Peru's untouched landscapes and native species are wonders to discover on this active 15-day itinerary that travels beyond the tourist circuit by foot, car, raft, and horseback. Start in Cusco to learn about the former Inca capital, and then explore the countryside outside the city. Navigate Apurimac River rapids and sleep under the stars, hike to Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain, a natural wonder, and explore Choquequirao, a mountainous Inca site that's larger than Machu Picchu.


  • Discover the history of the former Inca capital, Cusco
  • Explore an Andean village on horseback
  • Marvel at the natural phenomenon of Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain
  • Navigate a raft on the mystical Apurimac River

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cusco Cusco
Day 2 Cusco & Apu Wanakaure Horseback Riding Cusco
Day 3 Drive to Choquequirao & Hike to Chiquisca Choquequirao
Day 4 Hike to Choquequirao Choquequirao
Day 5 Choquequirao Exploration Choquequirao
Day 6 Apurimac Canyon Hike Choquequirao
Day 7 Hike to Choquequirao, Drive to Cusco Cusco
Day 8 Drive to Apurimac, Apurimac River Rafting Apurimac
Day 9 Granite Canyon Rafting, Drive to Cusco Cusco
Day 10 Cusco to Checacupe, Hike Apu Ausangate Trail to Chillca Chillca
Day 11 Hike Apu Ausangate Trail to Machuracay Chillca
Day 12 Hike Apu Ausangate Trail to Anantapata Chillca
Day 13 Hike Apu Ausangate Trail to Huampococha Chillca
Day 14 Hike Apu Ausangate Trail to Trapiche, Return to Cusco by Bus Cusco
Day 15 Depart Cusco  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cusco

Explore Cusco, the former Inca capital

Welcome to Cusco! At Cusco airport, meet a driver for a private transfer to your hotel. Listen to a short briefing about your trip and then rest and acclimate to the high altitude of 11,200 feet (3,400 m). Then, get out and explore the former capital of the Inca Empire, known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. Start with Plaza de Armas central square with its wooden balconies and buildings covering Inca ruins. See Santo Domingo's Baroque convent, which is also built over Inca ruins, and then step inside Cusco Cathedral.

Just outside the main city, see the citadel Saqsaywaman and explore these ruins and learn about the history of the 15th-century settlement and its large plaza. Stop in a restaurant for dinner to try your first ceviche, and go back to your hotel for an early night.

Day 2: Cusco & Apu Wanakaure Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding to Apu Wanakaure
Horseback ride to Apu Wanakaure

Today, explore the Cusco countryside on horseback. In the morning, go to Fundo Molleray stables to meet your horse and get ready for the ride. Cross barley, corn, and potato fields and pass over a few small rivers and through the eucalyptus forest. At Wilcarpay, meet villagers tending to their fields and animals.

Reaching a creek, ascend 200 yards (183 m) along an Inca pathway to Inka Raccay archaeological site. Then, pass Puna Cancha village and continue along the trail to another Inca site at Apu Wanakaure. Take in the views and start your ride back to the stables. Spend the evening exploring more of Cusco and watching its street musicians and dancers.

Day 3: Drive to Choquequirao, Hike to Chiquisca

Terraces below Choquequirao
Explore the terraces below Choquequirao and learn about its construction

The outdoor adventure of the trip begins today, leaving Cusco with a transfer, and heading north on the main highway toward Abancay. From here, start an approximately four-hour and 4-mile (7 km) trek. See views of Mount Salkantay and Humantay glacier, and as you leave a high meadow area, the Urubamba mountain range in the Andes will come into view with the Pitusiray, Chicón, and Veronica snow-capped mountains.

Approaching the Apurimac River—where you'll raft later during the trip—cross an impressive gorge. Take a side road over a ridge leading to Cachora and Cappuliyoc villages. From Cappuliyoc, begin the descent into Apurimac Canyon, and at Chiquisca, set up camp and rest after the first day of hiking. 

Day 4: Hike to Choquequirao

Choquequirao is considered to be even larger than Machu Picchu

Wake up with a hot cup of cocoa tea and breakfast around 5:00 am to get ready for a 5:30 am departure for today's hike to Choquequirao Camp, traveling 6.52 miles (10.5 km). Make a one-hour descent to Rosalina Bridge (Puente Rosalina) and then cross the Apurimac River and continue toward Rosa Baja—about a two-hour hike. Take a break at a small store to buy water and other supplies and from there, continue for another two hours up to the town of Marampata for lunch. After lunch, finish the final leg of the trek to Choquequirao to set up camp and go to sleep early.

Day 5: Explore Choquequirao

Choquequirao Exploration
Walk through Choquequirao and learn about a lesser-known Inca site

After an early breakfast, prepare for a day going back in time, exploring Choquequirao. The Inca site is larger than Machu Picchu, but much of it is hidden by forest and is only a 30-minute hike away from camp. Learn about the area's history and how it is spread out because of how its builders studied its buildings, terraces, and houses. See the most impressive areas, including temples, astronomical observatories, and water channels.

After a four-hour tour, head back to camp for lunch and to rest. The afternoon is free, or explore with a guide, seeing the llama area—a steep downhill 30-minute walk to narrow farming terraces with white stone llama designs. It is said that the Incas built the terraces to represent the Milky Way llama constellation. At the Usnu Muqu archaeological site, watch the sunset over the mountains. Then go back to Choquequirao campsite for dinner. 

Day 6: Apurimac Canyon Hike

Hike through Apurimac Canyon for spectacular views
Soak up early morning Apurimac Canyon views and then get on your hiking boots for another day on the trail. See cascading waterfalls as you watch clouds lifting from the bottom of the canyon. Depending on the weather, hike through a spectacular Andes landscape and then eat lunch at a lodge in Marampata. From there, it's a four-hour steep downhill hike to La Playa camp before a two-hour hike uphill to Chikiska Camp, where you'll rest for the night.

Day 7: Hike to Choquequirao, Drive to Cusco

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Choquequirao is a site to learn about the Inca civilization

Today is the last day trekking, and after an early breakfast, start toward your destination, Cusco—the first part of the trip will be hiking, followed by a three-hour drive. Follow the four-hour uphill hike ending at Chiquiska Camp for the last lunch with your guide and trekking team before completing the hike to Choquequirao. From there, ride with your guide to Cusco.

Take the evening to enjoy the energy of the city in Cusco. Eat dinner at a restaurant and then make your way back to your hotel for an early morning departure.

Day 8: Drive to Apurimac, Apurimac River Rafting

Apurimac River Rafting
Raft on the mystical Apurimac River

After breakfast, travel to Apurímac—the drive is 172 miles (277 km)—to start your river rafting adventure. Reach an elevation of 13,123 feet (4,000 m) with views of the Peruvian Andes' Cordillera Vilcanota mountain range. From here, descend into the community of Puente Huallpachaca, where it's time to board your raft for a journey on the river.

Starting with grade II and III rapids, your guide will direct you and help you navigate throughout the day. As the sun sets behind the canyon walls, set up your tent on the beach for the night and eat dinner by the campfire.

Day 9: Granite Canyon Rafting, Drive to Cusco

The Andean gull breeds inland in mountainous areas
The Andean gull breeds inland in mountainous areas

Apurímac was a sacred river and source of wisdom for the Incas; today, it is a place to test your reflexes and sense of adventure. After breakfast on the beach, pack up camp and get back on the water, steering through boulders on the river. Watch out for the areas known as Trident, Batman Caves, Babalua, and Last Laugh. At the end of the day, reach a break in the canyon walls and make your way back to land.

At the end of the rafting trip, a driver will be waiting for a transfer to your Cusco hotel. During the drive, see views of the Vilcabamba mountain range and its highest peak, Salkantay. In Cusco, spend the night resting or exploring new parts of the city.  

Day 10: Drive to Checacupe, Hike Apu Ausangate Trail to Chillca

Checacupe Church
Visit Checacupe Church to see authentic Peru

Get up early to leave Cusco for a drive south 60 miles (98 km) along the Vilcanota River (part of the Urubamba River) to Checacupe village, and immerse yourself in village life. After a visit to a colonial church, head toward the Pitumarca Valley along Japura Gorge

The trails on Apu Ausangate mountain are considered some of the most challenging around Cusco, and you'll start your trek today to see the area's magnificent landscapes on a 2.4-mile (4 km) hike. From Japura, it's a short trek to Chillca and an ecolodge where you'll spend the night. As you hear musicians playing the quena (flute) and other Andean instruments, you'll know you're getting close to your destination at 14,330 feet (4,369 m) on the Pampa Uyuni plain in a valley irrigated by glacial water. Spend the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the view of the snow-capped Jatunhuma ("Pico Tres") mountain. 

Day 11: Hike Apu Ausangate Trail to Machuracay

Phinaya glacial valley is home to alpaca and llama herds

Your hiking companions today are herds of alpacas and llamas in the Phinaya glacial valley as you get up early to hike with the first morning light. Llamas will also carry your bags for the 9.25-mile (14.9 km) hike on a trail that leads to more glaciers and the inspiring Pjachaj waterfalls for a picnic lunch break.

After lunch, surrounded by moraine walls and lagoons, start a five-hour walk to Machuracay Tambo lodge at 15,790 feet (4,815 m) near snow-capped Apu Ausangate mountain. You'll sleep here for the night for another relaxing evening above the clouds. 

Day 12: Hike Apu Ausangate Trail to Anantapata

Hiking around Puca Cocha Lake, see some of Peru's most beautiful landscapes

Today is one of the most challenging hikes of the trip, traveling 7.2 miles (11.6 km) to conquer a mountain pass at 16,587 feet (5,055 m). The reward is panoramic views with a descent alongside glaciers on Puca Cocha Lake, where you'll stop for lunch. See how the landscape changes with red sandstone formations, and watch for roaming vicuña herds and condors flying overhead.

Arrive at Anantapata Lodge at the top of Alcatauri Gorge at 15,580 feet (4,750 m) in a wetland area with alpaca herds surrounded by the snowcapped Tacusiri and Ausangate peaks. Learn about the lodge's focus on sustainable tourism and how it is working to preserve the landscape.

Day 13: Hike Apu Ausangate Trail to Huampococha

Vinicunca, the Rainbow mountain, is a natural phenomenon

Lake Kayrawiri is the scenery today, hiking 7.2 miles (11.6 km) among rugged mountain peaks and a red, ocher, and blue soil strata valley. See small herds of graceful vicuñas, and eat lunch in a wide-open space to appreciate the landscape. After lunch, head for the Cerro Playa Grande and the Nevado del Inca mountain, and the spectacular Vinicunca, the Rainbow Mountain with marbled rainbow colors formed by sedimentary deposits. Take photos of this magnificent natural wonder and then continue on to Huampococha Tambo lodge.

Approaching the lodge, see gaggles of geese nesting on the cliffs of Anta mountain and the flatiron formations of Apu Labrayani. Arrive at the lodge, at 15,740 feet (4,800 m), for a panoramic Lake Huampococha view and clear skies. Before going to sleep, listen to stories about the apus (spirits of the mountains) and deities from this remote area.

Day 14: Hike Apu Ausangate Trail to Trapiche, Return to Cusco by Bus

Hiking through the Anta Pass, see another side of Peru

After breakfast, hike up the final ascent over Anta Pass and then make a gradual descent with mountain views. Notice the strange shapes of karsts—limestone rock forests—and continue to the end of the trail at Trapiche for lunch, hiking a total distance of 6.52 miles (10.5 km).

At the end of the hike, catch a bus for the trip south to Cusco. 

Day 15: Depart Cusco

Farewell, Peru, until your next adventure

Your driver will pick you up at your hotel for a transfer to Cusco airport to continue on to your next destination.

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Map of Undiscovered Peru: Hiking Cusco to Apurimac  - 15 Days
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