This trip, like the Classic Inca Trail, starts and ends in Cusco and includes a night in Cusco plus two nights in the beautiful Sacred Valley surrounding it. The trek, however, is entirely different and much easier than the Classic Inca Trail. It presents few altitude difficulties and much easier climbs -- perfect for those worried about their knees or fitness level. The Royal Inca Trail follows the path Pachacuti, the Incan ruler who built Machu Picchu, took to visit his hideaway retreat. Because the path follows the Urubamba river, we avoid the intense climbs and high altitude issues of the Classic Trek. The path also goes through much lusher vegetation and because it is so infrequently visited, our only neighbors are local Quechua Indians and the daily trains running on the opposite side of the river from the trail. Just like our Classic Inca Trail Trek, we are pampered by our porters and cooks who allow us to carry only a small daypack ourselves and enjoy incredible meals far from civilization while on vacation. In addition, we have the luxury of making use of cold showers available at our camps! This trek also starts in the Sacred Valley and ends at the Sun Gate looking down over Machu Picchu, so if you are eager to trek the Inca Trail but want to avoid high-altitude passes and steep inclines (and declines), this is the trip for you.
Minimum of 2 people
Your choice of dates
$3000 per person / 8 days & 7 nights
Single Supplement: $800 (always optional)
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Moderate
INCLUDED: double occupancy lodging, most meals (one dinner and one lunch on your own), professional and knowledgable guides and porters, ground transportation in Peru, Inca Trail passes and permits, entrance fees to Machu Picchu and other attractions, all camping equipment (except sleeping bags), and Pre-Departure Information that we will email to you after we receive your deposit. This will include detailed arrival and departure information, suggestions for making travel arrangements, packing list, invoice, insurance information, information about the area we will be visiting and a liability waiver.
NOT INCLUDED: transportation to and from Cusco, gratuities to guides and porters, sleeping bag rental (optional $75), two meals on your own, alcoholic beverages, optional hike up Huayna Picchu when you are visiting Machu Picchu ($60 additional entrance fee, only suitable for those who are fit, have good balance, and are not afraid of heights), and personal expenses.
DAY 1 :: We meet you in Cusco this morning, the gateway city to Machu Picchu either at the airport (if you fly in this morning) or at your Cusco hotel (if you've arrived earlier). At over 11,000 feet you will feel the altitude. We shuttle directly to the town of Ollantaytambo, several thousand feet lower, where we will have a leisurely lunch followed by an afternoon hike through the nearby archeological ruins before checking into our hotel.
DAY 2 :: Today we explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas as we continue to adjust to the altitude. We start with a visit to Moray, ruins that served as the Incan agricultural laboratory, and hike downhill from there to Maras, a series of pools created by the Incas to harvest salt from a salt-laden natural spring. This is a unique hike where you will see no or few other travelers. Overnight lodging in Ollantaytambo.
DAY 3 :: We start with a walk from our hotel in Ollantaytambo to our porters' village of Cachiccata. Along the way, we'll walk through the original stone quarry used to by the Incas to build Ollantaytambo. It is incredibly seeing mammoth cut stones ready to be slid downhill, left abandoned when the Incas fled from the Spanish. We start our Inca Trail hiking at the town of Chilca and hike along the real Inca Trail to Piscacucho (altitude 2750 m / 9075 feet, Kilometer 82 of the railway). Total distance for the day is about eight kilometers.
DAY 4 :: We start our trek along the little-used right bank of the Urubamba River, the original Inca Trail, with magnificent views of snow-capped mountains. We then cross to the left side of the river to visit the ruins of Llaqtapata (2650 m / 8745 feet). We continue along the left side of the Urubamba River on the original Inca Trail to our campsite at Q’ente (Qoriqayrachina) (2530 m / 8360 feet). There will be few or no other groups on the trail at this point, although we will see the train on the opposite bank of the river several times per day. Distance for the day is approximately 10 kilometers.
DAY 5 :: We hike in the morning through eucalyptus forests to the ruins of Paqaymayo Bajo. After lunch, we continue our hike to the next campsite at Chachabamba. The trail remains on the left bank of the river and is still the original Inca Trail used by Inca emperors to visit Machu Picchu. The trail rises and falls a bit but remains mostly level, with terrain including forests and open spaces that provide views of the peaks above. Distance for the day is 18 kilometers, a long day but doable given the moderate elevation change and the unhurried pace.
DAY 6 :: We will be joined on the trail this day by other travelers who get off the train and do a one-day hike to Machu Picchu. The trail goes uphill about 3.5 hours to the Wiñaywayna ruins (2650 m. / 8745 feet) where we will stop for lunch. This will be the most difficult part of the trek. What follows will be a more level 1.5 hours to the Sun Gate. From the Sun Gate, we will have our first views of Machu Picchu. Another hour takes us down to the ruins for a total of six hours hiking. We won’t visit Machu Picchu (2400 m / 7920 feet) on this day because our ticket is only good for one day and we will use it tomorrow. However, we can hang out on the terraces above the ruins if time allows.
DAY 7 :: We arise early to enjoy a Machu Picchu tour in the crisp morning hours before the trainloads of tourists arrive. You'll have the option to climb a steep mountain to the temple on Huayna Picchu before taking the train back to Cusco, where we say farewell.
DAY 8 :: We spend the morning in Cusco, with the option to visit the important ruins of Sacsayhuaman and the Korikancha temple. Lunch is on your own and you'll have a few hours to explore this wonderful town before taking a flight back to Lima where you can connect with your international flight home. You can also choose to stay longer in Cusco.