7. Cusco: 2-Day Maras, Moray Salt Mines and Machu Picchu Tour
Day 1: Cusco – Moray Salt Mines – Aguas Calientes
You will be picked up from your hotel between 8:00-8:15AM before heading to Moray. The drive will last around 1 hour and 20 minutes, and is scenically breathtaking. You will drive through the snow capped peaks of the Andes, the lush yellow wheat fields, and traditional Andean villages. You will eventually arrive in the fascinating terraces of Moray, which is made up of three amphitheater-like terraces constructed by the Incas. These terraces, which are carved deep into the earth in a bowl shape, are thought to have been used as an agricultural laboratory to determine the optimal conditions for growing crops.
After exploring Moray, you will head to the salt mines of Maras, which are just 2 miles away. Dating back to colonial times, Maras was considered a salt-producing center. Carved into the mountain side are over 3,000 salt pools, which are filled daily by a little stream of water. Once the water evaporates, it leaves behind a glistening patchwork of salt. The salt mines are a great spot to take pictures and capture the amazing beauty of both the Andes and the spectacular Salineras.
Following the salt mines, your next destination is Urubamba, where you will arrive at approximately 1:00PM to enjoy lunch in one of the local restaurants. From Urubamba, it is just 30 minutes to get to Ollantaytambo Train Station. Your train will depart at 3:37PM to Aguas Calientes, which will be an approximately 1.5-hour journey. During the train ride, you can take time to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding valleys and Andes mountains. The train will arrive in Aguas Calientes, which is a small town located at the base of Machu Picchu, where your transfer will be waiting you at the train station to take you to your selected hotel in Aguas Calientes.
Day 2: Machu Picchu - Cusco
Today is the most important day, as you will be visiting Machu Picchu. Because it’s so special, we encourage you to wake up early in the morning to enjoy breakfast at the hotel before you head to the bus station to try to catch one of the first buses at 5:30AM (they are all on a first come first serve basis). The bus will take about 25 minutes to get to Machu Picchu, and as soon as you arrive to the complex, you will be taken to the best spot to overlook all the ruins and receive panoramic views of the landscape and the sunrise over the mountains. There will be a rendezvous to observe the sunrise (if weather allows), in order to attain spectacular views of the Lost City of the Incas. You will then have a 2-hour guided tour around Machu Picchu, with plenty of free time afterwards to explore on your own. If you have tickets to climb the amazing mountain of Huaynapicchu, your guide will direct you to where this hike begins. Please make sure this is arranged at least a month in advance of your visit, as tickets do sell out. Once you are done exploring all Machu Picchu has to offer, you will take a bus down to Aguas Calientes for lunch, after which you will take an afternoon train back to Ollantaytambo. From there you will take a private bus back to Cusco, where you will be dropped off at your hotel.