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Best of Machu Picchu and Cusco Region

QINTI ONE! (including the amazing Salkantay Trek)

Sitting down and designing a trek is a mix on what you know, what you have seen and keeping the experience for your customers in mind. Having just returned from the trek, all things fresh in mind, is the favourite time to design a program. Usually treks around the region of Salkantay, tend to rush forward to meet the final goal - Machu Picchu. 

As much as I love the “Lost city of the Incas”, I decided to cut with that tradition. There is so much beauty on the way, that the route has to stand on its own. Slow travel makes so much sense, especially considering that mountains can be very moody, to show their best face. 

To make the program attractive to return visitors as well, we have broken it into elements, that can be combined and enjoyed as a whole journey, 

Day 1. Cusco - Chonta (3550 M)

Depart from Cusco at about 8 am. After leaving Cusco, the drive takes you trough small villages and finally winding up to an elevation of 4000 Meters. On top of the ridge we stop for a delicious lunch, before a leisurely 3 hours walk takes us down to Chonta village at an elevation 3550 Meters. The hike offers amazing views of the Apurimac canyon and the Vilkabamba range. 

Arrival on the camp ground by about 3 pm. Enough time to settle down into your tent, before enjoying a sundowner, accompanied by a stunning sunset in front of a spectacular mountain view. 

Chonta (2 Nights) 

Chonta is a small picturesque village nestled on a mountain ridge above the deep gorge of the Apurimac river on one side and with a splendid view of the Vilkabamba-Mountain range on the other.  Besides the exceptionally beautiful views, Chonta is a great place to observe the Condors in their natural habitat. From the easy accessible view points, one has the chance to see them slowly rise on their incredible wingspan from the depth of the Apurimac Canyon. Chonta also offers a great opportunity to acclimatise for the high altitude treks of Salkantay and Inca Trail. 

 

Overnight in Chonta: Qinti Glamping Experience

 

 

 

 

Day 2. Village life and Condors

A morning with the community of Chonta. Visit of a home and village walk with a resident of the community.

Pachamanca lunch with the local community. Pachamanca is an earthen oven, created in the field, hot stones are used to slow cook, potatoes, vegetables and even meat. Enjoy this unique experience with a spontaneous interaction of the local community. 

After lunch hike to the edge of the canyon. From here we can observe the majestic condors rise from the depth of the valley. 

Dinner at the camp

Overnight in Chonta: Qinti Glamping Experience

 

Day 3. Chonta - Salkantay, or back to Cusco

After breakfast departure for the Salkantay Trek, the Inca Trail, Cusco or the sacred valley. 

 

 

The Salkantay Trek

I have trekked almost all the great routes of Nepal, Ladakh, Northern Pakistan and many in my native environment, the alps. Still very few mountains have given me so much joy, like the playful Salkantay. The ever changing play of light, clouds, wind are a nature spectacle, I have rarely been allowed to witness. The beauty of trekking the Andean giants, is that you are at level with their glaciers at around 4600 Meters. And from there you have their amazing white peaks towering above you. They say Salkantay is derived from “sallqa”, a Quechua word meaning wild, savage, or invincible. Salkantay is said to be the second most topographically prominent peak in the country, after Huascarán and for lovers of great scenery and challenging trekking an adventure not to be missed

Day 3.     Chonta - Soraypampa (3980 M / 3.5 hrs by car) - Excursion to Humantay Lake (4200 M / 3.5 hrs)                

Departure from Chonta at about 8 to reach Soraypampa towards noon. Non paved road for most of the way. Lunch at Soraypampa. After lunch a nice acclimatisation hike  up to the turquoise blue Laguna Humantay at 4200 Meters. Plenty of time to stop and admire the beautiful scenery, before reaching the camp back on the meadows of Soraypampa. 

Overnight in Soraypampa: A Qinti Camping Experience 

 

Day 4.     Soraypampa - Salcantay Pass (4610 M / 4 hrs) - Wayramachay (3850 M / 3.5 hrs) 

Early start towards the Pass. The path climbs steadily over meadows, before following along the immense glacial moraine up to the small and rock dotted plain of Suyroqocha at 4480 Meters. From here it is just a 1 km hike to the highest point, the Salkantay pass (4630m). Lunch and time to admire the scenery of the massive glaciers and the shining white ice towers of Mount Salkantay, at 6271 Meters the highest peak in the Vilcabamba mountain-range. Witnessing the grandeur of the scenery, the hard breathing uphill hike is fast forgotten. And anyway, from here, it’s easier to walk, the lungs breathe free as we descend trough a wild and high alpine valley till we reach our camp ground at Wayramachay.

Overnight in Wayramachay: A Qinti Camping Experience

 

 

Day 5.     Wayramachay 

Waking up at Wayramachay is simply beautiful. It might be the coldest morning of the trek, but what a view! Looking up the valley, you have the Matterhorn like tower of Humantay with his hanging glaciers. On the other side of the valley there are glaciers and peaks, finally culminating in its highest point - Salkantay. The camp ground and the valley are of amazing beauty. You can either rest, read a book, enjoy the sun, or join us on small hikes around the valley, visiting small farm steads and points from where you get that special view of the peaks around you. 

We are convinced that this day will make your journey more satisfying and rewarding. After all, we worked so hard to get to see this beauty, so why rush? 

Overnight in Wayramachay: A Qinti Camping Experience      

 

Day 6.     Wayramachay- Collpapampa (2800 M / 2.5 hrs) - Santa Theresa (1500 M / 2 hrs by car) hot springs 

After breakfast we change scenery. There is an amazing abrupt change from the high alpine meadows into the lushness of the cloud forest. There is an instant change in temperature, as we follow the Wamantay river downwards, either side age old cloud forests with moss laden trees, chirping birds and the song of the water.  After about 3 hours we reach Collpapampa, where your private transport awaits you. The road follows the beautiful Santa Theresa river valley to Lucmabamba, where we stop at a coffee plantation for a visit and a lunch. After the lunch we drive to Santa Theresa. 

Evening bath in the hot springs of Colcamayo, close to the hotel. 

Overnight in Santa Theresa: Hotel

Extension Llactapata - for nature lovers!

 

Day 6: The program is the same till the lunch in Lucmabamba. But instead of driving to Santa Theresa, we hike about 3 hours up to Llactapata. 

 

Llactapata (2 Nights)

The place is traditionally promoted as a view point to see Machu Picchu, Llactapata is a wonderful place for nature lovers, for people that love to witness nature in all her beauty. The morning fogs that rise over the valleys and mountains are amazing. The ancient cloud forests are a wonder onto themselves. 

And of course there is our friend Silverio, the owner of pretty much the mountain and forest up there. Silverio is by training a traditional Andean healer, by nature a farmer and kind soul. Together with him, we have the chance to learn and explore the local flora and fauna. In the evening Silverio will introduce us into his healer wisdom and invite us to a simple ceremony. 

 

From Llactapata we then trek down to HydroElectrica to take the train to Aguas Caliente, from where you can see Machu Picchu the next day, or continue by train to Cusco. 

Day 7.     Santa Theresa - HydroElectrica (30 Min by car) Train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (1 hr)

Today we enjoy a relaxed morning, before the car takes you to HydroElectrica. Enjoyable train journey to Aguas Caliente. 

Overnight in Aguas Caliente: Hotel

 

Day 8.     Machu Picchu - Urubamba or Cusco

Visit of Machu Picchu and train to either Ollantaytambo, or Cusco. 

Located more than 6000 feet above sea level in Peru’s mountain peaks, Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most impressive archaeological sites. This legendary lofty city was abandoned by the Inca Empire, reclaimed by the jungle and lost to humanity until its rediscovery in 1911. Built by the Incas on the summit of "Machu Picchu" (Old Peak), in the middle of a tropical montane forest overlooking the canyon of the Urubamba, the 'Lost City of Machu Picchu' is a site of extraordinary beauty and enormous archeological significance. The complex reflects the Inca Empire at its height, with giant walls, terraces and ramps that appear to have been cut naturally in the continuous rock escarpments. The phenomenal technological skills of the Incan engineers can be seen in multiple facets of the site: the exacting precision of the massive stone buildings, the water channels that reveal a deep understanding of hydraulics, and Intihuatana ("the highest point of the Sun"), which served as a solar calendar that regulated planting and harvesting.