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.
Before the 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.
Starting early in the morning we leave Cusco and crossing the broad Anta valley, where we see small villages of adobe houses with thatched or red tiled roofs, fields of grain, and herds of cattle. Our first stop is to visit the Inca archaeological site of Quillarumiyoc (Temple of the Moon). This religious center contains walls, buildings, fountains, and its centerpiece, the Moonstone. A limestone boulder with a base relief of the moon that is found only here, it is still used by shamans to honor the moon. We have breakfast near the site and, if lucky, talk to the archeologists excavating the site. We then continue to the trailhead at Soraypampa, where we meet our wranglers and pack animals. Our trek begins by hiking up Salkantaypampa, past glacial moraines, to our camp at Pampa Japonesa, where we have spectacular views of Salkantay and the Cordillera Vilcabamba.
? hours walking, 3700-4100m
The majority of this day is spent high in the mountains, with many views of rugged mountain peaks and glaciers. After sunrise and a hearty breakfast we climb to our highest pass, Abra Inka Chiriasca, at 4700m. High in the mountains and next to towering glaciers, this pass lives up to its name, which in Quetchua means “Where the Inca was very cold.” Descending from the pass, we traverse the mountains, following an original Inca trail in portions, to our campsite at Chusqueñay.
7 hours walking, 4100-4700-3700m
We begin with a gentle hike cross country, descending to the Andresniyoc valley for lunch. After lunch we climb to the Ancascocha pass (4200m) and descend again to the nearby Lago Ancascocha. We camp by the lake, where we will see Andean geese and have increasingly commanding views of Mount Veronica.
7 hours walking, 3700-4200-3500m
Leaving the lake, we continue to descend to the community of Ancascocha. From there we ascend to Chancachuco, passing by small traditional settlements. After crossing the pampa we descend into the fern-draped Punku Punku canyon, following an Incan water canal that was used to transport water from the Chancachuco highlands to the quarries. Climbing out of the ravine, we pass an Inca ceremonial place with views of Mount Veronica on the way to the quarries at Cachiqata. Here the huge blocks of pink rhyolite were cut before being taken down the mountainside and across the Rio Urubamba for use in the city and temple sites at Ollantaytambo. We camp nearby, looking down on the Rio Urubamba and the Sacred Valley.
7 hours walking, 3500-3400m
In the morning we head down from the quarries to Ollantaytambo. With many of its original agricultural terraces, streets, water channels, buildings, it is one of the best preserved Inca towns. On the surrounding hillsides are important archaeological sites, including the temple hill with its huge stones that had been brought down from the quarry. From Ollantaytambo we catch the train to Aguas Calientes. You can enjoy its many restaurants, shops, discos, and hot spring, or simply relax in your hotel.
3 hours walking, 3400-2800-1900m
After enjoying the tourist amenities of Aguas Calientes and getting a full night’s sleep at a hotel, we catch one of the first buses to Machu Picchu in order to see the awe-inspiring view of the ruins at sunrise. After a two-hour guided tour, you will have free time to climb Huayna Picchu, explore the ruins, or simply relax. In the early afternoon we take the bus back down to Aguas Calientes where you catch the train to Cusco.
For more information on trekking with Apu Andino, see Trekking with Apu Andino.
Much of this trek is isolated and rugged. It is advised that trekkers acclimate by spending a few days at Cusco (3400m) or similar before attempting the trek. The trail crosses high passes, and high camps can get very cold at night, frequently below freezing at night. Additionally, weather and trail conditions can vary. Trekkers should be prepared for changes to the itinerary and to meet unexpected challenges with an open-mind and sense of adventure.
Climbing Huayna Picchu is an excellent addition to a trip to Machu Picchu. It offers superlative views, but is a steep climb that can take about three hours. Entrance to Huayna Picchu is limited and at scheduled times; visitors must sign up for a spot in advance. If you would like to consider doing the climb, it is important to book it in advance.
It is also possible to do this trek without continuing to Machu Picchu by continuing down to Ollantaytambo on Day 4 and either staying in town or transferring back to Cusco.
For those looking to hike into Machu Picchu, it is possible to either join the classic Inca Trail at Huayllabamba after day 2, a route called the High Inca Trail or hike the more traditional Salkantay route along the western flank of Salkantay and into Aguas Calientes.