With this 10-day itinerary, you'll trek to the last capital of the Inca resistance at Vilcabamba, renamed Espiritu Pampa by the Spanish. This adventure takes in ruins along historic trails, over high Andean passes, through cloud forest and remote indigenous towns.

Highlights

  • Journey through spectacular Andean and cloud forest scenery
  • Visit the archaeological site of Rosaspata, where the leader Manco Inca II was killed
  • Enjoy the views from the Collpajasa pass, the highest point on the trek at 3860 m
  • Walk the “Thousand Steps”, an Inca trail to Vilcabamba, and explore the ruins of this archaeological complex

Overview

Peru is full of fascinating historic trails that are less widely known and less crowded than the classic Inca Trail. This 10-day itinerary starts in Lima and Cusco and then follows the path used by the Inca before their final defeat by the Spanish in Vilcabamba in 1572, some 40 years after the first invasion.

Historic highlights include the sites Rosaspata, Vitcos, and Ñusta Hispana. You'll travel through wonderful Andean scenery, over mountain passes and through cloud forest to arrive deeper in the jungle where the Incas retreated from the advancing Spanish. The tour culminates in a full day exploring the ruins at Vilcabamba, the last Inca capital.

Brief Itinerary

Day  Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Arrival in Cusco, Exploring the City Cusco
Day 3 Rosaspata, Vitcos, Ñusta Hispana Huancacalle
Day 4 Collpajasa pass, Pampacona River Ututo
Day 5 Huayna Pukara, semi-tropical forest Vista Alegre
Day 6 Inca route to Concebidayoq Concebidayoq
Day 7 Explore Vilcabamba Vilcabamba
Day 8 Hike to Azulmayo Kiteni
Day 9 Siete Tinajas, Return to Cusco Cusco
Day 10 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Lima

Lima's pretty seaside setting

¡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

Cusco after dusk

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, breads, vegetables, and other necessities. 

  • Eat lunch 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: Depart Cusco, trek to Rosaspata archaeology site and the White Rock

The scenery of the Southern Andes makes trekking here a spectacular experience.

You'll leave Cusco very early to journey through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, up to the high mountain pass of Abra Malaga (4300 m). From here, begin a steep descent into the cloud forest of the Andes. You'll cross fields of fruit, cocoa, tea and coffee.

After a short rest in the small town of Santa Maria, you'll continue to the warm climate of Quillabamba. You'll have lunch in Huancacalle (2995 m), and rest before the trek in the afternoon.

The trek takes a trail leading to the archaeological site of Rosaspata, where the leader Manco Inca II was killed. Next, you'll visit the site of Vitcos with its ceremonial rocks, on the way to Ñusta Hispana. Highlights include water channels, ruins, and the White Rock or Yurac Rumi: a carved stone with a representation of the Chakana or Inca Cross.

You return to Huancacalle by following an original Inca trail for dinner and to spend the night.

Maximum Altitude: 3041 m (9977 ft)
Minimum Altitude: 2995 m (9826 ft)
Distance Travelled: 4 miles (6.5 km)
Approximate Walking Time: 3 hours

Day 4: Trek to Collpajasa Pass (3860 m) and along the banks of the Pampacona River

The Vilcabamba Range: the Inca fled here from the Spanish before their final defeat.

You'll leave Huancacalle and head to New Vilcabamba, founded by the Spanish. Following the path uphill, you'll cross the ecological levels Quechua and Suni to reach the Collpajasa Pass, the highest point on the trek.

Your descent takes you along ancient crossroads and follows a beautiful path along the banks of the Pampacona River to reach the cloud forest. You'll arrive at the site of Ututo to spend the night after a long day's walk.

Maximum Altitude: 3860 m (12,664 ft)
Minimum Altitude: 2960 m (9711 ft)
Distance Travelled: 13.5 miles (21.5 km)
Approximate Walking Time: 10 hours

Day 5: Trek to Huayna Pukara, the last stand of the Inca

A sweeping landscape of colorful mountains. 

Leaving camp, you'll descend to the Huayna Pukara sector, a spectacular location and the last place of resistance by the Inca army. The trek takes you through a semi-tropical forest, leading to the school of Vista Alegre, where you’ll have dinner and spend the night.

Maximum Altitude: 2960 m (9711 ft)
Minimum Altitude: 2017 m (6617 ft)
Distance Travelled: 8.8 miles (14.25 km)
Approximate Walking Time: 7 hours

Day 6: Pass through rainforest to Concebidayoq

An open door along the trekking route. 

You'll continue your journey along the legendary route where the last Incas fled the Spanish invasion, passing through a magnificent rainforest. Arriving at camp in Concebidayoq, you’ll have dinner and camp for the night.

Maximum Altitude: 2017 m (6617 ft)
Minimum Altitude: 1498 m (4915 ft)
Distance Travelled: 10.2 miles (16.4 km) 
Approximate Walking Time: 7 hours

Day 7: Tour the archaeology complex of Vilcabamba

Archaeological complex of Vilcabamba.

Today you'll take a short walk to the campsite of Vilcabamba (Espiritu Pampa), then follow the trail, walking the “Thousand Steps”, an Inca trail that leads to Vilcabamba, the last capital of the Tawantinsuyo.

After setting up camp, you'll tour the archaeological complex in detail for the rest of the day. Then return to camp for dinner and a good rest.

Maximum Altitude: 1498 m (4914 ft)
Minimum Altitude: 1449 m (4753 ft)
Distance Travelled: 2.7 miles (4.4 km)
Approximate Walking Time: 2 hours

Day 8: Hike the last leg of the journey from Vilcabamba to Azulmayo

The small town of Kiteni is the end of the line for this trip. 

Leaving your campsite at Vilcabamba, you hike towards Azulmayo, from where private transport takes you to the town of Kiteni for lunch, dinner and camp for the night.

Maximum Altitude: 1449 m (4753 ft)
Minimum Altitude: 593 m (1945 ft)
Distance Travelled: 5 miles (8 km)
Approximate Walking Time: 3 hours

From Azulmayo to Kiteni (Private Transport)
Distance: 13 miles (21 km)
Duration: 4 – 5 hours

Day 9: Enjoy Siete Tinajas waterfalls and return to Cusco

Back in time for an evening in Cusco.

You'll spend the final day enjoying a visit to Siete Tinajas, a series of waterfalls with small pools. You'll then take private transport back to the city of Cusco to check in to your hotel for the night. Enjoy a celebratory drink in this historic town to mark the end of your challenging Peruvian adventure. 

Day 10: Departure

Sunset in Cusco

Today is your last day in Peru! You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to the airport, where you will connect to your departure flight. ¡Buen viaje! 

Map

Map of Trek to Peru's Vilcabamba: The Last Stand of the Inca - 10 Days
Map of Trek to Peru's Vilcabamba: The Last Stand of the Inca - 10 Days