The Vilcabamba Trail
Cusco, Peru 7 nights from £1,399

The Vilcabamba Trail

Explore the Peruvian jungle, and mountain passes of the high Andes, taking a route through the Cordillera Vilcabamba mountains en route to the lost city of Machu Picchu.

  • 5 days trekking

Highlights

Breathtaking mountains

Breathtaking mountains

Explore the imposing peaks of the Andes, tackling high altitude mountain passes.

The lost city

The lost city

Take a guided tour of Machu Picchu, with the option to climb Huayna Picchu.

Explore Cuzco

Explore Cuzco

Take time out to acclimatise and explore the ancient Incan capital city of Cuzco.

Overview

This five day trek takes you right off the beaten track and far into the jungle where the Incas made their last stand against the Spanish. As well as enjoying a wealth of flora, fauna, snow peaks and impressive valleys, trekkers visit some of the last domains of the great Inca empire, and trek along some excellent examples of the Qhapaq Ñan – the royal roads of the Incas.

The route runs through the sparsely populated Cordillera Vilcabamba, which looks much the same as when Hiram Bingham first explored here a century ago. This trek is not for the faint of heart or weak of legs. It is a particularly challenging route with long trekking days and some tough ascents and descents.

The trip begins in Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Incan empire. As well as having the opportunity to soak up the local culture, these first two days will also help your body to acclimatise before you begin the trek itself. The trek crosses three high mountain passes, each around 4500 metres, before reaching Aguas Calientes and your visit to Machu Picchu.

Route Highlights

  • High mountain passes

    Trek deep into the Cordillera Vilcabamba mountains, a land of towering, snow-capped peaks.

  • Machu Picchu

    End the trek by arriving at the Sun Gate, the entrance to the lost city of the Incas.

  • Fascinating biodiversity

    Experience the abundance of natural life, exploring a range of terrains, with diverse flora and fauna.

  • Mountain
  • Newcomers
  • Forest
  • Average fitness
  • Solo
  • Groups
  • Couples

Degree of difficulty

  • Considered the most difficult of the routes to Machu Picchu, the Vilcabamba trek does not require any technical hiking, though ground can be uneven and rocky at times.
  • A good level of fitness is required to complete the long days of trekking on consecutive days.
  • Altitude plays a significant part in the difficulty of this challenge, reaching heights as high as 4510m above sea level. 

Vilcabamba Accommodation

  • Accommodation in Cuzco is in a comfortable hotel in the city. 
  • During the trek, accommodation will be in the form of camping using high altitude mountain tents. 
  • Meals are taken in a separate mess tent, which can be used as a communal area in the evenings. 

Eating and Drinking 

  • Special menus have been designed to ensure that the demands of trekking at altitude are covered by appealing, healthy meals with ample provision for energy.
  • Breakfast is a hearty affair, with ample offerings and tea and coffee.
  • A hot lunch is prepared freshly each day.
  • Following each day of trekking, an afternoon tea is served with snacks and hot drinks to replenish calories.
  • Evening meals consist of three courses, offering hearty starters and a main course with fresh vegetables and carbs such as rice, pasta or potatoes. 
  • Water is boiled and filtered each morning to fill bottles for hiking. It's a good idea to bring purification tablets, but this isn't essential.
  • Coca tea is available on the trek, which is commonly drunk to alleviate the effects of altitude sickness. 

Season

  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec

  • Transfers

Meeting point

Alejandro Velasco Astete Cusco International Airport (CUZ)
Av. Velasco Astete
Cusco
08006
Peru

Getting to Cuzco

  • Fly to Cuzco International Airport in Peru (CUZ)
  • It is usual that flights from Europe will need to connect through Lima. Lima is serviced by KLM, BA and Iberia from UK Airports, with connections in Amsterdam with KLM or Madrid with Iberia. 
  • From Lima, domestic flights to Cuzco are provided by LATAM, Avianca, Star Peru or Peruvian Air. LATAM are the preferred option due to the capability of their planes to land in foggy conditions. 

  • Hill
  • Mountain
  • Forest
  • Bus
  • Minibus

The Vilcabamba Trail Itinerary

  • Day 1 | Arrival in Cuzco

    Fly to Cuzco, take a transfer to the hotel, before an evening pre-trek briefing.

  • Day 2 | Acclimatisation day

    A day to explore the city, whilst acclimatising to the altitude, Cuzco site at 3400m above sea level.

  • Day 3 | Cuzco to Pillaopata

    Leaving Cuzco early to take a transfer to the start point of the trek. Depart, passing through the Sacred Valley to reach Ollantaytambo, before climbing to reach the Abra Malaga Pass at 4315m. A long descent to Chaullay, before following the trail toard Huancacalle. Chance to visit the archeological sites of Vitcos-Rosaspata and the Ñustahispana. Overnight camp at Pillaopata.

  • Day 4 | Pillaopata to Racachaca

    Hike to the Asutina Pass  at 3915m, following well preserved Inca roads to Pullaukasa. Enjoy superb views of the surrounding peaks, before leaving the high jungle, arriving in the Andes. Overnigh at Racachaca

  • Day 5 | Racachaca to Lajo

    Conquer three high passes in the Andes, on a demanding day of trekking. Start by climbing to Hatun Pampa, continuing the climb to reach Yanococha at 4420m. From here, it's a steep descent to Yanacocha Lake, before a further climb to Tullu Tacanca at 4500m, and onwards to Abra Mojon at 4510m. After descending, overnight camp at Lajo.

  • Day 6 | Lajo to Aguas Calientes

    Leaving the mountainous terrain behind, descend into the jungle, passing through deep canyons and plantations of coffee and fruit, en route to the village of Yanatile. Take a road transfer to the lunch spot, before following the railway tracks to Aguas Calientes and an overnight stay in a hotel. 

  • Day 7 | Machu Picchu

    Take the bus to Machu Picchu to enjoy a tour of the lost city of the Incas. Optional climb to Huayna Picchu, the mountain behind the ruins. Afternoon train to Ollantaytambo, to take a transfer to the hotel in Cuzco. 

  • Day 8 | Departure

    After breakfast, take a transfer to the airport to begin the journey home. 

  • Accommodation
  • Guides
  • Meals
  • Transfers

Included

  • Hotel stay for the nights before and after the trek
  • Airport transfers
  • Transfer to and from the trek start point
  • Machu Picchu entry and camping fees
  • A fully supported trek
  • All meals and drinking water on the trek
  • A private portable toilet
  • High quality mess and sleeping tents with a comfortable insulated sleeping mat
  • Access to emergency oxygen and first aid kit

Not Included

  • Flights
  • Visas
  • Tips for guides and crew
  • Personal items
  • Travel insurance (must be insured specifically for treks up to 4500m)
  • Personal trekking gear
  • Personal medicines or prescriptions
  • Snacks on the trek
  • Meals and drinks not on the trek
  • Additional hotel nights before or after your adventure

  • Carbon offset
  • Plastic bottle free

This trip takes responsibility seriously and ‘goes the extra mile’ to ensure that your presence in this country is entirely positive.

Central to this is

  • Caring for the crew
  • Caring for the local environment
  • Caring for the local communities

All guides and partners are hand picked to ensure that every aspect of your trip operates to the highest standard and reflect the strong values, ethics and joy of travel.

This commitment to Responsible Travel is mutually beneficial without compromising the countries and communities touched or the depth and uniqueness of your adventure.

Key values of this trip

  • Leave nothing behind
  • We’re the visitors, let’s be respectful at all times
  • Deliver a breathtaking experience
  • Let’s benefit local communities and environments

Let’s help keep these wonderful places precious.

Porters and crew

All crew are paid proper wages and are treated with respect and dignity. This trip with IMEC, IPPG and KPAP, all not-for-profit organisations that focus on improving the working conditions of porters.

Friends of Conservation

Travellers are given the opportunity to mitigate some of the environmental impacts of flying by supporting community and conservation initiatives.

Travellers Against Plastic

This trip is a proud supporter of the Leave No Trace and Travellers Against Plastic campaigns, which help educate travellers on the impact of travel and provide practical guidance for enjoying the outdoors responsibly.

  • Age 18 & over
  • Between 2-10 in group
  • Private group option
  • ABTA
  • ATOL

The trek was magnificent in every way - the vistas were extraordinarily beautiful, the miles and altitude were a workout but not overwhelming and the food was plentiful and delicious. Our guide Jose was extremely familiar with the region, passionate about Quechua culture and excellent in his English (important because neither of us speak Spanish). We didn't encounter a single tourist/trekker on our four days (we saw thousands of tourists at Machu Picchu proper). We did see a few locals travelling in the mountains and an occasional cattle rancher or sheepherder. We highly recommend this trek as a beautiful and rewarding alternative to the crowded "classic" Inca Trail. | Mark

Overall this was a challenging/come to yourself trip with spectacular views. It was very rewarding and I have to take my wife next time.
I recommend this to anyone who want to take the path less taken. Enjoy it before it becomes engulfed by tourists like the Incan trail | Elliot

Costs

Deposit

£100.00

Price per person (inc deposit)

£1399.00

Enquiries & bookings

If you have any questions or would like to check availability or make a booking, please provide a few details about you, your group size and any preferred dates. A member of the team will then get back to you or you can go ahead and book online.