Experience Peru's rich cultural history and hike through the Andes on this exciting blended trip. Spend several days exploring ancient Inca sites in Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. Then continue on foot through the mountains, trekking on and around Ausangate through vast glacial valleys and between herds of wild vicuñas. Spend your nights in cozy mountain lodges operated in collaboration with local communities.

Highlights

  • Explore the fascinating ancient site of Machu Picchu 
  • Experience the rich cultural history of Cusco and the Sacred Valley 
  • Trek between cozy mountain huts in the high Andes
  • Enjoy the colorful landscapes of Mt. Vinicunca 
  • Encounter llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and more

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Cusco  Cusco
Day 3 Sacred Valley Cusco
Day 4 Trip To Machu Picchu Aguas Calientes
Day 5 Machu Picchu mountain hike Cusco
Day 6 Hiking to the Shrine of the Lord of Huanca Cusco
Day 7 Ausangate lodge-to-lodge trek: Cusco - Chillca Chillca Tambo
Day 8 Ausangate lodge-to-lodge trek: Chillca - Machuracay Machuracay Tambo
Day 9 Ausangate lodge-to-lodge trek: Machuracay - Anantapata Anantapata Tambo
Day 10 Ausangate lodge-to-lodge trek: Anantapata - Huampococha Huampococha Tambo
Day 11 Ausangate lodge-to-lodge trek: Huampococha - Cusco Cusco
Day 12 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Arrival in Lima

Peru's buzzing capital city offers elegant architecture

¡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 

A view of the surrounding mountains from the narrow streets of Cusco's old town neighborhood
A view of the surrounding mountains from the narrow streets of Cusco's old town neighborhood

Welcome to Cusco! You will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. In the afternoon, your English-speaking guide will take you on a tour of the city. Start at Sacsayhuaman, a megalithic archeologic site, before continuing to the Main Square to visit the cathedral, which boasts over 300 paintings from the Cusqueñean School of Art.

Stop at Koricancha, also called "The Golden Temple" — the historic center of the Inca Empire. This name refers to the coating of golden plates which once decorated the walls of this stunning structure. On top of the Inca temple, the Spanish erected the Santo Domingo Convent and Church, an impressive baroque-style building which serves as a current-day reminder of the colonial period.

Day 3: Sacred Valley

The ancient method of mining for salt involves the use of terraces that built into the side of the mountain
The ancient method of mining for salt involves the use of terraces built into the side of the mountain

For the Incas and their descendants, the Urubamba, or Vilcanota River, has always been believed to bring fertility to the earth. Perceived as a sacred being, the river is surrounded by the extremely fertile Sacred Valley, where several important Inca architectural complexes are located. The bus ride there takes you past breathtaking views of the snow-capped Willka Weqe (Mt. Veronica) and Chicon mountains, located in the incredible Vilcanota range.

Your first stop today is at the Inca agricultural laboratory of Moray. Here, the Incas researched methods for adapting plants from higher to lower ecosystems and vice versa. Continue to Maras, a beautiful colonial town and salt mine which has been continually in use since Inca times. After visiting the salt mines, enjoy a beautiful hour-long walk to a ranch for lunch, where you will delight in Peruvian Paso horse riding demonstrations and watch marinera dancers. Finally, in the afternoon, visit Ollantaytambo, which is considered the last living Incan village in the Sacred Valley. Venture above the town, where you will find finely built Inca temples and other structures erected during the Imperial Period. 

Day 4: Trip To Machu Picchu

The ancient buildings of the Machu Picchu complex have been meticulously restored 
The ancient buildings of the Machu Picchu complex have been meticulously restored 

Head to the train station for your trip from Poroy to Aguas Calientes, one of the most spectacular train rides in the world. The train trip will take you along the Urubamba River and into the cloud forest.

Arrive at Aguas Calientes, located at the base of Machu Picchu, and check into your hotel. From here, the ancient complex is a quick 25-minute bus ride up the mountain. Avoid the crowds by heading up with your guide in the early evening for an inspiring tour of the citadel and a magical sunset. 

Day 5: Machu Picchu Mountain Hike

Seen from the air, the inspiring citadel takes up most of a clifftop
Seen from the air, the inspiring citadel takes up most of a clifftop

Spend an extra day at Machu Picchu exploring this otherworldly marvel. Hike to the top of Machu Picchu mountain for a perfect vantage point of the surrounding sacred apus – mountain spirits said to protect the local people — of Salcantay, Pumasillo, and Huacyhuillca. Take plenty of breaks on the way up to rehydrate and learn about the unique flora and fauna of this region from your guide. After the hike, take the bus back down to the village and catch the train back to Poroy, before connecting back to Cusco. 

Day 6: Hiking to the Shrine of the Lord of Huanca

Raqch`i Quechua, or the Temple of Wiracocha, is an Inca site in the Canchis Province, a former road control point 
The Inca site of Raqch`i Quechua, or the Temple of Wiracocha

In the morning, depart from Cusco towards the San Jeronimo district, just over 30 minutes by car from the center of the city. Start your hike in the San Jeronimo square and head up the path towards the small community of Huaccoto, where you will have a breathtaking view of the surrounding valleys and Apu Pachatusan, the highest mountain in the area.

From here the path is flat and descends down a narrow road towards the Shrine of the Lord of Huanca. Every year on September 14th, thousands of people make the pilgrimage to this site which contains both Catholic imagery and, according to Andean traditions, the spirit of Apu Pachatusan. Then take the car down to the Sacred Valley where you'll stop for lunch before heading back to the hotel in Cusco. The total walking distance today is 5 miles.  

Day 7: Ausangate Lodge-to-Lodge Trek: Cusco - Chillca

Start your trek in the Andes at the town of Chillca, where you still spend your first night in a "tambo"
Start your trek in the Andes at the town of Chillca, where you still spend your first night in a tambo

Your car departs from Cusco to the south and follows the Vilcanota River for about three hours. Along the way, stop and visit the impressive temple of Checacupe. Continue through the upper valley of Pitumarca to the hamlet of Japura where you'll begin your trek. The first stop is the town of Chillca, located at 14,272 feet above sea level. Community members often greet visitors with traditional Andean music and coca leaf tea inside of Chillca Tambo — the first of the lodges. The trek here is a short 2 miles. 

Today is an acclimatization day — rest at Chillca Tambo, immerse yourself in the culture of the high Andean valley, and enjoy the views. From here you can see a spectacular view of the Phinaya glacial valley, with the snow-capped Mt. Jatun Jampa in the background. The people of this valley use the high elevation to their advantage, grazing thousands of alpacas and llamas and cultivating some of the highest potato fields in the world. 

Day 8: Ausangate Lodge-to-Lodge Trek: Chillca - Machuracay

The Phinaya glacial valley is characterized by glacial geology and is home to many wildlife species
The Phinaya glacial valley is characterized by glacial geology and is home to diverse wildlife

Today you'll trek through the Phinaya glacial valley, home to thousands of llamas and alpacas. Start your day by hiking towards the glaciers of Santa Catalina, climbing alongside the Pjachaj waterfalls as you pass them. Break just above the waterfalls for a prepared lunch before continuing on. 

This valley is steeped in geological history — moraine walls, glaciers, and lagoons dominate the landscape that witnessed the beginnings of ancient cultures settling in the Andes. Trek for five hours (just over 6 miles) to reach the Machuraccay Tambo, a family-operated lodge and one of the world's highest residences at 15,912 feet. Spend the night here, located at the foot of Mt. Ausangate, the highest peak in the Vilcanota's Cordillera and the Incas' most sacred mountain. 

Day 9: Ausangate Lodge-to-Lodge Trek: Machuracay - Anantapata

Enjoy the sweeping panoramic views as you pass through spectacular mountain passes
Enjoy the sweeping panoramic views as you traverse spectacular mountain passes

Today you'll trek over your first mountain pass, located at 16,896 feet. Enjoy the spectacular panoramic views before descending through red sandstone formations. Keep your eyes open on this section of the trek to spot the native vicuñas and occasional condors. Your gear is transported by llama caravan alongside the trekking group, so you can focus on taking in the view for the 6-mile hike. Spend the night at Anantapata Tambo, at 15, 518 feet as you enjoy the gorgeous sunset over Ausangate. 

Day 10: Ausangate Lodge-to-Lodge Trek: Anantapata - Huampococha

Also known as Rainbow Mountain, Vinicunca Mountain is a dazzling display of colorful soils
Also known as Rainbow Mountain, Vinicunca Mountain is a dazzling display of colorful soils

Start your morning by trekking across the massive Glacier del Inca as you take in this awe-inspiring landscape. Underfoot, the brilliant colors of sedimentary soils of the Vinicunca Mountain (also known as Rainbow Mountain) make the 6-mile hike go by easily. Look up to see the hundreds of Andean geese, who nest in the cliffs of Anta. Make your way to Huampococha Tambo, at 15, 814 feet, where you will spend the night. 

This last tambo lies within the community of Osefina, whose residents (together with their distant neighbors in Chillca) participate in the Andean Lodges Project. The locals are expert weavers and enjoy showcasing their craft to visitors. 

Day 11: Ausangate Lodge-to-Lodge Trek: Huampococha - Cusco

Today's final trek takes you over incredible limestone formations 
Today's final trek takes you over incredible limestone formations 

Today is your last day on the trail, a spectacular 5-mile hike. Enjoy a view of the mountains as you cross over twisted shapes of limestone formations that date back to the Cretaceous Age, before reaching the top of your final mountain pass. From here, the trail continues downhill to Congomire, where you will catch the bus back to Cusco. 

Day 12: Departure

It's time to say farewell to the Peruvian Andes! Pick up any last minute souvenirs or gifts before being transferred to the airport for your flight home.