Trek to Machu Picchu
This is the most famous and enigmatic Inca site in Peru. Not only do we organise the walk to Machu Picchu, but you can also ride through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu.
Visit Machu Picchu via a combination of private vehicle, train and on foot to be there and watch the sun rises: an inspirational trek. Please note the trail is seriously well patrolled these days and you must have a permit that correlates with your passport.
Inca Trail permits go on sale on 1st October each year and their release is staggered:-.
1st October- permits for January go on sale
2nd October- permits for March go on sale
3rd October- permits for April go on sale
4th October- permits for May 1st to 15th go on sale
9th October- permits for May 16th to 30th go on sale
10th October- permits for June 1st to 15th go on sale
11th October- permits for June 16th to 30th go on sale
14th October- permits for July go on sale
15th October- permits for August to December go on sale
Sept 19th: Arrive Cusco
We will meet all flights at Cusco airport and accompany you to the hotel. Overnight in Cusco. Our archaeology guides, Gary and Edwin, will give an evening presentation on the Inca and this history/archaeology-focused journey. [D]
Sept 20th: Cusco to Santa Teresa.
Travel through the Sacred Valley, losing height gradually, to reach the village of Santa Teresa. The Rio Santa Teresa rises in the Salcantay Mountains and flows north to join the Rio Urubamba just beyond Machu Picchu, from where it flows onwards to the Amazon Basin.
This will be a journey back through time to 1536 when the rebel Inca, Manco, retreated along the river to a remote refuge in the far off Vilcabamba Mountains. We drive over Panticolla Pass at 4,000 m and descend to the riverside village of Santa Teresa visiting several seldom seen Inca sites along the way. Overnight is in a small, very comfortable boutique lodge well away from the main tourist areas. [FB]
Sept 21st: Santa Teresa to Aguas Calientes
Drive the short distance to the Hidroeléctrica station and swap car for Shanks’s Pony to walk an easy couple of hours to reach the town called Aguas Calientes. The trail follows the course of the train tracks and river with Machu Picchu high above on the right hand side and is an excellent introduction to lush cloud forest vegetation and the noisy profusion of mountain tropical birds.
Overnight is in the bustling Aguas Calientes, alive with small cafes, markets, a hot spring and an assortment of hotels, large and small. We dine at a favourite eatery. [FB]
Sept 22nd: Machu Picchu
Today we have a special visit to Machu Picchu guided by Peruvian Edwin Duenas and American archaeologist, explorer and Inca specialist Gary Ziegler. Explore the citadel and return to Machu Picchu pueblo. [FB]
Machu Picchu and the Spring Equinox
Machu Picchu is south of the equator, just, so the spring equinox happens in September rather than March; March is the beginning of autumn here in Peru, whereas in the northern hemisphere, it’s t’other way around. This year we have a very special opportunity to witness this event inside the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in the company of one of the foremost Inca specialists.
What is the Equinox?
The Earth is in ceaseless orbit around the sun and is tilted at 23.5° off the vertical which means the sun’s light and warmth swap between the two hemispheres twice per year, March and September. At equinox the sun is directly overhead at noon, as seen from the equator; night and day are of equal length. The name equinox comes from Latin aequus = equal and nox = night.
The equinox happens at the same moment worldwide, but the time on your watch-face depends on your time zone. The September equinox takes place at 20:02 GMT or 21:02 British Summer Time.
The Incas and the Sun
Inca mythology has it that the Inca Sun God Inti rose from Lake Titicaca to control the heavens and the seasons. The Inca, the emperor of the Inca people, was believed to be a direct descendant of Inti. Inti was anchored to the earth by The Intihuatana Stone, also known as “The Hitching Post of the Sun” which stands inside Machu Picchu. This remarkable stone is a precise indicator of the two equinoxes, spring and autumn, as well as other celestial events.
There is a similar, though unconnected, link with Ra, the Egyptian sun god. You could say that the dynasty of the pharaohs in Egypt and the much later dynasty of the Incas were each sun cults. And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of sun worship!
Sept 23rd: travel from Machu Picchu and return to Cusco
We visit the ruins of Ollantaytambo. Probably built by the great Inca ruler, Pachacuti in the 1460s, it was the site of the conquistador Hernando Pizzaro’s defeat by Manco Inca in 1536. Constructed of finely cut polygonal stones, the fortress and nearby town represent the best of Inca architecture and construction. Large worked blocks, some weighting as much as 100 tons were quarried from a site more than a thousand vertical feet above the valley floor using a technique of pecking with hammer stones, then skidded down and across the Urubamba River several kilometers to the temple site. Inclined ramps were built to raise the blocks several hundred feet up hill to the construction area. We take ample time to examine the complex and ponder its many mysteries.
In the afternoon, we visit a seldom seen ruin up the valley above town. Hiking through ancient walls dating to pre-Inca times, Edwin and Gary explain what we know about this pre-Inca complex. We drive two hours back to Cusco for the night. [FB]
Sept 24th: Cusco to Cachora
Leaving the bustle and traffic of Cusco behind, we drive to the small community of Cachora on the main central highway. There are interesting, little known ceremonial ruins along the way known as Quillarumiyoq, and Saywite which we allow ample time to visit. We overnight at the comfortable, small lodge near Cachora. [FB]
Sept 25th: Cachora to Camp 1.
Drive to the Capilloc Pass (4,215m) which gives our first view of the immense Apurimac River drainage basin far below. This deep canyon and its powerful river is one of the great geographic wonders of the Americas. The Apurimac which means “Voice of god” or “Mighty speaker” in Quechua, thunders hundreds of miles through the remotest part of the Andes to eventually, along with a multitude of sister rivers, become the Amazon. We hike, or mount up and ride, along a winding trail to set camp at a developed campground with toilets and a cold shower beside the river.
During this phase all baggage and the camp itself is carried on mules and packhorses. A saddle horse is also available for each person to ride, if you wish; some people prefer to walk, but you are free to hop on or hop off as you wish, perhaps depending on the terrain.
The staff sets up a large dining tent with tables and chairs. One or two persons are assigned a four person sleeping tent. Meals are prepared from fresh, local produce. Our seasoned (no pun intended) cooks are well experienced in catering for vegetarian diets – just let us know. Before the evening meal, we enjoy happy hour with popcorn, assorted hot beverages and for those who imbibe, our famous expedition vodka martini or a glass of select Chilean wine. [FB]
Sept 26th: Arriving at Choquequirao
After tea and coffee served in bed along with a tub of warm washing water, we breakfast in the large mess tent then head out around 8:30 or so. We ascend over 1,000 m where we stop for a picnic lunch. By late afternoon we have reached a spectacular camp site among massive stone constructions and jungle tangle near the imposing walls of the ancient ceremonial city. [FB]
Sept 27th Exploring Choquequirao
Nestled at 10,000 ft (3,300 m) on a prominent ridge overlooking the Apurimac chasm, surrounded by 6,000 m snow-capped peaks this mythical ‘Lost City’ rivals Machu Picchu in both beauty and importance. We are learning more every year of this major, seldom visited, Inca site. Following a leisurely breakfast, the day is dedicated to an extensive exploration of the main groups of buildings, led by Gary and Edwin. They explain in detail what they have learned from several decades of field work here. Discussion continues over camp happy hour as the Andean sun settles behind sacred Apu Ampato to the west. [FB]
Sept 28th: Choquequirao and crossing the River Apurimac.
We have ample time to revisit the site before departing to descend the steep, winding trail some 4,500 feet back down to the Apurimac River. Crossing over the newly rebuilt bridge above the rapids, we overnight at the riverside camp. [FB]
Sept 29th: return to Cusco
Completing the trek out to the road head, sadly bidding mules, cooks and wranglers goodbye, we toast our staff and the successful completion of a magical journey back through time. Drive back to Cusco, with luck, arriving by early evening. [B, L]
Sept 30th: Free day in Cusco
Today is a free day to explore Cusco at your own pace. [B]
October 1st: Depart
Transfer to Cusco airport to catch your flight home, or onward travel.
Spring Equinox Machu Picchu
Included in the price
All airport transfers
Transport to Machu Picchu in private vehicle
All camping and cooking equipment [includes Therm-a-rests, spacious two-person tents, dining tent and toilet tent.]
An emergency first-aid kit and oxygen is carried
Registered, English-speaking Inca guides
Wranglers, mules and cook team (Wages, food and all fees)
Guided tour of Machu Picchu and Choquequirao
Entrance to Machu Picchu
Train from Aguas Calientes to Cusco (Skydome or Vistadome plus bus transfer)
Accommodation in hotels x 7 nights. Twin share. Single supplement is available upon request. Plus 5 nights in camp.
The meals included are indicated in the itinerary. (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner, FB = full board).
Meals not mentioned
National or International flights (Talk to Venture Co)
Sleeping bag (available for hire at $15 a night)
Airport taxes (if applicable)
EQUIPMENT LIST: On this expedition you’ll experience extremes of the Peruvian climate, from freezing Altiplano to extremely hot sunshine. During the day hopefully it will be generally sunny enough for shorts and T-shirts though having a fleece and rain gear handy is advisable. It will get cold especially in the evenings (as low as -5°C whilst camping) so bring a warm fleece jacket, a good waterproof and some warm clothes including thermal underwear, gloves, scarf and woolly hat as well as one set of smarter clothes for towns. Good quality Alpaca jumpers are available in Cusco. A good quality sleeping bag is essential for your enjoyment of this trip.
Venture Co provides a Field Manual packed full of health guidelines, a packing list and preparation advice for this trek.