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Day 1 - Cusco to Sacred Valley / Train to Aguas Calientes
8-8:30AM. Adios guide and driver pick you up from your hotel (or Airbnb in Cusco center) and accompany you to the Sacred Valley where you will hike until afternoon. Continue by van to the village of Ollantaytambo where you and the guide will board the afternoon/evening train to Aguas Calientes (the exact time of the train will depend on availability which we will determine later). Walk to your hotel in Aguas Calientes for checkin. (dine in Ollantaytambo or Aguas Calientes depending on the train you take)
Day 2 - Machu Picchu / Return to Cusco
After an early breakfast, the guide will accompany you on the shuttle bus to the opening of Machu Picchu for a private, guided tour. (about 2-3 hours) You can purchase fresh sandwiches at the open cafe near the park entry or pack snacks for lunch. Guide will accompany you on the shuttle bus back to Aguas Calientes, where you will retrieve your overnight bags and board the train to Ollantaytambo and finally arrive at your hotel in Cusco where you will be able to get dinner.
Choose the hike that appeals to you:
Hike #1 - Moray to Maras 2 to 3 hours/6 to 7 Km over rolling terrain + 1 and 1/2 more hour from Maras to river where you will get picked up. Total of about 10 Km.
Pick up from your hotel by 08:30 am On our way to the Sacred Valley we stop at Moray, the Inca Greenhouse ruins built in concentric terraces. More than just terraces, this is one of the old agricultural experimental places of the Incas. We explore for 30 to 45 minutes, then begin hiking east on an old Incan trail that is still in use by the local people. (along the way we pass farming fields where the people farm potatoes, quinua, barley and a lot of times you get to meet some farmers that are on their way home or towards the main town) The first part of the hike is an average of 6 kilometers before you arrive at Maras (the terraced salt ponds) Each pond is owned by an individual family who are still harvesting salt like in the old times. There is the option to get picked up here, or continue hiking down for another 1.5 hours to the Vilcabamba River. This is the easiest of the 3 hikes. 9000 ft elevation.
Hike #2 -Chinchero to Yaravilca Hacienda 4.5 hours/11 km. Pick up from your hotel by 08:30 am. Drive to the town of Chinchero, where we have the option to stop & visit the Qechua women weavers. They demonstrate how wool is harvested, cleaned with soap made from roots, dyed from flowers, insects and lichen, and finally hand-woven into beautiful textiles. Then we walk over to the old Incan palace of Tupac Yupanqui, where we find plazas and foundations of the old temples. The trail begins at the lower part of the terraces and descends through small farms of potatoes and quinoa. Along the way we may see the local people walking to and from the valley. We follow a small creek that eventually becomes a stream which is a tributary to the Vilcanota River that runs through the Sacred Valley. The hike is all downhill and hikers must commit to the entire length. It is not possible to get picked up.
Hike #3 - Pisac ruins. 3 hours/9 km. Pick up from your hotel by 08:30 am. Drive about 1 hour to the archaeological site to begin hiking from 11,000 ft with an amazing view of the Sacred Valley. The first thing we see are farming terraces and burial tombs built into the side of a cliff. We follow an ancient trail climbing steps and hiking through short tunnels. Bromeliads dangle from the cliffs and hummingbirds dart around. The hike takes you to the religious area known as the Intihuatana, where we find the nicest stone masonry work of the Incas. After time to explore, those who want to, can descend many steps down to 9500 ft to the colonial village of Pisac. Or hike back to the vehicle and drive to the town. This is the most difficult of the 3 hikes. Hikers must negotiate a variety of conditions including short, steep steps and winding narrow path. Trekking poles recommended. Hikers must commit to completing the hike. There is no pickup mid-way. Stop for refreshments in the village & explore the market. (requires entry tickets from Turistico Boleto - tourist ticket book. You can provide your own tickets or we can get them for $30 pp)
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I get altitude sickness?
It's common for most people coming from sea level to experience at least mild symptoms of altitude sickness when they arrive in Cusco, which is 11,000 ft/3430 m above sea level. Age is not a factor for the severity of symptoms one can experience. But fitness can be. Symptoms vary from person to person, but can include:
-loss of appetite
Treatments may include:
- -OTC pain reliever - bring your own favorite remedy for pain relief
- -Oxygen. Most hotels have oxygen tanks in their lobbies and guides will carry small tanks of oxygen on hikes. Some local pharmacies sell an individual size O2 tank for personal use.
- -Coca Leaf. Locals believe that drinking coca leaf tea will help and you will find the tea leaves readily available in hotel tea bars as well as restaurants.
- -Water. Drink extra to keep your blood flowing freely. Dehydration leads to sludgy blood and may contribute to your discomfort.
- -Diamox. (AKA "Acetazolamide" is a diuretic or "water pill") can be purchased by prescription in some western countries or over the counter in Peruvian pharmacies.
- -Treatments may alleviate the symptoms as you adjust in the first 24-48 hours. But it's not likely that breathlessness when climbing steps or stairs will completely disappear, no matter how you treat it. If other symtoms do not show signs of improvement within 24 hours of your arrival, please notify your travel companions or guide so s/he can monitor your progress. In rare occasions, individuals may need to seek medical attention.
Is it safe to drink the water?
Tap water in Lima, Cusco and other larger cities is consumed by local people every day. But is it safe for you? There's only one way to find out and we suggest that you not drink the tap water or use it to brush your teeth. Bottled water is cheap and available everywhere including small towns and villages. We support Travelers Against Plastic to reduce the use of disposable water bottles and encourage you to bring a purification device to make your own safe drinking water. The device should be rated to purify water from microbes and viruses, not just for taste. Purified drinking water is provided on all the multi-day hikes and during your stay in the Amazon jungle lodges. Please bring your own water to begin the activity.
Should I travel to South America if I have a life-threatening allergy?
We've learned that there are different kinds of allergies; from hayfever to insect stings. IF YOU HAVE A LIFE-THREATENING ALLERGY TO ANY FOOD, INSECT, MEDICATION OR NATURAL ELEMENT, WE REQUIRE WRITTEN, ADVANCE NOTICE WITH FULL DESCRIPTION OF THE ALLERGEN AND THE TREATMENT. We reserve the right to require a doctors written approval for you to travel or ask you to provide your own treatment remedy and plan. And we ask you to notify your guide during your first meeting. In rare circumstances we may choose to reject your reservation if we feel that your condition is beyond the scope of the training of our guides or may negatively impact other travelers. Epi-pens are only useful in areas where you are close to medical services like Lima or Cusco.
What is the best way to travel between Lima and Cusco?
We recommmend flying between the cities because other means requires more time or is not practical for short vacations. There is no train service between Lima and Cusco. And while there is bus service, the drive is almost 24 hours long over paved, but winding mountain roads. There is no speedy highway. The cost of round-trip air tickets varies from around $250 pp on the domestic carriers, including STAR PERU AIRLINES and PERUVIAN AIRLINES, to $450 pp on LAN AIRLINES and somewhere in-between on TACA (recently merged with AVIANCA) AIRLINES. The majority of the flights between the cities occurs in the morning to mid-day hours. Afternoon flights taper off by 5 pm and there are no evening flights in either direction due to mountain weather conditions.
Where should I stay if my international flight arrives in Lima in the evening?
There is only one hotel at the Lima airport. The Wyndham Hotel is connected to the arrivals terminal by a skybridge on the 2nd floor. It takes literally 2 minutes to walk from the terminal to the lobby of the hotel. The hotel is expensive by Peruvian standards (in excess of $250 per double room per night). We've seen good rates on booking.com and hotels.com The hotel will accommodate as many as 3 to a room, but not 4.
This hotel is best for groups who arrive in Lima late evening and plan to depart again by air the next day. For groups planning to stay in Lima, it's best to pre-arrange a transfer to a hotel outside the airport, unless you don't mind paying the "gringo rate" when you negotiate on your own. The travel time is about 45 minutes each way when the traffic is moderate. And the cost ranges from $35 each way and up. If your group is larger than 3 persons, you may need a transfer in a mini-van or two taxis.
Do I need vaccinations to visit Machu Picchu?
The altitude of Machu Picchu is 8000 ft/2440 m and higher. Disease-carrying vectors do not thrive at higher elevations. US passport holders are not required to get Yellow Fever vaccinations or prophylactic Malaria treatments. Although there have been no recent cases of Yellow Fever in Peru, some countries, including the US, recommend that visitors get Yellow Fever vaccinations prior to visiting the Amazon Rainforest including Tambopata Reserve or Manu National Reserve. We recommend that travelers check the regulations for re-entry for any countries they will pass through after leaving Peru, Bolivia or Ecuador. Bolivia requires all foreigners to have proof of yellow fever vaccination upon entry if you plan to travel to the Bolivian Amazon jungle. (Some countries including Australia, require their citizens to get yellow fever vaccination if they enter Peru, even if they are only visiting the higher elevations) As these regulations may change from time to time, it is the responsibility of travelers to consult their own government health departments for up to date and relevant information.
This Adventure Includes
- Pre-hike briefing at 6 pm, the day before you start
- All land transportation - private van, Perurail train, shuttle buses
- 1 night 3* hotel with private bath - 1 breakfast, 1 lunch (WAMAN HOTEL)
- Entry fees to Machu Picchu and any other place during the hike in Sacred Valley
- Full-time, English-speaking guide
- Private tours & hikes
- Lunches/dinners/bottled water (budget $25 pp per day)
- Trekking poles (bring your own or rent ours for $8 pp)
- Travel insurance
- Hotels in Cusco (We offer preferred rate $85 per double at Encantada Spa & Boutique. Let us know your dates and we will reserve it.)