Day 1: Inca Trail – Sun Gate – Machu Picchu – Machu Picchu Museum – Puente Ruinas Camp
There will be an early wake up at the hotel, to catch the 6:10 a.m. train to Ollantaytambo. This is one of the most magnificent train rides in the world, with its phenomenal views of the rough-and-tumble Urubamba River, the soaring snow-capped mountain peaks and cornfield farms. As we descend, you will see the micro-climate changes, from the mountains and cornfields to green jungle valleys with ferns, bromeliads and orchids, as the temperature starts to get warmer. This train ride is one hour and 45 minutes to Km 104, where we’ll disembark to meet your trekking chef and porters. You will also enjoy breakfast before starting your trek. Be sure you bring your original passport, since this is the very first checkpoint along the Inca Trail. After breakfast, you will have some time to prepare, before beginning the hike. Soon after, we will get to explore the first Inca site, Chachabamaba. Chachabamaba was the first ancient Incan checkpoint for entering to the Inca trail. Your tour guide will give you some background history on this ruin, followed by the three hour climb up to the most famous Inca site along the trail, Wiñay Wayna. You will see amazing views of the Machu Picchu Valley and the Urubamba River along the trail, as well as the flora and fauna native to the area. There are also waterfalls, and spectacular views of the Machu Picchu Mountain. The trail itself has some flat areas, as well as some short uphill and downhill hikes. It also has steps, arranged in sections, that can be narrow in some areas, but not dangerous. Once you arrive at the Wiñay Wayna Inca site, you will have time for a tour by your tour guide. He will also provide time for exploring the Inca site, temples, waterfalls, gardens, storehouses, watchtowers and farming terraces. It is only a short walk to the lunch spot, where your trekking chef and porters will be ready with cold drinks and delicious, fresh food, prepared by our cook, and served buffet-style. After lunch, there will be time for a short nap. Following, it will be a one hour, gradual up and downhill hike to get to the Sun Gate, where you will have spectacular views of Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu and the surrounding valleys. The Sun Gate was used by Incas to observe the sunrise from Machu Picchu during the summer solstice. From here, it is another hour hike to the Machu Picchu ruins. Once in Machu Picchu, you can explore the watchtower area where you can get charming pictures of Machu Picchu (without crowds). We’ll then take the 20 minute bus ride to the campsite of Puente Ruinas. Before we reach the camp, we will visit the small Machu Picchu museum, which has photos of the condition of Machu Picchu, when it was first discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Mummies, bracelets, stone working and metallurgy tools, weaving tools and pottery that were found on site, are also up for display. When you arrive at the campsite, your tents will be all set up. You will meet your porters, and enjoy a social happy hour with hot drinks and dinner. Later in the evening, we’ll have a small ceremony with your chef and porters in order to say good bye to them. They will still be there the next morning to cook breakfast. This is the proper goodbye.
Highlight: Trekking the Inca Trail, enjoying the views from the Sun Gate, sunset views from Machu Picchu, camping at the foot of Machu Picchu.
Walking Distance: 15 km / 8 miles.
Elevations: Trek starting point 2,000 m, the highest point is Sun Gate 2,720 m, the camp is at 1,900 m.
Weather: Hot and humid.
Day 2: Machu Picchu (The Lost City of the Incas) & Return to Cusco
There will be an early wake up call with hot drinks. You will have time to prepare your duffel bags and day packs, and enjoy breakfast. We’ll walk to the bus station to be one of the first in line to go up to Machu Picchu (it is optional to take a one hour walk up to the ruins, if you’d like). The first buses will depart at 5:30 a.m. and arrive at 6:00 a.m., into Machu Picchu. You must have your original passport at the checkpoint. Your tour guide will take you to the perfect spot to enjoy the sunrise over the mountains (weather permitting). We’ll then have a two hour, private, guided tour of the Machu Picchu ruins, with all of its fascinating history. You’ll also have free time to explore Machu Picchu on your own. If you have booked a permit to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, this is a good time to climb (in the second slot which starts at 10:00 a.m.). However, there are a lot of other things to see around Machu Picchu: the Inca Bridge is one of the best options - you can climb up to Sun Gate for free, or walk around the temple and residential areas of Machu Picchu to mingle with the llamas. You will need to catch your bus back down to the town of Aguas Calientes for lunch and to catch the afternoon train to Ollantaytambo. From there, you will go by private van back to Cusco, where we will drop you off at your hotel.
Highlight: Arrive early to Machu Picchu to enjoy the sunrise.
Temperature: Warm and humid.
Train: Expedition tourist class.