The Ausangate and Rainbow Mountain expedition goes along the Ausangate mountain. Although not as popular as the classic Inka Trail, this is a stunning trek through the wildest and most rarely visited areas of Peru. The trek is one of the quietest in the region and you'll likely not see another trekker. The expedition begins with comfy overnights in hotels in an excellent location, tours of the wonders of Cusco, acclimatization hikes in the marvelous sacred valley, and visits to fascinating archaeological sites between Cusco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. You will hike the astonishing one-day Inca trail to Machu Picchu before the trek to enjoy in its full glory one of the wonders of the world. The trekking takes place at high altitude and the terrain will change from steep stairs at the beginning of the expedition to lose gravel, then swampy to rugged trails in the Ausangate region. Our campsites are focused on your comfort and safety with high quality tents. We are equipped with oxygen tanks, satellite mobile phone, first-aid, etc. with highly trained staff.
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. We will explore Sacsayhuaman by foot, an Incan fortress 400 ft./120m above the city of Cusco. 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".Lunch and dinner on your own.
This day we will visit Moray, which is one of the best examples (along with Machu Picchu) of what might be called extreme Inca landscaping. Three enormous pits, each with beautifully curved sides that staircase down like the interiors of titanic flowerpots, have been carved out of the earth to depths of up to 100 feet and more. Air temperatures between the top and bottom layers can differ by more than 20 degrees. Then, a hike into the Sacred Valley through the strange beauty of the salt mine of Maras, a complex network of nearly 3000 salt ponds, multicolored shallow pools of water that are filed by a hypersaline underground spring water. Next we venture 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.Included: Breakfast and lunch.
The train we will take on this day follows the dramatic Urubamba River with its striking scenery of white granite cliffs cloaked by a cloud forest full of thousands of orchids, ferns and bromeliads. We will hike a classic Incan trail in the cloud forest, passing through the exceptional ruins of Wiñay Huayna and through the Sun Gate Pass at 2,750 m/9,000 ft. This is truly one of the world's most thrilling viewpoints and the only way to see Machu Picchu in its full glory. You will have a chance to stay to enjoy the sunset until the park rangers close the park to visitors.Included Box lunch.
This day we'll take it easy on a train that follows the dramatic Urubamba River with its striking scenery of white granite cliffs cloaked by the cloud forest full of thousands of orchids, ferns and bromeliads. 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 will take the train back to Ollantaytambo and drive up to Chinchero for our overnight stay.Included Breakfast & dinner.
On the route to trail head we will stop at the Sistine Chapel of the Andes, a beautiful Baroque church that married Spanish design with indigenous culture. Christian figures are arranged in ways that reflect Inca ideas of the cosmos; in the Annunciation scene painted in the chir, a hole in the wall represents the Holy Spirit and allows the sun to shine through. Teams of itinerant Andean painters created the works largely in the 17th and 18th centuries. Murals were seen as an effective way to overcome language barriers to evangelize the Quechua-Andean population. At the church's entrance, a busy tableau, inspired by the inferno, features a soul-eating monster breathing fire in hell, while angels in heaven guard against demons. After this church visit, we will continue our drive to the archeological site of Raqch'i, a temple built by the Incas and dedicated to their creator of the universe. In the evening we will drive across the scenic Altiplano out to Lake Titicaca in Puno. At 13,000-14,000 ft., the Altiplana-Puna Plateau is the highest plateau associated with abundant magmatism and is the second largest after the Tibetan Plateau in height and reach. Our trek chef will provide delicious meals in our dining tent.Included: Breakfast / Lunch /Dinner.
We start our trek walking along tiny, very isolated Quechua communities with very deep Inca traditions. They are alpaca and llama farmers and still design most of their daily clothing, making them very colorful. We'll begin our climb to the first mountain pass of our trek, Arapa Pass at 4,958 m/16,266 ft., then we will descend towards our lunch spot close to Pomacocha, a beautiful glacier blue lagoon. After lunch our trek continues along very colorful glacier lakes with various types of sediments that show colorful but crystal clear waters. Like Yanacocha and Pucacocha by our campsiteIncluded: breakfast | lunch | dinner.
After enjoying breakfast beneath the majestic Ausangate glaciers we will hike parallel to Ausangate Mountain at 20,940 ft. Once again we trek into the thin air, to the pass at almost 16,000 ft./4,900 m. From the pass we will enjoy the colorful terrain around, then a descent to Ausangate Lagoon surrounded by waterfalls starting from the glaciers. We will enjoy lunch by the lake surrounded by herds of llamas and alpacas.
Today is our farewell trek from the Andes with a climb to Warmi Saya Pass (16,400 ft.) and the second climb to the top at 16,564 ft. to see Rainbow Mountain. The mountain is striped with colors ranging from turquoise to lavender to maroon and gold. After the superb views of Rainbow Mountain, we will hike down to meet our bus and drive back to Cusco.
Depending on your international flight departure time, you will have the morning for shopping. Then an afternoon flight to Lima for your international connection. Or you may choose to extend your trip in Peru or Bolivia.