The gateway to Machu Picchu – the “Lost City of the Incas” – and storied former capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is a South American destination to behold. Blending the reigning periods of the Incas and the Spanish, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is like a history lesson come to life.

Juxtapositions are foremost here, with Spanish homes built on top of Inca stone walls; wild festivals kicking off alongside ancient Catholic pageants; and Quechua traditions fused with contemporary mestizo culture. Cusco is also loaded with a seductive range of world-class restaurants, food markets and lively bars to keep your bellies and hearts full.

After you’ve soaked up as much as you can of the Andean capital, you’d want to set your sights on the mountain villages of the Sacred Valley, through the Inca Trail and onward to Machu Picchu. The one-day route is the same ancient path laid by the Incas and takes you over three high passes, beyond the Wiñaywayna ruins. Other less-frequented treks include the Salkantay and Lares Valley trails.

There’s also the Choquequirao Trail, which will take you to one of the greatest draws in the region, Choquequirao – a remote complex of temples, huacas and bath systems that few people, including archaeologists, have explored. And the most colourful trek of all? The Ausungate Trail, which traverses the Cordillera Vilcanota and brings you to a Permian formation known as “Rainbow Mountain”. With a landscape striped in turquoise, rust red and golden-yellow waves, this glorious patch of earth looks as if it were painted by the gods.

Key Activities: Cultural Sights, Trekking, Camping, Hiking, Farm Stays, Local Immersion and Cuisine

Key Highlights

  • Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
    The Inca trek is one of South America's - and possibly the world's - most popular hikes. Passing through several Andean environments, from cloud forest to alpine tundra, the journey covers approximately 82km over plains, undulating hills, steep climbs and even steeper descents. The trail is the only one that reaches the citadel through Intipunku (Sun Gate), where a sunrise arrival will be an experience you'll never forget. Along the way, look out for an ever-more-impressive parade of ruins such as Sayacmarca and Qunchamarka.
  • Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu
    Even the most seasoned trekkers will tell you that it's imperative to acclimatise yourself before embarking on any trek. This rings true for Salkantay, the highest summit in the Vilcabamba mountain range, which is part of the Peruvian Andes. Though the Inca trek is difficult, the Salkantay one is tougher due to its distance (almost twice more) and higher altitude. So get your rest and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate prior to setting off. On this adventure, look forward to interacting with the mountain's inhabitants, discovering their way of life and traditions, and exploring Salkantay's ancient ruins.
  • Lares/Sacred Valley Trails to Machu Picchu
    If you're seeking a more cultural hike, the Lares route in its namesake valley is the one for you. The main draws are the Andean farming villages, markets, packs of alpacas and llamas, and lush natural beauty along the way. Alternatively, you can opt for a slightly longer hike from Sacred Valley directly to Machu Picchu. Ranging from 3-4 days, both trails end with a 90-minute train ride from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu.

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