The charming and colorful city of Cusco provides excellent opportunities to be immersed in the Quechua culture, with sites waiting for you to explore, both on and off the beaten path. There are casual restaurants with great food and gourmet restaurants for those who are foodies. You'll find unique and high end shops containing crafts from local artisans and colorful markets where you can go and support the local economy while you shop. Cusco is a city with a thriving night life. You will be exposed to the altitude right from the start so we recommend taking things very slowly, so that you can enjoy your Classic Inka Trail experience. The Inka Trail to Machu Picchu is just a tiny part of a giant network of Inca trails but is one of a kind. These are some of the most memorable 26 miles across the Andes, full of stairs taking you to the cloud forest and definitely one of the most desirable treks on earth today. Due to the nature of the trek you will have a few days to acclimatize to the altitude in Cusco and the Sacred Valley while exploring unique sites before starting in on the trek.
Plan an early morning arrival to Cusco, and after a well-earned rest in the afternoon you will have a walking tour of the city. The city of Cusco, known as the home and residence of gods and the spiritual and political capital of the Incan Empire is a city built in the shape of a puma that can only be seen from the air. You will walk through Incan streets that are illuminated by the sun every winter solstice, and experience some of the most important Incan and Spanish religious sites, such as Qorikancha, also known as the Golden Enclosure, which displays a sophisticated stone construction technology, and Cusco Cathedral, which is still in use today and contains an art gallery consisting of 17th-century canvasses in the Cusco School of painting, with a special highlight consisting of "The Last Supper" featuring a guinea pig.Lunch & dinner on your own.
On this day we drive to Sacsayhuaman, an Inca fortress 400 ft./120 m above the city of Cusco. We'll explore these great ruins by foot. The site was built with massive boulders, some of which weigh more than 100 tons. Interestingly, the Spaniards did not believe that such monolithic stones could be moved by human beings and they attributed Sacsayhuaman's construction to the mythical Cyclops. Thus, this type of architecture is known as the "Cyclopean Inca style". We'll start on the hike to Tambomachay, a ritual site dedicated to the water, then move onto the Moon Temple. Next we'll see the monuments of Kusilluchayoc and Qenko. Our hike follows the trail used by the Incas entering Cusco from the Sacred Valley and the rain forest.Box lunch included.
Today we will drive to the Sacred Valley where you will explore the Pisac Ruins by climbing up through a rocky gorge surrounded by vertical walls that house Incan burial sites on its sheer face. Here you will observe lots of Andean flora, along with well-preserved Incan farming terraces, while farther up on the crest of the mountain you'll witness Incan "condos" and the Sun Temple surrounded by awesome views. We will then drive down to Ollantaytambo in Urubamba to witness an exquisite example of Incan stonework: the unique Sun Temple made out of pink granite boulders each weighing 50 tons. We will walk through the marvels of a superbly preserved Incan town named in honor of an Incan warrior called Ollantay, who was deeply in love with Kusi Qoyllur, the forbidden and "high maintenance" daughter of King Inka Pachacutec.Lunch included.
Our first day of hiking begins with an early morning departure and bus ride from Cusco through the scenic Sacred Valley to the trailhead at Piscacucho, commonly known as Km 82. Here we'll meet our amazing porters and begin the Classic Inka Trail. We'll hike along the Urubamba River beneath the staggering snowcapped snow covered mountain Veronica, passing through cactus gardens and corn fields while drinking a colorful beverage known as chicha - our porters' favorite drink. Chicha is made from fermented corn. We'll pass by ruins known as Wilkaracay, walk above the ruins of Llactapata, and from there to our campsite at Huayllabamba.Lunch and dinner included.
This will be one of our most memorable days of the trek, but you will have to power through the ultimate Inca Stairmaster challenge in order to arrive at the amazing views. The morning begins with a zigzagging staircase up to Lluluchupata, passing through unique cloud forest vegetation on the way. From Lluluchupata we head out on the heels of the most sought-after woman on the trail. The Sleeping Woman Pass is no joke. Sitting at 13,800 ft./4,215 m above sea level she is also known as Dead Woman's Pass. From here we manage a tricky decent into the beautiful valley of Pacaymayu.Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
The beginning of our third day hiking starts with a much-welcomed gentle climb up to the egg shaped ruins of Runkuraqay, situated halfway to the second pass. From there it's up to the Runkuraqay pass at 13,000 ft./3,963 m where we will experience some of the most stunning mountain scenery of the entire trek. A lovely decent brings us to the ruins of Sayacmarca, a fortress or way station for pilgrims or priests that marks the southern trail into Machu Picchu. Built at a strategic location, Sayacmarca is known for blending a number of different Incan architectural styles. In the afternoon we'll hike along a mountain ridge that begins at the 20,000-foot peak of Salcantay and runs all the way to the town of clouds, Puyupatamarca. As we trek along this ridge we'll have stunning views of the cloud forest.Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
A wild descent through one of the most spiritual sites on the classic Inka trail, the ruins of Puyupatamarca will leave you breathless. Passing through a cloud forest full of orchids, ferns, bromeliads, and colorful birds that cloak white granite cliffs, we'll follow an Incan staircase down to the farming terraces of Intipata. From there it's off to the incredible ruins of Wiñay Wayna and the Sun Gate Pass at 9,000 ft./2,750 m. This is one of the world's most thrilling viewpoints and the only way to take in all of Machu Picchu in its full glory.Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
On this day we will take a shuttle bus to the Inka citadel for a guided tour of the site before the day trippers arrive from the city of Cusco. After the tour you'll have free time to explore the ruins. Machu Picchu is the only major Incan site to escape 400 years of looting and destruction by the Spanish conquistadors. To be sure, it is not an ordinary Incan settlement; it sits on a nearly inaccessible location high above the Urubamba gorge and contains exquisite engineering and architecture. Was it a spiritual destination and pilgrimage center located within a sacred geography? Or perhaps a royal retreat for the king, Inka Pachacutec? Or maybe the biggest or the first agricultural research center built by the Incans? Whatever its purpose may have been, you will have a chance to explore every corner of the majestic Machu Picchu.
In the afternoon we'll return by train through the beautiful Urubamba River Valley back to Ollantaytambo (approx. 1 1/2 hours). From there we'll continue to Cusco by car (approx. 2 hours).
Depending on the time of your international flight departure, there will be a chance in the morning for shopping, or you'll take an afternoon flight to Lima for your international connection. You may also take advantage of one of our optional post-trip extensions at this point.Lunch and dinner on your own otherwise