Travel to Peru and discover ancient civilisations on the Inca Trail

Travel to Peru to retrace the steps of the Inca, Peru's fascinating ancient civilisation. Travel from Cusco, through the fertile heartland of the Sacred Valley and to the magnificent Ollantaytambo ruins before the ultimate destination – reaching Machu Picchu. This action-filled express Peruvian tour gets you closer to the secrets of this elusive civilisation on a breathtaking adventure along the Inca Trail.

This trip requires Inca Trail Permits. View permit availability here.

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Start
Cusco, Peru
Finish
Cusco, Peru
Destination
Peru
Style
Original
Theme
Walking & Trekking
Code
GGTA
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why you'll love this trip

  • Explore Cusco, South America's oldest continuously inhabited city. The city has ancient foundations, an interesting blend of Incan and colonial influences, and seemingly endless things to do and see.

  • Adjust to the altitude with a pisco sour and some ceviche to get to know Peruvian cuisine.

  • This trip gives both trekkers and non-trekkers the chance to visit Machu Picchu with Inca Trail, Quarry Trail and train options.

  • Travel through the Sacred Valley - known for its steep and soaring scenery, its mystical significance for the Inca and the indigenous cultures that still reside here.

  • Explore the greatest icon of ancient South America, Machu Picchu, on a guided tour.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip visits places that are at high altitude, and as a result some people can suffer from altitude sickness, regardless of age or physical health. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information on this.

  • This trip involves a lot of walking to see the sites, and if you trek the Inca Trail or Quarry Trail, there'll be strenuous hiking. The trip is recommended for those with a good level of fitness. Please bring comfortable footwear suitable to hiking. See the ‘What to Take’ section of the trip notes for more information.

  • For those who trek the Inca Trail or Quarry Trail, you'll be camping with basic facilities. It's definitely the journey as well as the final destination (Machu Picchu) that makes this way of exploring Peru worthwhile.

  • Can't decide which trek is for you? Read up on them here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/inca-trail-vs-quarry-trail/

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2019 to 31 Dec 2020.
View the 2020 itinerary
Welcome to Cusco. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm where you'll meet your tour leader and travel group. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. After this important meeting, get acquainted with this charming city's intriguing blend of cultures on a guided walking tour with your leader. Check out some of Cusco's main attractions, as well as its lesser-known sights such as the Qoricancha temple, San Pedro market, the main square, the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square. End the walking tour with a visit to the Chocolate Museum where you get to sample hot chocolate made from local cacao beans. There’s also a small store where you can shop handicrafts and artisanal chocolate products. Don't miss the opportunity to sample mate de coca (coca tea) while here.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Cusco - Orientation Walk
  • Cusco - Chocolate Museum Visit & Hot Chocolate
Optional Activities
  • Cusco - Full Boleto Turistico Pass (access to 16 archaeological sites, transport & guides not included) - PEN135
  • Cusco - Half Boleto Turistico Pass (access to selected archaeological sites, transport & guides not included) - PEN75
  • Cusco - Cathedral Entrance Fee - PEN25
  • Cusco - City tour - USD15
  • Cusco - Coricancha Temple entrance fee - PEN15
  • Cusco - Pisco Making - Urban Adventures - USD36
  • Cusco - Pre-Colombian Museum - PEN20
  • Cusco - Inca Museum - PEN10
  • Cusco - Machu Picchu Museum & Botanical Garden - PEN20
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
As Cusco is a high altitude town (3450 metres), it's a good idea to arrive a few days early so you can spend some time acclimatising. As this tour doesn't involve much time in Cusco, this will also give you a chance to take part in some of the optional activities available. Due to the high altitude of many of places we visit, the air is thinner and some people can suffer altitude sickness, regardless of age, gender or fitness. Please see the 'Is This Trip Right For You?' and 'Health' sections in the trip notes for detailed information.

This trip forms part of many longer combination trips. Some of your fellow travellers may have started earlier in Lima or elsewhere or be traveling on further after Peru, and some will be doing different routes to Machu Picchu.
Travel by private bus through the Sacred Valley for about two hours. Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, the valley has been a source of livelihood to the locals for hundreds of years. You’ll see maize crops covering the terraced valley walls and the sacred river beneath. Stop for lunch in a local community, where you'll also get the chance to learn about their traditional lifestyle and maybe wrap your tongue around a few words of the Quechua language. If it’s market day, you'll have time to browse the local handicrafts on offer, such as beads and ponchos. Continue your journey to the town of Ollantaytambo where we check out the town’s archaeological site – a magnificent example of Inca urban planning – which includes remnants of an Inca city and soaring views over the present-day settlement. Spend the night in Ollantaytambo.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Sacred Valley - Community visit & lunch
Optional Activities
  • Ollantaytambo - Archeological site - PEN70
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Depending on the travel arrangements you made before the trip, during the next four days you’ll be doing one of the following: hiking the Inca Trail (Route 1), hiking the Quarry Trail (Route 2) or staying in Cusco for another two days before taking the train to Aguas Calientes (Route 3).

While away from Cusco, the bulk of your luggage will be stored at your hotel. If you’re hiking the Inca Trail or the Quarry Trail, the evening before you leave Cusco you'll receive a small duffle bag to carry your clothes in for the next four days (5kg maximum). Your team of porters will carry these bags for you, together with the food and equipment for the trail. Please note that you won't have access to these items until the end of each day, as the porters will always be ahead of the group. If you’re travelling to Aguas Calientes by train, you'll be able to leave most of your luggage at the hotel in Cusco and travel with only a small bag for the excursion by train.

Route 1 Inca Trail:
Today travel by minivan to the 82 kilometre marker and meet your crew of local porters, cook and guide. The first day includes uphill trekking to the campsite, which is at 3100m above sea level. On the way you’ll see the Inca sites of Ollantaytambo, Huillca Raccay and Llactapata, as well as incredible views of snow-capped Veronica Peak. In the evening, unwind at the campsite with a nourishing meal.

The Inca Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but please come prepared, as the trail is 45 kilometres long and often steep. Each day's journey generally consists of seven hours of walking (uphill and downhill), with stops for snacks and lunch. Trekking usually begins at 7 am (except on the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 5 pm. Accommodation on the trek is camping (three nights). Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.

Route 2 Quarry Trail:
Make an early start today and drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Incas worshipped the moon. Drive to the starting point of the trek, Rafq'a, and meet the horsemen who join us on the hike. After an hour’s walk, reach the small community of Socma. Carry on to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout, an opportunity to stop for photos and a food break. Continue to the campsite, which is 3700 metres above sea level. You should reach the campsite around lunchtime. After lunch, set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which once served as a checkpoint to the Incas.

The Quarry Trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people. The hike is 26 kilometres long in total and its highest pass is at 4450 metres above sea level. Throughout the trek, horses will carry your gear and camping equipment. The first two nights are spent camping and the third night you will stay at a simple hotel. Double tents (twin-share) and foam camping mats will be provided. The porters will set up the tents while the cook prepares meals.

Route 3 Cusco:
After spending the night in the Ollantaytambo, leave around 9.30 am and take a short drive to the town of Pisac. Pisac is well known for its market. Here you’ll have the opportunity to shop for souvenirs and perhaps try some local Empanadas. Arrive back into Cusco in the afternoon, where your leader will take you to San Pedro Market in order to buy some things for a picnic tomorrow.
Accommodation
  • Camping with basic facilities on trek or hotel in Cusco (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Cuzco - 3 Night/4 Day Inca Trail (or 2 Night/3 Day Inca Quarry Trail)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Included lunch and dinner on this day is for travellers on the trekking options.
Route 1 Inca Trail:
This is the most challenging day of the trek as you ascend a long steep path (approximately five hours) to reach the highest point of the trail. Colloquially known as 'Dead Woman's Pass', Warmiwanusca sits at a height of 4200 metres above sea level, providing amazing views of the valley below. The group will then descend to the campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3650 metres.

Route 2 Quarry Trail:
This is the most challenging and rewarding day of the hike. A three-hour walk takes us to the top of the first pass of Puccaqasa (approximately 4370 metres high). After enjoying picturesque views of the valley, it’s a short walk before stopping for lunch. Afterwards, make the two-hour hike to Kuychicassa, the highest pass of the trek at 4450 metres. From here, descend to the sacred site the Incas called Intipunku (Sun Gate), with views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. Head to the campsite, only a stone’s throw away and at 3600 metres.

Route 3 Cusco:
Today, take a taxi to Tambomachay, an archaeological site just outside of Cusco. From here you’ll take a short downhill walk (between one and three hours) back to Cusco. On the way, stop to admire some of the archaeological sites, including Puka Pukara, Qinqu Quenqo and Saksaywaman. Arrive back in Cusco in the afternoon and enjoy some free time to go shopping, or perhaps visit Merida, Mendivil and Olave art galleries and workshops. Your tour leader will be able to give you some suggestions or point you in the right direction.
Accommodation
  • Camping with basic facilities on trek or hotel in Cusco (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Included lunch and dinner on this day is for travellers on the trekking options.
Route 1 Inca Trail :
Start the day with a climb through the Pacaymayo Valley to Runkuracay pass (3980 metres). Enjoy views of the snow-capped mountain of Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending for around two to three hours to the ruins of Sayacmarca. Continue over the trail’s third pass to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (3850 metres), also known as 'Town Above the Clouds'. Start the two-hour descent down the Inca steps to the final night's campsite by the Winay Wayna archaeological site.

Route 2 Quarry Trail to Aguas Calientes:
Today’s hike will all be downhill. The first stop is the incomplete Kachiqata quarry, where the Incas were intercepted by the Spanish. Around midday, come to the end of the trek. Explore the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo before taking the short train journey to Aguas Calientes. This is where you’ll meet up with the travellers in your group who didn't hike. Visiting the natural hot springs in town is a soothing way to spend the late afternoon. Spend the night in a comfortable hotel before tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu.

Route 3 Train to Aguas Calientes:
After a drive to Ollantaytambo (about one and a half hours), catch a train through the winding Urubamba Valley to Aguas Calientes (another one and a half hours). The city is nestled in the cloud forest at the foot of Machu Picchu. For those who want a sneak peak, there is time to visit Machu Picchu independently before a guided tour the following day. Otherwise, you can while away the afternoon in the natural hot springs at Aguas Calientes.
Accommodation
  • Camping with basic facilities on Inca Trail or hotel in Aguas Calientes (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Included lunch and dinner on this day is for travellers on the trekking options.
Route 1 Inca Trail:
This is the final and most spectacular leg of the trek to Machu Picchu. The day starts before dawn with breakfast at 4 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and then begin hiking by 4.30 am. Once the final checkpoint opens at 5 am, begin the final leg of the trek. The walk to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) takes around two-and-a-half hours. Weather permitting, enjoy unforgettable views over the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ as you enter Machu Picchu through the Sungate.

Route 2 Inca Quarry Trail:
Depending on weather conditions, take a bus at 5.30 am this morning along the winding road to Machu Picchu. The journey takes around 30 minutes. At Machu Picchu, join up with the travellers in your group who hiked the Inca Trail. If skies are clear, enjoy a spectacular views over the ancient city from the Sun Gate, before going on a guided walk around the ruins.

Route 3 Train:
Take an early bus up to Machu Picchu at 5.30 am. The city was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for Incan nobility, but there’s evidence that the land had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Take a guided tour around the ruins of temples, palaces and living quarters, and enjoy free time afterwards to wander around on your own before the group returns to Cusco.

Visiting Machu Picchu:
According to Machu Picchu visiting regulations, all visitors must follow a pre-determined route within the site. This route must be followed in one direction only and once the guided visit commences exiting and re-entering the site is not permitted. Once the guided visit concludes, visitors must exit the site and personal exploration of Machu Picchu is not permitted.

For all routes after taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, it's time to return to Cusco for a Pisco sour. Your evening is then free for the last night of your adventure.

UPDATES ON VISITING MACHU PICCHU:
On June 30th 2019 Peruvian authorities released a new list of regulations for visiting Machu Picchu, which came into effect from July 1st. The main points impacting our visits are:
- Tickets are now only valid only for one entry, that means that travellers cannot leave the site and re-enter as we have in the past.
- Once travellers begin on a chosen circuit (out of 3) they cannot walk backwards and once they finish the circuit they must leave the site. They cannot explore afterwards.
- The two allotted times to visit are 6am-12pm and 12-4.30pm
- It will be mandatory to have a guide (official Machu Picchu guide, not our leaders) to visit the site. However, this rule cannot currently be applied as there are not enough official guides to cover the large amount of people visiting so authorities are being flexible.
These new regulations affect how much time our travellers can spend in Machu Picchu. In the past, after a 1-2.5 hour tour passengers could stay longer to explore the site unguided, this is not possible anymore. There is an option for travellers to explore the upper part of Machu Picchu (Sun Gate and Inka Bridge) before their guided tour starts (so about 2 hours before meeting the guide). Your leader will provide more information on what the group options are at the welcome meeting.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Sunrise at Machu Picchu: Due to safety reasons the final checkpoint for all trekkers does not open until 5 am therefore the estimated arrival time to Machu Picchu Sungate for Inca Trail trekkers is approximately 7.30 am. For Quarry Trail trekkers and train travellers the first bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu departs at 5.30 am. The estimated arrival time is between 6 and 6.30 am. The sun rises at Machu Picchu at approximately 5.30 am, therefore it's not possible to be there in time for sunrise.

Due to Intrepid's safety policies, our leaders are prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking trips to the mountaintop ruins of Wayna Picchu.
Your tour comes to an end today and there are no activities planned. As there was little time spent in Cusco at the start of the trip, you may like to stay on for a few extra days to make the most of your visit here. We’ll be happy to assist in booking accommodation (subject to availability). If you decide to stay on, visit some of the sites you didn’t cover during your orientation tour at the beginning of the trip. These may include the Inca ruins of Coricancha, Saqsaywaman, Q'enqo, Pica Pakara, Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
Optional Activities
  • Cusco - Ruins & Market Walking Urban Adventure - USD70
  • Cusco - Pisco Making - Urban Adventures - USD36
  • Cusco - Stand Up Paddle Boarding - USD75
  • Sacred Valley - Via Ferrata & Zipline - PEN265
  • Sacred Valley - Mountain Biking - USD120
  • Cusco - Totem painting workshop - USD59
  • Rainbow Mountain Hike - USD97
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
You may want to consider purchasing a Boleto Turistico (tourism ticket) It gains access to the many fascinating museums here such as the Contemporary Art Museum, Regional History Museum and Qosqo Native Art Museum (transport & guides not included). Please speak with your tour leader about this for more details.

Meals

6 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 3 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle, Taxi, Train

Accommodation

Route 1: Camping with basic facilities (3 nights), Hotel (3 nights). Route 2: Camping with basic facilities (2 nights), Hotel (4 nights). Route 3: Hotel (6 nights)

Included activities

  • Cusco - Orientation Walk
  • Cusco - Chocolate Museum Visit & Hot Chocolate
  • Sacred Valley - Community visit & lunch
  • Cuzco - 3 Night/4 Day Inca Trail (or 2 Night/3 Day Inca Quarry Trail)

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available for all nights on this trip. This includes when trekking where a single tent will be provided.
2. Inca Trail permits are sold on request basis only. Once deposit is paid and passport details provided, Intrepid will endeavour to secure a permit for you. If Inca Trail permits are unavailable by the time you book, you can opt to hike the Quarry Trail instead https://www.intrepidtravel.com/machu-picchu-peru/quarry-trail or travel to Machu Picchu by train.
3. The Inca Trail closes in February to allow cleaning and restoration works. If the trek portion of your trip starts in February you will be automatically booked to hike the Quarry Trail.
4. Should you choose not to hike at all, please let us know in writing at the time of booking so alternative arrangements can be made to travel to Machu Picchu by train. Without this prior warning, cancellation fees for the trekking permits may apply.
5. Full passport details are required at the time of booking in order to purchase entrance fees to certain sites. Additionally on certain trips it's needed to book bus, train or flight tickets. Delays to provide this information may result in booking fees or changes to your itinerary.
6. While hiking the Inca Trail or Quarry Trail you may be joined by other Intrepid and/or non-Intrepid travellers.
7. On June 30th 2019 Peruvian authorities released a new list of regulations for visiting Machu Picchu, which came into effect from July 1st. Please see Day 6 of the itinerary for more details.
8. Please note this trip starts at 2pm on Day 1.

Essential trip information

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