This enchanting walk will take you from the village of Chinchero down to the village of Urquillos, near Urubamba in the heart of the Sacred Valley in about four hours of leisurely walking. It is a little-known trail and indeed, we did not encounter anyone, except one farmer and his dog, until we approached Urquillos.
The hike is all downhill, losing 950 meters in 9 kilometers. This is good news because you don't experience difficulty breathing even though you begin at an altitude over 3600 meters. But it is not so great if you have problems with your knees, like I do. So, it is helpful to rest regularly and use trekking poles. Take a lunch and stop to enjoy your meal beside one of the waterfalls.
(Photo: Camino Inca/Cathy Fulton)
When you visit Chinchero, plan to leave no later than 1:00 p, or 2:00 pm to give yourself plenty of time to get to the valley before dark. Detailed directions and a map are provided below, but to get started, you can ask for directions for the Camino Inca Urquillos.
The trail begins near massive agricultural terraces that date from the Inca empire.
(Photo: Terraces/ Cathy Fulton)
It is not long before you will be walking alongside a gurgling creek, with many waterfalls. As the trail opens to the valley, you will encounter a profusion of wildflowers and peek-a-boo views of the Andes above and the Sacred Valley and village below.
(Photo: Waterfalls/ Cathy Fulton)
The bottom of the trail levels out as you pass through quiet eucalyptus groves, where the water does not run naturally. Artificial canals have been built for over a thousand years to direct it to the crops. Follow the canals into the village.
Eucalyptus trees are grown here in woodlots for firewood and construction. (Photo: Forest/ Cathy Fulton)
When you get to Urquillos ask how to get to the bridge ('puente' in Spanish). Cross the bridge over the Rio Vilcanota; the main highway through the Sacred Valley is only about a block away. From there, you can easily catch a collectivo (collective taxi) east to Cusco or west toward Urubamba and Ollantaytambo.
Allow about 3-4 hours for the trip and longer if you eat lunch or take lots of photos. I think this is just about the most beautiful hike I have done in Peru. And it is not likely you will meet any tourists.
To find the trail:
(Photo: Trail Map/Cathy Fulton)
_Cathy Fulton is a somewhat nomadic US citizen who has spent two (southern-hemisphere) summers in Peru. She enjoys staying in one place for one to two months savoring the local way of life, getting to know locals, hiking, and exploring the food and fiber. You can read more about her Peruvian slowtravel experiences here