Inca Trail Hiking with Zephyr Adventures

    News about trekking and hiking in Peru

    Browsing Posts tagged Sacred Valley Trek

    You should plan well in advance to guarantee your spot on the Inca Trail!

    You should plan well in advance to guarantee your spot on the Inca Trail!

    Here it is, still April, and the next available Inca Trail pass is not until late August.  The passes that remain for the peak season (through September) will go quickly.  Let us share with you a scenario that we experience far too frequently, especially this time of year.  We are contacted and asked if we can arrange a trek on the Inca Trail for June or July.  We can hear the hope in the voices of these people, and we know they have already asked other outfitters and have been told the passes are sold out for the dates they want, yet they are still hopeful they will find somebody who has squirreled away a few passes somehow (which is not possible, by the way – spots are reserved only with full payment, passport number and name of each specific trekker and it cannot be changed later to another person).   We are very sad to tell them that even though they have already purchased their flights from another part of the world to go on their dream vacation to Peru and hike the Inca Trail, it won’t be possible for them this time around.  (If you find yourself in this all-too-common situation, you should know that there are alternate treks in the area (such as the Lares Trek, the Cachiccata Trek or our proprietary three-day Sacred Valley Trek) that are equally as nice and don’t require a trail pass.)

    If you look at any website related to the Inca Trail, you will inevitably find a precaution to book your Inca Trail pass three (during the regular season) to six months (in the peak season) in advance.  This is no marketing gimmick – this is the plain truth.  The Inca Trail is a popular destination for adventurous travelers the world over and you cannot just “show up and go” like you can at many other locations.  Passes for the trail are limited to 500 per day, and roughly two-thirds of those passes will be for the guides, porters, cooks and other staff who accompany the trekkers.  This leaves fewer than 200 passes available for actual trekkers.  Think about it: only 200 passes per day, for one of the most sought-after adventures in the world!   This is both bad and good.  Bad, because it does not allow one to be spontaneous in his or her planning.  But ultimately (we think) very good, because a limited number of people on the trail each day helps keep it and its fragile environment as pristine as possible for future travelers.

    Our advice if you are planning to hike part of the Inca Trail that requires a pass: please, don’t leave the planning for the most crucial aspect of your trip until the end!

    Zephyr guide Liz Miller recently hiked a special trek set up exclusively by Zephyr Adventures and our local Peruvian partners. This three-day trek goes through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which lies between Cusco and the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo. Liz was essentially the first Westerner to ever complete this trek and her writeup below reflects her research. The trek is a great way to add to your Inca Trail experience or choose a less-difficult hiking option.

    SacredValley1Day One

    Santiago, driver Julio, cook-in-training Herman, and I headed first to the weaving town of Chinchero to pick up some groceries for our three days of hiking. This village compares well with Ollantaytambo in Inca foundations, vast terracing, and paved streets with water channels, but with a lot fewer tourists.   A colorful textile market  was setting up as we passed through the town square, which is bordered by two chapels and a uniquely separate bell tower. Chinchero will be the southern start of the Inca trail pre-hike we’re researching these three days.

    With young Hernan leading the way, Santiago and I began an 800 foot off-trail uphill trek from the shore of Huaypo Lake near groves of eucalyptus trees. We admired the view from the 12,400 foot hilltop next to a pair of crosses, then began an easy descent across gently rolling farmland.   Agave plants demarked property lines and a few dusty farm roads.

    SacredValley2With no trees here, we could see all the way across the fields and the Sacred Valley to the snowy Andes, including spectacular views of Mt. Veronica’s brilliant white glaciers. We reached the incredible Incan ruins of Moray, an agricultural laboratory, and our campsite for the night.

    Day Two

    We awoke to sunny skies and perfect light for photos with Veronica in the background. These views would make anybody yearn to camp at Moray! We started on the hike and literally did some bushwhacking until Santiago found the best trail down the deep gorge (there are many to choose from) to the emerald partchwork of the Sacred Valley.

    To avoid SacredValley3cars and trains, we asked permission to pass through the gated yard of a woman at the first corn field on the left, heading up the valley. This canal-side route was exactly what we were looking for: hiking  along scenic terraces with plenty of glimpses of rural life, including encounters with chickens, ducks, cattle, pigs, dogs, donkeys, and of course, friendly local people. Santiago was generous with the snacks Herman had packed for us.

    We continued into the village of Cachiccata and hat night we snacked on popcorn and feasted on Hernan’s best meal yet, including frosted cake! I felt wonderful after my hot shower, which are available at the village campsite.  As I retired to my tent, I couldn’t help but admire the nighttime view from the Cachiccata campsite overlook. The stars twinkled above, a passing train glowed warmly as it passed through the valley below, and the distant lights of Ollantaytambo beamed in amber.

    Day Three

    SacredValley5At 7:30 am under a warming sun, Santiago and I began the switchback climb from Cachiccata to the Incan quarry. This optional side trip will come either on Day Two of the trek after our trekkers have descended the gorge from Moray (for those looking for more distance) or on the morning of Day Three, as I am describing here. We enjoyed sightings of many obviously carved boulders left behind by the Incan workers, hilltop guard houses, and the remains of steep terraces high above the valley floor.

    SacredValley4From the quarry, the route continues across the Urubamba River into Ollantaytambo. Others hiking a longer option will continue along the river toward KM82 and the start of the Inca Trail (Classic and Royal versions).


    Come take a trek that few other people have ever done, a three-day hike through the Sacred Valley of the Incas! All photos were taken by Liz Miller in the Sacred Valley.