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River Explorers provides extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime river rafting tours that will leave you excited and some times at bit breathless.
If you’d like to break away from the usual tourist crowds, but still experience a Machu Picchu vacation, this is the perfect trip for you! Whether you’re old or young, alone or part of a family, this trip which brings new exciting activities every day should definitely not be missed!
Our local guides will lead you on a 5-day hiking, mountain biking and whitewater rafting trip on an Off the Beaten Path Cusco to Machu Picchu vacation. This tour will lead you through the most remote areas of Andes and the Amazon rain-forest and come to an end around the breathtaking Machu Picchu.
Day 1: Cusco – Lares hike
Day 2: Lares hike – Hot Spring
Day 3: Mountain biking – Rain forest – Quillabamba
Day 4: River Rafting – Aguas Calientes
Day 5: Machu Picchu – Cusco
Before taking on day 1 of your guided tour, make sure to have a hearty breakfast at your hotel! First up will be a scenic drive through the spectacular Scared Valley to Huaran. At this destination the rest of the hiking crew will be met and after a small introduction, all necessary camping gear and food will be packed on horses. A small orientation about the Off the Beaten Path to Cusco will be given by your tour guide which will include necessary safety instructions. After this, you can grab your backpack and start a pleasant hike up the Pitusiray mountain which features a well-preserved road only used by the local communities, waterfalls, birds and the view of the Sacred valley in the background. After a few hours of hiking your cooker will be waiting for you with a ready-made lunch. After lunch you will continue ascending while enjoying a view of your changing surroundings. The first day of your Machu Picchu vacation will end at the village of Cancha Cancha where you’ll have plenty of time to explore the village before eating dinner and resting.
Highest pass: 3959 meters – 12990 feet.
Distance: 9 km – 5.5 miles.
Meals: L – D
Accommodation: Camping tents
As per custom, you’ll be awakened by the aromatic smell of hot tea and coffee as well as a nourishing breakfast made by your cooker. The Off the Beaten Path to Cusco gets harder on day two, but you will be rewarded with even more beautiful landscape. The first section of the trail leads directly over the highest pass at 4626 meters – 15178 feet. Spectacular views of the lagoons, waterfalls, colorful peaks and snow capped mountains will be on display for your enjoyment. You’ll be given a few minutes to enjoy the views and rest before continuing to the second section down a trail in an alternating series of steep slopes and flat benches. Once again you’ll be surrounded by spectacular views which include the charming Andean villages, heard of llamas and alpacas and Queen of the Andes the Puyas de Raimondi, a giant Peruvian native terrestrial bromeliad. The Puyas de Raimondi flower which can reach up to 4 meters tall and produces a single gigantic flower at the end of its life, taking from 40 to 100 years to flower. After some sightseeing, transport will be available to take you to the Thermals hot springs of Lares. This will serve as your campsite for the day and you’ll be able to enjoy the warm pools or explore the area while a delicious dinner is prepared by the cooker.
Highest pass: 4626 meters – 15178 feet
Distance: 9 km – 5.5 miles
Meals: B – L – D
Accommodation: Camping tents.
After two fascinating trekking days along the Andes, get ready for a LONG 69 km (42 miles) of an unforgettable biking day. Your day will start with a 43 km (27 miles) trail of pure downhill thrill. This trail is without a doubt real fun! The start of this biking rail on your Machu Picchu vacation is easy and features some flat portions as well as some short uphills. A few stops will be made along this off the beaten path program planned journey to give you a chance to enjoy the fascinating views. Two favorite spots include a cave painting which supposedly belong to the Laris and Wallas cultures before the Incas time. The second spot is the Pachar (a long breach made to connect one of the most dangerous section that was known for its constant landslides) which offers breathtaking views of the Andes and the rain-forest below the trail. You will be given some time to rest and enjoy a snack before continuing down through a wider and paved road into the rain-forest passing typical banana and papaya farms crossing breaches, villages and some streams. Next, you’ll be heading to Quebrada Honda. In this small town which is located at 1164m (3820 feet) elevation a lunch will be enjoyed in one of the local restaurants.
After lunch, all bikes will be loaded on a van which will take you on a 3-hour scenic drive through the jungle and up to the rain-forest passing rivers, waterfalls and jungle villages to Quillabamba. This new town, which forms the connection between the jungle and Peruvian southern part, is famous for the creation of a variety of jungle products such as coffee and tea, bananas as well as other plantations . During the exploration of the Cusco off the beaten path trip on your Machu Picchu vacation, visiting this small town will definitely be a highlight!
Highest pass: 3197 meters – 10492 feet
MTB distance: 69 km – 42.8 miles.
Driving to Quillabamba from Quebrada Honda: 82 km – 50 miles
Meals: B – L – D
Another local restaurant will provide you with a delicious breakfast in the morning before you continue with your Off the Beaten Path Cusco to Machu Picchu trip. Day four of you Machu Picchu vacation will bring you a thrilling rafting program. This white water will take place at the Urubamba rainforest river which offers different sections for beginners, intermediate and advanced boaters. The section that suits your level best will be chosen for your rafting day. After a 35 minute drive from the town, you will reach the rafting destination. Gear will be distributed and a full orientation about command and safety instructions will be given to you.
To start with, the section is fairly gentle with some level II rapids to warm up on. The rafting action then starts quickly with the Santa Maria rapid and continues for the next two miles with Maranura, Troublemaker and other Level III and IV rapids.
After a short flat section, you’ll enter the Chaullay steep gorge, where long rapids with nice standing holes and waves are to come, all level III and IV, plus numerous milder but fun rapids.
Your rafting trip will end at Quinta Quillabamba where our devoted driver will be waiting for you to take you to Santa Teresa for lunch. You will then continue on to a Hydroelectric station to pack on the last portion of your trip.
The last portion of day four is a walk to Aguas Calientes together with other tourist. You will be greeted by easy walks which follow the old railway and rumbling Urubamaba river while enjoying fascination views of the Machu Picchu citadel up the mountain. This is yet another must see when your having a Machu Picchu vacation. This walk will take you through two tunnels and small villages before finally reaching Aguas Calientes (Town bellow Machu Picchu).
Highest pass: 2040 meters – 6692 feet
Rafting distance: 9 km – 5.5 miles.
Walking distance: 8 km – 4.9 miles
Meals: B – L
On day 5 of your Machu Picchu vacation, it is advised that you get an early start. The best way to reach Machu Picchu is by bus, which only takes 30 minutes, but you are welcome to take a 3h hour hike uphill to machu Picchu as well. Upon arrival, your guide will take you through a detailed 2 hour tour explaining and answering all your questions regarding this wonder. You’ll then be given an opportunity to take your Machu Picchu vacation by the horns and explore the area on your own. Choose from exploration site such as the Inti Punku (one hour hike), the Montaña (two hour hike) or the Huayna Picchu (two hour hike). The last two destinations are only available to valid entry holders so make sure to get yours beforehand by letting us know! The Huayna Picchu is open between 7am and 10am and can accommodate 200 people. Machu Picchu was built on an extreme remote area with astonishing views of the wild mountains, peaks and the Urubamba river that carved out the deep gorge making a 3 sided turn around the whole Machu Picchu citadel.
As all good things come to an end so does this Off the Beaten Path Cuso trip too and your Machu Picchu vacation bids you farewell. Greet the Inca Kingdoms with a content heart as your bus returns to Aguas Calientes. You can enjoy the afternoon there by doing some last minute shopping or simply relaxing before boarding the train for a 90 minute ride to Ollantaytambo where you will be transported back to Cusco.
Climb to Huayna Picchu or Montaña (According to the new regulations, we need to purchase a new entrance tickets if you wish to climb Huayna Picchu or Montaña, only 400 spaces for each hike are available per day. Price U$15 per person, please confirm).
Highest pass at Machu Picchu: 2400 meters – 7874 feet
Huayna Picchu: 2720 meters – 8923 feet
Train to Ollnataytambo: 90 minutes
Transfer to Cusco: 70 minutes
What to bring?
Physical activity is part of this trip where sweating is part of the program, bellow are a list of what we recommend packing four your off the beaten path tour.
There will be a support vehicle assistant while biking, and rafting, for the first portion of the hiking tour and the last portion after the rafting no support vehicle is needed.
For the hiking:
For Mountain biking
Personal items: eco-friendly toiletries i.e. Bio-degradable no pollutants please!!
Be sure to book your tour well in advance. Getting fees to enter Machu Picchu can be difficult if bookings aren’t made in advance. A 6 month advance booking is recommended.
Prepare yourself mentally and physically since hiking at high altitude demands higher physical activity. It is advised to get adjusted to the altitude before your trekking tour starts on your Machu Picchu vacation – at least 3 days prior.
Although there’s no need to be experienced enough for MTB or river rafting, doing some exercise before taking on this Off the Beaten Path Cusco vacation is recommended. Activities can however be adapted in accordance with your physical conditions.
Fauna: A wide variety of animals such as the Adean Goose, Andean Gull, mountain caracara, alpaca and llama’s are commonly found alongside this off the beaten path to Cusco. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to spot puma’s, deer, green parrots, vultures, monkeys, torrent ducks and giant otters.
Flora: Different plant varieties will also be seen alongside this route. The variety of rainforest plants are infinite and trees include species such as the qeuñas, ichu, retamas, molle and in between Andean farms of potatoes, quinoa and kiwicha in the Andes can be spotted.
Garbage disposal: We always strive to keep camping spots clean and therefore garbage will be separated into organic and inorganic trash. All inorganic matter will be returned to Cusco.
Climate: These areas are known for cold and dry climates while hiking and temperatures range between -4 ºC / 24 ºF in the evenings to 16 ºC / 60.8 ºF during the day in dry season (May to mid September). During April to mid September and December temperatures range from 5 ºC to 41 ºF. Biking and river rafting will be done in colder temperatures (20 ºC – 68 ºF to 30ºC – 86 ºF).
Flexible departures, just pick a date and we can start from there. We required a minimum of 2 participants to open a tour. Our maximum number of people per group is 12.
Seasonal from mid of April to mid of mid December.
Graduated from the National University of San Antonio Abad, Cesar is one of our main guides. He is expert in MTB, River Rafting, Inca Trail and cultural tours.
Erika is the operations manager, she organizes, book, confirm and make all the arrangements making your vacation unforgettable.
Ylda Tupayachi is the Accounting Manager. With more than 20 years of experience in the travel industry, she is a key for our clients happiness.
Boris is the founder of River Explorers. He is responsible for the website and the daily operations as well as guiding some of the newest itineraries. Boris has 25 years of experience in the tourism industry working in Peru.