For several millennia, Peru's Cordillera Vilcabamba mountain range was an important cradle for ancient civilizations. These steep slopes and valleys also served as a refuge for the last rebel Incas retreating from the Spanish invasion. This itinerary provides an intimate look at this region of ancient trails and archaeological sites, perfectly suited for active travelers looking to explore the Peruvian backcountry on foot and sleep out under the stars.

Upcoming Departures

Date Duration Availability Cost per person
Jul 23, 2018 5 days Available $1,655 USD Inquire
Aug 20, 2018 5 days Available $1,655 USD Inquire
Sep 3, 2018 5 days Available $1,655 USD Inquire

Highlights

  • Visit Incan archaeology sites with ritual platforms and spring-fed pools
  • Stand in the shadow of trees that survive at 14,000 feet above sea level
  • Enjoy the stunning night sky over the Andes as you camp out under the stars
  • Hike through the Cordillera Vilcabamba, along ancient trails used by the Inca
  • Take a guided tour of Machu Picchu and hike by yourself to the top of nearby hills for great views of the Inca ruin

Overview

This trip takes you deep into the heart of the Cordillera Vilcabamba, where the Incas made their last, futile stand against the Spanish. You will camp each night under the stars and get terrific views of the Andes as you trek across mountain passes that reach 14,000 feet. This walk includes visits to several remote archaeology sites and concludes at the granddaddy of all Inca ruins — Machu Picchu. Mules will be available to carry your gear, making the hike somewhat easier so you can enjoy the stunning scenery without the weight of a backpack.

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight 
Day 1 Huanmanmarca archaeological site, hike to Casapata Casapata Campsite
Day 2 Trek over Pillaujasa mountain pass Hatunpampa Campsite
Day 3 Views of Yanacocha Lake Nogalpampa Campsite
Day 4 Hike through native forest toward Yanatile  Aguas Calientes 
Day 5 Visit Machu Picchu  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Overland to Casapata and Trek start

Views on the way to the Casapata campsite. 

Leaving very early in the morning, your journey begins with a drive into the Sacred Valley. You'll pass through Ollantaytambo, a historic town of Incan origin, and continue up a twisting road to Abra Málaga mountain pass. From the pass, the road descends towards high jungle and plantations cut out of the forest. Farmers in this area grow a variety of crops, including tea, coca, coffee, cacao and fruit.

Huamanmarca, an archaeological site with an important Usnu (ritual platform), is our first stop. The site also contains a precinct with four doorways facing the four cardinal points. From Huamanmarca, the journey continues to the settlement of Santa María and then onto Huancacalle. This is a remote area of solitude rarely seen by foreign visitors. Upon reaching the trailhead, you will be met by arrieros (mule handlers) who will help load your gear onto the mules.

Vilcabamba Archaeological Park is your first stop on this walk. A unique feature of the park is the Ñusta Hispana, which includes a spring-fed pool and the stone foundations of a building. You can also find here the Yurac Rumi (white stone), an enormous boulder with steps carved into its side. While his tomb has not been located, it is believed the rebel leader Manco Inka II was buried in this area.

By dusk, you'll arrive at Casapata campsite for the night where you'll enjoy dinner and rest.

Min - Max Altitude: 2950 m - 3060 m
Distance Travelled: 5 km / 3 miles
Approximate Walking Time: 3 hrs

Day 2: Hike from Casapata to Hatumpampa

View of the Vilcabamba Range at dusk.

After breakfast and packing your gear, you'll ascend the ravine to the source of the Pumachaka River in the Chupana sector. Here you'll follow remnants of the Inca Trail and observe local flora, which is used to dye textiles. From Pillaujasa Pass, the trail descends to the valley of the Racchchaka River. Following the river upstream, you'll arrive at Hatunpampa, where you'll camp and enjoy a beautiful view of the Tuytubamba snow-capped peak.

Min - Max Altitude: 3060 m - 4086 m
Distance Travelled: 17 km / 10.5 miles
Approximate Walking Time: 10 hrs

Day 3: Hatumpampa to Nogalpampa, over Mojon pass (14,078 ft)

The Cordillera Vilcabamba is a stunning range of snow-capped peaks and turquoise lakes. 

This day begins with a challenging trek up to Yanacocha mountain pass. Native trees (Qeuña and Kiswar) somehow survive here at an altitude of 14,700 ft above sea level. At the pass itself, you'll get some great views of Yanacocha lake, located at nearly 13,000 ft. The trek continues to Mojon Pass (14,078 ft), the last high pass on this trek. You may feel like you've reached the edge of the earth at this remote location.

The trek continues down the Mutuypata Ravine where you'll have lunch and a rest before continuing to the Saqsarayoq Valley. You'll cross the Saqsarayoq River to reach Nogalpampa, where camp will be set up for the night.

Min - Max Altitude: 2788vm - 4500 m
Distance Travelled: 14 km / 8.5 miles
Approximate Walking Time: 8 hrs

Day 4: Trek from Nogalpampa to Aguas Calientes

Camping at Nolgapampa

Today you'll head downhill, trekking through native forest in the direction of Yanatile, a small Andean town. From Yanatile, you'll be transferred to the nearest train station where you'll board a train headed for Aguas Calientes, the jumping off point for Machu Picchu.

Min - Max Altitude: 2100 m - 2788 m
Distance Travelled: 13 km / 8 miles
Approximate Walking Time: 5 hrs

Day 5: Explore Machu Picchu and return to Cusco

Incan site of Machu Picchu

At dawn, you'll take the bus to the Incan Citadel of Machu Picchu, where you can climb up to the summit of Huayna Picchu. From here you can see Inti Punku (the sun-gate) and the archaeological complex itself. Following the guided tour, you'll have a chance to explore on your own. We suggest heading west from the center of Machu Picchu to the Inca bridge, a 30-minute (2 km) walk along a narrow path.

After a good time spent exploring the site, you'll take the train back to Ollantaytambo, from where you can overnight or return to Cusco.

Min - Max Altitude: 2070 m - 2437 m
Distance Travelled: 1.5 km / 1 mile
Approximate Walking Time: 3 hrs

 
 

Upcoming Departures

Date Duration Availability Cost per person
Jul 23, 2018 5 days Available $1,655 USD Inquire
Aug 20, 2018 5 days Available $1,655 USD Inquire
Sep 3, 2018 5 days Available $1,655 USD Inquire