Browse the Itinerary for this Ride
Plan to arrive mid-morning in the ancient Incan capital of Cusco (altitude 3,338 m / 10,952 ft) where you will be picked up from the airport between 10-11.30AM by mini-van. If you are staying at a hotel in Cusco pickup will be after the airport pickup. From Cusco it is about a 1.25hrs drive to the hotel in the Sacred Valley.
For the next four nights you will be staying in comfortable accommodations in the heart of the Sacred Valley, between Cusco and Machu Picchu and only a short drive from the stables. Once you have settled into your room you will be transferred to the ranch where you will have the opportunity to become familiar with the beautiful Peruvian Paso horses and the traditional Peruvian riding gear. This is a time for relaxing as it can take a while to become acclimatized to the altitude.
A lunchtime barbeque is served at the ranch. In the afternoon, there will be a demonstration of classic Peruvian equitation, followed by an introductory Peruvian riding course. You will be returned to your accommodations to freshen up. Before dinner there will be an informal briefing about the ride, the horses and safety instructions.
Dinner at the ranch or at a local restaurant and overnight in the Sacred Valley.
Today is a day to relax and enjoy being on holiday, while you acclimatize to the altitude before the ride begins. Around 9:30 AM take the short drive to Ollantaytambo where you will visit the ruins and village. According to legend, Ollantaytambo is named for a rebellious chieftain, Ollantay, who took up arms against his sovereign, the Inca Pachacuti, in pursuit of his forbidden love for the Inca's daughter, Nusta Cosi Collyu. Historical records tell us the site was actually a royal estate of Pachacuti, the Inca responsible for the Empire's most expansive growth. This would account for the fine stonework throughout the site, and the quality, abundance and scale of the ceremonial architecture. Although not designed as a citadel when it was built in the 1460s, Manco Inca successfully defended Ollantaytambo against Hernando Pizarro in 1537.The village of Ollantaytambo is the only inhabited settlement that has survived much as the Incas laid it out. Its streets form a grid pattern, with many people still living in the original Inca canchas (blocks of multifamily homes sharing a large courtyard).
Lunch is served at the ranch around 1:00PM. After lunch continue your riding course in classic Peruvian equitation in the security of a round pen. If time allows you will do a short ride into the valley to become comfortable with your horse. Dinner and overnight as the previous evening.
After a leisurely breakfast, saddle the horses and depart around 10:00AM in the direction of Yanahuara. 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. Take plenty of film to capture this unique sight.
After lunch you will climb with the horses (almost 1,000 meter / 3,281 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 3,700 meter (12,140 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. After lunch visit the church of Maras, one of the ten oldest churches in South America and build just after the Conquest. 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 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: 2,700 – 3,700 m / 8,860-12,140 ft.
After breakfast at your hotel, transfer back to Tiobamba where the horses spent the night. Follow primitive trails across the altiplano. The scenery is spectacular with snow capped 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 Cinchero where Quechua porters and llamas are awaiting you with the picnic lunch.
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 Cinchero. 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 Cinchero you will also 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: 5 hours. Altitude: 3,000-3,800 m / 9,840-12,470 ft. Dinner in Urubamba and overnight at Hotel Sonesta Posada del Inca.
From Lago Piuray 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 4000 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. We will leave you with an overnight bag in which to put things you might need for the camping night which is immediately after your stay in Cusco. Riding time: 6 hours. Altitude: 3,400-4,000 m / 11,160-13,120 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. Ascend a steep and narrow valley to reach a pass at 4,300 m, and enjoy the view of the small, shallow Lake Quellacocha. This is the highest point of the ride. 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 Qoricocha, where you arrive at the campsite around 4:00PM. 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. Riding time: 4 to 5 hours. Altitude: 3,600 - 4,350 m / 11,800 – 14,280 ft. You will spend the night at the campsite near Lago Qoricocha (weather permitting).
From Lago Qoricocha ride northeast in the direction of the Sacred Valley. The scenery en route is absolutely spectacular, and you will have plenty of breaks to soak up the atmosphere before the descent from the alti-plano into the valley.
Descend to the village of Umaspampa and from there to the village of Cuper Alto and Cuper Bajo, arriving in the early afternoon at Chinchero, lunch will be enroute. Today’s route will take you for many miles along trails that are part of the great Inca Empire’s road system, Capac Nan. The Inca road network was one of the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken in the New World, rivaling the Roman road system in the Old World. The 25000-km network linked Cusco to the empire’s far-flung domains. Almost all of the territory was in the Andes, including nowadays Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile and was formed by four main roads and many secondary roads.
After 3-4 hours along you arrive in the village of Racchi where the horses will stay with the grooms for the night. Transfer to your hotel in the Sacred Valley, dinner at a local restaurant or at the ranch.
From Altitude: 4300 - 2800 m / 14,110 - 9,190 ft. Dinner at a local restaurant or at the ranch. Overnight at a comfortable hotel in the Sacred Valley.
After breakfast, leave for your last day with the horses. Before you ride visit the agricultural terraces of Moray.
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 depression, 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 visiting Moray follow the trail with great views of the Urquillos Valley, arriving once more at the village of Maras where you will enjoy another delicious picnic lunch. After lunch complete the descent into the Sacred Valley, arriving at the ranch around 3 PM. Celebrate your return with a traditional Pisco Sour.
Riding time: 3 1/2 hours. Altitude: 2,800 - 2,600 m / 9,200 - 8,550 ft. Dinner at a nice restaurant in Urubamba. Overnight in the comfortable Hotel Sonesta Posada del Inca in Yucay.
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.