Tag Archives: Peru

Introducing our new route to Rainbow Mountain

30 Mar

By Lisa McClendon Sims

You may have recently noticed in popular social media and on the Internet the discovery of a fascinating new destination in the high Andes which is being referred to as the Rainbow Mountains of Peru. This mountain range is well-hidden in a tucked away area in the middle of the glacial mountains of the Vilcanota Range in the south of Peru, specifically in the shadow of the highest mountain in the Cusco Region, Apu Ausangate, which comes in at just under 21,000 feet elevation (6,300 meters), about a 4-hour drive from Cusco.

This discovery has recently generated a lot of interest and we have been receiving requests for treks to this area. So at the request of our clients, on Friday, March 18th Alpaca Expeditions sent an exploratory expedition of our guides, porters and horsemen to this newly discovered natural wonder and to find the best path and to be sure we know the conditions of the landscape. We are happy to announce that we are the first tour operator to offer organized treks to the Rainbow Mountains of Peru!

This is more of a wilderness trek, totally off the beaten track – above the tree line with magnificent views of the Andes and glacial peaks. The Rainbow Mountains are composed of stratified layers of sandstone. These fine grained rock layers contain abundant iron and other mineral compounds which provide the pigments for the various colored stripes of which the mountains are made.

Along the way there are many beautiful things to see – turquoise lakes, incredible glacial views, llamas and alpacas. There are still the wild vicuña to be seen along the way, which are now protected by the government and it is illegal to keep them in captivity. Vicuña is the most expensive wool in the world due to this fact and that they can only be shorn once every three years Their wool is incredibly warm and fine. The local Quechua campesinos call this event a “chaccu” when they herd the animals by making a huge circle of people, interlocking arms, to trap and shear the animals before setting them free again. Since this law passed in 1974, the vicuña population has increased from 6,000 to today’s population of 125,000! This wool sells for US$1800-$3000 (compared to cashmere wool which is $100 per yard) and is exported to make superfine cloths, sweaters and scarves.

Finding the best route for our clients took a few days of exploration and discovery – even when asking the locals most people have no idea where to find these magnificent mountains!! Finally, on Day 4 of our exploratory expedition we came over the crest of a mountain and BOOM! – there were the magnificent Rainbow Mountains in all their glory!!

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We will be ending this trek in the village of Chilca which is a part of the Quispicanchis Provence, then make the 4-hour drive back to Cusco. The best months for this trek will be April to November when we are not in our rainy season and there is not so much rain and snow.

So if you were disappointed to find that you are too late to hike the Classic Inka Tail this year (it is sold out through September now), be one of the first pioneers to make this trek with us!

We are considering offering this as a 6-day trek/tour which will encompass the Rainbow Mountain trek and also include a tour of the Sacred Valley of the Inkas and a day at Machu Picchu as well!

Watch this space for more information on this new development!

Check out now our 4 Day Trek to Rainbow Mountain.

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Trekking to Machu Picchu, 2016 – Machu picchu tours

1 Mar

KM 82

By Lisa McClendon Sims

The Inca Trail’s new season starts TODAY, March 1st, 2016. Ever since Machu Picchu earned the distinction of being one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, its popularity has been increasing steadily and we are seeing people from every possible corner of the world now in Peru sporting trekking poles and camelbacks!

Journey is the DestinationDid you know that the Inca Trail Trek is sold out through most of August already? Many people don’t realize that there is a limit of 500 trekkers per day to start the Inca Trail, and that number includes all of the support staff – guides, cooks, and porters. In order to preserve the integrity of this famous part of what the Inca called the Qhapaq Ñan – the 24,800 mile system of paths that run through the Andes and the ancient Inca Empire and is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – no hooved pack animals are allowed along the majority of what is now known as the Inca Trail. We therefore have to rely on people to help us carry camping gear, food, sleeping and cooking supplies. In ancient times these people were called “chaskis” that ran like lightning along these paths tag-team style, and were famed for the speed in which they could get messages across the vast expanse of the Inca Empire.

Today, for each group of 6 trekkers, Alpaca Expeditions will have 11 porters, 1 chef and 1 guide. So you can see that we need triple the number of permits to enter the Inca Trail as we have trekkers. Thus the high demand for the 500-per-day permits.

Obviously, if you are wanting to hike the Inca Trail Trek in 2016, you need to make plans now! We still have all of September, October and half of November this year before our rainy season begins again in mid-November and the weather becomes a bit less predictable. We can make bookings through January of 2017 now. February 1st 2017 the Inca Trail will close for a month – February is our wettest month – during which time maintenance of the Trail is also carried out.

AlpacaExpeditions_Fotos_SantiagoPascual_037.jpgWere you wanting to hike in Peru before August of 2016? Not to worry!! Alpaca Expeditions specializes in Alternative Treks as well! Our two most popular alternative treks are the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu and the Lares Trek. These less well known but fascinating treks and each have their own distinct flavor and style and fewer other hikers along the way. No permits from the Peruvian government are required for many of our alternative treks, and we are able to use pack animals, so they tend to be a bit less expensive than the Inca Trail Treks. The Salkantay to Machu Picchu trek scenery is perhaps even more stunning, and many of our trekkers feel that it is more challenging than the Inca Trail Trek.

The Lares Trek offers a few more cultural opportunities than the others. It starts in the Lares Valley and offers the opportunity to experience one of the few the thermal baths or “hot springs” in the Sacred Valley area. We trek through 3 highland villages and have the opportunity to meet with some of the colorful locals whose lifestyles have been frozen in time for the past several centuries, seeing how they live and bringing a little bit of prosperity to their villages along the way. This trek also passes through the Sacred Valley and ends with a tour of Machu Picchu.

There are many other alternative hikes that we offer.  Some of them end in Machu Picchu but do not require permits – like the Huchuy Qosqo Trek, our Cachicata Quarry Trek and also the Vilcabamba Trek. We have a couple of other fascinating treks which do not go to Machu Picchu, for those of you who have perhaps already been and so fallen in love with the Andes you want to see more. Choquekiraw is an amazing site that many say that more resembles Machu Picchu in the years before it became so popular and touristed (we do offer one tour that does take you to Machu Picchu after your Choquekiraw trek). Ausangate mountain towers over the Sacred Valley at nearly 21,000 feet above sea level (6,400 meters) and we offer 5 and 7 day Ausangate Treks. All of these treks are detailed on our website under Alternative Treks.

And maybe you don’t want to trek at all! We also offer train tours, Sacred Valley Tours, and individualized itineraries all over Peru! Regular entrance tickets into Machu Picchu don’t have such strict limitations, so we can book a train tour for you into Machu Picchu with much less notice.

Now is the time to book your trip to Peru! Let us help you decide which trek or tour is best for you! Check us out on Trip Advisor and you will see that we are #1 with over 1200 reviews! Call us, chat online or send us an email if you have any questions. We promise that you will love Peru!

Pisac_Peru_13

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa has been falling in love with Peru for 11 years, and lived in Cusco permanently for the past 5 years. She has been working with Alpaca Expeditions for 2 years. She has recently written a book called “Doves Fly in My Heart: My Love Affair with Peru” available on Amazon.com. Pick it up and fall in love!

https://www.alpacaexpeditions.com

machu picchu tours

(100% Local Company Focused on Giving back to Our Villages – Dedicated to improving the lives of our porters)

Inca Trail Trek,  Salkantay Trek,  Machu Picchu Tours,  Treks To Machu Picchu, Lares Trek

Inka Trail 2016 Update – Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

8 Dec

By Lisa McClendon Sims

We are happy to report that Alpaca Expeditions has now passed all of the qualifications and documentation required to requalify us as a licensed 2016 Inka Trail Tour Operator!

ARE YOU LOOKING TO TREK THE INKA TRAIL IN 2016?

Trekking the Inka Trail has become enormously popular since it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. We expect permits for hiking the Inka Trail for this season (which starts March 1st, 2016) to be released around January 10th.

Last year, the entire month of May and quite a bit of April and June were completely sold out on the first day the permits were released. The rest of the year quickly sold out and people who were looking to book the Inka Trail found they needed to book as much as four months in advance to get Inka Trail permits, as only 500 permits are issued per each date.

The people who got the dates that they wanted in May only got them because they pre-booked prior to the permits being released. We were on the doorstep of the Ministry of Culture the moment they opened and we had all our ducks in a row – if one piece of information is missing or incorrect, they turn you away. We are happy to say that 99% of all our pre-booked reservations got the dates they wanted last year, and the other 1% got their second choice date.

We highly recommend that if you want to hike the Inka Trail in the first half of 2016 that you pre-book with us NOW! We will ask you for the date you want to travel, and then we will ask you for 2 alternative dates to insure that you get the dates you want. Many people on tight schedules wait until we have a permit date for them before making their flight arrangements.

We only ask for a deposit of US$200 per person to pre-book – the balance can be paid upon your arrival in Cusco. However – and this is very important – once we have a permit in your name and with your date – it is etched in stone – the Peruvian government does not allow any changes of any kind – no date changes, no name changes, totally non-fundable for any reason. So please be 100% certain of your dates before you book!
Having said that, should you miss the date that you were wanting to hike the Inka Trail, we do offer numerous alternative treks that do not require permits – the most popular being the Salkantay trek and the Lares trek, each of which have their own individual flavors and allure. There are many other alternative treks, all of which are described in great detail on our website or feel free to call our toll free number if you want some guidance in choosing which trek is best for you!

So if you are thinking Inka Trail 2016 – to avoid disappointment, pre-book now!

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Alpaca Expeditions offers Peru And Machu Picchu Tours, 4 Day Inca trail to Machu picchu, Hiking Salkantay, Sacred Valley and Pisaq Tours. We have 5 star Reviews with a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor and is a fully licensed Inca Trail tour operator. 100% Local Peruvian Tour Operator. Inca Trail Trek, Salkantay Trek, Machu Picchu Tours, Treks To Machu Picchu, Lares Trek

https://www.alpacaexpeditions.com

machu picchu tours

Congratulations Graduating Class of Wakatinku Village

7 Dec

Over a year ago we started working with Wakatinku village and always focused on helping their school and schoolchildren. We have installed computers and internet in the school and sponsored a teacher to make sure their English and math education continued – and it has been such a pleasure to watch these kids grow and learn during this time. We feel honored to have been a small part of it.

When the Director of the school explained to us that this would be the first graduating class ever from the school, we knew we needed to do something a little extra special for them. We invited the 17 graduating students, their families and some teachers – 52 people all together, to enjoy our 2D/1N Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu tour.

It was their first time visiting Machu Picchu and it was so clear that they were in love with the citadel as soon as they entered. We of course all learn about our history growing up in the small villages outside of Cusco, but seeing our history alive is truly special!
This is how we spent the 2 days:

Nov 7th: Pick up was at 6.00 am from their village. We travelled the 4 hours back to Cusco to visit one of the most important ruins, Sacsayhuaman. Amazing Alpaca Tour Guides, Amoroso, Herlin, and Franzs explained everything to them, in their native language Quechua. After spending quite a bit of time there, we continued on to Pisaq Inka site. Everyone enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch in Urubamba and afterward we headed to our final stop, Ollantaytambo. Dinner was after the tour and then the 9PM train to Aguas Calientes for the night.

Throughout the day, many of the students approached Raul Ccolque, owner of Alpaca Expeditions, about how much they appreciated this opportunity. These kids never imagined getting to these places and it is a moment we will never forget.

Nov 8th : Early breakfast at the same restaurant where all our past clients have had lunch and dinner: El Tupana Wasi. At 7 am we boarded 2 buses for the 25 minute ride up to Machu Picchu. Words cannot describe the faces of the 52 villagers seeing Machu Picchu for the first time. What is amazing is that a lot of the families are our porters – and even though they have done the trek 100s of times, they have never had the chance to actually go inside – until now. It reminded us of how important these social projects are and renewed our dedication to keeping them up and expanding them.

We separated into three groups, with our guides continuing their presentation and took countless photos. It made everyone involved so proud to be Cusqueñan and the descendants of the amazing Inka civilization. For three hours we walked around and explained more of our history, exploring The Temple of the Sun, the Quarry, the Intiwatana (Sun Dial).

After the tour they had some time to explore on their own, take their own pictures (perhaps some selfies!) and they promised each other they would come back one day.

Once we were back in Aguas Calientes, lunch was ready for them. Everyone did a little shopping and exploring in Aguas Calientes before their evening train back to Ollantaytambo and 5 hour drive back home.

This story might seem repetitive of the previous trip to Machu Picchu last February when we took our porters and their families to Machu Picchu, but it is amazing (and a bit sad) how hard it is for our own people to visit this amazing Wonder of the World. We will never stop taking these trips. It is a shame how expensive it is for people to get to and get in Machu Picchu. We love sharing our ruins with our friends from other countries, but it is not right for these private companies who own services like the trains to charge so much to Peruvians which make it prohibitive for our people to visit. It is important for all Peruvians to be able to witness first hand our history. We hope to help make that happen.

First Aid Training for ALL Alpaca Expeditions Guides

26 Feb

By Lisa McClendon Sims

11007491_10205473364009279_1592226164_nThe Inka Trail is closed for maintenance during the month of February which gives our busy guides the opportunity to do some additional training and community service projects.

In addition to Culinary Classes for our chefs and a Beautification Project on the Huchuy Qosqo Trail this month, our guides all met in our Cusco office for two days this week for additional training. This included continuing education classes of First Aid, High Altitude Illness Training and Injury Prevention and Treatment courses.

If you have trekked with Alpaca Expeditions, you know that our guides are not only great organizers and motivators, very knowledgeable and entertaining but also very competent at handling just about any situation that can be thrown at them while guiding our trekkers safely through our magnificent Andes Mountains.

Still, on rare occasions something unexpected happens and we want to be 100% certain that our guides are prepared to handle surprise situations. We work in conjunction with O2 Clinics who help us with our annual training. Basic First Aid and CPR Training are obviously valuable as well as training in other health issues that can affect people in the high mountainous regions of the Andes.

It is also very important that our guides understand the basic physics of high altitude and the effects it can have on people who have not acclimatized well to our higher altitudes.  They are trained in how to recognize the symptoms of High Altitude Illness and what to do to help the body with recovery and acclimatization. They carry with them and are trained in how to use a Pulse Oximeter which monitors oxygen saturation and heart rate and also how to administer oxygen if necessary, which they also carry.

We then spent the afternoon on studying various bird and orchid species that are native to the area.

We are now ready to start the 2015 Season! So come and enjoy the majesty and beauty of our Inka Trail and Alternative Treks in and around the Sacred Valley of the Inkas in Peru and know that you are in good hands with Alpaca Expeditions.

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7 Day Salkantay and Inca Trail Trek

27 Aug

We have been so lucky to have so many of our clients post amazing reviews about their experiences with us on sites like TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and other travel forums out there.  But some of these sites do not publish reviews of “multi-day” day tours – trying to avoid large travel companies from using the site.  But it also prevents some of your reviews from being published.  We recently had a trekker who really wanted to share her experience with everyone, but was not able to get TripAdvisor to publish, so I am publishing for her here.  Hope you enjoy!

Thank you Lillian.

 

BEST VACATION EVER!!!!

I have done my fair share of traveling, of all types. Without a doubt this was THE BEST TRIP OF MY LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We did a private week-long trek to Salkantay and the Inca Trail. What a bargain for $1200 USD per person. I read over and over from satisfied clients that the food was better than restaurants and that they came back gaining weight. My first interpretation was that of course food was going to taste good after being starving from hiking all day. No, the food really is terrific and MUCH MUCH better than what we ate at restaurants in Peru. We were thoroughly pampered by our wonderful crew, Cesar (guide), Julian (head chef), Francisco (aka Pancho, sous chef), the chaskas – Cipriani, Beltran, Ephrahim, and Benefio, and our horseman.

Cesar, our guide, is truly passionate about the history and archeology of Peru. Nothing made him happier than having us ask him questions about the various archeological remains. He did everything to make our trip memorable. When I accidentally broke my camera on the first day, he gave me his camera to use. He was able to balance time in such a way that we had plenty of time with him and his guidance, but wasn’t always around so that we felt that we had a babysitter. It was the perfect amount of time with a guide and having privacy. Because of our great experience with Cesar, we know consider him a good friend.

Every morning we were woken up with a cup of hot coca tea. Then we were delighted with a hot breakfast (various different kinds of porridge, pancakes, fruit, eggs, etc). Before we left, we got a snack (fruit and some kind of cookie or cracker) and we went on our hike. The chaskis (porters) packed everything up and beat us to our lunch time location. Then they set up the dining/cooking tent and prepare a wonderful multi-course hot lunch – appetizer, several courses (meat and vegetables) and dessert. After stuffing ourselves, we took a quick nap. Then we went on our afternoon hike. Again, the chaskis packed everything up and beat us to our evening camping spot. When we arrive, it was happy hour time with tea, hot chocolate, cookies, and freshly popped popcorn. Next was dinner, another multi-course meal. They fed us so well that we usually couldn’t eat our snack

 

Machu Picchu is a HOT SPOT in 2013

6 Mar

Machupicchu_hb102013 was a historic year for Machu Picchu, bringing the largest amount of visitors so far.  Nearly 1.2 million people explored the ancient Inca citadel and 2014 has already proved to try to surpass those numbers..

The record-breaking figure of 1,177,308 visitors is contained in the annual totals published by the Ministry of Foreign Commerce and Tourism (MINCETUR).

Built in the 15th century by the 9th Sapa Inca Pachacutec, Machu Picchu is considered by most who come to Peru a must see experience. Most travelers plan a trip to Machu Picchu without realizing the other treasures of Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Peru as a whole.  We plan on  continuing to showcase our country and all the beauty to all visitors making Peru the destination and not only our world wonder.

And Peruvian authorities are helping with that mission, working on developing Peru’s other amazing ancient archaeological sites to help take some of the pressure off Machu Picchu.

Come and visit Peru – it will be a vacation that you will never forget!  Especially when you see it with this guy!Raul and Machu Picchu

Time To Celebrate

7 Feb

Every year, on the first day of February where the whole team is back from trekking and touring, Alpaca has a party to say THANK YOU.  We know that we have the best team in the Andes and we start with them, thank you to all of the GREEN MACHINE for working endlessly to make sure that every traveler had an amazing journey.  Thank you to all our CHEFS who somehow create magic on the mountain and create culinary masterpieces for everyone to enjoy.  And thank you to our GUIDES for being the incredible leaders they are – making sure that every member of our team has what they need, does a proper job, all while teaching, guiding and of course entertaining our new friends visiting Peru for the first time.

And thank you to our office staff, including our amazing leader RAUL CCOLQUE, for making sure all emails are responded to immediately, all questions are answered completely and all bookings are made flawlessly.  And for winning the Alpaca Cup in our Futbol Tourney.  🙂

Our Crew

The Entire Green Machine Team

That leads us to how we celebrate.  We begin with a tourney, office v. guides v. chefs v. porters.

Champions

Champions: Office staff (oddly missing Bonnie and Susan)

It went down to the Cooks v. the Office and of course my boys were victorious.  We may not be as fit from not trekking every day, but we still have some moves.

After the trophy was given, and each member of the team was named and celebrated, we started our party where we enjoyed some chicken, cervezas and of course, many laughs.

  Sea of Green

But of course, none of this would be possible and none of us would be doing this without you, the traveler.  To all of you who have traveled with Alpaca – THANK YOU.  Thank you so much for all of your feedback as we are still learning how to be the best in the business.  Thank you for cheering us on and for so many of you writing about your experiences with us on TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, blogs, everywhere.  So many of you recommended us to others.  All of this is so amazing and we appreciate it more than words can explain.

And THANK YOU to all our new travelers.  We think that 2014 is going to be our best year and we are so excited to meet you all and show you Peru.  We can’t wait to teach and laugh with you and will go out of our way to make this your best vacation ever.

This is OUR HOME.  But YOUR ADVENTURE. 

We respect that and will make sure it is everything you have dreamed of.

Thank you Alpaca Team and thank you Alpaca Traveler.

 

 

 

Huaynapicchu

29 Jan

First of all, Happy New Year to everyone.  Sorry we have been neglectful of our blog, but we were busy securing all our permits for 2014 and doing a little travelling ourselves.  As man you are booking your treks and visits to Machu Picchu now, many people wonder about hiking Huaynapicchu and why there are two prices for this trek.

Huaynapicchu
I will begin with, can you hike Huaynpicchu…OF COURSE YES!!!  While Huaynapicchu is limited to 400 hikers a day, if you plan early and book this extra hike at least 2 months in advance, we will definitely purchase your permit for the hike.

The permits are given for a window of time, either from 7-8AM or 10-11AM.  This is when you need to start the hike.  It takes approximately 45 minutes to the top, snap some photos, and then another 45 minutes down.

We purchase the second time slot for all our travelers, the 10-11AM time slot, so that you can enjoy your tour of Machu Picchu with your guide first.  Once your tour of the ruins are over, your guide will show you where you begin this hike.  This is usually done on your own, but if you need your guide to join you, please let the office know and we will arrange beforehand.

just let us know if you want the permit for Huaynapicchu.  The permit is $25 per person to hike UNLESS you are doing one of our Inca Trail treks.  Unfortunately if you are trekking the Inca Trail, no matter how long of a trek you chose, it will be $65 per person to climb Huaynapicchu.  Why so much more for Inca Trail trekkers?

So when we purchase your permit for the Inca Trail, the permit includes entry to Machu Picchu.  You don’t need a physical ticket into the Lost City of the Incas.  But when you climb Huaynapicchu you need a permit for the hike, plus a physical entrance ticket to Machu Picchu.  This is something required by the Park office and not something done by Alpaca.

When choosing to purchase this extra hike please remember that it is challenging, quite steep.  While the views are extraordinary, they are similar to the Sun Gate which is free to access and it does get crowded.  But if you choose to do this hike, you will have your facebook profile photo for life – the views are incredible.

Please let us know if you have any further questions about Huaynapicchu, Machu Picchu mountain or the Sun Gate.

 

 

 

 

 

Alpaca Expeditions Wins Silver for Best Travel Agency in Cusco in 2013

17 Oct

On Saturday evening, October 12th, Alpaca Expeditions won the Silver Q’ente Prize for Best Travel Agency in Cusco in the Adventure Tourism Travel Agent category. Alpaca was one of three agencies chosen out of hundreds that entered this year. The Q’ente Prizes are extremely prestigious as they are chosen by the Regional Tourism Board of Cusco.

These awards are given to companies that are dedicated to corporate responsibility. They encourage companies to create amazing vistor experiences while giving back to the local communinity in the Cusco region. Raul Ccolque, the owner of Alpaca, created this company with those exact goals in mind. While Alpaca aims to create treasured memories for all our travellers, we are also focused on making life better for those employed by Alpaca – guides, porters, office staff. We provide our entire team with proper wages, equipment and healthcare. We understand we would not be where we are today if it was not for our amazing “Green Machine” and are committed to them 100%. We also help all the villages that we pass through on our many different treks. We bring an extra porter with us on alternative treks to help clean the path as these trails are not protected by the National Park and are often left in bad condition from other trekkers. We bring food and provide hot drinks to the families that live there.

Alpaca is a young company but we hope with each year we will learn how we can improve conditions for everyone in the Cusco region and are dedicated to making life better for all.

Alpaca Expeditions founder Raul Ccolque and Manager Ronaldo Ccoqlue accepted the award on behalf of the company. It was a great night for us and we hope with hard work we will be celebrating many more.

Award Ceremony 2

Founder Raul Ccolque and Manager Ronaldo Ccolque accepted the Hummingbird Award

Award Ceremony 3

Presented the award by the President of Cusco Region, Jorge Acurio

Award Ceremony 5

Ccolque Brothers with their awards

Award Ceremony 6

Many of the Green Machine was on hand to celebrate this major achievement.