Hike the Vilcabamba Traverse to Machu Picchu through an adventurous route exploring incredible biodiversity

24 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide

The Vilcabamba Traverse Route to Machu Picchu is the best trek option for adventure seekers who are looking for an adrenalin filled experience of climbing steep descents and sharp declines. This trek can take between 7 to 13 days depending on route variations and it explores the biodiversity of Peru as it crosses the Sacred Valley, cloud forests, mountains, lush valleys, subtropical jungles while seeing Inca ruins. May to September is the recommended time of year to complete the Vilcabamba Traverse route to Machu Picchu because it is the dry season. It is a relatively undiscovered route that is not touristy and there is no requirement of any permit to hike this route 

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Each day of the trek showcases new explorations and archaeological sites to discover, making it an ideal trek for history and nature lovers. Compared to other treks to Machu Picchu, the Vilcabamba Traverse route does not have any official campsites or facilities to stay in, making it the most authentic hiking experience. 

It is a demanding trek that passes through high altitudes which makes this a route more suitable for experienced hikers. This 1 to 2 week trek covers roughly 95 km of mountainous terrain. There is no official route on the Vilcabamba Traverse trail, hikers often create their own itinerary depending on the length of the journey. Completing the trek alone requires a lot of research, planning, and properly packing enough supplies to last at least a week. This trail is very remote and there will not be shops to stock up on supplies during the journey. 

Many trekkers choose to do the Vilcabamba route with an organized group or operator because the trail is difficult to follow and hence it is advisable to go with a guide who knows the area. Another advantage of going with an organized operator is the ability to pack less as in most cases the operator supplies tents and certain other gears and arranges for horses for carrying hikers’ luggages. For some hikers the high altitudes of the Peruvian Andes cause altitude sickness and because of this some people prefer to go with a trekking guide just in case they need medical attention. 

Other routes to the lost Citadel have options of staying at designated campsites or hotels, however, the Vilcabamba Trek is off the beaten path and require hikers to choose their own camping spots. Camping in the Peruvian Andes presents challenges of dramatic weather changes. During the nights the weather can drop significantly to below freezing. Depending on the time of year bring layered clothing for extremely cold, warm, and rainy weather. Pack as lightly as possible, it is recommended to bring under 7 kg of items, but bring clothing suitable for the extreme temperature changes of the Andes. 

Another challenging factor of this trek is the high altitudes that you will traverse through. The highest point of this route is Tullu Tacanca, which sits at 4,500 m above sea level. Hiking with altitude sickness is dangerous, hence we advise that you arrive at Cusco a bit early, so that you have time to acclimatize before venturing off to the Vilcabamba Traverse route. 

The route begins in Huancacalle and from there hikers travel to the first point of interest, the hidden gem of Victos- Roasapata and the White Rock (Ñusta Hispana). The ruins of Victos, which used to be the fortress of Manco Inca, overlooks a river. It is believed to have been a ceremonial center and residence of Inca nobles. There are not many visitors to the ruins and unlike other Inca ruins, Vitcos has not been reconstructed, it has been left in its natural state. Beside Vitcos, there is another important archeological phenomenon of the White Rock, which is a sacred rock with a temple and a natural spring running around the back of the rock. The White Rock is 50 feet long and is carved to mirror the mountains surrounding it. 

The Vicabamba Traverse route is filled with incredible nature as it leads hikers through spots such as Asuntina Pass, Tulla Tacanca Pass, and Abra Mujun pass. From these steep climbs, trekkers have breathtaking 360 panoramic views of the Peruvian mountain sides that look out towards valleys, glaciers, and lakes. 

The hike comes to an end in Yantille, which is where hikers are able to take public transportation to the city closest to Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes. In Aguas Calientes hikers are able to stay at a hotel for the night before going to the Lost Citadel. This route is best for hikers who are experienced and are looking for a challenging trek dotted with ruins and filled with incredible nature on the journey to Machu Picchu.

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