Trek: Soccma to Inca Raccay and Ollantaytambo
Days: 3 (arrives back to Ollantaytambo afternoon on Day 3)
Highlights: This is a very enjoyable 3 day, 2 night 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, Incan stone workshops, 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 ridge top 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, and we will be free to come and go as we please, returning to the site of Inca Raccay if we wish to spend more time there after first getting comfortable – or even a nighttime visit !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 on our hike up the mountain. This is a great day – there is a lot of culture here and we will see the local people going about their daily business of agriculture and livestock grazing, and will probably be joined at various points by the curious local mountain children The hike takes about three hours to four hours to get to the high point, a pass where we will have great views of the glacier of Veronica, the town of Ollantaytambo, and the surrounding Andes – absolutely spectacular ! After the pass, our walk is all downhill to camp, but it is a steep walk and not an easy one. Before arriving to our camp, however, we will stop and visit one of KB’s personal favorite places in Peru, the Incan sun gate known as Inti Punku. This was a very important Incan ceremonial site that also guarded the many nearby valleys that could provide a connection to Machu Picchu. From here, we will walk a short distance down to our camp site for the evening, yet another Incan site called Choquetecarpo that has recently been uncovered.
Today is a half day of walking, again all downhill, and the trail passes right through the Incan stone quarry known as “Las Canterras”, where we will see first hand Inca stones that were being shaped at the time of the Spanish conquest arrival and so a very unique opportunity to see things as they were 600 years ago. The entire fortress of Ollantaytambo was built using stones from this very quarry, that first needed to be dragged down the mountain, across the Urubamba river, and up the back side of the mountain where the Inca fortress lies. After visiting this amazing site, we continue down for a few more hours and arrive to Ollantaytambo and the end of the trek. This trek is one of the best in Peru and sees very few other travelers
Total Distance: 14 kilometers
Total Elevation: 1900 meters gain, 2900 meter loss
Cost: $395 per person, minimum three people
Includes: Everything – breakfast, lunch and dinner plus snacks Day 1, plus breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for Day 2; breakfast, lunch and snacks on Day 3, plus all drinking water, also private transport from Ollantaytambo to trailhead at Soccma; 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;