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BEYOND THE INCA TRAIL: Mollepata / Inca trail to Machu picchu – 8 d / 7 n
BEYOND THE INCA TRAIL
Mollepata / Inca trail to Machu picchu – 8 d / 7 n
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Mollepata / Inca trail to Machu picchu


Day 1: Cusco – Mollepata – Cruz Pata


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Mollepata / Inca trail to Machu picchu








Mollepata / Inca trail to Machu picchu









Mollepata / Inca trail to Machu picchu








Mollepata / Inca trail to Machu picchu








Mollepata / Inca trail to Machu picchu



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We drive from Cusco across a high plateau, descending spectacular switchbacks into the warm valley of Limatambo, where we visit the ruins of Tarawasi, a tiered Inca ceremonial platform featuring some of the most elegant and delicate Inca stonework. Continuing up a side road we come to the attractive highland village of Mollepata. A short way beyond here we reach the meadows of Cruz Pata, where we meet our trail crew and pack animals, and make our first camp.

Day 2: Cruz Pata – Soraypampa
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A day of gentle hiking takes us over a ridge through scattered forest, where we meet the Rio Blanco valley. We follow its upper slopes high above the river through diminishing shrubland until we cross the rim of Soraypampa and meet the open grasslands of the highland puna. Here, at 4,000m/13,120ft, we cross a broad plateau at the foot of the spectacular snow-capped spire of Humantay (5,910m/19,385ft). The massive ice-covered south face of Salcantay -- one of the great peaks of the Andes, at 6271m/20570ft -- fills the skyline ahead of us as we make camp.

Day 3: Soraypampa - Incachiriasca – Sisaypampa
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We begin the most challenging day of our trek, winding our way past a gigantic terminal moraine left by a receding glacier as we begin the zig-zag ascent to the mighty pass of Incachiriasca (4900m). Around mid-day we cross the pass, a bare, windswept landscape of rocks and ice, close to cracking glaciers and the ridge spot known to climbers as Japanese camp. From here we descend into the valley of Sisaypampa, catching glimpses of Palcay (5,422m/17,785ft), the “hidden peak” just north of Salcantay. We camp at Sisaypampa.

Day 4: Sisaypampa – Paucarcancha
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An easy day downvalley leads us below the slopes of Salcantay, along a river channeled into a straight canal by the Incas at Pampacahua. We camp by the Inca site of Paucarcancha, a tambo and checkpoint controlling access to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu in ancient times.

Day 5: Paucarcancha - Pacamayo
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We proceed northwards a short way downvalley, reaching the village of Huayllabamba, where we turn west up the side valley of Llullucha. Now we climb through shifting native microclimates of tropical cloud forest then high altitude queñua or polylepis forest, all draped with bromeliads and orchids, before crossing a brief belt of native dwarf forest, filled with hummingbirds. We break through the treeline, crossing the rim of Llulluchapampa, a 3,800m/12,460ft plateau.

We pick up the trail which traverses a steep, grassy mountainside to the second high pass of our journey – and first pass of the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu – Warmiwañusca (Dead Woman’s Pass) – at 4,200m/13,775ft. Here we can look back on a vast panorama of sweeping snowpeaks and valleys of the Huayanay massif, or gaze ahead to the deep Pacamayo valley and the climb to our third high pass, the Abra de Runkuracay (4,000m/13,120ft), which awaits us tomorrow. One and a half hours of descent from the pass on a paved trail, with a waterfall to our left, brings us to our campsite in the forested Pacaymayo valley (3,600m/11,800ft).

Day 6: Pacamayo – Phuyupatamarca
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As we climb out of the Pacamayo valley up an orchid-strewn mountain slope past the Inca site of Runkuracay, we follow an Inca stone stairway and encounter awe-inspiring views across the Urubamba gorge to the glaciers of Wakay Willka (5,750m/18,860ft).

As we reach the next pass we confront a sweeping panorama of the snow-covered Vilcabamba range ahead of us, dominated by Choquetacarpo and Pumasillo (5990m/19,650ft). We descend, making a stop to visit Sayacmarca, the first of several intricate and beautiful Inca ceremonial sites along the trail. Continuing along a winding stone highway along the upper fringes of the Andean cloud forest, we pass other small Inca sites and platforms, and enter a tunnel cut from living rock, before reaching our camp above another Inca ruin, the site of Phuypatamarca.

Day 7: Phuyupatamarca – Machu Picchu
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We leave early on this final leg of the magical journey to Machu Picchu. After pausing to explore the maze of towers and terraces that spill down the mountainside at Phuyupatamarca we descend an Inca stone staircase through ever-changing layers of cloud forest, with the sites of Inti Pata and Wiñay Wayna ahead of us in the distance. After a visit to the breathtaking clifftop site of Wiñay Wayna, discovered only in 1941, we complete the traverse through an enchanted forest filled with giant ferns that leads us to Intipunku, the Sun Gate. Here we catch our first magnificent view of Machu Picchu. Arriving mid-afternoon, we descend the final section that leads us into the legendary Lost City of the Incas. We overnight in Aguas Calientes, the small town in the Urubamba valley below Machu Picchu.

Day 8: In Machu Picchu – to Cusco
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We return to Machu Picchu early, spending most of the day at this bewitching place, with both a guided experience of the highlights and then time to explore the ruins on our own. In the afternoon we complete our journey, traveling by train to Cusco.



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