Ride on Horseback to Machu Picchu
Our Machu Picchu horse riding holiday follows ancient Inca trails that lead from the Sacred Valley through the Andes towards Machu Picchu. The narrow trails are steep in places but the horses ridden are sure-footed and willing. They are compact (14.2 hh) courageous and have the most amazing stamina. These horses are the indirect descendants of the Conquistador’s Andalusians.
During the five-day Machu Picchu horse riding trek you’ll follow a route that winds through valleys and over high mountain passes that connect remote Andean villages. The trails have been in use since Inca times and the villagers maintain a lifestyle that would be recognisable to the Inca in many ways. There is no vehicle access to the region and very few foreign visitors come this way – ideal terrain for exploring the “Trails of the Incas”. The trek leads through the mountains to the north of the “Sacred Valley of the Incas” and finishes at the fortress of Ollantaytambo which is the starting point for the final walk in to Machu Picchu.
During this horse riding holiday we use Megellan saddles and saddle-bags, with camp equipment and personal baggage being carried by pack-mules, attended by their wranglers. A cook team rides with us to prepare meals – you can help if you wish to discover some Andean receips! There’s a mess tent for dining and good quality trekking tents for sleeping. Every second or third night is spent in a mountain lodge.
Your final destination is Machu Picchu one of the most magical and mysterious places on Earth. Sitting on the spine of a jungle-cloaked granite peak towering some 2,000 ft. above the roaring Urubamba river, the site is frequently shrouded in misty clouds pierced by the powerful equatorial sun, the Inca God Inti. Constructed from precisely sculptured granite blocks carefully jointed to the natural shape of the mountain, the site may well be the finest architectural achievement of the new world.
Inca Trail Horse Riding holiday – Day by Day Itinerary
A detailed day by day itinerary describing your journey from Lima to Cusco and into the Andes Mountains.
The flight is not included but we deal with all the world’s airlines and can arrange flights, airport transfers and stop-over hotel in Lima if required. We can also book the domestic flight from Lima to Cusco.
Overnight in Lima may be required, depending on flight schedule.
Day 1: Cusco (domestic flight not included)
We can arrange all flights, but the itinerary for this Machu Picchu horse riding holiday begins in Cusco. A traditional Cusco welcome includes the popular coca tea, a local brew that helps stave off the effects of the altitude. At 3,300m or 10,000ft, the air in Cusco is a little thin and you should take it easy over the next day or two to enable your body to acclimatise to the altitude.
In the afternoon visit (with guide) the important Inca sites in and around Cusco. In Cusco itself we visit the Inca Temple of the Sun (Qoricancha) and the colonial Cathedral. Outside the city visit the nearby fortress at Sacsayhuaman and the Inca temples at Quenqo, Tambomachay and Pucapucara.
Day 2: Riding day in the Pumamarca Valley.
Overnight in hotel; B, L (picnic).
Transfer to the stables and meet our horses. The tack is based on US Cavalry design: saddles are MacLellan with both a cinch and a girth; the head-gear is bit-less and based on a classical Hackamore.
Today is all about getting to know your horse. The ride out into the Pumamarca Valley will be a gentle affair as you continue to aclimatise to the altitude. Riding through the Andes is spectacular and your guide will point out the Inca terracing where agriculture flourished under seemingly impossible conditions; he’ll explain how, according to Inca legend, the Gods inhabit the surrounding Andes peaks. Ride up to the Corao Pass to see a panoramic view towards the Sacred Valley of the Incas. After a picnic lunch ride back to the stables and return to Cusco for dinner and overnight.
Day 3: Riding day to Chinchero.
Overnight in Lodge B, L (picnic) D.
Rejoin the horses to begin the trans-Andean adventure. Follow a trail to the pass at Qoriqocha and continue to the meadows at Chitipampa where llamas and alpacas have grazed since the Inca times. The llama played an important role in Inca society and was used as both a pack animal and for symbolic sacrifice to the Gods. The alpaca fleece is the source of one of the finest wools in the world; you’ll be able to buy reasonably-priced woollen garments from villages along our route (much better prices than Cusco). Lunch is a picnic from where we can enjoy the views across to the Urubamba Cordillera, even from thispoint at 4,200m the peaks of the Andes rise way above you. The trail passes through colourful Andean villages as you descend to the final destination at Chincheros, a picturesque market town with a strong Inca heritage. Overnight at the cozy lodge. The elevation here is 3,700m and the evening will be chilly.
Day 4: Riding day to the Maras salt pans and Urubamba.
Overnight in Lodge. B, L (picnic) D
After breakfast in the lodge start the day with a walk to the Inca complex at Chincheros. Impressive agricultural terraces spill down the mountainside and the dwellings on the site display the precise stonework that is the hallmark of Inca architecture throughout their empire.
Rejoining the horses mount up and ride into the Sacred Valley. The route passes the Inca salt pans at Maras where solar energy was used to evaporate water from saline solution to leave large quantities of salt. The fertile Sacred Valley was the bread basket of Cusco. It was stoutly defended at either end by the two imposing fortresses at Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Ride to the town of Urubamba in the middle of the valley. Stay two nights in this lodge which is a former hacienda (“farmhouse”) on the edge of town.
Day 5 . Visits the Inca sites at Pisac and Moray.
Overnight in the lodge. B, L & D
This valuable rest day marks the final stage of aclimatisation. There’s time to relax and enjoy the marvellous sites in the Sacred Valley before starting the high altitude camping section of this ride.
The fusion of Inca, colonial and modern lifestyles can be seen, in varying degrees, throughout Peru but in the market town of Pisac the Inca heritage predominates. Traditional costumes are worn and life in the surrounding hills is based very much on the family unit that made up society here long before the arrival of the Spanish. The town lies in the shadow of the Inca fortress that perches on the mountainside watching over the access routes to the Valley. To walk through the fortress complex and down the terracing to the market provides a glimpse of how life was in former times. After Pisac drive to the archaeological site at Moray where theories abound as to why the Incas excavated a huge and completely circular hole with large terraces and sides that slope steeply to what appears to be a ceremonial stage at the bottom. The walk down and up will leave you breathless in more ways than one!
Tonight enjoy dinner where the converstaion is likely to focus on the next stage of the ride: the next 3 nights we’ll be under canvas.
Day 6: Ride to Huacawasi Pass and Pata Qocha
Camping B, L (picnic) D
Start the day with a good breakfast complete with bitter coffee (cowboy style!). The horses await you; start the climb out of the Sacred Valley. As you ascend note how the flora changes, the air becomes cooler (and thinner) and the views even more majestic. Pass through towns, then villages and then isolated communities as the population density decreases as the altitude increases. The aim is to reach the Huacawasi Pass at 4,700m and its panoramic view of the snowy peaks of the Cordillera Urubamba.
Descend from the pass to Laguna Pata Qocha at 4,000m where camp will be set for the night. The wranglers who ride with you take great care of the horses and tend to them before and after each day’s ride. The camp staff will have travelled to the site carrying the camping equipment on a mule train and with their expert support, high altitude camping becomes a surprisingly comfortable experience. Camp meals are a highlight of any wilderness trek and to see the camp chef creating miracles over his camp stoves brings new meaning to the term “Haute Cuisine”!
Day 7: Ride down the Cunkani Valley and the thermal springs at Lares.
Camping B, L & D.
With both riders and horses well fed and watered, we descend from the lakeside camp through the Huacawasi Valley. Small settlements mark the route and the village of Cuncani has a school and craft centre which may have local handcrafts for sale. The weaving from this region are made on a “backstrap” loom and are especially fine. Buy one if you can because the proceeds from one sale go a long way in these parts.
Our destination for the day are the thermal springs at Lares. The natural spring water has been channeled into pools ranging from very hot to very cold – take your pick! We camp by the pools and tonight we’ll eat a typical highland barbeque called Pachamanca.
Day 8: Ride from Lares to Rosa Pata and Qochayoq.
Camping. B, L & D.
Thoroughly clean and refreshed from the hot springs, rejoin the Andean trail. Follow an ancient “Inca Trail” that connects the Andean highlands to the lowland jungles and eventually descends to the Amazon Basin. At its peak, some 40,000 km of trails linked together to form the Inca Empire’s road system, which is more roads than the Romans ever built. Paved Inca Trails radiated out from Cusco to transport soldiers, administrators and the Inca emperor himself to the far corners of an ever expanding empire. This remote section of trail has changed little in 500 years and leads to Qochayoq, a colourful and traditional village where the lifestyle is based more on Inca values than on modern ones.
Establish camp near the village and learn how the Apus (the Inca Gods) still protect the llamas and alpacas that we see grazing in their natural habitat.
Day 9: Ride to Patacancha.Transfer by bus to Ollantaytambo.
Orchid Lodge B, L & D.
After the final camp breakfast, we hold a “thank you and goodbye” ceremony for the support crew who will be heading home today. This is the last day of the ride which climbs to Chayulla and drops through the Patacancha Valley to where we say farewell to the horses. Transfer by bus to the Inca town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley.
This evening dine in a local restaurant and look forward to the visit to Machu Picchu.
Day 10: Explore Ollantaytambo and travel by train to Aguas Calientes.
Hotel; B, L & D.
The Inca Fortess at Ollantaytambo was the site of one of the final battles between the Spanish conquistadors and the Incas. The fortess is a masterpiece of construction and although never completed, is imposing as it must have been to the Spaniards some 500 hundred years ago. Free morning to explore the fortress and town, which is a living example of an Inca garrison town.
After lunch take the afternoon train, an hour-and-a-half of clickity-clack, to Aguas Calientes which is the jumping off point for Machu Picchu. Dinner in town and a visit to the hot springs that give this town its name.
Day 11: Visit to Machu Picchu and return to Cusco by train.
Hotel; B, L & D.
No other Inca site equals the magificence of Machu Picchu, the sheer beauty of its setting and the mystery that surrounds this “Lost City” is the stuff of legends and it’s no surprise that it is one of the “7 Wonders of the World”. The site itself is reasonably compact and we have a whole morning to explore it. A guided introduction will help you orientate yourself and appreciate the practicalities of its construction. A couple of hours of free time to discover its hidden nooks and crannies is perhaps the most enjoyable way to appreciate Machu Picchu. A walk to the Sun Gate is rewarded with the picture postcard view of the site and for those with the energy and a head for heights, the climb up the peak of Wayna Picchu provides a completely different perspective.
The spectacular railway journey back to Cusco delivers you to the city in time for a farewell dinner. Pisco Sour, a classic Peruvian cocktail, is a fitting aperative to toast the success of the trip.
Day 12: Flight from Lima to Cusco
Our Machu Picchu horse riding holiday ends here in Cusco: there are many flight options back to Lima; the train/bus to Lake Titicaca or a short flight down to the Amazon Jungle. Please contact us to discuss extending your trip.
11 days. Starts and ends in Cusco.
Dates & availability
Can begin any day. Best season May to October.
from £1,999 to £2,747
Depends on season and group size. Please call us 01837 55 907.