Browse the Itinerary for this Ride
Upon arrival at the Cusco airport the outfitter’s representative will welcome you to Cusco (he or she will have a sign with your name on it) and ensure that you have a safe transfer to your comfortable hotel near the center of this historical and beautiful city.
Today it is very important that you relax, rest and get acclimatized to the high altitude, before the start of your exciting riding expedition high in the Andes. Reservations have been made for you at the wonderful Hotel Costa del Sol, a 4-star establishment with rooms in the colonial part of the building, and only 2 blocks from the famous Plaza de Armas. Earliest check-in time is 11 AM.
Please make sure that you rest well, because tomorrow you will meet and ride the Peruvian Paso horses and learn all about the classic Peruvian riding style. Lunch and dinner is on your own tonight.
After a delicious breakfast you will be picked up at 9.15AM outside your hotel. From Cusco it is a 1.25 hrs drive to your accommodation in the Sacred Valley. For the next three nights you will be staying in comfortable rooms at the Hotel Sonesta Posada del Inca, in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas; just a short drive from the stables. Once you have unpacked and refreshed yourself, you will be collected and transferred to the ranch. Today you will have an opportunity to become familiar with the beautiful Peruvian Paso horses and the traditional Peruvian riding gear.
Enjoy a delicious barbeque lunch at the ranch, good wine and of course Maria’s famous Pisco Sours. In the afternoon, there will be a demonstration of classic Peruvian equitation, followed by an introductory Peruvian riding lesson, during which your riding ability will be evaluated. We will then match you with a mount in accordance with your riding ability, preference, personality and weight class. All horses are forward going, very well trained and a pleasure to ride.
Dinner will either be at the ranch or at a local restaurant.
After a hearty breakfast you are taken to the ranch and the ride will set of. Cross the Urubamba River and pass Pichingote, an old Andean village where the houses are partially built into caves, and Salinas, the salt pans from Inca times, which are still being used by the locals to extract the salt from mountain spring water. The salt pans consist of a series of platforms where the salty water is channeled through an impressive irrigation system and left to evaporate in the sun.
After lunch you will climb with the horses (almost 850 meters / 2,790 ft) to the alti-plano of the Andes. This climb takes about two hours, and will be at an easy pace because the change of altitude does not only affect the horses. At 3,550 meter (11,400 ft) you will be impressed by the stunning scenery and the snow-capped mountains of Chicon, Veronica and Salcantay. Continue your ride to Maras, a typical Andean village with a beautiful 400-yr-old colonial church for a picnic lunch. The church at Maras was built just after the Conquest and is one of the ten oldest churches in South America. From Maras follow primitive trails across the altiplano to visit the ruins of Cheqoq. Here the Incas constructed fascinating cold-storage depots to conserve the agricultural products of the region. Cooling of the products was achieved by using a system of underground air-circulation.
From Cheqoq continue riding to the beautiful churchyard of Tiobamba where you arrive around 4.30 PM. The horses will stay here with the grooms and the back-up van will return you to your accommodations in the Sacred Valley. Dinner at one of Urubamba’s famous local restaurants or at the ranch. Riding time: 3-4 hours. Altitude: 2,800 – 3,550 m/ 9,1900-11,650 ft.
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel and be ready at 9.30 AM for the transfer back to Tiobamba where the horses spent the night. Follow primitive trails across the Altiplano. The scenery is spectacular with snowcapped mountains, wildflowers and beautiful mountain lakes.
You will meet smiling Quechua children with their herds of sheep or cattle and see Campesinos ploughing their fields in the traditional way – oxen hitched to a wooden plow. Maybe you will even share a Chicha (their traditional maize drink) with them. Follow the trail to Chinchero where a picnic lunch is awaiting you.
On a clear day the views from Chinchero are tremendous; to the west and northwest stretches a vista of rolling alti-plano, ringed in the distance by the dramatic snowcaps of the Cordilleras Vilcabamba and Urubamba.
After lunch take a short ride to Lake Piuray where you will leave the horses and take a short car ride to visit the ruins of Chinchero. The main square of the town is famous for its massive Inca wall, set with ten of the largest trapezoidal niches known among Inca structures. This was probably the base wall of a palace -- perhaps that of Topa Inca -- that once overlooked the square.
At Chinchero you will have a chance to visit a textile workshop where you will see an impressive demonstration of ancient techniques of spinning, dying and weaving. Bring some money as you may want to buy some souvenirs although don’t feel like you are obligated. Riding time: 4-5 hours. Altitude: 3,550-3,800 m / 11,650-12,470 ft. Dinner in Urubamba and overnight in the Sacred Valley.
You will be collected after breakfast and transferred back to Lake Piuray. From here, criss-cross through the rough Andean landscape, passing remote Quechua communities, herder’s huts and small farms or Chacras, to the impressive Inca ruins of Tambo Machay, Puca Pucara, Quenco and Sacsayhuaman. Travel along a cobblestone paved section of the network of Inca roads called Capac Nan, and enjoy beautiful vistas as you climb to an altitude of 4,000 m/ 13,125 ft. You will pass many impressive Inca ruins, including an ancient Inca aqueduct and Inca irrigation channels. Some technical riding is required as you cross more difficult gorges along the trail but your sure-footed mounts will be up to the task.
After a hard day’s riding following old Inca trails, arrive at the historical city of Cusco, the oldest city in South America and once the capital of the great Inca Empire. The Inca empire was called Tawantinsuyu "The Four Quarters of the Earth." Cusco was its heart, and its exact center was considered to be the main square of the city.
Spend the night in a comfortable hotel situated near the Plaza de Armas, the heart of Cusco’s archaeological center. Dinner is on your own tonight. If you still have energy you can explore Cusco’s legendary nightlife. Riding time: 6 hours. Altitude: 3,800-4,000 m / 12,470-13,120 ft.
Today is free to do as you wish. You can visit the numerous churches, cathedrals and museums, do some shopping, or just relax. Some may opt for a one-day rafting adventure on the Urubamba River. The evenings in Cusco are full of exciting nightlife.
According to Inca legend, Cusco was founded around 1200 AD by Manco Capac and Mama Occlo. Manco Capac selected the site when the golden staff given to him by his father, the sun, sank into the earth and disappeared. Each Incan emperor built his own palace and compound during his reign.
The Spanish initially tried to destroy the Inca buildings but soon realized that because of their quality construction, it was easier to reuse the foundations for their own buildings. Throughout Cusco many of the original Inca walls can still be seen today.
Cusco is a vibrant city and the vast majority of the native Quechua Indians live here. Despite being a major tourist destination, both for its own treasures and as a staging point for the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, Cusco has managed to hold on to its own distinct flavor. It retains a natural charm that is irresistible. Overnight in Cusco.
The horses are waiting just outside of Cusco. Today’s ride will take you through open country with spectacular views. Start from Sacsayhuaman where you follow a footpath leading north. Topping a rise you will see the Pisaq highway to the right. The trail turns north and becomes the old Inca highway to Calca; traces of it are still visible. After climbing gently for about 450 m see a stone-lined Inca irrigation channel which parallels the trail for about 800 m (2,400ft). Ascend a steep and narrow valley to reach a pass at 4,350 m (14,275ft), and enjoy the view of the small, shallow Lake Quellacocha, the highest point of the ride. At the lake you will stop for lunch. A group of stone corrals lies beyond the lake and in clear weather the snowcapped Sawasiray is visible. Descend the high trail around the north end of the lake and ascend eastward to Lake Q’oricocha. Many herds of Llamas, Alpacas and Guanacos can be seen around here. The people of Q’enco will be waiting to welcome you at the campsite with traditional folk dances, music and the traditional meal of Guinea pigs. They are friendly, hardworking farmers who grow potatoes. Q’enco is one of the communities the outfitter supports. Projects here included building a greenhouse, installing playground equipment and distributing toiletries, clothing and school supplies. You can purchase local weaving made by the women. From Lake Q’oricocha the ride heads northeast in the direction of the Sacred Valley. Descend from the altiplano into the valley of Umaspampa on a zig-zag trail for about two hours. During the descent you will have to lead your horse for a short while (about 15 min) to cross some rocky terrain. Transfer back to your hotel and dinner at a local restaurant. Riding time: 5 to 6 hours. Altitude: 3,300 - 4,350 m / 10,820 – 14,280 ft.
Today is another stunningly scenic day and you will have plenty of breaks and photo-stops. From the village of Umaspampa ride to the villages of Cuper Alto and Cuper Bajo, arriving in the early afternoon at Chinchero. Much of the riding today is along trails that are part of the great Inca Empire’s road system, the Capac Ñan. The Inca road network was one the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken in the New World, rivaling the Roman road system in the Old World.
The 25,000 km network linked Cusco, the Inca capital, to the empire’s far-flung domains. The road system reached almost all of the Andean territories, including Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile and was formed by four clearly recognizable main roads, and many secondary roads. After another beautiful afternoon ride you arrive in the village of Racchi where you have lunch.
After lunch ride to Tiobamba where the horses will stay with our grooms for the night. Transfer to your hotel in the Sacred Valley. Dine at a local restaurant or at the ranch, and overnight at the comfortable Hotel Posada del Inca in Yucay. Riding time: approx. 5-6 hours. Altitude: 3,800 - 3,550 m/12,470 - 11,650 ft.
After breakfast, leave for your last day with the horses. Today you visit the agricultural terraces of Moray. Moray is quite unique - hundreds of years ago, people in this region took four huge natural depressions in the landscape and sculpted them into multilevel agricultural terraces that served as an experimental agricultural station for the development of different crops. This was possible due to the remarkable natural phenomenon: the climates of many different ecological zones were present at a single site. In the thirty or so meters of altitude between the bottom and the top levels of Moray’s depresson, scientist John Earl recorded a full 15 degrees C difference in temperature. This is equal to the difference between the mean annual temperatures of London and Bombay! It is possible that Moray played a key role in the original transformation of maize into a high-altitude crop.
After a delicious lunch near Moray follow a trail with great views of the Urquillos Valley, arriving once more at the village of Maras. From there continue the descent into the Sacred Valley, arriving at the ranch around 4 PM. Celebrate your return with a traditional Pisco Sour.
Riding time: 4 hours. Altitude: 2,800 - 2,600 m / 9,190 - 8,530 ft. Dinner at the ranch or local restaurant in Urubamba. Overnight in the Sacred Valley.
Start the day early by taking the 6 AM train from Urubamba to the ruins of Machu Picchu. The experience of visiting Machu Picchu is not limited to the ruins themselves; the train journey is one of the most spectacular in the world.
Since its discovery by Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu has captivated the minds and hearts of the modern world. Take lots of film, this is every bit as magnificent as you have imagined.
In the afternoon take the train back to Urubamba, arriving around 7 PM. Farewell dinner at one of Urubamba’s famous restaurants, and a last chance to sample Pisco Sours. Overnight at a hotel in Yucay.
Early in the morning, transfer to the airport in Cusco for your onward travel.
THIS ITINERARY IS FLEXIBLE. CHANGES MAY OCCUR DUE TO WEATHER OR OTHER UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES.