This is a truly unique sojourn through the south part of the Cordillera of the Andes.You will be trekking through the Vilcabamba mountain range and visit two ancient and remote cities from the Incas times. Explore the different ecosystems and experience the biodiversity of one of the longest mountain range in the world.
Choquequirao is one of the largest of abandoned Inca cities. To reach it requires an extraordinary hike through the Andes in the Vilcabamba mountain range with the incredible Canyon view of a mighty river called Apurimac (one of the main sources of the Amazon River).
Day one: Trekking, Cachora, Capulichayoc, Chikiska
We depart from Cusco early in the morning and drive northeast for about 4 hours, 153 kilometers, into the department of Apurimac. This picturesque area was an historical place for the Incas and the Chancas and the sacred Apurímac River. After stopping for photos, we continue to the town of Cachora at 2900 meters, where we will begin preparations. From here we hike for 1 hour, enjoying views of the snow-capped Padreyoc at 5771 meters. Our lunch spot will have spectacular views of Capulichayoc at 2915 meters, where we will see some native species such as the “Prunus Capuli” tree. Here is another view of the Canyon and the Inca ruins, Choquequirao, “Cradle of Gold”.
About 6 more hours of hiking, covering in total of 19 kilometers for the day, mainly downhill, zigzagging on moderate to difficult trails, to our camp at Chiquisca. We will see one ecosystem called the “Andean semidry forest” with native species of scrub bush vegetation with Chilca bush “Bacharis Peruviana”, “Schinus Molle” trees and Tara “Caesalpina Spinosa” trees that are used for medicinal purposes in the area. We may see hummingbirds and if we are lucky, the Andean Condor “Vulture Gryphus” and Black chested Buzzard Eagles “Geranoaetus Melanoleucus” and Falcons flying above the Apurimac River canyon. (B, L, D)
Day two: Chiquiska, Santa Rosa, Marampata
Today we’re off to an early start to climb up and out of the gorge of the Apurimac River. After about an hour long hike we will arrive at Rosalina beach, where we can enjoy an early bath in the river. About 3 hours of hiking gradually upwards is the village of Santa Rosa, at 2115 meters, where we have a break and enjoy some of the local moonshine, made from sugar cane. We then continue upward on a zigzagging trail of moderate to difficult climbing, through the Andean dry forest then the scrub bush vegetation of the Andean semi-dry forest.This second climb will take about 3 more hours. In this native ecosystem we will see several species of bromeliads and the tree cactus, “Neoraimondia”, the prickly pear cactus, “Opuntia”, the Condon columnar cactus, “Pilosocereus Tweedyanus”, a tree from the acacia family called “Willka Acacia Macrocantha”, also hummingbirds and finches. Once we reach the little village of Maranpata at 2910 meters, we will have lunch. A 3 hour-hike afternoon hike takes us through the cloud forest with species of birch family, Aliso “Alnus Jorullensis”, our national flower, Kantu “Cantua Buxifolia”, and many bromeliads and orchids. We will arrive at Choquequirao “Cradle of Gold”, at 3033 meters, for sunset and a short exploration. Today we will hike 7 hours depending on the conditions, covering a distance of 15 kilometers. (B, L, D)
Day three: Choquequirao, Rio Blanco, Maizal
Today we will be up in time for sunrise. After breakfast we take a wonderful hike into the city of Choquequirao “Cradle of Gold”, at 3055 meters. This Inca city is poised several thousand feet above the inner Gorge of the Apurímac River. The views to the south, east and west span great distances and areas, a strategic location at the entrance to the Vilcabamba Mountain Range. It was built by the last Incas of the Empire, probably as a political and religious city retreat and also a point of control of the different ecological floors from the regions of southern Perú. Today we have time for both an extended tour and brief explorations. After a light lunch with an incredible view of the ancient Inca terraces, we begin our descent, following the Rio Blanco River through different valleys to our camp near the village of Maizal. Today we will hike for about 16 kilometers in 6 – 7 hours. (B, L, D)
Day four: Maizal, Victoria Silver Mines, Yanama
Today’s early start is framed with the view of the glacier called Korihuayrachina, at approximately 19000 feet. This glacier was of great importance in the irrigation and water supply of water for the area, flowing through Inca aqueducts. After breakfast we begin our hike through the colonial silver mines. After lunch we arrive at the village of Yanama, where we will set up our camp amid views of the Pumasillo Glacier, looming close by at an altitude of 19915 feet. We are likely to see hummingbirds and the Aplomado Falcon. This is a grassland area with a prevalence of Graminae such as Andean Ichu “Stipa” and the Andean bush called “Chilca Bacharis Latifolia” and “Lanceolata”. We will hike about 16km for 6-7 hours.
Day five: Yanama, Abra Apachota, Totora
After breakfast we enjoy the beginning of the day with a beautiful view of the Vilcabamba Mountain Range. We start our hike though varied inter-Andean valleys, with the objective of reaching our first high mountain pass: Yanama Pass at an altitude of 15550 feet. We will stop there to celebrate this worthy achievement and to take pictures before descending to the lunch spot. Following our rest and refreshment we continue our hike down to the village of Totora, enjoying the incredible view of the Salcantay Snowpeak, at 6271 meters, the undisputed monarch of the Vilcabamba Mountain Range “Cordillera”. We will have time to relax at camp and bathe in the river. We may see Andean birds, “Fringillidae”, perhaps the Rufus Collared Sparrow “Zonotrichia Capensis” and the “Plumbeous Sierra Finch “Phygilus Unicolor”. There will be great star-gazing after dark tonight. Today we will hike for 19 kilometres in about 7 – 8 hours. (B, L, D).
Day six: Totora, Collpapampa, Santa teresa Rriver
The view of the beautiful Salkantay peak first thing in the morning heralds a lovely day. We continue through different valleys, where we will occasionally encounter some native scrub bush vegetation and bird life, typical of the Andean semi dry forest. We will stop for lunch near the river to refresh then continue the spectacular walk in the afternoon. The views will be spectacular where two rushing rivers meet to form the Santa Teresa River, which is one of the smaller tributaries of the Urbamba River, one of the main sources of the great Amazon River. We also will stop near the hot springs for a great water massage and bath. We are likely to see native flora and fauna such as Bromeliads and other Bromelaceae “Puya Densiflora” and the Collared Warbling Finch “Poopiza Hispaniolensis”. Our camp is in the vicinity of the Santa Teresa River. Today’s hike will be 15 kilometers and it will take about 6 – 7 hours. (L, B, D).
Day seven: Colcapamapa, Lucmabamba
After a good breakfast in the open with the Cloud Forest beckoning, we start our hike with the music of subtropical birds, typical of this ecosystem. After spotting some orchids among the flora and fauna, we will stop for lunch then embark on a long walk along the Santa Teresa River, at 2200 meters. During the hike we will stop near the river to bathe before continuing our walk to camp for the rest of the afternoon. Today we will have hiked for 6 – 7 hours, covering 15 kilometers (B, L, D).
Day eight: Lucmabamba, Patallacta, Hidroeléctrica, Aguas Calientes
We begin today’s hike on an original Royal Inca Road, probably used to connect the cities of Vilcabamba, Choquequiraw, and other sites with the sacred city of Machu Picchu. Eight Inca roads that connect to this citadel. After following a coffee plantation, we climb up in the Lucmabamba Mountain through the cloud forest on an incredible Inca Road. On this journey we will find some plant species native to the cloud forest. The Bromeliad called Maguey plants “Furcraea Andina” was used by the Incas to make rope and cables for their famous suspension bridges and for the transportation of rocks. When we reach the summit of this ridge, we shall come upon at least 3 different Inca Roads, which in time have become trails. We will choose the one that will lead us to the city of Patacllacta, a ceremonial and astronomical retreat. Here we will explore and have a view of Machu Picchu from a distance. After a light lunch, we descend into the valley of Aobamba on a dirt trail where we will see the White Collar Swift “Streptoprocne Zonaris”. Down in the bottom of the valley, it is hot and there will be time for a swim in the nearby river. After a refreshing bath we continue for 10 minutes more to the train stop on the Urubamba River. The train will carry us to the town of Aguas Calientes in the district of Machu Picchu, where we will lodge overnight. It is strongly recommended that you visit the local hot springs. Today we will hike about 12 kilometers in about 5 hours (B, L, D).
Day nine: Machu Picchu
Today we begin at sunrise, taking a 20 minute bus ride up to Machu Picchu. After the necessary preparations we embark on a tour that will take about two hours. Afterwards we have the choice either to hike mountains of Machupicchu, or the Sun Gate or Huayna Picchu, each is about 3 hours of hiking, round trip. We will enjoy one last view of Machu Picchu before taking the train back to Cusco, where we will have our farewell dinner. (B, L, D).