Notice: Due to the current political situation, and for the safety of our our trekkers, we are not currently offering this itinerary.
This Espiritu Pampa Trek follows the trail of the escaping Incas as they moved their capital deeper into the jungle following their defeat at Vitcos. Traversing remote river valleys thick with jungle vegetation and a few scattered settlements, this remote route is for the serious Inca enthusiast. The destination is Espiritu Pampa, a lost city of the Inca and only recently identified as Vilcabamba, the last capital of the Inca Empire. Covered with jungle vines, this mysterious site is much the same as it has been since it was abandoned almost 500 years ago and is only now being excavated and studied by the Instituto Nacional de Cultura
The itinerary below is a sample. Hiking times are an average and will vary depending on the group. Additionally, lunch and camp sites may change to meet the needs of the group and conditions.
The day before the Espiritu Pampa Trek, your guide will meet you at your hotel for an in-depth briefing. This provides an opportunity to ask questions and do any last-minute shopping before leaving Cusco.
We travel by private bus from Cusco to Huancacalle, a trip of about 8 hours. Along the way we get an introduction to the history of the last days of the Incan Empire as we travel through Ollantaytambo, where Manco Inca defeated the Spanish in 1536, then following a similar route as he fled with his warriors. We arrive at Huancacalle in the afternoon and visit the Inca city of Vitcos, where Manco Inca had his capital, as well as the sacred site of Ñustahispana, or White Rock. We camp by the Rio Vilcabamba, close enough to visit the shops, bars and restaurants of Huancacalle.
2 hours walking, 3000m
We begin the trek by climbing for about two to three hours up the road to the village of San Francisco, also known as Vilcabamba la Nueva. This town, which was established by the Spanish in the 16th-century as a trading center for the mining area, is known for its Italian mission built on the site of the original church, from which the bell-tower still stands. From the town, we climb to Abra Ccolpa Casa(3850m), the dividing line between the low Andes and the Amazon basin. From here the path descends to Mollipunku, an ancient Incan crossroads with fine paving and steps. After crossing the Rio Chalcha the path climbs to Pampaconas(3350m), before descending along a paved Inca path to the small settlement of Ututo, near which we camp.
7 hours walking, 3000m-3850-2950m
Crossing the bridge at Ututo we enter deeper into the cloud forest, with its moss and vine covered trees, beautiful flowers, abundant birds, and occasional Inca stairways. After crossing the river again a brief climb takes us to Tambocarahuina,which has a good view from the ridge of the farms of Tambo. After descending a series of switchbacks high above the Rio Zapatero, we cross multiple streams before coming to the village of Vista Alegre, where we will camp.
5-6 hours walking, 2950-1600m
It is easy to imagine the landscape that early explorers saw as we travel through a large stretch of primitive forest, thick with a profusion of native plants and birds. Walking high above the river, we cross several small streams and then reach the settlement of Uripata, where we find a few Inca walls. After crossing another river and passing a small waterfall we come to a large outcropping of rock and one of the few viewpoints along the trail with vistas of the cultivated fields below. After the viewpoint, a short walk takes us to Concevidayoc, where we will visit the local school and spend the night.
6 hours walking, 1600-1600m
In the morning we leave the forest and enter a drier area with ferns and scrub, cross a small hill, and get our first views of the lush valley of Espiritu Pampa. Descend a steep, narrow ceremonial staircase to the plain, we cross a stream and arrive at our camping place near the Cobos family farm and the small secondary school. From here it is a short walk to the site of Vilcabamba Vieja, believed to be the last stronghold of the Inca’s 40 year rebellion, where Manco Inca was finally defeated by the Spanish. We will spend the afternoon exploring the archaeological site, much of which is still hidden under the tangled vines and roots of the jungle.
3 hours walking, 1600-1000m
Leaving the last refuge of the Inca’s behind, we head through more populated areas and see fields of coffee, oranges, and corn. We follow the Rio Concevidayoc and then climb high above the valley. The path climbs and descends multiple small ridges before finally reaching the town of Chaunquiri. From here we will go by bus to Kiteni, where we will camp by the Rio Urubamba.
5 hours walking, 1000-950m
We travel by bus along the Rio Urubamba to the high-jungle town of Quillabamba. After a short visit, we go back over the Malaga Pass, through Ollantaytambo, and return to your hotel in Cusco.
For more information on trekking with Apu Andino, see Trekking with Apu Andino.
Much of this trek is isolated, away from tourist infrastructure, and on trails that could be in poor condition; trekkers should also be prepared for changes to the itinerary and to meet unexpected challenges with an open-mind and sense of adventure. Also, weather and trail conditions can vary, and trekkers should be prepared for rain and a wide range of temperatures.