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Trek the Great Inca Road and Inca Trail

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Trek the Great Inca Road and Inca Trail

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Description

On this epic 19-day trekking adventure, you’ll join a local leader and a traditional llama caravan to hike storied paths that few travellers have seen, visiting archaeological sites along the way on the iconic Great Inca Road. Acclimatise to the altitude in the adventure hub of Huaraz, hike through the spectacular surrounding landscapes and then carry on to Lima to retrace the steps of the Incas. Recharge in the capital city before your journey through the fertile heartland of the Sacred Valley, seeing the Ollantaytambo ruins along the way. Choose your own adventure (on the Inca Trail, Quarry Trail or the scenic train route) to Machu Picchu – sitting high in the Andes, you’ll be able to tick one of the Seven Wonders of the World off your bucket list! End it all in Cusco, a foodie’s paradise and cultural hub, and get closer to the secrets of the elusive civilisation that once resided here.

Trip Name
Trek the Great Inca Road and Inca Trail
Last Updated
2024-02-15
Days
19
Capacity
12
Highlights
  • Hike on the ancient and little-visited trade routes of the Great Inca Road, taking in seriously spectacular views of the Andes and visiting well-preserved yet remote Inca outposts.
  • Your hike along The Great Inca Road will culminate at the incredible Maya site of Huanuco Pampa – where you’ll meet a local guide for a private tour of these significant ancient ruins.
  • Whether you trek the Inca Trail, Inca Quarry Trail or take the scenic train route, you'll be travelling responsibly with a company that cares about balancing profit and purpose. Intrepid is the largest B Corp certified operator on the Inca Trail and we’re committed to operating our treks for the benefit of all.   
  • Set your sites on the mysteries of Machu Picchu, nestled within an Andean rainforest high in the mountains. This trip gives both trekkers and non-trekkers the chance to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World with the Inca Trail, Quarry Trail or train option. 
  • Travel through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, known for its steep and soaring scenery, mystical significance and Indigenous cultures that still reside here. Enjoy lunch at a local community and then visit an organic café providing support to local women. 

Itinerary

ITINERARY CHANGES Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It's important that you review this information prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays, political unrest or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in-country. Your group leader or local representative will keep you up to date with any such changes once your trip is underway. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance fees only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and maybe on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your group leader or local representative know you are interested at the Welcome Meeting and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high-risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and group leader or local representative are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk. DEMONSTRATIONS & STRIKES: Demonstrations and protests, often in response to local labour or social issues, occur regularly in Peru. National strikes can be called at short notice and can cause disruption to road networks leading to inevitable itinerary changes. We will do everything possible for these changes to be at little or no extra cost; however in such circumstances we find that travellers may need to use their contingency funds to cover the costs of itinerary changes. HEAVY RAIN ON THE INCA TRAIL If it rains heavily for a number of consecutive days, the terrain at the third campsite (Wiñaywayna) can become unstable, increasing the danger of landslides and making it unsafe to camp. This occurs mostly during the wet season (December to March) although it can also happen at any time of the year. Your trekking guide may assess that it's safer to spend the third night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu), or if available, to camp at Puente Ruinas campsite. You may need to use your contingency funds to cover any additional costs. An letter can be provided for lodging a travel insurance claim for these costs.

Day 1 - Lima
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you’ll meet your local leader and fellow travellers and find out important information about your trip, including what to expect on the storied Great Inca Road. As this trip doesn’t spend much time in Lima, you may like to arrive a few days early – just get in touch with your booking agent ahead of time. If you do arrive with time to spare, there’s plenty to see and do in Peru’s capital. There’s the famous suburb of Miraflores, Kennedy Park and Lovers’ Park, and the 16th-century monastery of San Francisco with its catacombs of some 10,000 remains. There are also plenty of museums including the Museum of the Inquisition, the National Museum and the Gold Museum.
Day 2 - Lima to Huaraz
Get ready to reach new heights (literally) as you say goodbye to Lima and drive to the city of Huaraz, sitting at an altitude of 3000 m. Your drive will be broken up with plenty of stops and the everchanging scenery is sure to keep you occupied. Surrounded by mountains, lakes and a national park, Huaraz is considered the adventure capital of Peru, despite remaining relatively undiscovered by tourists. When you arrive, stretch your legs with a walk through the town, taking in view of the Cordillera Blanca, home to 17 mountain peaks that exceed 6000 m, more than 500 lagoons and 722 individual glaciers. Just be sure to take it slow today – it can take a while to adjust to the altitude.
Day 3 - LLanganuco lakes & Laguna 69 hike
After breakfast, board a transfer to the Llanganuco Lakes in Huascaran National Park for your hike to the unbelievably blue Laguna 69 (Lake 69), sitting at 4600 m above sea level. Your first hike will be fairly short, steep and slow – you’ll be taking it easy so you can adjust to the altitude. Start your hike on a flat path through an open meadow, taking in amazing views of the snow-capped peak behind you. Then the climb begins, zig zagging up a well-trodden path towards the lake. This is the most challenging part of the hike and your leader will set a safe pace. When you arrive to Laguna 69, you’ll see that the climb was so worth it – it’s one of the brightest, clearest and bluest lakes you’ll ever see. Take some time to soak it all in, then make your descent, returning back to Huaraz for the evening.
Day 4 - Laguna Churup hike
Another day, another awe-inspiring hike. Today’s destination is Laguna Churup, a seriously spectacular turquoise lake at 4450 m above sea level, surrounded by snow-dusted mountains. While not as well visited as Laguna 69, it’s every bit as beautiful. Still taking it easy to adjust to the altitude, begin your hike with a steep set of steps. Then it’s onto a path, from where you can take in views of the surrounding mountains, valley and waterfalls. The path can be steep and slippery at times, so sturdy footwear is an absolute must. The lake itself is often surrounded by mist, creating an eerily beautiful site on arrival. If the whole group is up for it, you can continue for another hour or so to a smaller and higher lake called Laguna Churupita. Make your descent then return to Huaraz for a chance to put your feet up.
Day 5 - Pastoruri glacier hike
Travel south of Huaraz today to begin another super scenic hike. First, drive through Andean villages, seeing local shepherds and farmers working in the fields using traditional methods before entering the Huascaran National Park. While it doesn’t cover a huge distance, today’s hike is all about altitude, as you’ll be trekking towards the Pastoruri Glacier, sitting at an elevation of 5000 m. But don’t worry, you won’t be climbing the whole way! Driving the winding road through the park takes you pretty high, then it’s a roughly 1 hour walk to the face of the glacier. Pastoruri is one of the few glaciers left in South America's tropical areas and is expected to have retreated entirely in the next ten years. Follow a well-maintained path up to the glacier, stopping at a viewpoint to shoot some pictures of this disappearing beauty. You can visit a bright blue glacial lake nearby before heading back down and returning to Huaraz for an evening at leisure.
Day 6 - Great Inca Road: Castillo to Soledad de Tambo
Now that you’ve had a chance to acclimatise to the altitude of the Andes, it’s time to say goodbye to Huaraz and drive to the little town of Castillo, where your Great Inca Road trek will begin. Far from the crowds of the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, which hosts 25,000 hikers a year, the Great Inca Road is light on tourist traffic – in fact, you may not see any other travellers on your journey. But that doesn’t make this route less important. These trails are a remarkable example of the Inca’s preindustrial engineering and are strewn with the remains of ancient cities and outposts. As you hike, you’ll be accompanied by porters, as well as a team of llamas, just as the Inca were. Llamas are still extensively used in this part of Peru as they leave a light impact on the historic trails. This moring head to the Chavin de Huantar Archaeological site for a guided tour and to explore the underground tunnels.  Stop for lunch at the Village of Chavin de Huantar and visit the museum which hosts the remains of the Chavin Culture (pre Inca). This afternoon you will hike up a section of the trail towards Soledad de Tambo, the site of ancient Inca ruins and your base for the night. You’ll arrive in time for lunch, so take the time to refuel and get to know your stunning surroundings. Check out the Inca ruins and chat to the local archaeologists to learn about its history. This evening, sit back and take in the starry sky of the Andes.
Day 7 - Great Inca Road: Soledad de Tambo to Quenhuajirca
Lace up your boots and depart your camp in Soledad de Tambo, this time hitting a section of the Qhapaq Nan, an ancient Inca network of roads covering 30,000 km from the Andes to the coast. The trails have been classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO thanks to their social, political, architectural and engineering achievements. Spend the morning climbing Inca-made stone steps to the 4572 m pass at Wagapunta, where you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the Andes. Here you will find apachetas; spiritual stone towers made by the Inca to communicate with a higher power. Arrive to your camp at Quenuajirca this afternoon. Here you will meet a master weaver to learn about his work and his life on the Great Inca Road, where his family have lived for generations.
Day 8 - Great Inca Road: Quenhuajirca to Tambo Grande
After breakfast at camp, descend into the village of Ayash, coming across a wide stone staircase that proves just how advanced the Inca’s engineering was. After entering a pleasant valley, climb up another section of the Qhapaq Nan to the village of Huamanin. You’ll then follow the trail along the Taparaco river basin to Tambo Grande, your base for tonight. Tambos were stone structures built by the Inca for administrative or military purpose, so you’ll be sleeping in a piece of history tonight. After the sun goes down, be sure to look to the stars – you’ll soon understand why they played such a huge role in the society and religion of the Incas.
Day 9 - Great Inca Road: Tambo Grande to Isco
Your journey along the Great Inca Road continues today as you follow the path beside the Taparaco river. This is one of the most impressive stretches of the trail thanks to the Inca’s brilliant engineering – you’ll see walls here that are in amazing condition despite their great age. By walking these roads, you’ll receive unparalleled insight into the life of the Incas in a way that few people ever experience. Arrive to your camp in San Lorenzo de Isco this afternoon.
Day 10 - Great Inca Road: Huanco Pampa
Continue your hike towards Colpa, the point where the Taparaco and Vizcarra rivers meet. From here, you’ll climb to Huanuco Pampa, an incredibly significant archaeological site. Join a local guide for an in-depth tour. These vast ruins contain the remains of more than 1000 buildings and storehouses, making it easy to imagine what life here once looked like. At the centre of the site you’ll find an ushnu, a pyramid-shaped structure that was used by the Inca as a platform for their most important ceremonies. The ushnu at Huanuco Pampa is the largest remaining in Peru. Spend two hours exploring the site, then travel back to Huaraz where you’ll have the chance to relax and refresh after your big adventure.
Day 11 - Huaraz to Lima
Buckle up for the journey back to Lima. It’s another long driving day, but it’s the perfect chance to kick back, watch the scenery and reflect on all you’ve seen and done over the course of your adventure. There’s still time for one more fascinating stop along the way – the Caral-Supe archaeological site. Before the rule of the Incas, the Caral civilisation flourished on Peru’s coast from 3000-1800 BCE – in fact, they’re the oldest civilisation in the Americas. The Caral left behind the enormous complex you’ll explore today, which was built at the same time as the first pyramids in Egypt. Discover circular plazas, a 28 m high temple and residential dwellings, all incredibly well preserved. Tonight in Lima, perhaps gather your group for a final dinner together – your leader will have recommendations on places you can make the most of Lima’s vibrant food scene.
Day 12 - Lima
You have a free morning in Lima today, before your second welcome meeting at 2 pm to meet the new travellers joining you. After the meeting, head downtown for a guided walking tour of the city's historical centre to take in the impressive mansions, palaces and churches that line the streets. Then, you’ll have the rest of the afternoon free. You might visit the Museum of the Inquisition to learn about Spanish colonialism in Peru. Otherwise, wander around the city until night falls, then embark on an optional Lima Bites and Sights Tour with Urban Adventures, taking you to the bohemian Barranco district to sample the best local street food and Pisco cocktails.   
Day 13 - Cusco
This morning you'll take an included flight from Lima to Cusco. When you arrive, you'll have a meeting at 2 pm for those travellers joining you here. After, get acquainted with this charming city's intriguing blend of cultures on a guided walking tour with your leader. Check out some of Cusco's main attractions, as well as its lesser-known sights such as the Qoricancha temple, San Pedro market, the main square, the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square. End the walking tour with a visit to the Chocolate Museum where you get to sample hot chocolate made from local cacao beans. There’s also a small store where you can shop handicrafts and artisanal chocolate products. Don't miss the opportunity to sample mate de coca (coca tea) while here.
Day 14 - Ollantaytambo
This morning, drive through the Sacred Valley. Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, the valley has been a source of livelihood for the locals for hundreds of years. You’ll see maize crops covering the terraced walls and the sacred river beneath. Stop for lunch in a local community, where you'll also get the chance to learn about their traditional lifestyle and maybe wrap your tongue around a few words of the Quechua language. If it’s market day, you'll have time to browse the local handicrafts on offer, such as beads and ponchos. Then, visit the AMA Restaurant in Urubamba for afternoon tea – this café is dedicated to working with single mothers throughout the Sacred Valley, where there are few opportunities for childcare and employment. As all the ingredients used here are grown and purchased locally, the establishment also prides itself on its organic and locally focused practices. Enjoy a coffee, tea or juice with a slice of vegan beet cake or a homemade cookie and continue your journey to Ollantaytambo. Check out the town’s fascinating archaeological site – ancient remnants of an Inca city with soaring views over the present-day settlement.
Day 15 - Inca Trail
Depending on the travel arrangements you made before the trip, during the next four days you’ll be either hiking the Inca Trail (Route 1), hiking the Quarry Trail (Route 2) or staying in Cusco for two days before taking the train to Aguas Calientes (Route 3). All routes visit Machu Picchu. While away from Cusco, the bulk of your luggage will be stored at your hotel. If you’re hiking the Inca Trail or the Quarry Trail, the evening before you leave you'll receive a small duffle bag to carry your clothes in for the next four days (5 kg maximum). Your team of porters will carry these bags for you, together with the food and equipment for the trail. You won't have access to these items until the end of each day, as the porters will always be ahead of the group. If you’re travelling to Aguas Calientes by train, you'll be able to leave most of your luggage at the hotel in Cusco and travel with only a small bag for the overnight stay in Aguas Calientes. Route 1 Inca Trail Today, travel by minivan to the 82 km marker and meet your crew of local porters, your cook and your guide. Your first day will include uphill trekking to the campsite, which sits at 3100 m above sea level. On the way, you’ll see the Inca sites of Ollantaytambo, Huillca Raccay and Llactapata, as well as incredible views of snow-capped Veronica Peak. In the evening, unwind at the campsite with a nourishing meal prepared by your cook. Route 2 Quarry Trail Make an early start today and drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Incas worshipped the moon. From here, you’ll head to the small community near Qory Song’o (Golden Heart) hill, where you’ll climb to the top for the incredible views of the Soqma Perolniyoc, Pachar and Huarocondo valleys. There are also several sacred tombs in the area, protected by the locals, which you can explore with your leader and even see some of the original structures crafted from wood and leather. These remains have never been seen by travellers before, so you can be a part of this exclusive experience. Carry on to the Perolniyoc Cascade lookout, where you can stop for some snacks and photos. Arrive at the campsite, 3700 m above sea level, around lunchtime. After, set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which once served as a checkpoint to the Incas. Route 3 Cusco: After spending the night in Ollantaytambo, take a short drive to the town of Pisac. Pisac is well known for its market. Here you’ll have the opportunity to shop for souvenirs and perhaps try some local empanadas. Arrive back at Cusco in the afternoon, where your leader will take you to San Pedro Market, where you have the option to buy some local favourites for a picnic tomorrow.
Day 16 - Inca Trail
Route 1 Inca Trail This is the most challenging day of the trek, as you ascend a 5-hour long steep path to reach the highest point of the trail. Colloquially known as 'Dead Woman's Pass', Warmiwanusca sits at a height of 4200 m above sea level, providing amazing views of the valley below. The group will then descend to the campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3650 m. Route 2 Quarry Trail This is the most challenging and rewarding day of the hike. A 3-hour walk takes you to the top of the first pass of Puccaqasa, about 4370 m high. After enjoying the picturesque views of the valley, it’s a short walk before stopping for lunch. After, make the 2-hour hike to Kuychicassa, the highest pass of the trek at 4450 m. From here, descend to the sacred site that the Incas called Intipunku. This is a sun gate, where the sun will stream through at particular times of the year and there are views of the Nevado Veronica mountain year-round. The Incas built several sun gates, the most notable overlooking Machu Picchu. Head to the campsite, only a stone’s throw away and at 3600 m. Route 3 Cusco Today, take a taxi to Tambomachay, an archaeological site just outside of Cusco. From here you’ll take a 1 to 3 hour walk back to Cusco. On the way, stop to admire some of the archaeological sites, including Puka Pukara, Qinqu Quenqo and Saksaywaman. Arrive back in Cusco in the afternoon and enjoy some free time. Maybe visit the Merida, Mendivil and Olave art galleries and workshops before finding a great spot to sit down and enjoy some dinner.
Day 17 - Inca Trail
Route 1 Inca Trail Start the day with a climb through the Pacaymayo Valley to Runkuracay Pass at 3980 m. Enjoy views of the snow-capped mountain of Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending for around 2 to 3 hours to the ruins of Sayacmarca. Continue over the trail’s third pass to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca at 3850 m, also known as the 'Town Above the Clouds'. Start the 2-hour descent down the Inca steps to the final night's campsite by the Winay Wayna archaeological site. Route 2 Quarry Trail Today’s hike will all be downhill. The first stop is the incomplete Kachiqata quarry, where the Incas were intercepted by the Spanish. Explore the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo when you finish your trek, before taking the short train journey to Aguas Calientes. This is where you’ll meet with the travellers in your group who didn't hike. Spend the night in a hotel before tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu. Route 3 Train to Aguas Calientes After a 1.5-hour drive to Ollantaytambo, you’ll catch a 1.5-hour train through the winding Urubamba Valley to Aguas Calientes. The city is nestled in the cloud forest at the foot of Machu Picchu. This is where you’ll meet up with the travellers in your group who hiked the Quarry Trail. Spend the night in a hotel before tomorrow’s visit to Machu Picchu.
Day 18 - Cusco
Route 1 Inca Trail This is the final and most spectacular leg of the trek to Machu Picchu – one of the famed Wonders of the World. The day starts before dawn, with breakfast at 4 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and begin hiking. Once the final checkpoint opens at 5 am, you’ll begin the final 2.5 hour trek to Intipunku (the Sun Gate). Weather permitting, you’ll enjoy unforgettable views over the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ as you enter Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate. Route 2 and 3 Machu Picchu to Cusco Take an early bus up to Machu Picchu at 5.30 am. The city was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for the Incan nobility, but there’s evidence that the land had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Take a guided tour around the ruins of temples, palaces and living quarters. This is a day to remember! For all travellers, after taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, it's time to catch the bus to Aguas Calientes, where you’ll stop for lunch together. From here, take a scenic train ride to Ollantaytambo, then drive back to Cusco, arriving in the evening.
Day 19 - Cusco
Your trip comes to an end today, and there are no activities planned. If you’d like to stay longer, just speak to your booking agent. You may want to consider purchasing a Boleto Turistico (tourism ticket) It gains access to the many fascinating museums here, such as the Contemporary Art Museum, Regional History Museum and Qosqo Native Art Museum. Please speak with your tour leader about this for more details.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
21-07-202408-08-2024AUD $ 7,766-
11-08-202429-08-2024AUD $ 7,766-
12-06-202530-06-2025AUD $ 8,540-
10-08-202528-08-2025AUD $ 8,540-

Accommodation

Great Inca Road portion: Hotels (7 nights),Camping (4 nights). Route 1 Inca Trail: Camping with basic facilities (3 nights),Hotel (4 nights). Route 2 - Quarry Trail: Camping with basic facilities (2 nights),Hotel (5 nights). Route 3 - Train option: Hotel (7 nights).

Transport

Plane,private vehicle,taxi,train,bus

Map