In 1983 the UNESCO declared Machu Picchu world cultural heritage.
The enigmatic City of the Incas, is located 112 km northwest of Cusco. It can be reached by train or by foot through the Inca Trail. This fantastic construction was forgotten for over three centuries, covered by vegetation it was never found by the Spanish conquerors. In 1911 it was "discovered" by Hiram Bingham. The citadel comprises two sectors: agricultural terraces and urban areas, which contain temples, plazas, palaces. The building style and the outstanding planning suggest that its construction was supervised by the Inca authorities that lived in Cusco.
One of the most important characteristics is the Intihuatana which is a natural carved stone. This stone and its surroundings are related to the Inca religion that adored the sun and certain types of stones.
Visiting the whole complex takes at least one day. The Huayna Picchu or Young Mountain has a superb overview of the city. There are also Inca remains here. Nature and Culture mix in perfect harmony in Machu Picchu. The natural surroundings and the magic atmosphere make this place impossible to forget.
Inca Trail refers to the network of roads that the Incas built and that went from North to South and from East to West of the Inca Empire. The best known segment is the hike to Machu Picchu which starts from kilometer 88 and comprises about 45 kilometers (27 miles). The highest point reaches 4198 meters above sea level (13700 feet) at the Dead Woman Pass or in Quechua Warmiwañusca.
The Inca Trail is one of the world's biggest adventures. During the reign of the Incas, the trail was a kind of a royal arterial road. It connected Cusco and Machu Picchu. The path leads over mountain sides, through tropical rainforest and up long Inca stairwells. On the way, you will encounter many storage buildings, houses, temples and a strategic observatory.
South America's most famous hike starts at "km 82" and ends in Machu Picchu. The view from the sun gate onto the incredible Inca settlement alone will be worth all the trouble of the journey. Reaching Machu Picchu, you will be given a 2 hour guided tour. Afterwards you can go exploring on your own. Climb up Huayna Picchu, walk up to the Temple of the Moon, visit the Inca bridge... At the end of the day a bus or a one hour walk takes you down to Aguas Calientes, where you can relax in the hot springs. Board the train in Aguas Calientes back to Ollanta/Cusco.
You will be picked up at your hostel around 5.00 am. The Train takes you km 104 of the railway track Cusco-Machu Picchu, where we start our journey. On the way we visit the ruins of Chachabamba (altitude: 2170 m) Here the Incas collected agricultural products from other areas to transport them to Machu Picchu. After that, we start the ascend to the impressive complex of Wiñay Wayna. After exploring the ruins, we have lunch and continue our hike to Machu Picchu. In the late afternoon, we reach the sun gate („Inti Punku“) and enjoy the spectacular view onto Machu Picchu.
From here we take the bus down to Aguas Calientes, where we spend the night.
Train journey: approx. 3,5 hours - Trekking: approx. 6 hours
We leave Aguas Calientes in the early hours of the morning. Reaching Machu Picchu we start a two hour guided tour, learning about the religious and historical significance of the Inca city and its spectacular architecture. Afterwards you can explore the site on your own. In the late afternoon we take the train back to Cusco.
Return journey: approx. 4 hours
What to bring: small backpack, water bottle, passport, insect spray Hat, sunglasses, Sunscreen, hiking boots, T-Shirt and jacket flashlight, personal sanitary products, towel and toilet paper, binoculars, camera, plastic bag, cash.
The traditional Inca-trail has to be booked weeks in advance. An impressive alternative path to famous Machu Picchu is the Salkantay trail.
Between the two snowcapped giants of the Vilcabamba mountain range, the holy mountains Huamantay and Salkantay (6270 m), you will cross the mountain pass at 4600 m. The climb is exhausting, especially on the second day, and the night in the tent can be freezing cold. But after the pass you will slowly start to descend, it is getting warmer, the vegetation is denser and soon the path leads through an evergreen mountain forest. The Salkantay trek takes at least 4, better 5 days, and is less frequented than the Inca-trail. You will meet less tourists and have more contact to the inhabitants of the small remote villages on the way.
The trek finishes in the small, but very touristy town of Aguas Calientes in the Vilcanota valley underneath Machu Picchu.
The Santa Teresa Trail is also called the Jungle Tour to Machu Picchu. Biking, hiking, using a zip line, bathing in hot springs: this fantastic 4-day-trip to Machu Picchu is an exciting adventure and increasingly more popular.
The tour starts with a bus ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, an old Inca village in the Sacred Valley. The only direct connection from Ollantaytambo through the narrow Urubamba valley to Machu Picchu is the railway. The street climbs up into the hills reaching its highest point at the Malaga mountain pass (4350 m). Here the bus starts descending from the cool and barren mountain tops of the Andes down into the subtropical regions of the rain forest, passing banana-, papaya- and other jungle plantations. The bus ride ends in the evening in the small town of Santa Maria. Alternatively, you can get out of the bus and cycle down from the lofty heights of the Malaga pass.
The seven hour long hike from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa takes us through tropical forests, valleys, past rivers, small villages, coca-, coffee- and fruit plantations. In the afternoon we take a break and you can relax in the hot springs of Santa Teresa.
On the last part of the way to Aguas Calientes we cross adventuresome bridges and use an improvised zip cable to get over the Urubamba river to the hydroelectric power station. If you rather not use the zip line, you can hike up to Llactapata on an old Inca path and reach the power station from there on foot.
In the afternoon a train to Aguas Calientes stops at “Hidroelectrica”. It is also possible to reach the town below Machu Picchu by foot in 2 hours. The small path winds itself along the river and sometimes the railway line past exotic trees with oranges and bananas, waterfalls and occasional farm houses.
The "golden cradle" is an old Inka settlement on a 3100 m high mountain saddle in the foothills of the Salkantay mountain range, in the canyon of the Apurimac river. Surrounded by snowcapped mountain peaks and densely forested steep mountain sides, the ruin is an impressive heirloom of the Inca period, probably a sanctuary of the Inca elite. This big archeological complex is even bigger than the legendary Inca city of Machu Picchu. The sanctuary was discovered by treasure seekers in the 17th century, but only during the last few years archeologists have cleared the site and opened it for visitors.
Choquequirao consists of terraces, a religious centre and the remnants of houses. Archeologists also discovered a cemetery. Choquequirao is still this is a mysterious place, whose history we can only guess.
The 4-days trekking tour to Choquequirao and back, covering 60 kms, is an unforgettable experience. We start hiking in Cachora, a little village near the Apurimac river, approximately 3 hours drive from Cusco. The trek takes us through different vegetation zones: from the high valleys of the Andes, used for farming, down into a barren and hot canyon with kapoktrees, cacti and agaves, up again into the lush cloud forest, reaching almost up to the snowy peaks of the Vilcabamba Cordilleras.