“Beautiful and remote - and varied! Saw no other backpackers until day four,…just us, the stars and the condors.” Bryony, UK, Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu, May, 2011.

Giving back

Trek with us and $20 of your trek price is donated to generate a sustainable trekking industry in the Andes, and the NGO: ThreadsofPeru.com

“I remember my excitement as we stumbled on an Inca Trail, as if we were really explorers. This is still one of my favourite treks of all time. ” Ariana Svenson, Apus Peru Co Founder

off the beaten track in peru - apus peru adventure travel specialists

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Machu Picchu

Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu trek, hikers in the Andes

Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu trek

On this truly spectacular and special hike - the Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu trek- enjoy a wealth of flora, fauna, snow peaks, impressive valleys while at the same time visiting the last refuge of the Incas – Vilcabamba and it's archaelogical sites. After we leave the charming village of Huancacalle, we trek along some excellent examples of the Qhapaq Ñan – or royal roads of the Incas before heading off into “unknown territory”. We cross three consecutive passes, often covered in snow before descending to the wonderfully warm jungle. Crossing a great mountain chain, we finally arrive at Machu Picchu. This custom designed itinerary was the first of its kind when Apus Peru started to offer it in 2005. The Vilcabamba trek is one of the hidden treasures in peru!

Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu trek - at a glance

> View Full Itinerary (Code CVMP5)

Highlight: As yet, untouristed! begins in the humid jungle and climbs into the magnificent Andes before ending at Machu Picchu.

Location: Begins in Huancacalle, 8 hours drive over the Abra de Malaga from Cusco

Duration: (5 days/ 4 nights)

Level: Moderate - Difficult

Adventure Rating: This is a very adventurous and challenging hike! Not available during the rainy season. (December through March)

Inca Trail Alternative: Yes, in our opinion the best! You actually hike on old Inca trails and pass through a range of scenery. Awesome!

Departure Dates: any day with two people. We offer affordably priced tours for 2 people so that you can depart when it suits you best.

Combos & Upgrades: Combine with one of our tours for a complete Peru experience, try Comfort Camping or choose an Aguas Calientes upgrade.

Trekkers Wanted: If you wish to join a group tour, please see Trekkers Wanted.You can also form your own tour to be advertised on this page. Maximum group size 10.



# of People

2 3 4 5-6 7-8 9-12

Price USD (per person)

$1865 $1485 $1290 $1165 $1105 $998

Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu trek (Code CVMP5) - Full Itinerary

Day 1: Cusco - Abra de Malaga - Huancacalle - Pilaupata

We pick you up in your hotel very early (ie 4am)l, in private transport. You pass through the pretty Sacred Valley before beginning to climb to the Abra de Malaga - a very spectacular and very windy road! Often the pass (4300 m) is snow covered. At Chaullay you divert from the route to Quillabamba and head towards Huancacalle. You should arrive at Huancacalle by 1pm, and after lunch you will have a guided tour of f the archaeological sites of Vitcos-Rosaspata and the Ñustahispana (or White Rock). From there we will hike for approximately2 hours, walking on an impressive Inca trail that was part of the Qhapaq Ñan (Network of Inca Trails that criss crossed the Inca Empire).
Accommodation: Camping Pilaupata or Pumachaca (3630m) or slightly earlier, depending on progress of group.

Day 2: Pilaupata - Asuntina Pass - Racachaca

After an early breakfast we begin our expedition by climbing, all the while observing flora and fauna. After 3.5 hours we will arrive at a high point at Azotina/Asuntina Pass (3915m) before desending quickly along well preserved Inca Roads to Pillaukasa (3860m) We observe a variety of snow capped mountains, and follow crystal clear rivers. It is spectacular walk as you leave the high jungle and arrive in the Andes. A ccommodation: Camping Racachaca (3570m) or Hatun Pampa (which is 2.5 hours further on from Racachaca)

Day 3: Racachaca - Hatun Pampa - Yanococha Pass - Mutuypata

After passing Racachaca we will climb 2.5 hours to Hatun Pampa (3860m). From Hatun Pampa we will climb for 2.5 hours to Yanococha Pass before (3320m) before descending steeply to Yanacocha lake and then climbing to the second pass of the day at Tullu Tacanca (3340m) and then onto the well known, and third pass of the day Abra Mujun (3340m) another 2 hours of hiking.This is a difficult days trekking with many changes in altitude, but also beautiful high alpine lakes and snowcapped mountains. This is the most difficult day of the hike. From Abra Mujun, we pass by S'aqra Cocha and descend to LacoCocha about 2.5 hours of hiking further. From LacoCocha to Mutuypata is a further hour. Hiking time 8 hours. Accommodation: Camping Mutuypata or further below.

Day 4: Mutuypata - Yanatile - Hydroelectric Station - Aguas Calientes

After breakfast, our hike is all downhill as we enter once again the high jungle, and already the climate is temperate. We pass by a canyon filled with roaring water and continue by coffee, fruit and granadilla plantations, before arriving at the village of Yanatile (approx 3 hours walking). From there, we will take transport to the Hydro-Electric station, where we will have lunch. We will then walk for two and a half hours following the railway tracks to Aguas Calientes. You will arrive in Aguas Calientes in time for a soak in its famous Hot Springs, or a shower in your hostal, and then a celebratory diner. Hiking time: 5 hours . It is recommended to bath in the famous medicinal baths when you arrive in Aguas Calientes.
Accommodation: Basic Hostel Aguas Calientes

Day 5: Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu - Cusco

Breakfast included at hotel. Early in the morning (before dawn) we will take a bus up to the ruins of Machu Picchu. (Bus included in price) so that you can appreciate sunrise from the Watchman's Hut (or Inti Punku if you get up very early). You will then have a 2.5 hour guided tour of Machu Picchu with your guide. After your tour you can further explore the ruins by yourself or climb Huayna Picchu (permit required) This hike takes about 1 hour to climb, and less to descend and offers awesome views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding terrain. Also try to fit in a visit to the Temple of the Moon or the fabulous Inca Bridge. We highly recommend walking down from Machu Picchu to get a feeling for the vegetation and also the audacity of its builders. Its a 1-2 hour walk back to the village of Machu Picchu, though a ticket on the bus is included in your trek price. We return to Cusco in the afternoon by the backpacker train (leaves either at 2.30pm or 6pm) and are met by a driver at Ollantaytambo who will transfer you directly back to your hotel. You will arrive approximately 4 hours after your train's departure from Aguas Calientes.

Itinerary notes - Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu trek - 5 days

  • The times cited in this itinerary are approximate. Walking times depend on the group and the guide can change lunch spots and campsites, depending on the progress of the group. Each guide has their own preferred route and it might not correspond exactly to the route described here.
  • Considering an extra night in Aguas Calientes? (Please check out linked page) We can change the date of your train ticket to the following day. Hotels costs and costs associated with returning to Machu Picchu the following day are additional to trek costs. Please also note that your entry ticket to Machu Picchu is valid for one day only, if you wish to visit the ruins on a second consecutive day you will need to purchase the ticket again.
  • This is an adventurous trip. You should be sure to bring an open mind, flexibility and a sense of humor. Most of all you should be prepared to go with the flow.
  • This region is not frequently visited by tourists, therefore tourist infrastructure is limited. This tour incorporates public transport, and use of local facilities. Visitors should be aware that things change, or may not go to plan. This is all part of the adventure!
  • The Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu trek is an adventurous trek, crossing seveal high passes that in the low (wet) season can be snowed under. We do not recommend this trek during December, January, February, and March but this recommendation depends on the current weather conditions.

Aguas Calientes upgrade package (optional)

TIncluded in the price of your tour is a very comfortable, 3 star hotel with hot water etc. However, we notice that many people are accustomed to a different standard of accomodation or are looking for a splurge. Our Upgrade Package makes this type of change easy to do. This is an upgrade package for treks that already include a nights stay in a hotel in Aguas Calientes, but you would like to upgrade the standard of hotel, meals and train service.

We offer three types of Upgrade... the different types refer to the standard of the Hotel. ** For Prices and hotel options, please refer to the Aguas Calientes Upgrades page **

- Upgrade

- Comfort Plus

-Upscale Chic

All packages include the same meals and trains.

  • Dinner at one of Aguas Calientes “best” restaurants, like Indio Feliz or Tree House restaurant.
  • Buffet lunch at Tinkuy Restaurant, located in the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. With limited eating choices at Machu Picchu hunger tends to send clients to Aguas Calientes; by including the buffet lunch we find that clients can visit Machu Picchu early, then go to the buffet to try lots of different Peruvian (and Western) dishes, and then rest and go back for a second look at Machu Picchu.

  • Return in Vistadome train rather than Expedition train, which gives you the opportunity for a more varied timetable and to return in a nicer train, with big windows in the roof.

Practical Information

What's included?

For complete facts about many aspects of Apus Peru tours, check out our FAQs page!

  • Pre trek briefing
  • Collection from your hotel in the morning of trek departure.
  • Transport from Cusco to the trailhead at the beginning of the trek in private car
  • Entry fee to Machu Picchu (If you wish to climb Huayna Picchu its $15 extra, please advise at booking)
  • English/Quechua/Spanish speaking professional guide (you will have an assistant guide for groups over 6 people).
  • Tents - 2 people in a 4 person tent which allows for greater comfort, and also storage of backpacks.
  • Basic foam mattress. If you require greater comfort during the trek we can hire you an inflatable mattress (eg. Thermarest) .
  • Cook and Cooking equipment (Assistants are provided for larger groups)
  • Toilet tent
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary (optional vegetarian food). Our professional cooks prepare meals that incorporate elements of the western diet and also traditional Peruvian delicacies. (Please communicate with your guide/cook during the trek if you have a preference for certain types of dishes). Salads, if served, are washed in boiled water.
  • Horses (for equipment and personal items) including horsemen. They carry camping equipment, food and kitchen utensils. We provide duffel bags at your briefing for your personal items (up to 7 kg/15lbs per person).
  • 1 emergency horse which can be ridden if you are feeling ill or if are a little slower
  • Dining tent with camp tables and chairs & Kitchen tent for the cook to prepare meals
  • Tents for our staff to sleep in
  • First aid kit including emergency oxygen bottle
  • Bus up and down from Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu
  • Train or equivalent luggage from Hydroelectric station to Aguas Calientes
  • Train ticket (Expedition service) from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo
  • Private transport from Ollantaytambo to Cusco.
  • Celebratory dinner in Aguas Calientes
  • Lunch on the last day is included in this itinerary.
  • 1 night accommodation in Aguas Calientes in a basic hotel. This will be a nice, clean and safe hostel with breakfast included and private bathroom. If you wish to upgrade from this hotel, please check out the options listed on our Aguas Calientes accommodation page.

What is not included?

  • Breakfast on the first morning.
  • Dinner on the last night.
  • Entrance to the thermal springs
  • Huayna Picchu Entry ($15 extra)
  • Sleeping bags - If you haven't got a sleeping bag or you don't want the hassle of bringing one all the way to Peru with you, then we have sleeping bags for hire.
  • Tips for the guide, cook and porters
  • Additional horses for passengers luggage.
  • Extra activities (ie Cola de Mono zipline)

You should bring:

  • A light day pack with a change of clothes for the whole period of the trek - prepare for a vast range of changes in temperature
  • Rain gear (jacket and pants if available) or rain poncho. Plastic ponchos can be bought for about $1 in Cusco .
  • Strong footwear, waterproof trekking boots recommended. Extra socks are a must.
  • Sandals or plastic slip on thongs are also good to give your feet a chance to breath in the evenings if you wish to carry them.
  • Warm clothes, including jacket, fleeces, gloves, scarf and beanie/touk. Thermal clothing is also recommended, especially for sleeping.
  • Sleeping bag (we can hire these to you)
  • Torch/ Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Camera, films and batteries (batteries consume more quickly under cold conditions)
  • Hat or cap to protect you from the sun, rain and cold
  • Sun block
  • After-sun cream or hydrating cream for face and body
  • Insect repellent - minimum recommended 20% DEET - although no malaria risk has been reported
  • Toilet paper, pack in & pack out
  • Snacks: biscuits, energy bars, chocolate, raw fruits, muesli, etc.
  • Non-disposable canteen (Nalgene type) and water for the first morning.
  • We advise you to bring water sterilizing tablets in case you collect water from streams.
  • Your own medical kit with any special medications that you might require, paracetamol, second skin for blisters etc.
  • Small towel or sarong
  • Bathers/swimsuit (if you intend on swimming in hot springs )
  • Cash - sufficient for snacks, tips and souvenirs.
  • Original passport & ISIC (International Student Identity Card) if you have one.
  • Walking sticks or poles (we can hire these to you. Please note poles with metal tips cannot be carried into Machu Picchu and should be left at your hotel on the final day)
  • Binoculars (if you have them)

optional extras

We can hire the following to you - please contact your Travel Consultant / or our booking forms for the current rates.

  • Extra mule to carry YOUR things
  • Extra riding mule and muleteer to lead it
  • Sleeping Bag suitable for – 10deg
  • Deluxe Sleeping Bag suitable for -15deg.
  • Walking stick lightweight aluminum - Two sticks are recommended for tough hikes.
  • Thermarest inflatable mattress -
  • Thermarest Inflatable pillow
  • Comforting Camping trek upgrade - bigger tents, camp beds, includes sleeping bag, thermarest, and walking stick.
  • Single tent supplement (ie you don’t want to share a tent)


  • When calculating costs for hire of walking stick, sleeping bag, calculate using the length of the tour. Even though you won’t use the equipment on the final day it will still be ‘on the road’ and ‘occupied.’
  • If you hire equipment and break it – you are responsible for price of replacement /or repair. (please do the right thing!)

AVAILABLE DISCOUNTS (these discounts are not cumulative)

  • 5% discount on treks only for members of South American Explorers Club (SAE)
  • Students: US$ 30.00 (students require a valid International Student Identity Card. Please beware that Youth Travel Cards are not valid)
  • Teenagers: US$ 20.00 (up to 15 years of age, passport copy required for all bookings)
  • Children: US$ 45.00 (up to 10 years of age, passport copy required for all bookings)


Please visit our Make a Booking page.

You will need to email us to check availability, receive booking forms and then make your deposit. For our payment conditions and booking please refer to our Make a Booking page. * For organisational reasons, we require one week to organise your booking, prior to departure.