds.

DAY 3

After a morning transfer by private motorcoach to the town of Piscacucho (2750m/9075 ft), which is also Kilometer 82 of the railway, we have an introduction to our equipment, the route and our porters, and begin trekking through semi-arid terrain along the left bank of the Urubamba River, with magnificent views of snow-capped mountains on the horizon.  After two hours we arrive above the ruins of Llactapata (2650m/8745ft).  Here we leave the Urubamba and set off up the Kusichaca River Valley to our camp near Wayllabamba (3000m/9900 ft).  Walking from Piscacucho to Wayllabamba is approximately 12 kilometers and takes us four to five hours.

DAY 4

After a healthy breakfast we begin to walk uphill to the great Warmihuañusca (Dead Woman) pass, which at 4200m/13860ft is our highest point on the trek. We have a steep climb in the morning with a gain of 1200m/3960ft. This is a day we’ll be very happy to have porters! The top of the pass offers a view you will not soon forget and we allow plenty of time at the top to appreciate it. We descend 2000 feet on stone steps to Pacaymayo (3600m/11880 ft), our second camp. Note this is the most difficult of the four days and will be very challenging for most people. The key is to go slowly and steadily. Walking time from Wayllabamba to Warmiwañusca Pass is nine kilometers and four to five hours. Walking time from the pass down to the campsite is about two kilometers and another one to two hours.

DAY 5

From our campsite, we take a steep but short ascent to the Runkurakay circular ruins, a lookout point over the passes below. From here there is no sign of human life, only great forests and abrupt hills. The uphill continues for a short while after the ruins and then we head down on a well-preserved section of trail to the Sayacmarca ruins (3580m/11814 ft). These ruins are another short but steep climb off the main trail and are well worth visiting. After lunch the trail heads into jungle terrain and a spectacular cloud forest before arriving at our third camp (3760m/12400 ft), where we’ll have a view of the surrounding peaks like you’ve never seen! Walking distance for the day is eight kilometers and four hours, so we have plenty of time to explore Runkurakay and Sayacmarca. Although we will have several ascents and descents, our total elevation gain will be only 40m/132ft.

DAY 6

We rise early today, our final day on the trail, to watch the sun’s rays splash onto the surrounding mountaintops. The entire morning will be downhill on stone steps. We stop for a brief visit at the ruins below our campsite, Phuyupatamarka, before continuing our descent through the jungle to the Wiñay Wayna Ruins (2650m/8745ft). These are significant ruins, second only to Machu Picchu. We continue to Inti Punku (also known as the Sun Gate), our final mountain pass and from here you’ll have your unforgettable first glimpse of Machu Picchu.   It is a short one-kilometer descent from the Sun Gate into Machu Picchu itself (2400m/7920ft) and from there we will take a quick shuttle (sitting on a bus never felt so good!) to our hotel. You might be tired from your days on the trail, but you will definitely want to take time to explore bustling little Aguas Calientes, the town directly below Machu Picchu, and perhaps purchase some last-minute souvenirs. Walking time from Phuyupatamarca to Wiñay Wayna is seven kilometers and three hours and on to Machu Picchu is another six kilometers and two to three hours. We have a total elevation loss of 1240m/4092ft.

DAY 7

We will return to Machu Picchu today, just in time to see the sun rise, and we’ll have it mostly to ourselves for a few hours (before the hordes of visitors arrive by train from Cusco) . You’ll have the option to learn more about its fascinating history via your own guided tour or to take a challenging hike up the steep mountain of Huayna Picchu (we need to purchase ahead of time a separate permit for each person who elects to participate in this option) before returning to Aguas Calientes. We will then return to Ollantaytambo by train and then transfer by private coach to Cusco (which takes a little over three hours) before enjoying our farewell dinner in town.

DAY 8

Our final day of exploration is in Cusco, the cradle of the Incan Empire and a beautiful city. The day includes options of a walk through Sacsayhuaman ruins, a guided walk through the city or time for you to explore and shop on your own. After lunch, we will transfer to the Cusco airport at which time you are free to depart the country or extend your vacation in Peru.

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Trip Accommodations

Night 1 & 2 >> Hotel Pakaritampu /Ollantaytambo

Located 56 miles from Cusco, in the heart of the Inca’s Sacred Valley, the Pakaritampu is in an ideal location for acclimating for our trek. We love the spectacular gardens here, as well as the friendly staff that makes sure we always have plenty of warm coca tea.

Night 3 - 5 >> Luxury Camping / The Inca Trail

Camp at luxury sites throughout the Inca Trail. Our staff will set up your tent, carry your gear, and prepare your meals.

Night 6>> El MaPi Hotel / Aguas Calientes

The contemporary El MaPi Hotel is a comfortable landing spot after three nights on the trail, especially when you are handed a refreshing lemongrass lemonade upon arrival. It is located in the center of “Machup Picchu town” and provides a perfect base for exploring.

Night 7 >> Costa del Sol Picoaga Hotel / Cusco

A four-star luxury hotel that was originally a mansion of the Spanish nobility. Located only two blocks from the Plaza de Armas, the main square of Cusco, it is a wonderful retreat in which to pamper ourselves for our last night of the trip!

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Arrival & Departure

We will meet you at the Cusco, Peru airport (airport code CUZ) at 11 AM on the first day of the trip. If you arrive a day early, we can meet you at our Cusco hotel instead. Your return flight from Cusco should be late in the afternoon of the last day of the trip. We will provide further travel details upon booking.

What's Included?
  • Our Peru-based guide will accompany your group the entire trip. Porters, cooks, and camp staff will accompany us on the trek itself, as well as an assistant guide if numbers warrant this.
  • Double occupancy lodging is included. If you are traveling solo, we will match you with another traveler of the same gender. However, you may pay a single supplement to have your own room.
  • All meals from lunch on Day 1 through breakfast on Day 8 are included.
  • All ground transportation is included, including pickup at the Cusco airport.
  • All group camping equipment is included.
  • NOT INCLUDED: Beverages, desserts, lunches, gratuities to your guides, sleeping bag (rental available), personal expenses and travel to and from the destination.
Non-Refundable Deposit

Because we must provide a deposit to ensure space on the Inca Trail, which is limited in numbers, the $500 deposit for this trip is not refundable or transferable to another trip, starting seven days after you receive your trip confirmation email and Pre-Departure Packet. Please strongly consider trip insurance!

Limited Availability

Inca Trail passes are limited to 500 travelers and local staff each day. Passes always sell out! Please book as early as possible.

Climbing Huayna Picchu

Huayna Picchu is the iconic mountain that rises over Machu Picchu and around which the Urubamba River bends. You have the option to climb this mountain the morning you visit Machu Picchu (for an extra cost). The number of daily visitors allowed on Huayna Picchu is restricted to 400 hikers and an additional pass must be purchased for you ahead of time in order to enter the trail up Huayna Picchu.
A steep and, at times, exposed pathway leads to the summit. Some portions are slippery and steel cables (a via ferrata) provide some support during the one-hour ascent (and 45-minute descent). The climb is more challenging between November and April because the path up the mountain becomes slippery in the rainy season. Better conditions can be expected during the dry season, which runs from May to September. 
Please note: the trail has sections of narrow steps with exposure and a very tight but short tunnel. If youhave a fear of heights, or are claustrophobic this is not a hike we'd recommend for you. That said, it is a thrilling hike for those who are on the adventurous side!
We will ask you in your pre-trip emails if you'd like us to purchase a pass for you to climb Huayna Picchu.

Weather

The average high temperature in Cusco doesn't change much during the year and is usually in the mid-60s degrees Fahrenheit while the overnight low is in the lower 40s. Temperatures will be about five degrees warmer in Lima and nighttime temperatures will be about 10 degrees colder on the trek. We avoid the rainy season, which runs from late October to early April. Therefore, you should expect excellent hiking weather but with cool nights.

Best Time to Travel to Machu Picchu

The dry season, which is important when hiking, runs from mid-April to mid-October. We prefer the shoulder seasons of April, May, June, September, and October when the crowds are fewer and the rain still stays mostly away but any time during the dry season is a good time to be in Peru!

Altitude

The highest altitude we reach on our Classic Inca Trail trek is 13,860 feet. This is not comparable to similar heights in North America as we are much closer to the equator and the climate is much milder. Nevertheless, the effects of altitude are the same and you will feel them: light headache, possible nausea, dizziness, etc. We spend two days in the Sacred Valley adjusting to the altitude, so you will likely do fine. We do not expect you to have any prior experience with altitude.

On our Easier Inca Trail trek, the highest altitude we reach is actually the town of Cusco itself, at 11,220 feet, but we descend from there after the first night and spend two days acclimatizing in the Sacred Valley. You should have minimal altitude effects on this version of the trek.

The solution to altitude problems is always to descend. If you have symptoms of altitude sickness on the trek that do not go away, we will make the decision to evacuate you. This generally means turning around (if you are not over the highest pass) or continuing on to our destination (if you have crossed the pass). Thousands of people hike the Inca Trail each year and most do not have serious issues.

Extending Your Stay

There are many other things to see and do in the country and we will make recommendations in our Pre-Departure Packet. The Amazon rainforest, Lake Titicaca, the Nazca Lines, and the coast are all possible destinations.

Passport and Visa Requirements

You must have a passport valid for at least six months upon entry to Peru.  If you do not have a passport, you should call your local Passport Agency (in the phone book) now to get the process started.  North Americans and most Europeans receive a travel visa to Peru upon entry at the airport.

Immunizations

No immunizations are required for entry to Peru.  However, you should still consult with a travel doctor about what immunizations you should have.  Recommended shots might include:

  • Tetanus & Diphtheria: You should have been immunized as a kid but these shots require a booster every 10 years.
  • Hepatitis A: You should strongly consider getting a shot to prevent this food- and water-borne disease.
  • Hepatitis B:  This is a blood- or semen-borne disease that you are at risk of contracting if you have sex, have a blood transfusion, or come into contact with infected needles (possibly in a hospital).
Ability Level

This Adventure for the Classic Inca Trail is rated as More Difficult. The four-day hiking will be strenuous for some people and quite moderate for others. While being in shape is not a predictor of how you will do at altitude, it will certainly help you on the hikes themselves. We recommend you start working out several months in advance of the trip if you are not already doing so. You should be aware that you likely will experience some mild forms of altitude sickness such as slight headaches or an upset stomach.  Additionally, you should be aware that you are traveling to a developing country where sanitation and services are not up to the standard you experience at home, although we make every effort to ensure your good health while you are with us.

The difficulty level of the Easier Inca Trail is much lower, making it suitable for most people.

Type of Person Who Would Enjoy This Adventure

This Adventure is for people looking for a challenging (Classic Inca Trail) and culturally interesting vacation.  Machu Picchu is one of the most amazing places on the earth and is that much better after having spent four days walking there on the Inca Trail. If you are active, willing to brave a foreign culture, and looking for a little adventure, come join us in Peru!

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