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Trek to Machu PicchuExplore the Andes on a trek to Machu Picchu, Peru

8 Days
8 Days
25.4 miles
$2,145 non-peak member
About the trip

Follow in the footsteps of the Incas

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. Your trek along the less-traveled Moonstone Trail will having you camping among the peaks 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.

Level 6/10
8 Days



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 (not included) 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. (Meals: none provided)

Explore Cuzco and Sacred Valley

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


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.


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.

(Meals: none provided)

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.

(Meals: L, D)

Hiking Distance: 6.5 milesHiking Time: 6 hours

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. (Meals: B, L, D)

Hiking Distance: 6.5 milesHiking Time: 6 hours

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. (Meals: B, L, D)

Hiking Distance: 7.4 milesHiking Time: 7 hours

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. (Meals: B, L)

Hiking Distance: 5 milesHiking Time: 4 hours

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.


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. (Meals: not provided)

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. (Meals: not provided)

Here’s what you need


Essential Gear
  • Backpack of 30 liters or more
  • 3 1-liter water bottles or Camelback Backpack
  • Sunglasses
  • Toiletries
  • Sleeping bag rated to 20 degrees
  • Medications, prescription and non-prescription
  • Small towel and washcloth
  • Flashlight or headlamp
Recommended Gear
  • Camera
  • Book
  • Journal
Gear Notes

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.


Essential Clothing
  • Hiking boots with sturdy soles
  • Hiking socks, four pairs
  • Gloves
  • Warm hat
  • Sun-blocking hat (baseball cap)
  • Base top layer (wicking t-shirts)
  • Heavy layer (sweater or fleece)
  • Pants, hiking shorts
  • Long underwear/thermals
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Underwear
  • Casual wear for Cusco

What's Included

  • All accommodations (double/triple occupancy is standard— single available)
  • Meals as outlined in itinerary
  • 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
Not Included
  • International airfare to Cusco
  • Optional activities in Cusco
  • Tips for guides, cooks and wranglers
  • Lunches and dinners in Cusco
  • Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is required for the trip. To compare plans and find the best fit for you, visit Yonder.


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.


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. 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.


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. 

Destination Info

Traveling to Peru


The thin air of the Andes highlands will take some adjustment. The lower supply of oxygen at high elevations makes exercising more difficult, and you may experience shortness of breath during hikes. Bare in mind that predisposition to altitude sickness does not correlate to an individual’s level of fitness. The altitude in this area can prove challenging no matter what shape you’re in. If you’re not yet feeling acclimated when the trip begins, we suggest taking it easy, eating light meals, drinking lots of water and avoiding alcohol. Usually, it takes no more than a day or two to feel comfortable at higher elevations.

The combination of high altitude and strenuous exercise greatly increases your body’s need for fluids. It is extremely important to drink lots of liquids to prevent heatstroke and dehydration. It’s a good idea to consume at least three liters of water per day and to drink as often as possible – don’t wait until you are thirsty!

Health Precautions

Although there are no health entry requirements for visiting Peru, it’s best to check with your doctor regarding vaccinations for typhoid fever, hepatitis A and yellow fever. Also be sure that your diphtheria-tetanus vaccination is up to date. At this time, there is no malaria risk in highland Peru. If you plan to spend time before or after your trip in other parts of South America, particularly in lowland jungle areas you should consider taking preventive drugs. We are not doctors. Please check with yours on all pre-trip recommendations.

One of the most common health risks for visitors to Peru is “traveler’s diarrhea,” which can be caused by bacteria, parasites or viruses transmitted through food or water. Despite precautions taken at our hotels and in all the food preparation, you can expect to experience one or more days of “discomfort” while in Peru due to your body’s unfamiliarity with local bacteria. There are many over-the-counter remedies and antibiotics available in Cuzco to relieve upset stomachs, but it’s also a good idea to bring some with you.

It is usually risky to purchase food from street vendors. If you purchase fruit or vegetables from street vendors, we recommend buying products that you can peel or wash in purified water, and always wash your hands before eating.

For more specific information on health precautions for travel in Peru, consult your doctor, the Peruvian Consulate in your area or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov.


Peru is generally a safe and pleasant place but as with any destination, it’s important to be aware of possible hazards. Violent crime is almost unheard of in the regions we visit. In the rare instances crime does occur, it’s usually petty theft. Most instances of pick-pocketing occur in Lima and Cuzco. To limit your susceptibility, we suggest you always travel with at least one other person when going out, and that you avoid flaunting jewelry, cameras, expensive watches and other items that may be tempting to a thief.

Money Matters

The standard unit of currency in Peru is the nuevo sol (PEN). Bills are in denominations of 10, 20, 50 and 100. The sol is divided into 100 centimos and coins are issued in .05, .10, .20, .50 and 1 denominations. At the time of this printing (April, 2018) US $1.00 = 3.23 PEN.

Credit cards are accepted in Cuzco. Visa is the most widely accepted credit card. ATM’s are also available in Cuzco and Lima. At service charge is typically added to credit card purchases or travelers’ checks. It is advised that you check with your bank prior to the trip and inform them of your whereabouts.

Time Zone

From March through October, standard time in Peru is the same as U.S. Central Time.


Peru’s electricity runs on a 220-volt, 60 cycle current. North America’s electricity runs on a 110- to 120-volt current. All outlets are of the parallel two-pronged flat or round type. A current converter and outlet adapter are necessary if you plan to bring electrical devices. Converter/adapter kits are available at travel, electronics or hardware stores.

Travel Documents

A valid passport along with evidence of return or onward flight is required for U.S. citizens traveling to Peru. A visa is not required for tourists, provided you are staying in the country no longer than 90 days.

To ensure you have the most current information on entry requirements is to contact the Peruvian Embassy in Washington D.C. at 202-833-9860, www.peruvianembassy.us, or your nearest Peruvian Consulate, http://peru.usembassy.gov.


The Machu Picchu trek does not require technical climbing skills or experience. It does, however, require a minimum level of physical fitness. We strongly encourage our hikers to experience hiking long days, particularly up and down steep hills, since this is much of what you will experience in Peru. Those who are in good shape are more likely to enjoy the views along the trail. Give yourself adequate time to prepare, particularly if this form and intensity of exercise is new. For three days a week, focus on an hour or more of aerobic exercise such as running, cycling, swimming, etc. Gym equipment such as stairmasters and rowing machines can supplement cardiovascular training. Day hikes or other longer endeavors will help you prepare for the endurance required for this trip. Carrying a 20 to 30 pound pack uphill on trails or stadium steps will simulate the real climb better than anything. Lifting moderate weights to increase core body, leg, and arm strength is also a good idea. Focus on quads and hamstrings—legs need strength and endurance. Being generally fit and having some solid stamina for long days is the overall goal.


As you will be spending quite a bit of time at altitudes higher than what you likely normally experience, high altitude considerations are necessary to ensure a successful trip. Most time is spent between 10,000 and 13,000 feet with some days even higher. Our highest point of the trip is a mountain pass at an elevation of 15,170 feet. If you are interested in taking medication to offset the impact of altitude, please talk to your doctor about Diamox or other options.

To help your body adjust to the thinner and drier air, you must first hydrate. Drinking enough water markedly improves athletic performance and helps to prevent acute mountain sickness. Before and during your hike, aim for at least 3 liters of water a day and make sure your water is readily accessible. During the ascent, hydration systems like Camelbacks, or a water bottle on your hip will provide easy access to your water. Sport drink mixes like Gatorade are also recommended; they promote drinking and help replenish electrolytes. Avoid too much alcohol and caffeine, as these have the effect of dehydrating your body. If you have never been to high altitude before, do not worry, everyone has a first time. Keep your guide posted on any physical symptoms you may be experiencing. If you have had trouble with altitude in the past, please let us know ahead of time and consult with your physician before you come.

Why this trip

Recommended for...

This trip is ideal for adventurers who want to explore new trails, new cultures and who enjoy the challenge of hiking at altitude. We recommend this trip for participants who have a moderate to high level of fitness. Those new to hiking are welcome to inquire. Our DO staff will give you tips for training so you can maximize your enjoyment on the trail.

Dates and Prices

The right trip,
at the right time.

Price From
Aug 11, 2020
Aug 18, 2020
Make this trip private

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