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Days 1-: Leave Cusco early, and drive north-west on the Lima road. After a steep descent arrive at Tarawasi, a small Inca site. Shortly afterwards you leave the asphalt and turn towards Mollepata, above the Apurimac river (about 2-3 hours driving in total). After a further 30 minutes leave the bus and start walking: a 1½-2 hours steep climb until the path levels out and you follow an irrigation channel which leads to Soraypampa in about 2 hours. The total distance is 10km, after which you will be given a warm welcome at Soray Lodge (2 night stay).
Days 2-: A free day here allows one to take a practice hike to a glacier lake below Humantay or ride in the surrounding countryside.
Days 3-: This is the toughest day of the trek. A 2 hour gentle climb brings you to Salkantaypampa, from where a steep zig-zag path eventually takes you up to the 'Abra Salkantay' pass at 4,800m. From here a long decent brings you to the next lodge, Wayra, in the shadow of Humantay and at 3,900m. 5-7 hour's walking in total, but horses are always available for those who get tired legs.
Days 4-: A 3 hour descent brings you to the meeting of three rivers and the next lodge, Colpa Lodge (2,800m) where you arrive in time for a traditional lunch and an afternoon's relaxation. There is an outside hot tub.
Days 5-: A gentle descent along the Santa Teresa river valley, passing hot springs and descending well into more tropical habitat. After 4-5 hours and a leisurely lunch stop the trail arrives an an unpaved road, and a van will give you a welcome lift to the start of the Llactapata Inca Trail, whose beautifully crafted steps lead after only 20 minutes or so to the last lodge, Lucma Lodge.
Days 6-: The Llactapata trail climbs steadily for 2-3 hours until you reach a barely-excavated Inca site with spectacular views across a wide valley to Machu Picchu. From here a steep descent leads down to the hydro-electric station, where you sign into the National Park and board the train for a 30 minute ride to Aguas Calientes. The night is spent at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu hotel, whose rooms are individually decorated in cabins around the beautiful gardens.
Days 7-: A full day to explore the enigmatic ruins of Machu Picchu (the first bus up to the site leaves at 0530) before boarding the late afternoon Vistadome train back to Cusco, and a final night at the Casa San Blas.
Fixed departures from March to December. March 1–31 and November 1–December 14 are low season, when there is a saving of US$600 per person. Single supplement 50%. It is also possible to arrange a trek on a private basis subject to a minimum of 6 passengers, and at higher cost. A minimum of 2 nights, ideally 3, is needed in Cusco before the trek for acclimatisation and a night is also needed at the end.