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Andean Trails To Machu Picchu

n/a days
Grade 3

About the challenge

From high remote mountain trails to traditional Andean villages and Inca ruins, this is a challenging trek on steep trails climbing to 4600m in fantastic and diverse mountainous country. There is plenty of time built in to acclimatise to altitude as we enjoy exploring Cuzco, capital of the Inca Empire, and the surrounding Sacred Valley. Our trek takes us into the Lares region of the Peruvian Andes, passing green valleys, tranquil mountain lakes and high passes, with breathtaking views of snow-capped Andean peaks rising to just under 6000m. Our route takes us through many small village communities that offer a fascinating insight to traditional Andean life.

Finally, we make our way by train along the sacred valley of the Urubamba River to Aguas Calientes, and continue on to Machu Picchu, the legendary Lost City of the Incas perched high on the mountainside. We have plenty of time to explore this renowned site before returning to Cuzco.

The itinerary

Day 1: Fly London to Lima

Transfer to hotel in Lima or connect directly to Cuzco, depending on flight schedule. Night hotel/in flight.

Day 2: Arrive Cuzco

Morning arrival in Cuzco (3400m); transfer to our downtown hotel. After a trip briefing, the afternoon is free to explore the sites of this historic city, or simply adjust to the altitude by watching the world go by in one of the numerous cafés on the Plaza de Armas. Night hotel.

Day 3: Tambo Machay – Cuzco
Trek approx 5 hrs

Our first day’s trek takes us from Tambo Machay, an ancient ruin high in the hills above Cuzco. We pass some of the amazing Inca sites in the surrounding countryside as we walk downhill to Sacsayhuaman, the huge and impressive Inca ruin on the outskirts of Cuzco, before returning to our hotel. As well as beautiful scenery and fascinating ruins, today’s trekking offers excellent acclimatisation to the altitude. Night hotel.

Day 4: Cuzco – Maccau – Quisuarani
Drive approx 4 hrs; trek approx 5-6 hrs

After a second night at altitude we should all be feeling ready for action! We leave Cuzco behind us, heading out along the Sacred Valley to Calca, then continue past Totora to Maccau, where we start our trek. We follow a flattish path, passing giant puya raimondi cactus and enjoying views of Mt Sawsiray (5400m), stopping for lunch in a beautiful valley beneath a glacier. In the afternoon we have a short climb to our first high pass (4085m) with a dried-up lake, then a long descent to a pleasant terraced campsite above Quisuarani village, an amazing location with a number of snow-capped peaks towering around us. Night camp (3800m).

Day 5: Quisuarani – Huchayccassa Pass – Huacahuasi village
Trek approx 10-12 hrs

Today sees our big climb, rising from 3800m to 4458m. We leave the small thatched houses and stone llama enclosures of Quisuarani behind us and immediately start climbing. This is a gradual ascent along good tracks and paths. As we walk we pass children herding llamas and alpacas high in the mountains. After a couple of hours we reach Lago Qeuñacocha, from where there’s a good view of the steep track leading up the last 250m climb to Huchayccassa Pass (4458m). The view west from the pass is spectacular, with turquoise lakes below and white peaks in the distance. We descend to our lakeside lunch spot and then continue down to Cuncani, with its thatched stone houses and schoolhouse. After a brief rest stop in the village we continue along the valley floor for several hours towards the small settlement of Huacahuasi. Night camp (3840m).

Day 6: Huacahuasi – Huacahuasija Pass – Camp
Trek approx 9-12 hrs

After a good breakfast we set off up the Chachapata Valley with its scattered stone houses and enclosures, and are treated to yet more wonderful views of the mountains. The track climbs slowly at first but gets steeper as we climb to Huacahuasija Pass – at 4607m, the highest point on our trek – where we stop to rest and lay a stone on an apacheta (cairn) in thanks for our safe passage. We then zig-zag down a scree slope to Laguna Aruraycocha (4468m) and follow the shoreline of this beautiful lake below the retreating snout of one of Pumahuanca’s glaciers into native queñua woodland. Our lunchstop is at a lovely spot beside Laguna Milpo (4257m), with fabulous views up to the glaciers of Pumahuanca. After lunch, a good track takes us alongside a stream, heading down the valley through native woodland with views of a waterfall off to one side. We eventually come to our camp, set in a beautiful, isolated location not far from the road to Ollantaytambo, and the finish of our spectacular trek. Night camp (3700m).

Day 7: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Cuzco

An early start from camp sees us driving from camp to the road, and on to the town of Ollantaytambo (approx one hour). On arrival we board an early train for the wonderfully scenic ride (approx 90 mins) along the Urubamba valley to Aguas Calientes, the bustling village that serves as the station for Machu Picchu. On arrival we have breakfast and leave our bags in safekeeping before jumping on a bus for the short hop up the hairpin bends to Machu Picchu perched above us. Our early start has enabled us to get here before many of the crowds, and we enjoy a guided tour around this extraordinary site. There’s no rush to leave as we have hours to explore before meeting up in Aguas Calientes in the afternoon. Anyone who wishes can go down early to soak their aching limbs in the village’s hot springs. In the late afternoon we take the train back to Ollantaytambo and return to Cuzco by bus (approx 2 hours). Night hotel.

Day 8: Cuzco

After a good night’s sleep and a relaxing lie-in you have the day free to explore Cuzco or do any last-minute shopping. There may also be an opportunity to visit one of the local community projects we support, before meeting up again to celebrate our achievement at dinner this evening. Night hotel. (Lunch and dinner not included)

Day 9: Depart Cuzco

We board the morning flight to Lima and, depending on our flight schedule, we may be able to hire a bus (optional) to take us into Lima or the relaxed coastal suburb of Miraflores for a few hours, before returning to the airport in time for our onward flight back to London. (Lunch not included)

Day 10: Arrive UK

Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.

Detailed information

What's Included?

The cost includeds all accommodation as well as all flights and transport; internal air tax; camping equipment (except sleeping bag and sleeping mat); all meals except three as specified in the itinerary; entrance to Machu Picchu and all other sites visited as part of the itinerary. Experienced Discover Adventure leaders and doctor (depending on final group size) are also included, along with a local support crew of porters/horses, guides, cooks and drivers.

What's Excluded?

It does not include personal travel insurance, airline fuel supplement if charged by the airline, (this will be capped at £200 by us), three meals as specified, tips for local crew, or international departure tax. It also does not include any entrance fees to any optional sites or attractions, such as the hot springs. Remember to allow extra for drinks, souvenirs and other personal expenses. Please note that costs may fluctuate and we have no control over any changes. We strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.

Flight Information

Group flights leave from London Heathrow or Gatwick, (we regret that we are unable to book connecting flights), and are booked through Discover Adventure Ltd under ATOL licence 5636. By travelling with Discover Adventure you are protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
We are most likely to fly with Iberia and LAN airlines, however, we don’t always fly with the same airline so this is a guideline only. You will usually receive confirmed flight details several months before departure. Our itineraries are always based on current flight schedules and are therefore subject to change by the airline. If you prefer to book your own flights please ask us for a land-only cost.


We camp for three nights during the trek in two-man tents. The hotel in Cuzco is comfortable and clean with private facilities but please do not expect the same standards as you would in a tourist hotel in the UK!


All food is included when camping. The food is great and there is plenty of it. Three meals as detailed in itinerary are not included.

Dietary Requirements

Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Please do not expect as much variety as you would have access to at home – we will be in rural areas and among people of a different culture who may not understand your requirements, however willing they are to help. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat you may wish to bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally when we are in towns or cities and you are free to explore and try other culinary experiences! There is always something to suit every budget.

Trip Support

Discover Adventure Crew

Your trip will be led by experienced Discover Adventure leaders. Our leaders are selected for their experience in harsh wilderness environments, knowledge of travel in remote areas, friendliness and approachability, sense of humour and ability to safely and effectively deal with any situation that arises. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader.

All our leaders are from the UK or other English-speaking countries. Most work for us on an ad-hoc basis and have ‘real’ jobs in-between trips! We never send our leaders to the same destination for months on end – we want them to be as enthusiastic about your trip as you are.
Although our leaders are trained in expedition first-aid, they are accompanied by an expedition doctor or medic (dependent on group size), who is there to look after the well-being of the whole group and deal with any incidents. They help the leaders to ensure the trip runs smoothly and encourage you when things get tough. The number of crew looking after you will depend on the final size of your group, but an average-sized group in Peru would be led by two leaders and a doctor. At Discover Adventure we pride ourselves on our high leader: trekker ratio and believe it leads to greater trip enjoyment as well as excellent trip safety.

Local Support Crew

Our local support crew is made up of local guides, drivers and cooks, and porters or horses where appropriate. Your local guide knows the local area well, and is a great source of knowledge about local customs and lifestyles. Drivers, cooks and horse-men do not always speak English but are very friendly and approachable. The Discover Adventure crew work closely with the local crew to ensure your trip runs smoothly and safely. Your leader will arrange a collection of tips for the local support crew at the end of your trek. Tipping is not obligatory, but once you see how hard they work on your behalf you will be happy to donate something! See ‘Costs in Peru’ above for a guideline amount; your leader will let you know if there is any change to this guideline. All our local crew are paid wages, but bear in mind that the average wage in this country is far below what you would spend on a normal night out.


Vehicles take the group to the start of the trek and pick us up at the end. All luggage, food, water and camping equipment is carried by porters or horses. Space is limited and hard-sided luggage is not suitable, so it is essential that your kit is packed in a soft sailing bag, rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. We will provide you with sturdy bags to carry your luggage on trail (the weight limit is 8kg). You should also bring a small daypack to carry for items needed during the day as you will not have access to your main luggage until the evening.

Trip Safety

Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and emergency satellite phones, extensive medical kit and other safety apparatus where necessary. They always have access to our 24-hour emergency back-up in the UK. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate. Pre-trip administration – such as compulsory medical questionnaires and travel insurance – is all done with your safety in mind.

Preparing for the challenge

Trekking Information


Terrain is varied as we trek through valleys and over high mountain passes on stony paths and wide tracks. There are many steep sections both up and down, with very little flat terrain. This trek requires a good level of fitness. It is challenging mainly because of the altitude at which we are trekking. The trip is designed so that there is plenty of time to acclimatise to the altitude but you may still feel effects such as headaches and shortness of breath when trekking. You will trek approximately 40km on this trip overall.  Because of the varied terrain and lack of accurate maps, it’s impossible to give accurate daily distances. It’s also much more useful when training to think about the hours you need to walk for! You may think that 40km sounds short, but it’s your time spent trekking each day and the terrain that you need to focus on!

Clothing & Equipment

We are travelling through remote mountains where we could be exposed to bad weather at any time so be prepared for quickly changing conditions and temperatures. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice.


At 3400m, Cuzco is affected more by altitude than latitude, and is hot and sunny during the day (about 30°C) but chilly at night – a few degrees above freezing. May to September is officially the dry season but in the mountains it is unusual not to have some rain at any time of year.

Fitness Levels

Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. We expect all participants to train hard in advance to achieve this challenge, but we respect everyone’s limits. We design our challenges so that everyone can go at their own pace: this is not a race. For logistical and safety reasons we sometimes need to re-group, so the front-runners will find themselves waiting for the slower ones. Please relax, and remember that this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and earn sponsorship.

Passport & Visa

A valid ten-year passport is essential; it should be valid for at least six months after departure from Peru. There is currently no visa requirement for UK citizens. Other nationalities should check entry requirements.


We insist that you have had a Tetanus injection in the last ten years, and highly recommend protection against Polio, Hepatitis A and Typhoid. A Yellow Fever certificate is necessary if travelling into the rainforest, as is protection against malaria. You should always check with your GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.

Cultural Differences

For most people, the main attraction of travelling to a different country is to see new sights and enjoy new experiences. Sometimes those new experiences can make life harder or more inconvenient than you may like, such as toilet hygiene or different food, or simply a different attitude to solving problems. This is all part of the challenge you are signing up for! We are very privileged to live in a country with a high standard of living, and travelling exposes us to different challenges – all of which help broaden our horizons. We can guarantee that coming face-to-face with experiences outside your normal ‘comfort zone’ will help you bond with your fellow trekkers and provide you with plenty of things to laugh about! A sense of humour and sense of adventure are two of the most important things to bring with you!

Worldwide Sustainable Tourism

Long before ‘Responsible Tourism’ became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through.   We actively support several community projects in the areas local to our trips which you can visit on your free day.  In Cuzco itself, we have links with a regional hospital and a ‘Children’s House’ project. The latter provides a safe place for young children from poor families, who spend most of their time on the roadside while their mothers eke out a living selling wares on the streets. It also offers support to older children, who spend much of their time when not at school caring for younger siblings. The programme gives these children access to toys, books and crafts, and also teaches them how to cook nutritious meals.

Carbon Offsetting

We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them. Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with TCV and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Volunteer today at or call 01302 388883.