Explore the spectacular eastern extension of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This little-known route is our favorite alternative to the better-known traditional Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We 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. We camp high, and discover the beauty of tranquil Andean valleys with sublime views toward the 18,000-foot snow peaks of the Urubamba and Huayanay Ranges. We also explore amazing Inca stone works in an enormous 15th century quarry site of Cachiqata. After descending into the Sacred Valley of the Incas we reach the royal Inca town of Ollantaytambo, with its remarkable Sun Temple. We travel to Machu Picchu by train for a full exploration of the famous city.
This little known route is our favorite alternative to the better known traditional Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. During four hiking days you cover 39 km/24 miles, starting at 3,224m/10,575', and finishing at 2,840m/9,315' above sea level. You cross two high passes, with a maximum elevation of 4,625m/15,170'. While trail conditions are generally good, some steep trail sections require careful footing, good hiking boots with lug soles, and trekking poles. Nevertheless, thanks to our careful pacing, dedicated guides and professional support staff, the trip is suitable for novices as well as experienced hikers.
Your trail duffel and the 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.
This route does not require trek permits, and thus is an excellent choice when trek permits for the Inca Trail are sold out..
Day 1: Quillarumiyoq to Chillipahua We pick you up at your Cuzco hotel and transfer 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. We stop first at the town of Izcuchaca, a bustling market center. We venture into the market building to enjoy the colorful scene. A few minutes drive beyond Izcuchaca, we reach the sacred Inca shrine known as Quillarumiyoq ("Moonstone" in the Quechua language of the Incas), one of the finest of the carved rock huacas (sacred places) in the vicinity of Cuzco. Archeologists working at this site are revealing extensive terracing of a major ritual center. 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 a nearby community. We commence trekking following 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 3,855 m/12,645'. Archeological excavations have revealed 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 on the top of the highest hill seems like an historical afterthought. The site is classic: a defensible ridge with dominating three-way views along converging valleys. After lunch we continue on our way westward into the range, and camp at3,750m/12,300' next to a rural school in the hamlet of Chillipahua. 10.5km/6.5 miles (L,D)
Day 2: Chancachuco We climb gradually through fields and glades of the indigenous Chachacomo tree, in a landscape of sparse pastures and small fields supported by terraced walls on 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. We climb to a small knoll at 4,400 m/14,432' for delicious hot lunch, then continue up to the col. From our location atop Accoccasa Pass (4,625m/15,170' - the highest point on the trek) we enjoy breathtaking views to immense snowpeaks: the Huaynays to our west, the Urubamba range to the north. We enjoy an easy descent, to camp at 4,350 m/14,268' in the broad valley of Chancachuco, facing the glaciers of the Huaynay Range. 8.8 km/5.5 miles (B,L,D)
Know what you are buying
There are many trek outfitters in Cuzco, offering trekking packages in a considerable range in quality, reliability, and price. As one of the pioneers of commercial adventure travel in Peru, we are very proud of our record of environmental and social leadership. We set the standard of quality among full-service outfitters. The award recognizes the high standards that our guides, cooks, porters and other employees consistently attain. When purchasing your Trek services from overseas agents, be certain you are buying the services provided by Manu Expeditions. Accept no substitutes!
We apply a policy of 100% carry in/carry out. We were the first outfitter to introduce a system whereby all the camp waste is hauled out. Our system includes portable chemical (biodegradable) toilets, with no holes in the ground and no solid waste left behind.