Trek to Machu Picchu

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Planning
Lodging/Package

Explore the Andes on a trek to Machu Picchu, Peru

Explore the spectacular trail to Machu Picchu! Follow the footsteps of the Incas who built a high route from their capital city of Cuzco westward through the rugged cordillera, and filled their empire with amazing temples and royal residences. You will camp high, and discover the beauty of tranquil Andean valleys with sublime views toward the 18,000-foot snowpeaks of the Urubamba and Huayanay Ranges. You will also explore amazing Inca stoneworks in an enormous 15th century quarry site of Cachiqata. After descending into the Sacred Valley of the Incas you will reach the royal Inca town of Ollantaytambo, with its remarkable sun temple. On your final day of the trek, travel to Machu Picchu by train for a full exploration of the famous city.


THE MOONSTONE TRAIL

This little-known route is fast becoming one of our favorite alternatives to the better-known traditional Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. During four hiking days you cover 24 miles, starting at 10,575 feet, and finishing at 9,315 feet above sea level. You cross two high passes, with a maximum elevation of 15,170 feet. While trail conditions are generally good, some steep trail sections require careful footing and good hiking boots with sturdy soles. Nevertheless, thanks to our careful pacing, dedicated guides and professional support staff, the trip is suitable for in–shape novices as well as experienced hikers. Your trail duffel and the heavy camp gear is carried by packhorses; you walk carrying only a day-pack. Cooks prepare wholesome meals from fresh ingredients and handle all the kitchen chores. You sleep warm and protected in high quality tents. Join Discover Outdoors for a trek you will never forget.


ITINERARY QUICKVIEW

DAY 1

Welcome to Cusco

DAY 2

Experience Peruvian Culture

DAY 3

First Day of Moonstone Trek

DAY 4

Trek to Chancachuco

DAY 5

Trek to Cachiqata Quarry

DAY 6

Arrive at Aguas Calientes

DAY 7

Explore Machu Picchu

DAY 8
Final Day in Peru

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Itinerary

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MAY 18

Welcome to Cuzco, Peru

Upon your arrival to Cuzco, you will be greeted by your guide and escorted to your hotel located in the heart of Cuzco. Today is your day to rest from travel and begin the acclimatization process. In the evening, feast on a traditional Peruvian dinner in the Cuzco Square and get to know your fellow travelers for the week.

Your time spent today and tomorrow is strategically planned to give your body adequate time to acclimate to the high altitude. The two days spent in Cuzco at over 10,000 feet will help make your experience on the trek enjoyable and free of problems related to altitude.

Explore Cuzco and Sacred Valley

Explore Cuzco and the surrounding region today with a guided tour.

CUZCO

Cuzco is an architecturally-rich city, perched high in the Andes at 11,000 feet. For centuries, Cuzco was the center and capital of the Inca Empire. Even today, you can witness the historical significance through the Inca stonework throughout the streets and buildings. Explore the city and it's sites, notably the Plaza de Armas, the Santo Domingo Church, and the imposing hilltop ruins of the monolithic Sacsayhuaman fortress.

SACSAYHUAMAN

Considered by many to be one of the greatest achievements of stonemasonry in human history, Sacsayhuamán is one of the most inspiring Incan constructions for visitors. Despite its external walls exceeding 30 feet in height and weighing over 350 tons, the site was built with such precision that a single blade of grass could not fit between the stones.

First day on Moonstone Trail

You will be picked up from your hotel and transferred by van west across the high Anta plain, following the route of the royal Inca Road which led from the capital toward the northern quarter of the empire. First, we must stop at the sacred Inca shrine known as Quillarumi (Moonstone in the Quechua language of the Incas), one of the finest of the carved rock huacas in the vicinity of Cuzco.

We continue to our trailhead by the Huaracondo River where it drains the western edge of the plain, and meet our trail crew, who arrive from nearby communities. Commence trekking on a broad trail northward, above the west bank of the Huaracondo River. After an easy two-hour hike, we reach Huatta, a substantial pre-Inca fortress dominating the crest of a ridge at 12,645 feet. Archeologists currently excavating the site are revealing burials and occupation levels from the Formative Period (2,500 years ago) on through the enormous fortifications of the 4th century Regional Development period; a scattering of late-period Inca structures seems like an afterthought on the top of the highest hill. The site is classic — a defensible ridge with dominating three-way views along intersecting valleys. After lunch we continue on our way westward into the range and camp at 12,300 feet next to a rural school in the hamlet of Chiripahua.

Hiking Distance: 6.5 miles

Trek to Chancachuco

Today, you will climb gradually through fields and glades of the indigenous Chachacomo tree, in a landscape of pastures and small fields clinging to the steep mountainsides. Wherever there is water, we find an Andean family compound of adobe and straw. But there is little water in this mountain range – we are reminded hour by hour of how precious a commodity water was and is to the Andean people. You will climb to a small knoll at 14,432 feet for delicious lunch, then continue up to the col.

From our location atop Accoccasa Pass (15,170 feet) we enjoy breathtaking views of immense snow peaks — the Huaynays to our west, the Urubamba range to the north. We enjoy an easy descent to camp at 14,268 feet in the broad valley of Chancachuco, facing the glaciers of the Huaynay Range.

Hiking Distance: 5.5 miles

Hike to Cachiqata Quarry

Begin your trek westward, gradually descending the high valley, to the headworks of a now-abandoned Inca aqueduct which transported water from the Chancachuco valley north to supply the otherwise-arid north-facing slopes above Ollantaytambo. This aqueduct once transported water across a sheer cliff face high above the Silque River.

While we descend through a flower-filled notch in the valley wall, on the mountainside above us we can glimpse traces of the original stonework, testimony to the extraordinary engineering in the project. We reach our final pass (12,923 feet) and visit a spectacular ridge-top Inca shrine called Huayrapunku (Gate of the Wind), with an astonishing view towards Nevado Veronica (18,637 feet) directly across the valley. The site offers unsurpassed views to the terraces and temple site of the royal town of Ollantaytambo, over 4,000 feet below us. Constructed in the 15th century by the Inca emperor Pachacutec, the town was an important administrative and religious center. We descend, past the curious Inca administrative site of Llaqtallaqtayoq, to our camp on a broad terrace at 11,562 feet, at the edge of the enormous Cachiqata quarry.

In the afternoon you will explore the intricate quarry workings. From this steep talus slope beneath the sheer face of Cerro Yanaorco, immense red granite building stones were carved onsite and then skidded down to the valley floor, across the river, and then up to the sun temple site on the far side of the valley. You will explore the ramps and work platforms around the largest of the stones. Orchids and other flowers are abundant in and around the quarry site, set high on the mountainside above the valley floor.

Hiking Distance: 7.4 miles to camp, plus optional additional walking in the Inca quarry.

Final day on Moonstone Trail

Descend on a broad Inca road down through the lower quarry zone, and stop at a key hilltop, from where the worked stones were skidded down the steep slope to the Vilcanota River below us. On the far bank, between the river and the Sun Temple, we can see several of these piedras cansadas (“Tired Stones”), which were abandoned half-way between quarry and temple. Chroniclers tell us that work on the temple site was suddenly halted when the Colla masons fled back toward their homes in the Lake Tiahuanaco area, just prior to the arrival of the Spanish invaders. We continue down, cross the river, and arrive finally at the famous Sun Temple in Ollantaytambo. You will have time to explore the temple and the adjacent village, before catching a late afternoon train to Aguas Calientes. We will check into a hotel for the night, resting up for our exciting day in Machu Picchu.

Hiking Distance: 5 miles

Machu Picchu

Rise early today to enter the site in the morning for an in-depth guided tour of the ridge-top citadel of Machu Picchu. After a day of discovery and wonderment, you will descend to Aguas Calientes and return to Ollantaytambo, continuing by chartered bus to Cuzco in the late afternoon, arriving around 9.30 PM.

MACHU PICCHU

The ruins of Machu Picchu, rediscovered in 1911 by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham, are one of the most beautiful and enigmatic ancient sites in the world. While the Inca people certainly used the Andean mountain top (9,060 feet elevation), erecting many hundreds of stone structures from the early 1400's, legends and myths indicate that Machu Picchu (meaning 'Old Peak' in the Quechua language) was revered as a sacred place from a far earlier time. Whatever its origins, the Inca turned the site into a small (5 square miles) but extraordinary city. Invisible from below and completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed the population, and watered by natural springs, Machu Picchu seems to have been utilized by the Inca as a secret ceremonial city.

Two thousand feet above the rumbling Urubamba river, the cloud shrouded ruins have palaces, baths, temples, storage rooms and some 150 houses, all in a remarkable state of preservation. These structures, carved from the gray granite of the mountain top are wonders of both architectural and aesthetic genius. Many of the building blocks weigh 50 tons or more yet are so precisely sculpted and fitted together with such exactitude that the mortarless joints will not permit the insertion of even a thin knife blade. Little is known of the social or religious use of the site during Inca times. The skeletal remains of ten females to one male had led to the casual assumption that the site may have been a sanctuary for the training of priestesses and /or brides for the Inca nobility. However, subsequent osteological examination of the bones revealed an equal number of male bones, thereby indicating that Machu Picchu was not exclusively a temple or dwelling place of women.

Final Farewells

On your final day of a trip that you will never forget, take some time to walk around Cuzco and pick up last-minute souvenirs. Before heading to the airport, say your final farewells to Peru and your new travel friends.

Trip Planning

FLIGHTS

The ideal travel plan will have you taking the redeye on the evening the night before your first day of the trip, arriving in Lima the next morning. The first day is scheduled to be a relaxing day in Cusco while your body acclimatizes. Even if you choose to take a nap to make up for lost sleep on the redeye, your body will be getting used to the higher elevation. On the return flight, you can either book a flight in the morning of the last day to get home on the same day, or spend more time in Cusco and take the redeye back.

Once you book your flights, email Discover Outdoors your itinerary and we will coordinate your transfers.

PACKING

If you are unsure of what to bring, give us a call or send us an email! Our staff is happy to help ensure you are comfortably outfitted for your trip. 
To prepare yourself for the activities, join Discover Outdoors on any of our local day trips. Our trained guides will coach you and offer helpful tips in preparing for your big adventure.

WEATHER

Cusco has well-defined seasons. From June to September, while Andean winter days are typically sunny and warm, the temperature can drop to below freezing (27°F/-3°C) at night in our high camps. Rain seldom falls during winter. From January to March, the Andean summer months offer daytime temperatures to 85°F/30°C, milder nights (typically to 45°F/8°C) and plenty of rain. Despite some rain, December and April are among our favorite months for trekking, since the mountains are lush with summer flowers and you enjoy plenty of sunshine. Departures during Andean spring (October through December) and autumn (April and May) offer weather patterns intermediate between these seasonal extremes.

CLOTHING

Expect a wide range of temperature and precipitation on your program. In high mountain environments, you must be prepared for inclement weather at any time. Even at mid-day, if clouds obscure the sun, the temperature cools dramatically. By packing a system of thin, independent layers of clothing, you can easily add or remove layers to remain comfortable as conditions change throughout the day. Most trekkers leave camp in the morning wearing a cold-weather layer over T-shirt and shorts. At the first rest stop, after you have warmed up a bit, remove a layer and continue in hot-weather clothing until the temperature cools off later in the day. At all times, carry rain-gear in your day-pack.
A time-tested strategy is to plan your day-time trekking layers (which will get dirty, and which remain with you, either on you or in your daypack during the warmer parts of the day); and a set of clean camp clothes, starting with full-length thermal underwear. On arrival in camp, change from your trail clothes to your clean, dry camp clothes. In the morning, change into your trekking gear, and pack your camp clothes to stay dry.
Basic clothing list: underwear, socks, light hiking boots, sneakers for around camp, loose-fitting long pants or wind-pants, shorts, T-shirts, long-sleeved shirt, Polarfleece jacket, full rain gear, sun hat, bathing suit, gloves and ski-type hat.

OTHER GEAR

Essential: Day pack, winter-weight (rated to 20 degrees or zero) sleeping bag, one-liter water bottle (Nalgene or similar), headlamp or flashlight, sunglasses, sunscreen, toilet kit, insect repellent. 
Optional: pocket knife, sewing kit, iodine-type water purification pills, camera and film, binoculars, paperback book, snacks and/or energy bars. 
We will provide a heavy-duty, 4,100-cubic-inch trail duffel, Thermarest sleeping pad, tents and communal camping gear. The guide carries a hand-pump water filter; all drinking water is filtered and treated with iodine.
Weight Restriction: Packhorses carry up to 30 pounds of your personal gear. If your packed duffel exceeds 30 pounds in weight (including sleeping bag and pad) at the trailhead, you will have to transfer excess weight from your duffel to your daypack.
Rental sleeping bag: $35. We provide mummy-style, winter-weight synthetic-fill sleeping bags, with sheet liners. We launder the liners between each trek. If you are taller than six feet, please request an extra-long bag.

MEDICAL ISSUES

While no vaccinations are mandatory for entering Peru, and no official is likely to demand to see proof of your vaccination against any disease, some protection is prudent. Consult your physician or local travelers clinic for the latest recommendations. For general travel, the most common recommended vaccinations or boosters are against tetanus, typhoid/diphtheria, Hepatitis A, and polio. The World Health Organization does not recommend vaccination against cholera. If you are visiting the Amazon before or after your trek, ask about yellow fever and chloroquine-resistant malaria. Some countries (notably Brazil) require travelers to show proof of a valid Yellow fever vaccination when arriving from Peru.

SPECIAL DIETS

In the cities, you will find sufficient vegetarian choices in most restaurants. We serve a variety of freshly-prepared foods in our camps. While our trek meals are designed for omnivores, our creative and hard-working cooks are able to satisfy most restricted-diet passengers. Please let us know your dietary restrictions when you join our departure. Strict vegetarians will have to bring many food supplements from home, as specialty items are unavailable in South America.
If you have food allergies you must detail these on your trip application when you register for your trek. Review these with our guide during the trek orientation meeting. While our cooks concentrate on providing the main meal, they can heat and serve food supplied by the passengers that the passengers deem safe. Please note we treat our camp water (both for drinking and for cleaning) with iodine.

GENERAL INFORMATION & CANCELLATION POLICY

Please read our terms and conditions and call us with any questions you may have about the trip before booking. A gear and departure check-list will be sent to you upon booking confirmation. Cancellations before 30 days of departure will receive a full refund (minus transaction fees of 5%). There are no refunds for cancellations within 30 days.

Lodging/Package

ACCOMMODATIONS IN CUSCO

 

During your first two nights, you will stay in a luxury hotel nestled in the heart of Cusco. Here you will experience the unparalleled sensation of living in a cozy, rustic Andean hotel where every detail is special. Located just a block-and-a-half from the Main Square of Cusco, the hotel is surrounded by restaurants, bars, discotheques, jewelers and stores, providing easy access to the most important tourist attractions such as Koricancha Temple and the Cathedral of Cusco. The hotel provides all modern amenities such as internet access, full laundry service and traditional peruvian breakfasts.

 

ON THE MOONSTONE TRAIL


On the Moonstone trail you will be treated like royalty by a full staff of guides, cooks and wranglers. Upon arrival at your camp site each evening, your high-quality tent will be waiting for you. Inside your tent you will find your bags already placed with your bedroll and sleeping bag nicely laid out. Perfectly timed by the professional staff, a bowl of hot water will be placed outside your tent so you can freshen up before dinner.

With the best guides in the industry, we are eager to ensure your experience is memorable and worry-free. Trained to anticipate your needs, you will quickly notice how the staff addresses every detail, so you do not have to. Wholesome meals on the trek are prepared with only the freshest ingredients. You will wonder how such marvelous entrees are even created in the remote parts of the Andes.

Your trail duffel and the heavy camp gear is carried by packhorses; you walk carrying only a day-pack. 

PACKAGE


  • All accommodations (double/triple occupancy is standard— single available)
  • All breakfasts in Cusco
  • All meals during trek
  • Transportation from Cusco Airport to Hotel
  • Half day cultural tour in Cusco
  • All trail fees
  • Machu Picchu entry fee
  • Local naturalist guide, cooks and wranglers
  • Rail transportation from Machu Picchu to Cusco 

DOES NOT INCLUDE
 

  • International Airfare
  • Optional activities in Cusco
  • Tips for guides, cooks and wranglers
  • Lunches and dinners in Cusco

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