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Peru

Sacred Valley + Machu Picchu

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Step into the Inca Empire

Sacred Valley + Machu Picchu Challenge

This is an amazing, humbling, and exciting adventure. It is indeed a physical and mental challenge but so rewarding as you head off the tourist trail to trek through hidden valleys, stay with local families, feast on delicious food, and marvel at vistas that take your breath away. Best thing I have ever done and I am returning this November with a team of school friends.

It's a journey of two parts - the first being the project, ruins and acclimatisation phase. Here you will live in the pretty little town of Calca, which sweeps along the Urubamba River, and is surrounded by dramatic mountains. Everyone lives together with a gorgeous local family to fully embrace the culture whilst helping our Peruvian partners with their community projects, exploring Inca ruins, and completing local hikes so you are fully acclimatised for phase two.

Phase two, is of course, the 3-night, 4 day bespoke trek to Machu Picchu, carefully crafted by our NGO partners using their local knowledge, guides and community elder friends. Through their contacts you will access magical mountain valleys, mystical glacial lakes, and generous Andean farming families tucked away from tourist's eyes. I promise this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience which will reboot and invigorate.

The last night will be spent in the stunning city of Cusco, where you will all celebrate your achievements in an oh-so chic style hotel/hostel, head out for a delicious supper, and explore all the architectural treasures and a market or two.

I highly recommend. This is how it rolls...

For a quick overview:

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Peru Adventure Itinerary

Join this journey which will take you to the heady heights of Machu Picchu whilst introducing you to remote communities tucked away from the tourist's eye who will welcome you in and will value your contribution.

Phase one

Calca, The Sacred Valley project, ruins and acclimatisation

Project, ruins, and acclimatisation

Phase one of your adventure will be based in a pretty little town called Calca (2950m), a hidden gem in the Sacred Valley nestled along the Urubamba River and protected by the sacred, and spectacular Mount Pitusiray.

Here you will be looked after by the gorgeous Kerri and her team, who run a dynamic NGO called the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD) responsible for spearheading solutions for the high Andean communities to address their reliance on potato production, malnutrition, and climate change.

During the course of your time in Peru you will learn about their projects and of course, where possible, will be rolling up your sleeves to help, firstly at their organic demonstration farm called EcoHuella and then with their high-altitude reforestation project.

Accommodation

You will all be picked up from Cusco airport and driven to Calca and dropped off at the homestay for the full cultural experience. We work with 2 families who can take 6 guests at any one time. Everyone has their own room which are clean, comfy but basic.

Gleny and Edmundo have been hosting since 2017. Gleny has a store (bodega) built into the house and sells fresh produce, honey, and cacao. She is so sweet and caring and will always make an herbal concoction for altitude sickness. Edmundo is a taxi driver and is the AASD's go-to taxi driver for any emergency. Gleny and Edmundo have one son named Edmundito that is 20 years old. He is sometimes around but is currently studying engineering at a university in Cusco. Gleny is an amazing cook.

Maritza and Lucho have been hosting clients with the AASD since 2012. Both are teachers around the Calca area. They have 2 sons that are young adults and one daughter who is 10 years old.

Food

All meals will be a family gathering experience at the homestay. Utterly delicious food - fresh and so healthy.

Day 2

EcoHuella Farm Community development

Community Project

In short - part of AASD's objectives are to widen the variety of crops and productivity of the Andean communities which historically have relied heavily on potatoes, which are now under threat as the glaciers are retreating, rivers are drying up and the soil less rich. AASD has developed a pilot farm called EcoHuella in the Calca Valley, where they practice new techniques and invite high Andean elders to visit and learn. They are currently introducing the greenhouse technology to these communities who are now huge producers of organic strawberries - a huge result at 4500m high.

EcoHuella farm is run entirely by volunteers, so on your first morning, the plan is for you to roll up your sleeves and help with the daily jobs, such as harvesting, watering corn fields, preparing tree seedlings for re-forestation projects, or feeding the guinea pigs.

In the afternoon, you’ll walk back from the farm to Calca along the Vilcamba River to watch the documentary about Julio Hancco, the now famous potato farmer so you can further understand the challenges, resilience and resourcefulness required to make a living in this environmentally hostile environment. For more information: here is a link to the documentary Opening the Earth: The Potato King , which AASD’s co-founder, Aaron, and his brother collaborated on.

Day 3

EcoHuella farm and Urco Ruins Community + Culture

Project, Ruins and Jewellery

The day will start back at the farm before an afternoon hike along the ancient irrigation canal to explore the Caves of Urco, an Inca site and. Expect a gentle hike with stunning views.

Whilst you're at Urco, we have arranged for you to experience an inspiring community run, Youth Association Project, which teaches jewellery design and crafting skills to children of all ages. There is a gallery on-site where all the students sell their creations - receiving half of the amount paid (the other half helps fund the project). The plan is for the children to teach you how to cast a silver ring, create a few trinkets before taking to the gallery... This is a lovely community moment.

Day 4

Q'engo Community High Andean Culture

High altitude community and reforestation

Brace yourself for this day as it it truly spectacular and will be your first experience of the breathtaking high-altitude mountains. The journey to get here will take about about 1.5 hours but so pretty as you weave your way higher and higher reaching 4000m.

The Q'engo community is an example of where AASD's greenhouse technology has been successfully integrated. They are now one the main producers of flowers and strawberries to the Sacred Valley - supplying many of the hotels and restaurants in the area. This has been life-changing for them as, you will see.

Just above the village you will be taken to the very scared "Lake of Gold" tucked away in the barren landscape. You will be welcomed with a stunning petal ceremony, and be taught about the area - which is where the Incas fled during the Spanish invasion. It is believed that the Incas threw all their gold into the lake and to this day it all remains.

However, not all rest, after lunch you will help with AASD's reforestation project around the lake. Lots of trees need pruning and planting depending on the time of year. They are an incredibly warm and welcoming community so expect to be treated to a delicious lunch, before being roped into helping.

Day 5

Weaving and Pisac Market Culture and shopping

Weaving, Ruins and Market

You will see that Peru is known for its stunning textiles, all beautifully hand woven, so to get a feel for this ancient tradition you will be taken to visit friends of Kerri's who live in a village called Chaywatiri, just along the valley, who raise alpacas for their weaving business. It is amazing to see the process, using complicated looms which require huge skill to operate. If anyone wants fabric, ponchos, belts etc - this is place to buy it.

After lunch you will head down to Pisac to find their famous market, where the Quecha communities from the surrounding highlands flock to the market to sell their produce and gather their supplies for the week. Another great shopping opportunity - this is the place to buy the Peruvian cowboy hats.

Day 6

Urubamba Culture

Exploration

Today will be a peaceful day as you head back along the Vilcanota river, to find the ancient site of Moray and the famous Salt Mines de Maras.

Moray is an archaeological site and there are a lot of theories of what it was used for. Some believe it was used as an experimental agricultural site to help adjust crops to different microclimates, while others consider Moray the womb of the Earth used for spiritual ceremonies.

The salt mines are fascinating - stunning salt pools that were used 500 years before Incan times. There is little information about how the pools were built but some historians believe that the Wari civilization, pre-Inca, built the pools 500 AD-1100 AD. Salt was important to the Incan Empire and was used in food, food preservation, livestock, and even human mummification.

Phase Two

Machu Picchu Adventure and challenge

Journey and challenge

Your second phase of this adventure is of course the journey and challenge to reach the infamous Machu Picchu site, via high mountain trails and passes - which I can guarantee will be a life-enhancing moment and you will be ready for after the first phase of acclimatising. However embarking on this pilgrimage will require a combination of stamina, determination, and fitness.

Built around 1450AD, Machu Picchu was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. It is at 2430m surrounded by towering mountains covered in lush cloud forest and home to thundering waterfalls. Utterly spectacular. Its exact former use still remains one of the world's great mysteries.

The physical challenge to get there will be so worth it, I promise.

Days 7 -10

High Altitude Trek Adventure and challenge

High Altitude Challenge

The proposed route has been carefully crafted using AASD's local contacts which enables us to head off-grid to experience a unique and bespoke trek, made possible by knowledgeable guides, creative cooks and hardy mules.

The first 3 days of trekking will be through the Lares Valley, visiting local communities, before catching the train which will connect us into the last day of the official Inca trail - which is the only way to access the Sun Gate. The Sun Gate is about a mile from the main site - but it provides the iconic view of Machu Picchu in its dramatic setting. This is the bucket list moment.

The Lares area is known as the 'weavers route' and is more remote than the traditional Inca Trail. This route will enable you to meet families who keep alive the traditions of yesteryear, and the making of Inca fabrics. They have remained unchanged over centuries.

It will be a gritty, yet awe inspiring challenge, as you wind through the hidden valleys and stunning scenery with guides and mules in tow. Expect to be walking about 8 hours a day, at altitudes up to 4000m, following ancient paths and sleeping in a combination of tents (2 nights) and hostels (1 night).

Day 1
Lares Valley: Quishuarani (3700m) -> Cuncani (3700m)
This day is a steep upward trek and steep descent over a 4200m pass.
(Camping in Cuncani)
7.7 miles

Day 2
Lares Valley: Cuncani - Iskaycocha (4450m)
This day is the longest but the gradient is more gradual than the previous day despite walking over 2 passes at 4450m and 3750m
(Camping in Iskaycocha which is the most beautiful campsite beside a stunning lake, surrounded by llamas)
11 miles

Day 3
Lares Valley: Iskaycocha - Ollantaytambo (2792m)
This day will feel easier as it is down hill. What is lovely about this day is that the scenery changes as you move to lower altitude.
(Hostel in Ollantaytambo - picture perfect town)
10.9 miles

Day 4
Inca Trail – Sun Gate
6:00am train to km104
8:00am Short Inca Trail
3:00pm Sun Gate to Machu Picchu (2430m)
Return by train to Calca for the night
10 miles.

Accommodation

Hostels and tents.

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Day 11

Cusco Culture

Cusco City

Having completed your challenge you'll all travel back to Cusco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to celebrate your achievements. Cusco was once the capital of the Inca Empire and is now known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. Plaza de Armas is the central square in the old city with arcades, carved wooden balconies and Incan wall ruins.

San Blas is the traditional old quarter of Cusco and is the city’s most picturesque district, characterized by narrow and steep streets, colonial houses built with walls of Incan stone, and amazing restaurants and shops.

Here you will have time to explore the Centro Historico, followed by a well-earned Pisco Sour class, a final dinner and then back to a funky hostel in San Blas.

Perfect ending to an awesome adventure.

Accommodation

A simple but stylish hotel in San Blas - name of which is a surprise :)

Food

Supper not included.

Day 12

Departure

After breakfast at the hotel, everyone will have time to spend the morning exploring Cusco before catching the flight home. Cusco is a super cool city, lots of winding streets, amazing architecture, and fabulous shops.

Program Details & Costs

2024
30th September 2024
21st October = private group
4th November 2024 = private group

2025
14th April 2025
29th September 2025
3 November 2025

Min 6, max 12 per team.

Costs

Peru
Sacred Valley + Machu Picchu
2024: £29952025: £3100

Dates Don't Suit?

Please call us if you would like to organise a bespoke trip and dates. Min number of 6, max 12.

Remote Environment

Head off the beaten track in the Sacred Valley

Physical Challenge

Experience the challenge of reaching the heady heights of Machu Pichu.

Cultural Exchange

Through living with Gleny and her family, you get to experince real Peruvian life and delicious food.

Community Projects

Work alongside high Andean communities to adapt to climate change and cultural needs.

Daily schedule

Every day will be busy but we promise some down time to explore independently.

Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD)

AASD was created in 2010 to support community-led agriculture projects in the highlands of Peru. Ecohuella is their (Ecological Footprint) farm. Co-founded by three siblings, Ecohuella, can also be considered a speciality school for campesino farmers because they provide hands-on trainings and workshops that respect the Quechua language, local learning styles, and traditions.

The spectacular landscapes of Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu form the backdrop for this program in this larger-than-life country, but look beyond the stunning environment and you will find evidence of long gone empires and current cultures who are just managing to adapt to the demands of globalization without losing their values and cultures.

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our Mid-Life Leapers will get up to....

"It was the perfect combination of challenge and fun."

Dear gorgeous Milly,

Just wanted to drop you a note and say from the bottom of my heart how fabulous our trip to Peru was. It was the perfect combination of challenge and fun, mixed together with a group of amazing women and life- affirming experiences. It was a privilege to be part of the group and I am so grateful that Claire asked me to join you all on the adventure, but more importantly the planning that you (very specifically) and your team put into the trip made it so special. Your dedication and hard work, together with your amazing team - Kerri, Reuben, Jo-Lyn (to name but a few) made the trip most memorable.

So grateful for all of it and still remembering the laughs….when’s the next adventure?

Lots of love

Tash xxx

- Tash

"The value for money was incredible and The Leap is plainly a great company – not only to deal with buy also to travel with."

Having just returned from the mid-lifer trip to Peru ( Nov 22) at the age of 55, I genuinely didn't think I would get the opportunity to backpack again and feel like an intrepid teenager. We were able to stay, visit and get involved with local NGO projects in areas not usually accessible to the average traveller. Meeting, walking and talking with the locals we met (using my basic O’level Spanish) gave me a deeper understanding of the history and beauty of Peru and just how fascinating a country it is. The trip was beautifully organised by the NGO team in Peru, the homestay experience although very basic was a delight with wonderful food at every meal. The value for money was incredible and The Leap is plainly a great company – not only to deal with buy also to travel with.

Thank you Milly and your team!

Sign me up for the next one....

- Lucy Schoonhoven

"An unqualified success"

I booked the midlife trip to Peru to fulfil an ambition to see Machu Picchu, to set myself a physical challenge by completing a high altitude trek and to have fun with like-minded people. Well the trip was an unqualified success. Owing to The Leap's association with AASD, we learnt about sustainability and farming in Peru, we worked on their farms and visited indigenous communities that we would not otherwise have had access to. During the first week in Peru, we stayed with Peruvian families while acclimatising to the altitude. These families were incredibly hospitable and the food was delicious. Week 2 meant the high Andes trek - thank goodness I packed everything on the kit list as we certainly needed it - this was undoubtedly the toughest trek I have ever done but also the most rewarding - we did not see any other tourists, we were superbly looked after by our Guide, Ruben and chef, Edgar. We spend 2 nights camping and 1 night in a hostel and we thought that was it but the icing on the cake of our trip was the short Inca trail - another demanding hike but with the reward of the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu at the top - this was truly incredible and a momentous moment of my life. I would not hesitate to recommend The Leap to any midlifer who wants to challenge themselves and make lifelong friends in the process.

At first I was so excited after I booked my mid-life trip to Peru with The Leap. Then the trepidation set in as the trip was so outside my normal comfort zone. Due to these nerves, I took all the preparatory advice offered by The Leap and got everything on the kit list.

- Annie Redmayne

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