Machu Picchu Eco-Lodge Trek, Peru

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14580A, International


  • Trek between luxurious lodges through the Andes Cordillera Vilcabamba
  • Tour the Inca sites of Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley
  • Enjoy hot tubs, fine cuisine, and amazing scenery


  • Six-day guided trek to Machu Picchu
  • Private, guided tours of Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley
  • All accommodations, meals, guide services, on-trip transportation, and gratuities


DatesApr 12–22, 2014
StaffWayne Martin

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Craving the challenge of a Machu Picchu trek, but aren't keen on sleeping in a tent? At last, there is a more comfortable alternative! We will hike between four small eco-lodges on a less-visited alternative to the overcrowded "Inca Trail." Hot showers, delicious meals, and comfortable beds will seem like the ultimate indulgence after high-altitude hiking days.

After meeting in the city of Cusco, we'll start with a day of touring the city and spend another day in the nearby Sacred Valley. From there we'll transfer to our first lodge, where we'll spend another day and a half catching our breath -- literally -- as we get used to the altitude with some easy hikes.

Once acclimatized, we'll spend four days trekking through the spectacular Andes Cordillera Vilcabamba, passing glistening, snow-capped 20,000-footers, including majestic Salcantay. Each evening will find us in cozy, eco-friendly lodges, eating gourmet dishes, soaking in the hot tub under the stars, and snuggling into down comforters. Pack animals will carry our gear.

At the end of our trek, we'll reward ourselves with a full day exploring the mysterious ruins of Machu Picchu.


Day 1: Arrive in Cusco (11,000 feet) by late morning on April 12, gather for lunch and a group orientation meeting, then take a guided tour of the city and surrounding Inca ruins. Overnight: Cusco.

Day 2: Today, we'll take a tour of the beautiful Sacred Valley, visiting colorful Pisac market, the fascinating Awanakancha, and Pisac Inca ruins, and learning about local agriculture. Overnight: Sacred Valley.

Day 3: After an early breakfast, we'll set off for our first lodge. We will be transported by van for the first part of the route and then start a long seven-hour hike, arriving at the lodge by foot. A soak in the hot tub, under the stars and mountain tops, ends a perfect day! Overnight: Salkantay Lodge (12,800 feet).

Day 4: Today will be an opportunity to acclimate to elevation while staying at this gorgeous location. You'll have the option of a half-day hike to a glacial lake, exploring the grounds around the lodge or just relaxing and admiring the scenery. Overnight: Salkantay Lodge.

Day 5: We will start the day early and cross the highest pass on the trek (15,200 feet) by lunchtime. Views of snow-capped mountains will surround us and we'll look for Andean Condors, circling above us. We will reach our new lodge by mid-afternoon. Hiking time: six hours, challenging. Overnight: Wayra Lodge (12,600 feet).

Day 6: Today, our hike will be mostly downhill, high above the Salkantay River and into increasingly verdant scenery. We'll plan to arrive at the lodge by the river for a late lunch. Hiking time: five hours, moderate. Overnight: Colpa Lodge (9,350 feet).

Day 7: We'll walk through the river valley all day, past coffee and banana plantations and many orchards. After lunch, a van will take us for a 30-minute ride to the trailhead where we can hike to our fourth and last lodge. From here it will be a 30-minute walk uphill until we reach our lodge in an avocado orchard. Hiking time: five hours, moderate. Overnight: Lucma Lodge (6,890 feet).

Day 8: This will be the last day of our trek. We'll hike uphill for a couple of hours to get a spectacular view of Machu Picchu in the distance and to access the Llactapata Ruins. After lunch there, we'll descend through forests of bamboo and farmland to the Aobamba River, then take a short train ride to Aguas Calientes. Hiking time: seven hours, strenuous. Overnight: El Mapi Hotel.

Day 9: A day in Machu Picchu! We will get up early and get the bus up the mountain to the ruins. After a guided tour there, you will have the rest of the day free to explore on your own -- maybe hiking to the Gate of the Sun or returning to Machu Picchu Pueblo to visit the market and local baths. Overnight: El Mapi Hotel.

Day 10: We will take a morning train to Ollentaytambo in the Sacred Valley, where a bus will meet us. From here we'll go back to Cusco and a farewell dinner.

Day 11: Our trip ends after breakfast. You'll have the options of flying home, staying longer in Cusco, or visiting other places in beautiful Peru. 
This trip begins and ends in Cusco. The leader will send additional information to registered participants.



Getting There

This trip begins and ends in Cusco. The leader will send additional information to registered participants.

Accommodations and Food

The on-trek accommodations are a highlight of this trip. While most treks in this area involve camping, we will be staying in cozy six-room eco-lodges (some even come with outdoor hot tubs!). There is nothing quite so indulgent as sleeping in a warm, cozy bed in a roadless area where everything must be carried in by mules. Each room includes two beds and we will need to have two people per room due to the size of our group. So, you will be required to share a room with someone in our group. Meals at each of the lodges are prepared by a high-end chef and local kitchen staff. Accommodations in Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu Pueblo can be considered "upscale tourist class" (3+ to 4 stars). The food on-trek is delicious and plentiful, with vegetarian options at every meal. Meals outside of the trek will be in local restaurants, with vegetarian options available.

Trip Difficulty

Although our gear will be carried by pack animals and we will spend nights in comfortable lodges, this is a strenuous, high-altitude trek and should not be underestimated. Altitudes on the trek range from 6,200 feet to over 15,000 feet, and we will hike up to seven hours per day. Some days require ascents or descents of several thousand feet. You must be in excellent physical condition for this trip. Previous high-altitude hiking experience is preferred. The leader is happy to answer any questions you may have and to help you plan your pre-trip conditioning.

Equipment and Clothing

April is generally a great time to visit Peru! Weather is typically nice, with cooler temperatures ranging from 35-70 degrees F. On many days Cusco is partly cloudy, but Machu Picchu is usually sunny in the afternoon! We must still be prepared for occasional rain. A pair of well-broken-in, sturdy hiking boots is essential, as is a full set of rain gear and some warm layers. The leader will send a complete packing list to registered participants and is available to answer any questions you may have about gear.


The leader has not read / watched much from the following list, but offers them for your consideration.


  • Bingham, H., The Lost City of the Incas. A reprint of Bingham’s original account of his "discovery" of Machu Picchu.
  • Hemming, J., The Conquest of the Incas. The definitive account of the Spanish conquest of Peru and the Incas.


  • The Incas Remembered (1986)
  • The Great Inca Rebellion (2007) – National Geographic
  • Ghosts of Machu Picchu (2009) – Nova


The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally understanding parallel concerns at home and abroad.

Tourism in this area of Peru has been a mixed blessing, especially with the increase in popularity of Machu Picchu. On one hand, it accounts for much of the economy and provides jobs for many of the local people. However, it has also led to widespread exploitation of labor and the environment, including a troublesome trash disposal problem on popular trekking routes and damage to the Machu Picchu ruins. We will discuss how tourism can be used as a source for economic and community development, and the steps that some organizations are taking to promote more ecologically friendly tourism. Although the lodges we stay in have an impact on the environment, the owners have employed many innovative building and maintenance techniques that reduce their footprint. They have also gone to great lengths to hire and train local employees and to help local support staff organize for higher wages and better working conditions industry-wide.



Wayne Martin began his adventures with the Sierra Club more than two decades ago, when he went snow camping in the Sierra Nevada with the Bay Area chapter. Two years later, in 1984, he led his first national Sierra Club trip. Since then he has led more than 50 trips and served as chair of the club's International Outings Subcommittee.

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