The Amazon jungle hides one of the most exciting legends about the lost city of the Incas. After the Spanish invasion of Peru the last Incan rulers left for some city in the jungle, where they lived from 1536 to 1573. The name of the city was Vilcabamba. Spanish friar and chronicler Fray Martin de Murúa describes this place in his Historia General del Pirú (General History of Peru) as follows:
“The climate is such that bees make honeycomb like those of Spain in the boards of the houses, and the maize is harvested three times a year. It is good agricultural land, and the water used to irrigate the land increases the harvest yield. Cocoa, sugar cane, manioc, batata (sweet potato) and cotton are abundant here. The town has a location half a league wide (the same as Cuzco) but covering a long distance in length. Here they raised parrots, hens, ducks, local rabbits, turkeys, pheasants, curassow, macaw and thousands of other birds with various bright feathers. guava, pecan, peanuts, papaya, pineapples, avocado and other fruit trees.
In 1532 the Spaniards defeated the Incas. Upon their invasion of Cusco, the Incans chose a new leader, Manco Inca. He was the youngest brother of the Incan royal family. Manco Inca fought against the conquistadors in Cusco, almost defeating the invaders until he received a message from Pizarro that the Virgin Maria was coming to destroy all Quechuan soldiers who were fighing the Spaniards. He decided to take his people and escape to a safe place. He first fled to Ollantaytambo, because he wanted to go to Machu Picchu, but it was too close to Cusco so instead he decided to go to Vilcabamba. Manco Inca and his army arrived in 1536 and founded the new capital of the Incas.
From Vilcabamba, we will hike along views of the Pomata Glacier (5.500m), make connections with the local people (as well as learn some of the indigenous language Quechua, so you can communicate on your own!), camp in the jungle, and walk through tropical forests. We will also make a long stop at the hot springs in the town of Aguas Calientes (Hot Waters) – a well-deserved treat after all of our hiking!
The Vilcabamba Trek takes you off the beaten path to the area of Cusco where the Incas made their last stand. Following the Spanish conquest, the Inca withdrew far in to the jungle from where they continued to resist the occupation. Vilcabamba was the last Incan city; this trek takes you to some of the last domains of this once great empire. With beautiful scenery, ancient Incan sites and a wide variety of flora and fauna, the Vilcabamba Trek is a great adventure.
By booking the Vilcabamba Trek with PumaPath you are choosing the best!
- Starting Altitude – 2911m / 9550ft.
- Highest Altitude – 3915m / 12,844ft.
- Walking Distance – 50km / 31 miles
- Longest Day – Day 3, approximately 18km / 11 miles
- Overall Difficulty – Difficult
Day 1 : Santa Maria Village – Huancacalle – Vilcabamba
After a 7:00am breakfast, we will take a private van for three hours to Huancacalle. Along the way, we will make some short stops to visit plantations where Peruvians grow coffee, cocoa, achiote, bananas, oranges, mandarines, mangoes, pineapples, papaya and the green gold of the incas – coca. You will be able to buy some goods to take with you. We will pass through several small villages before arriving to Huancacalle (2900m) by noon. Here we’ll meet our arrieros and will give them the duffle bags to be taken to the camp. At 1:30pm we will have our first lunch. After lunch we will walk one hour to reach the last capitol of the Incas. Here you will learn how and why the Incas fled from Cusco to this place. Afterwards, we’ll walk another 30 minutes to get to the religious complex of this Inca site named Ñusta Chispanan by the Spaniards. This part of the site was the Sun Temple, Moon Temple and Water Temple. We will spend the night camping very close to Vilcabamba. When we arrive, our tents will already be set up and we’ll have happy hour, plus dinner. Then you will sleep like a baby alpaca!
Walking distance: 5 km (2 hours)
Campsite altitude: 3,100m
Considered: Easy day
Area: High cloud forest
Weather: Warm and very humid
Day 2- Llaulliyoc – Asutiyoc – Raccachaca
You will be awoken by your guide bringing you a hot cup of coco tea, followed by breakfast at 6:30am. On our second day, we’ll start hiking gradually up an ancient Inca trail which hasn’t been restored by the National Park. The big difference between the classic Inca trail and the Vilcabamba route is that very few people hike this trail. Along the way we will start to see some glaciers such as Pomata Glacier (5.500m). We’ll have a picnic lunch at 4,000m. Then we will hike up to the first pass at 4.200m, before descending two hours from the pass to arriving at Wasichayoc (3.400m). This is where we will intersect the Pacchanta river and see farmlands with Andean crops, llamas and sheep.
We wil follow the river to our campsite, arriving around 5.30pm. We will be spending the night in a village called Raccachaca (3.600m) .
Walking distance: 16 km (7 hours)
Campsite altitude: 3,600m
Considered: Moderate day
Area: High cloud forest and the Andes
Day 3- Raccachaca – Pumaccasa- Mojon – Mutuypata
We will have an early breakfast and a chance to visit a traditional house to see how people live up to 3.600 meters above sea level. We’ll give some grass to the guinea pigs and some gifts to the children. From the village, it will be a steady uphill walk through three high passes. Iif the weather is clear and there are no clouds, we will be able to see Machu Picchu Mountain at the bottom of the mountains. On our right side will be the Pumasillo Mountain at 5.800m. The whole day we will spend crossing the Vilcabamba Mountain Range. We’ll break for lunch in a place called Mojon, which is beside a lake.
After lunch we will walk five and a half hours, mostly downhill. On the way, we will see more Andean geese, rodents, chinchillas, and maybe even bears! By 5:30 pm we will arrive at the Mutuypata campsite (2,900m) in the high jungle.
Walking distance: 18 km (9 hours)
Campsite altitude: 2.900m
Considered: Most difficult day
Day 4- Mutuypata – Hot springs- Aguas Calientes
We will wake up at 6:30 am and have breakfast before walking gradually downhill. We will be walking in the high jungle and the tropical forest, which will be exciting for those who are interested in flora and fauna. There will be no other trekkers along the way to disturb the wildlife. When we hear the sound of the Ccasccara River, we’ve reached the end of the trek at Punta Carretera (2,000m) We’ll say goodbye to our arrieros with a gratitude ceremony and take van for one hour to the most beautiful hot springs, called Cocalmayo (1300m). While you are enjoying the hot springs, our porters will prepare the last lunch we’ll have with them. We will have two hours at the hot springs, which will be plenty of time to relax your muscles after an exhilarating hike. At 2:30 pm, we will have lunch and say good bye to our porters. We will then take a van to the Hydroelectric Station. The last train is at 4:30 pm and takes about 45 minutes to get to Aguas Calientes. We will then take you to a hotel where you can take a hot shower and a nice dinner.
Walking distance: 11 km (4 hours)
Considered: Easy day (downhill only)
Area: High cloud forest
Weather: Warm and humid
Day 5- Machupicchu
We will wake up early to take the first bus up to Machu Picchu, or you can choose to walk. When we arrive at Machu Picchu , your guide will take you to a great spot to watch the sunrise. Then, you’ll have a three hour tour of Machu Picchu and plenty of time after to explore by yourself. At 1:30pm we’ll return to Aguas Calientes to have our last lunch together. We typically take the 3:00 pm train to Ollantaytambo, and then a private bus back to Cusco, arriving around 6:30pm.
If desired, an extra night in Aguas Calientes can be arranged. (Please let us know whether you would like to stay an extra night when booking your tour.)
Walking distance: One hour up to Machu Picchu
Considered: The most exciting day!
Area: High cloud forest
Weather: Warm and very humid
- Ceremony with your tour guide and locals
- Pick up from your hotel
- Bus transportation
- One night hostel in Santa Maria Village
- Entrance fee to Vilcabamba Inca site and guided tour
- 2 person tent (large and comfortable)
- Foam mattress (carried by horses)
- Dining and cooking tents with tables and chairs
- English speaking professional guides (2 guides for groups over 10 people)
- Full meals including: 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 4 dinners, evening happy hours plus snacks.
- First-aid kit including emergency oxygen tank
- Chef, cooking equipment and kitchen tent
- Horsemen and horses (to carry tents, food, cooking equipment)
- Emergency horse
- Boiled water for your personal bottle
- Transfer from the end of the trek to hot springs and to Hydroelectric station
- Train from Hydroelectric station to Aguas Calientes
- Tourist Train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo, transfer back to Cusco
- Entrance fee to Machu Picchu Archaeological Complex
- Guided tour of Machu Picchu
- One way bus ticket from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes
- Hotel in Aguas Calientes (double or triple accommodation)
- Optional climb to Huaynapicchu (book in advance)
- Tips for your guides, chef, porters, horsemen. Tips are not mandatory but are a great gesture of gratitude.
- The first lunch in Ollantaytambo and the first dinner in Santa Maria
- Good backpack
- Hiking boots
- Walking sticks (can be rented from the company)
- Warm clothes (temperature changes often – you might have 4 season all in one day)
- 4 T-shirts, sun hat, 2 pants/trousers, gloves, 4 pairs of socks, rain jacket, warm jacket
- Camera and extra batteries
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Insect repellent
- Rain poncho
- Toiletries/toilet paper/towel
- Bathing suit (if you want to go to the hot springs)
- Sandals are recommended for the evenings
- Water bottle (water tablets optional)
- Personal medical kit
- Original passports
- Student card (if applicable)
- Plastic bags (in rainy season)
- Snacks: candy bars, nuts, fruit, etc
At PumaPath, your comfort and safety are of our utmost concern. Therefore, we provide all necessary camping equipment for your trek. Included in prices are: sleeping tent, rollmat and pillow for your comfort. Please feel free to bring your own sleeping bag if you prefer.
- 2 people : US$700 per person
- 3 people : US$690 per person
- 4 people : US$595 per person
- 5 people : US$575 per person
- 6 people+ : US$555 per person
- Student Discount: US$20 (Requires ISIC Card to qualify)
- Optional Extras:
- Sleeping Bag US$30
- Walking Pole US$25
- Inflatable Mattress US$25
- Single Tent Supplement US$75
- Mule to carry extra 7kg of personal items US$75
TRAIN TIMES: On the fourth day we will take the 2:55, 4.42 or 6:45PM train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantayatambo and then we will transfer you back to your hotel in Cusco.
HUAYNAPICCHU MOUNTAIN: If you are thinking of climbing Huaynapicchu mountain, you must book this at the same time as your trek. Only 400 people can hike Huaynapicchu per day. You will climb it on your own after the tour in Machu Picchu around 10:00 am. The price is $25 per person.
HORSES OR PORTERS: On this trek we provide horses to carry food and camping equipment. There will be one cook, his assistant, two horsemen, and one porter who will be picking up trash on the trail. You will have a personal allowance of 7kg for your gear. This will not be available during the day as the horsemen will be ahead of the group.
OUR GUIDES: Most of our guides began as porters before they went to Cusco University and Institute where they learned about the Inca history. They are always learning in order to be the best guide. They each speak English fluently, along with Spanish and Quechuan, the Inca Language. They are all able to communicate with natives from around the area and have lots of history to share with you.
OUR FOOD: Definitely one of the highlights of the tour is the food. It is always fresh and most of it is organic. There is always a lot to eat and a variety of options including vegetables, meat, chicken, fish and other types of protein and carbohydrates. Everyone sits down to eat together and we go out of our way to accommodate all dietary requirements including vegetarian options and any food allergies. We do not provide any alcoholic drinks on the trek but if you would like you can bring your own.
OUR EQUIPMENT: We provide 4 man tents for only 2 people and foam mattresses for everyone. Our dining equipment includes a spacious dining tent, tables and chairs, plates and utensils. We do not supply walking sticks, but they can be rented from PumaPath. We bring an extra blanket for all our hikers for those especially cold nights. Just ask and your guide will provide you with this.
Please note that if you are over 1.95 meters / 6´4″ tall then you won´t be able to rent a sleeping bag in Cusco. In this case it is recommended to bring your own.
WE ARE SUSTAINABLE: We always pick up waste along the trail as we go. We respect the local people, teach them to keep the land clean, and help the local children. We always take one extra porter who will be on the trail just to clean up the bottles and plastic bags that those who came before us threw away.
WE ARE RESPONSIBLE: We treat our hikers, porters and all the local people from the villages with the utmost respect. We travel in small groups to give personalized tours to each traveler. We pay good salaries to our porters and follow the Porter’s Law. We provide all our porters with their hiking gear such as shoes, pants, jackets, t-shirts, hats, sleeping bags and most importantly, health insurance.
FITNESS: The trek is certainly not easy but you do not need to be an athlete or a trekking expert to complete it. Fitness is naturally important but this is the kind of trek that anyone with a positive attitude and determination can do. Obviously the more fit you are the more you will enjoy the trail and the more chance you will have to take in the scenery and appreciate the Inca ruins dotted along the way. If you do not exercise regularly, it is advisable to do some extra walking or some kind of aerobic activity in the months leading up to your trip.
Many people worry whether they will be able to cope physically but complete failure is rare and would usually only result from severe altitude sickness or a person lacking even a basic level of fitness. People of all ages (from teenagers to pensioners) complete the trek and age itself is no barrier if you are positive minded and live an active lifestyle. Before departing for your tour, we recommend visiting your doctor who will be able to provide you with more information.
STORAGE DURING THE TREK: During the trek your main luggage will be stored in Cusco and you will receive a small duffel bag at your trail briefing (briefings are normally set for the evening before the trek) to pack clothes for 3-4 days. Your team of porters will carry these bags together with the food and equipment. Please note that you will not have access to these items until the end of each day as the porters will always be ahead of the group. You should therefore bring a day pack in which you can carry personal belongings such as your camera, water, sun screen, etc. By Peruvian law the duffel bag carried by the porters must not weigh more than 7kg (14pounds). You can either store your luggage at your hotel or you can leave it with us.
BOOKING: The Vilcabamba Trek to Machu Picchu is available to depart any day of the week so long as we have two people. You still need to book in advance.
Thanks for traveling with PumaPath , a 100% local company!