It really has the best of everything that Peru has to offer: Cusco, the historic Incan village of Ollantaytambo, an epic 5 day trek to one of the most spectacular but rarely visited Inca site in Peru (Really!), plus an 10,000 all-downhill bike ride from the Andean glaciers of the Continental Divide down to the warm, high Amazon jungle basin where you will be picking a banana from the side of the road ! Oh, and of course we will visit the 7th Wonder of the World – the lost city of Machu Picchu. The great thing about this trip offering from KB Tambo Tours is that you will see it all like a local traveler and not a tourist, as we bring you the off the beaten path twist to the trip that we are so well known for!
Arrive Cusco, acclimate and relax in the main square of the Imperial City. We will have a cup of coco tea or freshly roasted coffee from the Amazon jungle before making the two hour drive to Ollantaytambo. This drive is one of the most beautiful to be found anywhere in the world. It goes straight into the heart of the massive Andes glaciated mountain range as well as past several Incan sites. You will see a stunning landscape of colorful farmland, small cottages in a typical local lifestyle, and did we mention the HUGE mountains ?!
We will arrive to Ollantaytambo and basically take it easy the rest of the day, depending on how each individual is feeling from the effects of a long overnight international flight and of course the high altitude (Ollantaytambo is at 9350 feet/2850 meters above sea level, while Cusco is at a lung-gasping 11,220ft / 3420 meters). There is ample walking around town that can be done, and several short hikes right from our doorstep. This part of the trip is unguided and you are on your own, though our staff at the hotel will be on hand to answer questions and dispense advice. We have learned that one key part of avoiding the stomach issues that many travelers suffer from, is to leave the Cusco visit for the end of the trip, when you are properly acclimated, especially after a long distance international flight.
Ollantaytambo is a very quaint, scenic and beautiful little original Inca village and is the perfect place to just ease into things. Here you will see many locals, many of whom are still dressed in traditional Inca fashion – handmade colorful ponchos made with natural dyes from the highlands. This isn’t done for the benefit of tourism, rather this is how the mountain people have been living here for hundreds of years. For those feeling up to it, there is ample hiking around to various Inca sites in the hills literally just steps from our front door. The town itself is breathtaking, nestled in a small valley at the intersection of several glacial rivers from the high Andes mountains.
Known as “The Living City of the Incas”, it is believed to be one of the longest continually inhabited villages on the continent of South America, and in our eyes is the Jerusalem of the western hemisphere – this is the very birthplace of the Incas by many accounts, and it is loaded with history and Inca buildings, as well as a still functioning irrigation canal system built over 500 years ago by the Incas, who built a long stone canal from the base of a glacier 26 kilometers away right into town. Everyone loves Ollantaytambo ! Old meets new without the typical touristy feeling or locals trying to gouge you – go to the local market and you will pay the same price as a local resident.Tonights dinner is one of three not included in the trip but we can give you advice on where to go.
Even if you don’t think you are that interested in plodding around old sites with a bunch of stones, you are going to love today’s itinerary ! We’re going to first visit the famous and unfinished Incan fortress of Ollantaytambo, followed by a great lunch of local fare and then an afternoon of hiking and mountain biking through two more amazing Inca sites: Salt Mines and Moray.
The fortress of Ollantaytambo was built by Inca Pachacuti in the early 1400’s but in fact was still in the process of being built when the Spanish suddenly arrived in 1532 and changed history. Their sudden departure gives us the chance to see just what an Incan work site looked like. This is a World Heritage site and the architecture and stonework is fantastic ! There is a $25 entrance fee that is not included in the itinerary price, however we will pay for and provide an English speaking guide for the fortress visit. Your “regular” guide will not be on the ruin visit part of today, they will be preparing the bikes for the afternoon ! The fortress visit is optional.
In the afternoon after a lunch at the best restaurant in Ollantaytambo (cost not included in the trip but very reasonably priced) we will load up our van with Kona full suspension mountain bikes with hydraulic disc brakes and head out to mountain bike to 2 of the most unique and interesting Incan sites in all of Peru – The Salt Mines (salineras) of Maras and the mysterious coencentric rings of Moray. There is a small entrance fee at each site, but it is included in the package. Linking the two together is a nine mile rolling single track through local farm fields and with spectacular vistas of the glacier-capped Andean mountains along the way. After visiting the Salt Mines, there is another long, rollicking single track descent to the Urubamba river below, in the heart of the Sacred Valley. The biking is nearly all flat or downhill and there are just two short and small climbs of a couple hundred feet of vertical. The ride is rated as Intermediate, which means that off road experience is necessary, as well as complete familiarity with how to work shifters and brakes. Anyone who has those skills and has biked off road can handle this no problem ! After the ride, we will return to the hotel, where you are free to do what you like for the rest of the evening. Ollantaytambo is a charming ancient village that you will greatly enjoy walking around and there are ample estaurants and bars to wine and dine.
Today we depart for Choquequirao, which is a “sister” site to Machu Picchu and rarely visited – yet gaining enormously in popularity every year, due to its awesome-ness. We frequently hear from travelers how they wish Machu Picchu wasn’t so “touristy” and even more so their wish that they had hiked the Inca Trail back when (2001) one could do it on their own, without a guide or registration process, and with less crowded and more pristine campsites. This is your opportunity to go back and time and do so. While the route there itself is not Incan trails, just about every thing else about the experience, in our opinion, is better than Machu Picchu. The trek is in a very remote region and there are only basic camping and toilet facilities, which is part of the reason (along with its difficulty) that this trek sees literally a fraction of the other travelers compared to hiking the Inca Trail, This is definitely an “off the beaten path” trip, which is why we love it so much !
There are very little crowds and a decidedly rugged and off the beaten path feel to this adventure. It should be noted that this is a very difficult trek and almost all of the hiking is either straight up or down a very steep trail that traverses the famed Apurimac River. This is an advanced trek, and decent physical fitness is necessary, and those with knee, leg, or lung problems should think carefully and consult with both us and your physician before booking. The trek is 64 kilometers round trip over 5 days, and averages around 1200 meters or 3700 feet of either climbing or descending per day.
After an early start, we will hike down to the Apurimac river and the rest area known as “The Playa”, or ‘the beach’ in Spanish. This is the famed Apurimac river, its named translated from the Incan language of Quechua means “God that speaks”, referring to the loud noise of the rushing river, particularly in rainy season.
The Apurimac river is famous for its literary depictions of the hanging cable bridges that cross it. The bridge here at The Playa was washed out in a flood in 2011. Currently, there is a basket and cable system for crossing the river. This is a simple but effective system of a steel cable stretching across and a wire basket that hangs from it and carries 3 to 4 people at a time. Never mind the shot on the right of KB crossing the river on a hand harness, the photo was taken just after the bridge washout and before the new basket was put in place.
Choquequirao is an amazing place, and today we will have a private visit to this sister site to Machu Picchu, first discovered in the late 1880’s by a frenchman and then visited by Hiram Bingham in 1911. This site is believed to have been built by Topa Inca, the son and successor of Pachacuti, who himself built Machu Picchu.
The stonework and architecture is different here than at Machu Picchu, but shares the same epic mountain overlook views, carved water fountains and baths, majestic staircases, huge terraces, and shaped stonework.
One unique feature is what is known as “the llamitas”, or little llamas. Over twenty excavated Inca terraces on the sheer side of the cliffs of Choquequirau reveal a succession of a climbing llama train, leading the way up to the Incan palace. The scope and engineering of this site is breathtaking and it remains our favorite place we have ever been to in Peru. It is extremely common to find ourselves the only group there. This day will surely be one of the highlights of your traveling experiences.
Day 6 and Day 7
Day 6 has us retracing our route of the previous days, descending back down to the Apurimac river, and back up the other side to our last nights campsite, where we can relax a bit and just enjoy our accomplishment. The next morning, we will get up early and hike back out to Cachora, where our van will be waiting for us. After a local lunch and goodbyes to our mule crew and their families, we will make the four hour drive back to Ollantaytambo and a well deserved hotel room and good nights rest. Tonight is the third of three nights dinner that is not included, however we definitely are going to point you to the best restaurant in town, Puka Rumy, which is reasonably priced at around $10 a dinner.
Today we split up into two groups, those taking the 8 day option and those doing the extended 10 day option. Most of the group will be doing the 2 day extension mountain biking to the jungle and Machu Picchu. For those doing the 8 day trip, you will take an early morning train to Machu Picchu today, and visit this 7th Wonder of the World, constructed by the Incas in the 1400’s.
If you are skipping the extension, you will likely be accompanied by one of our local guides, as the primary group guide will have gone biking to the jungle with the others. Our local guide will meet you at the train station in Aguas Calientes and give you your bus and entrance tickets and help you get on the bus to Machu Picchu. It is a 20 minute bus ride and once you arrive there are optional English speaking guides if you want one. Your Machu Picchu entrance ticket as well as your bus ticket is included with your package.
Your return train ticket to Ollantaytambo is also included, and your arrival to Ollantaytambo marks the end of the tour. We recommend arranging with us to stay here tonight, rather than making the extra 2 hours on to Cusco. Just email us and we can help you get all this organized !
For those taking advantage of the 10 day program, you are about to go on what we think is one of the funnest trips in Peru and maybe the whole world. We will depart drive one hour up to Abra Malaga (14,400feet) to the base of the massive glacier of Mt. Veronica. Then, we will all hop on our disc brake equipped mountain bikes and blaze down more than 10,000 foot newly-paved road to the outskirts of the Amazon jungle below. Stunning views, amazing bike ride. We will then make a short drive to our eco lodge in St. Theresa, where the fun continues the next day with a soak in natural hot springs and South America’s highest zipline.
This trip is amazing, for more details click here
(This day is only for those who have chosen the 10 day option). Breakfast with the parakeets and local fruits in our jungle Eco Lodge, then a short ten minute drive up to South America’s longest zipline – Colo de Mono. This is truly an exciting part of the adventure. Afterward, in the afternoonm we will make a 3 hour walk through the jungle along the train tracks downriver from Machu Picchu. Please note you will need to carry on your own back everything you have brought for this extension, so pack light. (You don’t really need much except a change of clothes). Here we will see our first views of Machu Picchu, including many new uncoverings below that most people never get to see unless they take this much lesser traveled route. Spend the night by the river in Aguas Calientes.
Visit Machu PIcchu = enough said ! You will be on your own today, but guides are available at the site for an extra cost if you choose, ask us for details. You will take the evening train (included) and return to Ollantaytambo for the end of the trip, arriving around 11pm. (Ask us about the earlier train option !)
From there, you can continue on the shuttle bus to Cusco (fare is included) arriving late at 12:30am, or you can stay in Ollantaytambo instead, either at our hotel for $25 per person or we can help you find alternate lodgings either more or less expensive. The next morning, our shuttle bus will leave at 9am (included) for Cusco, this is the end of trip. Alternate time departures can be arranged, please ask us.
The cost of this trip for 8 days is $1995 per person for groups of 2 people. To add the 2 day extension to Machu Picchu, add just $199.
1. What information do I need to know about climate and weather, what to bring, traveling to and within Peru ?
2. What about accomodation?
All costs are based on double occupany and occasionally triple rooms. All rooms are at a 2 or 3 star hotel in Ollantaytambo, except for one night in Aguas Calientes. All accommodation on the Choquequirao trek is camping Couples can be accommodated at no extra cost with a queen bed, just let us know. Due to very high demand during season, single room requests may not always be possible, and when needed will cost an extra $49 per hotel night, and $10 extra per camping night.
3. What kind of shape do I need to be in?
The Choquequirao trip on Days 3 to 7 is quite strenuous, with daily climbs of up to 1000meters/3000 feet up or down steep terrain. You don’t need to be a super athlete but you must be in decent shape and willing to suffer (just a little bit!)
4. What is included in the trip? Hotels Days 1 through Day 9, Breakfasts Day 2 through Day 10, Lunch Days 3 through Day 9, Dinner Days 3,4,5,6, and 8. Includes all camping gear including tent, sleeping pad, and optional sleeping bag (always recommended to bring your own). Personal, english speaking guide Day 1 through evening of Day 8. (Machu Picchu visit and last day is on your own). Also included are horses to carry your gear on the Choquequirau trek. Free unlimited free drinking water Days 3 through Day 7. (personal snacks during the trek should be brought by you). Machu Picchu ticket (Huayna Picchu ticket is $15 extra), and 9.20pm train ticket on Day 9 are also included).