Step out of life, and back to nature
The Ancascocha Trail in the Peruvian Andes is a remarkable trail that, unlike other more popular trails, remains off the beaten track and away from crowds. Yet don’t be put off by its lesser known status.
Named by National Geographic as one of 20 dream hikes on their World Best Hikes list, this stunning trek takes you past ancient Inca ruins and through traditional Andean villages such as Chillipahua and the trail’s namesake Ancascocha (3,700 m/12,136 ft). Here you may briefly share the trail with farmers, shepherds and their livestock tending to their daily lives, so far removed from the tourist crowds of Cusco.
Your fitness will be stretched as you climb a number of big passes, including the highest point at the Huayanay Pass (4,650 m/15,255 ft). The rewards for your efforts though are staggering, with panoramic views across the Andes, cascading waterfalls, crystal blue lakes and the towering 20,557 foot (6,266 m) Apu Salkantay. At all times, your guide and crew will ensure that the pace is suitable for everyone in the group, taking breaks for rest and food whenever needed.
At the end of the first 2 days of hiking, you will arrive at camp to find your high quality tent already pitched (complete with mattress and pillow), your gear in place, and your crew preparing a sumptuous dinner. After a night under the most incredible starlit skies, you will be woken right on time with a cup of steaming hot fresh coffee or tea, before sitting down for a nutritious and energizing breakfast. All you need for the days hiking ahead.
On the third day, you will spend several hours hiking a portion of the Classic Inca Trail, to the sacred valley town of Ollantytambo. This is likely to be the first time you will see other hikers!
Taking the scenic train to Aguas Caliente you will have photo opportunities galore as the train cuts along the valley floor. Your final night will be spent in a comfortable hotel with a group dinner at an excellent local restaurant (drinks not included). Rising as early as you want, your itinerary concludes with a guided tour of Machu Picchu and a ticket to climb either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountains (subject to availability). Witnessing this new wonder of the world is an incredible spectacle that will stay with you forever.
Finally, with your camera loaded with photos and your head loaded with incredible memories, you will take the train back to Cusco and a transfer back to your hotel.
You will be given a thorough briefing by your guide 1-2 days before your trek starts. Your guide will meet you at our office in Cusco to talk you through the trek itinerary, and you can take this opportunity to ask questions and make any final preparations. You will also be given your duffle bag so that you can pack your gear for the trek.
After meeting you at your hotel, we leave Cusco early in the morning and drive 1h 45m to Soqma (3,205 m/10,512 ft). This is the starting point of our trek and where we meet the horsemen (and horses) that will be our porters during the hike.
The hike begins with a 1h 45m hour walk to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout. The waterfall is breathtaking, and you can even take the short climb down to the base of the falls for some fantastic photo opportunities (and cool down if the weather is hot)! Then, hiking for a further 45 minutes we visit the Inca site of the same name. Perched on a cliff-top with spectacular views of the surrounding valley, your guide will share some of the history of the site and the Incas and you will be free to wander through the ruins, imagining life 500 years ago.
Next we make a steep ascent for around an hour to reach our lunch spot, Rayan (3,700 m/12,139 ft). Here you will sample for the first time the incredible culinary skills of your chef, with a chance to rest, relax and refuel for the afternoon’s hiking.
The afternoon begins with a challenging 3 hour uphill hike to reach the Kuychiccasa pass (4,450 m /14,599 ft). Passing the rustic houses of the farmers, at every turn you will see sumptuous views of the snow-capped peaks of the ‘Nevadas’, wild llamas, sprawling valleys, and if we are lucky, a passing condor (the largest bird in the Andes with a wing-span of up to 10 feet across!).
As we reach the top of the pass (perhaps a little breathless) we take a break to soak in the magnificent views of the Chancachuco Valley on one side and the Sacred Valley of the Incas on the other.
From here it is an easy 45 minute downhill hike to reach our camp for the evening at the Chancachuco Valley (4,312 m / 14,147 ft). Here, with the campsite already prepared when you arrive, you can change into warmer clothing and lie back to watch the sky gradually fill with the most incredible display of stars (clouds permitting!) before joining your guide and your fellow trekkers for a well-earned, hearty dinner.
You will be woken with a cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea, followed by a full breakfast to fuel you for the morning ahead.
We begin with a 45 minute undulating hike followed by a 20 minute ascent by way of a narrow trail that follows a stream with beautiful views of Mt. Veronica (5,822 m/ 19,100 ft).
We then take a 2.5 hour walk downhill to reach the small community of Ancascocha (3,700 m/12,139 ft), in a small but gorgeous wooded valley with a stream running through it.
Continuing uphill for 1 hour you will enjoy views of the nearby glacier and well preserved Inca remains, before reaching the beautiful crystal blue Ancascocha Lake where we stop for lunch.
After lunch we continue our ascent towards the Huayanay Pass (4,650 m/15,255 ft). This is a strenuous 2 hour climb along a steep switchback trail which brings us to the highest point of our trek. Along this section you will see an original cobblestone paved Inca Trail.
After taking time to enjoy the incredible views from the summit, we embark on a 3 hour descent into greener vegetation. Along this stretch we will have a distant vista of the classic Inca trail to Machu Picchu as well as fascinating views of the communities of the Quesqa valley. We will also pass the small Inca site of Incaracay.
Finally we will reach our campsite, nestled in the Quesqa valley (3,850 m/12,631 ft). Once again, your chef will serve an excellent dinner as we reflect on the sights and sounds of the day.
On our final day of trekking we descend from Quesqa Valley for 2 hours until we reach the Inca site of Paucarcancha (3,133 m/10,278 ft) where your guide will provide a comprehensive commentary about the site.
We then join a section of the Classic Inca Trail and make an easy hike downhill for 5 hours until we reach Km 82, which is the official start of the Classic Trail. Along the way we will be able to see the Inca site of Llactapata. Lunch will be served at Km82.
After lunch we will be picked up by our private local van and transported to Ollantaytambo (2,792 m/9,160 ft) to catch the scenic train to Aguas Calientes. Photo opportunities are endless as we carve through the valley floor into the lush green vegetation of the Aguas Calientes area.
After 2 nights in the mountains, your comfortable hotel room will be a welcome sight. The natural hot springs in town are also a great place to relax if there is time before dinner. We will take dinner together at a nice and quality local restaurant with an extensive menu (drinks not included) before retiring to the hotel to prepare for the early start on Machu Picchu.
After a very early breakfast at your hotel we take one of the first buses (5:30am) along the winding road to Machu Picchu to see the magnificent sunrise. Your guide will then give a 2 hour walking tour of this breathtaking site, named as one of the new 7 wonders of the world. Your entry ticket to Machu Picchu is included in the price of the trek.
If you have elected to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountains you can begin the hike once your guided tour concludes. The ticket price for Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain is also included in the price of your trek. If you choose not to climb the mountain you will have plenty of free time to explore Machu Picchu before returning to Aguas Calientes by bus.
Arriving back in Aguas Calientes you will board the expedition train to Poroy or Ollantaytambo. From here you will travel by private van to Cusco and back to your hotel. Your arrival time in Cusco will depend on the time of your train ticket.
*The standard trek includes a permit to climb Huayna Pichu Mountain which is a fairly easy 1 hour hike. However, if no tickets are available (e.g. due to late booking) then a permit to climb Machu Picchu mountain will be issued. Note that this is a 2-3 hour strenuous climb up and down following very steep and narrow steps
*In the event that Huayna Picchu Mountain is sold out, you will receive a permit to hike Machu Picchu Mountain
* nb. Batteries run down faster at high altitudes