- A great (and less strenuous) alternative to the Inca Trail
- Pass by beautiful waterfalls, Inca ruins, and enjoy great mountain views
- Learn about the local culture in villages along the way
- Tour the ruins of Machu Picchu on Day 4
- Get a different view of the fortress of Ollantaytambo
The Cachicata trek is a good option for anyone looking to escape the other crowded trails and interested in seeing Inca ruins as well as the natural beauty in the area. In four days, you'll hike valleys, visit waterfalls, see Inca ruins, and camp in the great outdoors. You will get a chance to view the snow-capped mountains (Apus) that are considered sacred to the locals in the region while hiking the trails. At the end of the trek, you will visit one of the most spectacular sites in the world: Machu Picchu.
Day 1: Arrival in Lima
¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru's largest city and central metropolitan hub, and home to one-third of the country's population. Located at the site of a pre-Columbian indigenous Ychsma settlement, which was conquered by the Inca empire in the 15th century and later by the Spanish conquistadores, Lima has a fascinating history and a diverse mix of cultures. Amerindian, European, Afro-Peruvian, and Asian—especially Chinese and Japanese—influences make Lima a dynamic and exciting city to explore.
Lima's breezy location on the Pacific Ocean and mild desert climate make it the perfect city for exploring on foot. Head downtown to mingle with locals, stretch your legs, and grab a bite to eat in one of the many award-winning restaurants.
Suggested activities include:
Explore the historic center of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with fascinating Spanish architecture. Start with a scenic tour of the colonial downtown, which emanates from the main square. Stroll over to the 16th-century Cathedral, which took 80 years to construct and was built in the grandiose style of the Spanish Empire.
Visit the Casa Aliaga, a colonial mansion granted by chief conquistador Francisco Pizarro to Jerónimo de Aliaga, one of his captains, in 1535. This is the only house from that era that still belongs to the same family.
Stroll around the Pueblo Libre district to the privately owned Larco Museum of pre-Columbian art, housed in a beautifully restored viceregal mansion built over a 7th-century pre-Columbian pyramid. The museum boasts a vast pre-Colonial collection of gold and silver artifacts, as well as pieces of erotic art.
- In the evening, head to the eclectic "Love Park" in the upscale coastal district of Miraflores, where you can admire a huge kissing statue and beautiful mosaic walls. The park is built on the cliffs of Chorrillos and is a perfect place to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Pacific.
- Enjoy a nightcap at an open-air cafe or restaurant in the diverse Miraflores neighborhood.
Day 2: Arrival in Cusco, Exploring the City
Head to the Lima airport for your transfer flight to Cusco. This ancient city is the former capital of the Inca empire, which reigned from the 13th to 16th centuries after conquering the Killke settlement on the same location.
Remember: you will be 11,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, so take it easy and remember to drink lots of water. Since Cusco was designed by the Incas as a city for walking, start your exploration of the narrow stone alleyways on foot. Take a walk through the plaza — if the weather is beautiful, it's a perfect place to sit on a balcony and have a cup of coca tea while adjusting to the elevation.
Suggested activities include:
Visit the Coricancha, also known as "The Temple of the Sun." The temple was built by the Incan Emperor Pachacutec (1438 - 1572), and after the arrival of the Spaniards became the basis for the construction of the Santo Domingo Convent.
See the Cathedral, the most imposing monument in the central Plaza de Armas and a repository for Cusco's colonial art. Its construction lasted for almost 100 years, beginning in 1560 and ending in 1654.
Walk to Sacsayhuamán and next-door Quenqo, both archaeological complexes used mostly for religious and agricultural rituals, located 2.5 miles (4 km) from the city of Cusco. Built by the Killke people, Sacsayhuamán is a marvel of ancient architecture, a monolithic fortress built from giant blocks of stone, the origins and assembly of which remain a mystery.
Discover the elaborate Puca Pucara ruins—an architectural complex of alleged military use with multiple plazas, baths, aqueducts, walls, and towers. It is believed that the entourage of the Incan emperor used it while he stayed at Tambomachay, the elaborate estate and baths nearby.
- Explore San Blas, an old bohemian quarter famous for its picturesque white walls, blue doors, and creative artisan community.
Experience the legendary Mercado Central de San Pedro, a large and diverse market famous for its mouth-watering fruit juices, home-style meals, medicinal herb stalls, and rows of various meats, bread, vegetables, and other necessities.
- Eat dinner at a local Peruvian restaurant and sample local flavors and cooking techniques—crackling pork, pickled vegetables, seasonal flavors, bread baked in earthen ovens, roasted vegetables, and sweet donuts make for a delicious and filling meal.
Day 3: Cusco to Corimarca
As you leave from Cusco toward the Sacred Valley, you drive along a road to the Pachar Valley close to Ollantaytambo. You arrive at the starting point of your trek, Soqma village, after about 2 hours. This village is nestled in the beautiful Sacred Valley and consists of small houses and a local school. You begin your ascent, then climb the Perolniyoq waterfall, then visit Corimarca which is an ancient Inca ruin not far from the campsite. You will settle in and spend the night here.
Maximum altitude: 3,630m / 11,909ft
Minimum altitude: 2,900m / 9,514ft
Distance traveled: 3km / 1.86ml
Approximate walking time: 4 hours
Day 4: Corimarca to Chancachuco
Today will be one of the days you won't forget. It's a bit of a difficult climb, but entirely worth it. You will begin with a delicious breakfast, then start your hike to the high grassland, or Puna, then cross the mountain pass. With the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains of Veronica, Pachatusan, Ausangate, Chicon, Pumahuanca and the colorful fields of Chinchero as our backdrop, this gorgeous area provides you all the energy and motivation you require to keep going.
Later, lunch is enjoyed by a beautiful lagoon, a perfect example of the Inca hydraulic system, which provides the water to the stream you follow along. This will lead you to the campsite for the night.
Maximum altitude: 3630m / 11909ft
Minimum altitude: 4490m / 14730ft
Distance travelled: 10km / 6.21ml
Approximate walking time: 7 hours
Day 5: Chancachuco to Cachicata Community Camp
On this third day, you have an early start, with the Sun Gate, or Inti Punku, as our goal. This amazing Inca construction has one breath-taking view of Machu Picchu and is a great example of how hard working the Inca were in such precarious places. This is also another example of how the Incas selected places which had views of their surrounding protectors, or mountains, such as Veronica and Choquetacarpo.
As you hike down you will witness the quarry of Ollantaytambo, with remains of massive stones that they had worked on and which were destined for the temple in Ollantaytambo. As you hike along, you can also witness the mausoleums, or Chullpas, that still remain here. Your descent leads you along a trail to the Cachicata community and this is where you stay the night.
For the big day at Machu Picchu tomorrow, a good night's sleep is highly recommended.
Maximum altitude: 4455m / 14616ft
Minimum altitude: 2792m / 9160ft
Distance traveled: 10km
Approximate walking time: 7 hours
Day 6: Train to Aguas Calientes, Day at Machu Picchu
You will enjoy an early breakfast, then meet your private transport which will take you to Ollantaytambo train station. You then board the train to take you to Aguas Calientes, or Machu Picchu Pueblo. In this comfortable train, you can witness the landscape change from valley to high rainforest, wherein lies Machu Picchu surrounded by clouds.
Once you arrive, you will meet your expert guide, then take a 20-minute bus ride to the Sanctuary of Machu Picchu (2400m / 7874ft). Your guide then leads you through a 2-hour exploration of the Citadel. After the guided tour, you will have time to explore more of the area which you didn't discover with your guide such as the Inca Bridge, Huayna Picchu, or Machu Picchu Mountain. Keep in mind that entrance tickets to both Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain are required before arriving, and you should purchase those in advance.
The trail for Huayna Picchu consists of many steep narrow steps (not recommended for people who suffer vertigo), and the height of the mountain is 2700 m. / 8858 ft. (the climb is 300 m). For Machu Picchu Mountain, it is a series of many Inca stairs on up for a high overlook of the Citadel opposite of Huayna Picchu. This hike takes roughly 2-4 hours round trip.
At the end of our visit, we will take the bus down to Aguas Calientes for lunch and then board the train to return to Ollantaytambo where our private transport will be waiting to take us back to the city of Cusco.
Day 7: Departing Cusco
This morning, transfer to the Cusco airport for check in to your homeward-bound flight. ¡Buen viaje!