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Palcay Trek to Machu Picchu – 5D/4N

Each year, more and more intrepid travelers from across the globe make the journey to Peru to follow in the footsteps of the ancient Incas, and trek to the sacred city of Machu Picchu.

Whilst the Inca Trail is the most famous of the trails to Machu Picchu, it is also the busiest and booking a trek often needs to be made a year or more in advance. The Palcay trail on the other hand is an equally breathtaking trek, but one that is offered by very few operators meaning that you share the trail with far fewer tourists.

Action Peru Treks are excited to be the only company to offer this new multi-day itinerary, and by offering this alternative to the Inca Trail we believe that we are also helping preserve these trails for future generations.

The Palcay trek winds through some of the most spectacular scenery the area has to offer; passing glaciers, sacred mountains, waterfalls, lagoons, and through remote communities. We visit a rarely explored Inca ruin in the Aobamba Valley and we trek through cloud forest and tropical jungle. The route is truly unique!

We pride ourselves on providing a first class trekking and camping experience, while maintaining the rugged nature of a trek in the Andes. We use only high-quality camping equipment, and our guides and kitchen staff are specially selected for their expertise and experience. We are also the first company to offer a porter service on a trek to Machu Picchu that isn’t the Inca Trail. So, you will be in professional, expert hands at all times.

We look forward to welcoming you on this unique and new unforgettable adventure.


Pre-trek briefing (required): We provide a full pre-trek briefing at our office in Cusco. This gives you the chance to ask questions about the trek itinerary. Briefings are scheduled for the day before your trek starts (unless your trek begins on a Monday, then the briefing will be scheduled for the Saturday before.) Please take this into consideration when booking your travel plans to Cusco, to ensure you arrive in time for the briefing.

Day 1:
Cusco – Soraypampa – Ichupata – Pampa Japonesa

We collect you at dawn from your hotel in Cusco to drive to the trailhead at Soraypamapa (3,800 m/12,467 ft). Our journey into the Andes mountains takes around 3 hours and winds through the most beautiful landscape. Our early start is often rewarded with the most incredible sunrise over the Andes.

Arriving in Soraypamapa we enjoy a delicious breakfast prepared by our expert chef, perfect fuel for the efforts ahead.

Our trek begins after breakfast and we make a steady ascent for around 4 hours to Ichupata (4,518 m/14,822 ft). As the elevation increases, the views around us grow evermore spectacular. The hike will be challenging, particularly as everyone gets used to the elevation, but our expert guides will ensure that the pace is suited for everyone.

Arriving in Ichupata, lunch will already have been prepared by our chef. Our kitchen team truly are masters of their craft, and you will be amazed at the meals they can create on the side of a mountain.

The afternoon is a little more gentle, and we hike steadily for just 1.5 hours until we reach our camp at Pampa Japonesa (4,749 m/15,580 ft). Each campsite on this trek is set in a peaceful spot amidst the most spectacular scenery, and as the sun sets over the Andes you will witness the most spectacular display of stars and constellations, brilliantly clear away from the bright lights of Cusco.

The camp will have been setup ahead of our arrival by our porters, and so you can just relax and enjoy the views. We will enjoy a sumptuous dinner together where your guide will be happy to share stories of the ancient Incas, or the history of the area before retiring to bed for a well-earned nights rest.

  • Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Lowest Elevation: 3,800 m/12,467 ft
  • Highest Elevation: 4,749 m/15,580 ft
  • Distance to walk: 6 to 8 hours
  • Approximate walking time: 6 hours
  • Level of Difficulty: Challenging

Day 2:
Pampa Japonesa – Inka Chiriaska – Palcay – Aobamba – Inkatambo

Day 2 is the most challenging and starts early. You will be gently woken by one of our porters with a steaming hot cup of freshly brewed coffee, or coca tea. Emerging sleepily from your tent, from our position at the foot of Mt. Salkantay, the sunrise is almost guaranteed to be spectacular!

After a delicious breakfast we will begin a sharp ascent for 1.5 hours to the highest point of our hike at the Inka Chiriaska pass (4,937 m/16,197 ft). Here, not surprisingly, the views are breathtaking. We will spend time taking in the views and resting before descending for 2 hours to Sisaypampa. After another short rest we start climbing again for 2 hours until we reach the Palcay Pass (4,708 m/15,446 ft). This is the steepest section of the trail so we will take our time and, once again, your guide will ensure the group stays together.

The view from the Palcay pass stretches right across the valley floor between the Palcay and the Salkantay mountain. After enjoying the views, we walk downhill for around an hour to our lunch spot in the tranquility of the Palcay valley (4,146 m/13,602 ft).

It is then 3 more hours of hiking to reach our campsite, this time located in a beautiful remote location, very close to the archaeological site of Inka Tambo (3,452 m/11,325 ft). Once at camp we will be served hot drinks and a delicious dinner before retiring for the evening.

  • Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Lowest Elevation: 3,452 m/11,325 ft
  • Highest Elevation: 4,937 m/16,197 ft
  • Distance to walk: 17 km/10.5 miles
  • Approximate walking time: 10 to 12 hours
  • Level of Difficulty: Demanding

Day 3:
Inka Tambo – Cloud Forest – Hidroelectrica

Once again, we get up early to enjoy a great breakfast before continuing our hike to Hidroelectrica. Unlike day 2, our hike today will be mostly downhill, but with a few short climbs as we cross from the cloud forest to the rainforest. The day will be long though and we will finish just before nightfall.

Throughout the day we will be hiking through jungle and so will be able to observe many different plants native to the area. We will pass wild orchids growing on the side of the trail, stop at spectacular waterfalls and cross some spectacular (and sometimes scary!) bridges. Our guides take pride in their knowledge of all the sights along the trail, and so will be happy to share lots of information with you.

We will of course stop for lunch during the day, and dinner will be served at yet another beautiful campsite.

  • Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Lowest Elevation: 1,815 m/5,954 ft
  • Highest Elevation: 3,452 m/11,325 ft
  • Distance to walk: 19 km/11.8 miles
  • Approximate walking time: 10 to 12 hours
  • Level of Difficulty: Challenging

Day 4:
Hidroelectrica – Aguas Calientes

Day 4 starts a little differently! This morning before starting our hike we will have the opportunity to see the famous “Cock of the Rocks” in its natural habitat. It is a magical moment seeing the exotic beauty of these endemic birds that are also the national bird of Peru.

Our hike today is an easy 4 hours on flat terrain to Aguas Calientes nestled at the foot of Machu Picchu. Arriving in the town we will enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before checking in to the hotel where we will spend the night.

Dinner at a local restaurant is included in the price of the trek (drinks excluded).

  • Meals: Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Lowest Elevation: 1,815 m/5,954 ft
  • Highest Elevation: 2,040 m/6,692 ft
  • Distance to walk: 12 km/7.4 miles
  • Approximate walking time: 5 to 6 hours
  • Level of Difficulty: Moderate

Day 5:
Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes – Cusco

After a very early breakfast at your hotel we take one of the first buses (5:30am) along the winding road to Machu Picchu to see the magnificent sunrise. Your guide will then give a 2 1/2 -hours walking tour of this breathtaking site, named as one of the new 7 wonders of the world.

It is hard to put in to words the impact of a visit to this sacred, spiritual place. Despite its popularity, there remains a sense of wonder at the beauty and architectural brilliance of the city. No matter how many photos you may have seen, witnessing it first hand is an experience that is truly unforgettable.

Our local tour guides are experts on the history of the site and they will bring to life the magnificent buildings that you see around you. You will also smile I’m sure at the sight of the wild Llamas roaming freely on the ancient stone walls!

If you have elected to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountains you can begin the hike once your guided tour concludes or alternatively you may choose to just spend more time by yourself exploring the site or just sitting in contemplation. Around lunchtime we will take the bus back down to Aguas Calientes.

Arriving back in the town you will board the Expedition train to Poroy or Ollantaytambo. From here you will travel by private transportation to Cusco and back to your hotel. Your arrival time in Cusco will depend on the time of your train ticket, but will be some time in the evening.

  • Meals: Breakfast
  • Lowest Elevation: 2,040 m/6,692 ft
  • Highest Elevation: 2,440 m/ 8,005 ft
  • Level of Difficulty: Easy

Note: This itinerary is subject to change without prior notice according to weather conditions, strikes, roadblocks, or other events which are beyond our control. At Action Treks Peru we will always do our best to follow the itinerary as closely as possible.


  • Bilingual English speaking tour guide
  • Pre-Departure Briefing at our office 1 or 2 days before your trek.
  • Pick up from your hotel and transportation to Soraypampa on day 1
  • Four-person tent for each two persons
  • Thermarest Inflatable Mattress and pillow
  • Kitchen tent
  • Dining tent with tables and chairs
  • Toilet tent with portable toilet
  • Expert chef and assistant chef
  • Porters to carry all group gear
  • Personal porter to carry 7 kg of personal gear for each hiker
    • Your sleeping bag and mattress will count towards this weight limit. Approximate weight of the average sleeping bag and sleeping mattress is 3 kg.
  • Duffle bag to pack your personal belongings
  • Five breakfasts, four lunches, and four dinners
  • Hot water for washing twice daily
  • Daily morning boiled and cold water to fill the water bottles.
  • Emergency oxygen bottle and medical kit
  • Expedition train ticket from Aguas Calientes to Poroy or Ollantaytambo
  • Private van transport from Poroy or Ollantaytambo to Cusco
  • Ticket for Huayna Picchu mountain (if Huayna Picchu Mountain is sold out you will receive a permit to hike Machu Picchu Mountain)
  • Entrance to Machu Picchu
  • Round trip bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
  • Lodging in Aguas Calientes on night 4 of the trek (double occupancy)
  • Dinner in Aguas Calientes on night 4

NOT Included

  • Sleeping bag (can be rented from us)
  • Day 5 lunch in Aguas Calientes
  • Travel insurance
  • Tips for the crew (muleteers, chef and guide)
  • Hiking poles (can be rented from us)

What to bring

  • Original passport (if you have acquired a new one after you made your booking, bring both)
  • Down or synthetic feather sleeping bag (can be rented from us)
  • Clothes (trekking boots, warm fleece jacket, a few t-shirts, socks, sun hat, warm underwear, light long pants, gloves, rain jacket)
  • Toiletries (toilet paper, wet wipes, personal towel)
  • Sunscreen SPF 35+ recommended
  • Head lamp
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera with spare batteries (batteries run down faster at high altitudes)
  • Binoculars
  • Book to read (you will have some spare time at every camp to read your favorite book)
  • Trekking poles (recommended especially for the steep descents, can be rented from us)
  • Insect repellent


Group: USD $750

Group versus Private Treks: What’s the difference?

  • Depending on the number of people in your booking, additional people may join the trek to make a full group.
  • If you choose “private”, no additional people will be joining your group, no matter the size.
  • Minimum booking size is two people; one person may book a group trek if Action Peru Treks is able to join that person with additional groups.


  • Hiking Poles – USD $20 (pair)
  • Sleeping Bag – USD $25


  • Sumaq Machu Picchu hotel (5 star hotel) – USD $245 per person per night (double occupancy)
  • Tierra Viva Machu Picchu (3+ star hotel) – USD $50 per person per night (double occupancy)
  • Vistadome train -USD $35 for trip from Aguas Calientes to Poroy
  • Hiram Bingham train -USD $375 for trip from Aguas Calientes to Poroy
  • Private lodging o Private hotel room in Aguas Calientes – USD $45
  • Private tent – USD $30
  • Buffet lunch at the Tinkuy restaurant in the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge in Machu Picchu on day 5 – USD $45 per person
Group: $750
5 Days / 4 Nights


  • Hiking Poles – USD $20 (pair)
  • Sleeping Bag – USD $25

Hotel Upgrades

  • Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel (5 star hotel) – USD $245 per person per night (double occupancy)
  • Tierra Viva Machu Picchu (3+ star hotel) – USD $50 per person per night (double occupancy)

Train Upgrades

  • Vistadome Train -USD $35 for trip from Aguas Calientes to Poroy
  • Hiram Bingham Train -USD $375 for trip from Aguas Calientes to Poroy
  • Private lodging or Private hotel room in Aguas Calientes – USD $45
  • Private tent – USD $30
  • Buffet lunch at the Tinkuy restaurant in the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge in Machu Picchu on day 5 – USD $45 per person.



  • Day 1: Cusco – Soraypampa – Ichupata – Pampa Japonesa
  • Day 2: Pampa Japonesa – Inka Chiriaska – Palcay – Aobamba – Inkatambo
  • Day 3: Inka Tambo – Cloud Forest – Hidroelectrica
  • Day 4: Hidroelectrica – Aguas Calientes
  • Day 5: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes – Cusco
  • Beginning altitude: 3,800 m / 12,467 ft.
  • Maximum altitude: 4,937 m / 16,197 ft.
  • Hike Total Distance: 57 km / 35.4 miles
  • Overall trek difficulty: Challenging


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