Peru: Machu Picchu & Easier Inca Trail

Main image credit: Alexei Dmitriev

In the variety of its charms and the power of its spell, I know of no other place in the world which can compare with it.– Hiram Bingham, ‘Discoverer’ of Machu Picchu

Peru offers great civilizations, vast landscapes, and a people rich and alive in their culture and history. Peru is one of the hot spots of adventure travel, primarily because it is home to both Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. If you have always wanted to hike the Inca Trail but were intimidated by the challenging terrain, the steepness, the altitude, or the length of the Classic Inca Trail route, we now have an option for you (and it doesn’t include any camping)!  You can hike only the best section of the trail in one day (10 kilometers).

While on the trail, we will be walking on the exact stones that were laid down by thousands of workers, more than 500 years ago. This short route also includes beautiful scenery, a variety of flora and fauna, a visit to Wiñay Wayna (ruins along the trail that rivals Machu Picchu for beauty), and ends at the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu.

This trip also includes airport-to-airport service, acclimatization hikes, and activities in the Sacred Valley and Cusco, and a scenic train ride through the Andes.

Details

  • Cost Per Person: $3,200
  • Optional Single Supplement: $800
  • Private Tour Minimum: 2
  • Activities: Trekking
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Guides: Santiago Castelo

Other Info: PLEASE NOTE: 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!

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Past Traveler Tour Rating

5/5 stars

Trip Highlights

  • Hike in the footsteps of an ancient culture on the Inca Trail
  • Visit Machu Picchu, the astonishing remnant of a past civilization
  • Join local guides and porters for a rich and diverse cultural experience
Day 1

We will meet you at the Cusco airport whenever you arrive and whisk you away to our downtown Cusco hotel. Because our group can arrive at any time, the day and is free for you to explore this magical town in the Andes, or simply relax and recover from your flight. At over 11,000 feet, you will feel the altitude and we recommend taking it easy today to help yourself acclimate.

Day 2

We depart this morning for the archaeological site and market town of Chinchero, about an hour away and several thousand feet lower in the Sacred Valley outside of Cusco.  After a leisurely lunch we shuttle to the quaint village of Ollantaytambo (our home for the next two nights), a couple thousand feet lower than Cusco in altitude. We’ll spend our afternoon acclimatizing 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 3

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. This is a unique hike where you will see few other travelers. We’ll return to Ollantaytambo for a wonderful dinner and our comfortable beds.

Day 4

After breakfast, we will walk to the Ollantaytambo train station, where we will board and then disembark at Kilometer 104 to begin our hike, which will total about 10 kilometers and include some ups and downs. After checking our trail passes and passports with the rangers at the entrance, we will start hiking and arrive at the well-preserved remains of Wiñay Wayna (2650m/8745ft) about three hours later, where we will have lunch. On the way, we will see beautiful waterfalls, native flora and mountain birds. After lunch and exploration at Wiñay Wayna, we will continue our hike to Inti Punku (or Sun Gate), where we will get our first unforgettable and wonderful glimpse of Machu Picchu, one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times. From there, it is a short one-kilometer descent from the Sun Gate into Machu Picchu itself (2400m/7920ft).  We will have a brief orientation about this ancient city, but will save our exploration for tomorrow!  A quick shuttle (sitting on a bus never felt so good!) will take us to our hotel in the bustling little town of Aguas Calientes, the town directly below Machu Picchu.

Day 5

We will return to Machu Picchu today, 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 from your guide before returning to Aguas Calientes. After lunch will then return to Ollantaytambo via a scenic train ride and then transfer by private coach to Cusco (which all takes a little over three hours). Dinner tonight is on your own and your guide will be happy to make recommendations.

Day 6

Our final day of exploration is in Cusco, the cradle of the Incan Empire and a beautiful city. The morning today is free to do as you like in Cusco – exploring the town or resting up after your hike on the Inca Trail.  We will meet in time to have lunch, explore Sacsayhuaman ruins, visit the sun temple and then visit the cathedral and some of the other major attractions in Cusco. Tonight we will have a farewell dinner at one of our favorite Cusco restaurants – Incanto.

Day 7

Today is free for exploration on your own and we will provide a transfer to the Cusco airport at any time today. The hotel will be happy to store your luggage until you leave if you depart after the official checkout time.

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Trip Accommodations

NIGHTS 1, 5 & 6 >> COSTA DEL SOL PICOAGA HOTEL / CUSCO

This four-star luxury hotel 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 the heart of the action!

NIGHTS 2 & 3 >> HOTEL PAKARITAMPU / OLLANTAYTAMBO

Located 56 miles from Cusco, in the heart of the Inca’s Sacred Valley. We love the spectacular gardens here, as well as the friendly staff that makes sure we always have plenty of warm coca tea.

NIGHT 4 >> EL MAPI HOTEL / AGUAS CALIENTES

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

Note: Our hotels are subject to change based on availability, but this doesn't happen very often. If it does, we always substitute a hotel of equal or better quality and will inform you of any changes prior to the trip.
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Arrival & Departure

We will meet you at the Cusco, Peru airport (airport code CUZ) at any time on the first day of the trip. You can fly home at any time on the last day of the trip, but we recommend a late afternoon flight since most flights back to the US from Lima depart late at night. 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. We will also send an American-based trip leader with larger groups (over 10 people).
  • 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 except one dinner on Night 5 breakfast on Day 2 to breakfast on Day 7 are included.
  • All ground transportation is included, including pickup and dropoff at the Cusco airport.
  • All permits and entry fees to hike on the Inca Trail and visit Machu Picchu and other ruins.
  • NOT INCLUDED: Flight to and from Cusco, airport departure taxes (usually included in your flight cost), beverages when dining out, gratuities for your guides, and personal expenses.
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.

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

On the Easier Inca Trail trip, the highest altitude you will reach is actually in the city of Cusco, which sits at nearly 11,000 feet.  You will still likely feel mild effects: shortness of breath, sleeplessness, and slight headaches.  However, you will unlikely suffer any serious effects at this altitude.

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

The difficulty level of the Easier Inca Trail is much lower than our Classic Inca Trail trek and is rated Moderate, making it suitable for most people with some fitness base.

Type of Person Who Would Enjoy This Adventure

This Adventure is for people looking for moderate to challenging hiking (how the hiking is classified depends on you and your ability level, frankly) 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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