A Journey through a Fabled Past
The Inca Trail, though undoubtedly beautiful, is not the only way to reach Machu Picchu. For those who want to discover a new and lesser-trodden trail, or those who find the Inca Trail is fully booked (due to restrictions on the number of trekkers allowed), we have a seriously attractive alternative for you: the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. Though it is nowhere near as well-known as its famous counterpart (the Inca Trail) it is, unquestionably, just as magical. On this sample Peru tour, you will travel around the serene Sacred Valley where age-old ways of living and working with the land are still practiced, meet the local inhabitants (both of the human and animal variety), and delve into the world of the Incas. Finally, embarking on the Salkantay Trek you’ll ultimately reach what for many is the top bucket-list destination: Machu Picchu!
- Take the road less traveled by hiking the lesser-known Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, which is every bit as scenic as the Inca Trail.
- Wander the capital Incan city of Cusco with your private guide, discovering local highlights and hidden treasures at your own pace.
- Delight in luxury trek amenities, such as deluxe lodges, Jacuzzis, and nightly massages.
- Relish a luxury tour to Machu Picchu with your very own expert guide to explain the history, architecture, and theories surrounding the site.
- Discover the delights of Peruvian cuisine at the country’s finest dining establishments.
- Immerse yourself in local life with visits to remote Andean villages that are, for most travelers, uncharted territory.
- Enjoy enriching experiences with local artists at their workshops.
Itinerary at a Glance
Day 1: Welcome to Lima! – Arrival in Lima
Day 2: Over the Andes to the city of Cusco – Fly from Lima to Cusco and travel to the Sacred Valley visiting Maras and Moray on the way
Day 3: Climb to the top of the impressive Ollantaytambo Ruins and visit the vibrant Pisac market
Day 4: Enjoy a tour of “The Navel of the Universe” and former capital of the Incan Empire with your private guide
Day 5: Salkantay Trek – Begin your journey to Soraypampa! (Shared Group)
Day 6: Salkantay Trek Hike to Lake Humantay! (Shared Group)
Day 7: Salkantay Trek – Cross the Salkantay Pass! (Group Tour).
Day 8: Salkantay Trek – Descend into cloud forest territory and enjoy a traditional Pachamanca feast! (Group Tour)
Day 9: Salkantay Trek – Follow the Santa Teresa River Valley! (Group Tour)
Day 10: Salkantay Trek – Explore Llactapata Pass and get a glimpse of Machu Picchu! (Group Tour)
Day 11: The Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu! – Explore the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu with your trek guide, and return to Cusco by train
Day 12: Fly to Lima and enjoy an afternoon in the bohemian Barranco neighborhood!
DAY 1: Arrive at your hotel in Lima after your international flight to Peru!
Lima is a metropolitan city known for its colonial architecture and mouthwatering ceviche!
When your international flight arrives in Lima, look for your Kuoda host holding a sign with your name on it! We know you’ll most likely be a little tired after your long flight, so we’ll save you the stress of trying to navigate and bring you straight to your hotel where you can shake off that icky flight feeling with a shower and a sleep. Relax into the evening and enjoy a good night’s rest before your flight to Cusco in the morning!
DAY 2: Fly to Cusco and visit a local community in Chinchero, Maras, and Moray
Tucked into the Andes Mountains, the city of Cusco lies at 11,150ft (3,300m) above sea level!
Fill up with a complimentary buffet breakfast in the hotel before catching your morning flight to Cusco. The flight time between the two cities is welcomingly short (less than an hour and a half). The views from the plane window – the desert coast at first before the needle-like peaks of the Andes come into view – are a great distraction to pass the time. When you arrive in Cusco, we’ll be waiting and will take you on a private tour to the Sacred Valley. Your first stop will be the community of Chinchero. Besides being famous for its Incan and colonial architecture, it is well known for its church and handicraft market. Afterwards, we’ll pass through the town of Maras – before arriving at the town’s still-in-use salt pans. The small white evaporation pools that cover the hillside are still harvested by locals in a traditional manner. After a local gourmet lunch en route, you’ll be taken to see the ancient agricultural site of Moray. Experts today believe these grassy amphitheaters served as a farming laboratory, with the varying temperatures and soils of the ascending terraces providing different growing environments.
DAY 3: Take a full day excursion into the Sacred Valley, visiting Ollantaytambo, Pisac Market, and Pisac’s Archaeological Complexes.
Ollantaytambo is a lovely Incan town known for its original urban planning and awe-inspiring ruins.
Today you’ll witness just how Peru’s past shapes its present. We’ll start things in the ancient town of Ollantaytambo, one of the few remaining places in the Sacred Valley that has retained its original Inca urban planning. Walk through the maze-like streets which come complete with Inca-era canals and view the ancient houses still in use today which feature interior courtyards and trapezoidal doors.
Alongside your guide, climb past the agricultural terraces toward the Temple of Sun, where you can enjoy an Inca’s-eye-view of the valley. From this elevated position, you’ll also be able to see some of the quarries from where the stone for Ollantaytambo was sourced. It’s amazing to think how far these large stones were transported, especially considering the challenge faced by the Incas, who didn’t have pack animals strong enough to carry them.
Descend back into the valley to the pretty village of Pisac and browse the wares on offer at the market. Both travelers and valley villagers come from miles around to barter and sell goods ranging from textiles and dyes to fresh vegetables. After you’ve had your fill of shopping, you’ll venture up to a ridge high above the stepped agricultural terraces where Pisac’s mountainside Inca ruins are located.
At the end of the day, your guide and your drive will drop you off at your Cusco hotel so you can participate in a briefing about your upcoming trek.
DAY 4: Explore the hidden cobblestone streets of historical Cusco on a private city tour!
Tucked into the Andes Mountains, the city of Cusco lies at 11,150ft (3,300m) above sea level!
It’s time to get acquainted with Cusco, a gorgeous city that wins the heart of most every traveler that passes through it. Get to know the real Cusco during a private tour. After breakfast, meet your guide and wander among the archaeological remains of Sacsayhuaman, where the Incas staged a great battle against the conquistadors. Return to the city and roam the atmospheric streets of the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas, which is known for its free-spirited scene. Explore Qoricancha and the Santo Domingo monastery (a colonial structure built on top of the ancient Inca temple of the sun); see where the locals make their grocery runs at the open-air San Pedro market and pass the famous 12-angled stone, whose image appears on the bottle of the local Cusqueña beer.
At the end of the tour, your guide will suggest places to visit for lunch. This evening, rest up before you begin the physically demanding portion of your Peru journey: the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu!
DAY 5: Start your journey on the Salkantay Trek!
The Salkantay Trek is a difficult yet immensely rewarding trek; we recommend some sturdy yet worn in hiking boots!
After an early breakfast, you’ll be picked up from your hotel in Cusco. About an hour and a half drive outside of Cusco through the purple and blue mountains of the Andes, you will visit the Tarawasi Incan ruins, and then reach Marcoccasa. Here, you will begin your trek on the “Camino Real.” It will be a few hours hiking today before reaching your first lodge, the Salkantay Lodge and Adventure Resort in Soraypampa.
Salkantay Lodge takes its name from the majestic peak at the head of the valley, Mt. Salkantay. Eternally topped with a covering of snow, Salkantay’s 20,600-foot summit is the highest in the region, and is often obscured by the swirling clouds that rise from the jungle. For the Incas, it was one of the most sacred mountains. You’ll be given a characteristically Peruvian welcome to the lodge and will have time to freshen up before enjoying dinner.
Sleep overnight at the lodge, which – at 12,690 feet – is a good place to acclimatize to the thinner air.
DAY 6: Relax and enjoy Soraypampa before the real hiking begins
Lake Humantay’s surreal turquoise water is thanks to glacial meltwater
Today is all about rest and relaxation in the breathtakingly beautiful Humantay Lake only a half an hour from the lodge. After this excursion of about four hours you will enjoy an evening at the lodge, maybe take a dip in the outdoor Jacuzzi, and prepare for the next few days of rigorous hiking.
DAY 7: Reach the highest point of the trek at Vilcabamba Range
A few Ziploc freezer baggies are also a great idea for keeping your electronic devices warm and dry on the trail.
Today, the challenge begins! We’ll get off to a mesmerizing start, with the sun illuminating the Andean peaks as we hike up the Rio Blanco valley, circling Humantay Peak across from the summit of Salkantay. Once we reach the highest point on the trek, Salkantay Pass, we’ll take a break. At 15,213 feet, the views from here are – as you can imagine – glorious, with the white-hatted Vilcabamba Range looming in every direction and the glaciated south face of Salkantay towering above. Be on alert for Andean condors zooming by; these majestic birds are often seen soaring around the rocky ledges.
From the pass, we’ll descend toward Wayra Lodge, our destination for the night. ‘Wayra’ means wind, and references the nearby Wayracmachay, literally the “the place where the wind lives.” Hikers will be given ample sustenance, with a hot picnic lunch served en route and dinner at the lodge.
DAY 8: Descend into the cloud forest and enjoy a Pachamanca feast
The Pachamanca is a traditional Andean cooking method using hot stones and an underground earthen oven
Start with breakfast at Wayra Lodge, then continue your descent along the left bank of the Salkantay River. The lower we go, the more verdant the scenery becomes. As the warm air from the jungle rises to meet us, so too do the colorful creatures who thrive in its warmer climes: intricately patterned butterflies flutter through the air and attractive orchids can be seen spurting up from the ground.
Our destination is Colpa Lodge, a charming lodge set on an open plateau at the confluence of three rivers. Once we get there, you and your fellow hungry hikers can fill up on Pachamanca – a traditional Peruvian meal made by layering meat and vegetables with hot stones and cooking them in a covered earthen pit. After, you might want to sooth your shaky calves with a soak in the outdoor Jacuzzi and enjoy the mountain panoramas from the tub. Or, should you crave something a little more active, you can ramble along the nearby orchid trail. Dinner will be at the lodge.
DAY 9: Trek past rural farms and explore small villages following the Santa Teresa river valley
In some of the farms you will pass by today, you will see granadilla, which is a Peruvian fruit known for its aid in digestion, heals stomach ulcers, helps to stabilize the nerves, plus other health benefits.
Today, your luxury Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu continues with another bout of hiking. This time, you’ll tramp along the more populated Santa Teresa River valley, where encounters with locals are much more likely. You’ll see evidence of how the valley dwellers make their living. You’ll pass through plantations and may even see the local inhabitants tending their crops of banana, granadilla, avocado, and coffee. Caffeine enthusiasts may be interested to know that some of the best organic coffees in the world are produced in this very valley!
Come lunchtime, we’ll find a suitable spot to stop by the river and refuel with a hot picnic. After lunch we’ll get moving again, though just for an hour or so until a private vehicle comes to collect us to make the 30-minute transfer to the beginning of the Llactapata Inca Trail.
Tucked away into the mountainside among a laden avocado orchard is our next overnight stop: the strikingly set Lucma Lodge. It’s here where you’ll have dinner and sleep – that is, if the excitement of finally glimpsing Machu Picchu tomorrow doesn’t keep you awake!
DAY 10: Get a first glimpse of Machu Picchu and arrive in Aguas Calientes
Llactapata like Machu Picchu was first discovered for the Western world by Hiram Bingham
Today you’ll tackle the last day of your trek. The first two to three hours will be an uphill slog toward Llactapata Pass, which sits at an elevation of 8,974 feet yet pales in comparison to the higher altitudes of your first days trekking. Here, you’ll be treated to your first view of Machu Picchu in the distance. This vantage point – you’ll see the site from the southeast – offers out-of-this-world views and is one that few travelers get the privilege of seeing.
After gawping at the ruins, we’ll take some time out to check out the Llactapata ruins, which were also “discovered” by Hiram Bingham on that fateful expedition in 1911. The site, which has been restored recently, looks better than ever. We’ll sit down for lunch at a special scenic spot, which looks out onto Machu Picchu.
After lunch, we’ll start descending again toward the Urubamba River, passing through several camera-worthy landscapes comprised of bamboo forest, orchards, and plantations. From there, you’ll ride the train to Aguas Calientes, the closest settlement to Machu Picchu and your final overnight destination before exploring Machu Picchu properly tomorrow. Celebrate your completion of the Salkantay Trail over dinner with your guide!
DAY 11: Tour the Machu Picchu Citadel with your Trek guide
Machu Picchu will take your breath away with its enigmatic and historical atmosphere.
Today will be a day that remains permanently etched in your mind, long after you’ve returned from your personalized trip of Peru, for today will be the day you finally set eyes on the storied city of Machu Picchu! After an early breakfast at your hotel, meet your guide and begin the bus ride up switchbacks to the Lost Citadel. As you trek up the entrance’s stone steps, heavy foliage hides the surrounding views until you emerge at what seems like the top of the world, with Machu Picchu spread out below. You’re sure to reach for your camera to try and capture the vista, but before you do, be sure to take a moment to stop and truly appreciate this staggering site. Return to Aguas Calientes for a late lunch, before heading back to your return train to Ollantaytambo.
DAY 12: Tour the inspired streets of bohemian Barranco and bid farewell to Peru!
The Limeñan district of Barranco is home to Peru’s most influential artists, musicians, and cultural commentators.
Going home is the worst part of any private Peru vacation, but at Kuoda, we’ll do our best to make it as smooth and hassle-free as possible. First, we’ll bring you to Cusco airport for your return flight to Lima. In Lima, a Kuoda host will meet you and take you to the seaside bohemian district of Barranco. See the streets of Barranco come alive as you visit a number of local art galleries and shops that support local artisans. Finally, enjoy a first-class gourmet meal featuring world-renowned Peruvian flavors in a restaurant of your choosing before returning to the airport for your journey home! Buen viaje!
Like the sound of this Journey Through a Fabled Past private tour? Get in touch with Kuoda and we’ll start crafting your very own customized private travel experience to Peru!
Notes: There are many additional activities that can be added to the Journey Through a Fabled Past private tour, as our tours are entirely customized to your interests, hobbies, and expectations!
- Make the most of Peru’s natural beauty with outdoor gourmet picnics, which include scrumptious local dishes as well as restaurant-style trappings such as real glassware, tableware, and a professional waiter.
- Take the reins of a Peruvian Paso for a trail ride through the Sacred Valley.
- Sit down with a shaman for a private meditation ceremony.
- Observe local weavers at work during private demonstrations.
- Hone your kitchen skills during Peruvian cooking classes with celebrated chefs.
- Admire views of the Andes from your luxury, vintage-style carriage on the Belmond Hiram Bingham Train on your way back to Cusco.
- Lunch on hearty Peruvian fare hosted by a local family, who will welcome you into their private home.
- Personalized itinerary planning: Work with a Kuoda Travel Designer to create the trip of your dreams.
- Kuoda hosts take the hassle out of traveling. They’ll be there to assist you – whether with luggage, check in, transport or translating – at every destination during your private tour of Peru.
- Got a question or query? Kuoda operate a 24-hour, seven day a week customer service operation and can provide updates and assistance whenever you need it.
- With Kuoda, you’ll never be bundled in with big groups; each visit, activity, tour and experience will be completely private and conducted by your very own expert, English-speaking guide.
- Our private tours of Peru are fully flexible, which means we can modify them to suit your travel mood. So if you want to cut an activity or add on a new one, just say the word!
- All necessary adventure and trekking equipment will be provided so all you need bring is yourself.
- Receive a customized Kuoda Travel kit upon arrival.
Our staff hand picks the best hotels in the country to ensure you experience utmost comfort and character.
Feel free to browse our recommendations and let us know if you’d like to incorporate a specific property in your customized journey!
This sample itinerary offers the stunning Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, Peru’s lost citadel. This Journey Through a Fabled Past itinerary will serve as the perfect inspiration for you!
Please know we will work with you to change or modify these tours however you deem necessary – all Kuoda itineraries are crafted just for you, built to suit your individual interests and schedules. Interested in customizing this particular itinerary?
The price will be based on final accommodation choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.