Trek: Soccma to Inca Raccay
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Highlights: This is a very enjoyable overnight trek and an amazing trip, especially considering how close and easy the access is from Ollantaytambo. Highlights of this trek include visiting two impressive yet rarely visited Incan sites, plus a very high waterfall, outstanding mountain views along the way, and more.
This trek makes an ideal excursion for those wishing to acclimate before hiking the Inca Trail, or else as a trek in itself, for people with a little less time in their schedule it is perfect. Another reason we like this trip is that the area sees very little tourism – we do not often see other groups on this trek.
The beginning of the trek is less than a 40 minute drive from Ollantaytambo. But before we get there, we will have the added bonus of a few more Inca sites to visit along the way. Before the turnoff to Soccma (the small Andean mountain community where we will begin hiking) we will pass by a site known as Naupa Iglesia. (“old church”, in Quechua)
Interestingly enough, this site may have been one of the most important in the Sacred Valley to the Incas. It has some of the finest quality stonework we have seen anywhere. It is a cave (some say the cave was shaped to resemble a bat’s wings, as there are many bats inside the cave, and from the road it does appear so). Although we believe that most Incan sites did not have the religious/worship function that they are frequently said to have, it is clear this site is an exception. It likely served as a place of religious offerings, ceremonies, and perhaps even a burial site. Again, the stonework quality is very high.
One of the reasons we will take the time to stop and visit this site is that it is now apparent that it is part of a larger, cohesive Incan complex which includes our final destination, Inca Raccay. There are a few small buildings around the cave that have only recently been uncovered, and it seems likely that there are more yet to be found.
After our visit to Naupa Igesia, we will drive another half hour to the Andean mountain community of Soccma, where we will begin our hike. The first hour or so is a gentle uphill climb, after which the climb gets ever-steeper until finally reaching the Incan site of Inca Raccay which means literally “place of the Inca” in Quechua. We will likely have the place to ourselves as we explore the different buildings of this ridgetop site and the excellent views in all directions. Only in recent years have some of the buildings been cleaned and restored, and like nearly all Incan sites (including even Machu Picchu) it has not yet been fully uncovered.
We will camp here, near the ruins which are free to enter. Our guides and cook will prepare a healthy and delicious hot meal, with vegetables and meat (optional) as well a bottle of wine – we don’t believe in roughing it ! Our camping gear is of the highest quality, and all tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads are always included at no extra cost. After a night of camping, we will get up to hot breakfast including scrambled eggs and juice, before setting out to hike back down the way we came.
Cost: $195 per person, minimum three people
Includes: Everything – breakfast, lunch and dinner plus snacks Day 1, plus breakfast, lunch and snacks for Day 2; Private transport from Ollantaytambo to trailhead at Soccma; private or public transport on the return; mule team and/or porters to carry all your gear; cook to prepare all meals; English speaking guide; all camping gear including tents, sleeping bags and sleeping pads;
Things to Know:
Although they are susceptible to the occasional shutdown due to a water or maintenance issue, there are in fact basic bathroom facilities at all the camp sites. Filtered drinking water is included free on your trip, and bottled water is also available along the way if you wish to purchase it. The sun is very strong on this trek so be sure to have strong sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat. We recommend hiking in lightweight long sleeve shirts of a breathable material and lightweight full length pants. we have found that covering your skin in this matter is the best protection against sun and insects, of which there is a lot of both on this trek. There is an entrance fee to the site but it is included with your trip free of charge. The weather is consistently warm and sunny from May to November, and equally consistent rainy and intermittently sunny from December through the end of April.
What to Bring:
The key to comfort on this trek, as with most in the Andes, is successfully layering. This means having on a few different pieces of clothing that allow you to quickly and easily adjusts as the temperature swings here in the mountains can be extreme, mostly depending on whether the sun is shining or not. We recommend long sleeve breathable fabric shirts, lightweight long pants, and an outside shell that doubles as both a windbreaker and rain jacket. Throw in a thermal shirt in the backpack and you will be ready for any temperature you will encounter. We recommend bringing several extra pairs of socks and underwear, as they don’t weigh much you can wear new ones every day. As your hiking pants will get dirt anyway within minutes of walking, many trekkers use the same pants every day but change out everything else. You do need to pack reasonably light as everything must be carried in my mule. Finally, don’t forget a comfortable pair of sleeping pants, cotton shirt, and sandals that you can keep clean and wear everynight at camp.
Here below is a more specific list of what to bring, please ask if you have any questions.
Footwear - Your footwear choice is critical to your comfort on this trek so choose carefully. lightweight hiking shoes are best, boots are not recommended. Running/trail shoes can be worn but only if you have experience walking long distances in them through steep up and down terrain. The most important thing is that whatever you bring to walk in, it should be comfortable and well broken in.
Socks - bring wicking and/or woolen socks, two to four pair depending on preference and season. Bring an extra pair or two of regular cotton socks for lounging at camp.
Pants - comfortable trekking pants (the type that zip off into shorts make a good choice), two pair Also a pair of comfortable pants for camping at night and a pair of shorts (optional)
Shirts - we recommend a long sleeve, lightweight breathable shirt for the majority of your trekking time, to protect you from sun and insects. One or two long sleeve warmer, thermal type shirts should be brought along with one or two short sleeve shirts for camp or when it is really warm.
Hats - a large, wide brimmed hat to protect you from sun and rain is one of the most important things to have and take care to remember to bring one. A second fleece hat for warmth is also recommended for the cool mornings and evenings.
Gloves - or mittens, especially if your fingers and hands get cold easily. There are some cacti on this trek, and along with the strong sun many of our guides wear a light weight pair of gloves while trekking.
Sunglasses - depending on personal preference, bring an extra pair if your eyes are sensitive to sunlight in case the first pair is lost or broken.
Sunblock - we think 30SPF is the minimum and we use 40 to 50.
Lip Balm - with additional SPF protection
Mosquito Repellent - bring any brand that you prefer
Headlamp - with spare batteries, this is a must bring accessory
Blister kit - our guides carry one as well, but never a bad idea to have along with you
Batteries - extra for your camera and other electronic accessories. No electric outlets are available during this trek and batteries are not likely to be available for purchase
Soap - a biodegrable brand is requested to protect our environment
Towel - quick drying type preferred, can bring both a shower towel as well as a small personal hand towel
Toiletries - per personal preference
Medicines - bring all prescription pills needed, there are no medical supplies available on this trek. Bring also any personal hygiene items, contraception, feminine products, contact lens solution, etc. Also recommended is a small bottle of ibuprofen tablets to alleviate muscle soreness and swelling