Salkantay requires more physical and logistical preparation regarding trekking opportunities in the Sacred Valley. The jewel in the crown of the Salkantay trek is Nevado Salkantay (6,271 meters). This massive mountain looms over the Inca Trail and plunges into the magnificent mountain city of Machu Picchu. Most Cusco tours offer a four-day trek from Mollepata, located in the Limatambo Valley, about two and a half hours from Cusco.
You can get to Mollepata on the Kondor Path Tours bus, heading from Cusco to Abancay. The route stretches through the Cordillera Vilcabamba and includes a steep ascent to the Inca-Chiriasca Pass (5,000 meters), followed by a steep descent alongside the Salkantay glaciers. Although physically demanding, the trail offers rewarding views of snow-capped peaks and glacial valleys.
On the last day, you will leave your camp in Acobamba and head towards the Inca ruins of Patallacta, near the popular tourist gateway to the Inca Trail, Km 88. From here you can take a train to Machu Picchu or Cusco. Alternatives to the Salkantay Trek are also possible for those who want something more out of the ordinary.
If you’re looking to get off the beaten path but don’t want to miss some stellar scenery, the Lares Valley Trek is great. In contrast to the famous Inca Trail Trek, the Lares Valley Trek has yet to appear on the tourist radar fully. Hikers traverse high mountain passes, plunge into subtropical valleys rich in fascinating flora and fauna, and pass tranquil lagoons, natural hot springs, and Inca remains.
This less-traveled trek passes through the tremendous pastoral regions of the Cordillera Urubamba. It gives travelers a unique opportunity to experience the enchanting Andean landscape and its Quechua culture. Due to the area’s relative remoteness, its inhabitants have maintained their traditional ways of life, clinging firmly to conventional practices of herding llamas and alpacas, growing potatoes, and colorful textiles.
The area has changed very little in the last 500 years and gives travelers a remarkable insight into the lives of Andean farmers. Walking through the Lares Valley, past thatched-roof stone houses, herds of llamas, and farmers dressed in their traditional brightly colored ponchos, is like traveling back in time.
On this trek, tradition and scenic splendor collide, leaving those lucky enough to experience the combination wondering why the Lares Valley remains just a whisper among the traveler community.
Or perhaps those who complete the Lares Valley Trek leave with pursed lips in an attempt to preserve the new culture and landscape that make this area so inspiring. Although the hike is rated moderate, it includes high passes over 4,000 meters, so acclimatization before the trail is essential.
If you are arriving from sea level, we recommend spending at least three days in Cusco before attempting the trek. KONDOR PATH TOURS has created a series of special non-profit walking packages to spread the financial benefits of tourism among the local population.
Hikers on these tours can distribute warm clothing and school gear to the mountain communities along the trail, a great way to meet and interact with the people of this beautiful region.
For a true adventure, go knee-high to Espiritu Pampa, believed by some to be the actual “Lost City of the Incas.” Here you will discover the captivating ruins of Vitcos, where the Incas launched their 35-year rebellion against the Spanish. The trail offers some of the most diverse and intriguing scenery while trekking in the Sacred Valley. The journey through time and the mountains begins in Huancacalle, which can be reached by taking a bus or truck from Cusco through Abra Málaga to Quillabamba and getting off at the Huancacalle detour. From Huancacalle, a path will take you to where the Inca emperor was initially exiled to the sacred rock resting place of Chuquipalta. The trail heads to New Vilcabamba, a colonial-era mining town, ascending a 3,800-meter pass before dropping into the jungle below.
The ascent to the ruins involves a steep climb up ancient Inca stairs and offers magnificent views of the valley below. Instead of walking back to Huancacalle, you can walk another day or two along the river to a small town called Kiteni and take a bus back to Quillabamba. The trip takes seven to ten days, depending on your fitness level.
The trail winds through the Cordillera Vilcanota and up to the sacred Nevado Ausangate (6,384 meters), traversing one of Peru’s most pristine and unspoiled areas. This trail is a good choice among the Sacred Valley trekking opportunities for those looking to avoid the tourist trails. You can choose from several hiking trails through this mountain range. Still, the classic seven-day trek offered by most Cusco tour agencies begins in Tinki, a small town perched high in the Puna grasslands, and gradually makes its way through Ausangate.
The trail traverses four very high mountain passes (two over 5,000 meters) and offers magnificent views of the glacial faces of all the mountains in the range, including Colquecruz and Jampa. Passing through some of the most remote areas of Peru, the trail also allows hikers glimpses of llama herders and Andean weavers.
Among the trekking opportunities in the Sacred Valley, this trail beckons hikers to see magnificent, if lesser-known, Inca ruins. This vast Choquequirao complex sits precariously on top of a hill in the Vilcabamba area and consists of magnificent Inca walls and recessed double doors. Most likely, it was built as a winter palace for the Inca Tupac Yupanqui in the same way that his father, Pachacutec, built Machu Picchu. Since Hiram Bingham discovered the ruins in 1911, Machu Picchu’s relatively less traveled sibling has remained. The trek to Choquequirao begins in Cachora, where you can get on the KONDOR PATH TOURS bus to Cusco and get off a dirt road past Saywite Stone. If you feel like it, you can hitchhike the final stretch to Cachora. The first day involves a trek up the Apurimac River, and on the second day, you’ll embark on an arduous six-hour ascent the other way to the crest of the cloud forest where the city sits. Some Cusco tourism agencies offer a combined seven-day trek from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu. Another approach to Choquequirao is to start in Huancacalle and do the eight-day hike through the Cordillera Vilcabamba through the ruins of Vitcos.