Find out how an active Peru trip – including time exploring the Sacred Valley combined with a 4-day Inca Trail tour – enabled this mother-daughter duo to push themselves, to reflect, and, ultimately, to create a memory that has forever stamped their lives.
Melissa and Shannon came to Knowmad Adventures – a company focused on active, authentic and sustainable travel in South America – to plan a celebratory trip to Peru for Shannon’s recent graduation. Their custom Peru trip, based off of our Inca Trail & Beyond itinerary, combined unique experiences in the Sacred Valley and Cusco including mountain biking in the Andes and exploring the Maras salt mines with a full 4-day Inca Trail tour. Of course, a well-planned itinerary only provides the structure and low stress environment for a great trip, the authentic moments in between and what you, the traveler, make it is what transforms a trip from great to a “trip of a lifetime.”
A few months ago, we asked past Knowmad travelers to send us photo and story submissions for our annual Knowmad Adventures Travel Photography contest. Melissa and Shannon sent in their submissions separately and both made note of the same unforgettable moment (picture above):
“The picture of our third campsite felt like a surreal city above the clouds! It was the end of the longest, most tiring day of our trip and arriving at such a striking location really felt like an amazing moment of accomplishment. It was truly one of most breathtaking moments of our trip. We continued to climb above camp on the advice of our awesome guide Harry. Even though we were exhausted, we knew Harry well enough by then to listen when he made a recommendation! We were not disappointed! Watching sunsets is a long standing tradition in our family. To see such a striking sunset from the top of the Andes after such a grueling day was a wonderful moment of reflection.” – Melissa, Haymarket, VA
“The 4 day journey was the most breathtakingly beautiful and empowering trip of my life. Each day offered new challenges and new rewards for overcoming those challenges. I’m sure I could’ve submitted over 100 photos because every view was more incredible than the last. There is one photo that stands out for me in my memory above all else. The picture of me at the top of the mountain was taken at the end of the third day. We had been hiking for roughly 12 hours over two mountain peaks. We were exhausted. When we finally got to our campsite all we wanted to do was sit in our tent and not move. But, our incredible guide Harry insisted that we venture just a little bit above our campsite to see what he promised to be an incredible view. Only 5 of us built up the energy to make the small rock scramble. And I am overjoyed that I did because the views at the very top of that mountain are something that I will never forget. We have a tradition in our family to always gather and watch the sunset whenever we go to a new place. And on that day I got to stand above the clouds, looking down on the mountain where Machu Picchu sits, and watch the sunset with my mother. And for that I am forever thankful. Thank you for the trip of a lifetime.” – Shannon, Haymarket, VA
Are you interested in traveling to Peru? We’re regional experts here at Knowmad Adventures and pride ourselves in building custom trips that are a perfect fit for our travelers. If you’re interested in crafting an adventure combining several regions in Peru, take a look at our Peru Trip Ideas page, reach out to our Trip Specialists at 612-315-2894, or via email: [email protected] to begin planning your trip today!
4 Day Inca Trail Tour + Greater Peru
MAY 9 USA – Lima
You will fly from the USA to Lima, arriving in the evening. Upon your arrival in Lima you will be met at the airport and assisted in crossing the street and checking in to the hotel adjacent the terminal.
- No meals – Wyndham Costa del Sol airport hotel
MAY 10 Lima – Cusco – Sacred Valley
At 7:50 a.m. in the morning, you will be assisted in crossing the street to the airport. After your short flight to the former Incan capital of Cusco where Andean cultures come alive (don’t be surprised when the language doesn’t sound like Spanish – it is most likely the native Andean tongue Quechua), you will be met at the airport and taken for lunch. Departing for the Incan sights outside Cusco, you will visit the fortress Sacsayhuaman and its megalithic stone terraces; Kenko, with its carved stone surfaces and subterranean altars; the Puka Pukara fortress that protected the royal capital from attacks; or the water temple, Tambomachay. Continuing through the mountains with inspired views of the snow-capped Andean peaks, you will descend into the Valley of the Incas and check in to your accommodations. Take the afternoon to unwind, explore, and acclimatize.
- B, L – Sonesta Posadas del Inca
MAY 11 Sacred Valley Villages
After breakfast, you will head by van along the Sacred Valley past the remote Andean communities of Calca, Coya, Lamay and Pisac until you arrive at the Amaru community. This isolated community holds strongly to their ancient customs and practices a largely subsistence lifestyle on the slopes of the Andes. The Amaru will proudly open their village to you where you will learn of their lifestyle and traditions. Among other things you will take part in gathering plants used as natural dyes, learn of their medicinal and culinary properties, and see how the Amaru’s world-renowned textiles are woven and brought to life. After staying for lunch with the community leaders, if you are still energized you can enjoy a gentle hike through the extensive Inca terracing down the mountainside. If you prefer you can hop in the van as well, and soon arrive in Pisac – one of Peru’s largest and most vibrant markets – where you can bargain with Andean campesinos for handcrafted wares. At the end of your excursion you will be returned to your accommodations.
- B, L – Sonesta Posadas del Inca
MAY 12 Mountain Biking the Andes to Colonial Villages & Salt Mines
Today you’ll enjoy a full day of biking through the Sacred Valley, visiting small colonial villages while marveling at beautiful Andean landscapes. Departing in the morning, you will first drive up the mountains towards Cruzpata where your adventure begins. Non-technical and mostly downhill, this world-class mountain biking adventure is great for those with and without experience alike. Traversing the altiplano landscape with sweeping vistas to snowcapped peaks over 16,000 feet high, you will arrive at Moray – a little-known site thought to be an ancient Incan agricultural laboratory. After enjoying a gourmet picnic lunch in the shadows of the Andes, you will continue descending to the fascinating site of Maras where you will see ancient saltpans still being harvested in the traditional way. From here you can choose to continue the descent down to the Urubamba Valley floor, hike an alternative trail, or return to the valley by van.
- B, picnic L – Sonesta Posadas del Inca
MAY 13 Ollantaytambo – Llaqtapata
Today you will begin hiking the Inca Trail, departing to Piscaycucho in the morning. After meeting the porters, you will hike through a little-visited section of the trail, gently winding up the valley to the Incan ruins at Q’oriwayrachina, which were first discovered in 2001. Enjoy a picnic lunch surrounded by stones from more than 200 different structures. Crossing the Urubamba River at Q’ente you will arrive at your campsite amidst Inca terracing and nearby the archaeological sites of Wayna Q’ente and Llaqtapata. Enjoy the site with an evening at your leisure.
Hike details: 6.8 miles, approximately 5-6 hours
*May 13th to 17th on shared group basis
- B, L, D – Camping
MAY 14 Llaqtapata – Llulluchapampa
Continuing up the Cusicacha Valley, today you will reach the small indigenous community of Huallabamba where you can catch glimpses of the traditions of the high Andes. As you continue onward with views to the cloudforest you will also see the very rare Andean Quenua tree. Arriving at a large Pampa just below the first pass, your camp awaits perched for breathtaking sunset and sunrise views of Mount Huaynay.
Hike details: 5.6 miles, approximately 6 hours
- B, L, D – Camping
MAY 15 Llulluchapampa – Phuyupatamarca
You will begin the most challenging day of hiking with a steady ascent to Warmiwanusqa Pass, rewarded with stunning Andean views from the 13,692-foot height. From here you will head towards the Pacamayo River and up the other side of the valley to Runkuraqay atop the second pass. Just after entering the cloud forest you will visit the Sayacmarca ruins, able to wander through the imposing structures often enshrouded by clouds. Continuing along the ridge you’ll see the majestic Mount Salkantay and the silhouette of Mount Pumasillo on the horizon, and arrive at your camp just outside a small village on the edge of the clouds.
Hike details: 8.7 miles, approximately 7-8 hours
- B, L, D – Camping
MAY 16 Phuyupatamarca to Machu Picchu
Begin today’s trek by passing the Phuyupatamarca ruins and winding sharply down into increasingly dense cloudforest to the well-restored ruins of Winay Wayna. From here you will continue on until you cross through Intipunku – the Sun Gate – just as the Incas did long ago. Arriving at the Sun Gate in the evening helps avoid crowds and allows you to have your first birds-eye view to the Lost City of Machu Picchu when it is less visited. From here you will descend to Machu Picchu Pueblo to toast your feat of retracing the ancient Incan pathway to Machu Picchu and your upcoming exploration of the site.
Hike details: 5 miles, approximately 7 hours
- B, L, D – Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel
MAY 17 Machu Picchu – Cusco
Early risers can watch the sunrise from the Machu Picchu citadel or make the early morning climb to Huayna Picchu. This incredibly vast archeological site – lost to the world until well into the twentieth century – is perched amongst Andean peaks and lush cloud forest making it one of the most breathtaking sights in the world. You will have the opportunity to get a complete guided tour of the site as you begin to unlock the mystery of the Inca, and will also have some time to explore the ruins on your own. Following lunch in Aguas Calientes, you will descend from Machu Picchu and take the afternoon train to Cusco for a relaxing evening.
- B, L – Hotel booked independently by travelers (JW Marriot Cusco)
MAY 18 Cusco
Enjoy the day at your leisure to continue exploring Cusco, one of South America’s most dynamic cities. Visit Incan architectural jewels such as Korikancha – the temple of the sun, shop at Andean markets, enjoy incredible Peruvian cuisine, or see the colonial cathedrals built atop Incan foundations around the Plaza Central.
- B – Hotel booked independently by travelers
MAY 19 Cusco – Lima – USA
Enjoy the morning at your leisure to continue exploring Cusco. You will be picked up at your accommodations at 3 p.m. and transferred to the airport in accordance with your onward flight to Lima. Upon arrival in the Lima airport you will be responsible for independently checking in and catching your international flight. This is often a long and unavoidable layover, so save a few pages in your book or enjoy dinner or spa service across the street at the Wyndham Hotel before your international overnight flight home. You could also choose to enjoy dinner in the food court or restaurant Tanta on the second story of the airport, before passing through security.
MAY 20 Arrive Home
Use this 4-day Inca Trail tour + greater Peru itinerary as inspiration for your next adventure! When you’d like to discuss planning your own custom trip to Peru, give one of our Trip Specialists a call at 612-315-2894, or email us at [email protected]
Nos Vemos, Lisa
Lisa is the Media Manager at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2012 and is continually planning her next adventure. Read Lisa’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.