An attractive option when making your way to Machu Picchu, the Lares Trail is noted for its rural atmosphere and cultural attractions, including traditional weavers, roving herds of alpacas and llamas, and a panorama of waterfalls, snow peaks, and glacial lakes. This route offers a cultural exploration of the Urubamba Valley, the celebrated ‘Sacred Valley of the Incas’, and the spectacular archaeological site of Machu Picchu, combined with hikes on an extensive network of trails through the less-visited and uncrowded Lares region north of Cuzco. The trip ends with a guided visit of the famed Machu Picchu sanctuary and perhaps a climb of Huayna Picchu peak for a rewarding view of the site from above.
The ‘Sacred Valley and Lares Adventure to Machu Picchu’ is a multi-activity travel experience and is designed to allow you to tailor your own adventure by choosing from various activities each day, each planned to be authentic and highly experiential. Comfortable mountain lodges serve as deluxe ‘base camps’ to which you return after a day of hiking or sightseeing. They have been designed to blend harmoniously into the existing landscape, using local materials. Each lodge offers spacious guestrooms with hot showers, gourmet dining, and cosy bar/lounges with open fireplaces – and even a jacuzzi.
The programme offers a variety of day hikes and cultural activities ranging from easy to moderate, or more strenuous, depending on the preference and level of ability of the guests. The activities can take place at elevations between 2,000m and 4,000m, on diverse types of trails ranging from flat and grassy, to steps or to rocky slopes.
|Day 1||Viacha, Pisac, Lamay||Viacha Village, Pisac Inca archaeological site|
|Day 2||Ancasmarca||Ancasmarca Inca site, Visit small villages on various hiking options from easy to strenuous.|
|Day 3||Ollantaytambo||Huacahuasi Community, local farmers market, hiking options from easy to strenuous.|
|Day 4||Aguas Calientes||
Pinkuylluna ruins, Ollantaytambo fortress, Train to Augas Calientes
|Day 5||Machu Picchu||Guided tour of Machu Picchu|
Met at your hotel early this morning (approx. 07:00-07:30) to join the group and travel by road, heading towards the Urubamba Valley, the “Sacred Valley of the Incas.”
Activity A (easy): The ‘easy’ option will stop en route to visit the Awanacancha co-operative textile centre just 30 minutes outside the city – the name loosely translates as “palace of weaving”. Here you have an opportunity to see products made from South America’s four camelids (alpaca, llama, vicuña, and guanaco), and everything from scarves to sweaters and alpaca wool hats can be purchased directly from the women who wove them, and the wool comes directly from the same animals you see outside. A short drive will see you arrive in Viacha.
Activity B (moderate): The ‘active’ option will drive directly up into the Andes to reach the Amaru community (3,800m) from where you will set out on a moderate 2.5 hour hike. The trail winds uphill to a higher pass which grants you great views of the peaks of the Vilcanota and Vilcabamba mountain ranges and, in the distance, the giant snow-capped peaks of Ausangate and Salcantay. Then head downhill to the community of Viacha.
In Viacha (3,900m) the two groups will come together and take a guided walk around the village, to see a little of the local lifestyle and learn more about the agricultural activities of the inhabitants, before enjoying a delightful lunch, a traditional Peruvian meal cooked under hot stones and called ‘Pachamanca’.
This afternoon you will undertake a tour of to the stunning Inca archaeological site of Pisac (3,200m) which dominates the valley below. These splendid ruins comprise a large complex of religious temples, housing areas, agricultural terraces, cliff-hanging paths and astronomical observatories, while the lower slopes of the surrounding mountains feature impressive agricultural terraces and irrigation systems dating from the Inca times. After exploring the ruins, there is the option to hike downhill (approx. 1.5 hours) to the picturesque village of Pisac (2,972m), well known for its colourful handicraft market held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Your vehicle will be waiting to take you on to the town of Lamay (2,941m) where you will have dinner and overnight at the very comfortable lodge.
Lamay Lodge is surrounded by mountain views and is situated at the edge of the quaint village Lamay. The beautiful building is designed to blend in harmoniously with its surroundings. An outdoor Jacuzzi is the perfect place to relax after a day of exploration in the Sacred Valley. The menu offers both international dishes and traditional Peruvian cuisine which are all created from locally sourced produce.
After breakfast, enjoy a walk around the small town of Lamay. Depart and take a scenic drive to the archaeological site of Ancasmarca (4,044m) where you explore an old Inca site that features a variety of ancient food warehouses, dwellings, and farming areas. Its location was strategic since it connected the higher part of the Sacred Valley with the cloud forest communities of Lares. Continue to the town of Lares for lunch. After lunch you can choose your afternoon activity.
Activity A (easy): Drive to the small town of Choquecancha (3,200m), an impressive archaeological site with imposing Inca ruins, including a 14-niched Inca wall that lines the square, a lovely colonial church, and amazing views of the neighbouring valley. An hour’s drive will bring you to your lodge accommodation in the famous weavers’ village of Huacahuasi (3,800m), where the men still wear traditional colourful ponchos and women’s attire includes wide handmade skirts and decorated hats.
Activity B (moderate): Drive to the village of Quelquena and depart on an easy hike of around 2 hours. Your vehicle meets you at the trailhead for the drive to Huacahuasi.
Activity C (moderate to strenuous): Drive to the village of Cuncani (3,884m), the starting point of your hike. Walking uphill for about 2 hours, you will pass farmhouses and fields. The local inhabitants, descendants of the Incas, have maintained their traditional way of life, growing an amazing variety of potatoes nearly year-round and using their llamas as transportation and alpacas as food and clothing. Reach a higher pass and enjoy an impressive view of the peaks, then descend and another hour’s hike will bring you to Huacahuasi Lodge.
At 19:00 this evening, all guests will gather for a briefing by your guide, followed by dinner. The lodge, run as a joint venture with the local community, aims to protect the local cultural heritage and environment and provides insight into the evolving role of the original Andean people in both the culture and commerce of modern-day Cusco.
Perched on the side of the valley above the small town of Huacahuasi lies the Huacahuasi Lodge. The boutique lodge has 8 rooms all with private bathrooms and a small hot tub. Relax in the large communal area overlooking the mountain range and enjoy delicious meals in the restaurant and a drink at the bar. There is also a communal outdoor Jacuzzi. The women working at the lodge are from the local community and wear their traditional and very colourful Peruvian clothes.
Spend some time in the morning learning about the heritage and day-to-day activities of the Huacahuasi community. Then you have the choice of taking a spectacular hike over the high pass to the adjacent valley leading to the town of Ollantaytambo, the oldest living city in Latin America. If you would prefer to see more of the Sacred Valley, you can drive back for a visit to an ethnographic museum featuring the history of Peru’s rich civilizations of the past. You may also wish to explore the valley on a mountain bike.
Activity A (easy): Cultural activity: Drive back to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, visit a local farmer’s market and a Pre-Inca and Inca cultural museum. Enjoy a Barbeque lunch at a Kuychi Rumi and in the afternoon explore the town of Ollantaytambo.
Activity B (easy to moderate): Enjoy a mountain bike ride from Huacahuasi to Lares town (Duration 1 hr). You will then continue by foot on a hike from Lares pass to the village of Totora (Duration 3 hrs). Enjoy lunch at a countryside restaurant.
Activity C (moderate to strenuous): Hike from Huacahuasi to Patacancha (Duration 7 hrs). This is a Moderate to challenging hike and the mountain pass is at an elevation of 4,464m. You will enjoy lunch at Ipsaycocha lake. Arrive in the afternoon in Ollantaytambo.
Optional Bike Excursion (easy to moderate): In the afternoon explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas by mountain bike from Urubamba to Pachar (2 hours). After your ride enjoy a visit to an artisanal brewery to taste some local beers. (The brewery is closed Monday and Tuesday). This excursion is an additional cost.
*Note: Guests that opt for the cultural activity and guests that opt for the Inca trail hike excursion will meet for lunch in Urubamba at a countryside restaurant and visit the town of Ollantaytambo together in the afternoon. Guests that opt for the hike will meet up with the rest of the group late in the afternoon at the hotel in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Activity A (easy): Early this morning at 07:30, set out on an easy hike to the lower Pinkuylluna ruins, an Inca site which can be seen on the hillside opposite the Ollantaytambo fortress. The larger buildings were used for agricultural storehouses called ‘colcas’. It is believed that the storehouses (Qollqa in Quechua) were built in the 15th century by Incan emperor, Pachacuti, to store grain produced in the surrounding agricultural terraces. They were built at high altitude to both preserve the food (more wind and cooler temperatures) and to protect the stores in the case of attack.
Activity B (moderate to strenuous): Begin the hike an hour earlier at 06:30 to allow time to climb further up the mountainside to the higher Pinkuylluna ancient granaries for even more spectacular views of Ollantaytambo town and the Inca ruins.
At 09:00, everyone will meet at the archaeological site in Ollantaytambo. With your guide, you will explore on foot the magnificent ruins, including the fortress and the ceremonial centre. There will also be some free time for you to walk around the town which was once an Inca capital and the last stronghold against the Spanish conquerors.
Then walk to the station and board the train for the 1.5 hour ride to Aguas Calientes (1,900m), also now known as Machu Picchu Town (box lunch during the journey). On arrival walk to your hotel located just on the edge of the town a short walk from the train station.
The Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is located in Aguas Calientes on 12 acres of natural landscape. This boutique hotel features 83 whitewashed adobe casitas tucked away in the cloud forest.
After a very early breakfast, the group will make their way to the bus station to take the 20 minute zig-zag shuttle bus ride up to the breathtaking “Lost City of the Incas”, Machu Picchu (2,380m), and enter the site for an introductory 2 hour guided tour of the ruins, after which you have the option to climb the steep trail of Huayna Picchu or to spend the rest of the morning exploring the site on your own – there is a lot to do and see! For centuries Machu Picchu lay undiscovered in the jungle until, in 1911, the American historian Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it almost by accident. Although little is known about the ‘Lost City of the Incas’, it is obvious by the quality of the stonework and the abundance of ornamental sites that Machu Picchu must have been an important ceremonial centre.
Optional Huayna Picchu Climb: Permits are included in your tour cost but subject to availability.
Huayna Picchu is the mountain at the back of the ruins (the one you see in most photographs). The climb may not be suitable for everyone as the trail up is quite challenging, narrow with steep pitches and sheer drop-offs, and can take around 2-3 hours return. Anyone who suffers from vertigo is recommended to avoid this climb.
Afterwards, re-join the group and return by shuttle bus to Aguas Calientes for a late lunch.
In the afternoon, catch the bus down the mountain to the little village of Aguas Calientes in time to board the train to Ollantaytambo. Met on arrival at Ollantaytambo station for transfer by road to your hotel in Cuzco.
Upon arrival in Cuzco (approx. 19:30-20:00) you will be dropped off at your hotel.
*Note: Itinerary may be subject to change due to local conditions.