It is easier to go down a hill than up, but the view is from the top” – Arnold Bennett
When it comes to knowing where to find the world’s best hiking trails, what better experts are there than the folks at National Geographic? The magazine recently compiled its list of 20 trails worldwide that hiking enthusiasts dream about taking, and the Ancascocha Trail in the Peruvian Andes was included. With a number of challenging ascents at high altitudes this trek is not for the faint hearted, but it is a true adventure especially prepared for people who love nature, peace, and the most spectacular mountain scenery.
Hiking the Ancascocha trail is offered by very few companies and so is definitely one of the less crowded trails that you can take from Cusco (you may well get quizzical looks in Cusco when you say you’re hiking Ancascocha!) but don’t be put off by its lesser known status.
This stunning trek takes you past ancient Inca ruins and through traditional Andean villages such as Chillipahua and the trail’s namesake Ancascocha (3,700m/12,139 ft.) Here you may briefly share the trail with farmers and shepherds tending to their livestock and their simple lives.
Your fitness will be tested as you climb a number of big passes, including the highest point at the Chiriasca pass (4,960 m/16,272 ft.) At all times though your guide and crew will ensure that the pace is suitable for everyone in the group, taking breaks for rest and food whenever needed. The rewards for your efforts are staggering, with panoramic views across the snow-covered peaks of the Andes, cascading waterfalls, crystal blue lakes and the towering 20,551 foot (6,266 m) Apu Salkantay. The trail formerly connected Limatambo, Machu Picchu, and Choquequirao and so in the distance you will see many of the original Inca trails into the mountains, partly covered by the passage of time.
We will spend 3 nights camping at the most beautifully remote, peaceful locations. The night skies in the Andes truly have to be seen to be believed. Depending on pace you can expect to hike for around 8-10 hours per day, but each day 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 well-earned night’s sleep you will be woken at dawn with a cup of steaming hot fresh coffee or tea and hot water to wash with, before sitting down for a nutritious and energizing breakfast. All you need for the days hiking ahead.
On the 4th day we take the train to Aguas Caliente, our base for visiting Machu Picchu. You will have photo opportunities galore as the train carves its way along the valley floor. Your final night will be spent in a top quality 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.
So if you’re ready, put on your hiking boots, take a deep breath and take a hike with us through some of the most breathtaking and inspiring landscapes in the Andes, or indeed in the world.
Total distance hiked: 53 km/33 miles
Beginning altitude: 3850 m/12,631 ft.
Maximum altitude: 4,960 m /16,272 ft.
Overall trek difficulty: Challenging
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 Action Peru duffle bag so that you can pack your gear for the trek.
The days with Action Peru start early and you will be picked up from your Cusco hotel at 5am for the 3 hour drive to Mollepata. Here our chef will prepare an energizing breakfast at a local house, and you will also have the chance to purchase any last minute supplies.
From Mollepata we continue our drive for another hour until we reach Soraypampa (3850 m/12,631 ft.) At Soraypampa, we will meet our horseman (and horses!) and all the rest of our crew who will accompany us on this adventure. After making final preparations, we being our hike for 1 hour uphill to the crystal blue waters of Umantay Lake where we will stop to soak in the incredible views of the lake and the surrounding glaciers. We then take a 45 minute return downhill.
From Soraypampa we take a scenic 2 hour gentle uphill hike to Salkantaypampa (4, 100 m/13,451 ft.) where we will have our first views of the spectacular Apu Salkantay (6271m/20,574 ft.) and a well-deserved lunch. After lunch, we hike a challenging, less traveled uphill path for 3 ½ hours until we arrive at our camp for the night at Pampa Japonesa (4,610m/15,124 ft.)
The campsite is located at the base of the stunning mount Salkantay and if the night is clear you will most likely see the most stunning display of stars and distant galaxies. Your chef will prepare a sumptuous and hearty dinner before we retire for the night to rest our weary limbs!
You will be woken at dawn with a steaming hot cup of coffee or coca tea and a delicious, nutritious breakfast. Day 2 is a strenuous and long hike which will climb up to many high passes. But don’t worry, your guide will ensure we take a pace that best suits the group, and take plenty of rest when needed.
With incredible views of the Andes all around us, we first hike uphill for 2 hours to Inca Chiriasca pass (4,960 m /16,272 ft.) Here we will be able to see the magnificence of the Vilcabamba and the Urubamba mountain ranges. Make sure your camera batteries are fully charged!
We then hike along an original Inca Trail for 3 hours until arriving at the Tocto pass (4820m/15,813 ft.) where we stop for lunch. Once again our team will have forged ahead (you will wonder at how they move so quickly!) and the lunch site will already be prepared for our arrival.
After lunch, we continue for another 2 hours to the Calacocha pass (4,660 m/15,288 ft.) and then for a further hour to the pass of Cruz Casa (4,620 m/15,157 ft.) After a short 1 hour climb to the Millpo Pass, from here we take a gentle descent for an hour to our camp for the night at Millpo (4390 m/14,402 ft.)
We rise very early on Day 3 and after breakfast we begin by hiking uphill for about an hour to the Chusquenay pass (4,630 m/15,190 ft.) followed by a 1 hour descent to the pass of Rumi Inca. We continue upwards for an hour to the valley of Yahuarmaky.
Climbing again for about two hours until we reach the pass of Aqocasa (4,689 m/15,383 ft.), this is yet another spectacular place to enjoy the vistas across the magnificent Andes. Here we can see part of the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu far in the distance as well the Salkantay, Humantay, and Huayanay glaciers. The glaciers are simply breathtaking!
From Aqocasa pass, we descend for 3 hours to a small Inca ruin named Inca Racay. We will stop here for our lunch and your guide will tell stories of the ancient ruins.
After lunch we climb for an hour to the Huayanay pass (4,650m/15,255 ft.), and then take a steady 3 hour downhill path to the small village of Ancascocha and our camp for the night (3,700m/12,139 ft.)
On Day 4 we take a 6 hour hike downhill through the most incredible canyon to the small village of Chilca. On our way we will pass several small villages and no doubt see the villagers going about their simple lives. We will also see beautiful orchids and many of the wild plants that the locals use for medicinal purposes.
Once we arrive at Camicancha (2,900 m/9,514 ft.) we will enjoy our last lunch from our chef before taking a local van to Ollantaytambo. It is from here that we take a 2 hour scenic train ride to the beautiful town of Aguas Calientes (2,040 m/6,692 ft.) Photo opportunities are endless as we carve through the valley floor into the lush green vegetation of the Aguas Calientes area.
Arriving in town, we escort you to your quality hotel where you will have some time to relax before dinner. After 3 nights in the mountains, your comfortable hotel room (and the hot shower!) 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 take dinner together at a 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 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
WHAT’S IN A NAME: Action Peru Treks? Action is a word we are all familiar with and probably use on a regular basis without too much thought! However, it is worth a look at the dictionary to understand what makes the word Action in our name special. ACTION: Doing things that require physical movement and energy; something done so as to accomplish a purpose; involved in the activities of a group and organization.