Adventure vacations in Peru

Sacred Valley of the Incas Ride


The Sacred Valley of the Incas horseback riding vacation in Peru gives a unique introduction to South America’s most impressive Pre-Columbian civilization on some of the world’s most smoothly gaited horses which almost seem to float as they glide effortlessly along on ancient trails.  The scenery of Andean Peru is beyond description and the mountains around rise to incredible heights.  As you experience horseback riding in Peru you will love these beautiful, intelligent horses as they allow you to cover the miles effortlessly with no need for a rising trot or a two point canter.  The shops in Cuzco offer a display of local arts and crafts like alpaca wool sweaters at prices which are hard to resist.  You will see fascinating ancient experimental agricultural stations with terraced plots at different altitudes where the Incas tested and developed new strains of maize and potatoes.

As you continue your Peruvian riding tour, you will cross the swiftly flowing Urubamba River and pass terraced fields, constructed over the millennia with enormous effort, hanging to the sides of mountains where vegetables are grown.  Then you climb higher into mountain pastures where smiling Quechua speaking children tend flocks of goats and sheep.  Nights are spent in comfortable hotels chosen for their picturesque locations and attractive colonial architecture. Everywhere the food is excellent with varied fresh produce readily available.  At the end of the trip you will visit the amazing lost city of Machu Picchu which was not destroyed by the Spaniards as a result of its isolated and at the time unknown location, and certainly has to rank very high in the list of the world’s ancient wonders.  The blend of native Peruvian and Spanish cuisine is delicious.  This trip will open your eyes to the high level of culture achieved in the Americas before the Europeans arrived and is an adventure you will not soon forget.

The ride combines 10 nights between two different comfortable hotels.

While on the ride, you will be treated to wonderful meals representing tasty regional cuisine. Dishes are made from fresh vegetables, dairy products, and local meats and fish.

  • Overview:
    The horses are locally bred Peruvian Pasos. This breed dates back to the colonial era of Peru and originates from the Spanish Andalusians. A symbol of their historic and noble past, Peruvian Paso horses are known for their comfortable gaits. These horses like to amble, moving fore and hind limbs on the same side at the same time, unlike other equine breeds who typically move diagonal legs at the same time. During the ride you will experience traveling on horseback at the Paso gait. The horses are well cared for, strong, and even-tempered. The traditional tack utilized demonstrates refined Peruvian craftsmanship. The saddles are handmade and are built to easily distribute the body weight across a large portion of the horse's back, thus minimizing strain on both the horse and rider. These saddles feel like a comfortable cross between a dressage and Western saddle. They have a guarnicion, or tailpiece, a remnant of the conquistadores traditional tack. Detachable saddlebags are supplied which come in handy for picnic lunches.
  • Horse Breeds:
    Peruvian Paso
  • Trip Pace:
    slow to moderate
  • Tack:
  • Weight limit:
    188 lbs in riding gear

While riders are on horseback, there are no separate activities planned for non-riders, who can enjoy the accommodations and region independently.

Cusco airport upon arrival on Day 1.

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Upon arrival at the Cusco airport the outfitter’s representative will welcome you to Cusco (he or she will have a sign with your name on it) and ensure that you have a safe transfer to your comfortable hotel near the center of this historical and beautiful city.

Today it is very important that you relax, rest and get acclimatized to the high altitude, before the start of your exciting riding expedition high in the Andes. Reservations have been made for you at the wonderful Hotel Costa del Sol, a 4-star establishment with rooms in the colonial part of the building, and only 2 blocks from the famous Plaza de Armas. The earliest check-in at the hotel is 11 AM. Should you arrive in the early morning a dayroom may be necessary (an out of pocket expense).

Please make sure that you rest well, because tomorrow you will meet and ride the Peruvian Paso horses and learn all about the classic Peruvian riding style. Lunch and dinner are on your own tonight.

Day 2

After a delicious breakfast you will be picked up at 9.15AM outside your hotel. From Cusco it is a 1.25 hrs drive to your accommodation in the Sacred Valley. For the next four nights you will be staying in comfortable rooms at the Hotel Sonesta Posada del Inca, in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas; just a short drive from the stables. Once you have unpacked and refreshed yourself, you will be collected and transferred to the ranch. Today you will have an opportunity to become familiar with the beautiful Peruvian Paso horses and the traditional Peruvian riding gear.

Enjoy a delicious barbeque lunch at the ranch, some good wine and of course Maria’s famous Pisco Sours. In the afternoon, there will be a demonstration of classic Peruvian equitation, followed by an introductory Peruvian riding lesson, during which your riding ability will be evaluated. We will then match you with a mount in accordance with your riding ability, preference, personality and weight class. All horses are forward going, very well trained and a pleasure to ride.
Dinner will either be at the ranch or at a local restaurant.

Day 3

After a hearty breakfast at your hotel, you will be picked up at 9.15AM. Today’s ride takes you along an old and forgotten path not far behind the ranch that leads to a breathtaking place on top of the Cordillera Vilcanota. Enjoy this trail off the beaten path. The first part of the trail will be a serious climb following narrow but beautiful mountain trails with lot of vegetation. You can observe the rich flora of the Peruvian Andes, such as the Molle Tree “Pepper Tree” which the Incas used to embalm mummies with, the Sauco tree which produces a small but very tasty purplish-black fruit, the Capuli fruit tree (its fruit is almost the size of a cherry and its color when ripe), the Quena tree ( the trunk is twisted and the reddish bark flakes and peels like paper), the Tamarilla tree (tree tomato), Cantutas (the flower of the Inca), Aguaymanto (Peruvian cherry or cape gooseberry, Muna (a mint like Peruvia herb) and many other botanical specimmens native to the area.
Once we get to the top of the mountain let the horses rest for a while and enjoy the spectacular scenery. After snacks and a drink continue to ride downhill, along lush and secret trails. This land is privately owned. Arrive around 2PM at a friend’s place located in a valley below. Meet the backup team here and enjoy a delicious lunch. Transfer back to the ranch to arrive around 4.30PM. Dinner as the previous night. Riding time: 4-4.5 hours. Altitude 2,800-3,600 m/ 9,190 – 11,800 ft.

Day 4

Today you visit Machu Picchu by train. Since its discovery by Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu has captivated the hearts and minds of the modern world. The experience of visiting Machu Picchu is not limited to the ruins themselves; the train journey is one of the most spectacular in the world. Before it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1983, the Inca citadel was almost unknown to the world. Since then visits to Machu Picchu have increased so much that it is now one of the favorite destinations of travelers from all over the world. As per July 2017 the Peruvian government has established new regulations to keep intact and preserve the facilities of this Wonder of the World. There are two entrance times: morning from 6AM to 12 PM and afternoons from 12PM to 5PM. The capacity of the Citadel is limited to 2,500 visitors per day, which will be distributed in the 2 shifts mentioned. As to the increase of tourism in Peru it is essential that your ticket to Machu Picchu is booked in due advance. Your ticket will be booked for the afternoon shift and with the most convenient train schedule. Depending on availability at the time of booking you will be travelling with the luxurious Vistadome train service leaving from the train station in Ollantaytambo in the morning (a 30 minute drive from your hotel) and return to the same station around 7 or 8PM where you will be picked up again. On your way to the hotel stop at the ranch for dinner. Lunch is an out of pocket expense today.

Day 5

After a hearty breakfast at your hotel you will be taken to the ranch where you will set off on the ride. Cross the Urubamba River and pass Pichingote, an old Andean village where the houses are partially built into caves, and Salinas, the salt pans from Inca times, which are still being used by the locals to extract the salt from mountain spring water. The salt pans consist of a series of platforms where the salty water is channeled through an impressive irrigation system and left to evaporate in the sun.
After lunch you will climb with the horses (almost 850 meters / 2,790 ft) to the alti-plano of the Andes. This climb takes about two hours, and will be at an easy pace because the change of altitude does not only affect the horses. At 3,550 meter (11,400 ft) you will be impressed by the stunning scenery and the snow-capped mountains of Chicon, Veronica and Pitasuray. Continue your ride to Maras, a typical Andean village with a beautiful 400-yr-old colonial church for a picnic lunch. The church at Maras was built just after the Conquest and is one of the ten oldest churches in South America. From Maras follow primitive trails across the altiplano to visit the ruins of Cheqoq. Here the Incas constructed fascinating cold-storage depots to conserve the agricultural products of the region. Cooling of the products was achieved by using a system of underground air-circulation.
From Cheqoq continue riding to the beautiful churchyard of Tiobamba where you arrive around 4.30 PM. The horses will stay here with the grooms and the back-up van will return you to your accommodations in the Sacred Valley. Dinner at one of Urubamba’s famous local restaurants or at the ranch. Riding time: 4 hours. Altitude: 2,800 – 3,550 m/ 9,190-11,650 ft.

Day 6

Enjoy breakfast at your hotel and be ready at 9.30 AM for the transfer back to Tiobamba where the horses spent the night. Follow primitive trails across the altiplano. The scenery is spectacular with snowcapped mountains, wildflowers and beautiful mountain lakes. You may meet smiling Quechua children with their herds of sheep or cattle and see Campesinos ploughing their fields in the traditional way – oxen hitched to a wooden plow. Maybe you will even share a Chicha (their traditional maize drink) with them. Follow the trail to Chinchero where a picnic lunch is awaiting you. On a clear day the views from Chinchero are tremendous; to the west and northwest stretches a vista of rolling alti-plano, ringed in the distance by the dramatic snowcaps of the Cordilleras Vilcabamba and Urubamba.
After lunch continue to Lake Piuray. From here ride in the direction of Cusco and pass small villages. At one of the villages you stop and leave the horses with the grooms. If time allows visit Chinchero (if not, this visit will be scheduled the morning of Day 8) and possible a textile workshop where you will see an impressive demonstration of ancient techniques of spinning, dying and weaving.
The beautiful fabrics are still made in the way as they would have been in Inca times. Bring some money as you may want to buy some souvenirs, although don’t feel obligated to buy anything. Riding time: 4-5 hours. Altitude: 3,550-3,800 m / 11,650-12,470 ft.

Afternoon transfer to the historic city of Cusco, the oldest city in South America and once the capital of the great Inca Empire. The Inca empire was called Tawantinsuyu “The Four Quarters of the Earth.” Cusco was its heart, and its exact center was considered to be the main square of the city. Spend the night in a comfortable hotel situated near the Plaza de Armas, the heart of Cusco’s archaeological center. Dinner is on your own tonight, and your guide can give recommendations if desired. If you still have energy you can explore Cusco’s legendary nightlife.

Day 7

Today is free to do as you wish. You can visit the numerous churches, cathedrals and museums, do some shopping, or just relax. Some may opt for a one-day rafting adventure on the Urubamba River. The evenings in Cusco are full of exciting nightlife.
According to Inca legend, Cusco was founded around 1200 AD by Manco Capac and Mama Occlo. Manco Capac selected the site when the golden staff given to him by his father, the sun, sank into the earth and disappeared. Each Incan emperor built his own palace and compound during his reign. The Spanish initially tried to destroy the Inca buildings but soon realized that because of their quality construction, it was easier to reuse the foundations for their own buildings. Throughout Cusco many of the original Inca walls can still be seen today. Cusco is a vibrant city and the vast majority of inhabitants are native Quechua Indians.
Despite being a major tourist destination, both for its own treasures and as a staging point for the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, Cusco has managed to hold on to its own distinct flavor. It retains a natural charm that is irresistible. Overnight in Cusco.

Day 8

After breakfast, the riding expedition continues. Pick up is at 9.15 AM from your hotel in Cusco and the horses are waiting where you left them on Day 6. Today’s ride will take you through open country with spectacular views. After climbing you will see a stone-lined Incan irrigation channel which parallels your trail. Ascend a steep and narrow valley to reach a pass at 4,350 m (14,275ft), and enjoy the view of the small, shallow Lake Quellacocha, the highest point of the ride. At the lake you will stop for lunch. Descend the high trail around the north end of the lake and ascend eastward to Lake Q’oricocha. Many herds of Llamas, Alpacas and Guanacos can be seen around here grazing among the farmland. The people living at this high altitude are friendly, hardworking farmers who grow mainly potatoes. From Lake Q’oricocha the ride heads northeast in the direction of the Sacred Valley. Descend from the altiplano into the valley of Umaspampa on a zig-zag trail for about two hours.
During the descent you will have to lead your horse for a short while (about 15 min) to cross some rocky terrain. Close to the village of Umasbamba leave the horses in the caring hands of the grooms and ransfer back to your hotel in the Sacred Valley and dinner at a local restaurant or at the ranch. Riding time: 5 to 6 hours. Altitude: 3,300 – 4,350 m / 10,820 – 14,280 ft.

Day 9

Today is another stunningly scenic day and you will have plenty of breaks and photo-stops. From the village of Umaspampa ride to the villages of Cuper Alto and Cuper Bajo, arriving in the early afternoon at an abandoned church near the village of Chinchero where you have lunch. Much of the riding today is along trails that are part of the great Incan Empire’s road system, the Capac Ñan. The Incan road network was one the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken in the New World, rivaling the Roman road system in the Old World. The 25,000 km network linked Cusco, the Inca capital, to the empire’s far-flung domains. The road system reached almost all of the Andean territories, including Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile and was formed by four clearly recognizable main roads, and many secondary roads. After lunch ride to a small village not far from Maras where the horses will stay with the grooms for the night. Transfer to your hotel in the Sacred Valley before dining at the hotel’s restaurant and overnight at the comfortable Hotel Posada del Inca. (B L D)
Riding time: approx. 5-6 hours. Altitude: 3,800 – 3,550 m/12,470 – 11,650 ft.

Day 10

After breakfast get ready for your last riding day. Before you meet the horses at Huaynacolca stop at the pottery shop of the ceramic artist Pablo Seminario. He is a local legend amongst Cusquenos as he invented a new form of ceramic artwork which integrates abstract modern styles with tranditional Incan and pre-Incan ceramic techniques and designs. After the short visit to the shop drive back to where the horses spent the night and continue the ride along the old Inca road high above the Sacred Valley. Pass farmland and the small village of Santana before returning to the village of Maras. Arrive at a beautiful courtyard of an old house for lunch where the back up team will be waiting with drinks as well. After a delicious lunch follow a trail with great views of the Urquillos Valley, arriving once more at the village of Maras. From there continue the descent into the Sacred Valley, arriving at the ranch around 4 PM. Celebrate your return with a traditional Pisco Sour.
Riding time: 4 hours. Altitude: 2,800 – 2,600 m / 9,190 – 8,530 ft. Dinner at the ranch or at a local restaurant.

Day 11

Early morning transfer to the airport in Cusco for your onward travel. The driving time is 1.25 hr; if continuing to Lima for international flights, book flights departing 5pm or after.

Itinerary Addendum

This itinerary is flexible and may be modified at the guide's discretion due to unforeseen circumstances.

Trip Map

Trip Dates & Pricing

Additional Pricing Information:
Ride price is set, guaranteed and final at the time deposit is paid.  

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Sacred Valley of the Incas Ride
April 23, 2024
January 1, 1970
January 1, 1970

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The opportunity to visit Peru in the hands of these hosts is an incredible trip of a lifetime. The trip is even more exciting than described - I should have been warned that I would want to move to Peru! It is one of the most beautiful countries I've visited, but I... Read more  

Melissa and Addie York, 2011