Day 1 – Cusco to Salkantay Lodge – 3,869 m/12,690 ft
Note: On the evening before this day there will be a briefing with your guide in Cusco. After an early breakfast, we are picked up starting at 7:00 am at our hotel in Cusco by an MLP guide and vehicle for the drive to the Salkantay Lodge in Soraypampa. En route we take a short break to visit the Inca ruins of Tarawasi near the town of Limatambo (approx. 1.5 hrs from Cusco). After leaving Limatambo, we pass through the mountain village of Mollepata where we stop for a short coffee break before ascending a winding mountain road to a place called Marcoccasa (30 minutes from Mollepata by vehicle). Here, we begin our trek to Soraypampa, on an old route called the “Camino Real” (Royal Path). This is a good opportunity for everyone to acclimate, while enjoying a beautiful six hour trek. Salkantay Lodge takes its name from the majestic peak at the head of the valley—Mt. Salkantay, the second most sacred peak in Inca mythology and, at 6,270 m (20,600 ft), the highest in the region. After a warm welcome by our friendly staff, we are shown to our rooms and have time to wash-up, before tea and cookies. The trip leader will hold a briefing by the fireplace, followed by aperitifs and dinner.
- Trekking Time: Approximately 6 hours (including picnic lunch en route)
- Hiking Difficulty: Moderate
- Option: Guests who do not wish to trek may be transported to the lodge by vehicle – 11 miles
Day 2 – Hike to the Humantay Lake – 3,869 m/12,690 ft
Today we take an acclimatization hike on the slopes above the lodge to Lake Humantay, fed by the hanging glaciers of Mt. Humantay. The hike is optional, but the views are amazing, and those brave enough can even go for a dip. We return to the lodge for lunch, after which you may choose to trade the glacial swim for a relaxing soak in our outdoor jacuzzi. Afternoon at leisure. We spend the night at the Salkantay Lodge with gourmet food and warm, comfortable beds. In the evening, the guide briefs us on gear and the itinerary for the following day. All meals are served at the Lodge.
- Trekking Time: Approximately 4 hours – 4 miles
- Hiking Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
- Option: Horseback Riding (contact us for more info)
Day 3 – Crossing the Salkantay Pass – 3,906m/12,812 ft
This is the big day! After an early start, we hike up the Rio Blanco valley, circling Humantay Peak across from Salkantay Peak. The highest point on the trek is the Salkantay Pass at 4,638 m (15,213 ft). At the pass we stop to take in views of snowcapped peaks of the Vilcabamba Range in every direction, the glaciated south face of Salkantay towering above us. We will keep our eyes out for Andean condors, often visible in this area. From the pass we descend towards Wayra Lodge (“Wayra” means wind; so ‘the place where the wind lives’) our destination for the evening. A hot lunch is served en route; dinner and overnight at the Lodge.
- Trekking Time: 6–8 hours (including lunch) – 9 miles
- Hiking Difficulty: Challenging, crossing a 4,640m (15,200 ft) mountain pass
Day 4 – Descending into the Cloud Forest – 2,870m/9,414 ft
On this day we enjoy a leisurely breakfast at Wayra Lodge. Then we continue our descent along the left bank of the Salkantay River, through increasingly verdant scenery. We can feel the warm air rising from the jungle, accompanied by colorful butterflies and striking orchids. Upon arrival at Colpa Lodge we are greeted with a Pachamanca meal, a traditional festive Peruvian meal cooked by layering meat and vegetables with hot stones, and then covering the whole thing up to bake. Colpa Lodge is located on an open plateau at the confluence of three rivers. The outdoor jacuzzi has panoramic views of lush green mountains. We spend the afternoon relaxing or exploring the nearby orchid trail. Dinner and overnight at the lodge.
- Trekking Time: 3–4 hours – 6 miles
- Hiking Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Day 5 – Following the Santa Teresa River Valley – 2,135m/7,003 ft
Today we hike along the Santa Teresa river valley, through more populated rural areas. We pass through banana, granadilla, and avocado orchards and coffee Plantations (said to be one of the best organic coffees in the world). A hot picnic lunch is served by the river. After lunch, we hike another hour before a private vehicle meets us for a short drive to the beginning of the “Llactapata Inca Trail” (30 minutes or so). From the head of the newly restored Inca trail we easily make our way to Lucma Lodge, set in an avocado orchard. Dinner and overnight at the lodge.
- Trekking Time: 5–6 hours (including lunch) – 10 miles
- Hiking Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging (because of distance, not terrain)
Day 6 – First Views of Machu Picchu from Llactapata Pass – 1,900 m/6,232 ft
After a hearty breakfast, we tackle the last day of our trek. We head uphill for 2-3 hours towards Llactapata Pass (2,736 m/8,974ft), where we come upon a distant but spectacular view of Machu Picchu Sanctuary from the southeast, a view few travelers ever get a chance to admire. We take a short break to explore the Llactapata Ruins, which have recently been restored. Lunch is served in a scenic viewpoint, looking out to Machu Picchu. We then begin our final descent to the Aobamba River through lush bamboo forests, orchards and coffee plantations. Aguas Calientes, the town of Machu Picchu, is a short, scenic train ride away. Upon arrival, we check into our lovely hotel for celebration dinner with our guide and one last briefing!
- Trekking Time: 4–6 hours – 7 miles
- Hiking Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
Day 7 – Visit Machu Picchu Sanctuary
After a very early buffet breakfast at the hotel, we make our way to the bus station for the ride up to Machu Picchu Sanctuary (30 min). Our trip leader will give the group an introductory two-hour guided tour of the ruins, after which we have the rest of the morning to explore the site on our own—there is a lot to do and see! Afterwards, we return by bus to Aguas Calientes for a late lunch and to meet our train. The ride from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo takes about one and a half hours, and then a private vehicle will drive us back to Cusco (an additional hour and a half ). Upon arrival in Cusco (approximately 7 or 8 p.m.), we are dropped off at our hotel.
- Option: Climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. Permits have to be purchased in advance. (contact us for more info)