Our guide to the best day walks and longer treks in the Sacred Valley of the Incas
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Walking in the Sacred Valley of the Incas
The 'Sacred Valley of the Incas', or Urubamba Valley, is the heartland of the Inca tradition and still home to the descendants of a once great civilisation. This magnificent landscape, characterised by fertile fields alongside the Urubamba river, bordered by high and imposing mountains, can be seen from a vehicle, but is best experienced on foot. There are a number of excellent day walks on offer for those who like the comfort of a hotel at night, or multi-day treks for those adventurous enough to camp.
The Valley is also home to some of the finest Inca ruins and villages in Peru, still inhabited by Quechua-speaking people. A few days in the Valley offer a unique opportunity to slow down and mingle with the living Inca culture, while experiencing the spirit of the region. The more remote villages also offer the opportunity to experience the Inca traditions as they have been practiced for hundreds of years.
The Best time to travel to Peru
The best time to embark on any of these day trips or hikes is from late April to October. May and September are the best months for travel, from both a weather and price perspective, with June through to August being the peak season. November to March is the wet season, so there will be fewer people and an increased chance of rain.
Willoq 1 Day Hike
A trip to the village of Willoq, high in the Patacancha Valley, is a journey into the past - a visit to the descendants of the Incas. According to historians, the people of Willoq, with their traditional red ponchos and shawls, are the direct descendants of the last rulers of imperial Cusco and remain today one of the Andean communities least affected by Western influence.
The Willoq community is also well known for its weavers. Peruvian weaving draws on a legacy more than two thousand years old and the quality of the textiles produced in Willoq is still a product of the patience, knowledge and skill of the weaver. The primitive backstrap loom, unaltered for centuries, is still used to weave even the finest textiles.
Pumamarca 1 Day Hike
Starting from Ollantaytambo, you hike the 9km to the quarry of Kachiqhata. Gigantic stones of pink granite were partially shaped in the quarry and then slid down the hill and dragged across the river and over the fields. Once across the field, the stones were dragged up a 1,200 ft ramp to the Sun Temple site. Along the route we will see clear evidence of sudden abandonment - partially cut stones lie in the fields, on the roads and the ramp. These remains are known to the local people as 'piedras cansadas', weary stones, as they were too tired to go any further.
1 Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
This trek allows people to hike part of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu without having to spend the night camping. It starts by taking the train to Km104 of the railway line, where you get off and walk the rest of the way. You follow the path along the river for 3km to the ruins of Choquesuysuy and then take the trail up to Wiñay Wayna (approx 3hrs on a narrow steep trail from the valley up the mountain side). From there you walk along to Intipunku, the sun gate from where you should have your first views of the magical site of Machu Picchu. You will arrive in the late afternoon, stay the night at a local hotel and take a guided tour of the site the following day.
Santa Teresa Trek - The 5 Day Salkantay Trail
This 5 day trek combines high forest and towering mountains in the Vilcabamba Range. It is a spectacular journey through Apurimac and Urubamba canyons with the 20,000 foot peak of Salkantay in the background, as well as the peaks of Sacsara, Inca Chiriasca and Huayanay, to name just a few. We also pass thermal baths and walk through subtropical valleys with their coca, cacao, coffee, banana, orange and papaya plantations, all of which make this trek a unique experience. The trek ends in the village of Aguas Calientes, where we will arrive on the fourth day after a thirty minute train journey from the Machu Picchu Hydroelectric Station. Day five is dedicated exclusively to visiting the Machu Picchu archaeological site.
Lares Valley Trek - The 3 Day Weaver's Trail
This trek allows travelers to visit indigenous communities and observe their methods of production and traditional customs, as well as experiencing the beautiful scenery, flora and fauna of the mountains above the Sacred Valley of the Incas. With the help of local porters, muleteers and horses, this trek can be completed in three days, arriving on the third day at the village of Ollantaytambo, from where trains depart for Aguas Calientes, the small town below Machu Picchu. The fourth day of this program will be exclusively dedicated to visiting the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, followed by an afternoon return train ride to Cusco.
Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu - 4 Days
Tackle the Inca trail in the company of an expert local guide, porters and cooks and with equipment, including sleeping bags, provided for you. You will pass dramatic landscapes from sierra to cloud forests, replete with hanging vines, to subtropical jungle. An unforgettable experience of silent, secluded ruins, culminating with sunrise at Machu Picchu (2,380m). The Inca Trail can be completed as part of our 15 day Chasqui Active tour of Peru's Andean landscapes.