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1 - Best Treks in Cusco

Best Treks in Cusco

Below are a selection of the best short treks in the Cusco Region.

If you’re short on time here but want some adventure, then we highly recommend these.


Salkantay Nevada

Is a 6,272 m. peak in the heart of the Cusco trek region, it’s one of the most beautiful mountains in the Andes and one of Peru’s best and well-known treks. Over the course of five days, you’ll pass by a beautiful glacial lake, up and over the Salkantay Trek pass (4,650m), and descend down into the dense vegetation of the Peruvian cloud forest. This trek is highly recommended for trekkers without a lot of experience but who want a challenge and a fun and exciting route. This trek can be booked in the short-term there are no permits & waiting lists unlike the Inca trail.


Humantay Lake

See one of the most spectacular sites in the Salkantay region of the Peruvian Andes, on this day trip to Lake Humantay. After a breakfast snack, hit the trail for the approximately 1.5 hr hike to Lake Humantay gaining approximately 1,300 feet along the way. Ample free time at the lake allows you to relax and enjoy mountain views, including Salkantay, before returning down the same trail for lunch al fresco.


Lares Valley

Embark on a beautiful 2 day trek through the Lares Valley, a trek through traditional native communities where you can see how these populations survive & thrive using local resources.

Starting at the Hot Springs of Lares Valley you’ll pitstop for lunch after a fairly long drive from Cusco in the morning. After lunch you follow a trail for about 4 hrs to the first campsite of Huachuasi. Here llamas & horses graze and are kept for many of the farmsteads.

On the second beginning from Huachuasi you’ll head deeper into the valleys of this area and see many traditional quechuan farm practices, whilst also scaling a 4,800m mountain pass. On the descent you’ll pass a mountain lake in Ipsaycocha & descend down to the town of Patacchanta for a final lunch, capping a great couple of days before the journey back through to Cusco or the Sacred Valley.


Ausangate Nevada & Rainbow Mountain – 3 Days

This is a breathtaking 3-Day trek in the Cordillera Vilcanota, on a route we call the “Camino del Apu Ausangate” located in close proximity of the highest Sacred Mountain in the Department of Cusco. The “Apu” is the Bearer of Life and guardian of one of the most pristine mountain ecosystems in the world.

Our treks will be accompanied by llamas and mules that carry expedition equipment, and are owned by shepherds of the community of Chillca, who are proud to share their land with us, as well as the Spirit of their inspiring world.


Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu

The Cordillera Vilcabamba is a range of mountains that are home to many historic attractions that were of great importance to the development of Andean civilisation. This part of the Andes mountains was known to be a refuge for the last of the rebel Inkas fleeing from the Spanish invasion; the rebel group of Inkas was led by Manqo Inka II for nearly forty years.

Many lesser travelled trails exist in this part of the Andes; and it’s a rare occurence to encounter other trekkers or groups. It takes most of the day to arrive at the mountain town of Huancacalle from Cusco, passing the abra Malaga en route. Parts of this region are closely surrounded by the Peruvian Amazon jungle; this also makes a nice climatic change to the trekking environment and there are some towns of the jungle nearby, like QuillabambaKiteni and Santa Teresa.

2 - Ausangate Region

Ausangate Region: the Nevados, the Region & it’s People.

The Ausangate Region is a special place in the Andes of Cusco; it’s far enough outside of Cusco to be considered very remote; but it’s also near enough to be accessible for an amazing adventure.

Often you will encounter small poblados (small local communities); with many farming llamas for their way of life. Many children will greet you, often after ‘dulces‘ (sweets) to savour.

A lot of the houses & shelters in the area don’t have basic utilities such as electricity, gas, tap water; things we take for granted in more developed countries.

It’s a simple way of life out here, hard but no poorer for it in our opinion, being off grid and out in the natural environment must be a great and happy way of life.


Trekking and Mountain Conditions

The traditional trek circuit normally takes 5 days, but there are a number of variations you can do over 3 – 14 days.

To trek in the region of Ausangate is a stunning adventure but also it’s unforgiving if you’re not prepared for adverse weather conditions & the altitude. There are some farmsteads and small communities dotted around this mountainous landscape; often they will help out if you are lost or in need of some assistance.

The Ausangate region is a welcoming place; the people who live there, and in the Andes generally; are some of the warmest most generous people you could ever hope to meet.


Ausangate Adventures

There are a number of trek routes you can do, that range from 3 to 14 days. It’s easy enough to incorporate Mt. Vinicunca (Rainbow Mountain),  the Red Valley & other peaks.

The further in you go to the Cordillera Vilcanota (Quispicanchi & Canchis Provinces) the more remote and wild the conditions become.

Trek some of the most incredible Glaciers in the mountainous region of Ausangate. Climb and explore glaciers QelccayaChumpeOcchullo AnantaQampaYayamari & Huayruro Punco.

Bespoke climbing expeditions usually range from 3 – 12 days.

3 -Machu Picchu: Inside the Incan Citadel

Machu Picchu Travel: What you can do inside & what to expect.

Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Incan citadel; located on a ridge between the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountains in Peru. It sits 7,970 feet (2,430 meters) above sea level on the eastern slope of the Andes and overlooks the Urubamba River hundreds of feet below.

The excellent preservation of this site, the quality of architecture; and the breath-taking mountain vista it occupies has made Machu Picchu one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world today. It’s recently been incorporated as one of the seven wonders of the world.

The site covers 80,000 acres (32,500 hectares). Terraced fields on the edge of the site were once used for growing crops, likely maize and potatoes.

There are different trains you can take, either the Expedition or Vistadome train, there is also the Hiram Bingham for a more luxurious trip in. All trains leave leave from just outside Cusco, Poroy station, or you can travel into Aguas Calientes from Ollantaytambo. Exploring inside Machu Picchu is usually a full day, we recommend being prepared with tickets before you arrive to make the most of your day there.

You can explore the site at your own leisure, usually about 4 hours is enough time to really understand the site. If you arrive late morning, arround 11am, you’ll miss all the crowds. It’s a much quieter and more leisurely time to arrive. In our view it’s a better time to explore!

https://incarail.com/machu-picchu

4 - Lares Valley

Sacred Valley Tour: Lares Valley

The Lares Valley lies just next to the main route of the Sacred Valley. There are many little towns and poblados here that you can walk through to get an understanding of real life in the Andes.

Culturally it’s very distinct in this valley and they maintain a way of life that dates back for centuries. Towns like CuncaniHuacahuasi & Patacchanta are vibrant with life and arrieros, their mules & farmsteads exist here. The views are spectacular with many lagunas dotted through the valley. On some routes Mt. Pitsuray provides the backdrop to the trek and a number other peaks surround.

Lares valley is easily accessible from Cusco and provides a nice place to escape to away from the usual routes, it’s perfect for trekking also. Some reasonably tough mountain passes can be expected, but generally the trekking is moderate with occasionally challenging sections.

There are a few different routes you can do here, trek lengths normally range from 2 – 4 days and it’s easy to incorporate Machu Picchu as well as part of the trekking expedition. The location is ideal if you’re short on time in Cusco but would like to experience Andean life.

5 - Sacred Valley - Huilloc

Sacred Valley Tour: Huilloc

Sacred Valley Tour: Huilloc is a traditional Andean community just outside the more well known town of Ollantaytambo. It’s a very rustic place; but the local people are incredibly warm and welcoming. They open their doors for all travellers, and love to include homestays as part of your trekking experience.

It’s very easy to add a homestay as part of a Lares Valley trek for example or any other Sacred Valley trip. It’s well worth the experience to stay with a local family and their community; to experience real life here in the valley and learn how they utilise local resources.

Pachamanca style cooking will typically be on the menu for any stay. This is a traditional method of Andean cooking; where food is cooked underground and lined with local grasses to protect food during the cooking process. It’s all natural with nothing artificial added and the flavours are strong but delicious from the grasses and herbs they add to the mix.

You will experience local customs; there are many fiestas in these parts along with ‘chicha‘ (local brew) being readily available for those that like to sample local distilling. Traditional dress is very much a part of the cultural makeup here and it’s a very distinctive style but one that bonds the communities here and keeps the culture live and ongoing.


Example itinerary that includes a homestay in Huilloc

Embark on a beautiful 2 day trek through the Sacred Valley Tour: Lares Valley. A trek through traditional native communities where you can see how these populations survive & thrive using local resources.

Starting at the Hot Springs of Lares Valley you’ll pitstop for lunch after a fairly long drive from Cusco in the morning. After lunch you follow a trail for about 4 hrs to the first campsite of Huachuasi. Here llamas & horses graze and are kept for many of the farmsteads.

On the second beginning from Huachuasi you’ll head deeper into the valleys of this area and see many traditional quechuan farm practices, whilst also scaling a 4,800m mountain pass. On the descent you’ll pass a mountain lake in Ipsaycocha & descend down to the town of Patacchanta for lunch.

Afterwards you’ll trek to Huilloc; a traditional Andean community where you have the opportunity to enjoy a homestay and some of the local customs. The families love to welcome trekkers and a pachamanca style dinner will often be served (food cooked underground with local herbs and all natural). Overnight here then continue to Ollantaytambo to explore the ruins in the late afternoon.

This caps a great few days before the journey back through to Cusco or the Sacred Valley and onwards to Machu Picchu.


Google map for Huilloc Community

 

6 - Choquequirao

Choquequirao

Choquequirao: A trek to this Incan citadel, as opposed to it’s more famous sister site and the largely oversubscribed Inca Trail; is to appreciate the engineering and serenity of the Apurimac Valley where it is located. Considerably less frequented, as a route, this trek gives you a sense of being on a trail where you can appreciate the effort the Incans went to; to build this particular fortress. On a scale comparable with Machu Picchu, the site is impressive in itself; but arguably more impressive is the setting of the valley and the landscapes that are ever present along the way.

The Route

Often hard and dusty trails, it’s best to set off each day at the crack of dawn, if not earlier. This allows you to trek in shade and the relative cool of the early morning climates. Once the sun beats down, depending on which part of the trail you are on; the heat can be unforgiving and you’ll find yourself reaching for your backpack more often than you’d like.

To make the most of the trek we recommend allowing yourself 5 days minimum. Having recently been in 4 days it can become a race against time and you find yourself longing for the next pitstops to recuperate!

The first day is a long descent down to the Rio Blanco, we would recommend camping here and allowing yourself a full day on the second day to reach the Choquequirao citadel. Then you have a full day on day 3 to explore the entire area and ruins at your own leisure.

There are two options at this point, depending on how your trek is setup; you can either head to Huanipaca for your way out and back to Cusco or you trace back the way you trekked in. Having done both, there is no real lesser option, it’s still impressive to see the way you came in on the way out but admittedly it is probably a tougher route physically.

However you decide to do this trek; you’ll remember it for a very long time for it’s sheer beauty and breathtaking landscapes but also for the incredible people you meet along the way for whom the valley is a way of life.

Choquequirao Adventures

7 -Amazonas

The Amazon Jungle

Peru Amazon Tours: The Amazon Jungle in Peru covers around 65% of the countries land mass and yet only accounts for about 5% of the total population. It’s a vast environment that is incredible for exploration and encountering species in their natural environment, but depending on how you like to explore it can also be an unforgiving environment.


Ecoregions and climate

The Peruvian Amazon is traditionally divided into two distinct ecoregions:

The lowland jungle (in Spanish Selva Baja) is also known as Omagua regionWallaAnti, Amazonian rainforest or Amazon basin. This ecoregion is the largest of Peru, standing between 80 and 1,000 meters above sea level. It has very warm weather with an average temperature of 28 °C, high relative humidity (over 75%) and yearly rainfall of approximately 260 cm (100 in). Its soils are very heterogeneous, but almost all have river origins. Because of high temperatures and high rainfall, they are poor soils with few nutrients.

The jungle contains long and powerful rivers such as the ApurimacMantaroAmazonUrubambaUcayaliHuallagaMarañónPutumayoYavaríNapoPastazaMadre de DiosManuPurus, and Tigre. The Apurimac River is the source of the Amazon River. The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, the Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve and the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Regional Conservation Area are within the forest.

The highland jungle (in Spanish Selva Alta) is also called Rupa Rupa regionAndean jungleceja de selva. This ecoregion extends into the eastern foothills of the Andes, between 1,000 and 3,800 m above the sea level. The eastern slopes of the Andes are home to a great variety of fauna and flora because of the different altitudes and climates within the region. Temperatures are warm in the lowlands and cooler in higher altitudes. There are many endemic fauna because of the isolation caused by the rugged terrain of the area.

Text credit: Wikipedia


Peru Amazon Tours

Below are a range of tour ideas that will give you some of the best Jungle experiences, we are also happy to help put together customised expeditions that will allow you to explore this vast landscape in your own style.

8 - Create your own Peru Adventure

How to create your own travel plan for Peru Adventure

Budget 

Before you travel it’s a good idea to know how much you’re travelling with roughly, then do some research to match your expectations of what will be possible for your trip. We recommend building in some contingency budget & time for your trip too.

Peru’s economy has grown steadily over the last decade and prices now reflect that in many cities. It’s a good idea to bring US dollars with you; then trade them whilst here at ‘casa de cambios’ to get the best exchange rates.


Lima Connection

Most international flights arrive into Lima. We usually recommend that you try to connect directly to your destination town or city on arrival as Lima can add +$200 USD, per person, quite easily to an overnight stay here.

Lima is a big city, expensive & reasonably complicated to navigate safely.

Domestic flights are relatively cheap, ranging from $50-$200 USD, depending on the airline & schedule.

A good site to check all flight schedules is Skyscanner and for all modes of transport connections we recommend using Rome2rio

Overland bus is also a safe option in Peru, some of the best bus services in South America are Peruvian. If you have the time to travel this way, it’s a very good economical way to travel. Buses like Cruz del Sur, Civa, Flore and TEPSA all operate very good, comfortable bus services.


Season 

High season in the Andes, runs from late March through to around mid-September. The days typically are long, clear and sunny, and very cold at night.

During the off-season (raining season), most places tend to become less crowded and active; though in our opinion this is where you can seek out the best festivals & activities and enjoy Peru in more of it’s natural state.

Raining season can make some alpine activities more difficult but it’s not a complete washout during the low months.

December is an exciting month to be in Peru for the festivities that are around.

Best Time to visit Peru


Mountains, Jungle, Coast

All of these environments, for a true Peru Adventure, are easily accessible by flight or overland transport, and for this reason it’s a great idea to plan the route out before you arrive so you’re not ‘winging’ it when you’re here and can maximise the time & budget you have.

Whilst the environments here generally have a good infrastructure it’s better to be well prepared prior to your arrival, this will save you time & stress when you arrive.

If you’re planning to go off-piste it’s essential you are comfortable with the personal gear that you will be using. We recommend taking time to plan your personal gear list to save time & problems when you arrive.


Logistics

Generally it’s a good idea to cover the North first as more of the popular destinations tend to be in the South of Peru.

So for the North you will want to consider places like, Huaraz, Kuelap, Trujillo, Paracas, Ica, Huacachina, Lima then heading down to the South for Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca & Cusco.


Reservations 

Most services for your Peru Adventure can be booked online. During high season it’s generally recommended to book in advance for the more popular destinations.

Where you’re planning to arrive in smaller towns & do activities there, it’s relatively easy to book on arrival.

Generally it’s a better solution for a planned trip to book a few things in advance to save time, stress & money when you’re in the country.

For those that prefer to have flights, accommodation & activities booked in advance we’re here to provide the best rates and help plan your tour so you can relax and know it’s all taken care of on arrival.

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