The Inca trail trip was very challenging and VERY worth it.
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Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.
Activity note: This is an international travel day; no meals or program activities are scheduled on this day. Hotel check in from 3:00 p.m.
Afternoon: Upon arriving at the hotel, check in and get your room assignment. Then take some time to freshen up and relax.
Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.
Evening: At leisure. Settle in and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.
Breakfast: At the hotel, the breakfast buffet offers choices such as a rotating variety of hot dishes, eggs, meat, cheese, vegetables, cereals, seasonal fruits, breads, yogurt, juices, milk, coffee, tea, water.
Morning: Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Meals on our program feature local cuisine. In many cases, they will be plated and served set meals; in others, we will have buffets with multiple options. Beverages include coffee, tea, water; other beverages are usually available for purchase. Transfers to /from program activities will be by bus, unless specified otherwise. If you feel unwell or anxious about your abilities before or during hiking activities, it is essential to notify the Group Leader. If you are incapable of participating or opt not to participate in the hikes, arrangements will be made to return you to Cusco at your cost. Once we are on the Inca Trail, there is no opportunity to depart from the program until we reach the end. (See the NOTES section for details.) When we reach the official control point at the start of the Inca Trail, each participant’s original, valid passport must be presented to officials. Periods in the schedule labeled “free time and “at leisure” offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable while going out to explore on your own, engaging in available activities independently, making new friends among fellow participants, or simply relaxing. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. We’ll complete the morning with a presentation by the Group Leader providing a brief Introduction to Peru, Inca culture and history, and the Inca Trail and the Sacred Valley.
Lunch: At a local restaurant with a presentation on local Peruvian dishes, ingredients, and meal preparation.
Afternoon: We will embark on an expert led field trip in Lima’s historic downtown, beginning with a visit to the historic Plaza de Armas, the official center of the city and the original site upon which Lima was founded. We will explore La Catedral, an architectural masterpiece built in 1534, and the Church of San Francisco with its library and collection of fine paintings and frescoes. We’ll also see exteriors of the Presidential Palace, where soldiers guarding the palace offer an excellent photo opportunity; the Archbishop’s Palace; City Hall; the Desamparados train station; and Moorish-style houses and balconies along Lima’s old streets. We’ll then join in a favorite pastime of Limeños, an afternoon walk along the city’s Malecon (waterfront) in Miraflores with its magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean and landscaped parks.
Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like of the many options for Peruvian cuisine and local fare. Please see "Notes" section for a list of restaurant recommendations.
Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and our flight to Cusco in the morning.
Activity note: Flight from Lima to Cusco is approximately 1.5 hours. The weight limit for checked luggage on this flight is 50 pounds/23 kg. The drive to Urubamba by car is about 38 miles, approximately 1.5 hours; other drives are shorter distances. Ollantayambo is very hilly with about 100 stone steps to the top of the fortress at an altitude of 9,100 feet. Walking the ruins at Ollantaytambo ruins takes approximately 1.5 hours.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet.
Morning: We’ll check out and depart to the airport for our morning flight to Cusco. High elevations can have an adverse effect on hikers, even those in good shape, so program activities in the Sacred Valley are designed to help participants acclimate to higher elevations prior to starting the Inca Trail hikes. The Group Leader will monitor everyone’s ability to adjust to the altitude during this time. Upon arrival, we’ll board a bus and meet our local guide. Then, we will begin the transfer to the Sacred Valley for lunch.
Lunch: At a local restaurant. We’ll have a plated and served meal with salad, entrée, and soda or water; other beverages available for purchase.
Afternoon: We will vsit the Ollantaytambo ruins and have a site lecture. We’ll learn about the engineering genius of the Inca demonstrated by the extensive terracing and irrigation present at the site. Running water still flows through the town in aqueducts. The Inca emperor Pachacuti built Ollantaytambo in the 15th century as part of his royal estate. In the mid-15th century after Pachacuti’s death, the Spanish conquest of Peru began. The Inca emperor at that time was Manco Inca who used Ollantaytambo as a stronghold against the Spanish. His army won a small victory nearby against Spanish forces. Though, shortly afterwards Manco Inca decided the site was not secure enough and fled with the remaining members of his empire to Vilcabamba where the Inca famously made their last stand against the Spanish. We will hike up several terraces at the archaeological site. Afterwards, transfer to the hotel. We’ll check in with time to freshen up and relax before dinner. You might like to take a stroll around the hotel grounds and gardens.
Dinner: In the hotel restaurant, we’ll have a plated and served meal with appetizers, choice of main dish, dessert, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.
Evening: At leisure.
Activity note: The drive to the Maras Salt Pans is about 30 miles, approximately 1.5 hours; other drives are shorter distances. Hiking 1.5 miles, approximately 1 hour, downhill trail.
Breakfast: In the hotel restaurant.
Morning: We’ll set out on a hiking field trip to Moray, where a local expert will give a presentation. The large series of circular terraces were built by the Inca as an outdoor agricultural research station. Walking around the terraces as they decrease in size to a central point will provide a good opportunity to acclimate in preparation for the Inca Trail. We’ll continue our exploration with a hike to the Salineras de Maras (Salt Pans of Salinas) for a demonstration of the salt extraction process.
Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a buffet lunch with a variety of appetizers, main dishes, salads, desserts, and bottle of water included.
Afternoon: Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free. We’ll regroup before dinner for a presentation on the crops of the Inca, a source of health and energy.
Dinner: Restaurant plated and served meal.
Evening: At leisure.
Activity note: Pisac elevation is approximately 11,000 feet. At ruins, paved walkways, intermittent and sloping dirt paths, some sections uneven, steep, narrow. Walking the ruins takes approximately 2 hours. Wear hiking shoes, hat, sunscreen bring water.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet.
Morning: We will board the bus and ride to Pisac for a hiking field trip in the vicinity of the Pisac ruins to help us acclimatize. This trail is similar to the Inca Trail routes. The beautiful site high above the Urubamba River features one of Peru’s only remaining “intihuatanas” — enigmatic carved rocks that were used for astronomical observation. The ruins are notable for their Inca waterworks and large, curving agricultural terraces offering excellent views of the Sacred Valley. We’ll then descend to the town.
Lunch: At Pisac, we’ll have boxed lunches.
Afternoon: We’ll continue walking in Pisac and its busy, colorful market. This rustic Andean village that grew up at the foot of the original Incan settlement has become well known to visitors. The artisan market hosts hundreds of vendors offering ceramics, clothing and knitted goods including those made of alpaca, jewelry, scarves, and trinkets of many kinds. Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free time. We’ll gather with our Group Leader before dinner for a final briefing session on the Inca Trail in preparation for our hikes.
Dinner: Hotel plated and served meal.
Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.
Activity note: The drive from Pisac to Ollantaytambo is about 36 miles (58 kilometers), approximately 1 hour. The drive from Ollantaytambo to Piscacucho is about 51 miles (82 kilometers), approximately 1.5 hours. The total hiking distance today is 7.8 miles, approximately 7 hours; maximum altitude point 9,842 feet.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet.
Morning: This is the day to decide if you will hike the Inca Trail or return to Cusco. Once we begin hiking on Day 7, there is no turning back We’ll check out and depart for Ollantaytambo, where we’ll stop briefly for last minute purchases. We’ll then transfer to Piscacucho, where we will meet our porters and have a final bathroom stop. Formal registration procedures are required at the official control point at the start of the Inca Trail. Original, valid passports must be ready to be presented to the officials. Once done with registration, we will cross a footbridge over the Urubamba River and start our hike! After the first leg of the hike, we’ll stop for a brief rest break and a snack. Moving on, we’ll arrive at the Patallaqta viewpoint and see classic Inca ruins at the intersection of three valleys — a wonderful photo opportunity.
Lunch: En route, we’ll stop for a sit down lunch. Trail lunches will include a main dish and drink.
Afternoon: We’ll continue walking hiking for about 5 hours to the first campsite. It’s time to rest and enjoy an extended tea break to revive body, mind, and spirit.
Dinner: In the dining tent, dinner will include soup, a main dish, dessert, and hot beverages.
Evening: At leisure.
Activity note: Total distance 5.5 miles; estimated walking time 7 hours; maximum altitude point 13,779 feet.
Breakfast: Early morning wake-up call with a hot beverage followed by breakfast at the camp. Foods will vary daily from pancakes to scrambled eggs, cheese, oatmeal, quinoa, fruit, bread, hot chocolate, coffee, tea.
Morning: The first portion of our hike this morning will take approximately 1.5 hours through tropical subalpine forest with opportunities to see bromeliads and orchids. We’ll have a stop at Ayapata to see the landscape and a rest break with an opportunity to use the local toilet facilities. We’ll then continue hiking on ascending stairs for approximately 2.5 hours.
Lunch: Trail lunch en route.
Afternoon: Next, we’ll set out on a 2-hour hike to Abra Warmiwañuska, the first pass, at an elevation of approximately 13,776 feet. From there, we’ll descend to our second campsite at Pacaymayo (11,580 feet) for tea time and relaxation.
Dinner: In the dining tent.
Evening: At leisure.
Activity note: Hiking up to 5 miles, approximately 7 hours; some sections with wet stones, mud, uneven steps. Maximum altitude point approximately 12,795 feet.
Breakfast: At the camp, early morning wake-up call with a hot beverage, followed by breakfast.
Morning: We’ll start the day with a hike of approximately 1 hour to the Runkuracay archaeological site with superb views overlooking the Pacaymayo Valley. Runkuracay, the Egg Hut, is about halfway up the climb to the second pass. It was probably built as a lookout point for watching the highway, and perhaps also as a “tambo” — a traveler's lodging and temporary storehouse. We’ll then move on, hiking to Runkurakay Pass, the second on the trail. After reaching the pass, we’ll continue downhill for approximately 1 hour before arriving at the narrow staircase that will take us into Sayacmarca, “Inaccessible Town.” The ruins of Sayacmarca are the remnants of a fortress or travelers' lodge used by the Inca. It was built on a narrow mountain ridge with only one entrance — probably planned as a means of defense. The thatched roofs are long gone, but an observatory, small plaza, ritual baths, housing complex, and other constructions remain. The lack of agricultural terraces and farmland point to a dependence on outside suppliers, a big weakness in times of war. In its heyday, Sayacmarca is thought to have housed as many as 200 people. Leaving the ruins, we’ll continue our hike and stop for lunch.
Lunch: At Chaquicocha, trail lunch.
Afternoon: We’ll continue hiking for another 1.5-2 hours to the next campsite at Phuyupatamarka, elevation 10,695 feet. There, we’ll relax with a tea break and some “down” time before dinner.
Dinner: In the dining tent.
Evening: At leisure.
Activity note: Hiking up to 7 miles, approximately 5 hours; mix of flat paths, uneven steps including approximately 2,000 Inca steps down; altitude point 11,811 feet. Early wake-up call to witness the spectacular sunrise. Have your cameras ready! Hot beverages provided.
Breakfast: At the camp.
Morning: We’ll begin hiking the trail towards the Phuyupatamarka archaeological ruins, located less than 1/2 mile (approximately 15 minutes) from the camp. As we hike through the ruins, our Group Leader will give us an explanation of the site. The ruins of Phuyupatamarka — “Cloud Level Town” — include many terraces and a series of ceremonial baths. A large platform on the highest part of the site once served as an open-air temple, the Temple of the Sun. We’ll continue hiking for another 3.5 hours and arrive at Wiñay Wayna in time for lunch.
Lunch: At Wiñay Wayna archaeological site.
Afternoon: We estimate that this final stretch of the Inca Trail will take approximately 1.5 hours to complete. Once at Intipunku — “Sun Gate” — we will begin the descent into Machu Picchu, just as the late afternoon shadows begin to accentuate the mysterious citadel. After a quick walk through the ruins, we’ll board the bus to Aguas Calientes and check-in at our hotel. Have a hot shower and get a good night's rest in preparation for tomorrow morning's activities in Machu Picchu.
Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a set plated meal with appetizer, main dish, dessert, hot beverages and water.
Evening: At leisure. Prepare for our early morning (7:00 a.m.) field trip to Machu Picchu. As the UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription states, “Embedded within a dramatic landscape at the meeting point between the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon Basin, the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is among the greatest artistic, architectural and land use achievements anywhere and the most significant tangible legacy of the Inca civilization…Built in the fifteenth century Machu Picchu was abandoned when the Inca Empire was conquered by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. It was not until 1911 that the archaeological complex was made known to the outside world.”
Activity note: Train ride from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo is approximately 1.5 hours. Bus transfer from Ollantaytambo Station to Cusco is about 1.5 hours. We recommend wearing or bringing a long-sleeved shirt as in the past some participants have complained about “no-see-ums.” For those who wish to hike independently to the summit of Huayna Picchu, the trail is narrow, rocky, very steep and strenuous; no handrails. See NOTES section of the preparatory materials for details.
Breakfast: Early at the hotel.
Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel and keep our luggage in storage until after the field trip. We’ll then board a bus to the Machu Picchu ruins for a field trip and on-site presentation by our Group Leader on the ruins, their history, and latest discoveries. There will also be time for personal independent exploration and close up views of the fascinating features of this astounding and mysterious Inca settlement that interest you most. Independent activity. For those who are highly motivated, highly energetic, and have great strength and stamina, you may wish to hike another portion of the Inca Trail to the summit of Huayna Picchu for an amazing overview of Machu Picchu. (Additional cost, see NOTES section for details.) At the conclusion of our field trip, we’ll board the bus and return to Aguas Calientes town, then walk to the hotel.
Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a set plated meal with appetizer, main dish, dessert, hot beverages, water.
Afternoon: Next, we’ll transfer to the Aguas Calientes train station and board the train back to Ollantaytambo Station. There, we’ll board the bus to Cusco and check into our hotel with some time to freshen up and relax before dinner.
Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.
Evening: At leisure.
Activity note: Mostly flat terrain, few steps.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: Our next field trip is to the Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman where our Group Leader will discuss this amazing fortress that forms the head of the Puma design of old Cusco. It is a wonder of technical achievement and a testament to human will. It is a mystery how it was constructed, as the stones are not native to the region and the majority of them weigh over one ton. The largest rock is more than 300 tons. Sacsayhuaman is constructed of huge polygonal blocks which interlock with one another so precisely a knife blade cannot be inserted between them. Returning to Cusco, we’ll embark on a walking field trip orientating ourselves to the city with visits to the Koricancha sun temple, the Plaza de Armas, and most important streets.
Lunch: On your own to explore local fare.
Afternoon: Free Time. Take this opportunity to explore Cusco on your own. We’ll regroup before dinner for a presentation-performance by local experts with traditional Inca instruments and music.
Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have our farewell dinner, a buffet with an alcoholic beverage included, with local entertainment. Share your favorite experiences of this amazing journey with new Road Scholar friends. Other beverages available for purchase.
Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.
Activity note: Hotel check-out from 10:00 a.m. Flight from Cusco to Lima is approximately 1.5 hours. The weight limit for checked luggage on this flight is 50 pounds (23 kg). There is no hotel stay included in Lima. If you would prefer a morning flight out of Lima and hotel accommodations please contact the program coordinator at 1-800-866-7111 or email@example.com to book these additional services.
Breakfast: At the hotel.
Morning: Free Time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration in Cusco. The center of Cusco is a history lesson where modern and colonial buildings were built on top of Inca foundations and colonial churches dominate the central square. Our Group Leader will establish a meeting time for us all to reconvene back at the hotel in preparation for the late afternoon transfer to the Cusco airport.
Lunch: On your own.
Afternoon: We’ll say goodbye to our Group Leader and transfer to the Cusco airport for the flight to Lima's Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chávez (LIM). Upon arrival in Lima, we’ll check in for our international flights this evening.
Dinner: On your own.
Evening: Upon arrival to Lima you will connect with your evening flights out of Jorge Chávez International Airport to the U.S. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!
The Inca trail trip was very challenging and VERY worth it.
The Incan Trail trip was terrific. I have no complaints and the program exceeded my expectations in every way. Great logistics and high quality camping gear. I didn't regret not bringing my own very nice Marmot sleeping bag nor my own hiking poles. Acclimatization hikes were perfectly timed. Hotels and restaurants were very nice and educational programs were all interesting.
The INCA trail trip should not be taken by inexperienced hikers. It is not only strenuous, high altitude but is also 5 days completely outdoors. You need to be fit, mentally and physically. That said, Road Scholar did a fantastic job of caring for us during the entire tour. The porters and food were outstanding on the trail. The equipment provided (tents, pads, bags) were first class and made the trip much easier.
Loved this trip! It was my first Road Scholar experience and now I'm hooked! The food, hotels, programs, and the hike itself were all absolutely wonderful! Our guide, Holger "Paco" was fabulous as a guide and became a warm-hearted friend to all of us. I can highly recommend this trip if you love hiking and want an unforgettable experience in this amazing country.
My journey to Machu Picchu was a personally life changing experience. By completing this challenging hike, I proved to myself that I have the grit and motivation to accomplish anything I set my mind to. The scenery and Peruvian friendliness was worth the hiking struggles of altitude change and endless up and down steps of uneven terrain. For me, proving myself along the journey was more important than the destination. Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu were the frosting on the cake. I strongly recommend this experience to those who want to challenge themselves and are physically fit. You will not regret it.
This is the most challenging hike I have ever done. But every aspect of this trip was so thoroughly coordinated and handled so well, that I was able to be not only successful, but also have a great time!
This program is one of the most physically challenging hikes that Road Scholar offers. Luckily there are options if you find it beyond you.
This was an exhilarating program with excellent guides, facilities and food. I left with a new perspective of Peru and its wonderful people. It was also one of the most challenging things I have ever done, so I suggest people pay close attention to the physical requirements, and prepare themselves to succeed.
This was my first RS trip and the challenging rating was accurate but it wasn't so challenging I thought I was going to die. I did sort of think I would die being from 900 feet above sea level and thought that at 14,000 I would not be able to breathe. I didn't die. Our fabulous wonderful smart and endlessly capable guide Juan Carlos helped us acclimate with hikes and stays at 8,000, 9,000, and 10,000 feet. By the time we got to the high day we were mostly fine. I would do this trip again in half a heartbeat. Hiking the trail to Machu Picchu made seeing Machu Picchu more special than had I gotten there by train and bus. We learned history along the trail and saw other ruins and could learn about the wonders of an ancient culture while walking/hiking. There was time to let all history and sink in, step by step. The whole trip was well planned for us with GREAT lecturers/instructors along the way. Accommodations were comfortable and clean. Juan Carlos is an excellent teacher with great leadership skills and professional in every way. Yes, yes, yes. Go on this trip. Enjoy the hike, the incredible scenery, the challenge, the people, the biology/geography/botany, the mystery, and the magic.
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu has been a dream of mine for a long time. Under the guidance of our wonderfully accommodating guide, Juan Carlos, I was able to do it. Several days of shorter hikes in the Sacred Valley allowed us to acclimate to the altitude before starting the Inca Trail. The hike was very challenging, with 4 days of steep ups and downs in high altitude. The views were stunning – cloud forests, glaciers, soaring mountains, flora against the Inca walls, and magical Machu Picchu as we came through the Sun Gate. SouthWild Inca Trail Explorer provided excellent service during the hike – the camping accommodations were clean and comfortable and the porters had everything ready when we entered camp. Food on the Inca Trail and in the restaurants was excellent, worthy of several Michelin Stars. The hotel accommodations were very comfortable and centrally located. The educational component added a lot of depth to the Program, with lectures on Inca history, agriculture, archaeology, music, and cuisine. Persistence and resilience are necessary to successfully hike the Inca Trail, but you will be greatly rewarded.
Fabulous trip. Everyday was wonderful. Paco, our leader was always helpful and smiling. Be sure to train for this trip. We did a lot of hiking and step training to get ready. As a result, we did just fine. The 3 nights in the Sacred Valley at the monastery were beautiful. There were so many highlights.
Absolutely top notch trip. Paco is the consummate tour director - knowledgeable, patient and skilled. It was a pleasure to learn about Peru from him. The itinerary is well crafted. There are so many great experiences programmed into the trip. There is time to acclimate to altitude while visiting the many interesting sites in the Sacred Valley. The actual Inca Trail hike is strenuous and needs to be done at a measured pace. I highly recommend pre-trip physical training for enjoyment of the journey. The cooks, porters and support staff are super. The vistas and archaeological sites are spectacular. The serenity of hiking in the mountains and cloud forest is transcendent.
Just do it! My wife and I hesitated before signing up, wanting to get as much information about the trip as possible. We are very glad we did it. The hike itself was challenging but not overly difficult. (This comes from a long time runner and backpacker though.) The group kept a manageable pace so no one was pushed beyond their comfort. Do make sure you are properly conditioned. The more fit you are the more you will enjoy the experience. Our main guide was the best we've ever had, being very knowledgable and attentive to everyone's needs. The porters made it all possible, carrying the gear, cooking outstanding meals, and providing toilets (a real plus). The days outside of the hike were informative and appropriate for the needed preparation/acclimation. Some tours skip this. The weather was the most difficult to assess from home. We went in early May. We may have gotten lucky with the weather overall, but there was rain and sun, hot and cold, clouds and clear skies, often in a single day. So be prepared for all conditions. Watching the clouds part to reveal snow capped Andes on a cool morning at 12,000 feet is not to be missed. We highly recommend this trip.
The 4-day trek to Machu Picchu was the most challenging I've done - also the most rewarding, with memories I'll carry with me for the rest of my life.
The trek on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu truly is a unique and wonderful adventure! With great tour leaders, incredible porters and excellent food and equipment, it does provide the best of "glamping". However, it is not only for the bold at heart but for those who prepare and persevere--it is a delightful challenge.
This was a trip of a lifetime. I learned so much about the Incas, Peru, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Hiking the Inca Trail was challenging both intellectually and physically. I would strongly recommend this to those that are ready to push themselves to the limit and step out of their comfort zone!
The trip was well organized. The group leader was knowledgeable, helpful, friendly, and inspired a very positive attitude. The field trips were fascinating. The acclimatization hikes were well thought out and were anything but routine exercise hikes but were great exciting trips in and of themselves. We didn’t just see the country, we became part of it. I learned more about Peru than I had ever hoped and I remain fascinated by the experience and hope to return some day.