Machu Picchu Eco-Lodge Trek, Peru

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14800B, International


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


  • Six-day/five-night 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


DatesNov 7–17, 2014
StaffAngela White

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 will tour this incredible ancient city and former Inca capital. Then we move to the nearby Sacred Valley with its endless views and stunning archaeology. As we enjoy these first couple of days we are also becoming acclimatized to the high altitudes. A high mountain plain with lakes and breathtaking views are visual treats as we drive to Mollepata. Just beyond this lovely small village we start our hiking trek.  

Our trek begins with a half-day hike to our first lodge below the glacier-clad Salcantay Peak, which is over 20,000 feet high.  Five days of trekking, with pack animals carrying our gear, will take us through the spectacular Andes Cordillera Vilcabamba, passing glistening, snow-capped 20,000-footers. Each evening will find us at cozy, eco-friendly lodges, eating gourmet dishes, soaking in the hot tub under the stars, and snuggling into down comforters.

At the end of our trek, we'll reward ourselves with a full day exploring the mysterious ruins of Machu Picchu. And then we continue on a train through the Urubamba Valley to Ollyantaytambo, where we will explore magnificent Inca ruins before driving back to Cusco for our last evening together.


Day 1: Arrive in Cusco (11,400 feet) by late morning, then gather for lunch and a group orientation meeting. In the afternoon, enjoy a guided tour of this fascinating city and the impressive Inca ruins that overlook the city. Overnight: El Mercado.

Day 2: Today, we'll take a tour of the beautiful Sacred Valley, visiting Awanakancha and Pisac, which are two important Inca ruins. Learning about local agriculture and visiting colorful Pisac market will also be on the agenda for the day. Overnight: San Andina.

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

Day 4: We will continue to acclimatize to the altitude today as we hike (optional) to a gorgeous, aquamarine blue lake (over 14,000 feet) below the glimmering glaciers of Humantay Peak. Most of the afternoon is yours to explore the grounds around the lodge or just relax and admire the scenery. Overnight: Salkantay Lodge.

Day 5: An early start will allow us to comfortably cross the highest pass on the trek (15,200 feet) by lunchtime. Today’s hike is challenging, but we will be rewarded with views of endless snow-capped mountains as we look for Andean Condors circling above us. We will reach our next lodge by mid-afternoon. Overnight: Wayra Lodge (12,600 feet).

Day 6: Today, our hike will be a moderate downhill hike, high above the Salkantay River and into increasingly verdant scenery. As we descend into the cloud forest, we will see an increasing number of colorful flowers, including an array of orchids, and more exotic birds. We will arrive at the lodge by the river for a late and special Peruvian style BBQ lunch. Overnight: Colpa Lodge (9,350 feet).

Day 7: We will hike above the roaring Santa Theresa River for most of the day, past a series of small farms nestled in the rain forest. There are many butterflies, orchids, and flocks of parakeets to enchant us on our moderate hike today. After lunch we will interrupt our hike for a 30-minute van ride through a congested village back to our trail. A 30-minute walk uphill, with a brief stop at a local coffee plantation, will bring us to our fourth wonderful lodge overlooking the picturesque Santa Theresa Valley. Overnight: Lucma Lodge (6,890 feet).

Day 8: This will be the last day of our trek. Hiking steadily uphill for two to three hours, we will have climbed about 2,000 feet to a pass that takes us to the Llactapata Ruins. Here we are rewarded with our first magnificent views of Machu Picchu in the distance. After lunch at a nearby farm, we will steeply descend through forests of bamboo and farmland to the Aobamba River. A short train ride will take us to Aguas Calientes at the bottom of the Urubamba Valley and our hotel for the night. 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. We will have a guided tour of the ruins and have time to wander in this magnificent and sacred place. A big buffet lunch will fortify us during the day. We will stay as late as we can to enjoy the late afternoon light on these unforgettable ruins.  After the bus returns us to Aguas Calientes (dinner on your own), we will transfer to a train for the 1.5-hour ride to Ollayantaytambo. Overnight: Hotel Pakaritampu.

Day 10: After breakfast, we will spend the morning touring the impressive and expansive ruins of Ollantaytambo. After lunch, we will drive back to Cusco with a stop at the lovely village of Chinchero, high (over 12,300 feet) on the windswept plains of Anta. We will be treated to beautiful views overlooking the Sacred Valley, with the Cordillera Vilcabamba and the snow-capped peak of Salkantay dominating the western horizon. From there a van will return us to Cusco and a farewell dinner. Overnight: El Mercado.

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.



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 as indulgent as sleeping in a warm, cozy bed in a roadless area, where everything must be carried in by horses and 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 an excellent chef and local kitchen staff. Accommodations in Cusco, Aguas Calientes, and Ollantaytambo 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

Early November is generally a great time to visit Peru! Weather is typically nice, with cooler temperatures ranging from 35-70 degrees F. Many days Cusco is partly cloudy and Machu Picchu can be sunny in the afternoon! We must still be prepared for occasional rain, sometimes a downpour, and even some snow at our highest elevations is possible. The leader will send a complete packing list to registered participants and is available to answer any questions you may have about gear.



  • The Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour, Wright, R. & Zegarra, A., 2004. This is a good guide to the ruins of Machu Picchu and handy to have while at Machu Picchu.
  • Machu Picchu: Exploring an Ancient Sacred Center 4th ed., Reinhard, J., 2007. This guide is more focused on the cosmology of the Inca and Machu Picchu.
  • Monuments of the Incas, revised ed., Hemming, J., 2010. A large-format coffee table style book with beautiful black and white photographs and detailed descriptions of the archaeological sites we will see and many other Incan sites.
  • Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time, Adams, M., 2012. A serious and humorous tale of adventure and archaeology.
  • The Lost City of the Incas, revised ed. Bingham, H., 2003. A reprint of Bingham’s original account of his "discovery" of Machu Picchu with archival photographs. The book was originally published in 1948.
  • The Conquest of the Incas, Hemming, J., 2003. An exhaustive and authoritative account of the Spanish conquest of Peru and the Incas.
  • The Last Days of the Incas,  MacQuarrie, K., 2008. Another perspective on the fall of the Incas. This book also discusses modern scholars evolving interpretations of Inca remains.
  • Inca Rituals and Sacred Mountains: A Study of the World's Highest Archaeological Sites, Reinhard, J., 2010. An account of Reinhard’s recent discovery of incredibly well-preserved teenage mummies from an ancient Incan ritual that were found at the top of the Andes and are now on display in Salta, Argentina.
  • The Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes, Reinhard, J., 2006. This is a description of Reinhard’s first stunning discovery of a well-preserved young woman from an ancient Incan rite that was found near the top of a Peruvian volcanic mountain and is now on display in Arequipa, Peru.
  • Quechua: Lonely Planet Phrasebook, Coronel-Molina, S., 2008. Many of the people of the Andes speak only Quechua and this little book can help you with a few common Quechua phrases.
  • The Rough Guide to Peru. Jenkins, D. 2012. One of many guides to Peru. The trip leader personally likes the Rough Guide series because they have a section called “Contexts” that gives a lucid overview of the history, economics and politics of the country.
  • Inca Trail, Cusco & Machu Picchu, 5th ed., Stewart, A., 2013. This Trailblazer book has descriptions of several treks in Peru, including ours – The Salcantay Trek.
  • Peru: Travellers’ Wildlife Guides, Pearson, D. & Beletsky, 2008. A fine introduction to the ecology and wildlife of Peru including a section on birds. Do you know what a Viscacha is?
  • The Birds of Machu Picchu and the Cusco Region: A Field Guide, Walker, B. 2005. There are about 1,000 species of birds in the areas we will visit. This is an introductory guide to the more common birds of the region.
  • Flowers of Machu Picchu: Including Orchids, Del Sante, G. & Chang, D., 2006. This is the best book the trip leader could find on the common flowers of the region we will be visiting.
  • Trees & Bushes of the Sacred Valley, Del Sante, G., 2007. This is the best book the trip leader could find on the common trees and shrubs of the region we will be visiting.


  • 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.



Angela lives in Truckee, just north of Lake Tahoe, California. She has led, assisted or cooked on many Sierra Club trips in North America, England, Scotland, Ireland, Slovenia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, and Panama. But Peru holds a special place in her heart as it is a fascinating mixture of cultures and so much is surrounded by mystery and beauty.

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