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Vilcabamba trail taking you deep into the Cordillera mountains Approaching Machu Picchu from Vilcabamba

Highlights of the Vilcabamba trail

A tough hike taking you deep into the Cordillera mountains
Remote and quiet route with exceptional mountain views
Fascinating variety of plant and animal life
Finishes with a full tour of Machu Picchu
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Route Map
Machu Picchu Happy trekkers with Kandoo
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8 days

About the Vilcabamba Trail to Machu Picchu

This five day trek takes you right off the beaten track and far into the jungle where the Incas made their last stand against the Spanish. As well as enjoying a wealth of flora, fauna, snow peaks and impressive valleys, trekkers visit some of the last domains of the great Inca empire, and trek along some excellent examples of the Qhapaq Ñan – the royal roads of the Incas.

The route runs through the sparsely populated Cordillera Vilcabamba, which looks much the same as when Hiram Bingham first explored here a century ago. This trek is not for the faint of heart or weak of legs, crossing three consecutive high mountain passes before descending into the jungle. The trek ends with a short walk or train ride from Machu Picchu.

Some of the days on this trek can be quite long and tiring. If you are unsure of your fitness we can easily extend this trek by an additional day.

Detailed Itinerary for the Vilcabamba trail

Day 1Arrival

We'll send a Kandoo representative to meet you at the airport in Cuzco, then take you to your hotel.  

Cuzco is well worth an afternoon's exploration, but remember that it is nearly 3 1/2 kilometres above sea level, and you'll need a bit of practice before you can exert yourself comfortably.

Day 2Acclimatisation day in and around Cuzco

Cuzco itself is one of the highest points of your entire trek, so it is a good idea to take a day to get used to the thin air. 

We will be happy to arrange either full- or half-day tours of the city (payable locally)

Day 3Drive from Cuzco to Huancacalle

We'll be leaving Cuzco at 4 am on day three, and driving through the beautiful and appropriately named Sacred Valley. After stopping for a break in Ollantaytambo, we drive along a steep and winding trail to Abra Malaga Pass (at 4315 metres above sea level, it will make you think of Cuzco as 'low'). Next is a descent of nearly 2 1/2 kilometres of elevation to arrive in Chaullay, followed by the final drive to Huancacalle where we will stop for the night. We'll see several villages and archaeological sites today, including Lucuma, Vitcos-Rosaspata and the White Rock, also know as Ñustahispana.

  • Elevation: From 3400 metres to 3100 metres
  • Highest point: 4315 metres (Abra Malaga Pass)
Day 4From Huancacalle to Racachaca

Another early morning will see us to the Asuntina Pass, some 3915 metres above sea level. Next is a fast descent along very well-preserved Inca-built roads to Pillaukasa at 3860 metres.

From here we will be leaving the high jungle behind for the Andes Mountains proper. The views are everything you would expect, especially of Lasoma's snow-capped peaks!

  • Elevation: From 3100 metres to 3570 metres
  • Highest point: 3915 metres (Asuntina Pass)
Day 5From Racachaca to Mutuypata

Day five is a demanding one. We'll ascend over three high mountain passes and descend through the valleys between.

Our first waypoint is Hatun Pampa at 3860 metres, then on to Yanococha Pass at 4420 metres. Next, a steep descent to Yanacocha lake and up the other side of the valley to Tullu Tacanca Pass at 4500 metres. The third pass is Abra Mujun, a relatively low 3340 metres.

Finally we'll move through the villages of the S'aqra Cocha region, down to Laco Cocha and finally to Mutuypata.

  • Elevation: From 3570 metres to 3000 metres
  • Highest point: 4500 metres (Tullu Tacanca Pass)
Day 6From Mutuypata to Yanatile, drive to hydro-electric station, trek to Aguas Calientes

It is back down into the jungle today through deep canyons which are planted with fruit, coffee and granadilla.

Once we arrive at Yanatile, we'll go via private vehicle to the hydro-electric power station, where we will set off again on foot to Aguas Calientes.

  • Elevation: From 3000 metres to 2050 metres
Day 7Tour of the ruins at Machu Picchu

Day seven sees us taking the bus to the ruins of Machu Picchu. We begin with a guided tour of the ancient city that lasts around 2 hours, after which you will have some time to explore on your own. If you are feeling energetic, you can climb Huayna Picchu, the mountain behind Machu Picchu. You will need a permit to climb the mountain, which must be booked in advance.

From Aguas Calientes we go to Ollantaytambo by train, then we'll take you to your hotel in Cuzco.

  • Elevation: From 2050 metres to 2430 metres to 3400 metres
Day 8Departure

We'll take you to the airport via private transfer for your flight home.

FAQs about the Vilcabamba trail


The Vilcabamba is considered a difficult trek. It’s the longest and most strenuous trek to Machu Picchu. However, the wilderness you trek through makes up for its difficulty. No technical skills are required.


The rough distance of the trek is 30 miles or 48 kilometres.


The trail is extremely remote and beautiful. You will walk through sub-tropic jungle, several Inca ruins and pass through several snow-capped peaks.


No permit is required to trek the Vilcabamba trail.


The Vilcabamba trek is not a busy trek, but we still recommend booking at least 1 month in advance.


The high season for the Vilcabamba is from May to September (dry period).

Speak with an expert Start planning your next adventure by contacting one of our destination experts.
rachael b

Rachael Bode

Destination expert

Phone: + 44 (0) 1283 499982

sharon k

Sharon King

Destination expert

Phone: +44 (0) 1283 499981

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