In addition to being breathtakingly beautiful, the Sacred Valley is comprised of extremely challenging terrain. People of all ages and fitness levels can be assured of visiting this great tourist destination, provided they plan for their abilities. If you wish to physically challenge yourself, this adventure itinerary will leave you fairly exhausted. However, you still must give your body time to adapt to the elevation before pushing yourself too hard. Altitude sickness is something to take seriously, so take it easy on the first few days. Believe me when I tell you there will be plenty of time to push hard before the trip ends.
- Arrive at airport in Lima–Make evening reservation for Astrid y Gaston
I always recommend that people spend their first night in Lima rather than go straight through to Cusco. Lima is a more beautiful city than is commonly known. Also, depending on the distance of your arrival flight, it’s not particularly enjoyable to do a series of flights consecutively. Give yourself a break, and spend a night in Lima.
Be sure to give your body a chance to acclimate on your first day in Cusco. The hike from the Plaza de Armas to Sacsayhuaman is challenging, but short and it’s a good way to get used to the altitude. At over 11,000 feet, Cusco is the highest city destination on your trip. However, if you chose to climb some peaks, you can go higher.
- Transportation to Pisac via taxi
- Hotel—Reservation Pisac Inn
- Hike Pisac Ruins
Pisaq is at 9,500 feet of elevation and you’ll notice the difference even after only one night in Cusco. Most people start at the top of Pisaq and hike down into the city. I prefer to start at the city and hike up. This is about a 2.5 hour hike. You can either plan to have transportation waiting for you at the top, or you can hike back down. The return trip will probably be from 1.5 to 2 hrs. The food at the Pisac Inn is tremendous.
- Taxi transportation to Ollantaytambo
- Hotel Samanapaq, Pacha Kusi (NOT Wayras Plaza)
- Hike Ollantaytambo Ruins
It only takes about 2 hours maximum to hike Ollantaytambo, but there are some additional trails surrounding the ruins which are fun to explore. On the way to Ollantaytambo, stop at Lamay for the best Cuy in the Sacred Valley. Ollantaytambo is only at approximately 9,000 ft of elevation, so you’ll find it easier to breathe here than Pisaq or Cusco.
Get an early train from Ollantaytambo, and then hike up to the ruins of Machu Picchu. The town of Aguas Calientes (or Machu Picchu Pueblo) is at 6,700 feet of elevation, so you’re going to feel super charged when you get here. There is a bus shuttle service to the ruins, but it’s relatively expensive, and the hike to the ruins is stunning. Don’t forget to bring your entry ticket and your passport, or they’ll send you back down. Explore the lower ruins, or potentially hike up to the Sun Gate (Inki Punku). You can bring a small sandwich and lunch at the ruins.
- Hike to Mount Machu Picchu or Wayna Picchu
This is a very difficult hike, and you need to buy an entry ticket to Machu Picchu with a special permission to see either of these spots. Wayna Picchu sells out very quickly (six months prior to your trip). Usually you can get tickets to Mount Machu Picchu, but it’s easier if you plan at least a week in advance (preferably more). The views on both of these hikes are spectacular. If you can add another day to your trip and hike them both, then I highly recommend you do so.
- Train—Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo
- Bus to Cusco
- Hotels: Tupac Amaru, Apu Huascaran, or Antigua Casona San Blas
You’ll be tired after all the strenuous hiking at Machu Picchu, so this is mainly a travel day. Enjoy a great meal in Cusco.
- Fly to Lima
- Parque de la reserva
The Parque de la Reserva is a beautiful water park at the center of Lima. You can take a Miraflores bus tour to get there.
- Return flight home
This itinerary hits some of the big points, but feel free to add days and insert activities to suit your interests. Just make sure to give yourself some time to rest between activities because the altitude of the Sacred Valley is taxing. Also, you don’t want to commit yourself to more than an hour or two of driving per day as the windy roads of the Sacred Valley can leave you a bit car sick. Use this itinerary as a guide to plan your own trip. I’m sure you’re going to have a wonderful time!