Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu
Day 1 Cusco
Arrive Cusco at any time. There are no planned activities so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. A G Adventures representative will hold a general briefing in the evening, normally between 7pm and 8pm (a note will be posted in the arrival hotel with details). Please note that hot water shortages and power outages can be fairly common in Peru (even in upgraded hotels and private homes). We appreciate your patience and understanding that these occurrences are outside of our control. Cusco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city, and the hub of the South American travel network. The city attracts travellers who come not just to visit a unique destination but also to experience an age-old culture very different from their 20th century way of life; one could easily spend a week just in and around the area. Inca-built stone walls line most of the central streets and you don't have to go far to see other major Inca ruins. It is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend. Every year Cusco attracts thousands of travellers who come to delve into its noble but tragic past. It is the perfect base for optional explorations around the city and area as well as a range of outdoor activities. Relax and explore this fascinating city, and take time to acclimatize to the high altitude. Cusco’s numerous colonial churches are one of the city’s most common sights. The Cathedral was started in 1559 and took 100 years to build; it is also one of the city’s greatest repositories of colonial art. Immediately in front of the entrance is a vault containing the remains of the famous Inca historian, Garcilaso de la Vega. Also worth visiting are the churches of La Compañía, La Merced and San Francisco. While most ruins are just outside of the city, the main ruin within is that of the Coricancha, once the Inca Empire's richest temple. Today the ruin forms the base of the colonial church of Santo Domingo. During Inca times this temple was literally covered with gold, but within months of the arrival of the first conquistadors this incredible wealth had all been melted down. It is left to the individual imagination to envision the magnificence of the original structure. There are several good museums in Cusco, including the Archaeological Museum, which also houses a small art museum, the Regional History Museum and the Religious Art Museum. Our best advice for exploring Cusco is to wear a comfortable pair of shoes, arm yourself with a city map and set off to explore!
Day 2 Sacred Valley/Ollantaytambo/Cusco (1B, 1L)
Travel with our local guide through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. An important source of food for the Inca, the Sacred Valley is a lush agricultural region that continues to supply the city of Cusco with much of its produce. Visit a Planeterra-supported women's weaving co-op, the impressive Pisac ruins and the colourful artisan market (market days only). The day trip finishes in the picturesque village of Ollantaytambo, site of another large Inca ruin. Starting in 2014 travellers will have the chance to visit Huchuy Qosco, an indigenous village previously bypassed by the tourism industry, now running the Planeterra-supported Sacred Valley Community Restaurant and tour in their own village. Planeterra has been working with the Ccaccaccollo community since 2005 to develop a viable economic alternative for women by creating a weaving cooperative to sell traditional textiles to travellers. Donations by travelers have helped build a community centre supplied with looms and sewing machines for the women to use to expand their production. This project allows the women of the Ccaccaccollo community to maintain their cultural heritage and benefit from the tourism industry. The town and fortress of Ollantaytambo are strategically situated overlooking the beautiful Urubamba River Valley. This major ruin site is known as the best surviving example of Inca urban planning and engineering. It is admired for its huge steep terraces guarding the Inca Fortress and for being one of the few places where the Spanish lost a major battle during the conquest. After touring the site we will return to Cusco for the night.
Days 3-6 Salkantay Trek/Aguas Calientes (4B,4L,3D)
Depart in the morning from Cusco towards the town of Mollepata for the start of the Salkantay trek. Accompanied by our support staff and horses/mules, the trek takes us by spectacular views (weather permitting of course) of the majestic Salkantay Peak as well as towards other snow-capped mountains and down into the Apurimac Valley. After a lunch near Sayllapata (3200 metres above sea level) we will continue on to our first campsite near the village of Soraypampa (3850 metres above sea level). On the second day we wil see the scenery change from dry mountain landscapes to more tropical surroundings. After an early start we will ascend past snowy peaks to the highest point of the trek, at a pass reaching 4600 metres above sea level. From here the views are spectacular towards the maountains of Umantay and Apu Salkantay. Descending from the pass we will have lunch before continuing on to set up camp near Andenes. Day 5 begins early again as we continue the trek past the town of Collpabamba and through lush and beautiful scenery, keeping our eyes open for flora and fauna along the way. We make camp near Lucmabamba. The final day of the trek takes us down further into the semi-tropical surroundings and to the town of Santa Teresa. We will finish the trek in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes where we can put our feet up and take a well-deserved rest after the trek. The nearby hot springs which give the town its name are a great option as well to soak any sore muscles. We spend the night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes before rising early for the visit to Machu Picchu the next day. Enjoy Planeterra-supported handmade biodegradable soap products for use on the Inca Trail. The purpose of this Planeterra project was to empower local Cusqueña women to start their own business while lessening the environmental impact of Inca Trail travel. Planeterra provided $10000 of seed funding for two young entrepreneurs to register their biodegradable products in order to sell to the tourism industry. Esencia Andina is now a successful business that produces biodegradable soaps, detergents, and natural products for use by travelers, porters, and cooks on all the treks. G Adventures is their biggest client, purchasing hundreds of their products per month for Inca Trail travellers!
Day 7 Machu Picchu/Cusco (1B)
Rise early to take advantage of viewing Machu Picchu in the early morning light. This is the best time to view the 'Lost City of the Incas'. Join our local guide for a detailed interpretation of the site and Inca history without the pressure of other tour groups that arrive at midday. Later in the afternoon we return by train to Ollantaytambo or Poroy and will then be transferred by van to Cusco, arriving in the evening. Machu Picchu is both the best and the least known of the Inca ruins. It is not mentioned in any of the chronicles of the Spanish conquistadors and archaeologists today can do no more than speculate on its function. The local Quechua farmers in the area knew of Machu Picchu for centuries, but it was not until an 11-year-old boy led the American historian Hiram Bingham (who was in search of Vilcabamba) to the site on July 24, 1911, that the rest of the world became aware of its existence. At that time the site was covered in thick vegetation, and Bingham and his team returned in 1912 and 1915 to clear the growth. Over the years, much work has been done on excavating and studying the site. Despite these efforts, many unanswered questions remain.
Day 8 Cusco (1B)
Depart at any time.