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Secret Trail to Machu Picchu

Background

" We were about to discover what it means to go exploring in the wild region where the Incas were able to hide from the conquistadors in 1536" Hiram Bingham "Lost City of the Incas"  

Highlights

  • Discover a little known trail to Machu Picchu.
  • Visit Choquequirao "Cradle of Gold", which is equivalent in size to Machu Picchu.
  • Along the way trek over a 4100m high pass and drive over a 4600m pass.
  • Visit the recently excavated Llactapata with incredible views of Machu Picchu.
  • Visit the colourful and beautiful city of Cusco (3326m) with an included town tour.

Overview

High above in the Andes mountain range, lays the ruins of a city that was once teeming with the people of a great Ancient Civilisation. Preserved for centuries was the Incan settlement of Choquequirao, the - Cradle of God - located high above the rapid waters of the Apurimac River, nearly 1700m to be exact. Journeying through the entire Vilcabamba mountain range all the way through to the Urubamba watershed, along ancient Inca trails that twist their way to Machu Picchu, one of the newly appointed 7 natural Wonders of the World and only accessible by a long and unkind trek that is worth the hardship, just to see the surroundings around you that are filled with enchanting views and sceneries to seldom seen ruins.

 

CHOQUEQUIRAO
Resting high above the waters of Apurimac River, on the mountain of Salkantay, the city of Choquequirao the - Cradle of Gold -, lays in ruins. The remains of a once great city spread out over 1,800 hectares, reached only by a two day trek from the bustling city of Cusco, Choquequirao an ancient town that use to be inhabited by the lost race of the Incas. Privileged Incas were able to use the site as a place of worship, somewhere to honour the gods, aspects of nature and the river.

Erected under the rule of the Sapa Incas (Emperor) Tupac Inca Yupanqui and Huayna Capac, Choquequirao has been dubbed a - Sacred Sister - of Machu Picchu due to its resemblance seen in the elements of design and similar architecture. It was one of the last safe holds and refuges for the Incas from the Spanish invasion. Based on the hilltop, the city was provided with vast vantage points and could see enemy approaches on all sides.

The city was also likely to have been a check point on the way to Vilcabamba and a link between the Amazon Jungle. It was theorized that Choquequirao, was a royal domain constructed for the Sapa Inca, Topa Inca to contend with his father.

In 1909, Hiram Bingham bought international light to the city even though Choquequirao has been mentioned since colonial times. The city attracted treasure hunters from all over, all curious to see what the tantalizing - the cradle of gold - offered. Many expeditions were led to the remains but treasure hunters left without any discoveries. Excavations began in 1970, and still only 30-40% of the site has been excavated, most of the remains and history of Choquequirao, still shrouded with the surrounding jungle.

Protected by its remote location, majority of the - cradle of gold - still remains unseen, its secrets just waiting to be discovered.

Itinerary

DAY 1: Arrive in Cusco and transfer to hotel. Time to acclimatise.
DAY 2: Free day to acclimatise and explore Cusco. Briefing that night.
DAY 3: Cusco-Limatambo-Sahuite-Cachora-Chikiska
DAY 4: Chikiska-Apurimac-Santa Rosa-Choquequirao
DAY 5: Explore Choquequirao
DAY 6: Choquequirao-Maizal
DAY 7: Maizal - Yanama - Lucmabamba
DAY 8: Lucmabamba - Inca Trail to Llactapata then to Machu Picchu town.
DAY 9: Machu Picchu- Cusco
DAY 10: Cusco
DAY 11: Cusco- Home

Note : Flights for Lima to Cusco can be booked through us. Price depends on how in advance you book and if there are school holidays or not. However as a guide prices are between $600 and $700 return.

Please Note: The price is based on twin share accommodation. Single supplements is $350 per person.

Hotels in Lima : We can arrange for accommodation in Lima as well as transfers there. We use the 4 star Hotel Boulevard, Miraflores. Per night twin for room is $160 and a triple room is $240. Transfers to and from airport are $55 each way. 

FLIGHTS TO PERU
There are no direct flights to Cusco. To fly into Peru you must fly into Lima first. Many stay overnight there before flying to Cusco. If you would like we can arrange your flight to Peru and your domestic flight from Lima to Cusco return. Click here to get a quote.

TRIP EXTENSIONS
To reach Peru, you may spend many hours flying there. 12 Days trekking to Machu Picchu for many is simply not enough adventure. Peru and the surrounding countries  have so much more to offer. We have selected some of the best out of the way and fascinating adventures on offer for you to add to your itinerary, including an Amazon Adventure, trips to Lake Titicaca and Colca Canyon. We also have a couple of day trip extensions including River Rafting, SUP and Mountain Biking. Check our Extensions at the bottom of the left hand column.  Note : When booking, these options will be available on the booking form.

MACHU PICCHU
Perched in a spur of the Urubamba Valley, nestled away in the Andes mountain range, high above the Urubamba River lays the deserted city of Machu Picchu, once home to the thriving ancient civilisation of Incas; a united community situated and dwarfed by the mountains of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu. Abandoned a century after being built and swallowed by an overgrown extension of the jungle, Machu Picchu sat silent just waiting to be discovered, its existence remaining a secret to the outside world up until 1911.

After extensive excavating, archaeologists have been able to identify and develop a layout of the lost city, dividing areas into agricultural and urban sections. The agriculture section made up of both small and large terracing all built in accordance to the natural slope and layout of the land, extending onto the surrounding mountain fields and the urban areas divided into East and West, littered with plazas, temples of worship and staircases with a total of three thousand and something stairs.

Construction of the sanctuary of Machu Picchu began approximately around the mid- 15th century, the city flourished for a 100 years before being abandoned when the Incas became under threat from the invasion and conquest of the Spanish. There is no evidence in the Spanish invasion archives that they ever made it to the mountaintop and thus created speculation that the real reason for abandonment of the city was due to an outbreak of smallpox that ravaged the community.

The purpose of Machu Picchu to this day remains unclear; The discoverer of the "City of the Incas" Hiram Bingham, pondered theories that the city provided a convent for Inca women to be educated on how to serve the ruler of the Inca Empire and coterie, Bingham believed that 75% out of the hundreds of skeletons found on site were female, further modern studies deduced that a more accurate split of 50/50 between the two genders. Bingham also theorized that Machu Picchu was actually the fabled Tampu-tocco, the site that the forefathers of the Inca race were said to have originated from.

Today, the preserved history, artefacts and culture of Machu Picchu all contribute, to the newly claimed title of being one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

The lost city, now found.

Routes

EXPEDITION GRADE
This expedition involves trekking over several high passes up to 4100m and involves steep descents: it is recommended that all guests should have some previous trekking experience and should be in reasonable fitness. Thus, this expedition is considered difficult as the terrain is at times steep and remote. The weather conditions can change from bright, sunny and warm to grey, rainy and cold. An adventurous spirit is required on this expedition, open to changes in travel plans.

DAY 1: CUSCO
Welcome to Cusco- touch down, collect your luggage and meet your guide, then drive twenty minutes through the colourful South American streets to your hotel.

Meet in the Coffee Museum at 1pm to enjoy a tasty lunch and learn about the story and people behind this popular drink.

After lunch step out into the Cusco streets and explore with one of our carefully chosen guides. They are not only very knowledgeable but also great fun to be with. You do not want to cram too much in on your first day at altitude, so relax and get used to being up high with a gentle walk around this old Inca capital.

Visit the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral and the Qoricancha temple of the sun and perhaps take in the sights, sounds and smells of San Pedro food market too. If you normally shop in supermarkets and farmers markets, you are in for a surprise. Stands full of juicy exotic fruits, counters heaving with cow heads and sheep hooves and cheerful local women selling handmade cheeses, local breads, healthy juices and even toad soup.

The evening is free to relax and wander around the UNESCO World Heritage Site city centre.

DAY 2: CUSCO
This is an acclimatisation day. Take it easy and wander around the back streets of Cusco or visit one of the bustling markets, purchasing last minute provisions before the expedition starts the following day. Plus at the earliest convenience, a full brief on the days ahead.(B)

DAY 3: CUSCO-LIMATAMBO-SAHUITE-CACHORA-ROSALINA
Up and atem, ready to depart Cusco early (around 5am) and drive off to the stunning village of Cachora that towers above the Apurimac River and canyon. Here we will meet up with our trekking team, munch on an early lunch then embark on a 1600m descent into the depth of the Apurimac canyon, followed by a short climb with dazzling views of snow covered mountains that are sure to take your mind off climbing. We will head down to Rosalina right on the shore of the Rio Apurimac. (B, L, D)

DAY 4: ROSALINA-APURIMAC-SANTA ROSA-CHOQUEQUIRAO
This morning we will cross the "Great Voice" (Apurimac) via a cable car. Once across the river a steep incline ensues. Along the way we pass the tiny village of Santa Rosa and Maranpata (where we will have lunch). A hard-hitting climb contradicted by the relief felt when setting up base not too far away from the astonishing remains of the ancient Inca town of Choquequirao (3100m). (B, L, D)

DAY 5: EXPLORE CHOQUEQUIRAO
Heading out early to the ruins of Choquequirao for a day to revel at the sights of the historic remains and drink in the scenery that rests 1700m above the Apurimac River in an area immensely larger than Machu Picchu. In Choquequirao you will find exquisitely preserved architecture which sets the backdrop for a central plaza no doubt used as a meeting place for the Inca people and a depository of colossal terracing constructed into the hillside. Dense cloud forests populate the desolate city giving an impression that the town is being explored for the first time. Departing Choquequirao to arrive back at base camp to gear up and recuperate for Day 5. (B, L, D)

DAY 6: CHOQUEQUIRAO-MAIZAL
Rise and shine and on the track as dawn hits, leaving Choquequirao behind. Whilst en route to Maizal there will be a fleeting stopover at the remnants of the "water shrine" known as Picha Unuyoc. This is a beautiful walk as we climb above Choquequirao and enter a new face of the mountain range through high altitude forests.  From here we descend into the Rio Blanco canyon. Be wary of the petulant, biting sand flies named the Pumahuacachi according to the locals the literally "Make the puma cry". After dodging the sand flies it is time for an ascent of 1200m to the small campsite of Maizal that rests at an altitude of 3100m. Choquequirao to Maizal is the harshest trek of the entire trip but through sheer determination can be tackled. (B, L, D)

DAY 7: MAIZAL - YANAMA - LUCMABAMBA
Another early start as we clamber up to the pass of Abra San Juan (4150m). Abra San Juan will take your breath away but not from being at an altitude of 4000m, marvel at the out of this world view of the Cordillera Villacabamba Mountain range, especially the summit of Pumachau. Here we have lunch with breathtaking views of more snow capped peaks and if we are lucky a sighting of the impressive Andean Condor. We will pass by the rundown silver mines of Mina Victoria that have been worked over for a 1000 years. Day 6's trek ends at the Andean community of Yanama. The Yanama Valley is sublime in its beauty, with idealic farming areas throughout and tumbling glaciers above. From Yanama, we drive to Lucmabamba for overnight.  (B, L, D)

DAY 8: LUCMABAMBA-LLACTAPATA-TRAIN TO MACHU PICCHU
This final day of trekking is along a historic Inca trail that winds to Llactapata, an ancient Inca site that has only been unearthed of late. The trail ventures through flourishing fields of coffee plants, exotic fruit plantations, as well as untouched cloud forests with an enchanting view of Machu Picchu set as the back drop and then descending harshly into the Urubamba valley. For trekkers who still have some fuel left in their tanks can decide upon a further two - three hour hike to the lively tourist town of Machu Picchu Pueblo (Previously known as Aguas Calientes) or wait patiently for a train to take you to your destination. (this is an amazing train ride through some of the world's most picturesque mountain landscapes). At Machu Picchu Pueblo we can check into the hotel, revel in a hot shower before heading out to soak up the nightlife and sample the local cuisine. (B,L)

DAY 9: MACHU PICCHU- CUSCO
Another early morning to be ready to catch a bus or if you're still feeling active a hike to the lost city of Machu Picchu for a guided tour, with the option to climb Huayna Picchu (this is included in your expedition fee). Get lost in the atmosphere of the deserted world of Machu Picchu and soak up the culture of the ancient civilisation of the Incas. Sadly, we depart Machu Picchu and arrive back in Machu Picchu Pueblo and board an afternoon train back to Cusco and the hotel with the option to explore Cusco and all its glory at night time. (B)

DAY 10: CUSCO
A whole day is dedicated to exploring the vibrant and lively city, whether it be shopping up a storm in the bustling marketplace, divulging more into the exploration of Inca remains, or relaxing after an exhausting trip of trekking and sampling some authentic Peruvian coffee. Cusco possesses it all. Or maybe you have decided to take one of our day trips for some river rfating, mountain biking or SUP'ing. Click here for more on these activities. (B)

DAY 11: CUSCO- HOME
Sadly the trip has come to an end all too soon. Transfer to Cusco airport in time for internal and international flights, and arriving back home with a proud sense of accomplishment and unforgettable experience. (B)

Inclusions

  • All airport transfers
  • Cusco walking tour
  • Transport to and from the trail in private vehicle
  • All camping and cooking equipment including Thermarests, spacious two person tents, dining, cook and toilet tent
  • Extensive First-aid kit including Oxygen; professional English and Spanish speaking guides trained in first-aid and C.P.R.
  • Mules
  • Cook team with correct wages, transport to trail head, food, tent and insurance.
  • Entrances to Choquequirao and Machu Picchu Inca sites.
  • 3* hotel in Cusco and Aguas Calientes.
  • All meals as indicated in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner).  

Exclusions

  • National or International flights
  • Personal expenses
  • Sleeping bag (available for rent at $10 a night)
  • Airport taxes (if applicable)
  • Travel insurance and tips.

Maps

Extensions

Amazon Rain Forest

Amazon Rain Forest

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Arequipa Colca Canyon

Arequipa Colca Canyon

The beautiful "White City" of Arequipa and the nearby Colca Canyon is [...]

Bike The Sacred Valley

Bike The Sacred Valley

As part of acclimatisation or a trip extension this half day bike ride [...]

Half Day Cusco Ruins

Half Day Cusco Ruins

A great half day walk to see the main sights and to help acclimatise. [...]

Puno and Lake Titicaca

Puno and Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca offers a great way to relax and explore the fascinating [...]