- Hike the Cordillera de Vilcabamba from one beautiful mountain lodge to the next, and cap off the trip at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.
- Delve into the enchanting world of the Inca during an evening with archaeologist and National Geographic grantee Peter Frost or one of his colleagues.
- Spend a full day exploring the magnificent citadel of Machu Picchu, and make the optional climb up to one of two iconic peaks, Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu.
- Go off the beaten path to explore less visited Inca ruins, including Tarawasi and Llactapata.
Wind your way from lodge to lodge through the luxuriant forests and snowcapped peaks of Peru’s stunning Cordillera Vilcabamba. Trek among glaciers and alpine lakes to local villages and lesser known Inca sites tucked into the slopes. At the end of each day, settle into a picturesque mountain lodge to enjoy a soak in the hot tub, a cozy fire, and a delicious meal. Then venture deep into the mysteries of the Inca as we explore the breathtaking sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
Arrive in Cusco and head out on a guided walk through this ancient city, once the capital of the vast Inca Empire. Venture into ornate cathedrals, stroll the central square where artisans display fine Quechuan handicrafts, and soak up the charm of hidden courtyards and cobbled streets. Later, meet up with your fellow hikers for a welcome dinner and hear a talk by archaeologist and National Geographic grantee Peter Frost, or another prominent local archaeologist.
Rise early for the drive to our first lodge, stopping along the way to visit the ruins of Quillarumiyoc, an Inca temple dedicated to the moon. Drive to Marcoccasa, and enjoy lunch at a farmhouse. Then opt for a spectacular hike or continue by vehicle to Salkantay Lodge, nestled in the valley with a breathtaking view of the 20,574-foot Salkantay, the highest peak in the Cordillera de Vilcabamba. (11 miles optional hiking, 4-6 hours)
We’ll spend today acclimating to the altitude. You may opt to go on a half-day hike to a stunning glacial lake where—if you feel adventurous—you can jump in for a quick and refreshing swim. Or relax in a cozy lounge or a hot tub at the lodge. (4 miles hiking, 3-4 hours)
Rise early and set out on our four-day trek to the legendary citadel of Machu Picchu. Follow the Río Blanco valley, hiking the girth of Humantay, a snowy peak across from Salkantay. We’ll reach the highest point of our trip at 15,213 feet, and pause a moment to admire a vista of snowcapped peaks. From here, descend to Wayra Lodge (12,812') where showers and a hot tub await. (8 miles hiking, 5-7 hours)
Enjoy a leisurely morning at Wayra Lodge. Today’s hike takes us out of the stark high-alpine region and into increasingly lush vegetation, as we head down into the Collpapampa Valley. Our home for the night is perched on an open promontory at the confluence of three rivers. The surrounding cloud forest harbors wild orchids and butterflies as well as remarkable birdlife. Upon arrival, sit down to a pachamanca, a traditional underground stone barbecue. (6 miles hiking, 4 hours)
Continue downhill through the Santa Teresa River Valley, a verdant area home to local farms and villages. Hike past coffee plantations and tropical fruit orchards, as well as dazzling wildflowers of all colors. Stop alongside the river for a picnic lunch. From here it is a short climb to Lucma Lodge, hidden among avocado trees. We’ll arrive in time to explore the village and meet some local residents. (9 miles hiking, 5-6 hours)
Our trail winds uphill toward Llactapata Pass at 8,974 feet, where we’ll catch our first glimpse of Machu Picchu far in the distance. Explore the ruins of Llactapata, a sacred Inca site that has been recently restored. Like Machu Picchu, the ruins here were rediscovered by explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911 and excavated with support from National Geographic. After lunch at an observation point overlooking Machu Picchu, follow the path down to the Urubamba River, hiking through thick bamboo stands, orchards, and coffee plantations. A short, scenic train ride brings us to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. Settle into our hotel, Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World nestled in the cloud forest amid orchids and colorful birds. (7 miles hiking, 5-6 hours)
Stacked up a hillside amid soaring Andean peaks, the 15th-century Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is considered one of the new seven wonders of the world. A short bus ride brings us to the sanctuary, where we'll spend an entire day exploring its breathtaking labyrinth of stone temples, sanctuaries, and homes. Delve into the site with our guides, learning about the Inca’s sophisticated culture and technology, and discovering the secrets of this royal city lost to the wider world for some 500 years. Opt to climb the steep peak of Huayna Picchu for a rewarding view of the entire sanctuary and the surrounding peaks. In the unlikely event that Huayna Picchu permits are not available for your departure date, we will climb Machu Picchu Mountain instead. (3-4 optional miles hiking, 3-4 hours)
This morning, opt to relax or explore the trails surrounding our lodge. Then take the train from Aguas Calientes to the Sacred Valley, where lunch awaits at a charming restaurant. Continue by private van to Cusco, stopping along the way at the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco, a weaving cooperative founded by National Geographic grantee Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez. Learn about the center's work preserving and reviving this ancient Peruvian art form. Tonight, toast our Andean trek during a farewell dinner at a Cusco restaurant.
Explore charming Cusco on your own this morning. Later, transfer to the airport for your flight home.