Apus Peru Giving Back to Communities: Christmas Chocolatada 2015

Christmas Chocolatada 2015 – Apus brings a bit of Christmas spirit to those living in the remote region around Lares, Peru.

Apus Peru’s Lares Valley to Machu Picchu Trek is the signature trek we offer to this gorgeous mountainous region located approximately three hours by car from Cusco. High mountain lakes, thatched roof houses, graceful llama herds, and the sight of authentically dressed villagers going about their daily tasks are a few highlights of this beautiful scenic trek.


Lares Country- high mountain lakes

Apus Peru loves to give back to the communities around the region by offering the communities a Christmas Chocolatada every year: we bring Christmas treats and gifts and serve them up to the delight of the village children and their parents. This year, although he weather wasn’t perfect, our hot chocolate, festive panetón bread, presents, and clothes were well received by the communities of Chupani and Chaullacocha.


First cup of chocolate being poured!

The day began at 5am, when we loaded everything we had bought in the previous days into the van, and then travelled 3.5 hours from Cusco to Chaullacocha. Our first job was to unpack all the goodies, including 100 cans of milk, in order to prepare hot chocolate for the entire community.

Mauro Chocolate

One of our cooks Mauro, using the secret chocolate recipe that only he knows!

One of Apus Peru’s main guides, Urbano spoke to everyone in Quechua and coaxed the kids into singing for their presents, which were the traditional Peruvian mini-Christmas fruit-breads, known as Panetones- one was gifted to each child. It was quite a festive sight to see children all ages gathered together wearing the brilliant red-fringed ponchos and fancy top hats that are a mark of this region.


Beautiful Sight: Children gathered together in colorful traditional clothing

 Lourdes Hancco  from Threads of Peru played soccer with the women along with our operations assistant, Ruth Gutierrez. Lots of fun was had by all, even though everyone involved got pretty wet and muddy.

Womens Soccer

A soccer game- fun in the mist!

Our guide Urbano Huayna got the kids to sing for their prizes (mini panetones- a traditional Christmas cake in Peru. Some of the kids were a bit shy, but took it all in good humor.


Urbano asks for a song

The community members lined up for their Christmas treats. It was great fun pouring out the chocolate and giving everyone some bread to eat. Since the day was cold and wet, the community was happy to get a steaming cup of hot chocolate and a piece of bread to accompany it.

Bread and chocolate

Bread and Chocolate for all

 Our Threads of Peru team, Arturo  (Guide), Ruth (Ops team) and Adrian (Inventory and stock room caretaker)) gave out donations of warm coats and jackets, so the kids in the community will be able to wrap up extra warm for the cold, wet season ahead.


Distributing warm clothing to the children

 You can see the recent Chocolatada promotion on Threads Instagram here:





Trekker Review: Apus Peru Choquequirao to Machu Picchu Route

Scott Thompson and Megan Bishop hiked the Choquequirao Trek with Apus in May of 2015. Here is what Scott had to say regarding the trek and Apu Peru’s services.

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Mountainous View – Photo Courtesy Matt Wood

“As a lead-in, I think one of the common problems with most feedback/ratings, is that people share their experience as compared to what they had expected, but rarely are people asked to share what they expected. So, let me first start with what we had expected:

When my girlfriend and I decided to hike in Peru for our vacation, we basically stumbled upon Apus as a tour company through on-line searches. Our selection criteria in picking the Choquequirao trek was that it was the most difficult, was more isolated than other options, included Machu Picchu, and fit our timeframe.

Due to time constraints, we signed up for the 7-day trek option instead of the 9-day. My girlfriend and I, who are in our early thirties, are both reasonably active and in reasonably good shape and were looking for a hike that imposed somewhat of a physical challenge. Furthermore, we do a fair amount of hiking on weekends in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and, therefore have an appreciation for being outdoors.

To benefit my review of the trip, I’m going to divide the summary of the trip into two halves. The first half had us hiking into Choquequirao and then along the Inca trail to Yanama. For us, this part of the trip absolutely exceeded expectations. For starters, the landscape and scenery that you hike through to get to Choquequirao is quite breathtaking. The Andean mountains are just so large that it seemed you couldn’t see the top and the bottom of a mountain at the same time unless it was way off in the distance. As well, in a day you could hike through several different eco-zones ranging from dense cloud forests to wide-open alpine fields. We stumbled along a good range of wildlife including huge flocks of green parrots, deer, and even a condor. This half of the trek was our favorite because of how isolated it was. Along the trail you’ll pass through quiet farming villages, empty Incan ruins that sit waiting to be explored, and mountain trails that you’ll barely share with anyone else.

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Trek Horses taking a break – Photo Courtesy Matt Wood

We quickly learned that the Inca’s didn’t seem to care much for gentle graded trails. The switchbacks were aggressive upward and downward slopes and in a typical day we would easily descend over 1,500M before lunch only to ascend over 1,500M after lunch. We perhaps came into the hike a bit over-confident in our ability and were a bit humbled by the first few days. The altitude wasn’t too bad a factor for us. We had spent several days in Cusco (where stairs are a challenge), but found that with the exception of going over the mountaintops we weren’t generally short of breath.

At the end of the second day, you arrive in Choquequirao. For me, this was a highlight that surpassed Machu Picchu because of its isolation. It was quite spectacular to experience this place for ourselves, by ourselves, and on our own time. We didn’t appreciate at the time, how nice it was to be at these ruins, virtually alone, and to be able to snap photos of just the ruins without other people crawling around you. The complex is quite large and our guide was quite knowledgeable about archaeologists’ understanding of the place. It’s surreal that the Inca’s were able to build such structures on a mountaintop (and had the audacity to do so). Apparently Choquequirao is actually larger than Machu Picchu, but a majority of it has not been uncovered.

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Isolated Choquequirao Ruins- Photo Courtesy Matt Wood

The second major highlight for me came on the fourth day as we were approaching Yanama. You climb up and over a mountain at about 4,100M and the trail to do so is actually built by the Incas (i.e. the Inca trail). I loved the idea of using stone staircases that have literally been in place for over 500 years. We were fortunate to have beautiful views from the top that were totally breathtaking. Along this stretch of the trail the only other people you will pass are horsemen and farmers from the area. Everyone would greet us with a smile and we really felt welcome.

The second half of the trip had us trekking from Yanama to Machu Picchu, which offered a much different experience than the first. For starters, after Yanama you meet up with the Salkantay trail. This means you’ll be around many more people, and staying in busier towns, instead of the rustic experience in the villages.

Because we were on an accelerated itinerary, our hiking was supplemented with some driving (which we expected). After spending the first four days on much more challenging trails, this part of the hike was a breeze. Essentially we would just follow rolling or flat trails along the valley bottoms. The trails were also much busier with other larger groups of hikers.

The highlights of this half of the trek were the kitschy activities. On the fifth night we visited a hot springs in Santa Theresa, it was nice, but also busy with other hikers and people from town. The next morning we had signed up for the Mono Loco zip lines. Our guide arranged for us to do it privately before it opened which allowed us to avoid the crowds and the associated waits at each zipline. It was actually really fun, and I would recommend trying if you haven’t tried ziplining before.

Machu Picchu was day 7 for us. It was an incredible experience and I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience it. Nevertheless, it is busy, and people begin lining up for their entrance at 4:30AM. Our wait for the bus up was 45 minutes. Considering our relaxed and solitary visit to Choquequirao, this was a bit hectic for us. I don’t think there is any way to see Machu Picchu without the crowds, so I’m glad we went and I’ll still recommend others to visit, but Choquequirao was my favorite.

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Floral Scene Near Choquequirao Ruins- Photo Courtesy Matt Wood

I should finish up our review with some good words about the team that looked after us along the way.

I can’t say enough about how good our cook was. Every morning at dawn he would wake us up with hot tea, which we would have in your tent while we warmed up and got ready for the day. All of our meals were outstanding, and were a good mix of local and international cuisine. Not to mention, at each meal there was always a variety of options and enough quantity to satisfy whatever appetite we had built up hiking. Apparently all of the cooks need to go to school to be certified and so we really found that all meals were quite expertly prepared. I actually found that some of the traditional dishes we had while we were hiking were better than at any restaurant we later visited.

The horsemen (there were two for us) were friendly and hardworking. They were essentially responsible for the on-ground logistics of the trip and are the unsung heroes from that perspective. They would set up and tear down our tent, help to prepare the meals, trail behind us on the long up hills in case we needed an emergency horse, and were generally there for anything we needed.

Our guide, Roger, was a true professional. I’ve already mentioned in a few of my highlights how he helped make our trip special. Along with that, he would share with us stories every night about the history of the Incas, modern Peru, and about his life growing up near Cusco. He was our leader and friend for 7 days and we wouldn’t have wanted anyone different.

valerio, herbert and client en route to victoria pass

Excellent Support Team- Photo Courtesy Matt Wood

For more information about the Choquequirao treks Apus Peru currently offers, see the links below:

4-day Choquequirao Trek

8-Day Choquequirao Trek

9-Day Choquequirao Trek (includes Machu Picchu)

12-Day Choquequirao Trek (includes Machu Picchu)

Cleanup Treks 2016 Now Scheduled!

Clean Up trek Departures scheduled…

Apus Peru is announcing three ‘Clean Up in the Community’ treks to take place in March, April, and June.  Please note that we offer a 25% off of our published prices for anyone wishing to participate in these scheduled group trips for up to 12 people. Please note we need a minimum of 4 participants to run the trip.  The first four trekkers to book will be offered a free sleeping bag and walking stick! 

Volunteer Clean Up Trek to Lares

Go Team!

Note: If we do not get enough people, we will cancel the departure no later than 14 days before the trip departure date and offer a full refund on any deposit made. This allows ample time to find your trek with another provider (except for the Inca Trail); or with another Apus group provided we have some other route of interest confirmed that coincides with your dates.

Link for further information: http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/special_treks.html

Confirmed departures are listed below –

Departure for March 20th-23rd : Lares & Machu Picchu Four-Day Clean-Up Trek

Link: http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/lares_machu_picchu.htm

This four-day trek is ideal for those who wish to visit Machu Picchu and do a shorter trek that’s slightly easier than some of the other high-altitude treks we offer, but still by no means classified as a ‘breeze’!

Minimum 4, Maximum 12.  Currently 2 spaces booked, currently 10 spaces available

Lares hot springs

Camping at Lares Hot Springs

Departure for April 23rd-May 1st: Choquequirao to Machu Picchu Nine-Day Clean Up Trek

Link: http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/choquequirao_machu_picchu.html

This is one of our signature treks and is more remote than the others. It ends up at the magical site of Machu Picchu.  This nine-day trek is more relaxed than our faster paced eight-day option, but due to the amount of time spent trekking and camping along the way, it’s not for the faint-hearted, either.  A lovely trek with diverse panoramas, a variety of climate zones, and plentiful nature.

Minimum 4, Maximum 12.  Currently 0 spaces booked, currently 12 spaces available

Made it to Machu Picchu

Departure for June 15 – June 20: Six-Day Sibinacocha Ausangate Clean Up Trek

Link: http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/ausangate_sibinacocha.htm

This rarely hiked version of a classic route offers some amazing scenery as well as some challenging high passes and cold nights.  With mountain glaciers and lakes aplenty, those avid and adventurous hikers that are able to wrap up warm and can tolerate trekking at heights of over 5000 meters will be amply rewarded! NOTE: MACHU PICCHU IS NOT INCLUDED WITH THIS TREK.

Minimum 4, Maximum 12.  Currently 0 spaces booked, currently 12 spaces available

What better way can there be to vacation, than to be surrounded by the beauty of Peru while at the same time benefiting local communities? A win-win situation for all!

Full trash bag

Get Your 2016 Inca Trail Permits Now!

Among the most famous treks in the world, the Classic Inca Trail brings you to Machu Picchu under your own power- and there’s nothing like it! This four-day, three-night trek retraces the footsteps of the Inca along restored stone walkways that are more than 500 years old! The moderately difficult trek traverses the diverse ecological zones that comprise the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary. Trekkers have the opportunity to view a variety of flora and fauna species, including exotic orchids, colorful birds, and perhaps even the endangered Spectacled Bear, the only surviving bear species native to South America!

Trekkers visit multiple Inca ruins while camping under the stars each night. The trek culminates on the fourth and last day, when after a two-hour ascent to the famous Sun Gate, Inti Punku, Inca Trail hikers finally arrive at Machu Picchu! Trekkers who have completed the Inca Trail call it a life-changing experience.

Photo Courtesy of Megan Gaston

Machu Picchu Morning – Photo Courtesy of Megan Gaston

If you dream of hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 2016 –please take a few moments to read this blog and be sure to submit your details to your travel provider as soon as possible so you don’t miss out! Spots fill up fast!

The following paragraphs include some useful information for getting your preferred Inca Trail trek dates.

The Classic Inca trail to Machu Picchu is limited to 500 permits each day- that translates to 200 permits for trekkers and 300 for trekking staff, mainly consisting of the porters that carry equipment for the trekkers.

Team of Porters on the Inca Trail

Trekker with team of Porters on the Inca Trail –  Photo Courtesy of Megan Gaston

Since they are limited, permits sell out 5 months in advance for the high season – May, June, and July.  In spite of the fact that this system has been widely publicized on the Internet and in the guidebooks, Apus Peru receives literally hundreds of emails from people each year who are upset to have missed out on the traditional Inca Trail trek! In these cases, we may be able to offer alternate Peru treks; however we cannot emphasize this enough: if it’s your goal to hike the Inca Trail this year, apply for your permit as soon as possible!

Inca Trail permits go on sale around January 1st each year to authorized Inca Trail companies who have passed an inspection carried out the previous November.  Inca Trail companies that have the names, passport numbers, and monetary deposits of their clients enter a lottery in order to purchase the permits. Since the Inca Trail is closed due to maintenance in February, the first permits sold are for March 2016, followed by April 2016, then May… etc.  If you have not submitted your information early in January, then you have to wait until after the lottery period has passed, which can be as late as the end of January, to purchase Inca Trail permits – if they have not already sold out!

Patallaqta Ruins- Photo Courtesy of Megan Gaston

Patallaqta Ruins- Photo Courtesy of Megan Gaston

Every year is different, but generally the main dates that sell out in the lottery period during January are…

  • The first week of March
  • Around Easter (in 2016 Good Friday will fall on March 25th). We anticipate that the period between March 25th and April 4th may sell out during the initial lottery period.
  • Various dates in May.
  • Around the Solstice and Inti Raymi – June 21st – 24th.

Once a date is sold out – it’s literally SOLD OUT – permits are non-refundable and non-changeable, so you can’t pick up a spot if there is a cancellation. Getting your information to us in early in January is, therefore. your best bet to get the dates you want.

If you are already travelling and already have your flights booked, with little flexibility, then we strongly advise that you submit your details, passport number and deposit to your travel agent as early in January as possible. As the “Inca Trail Lottery” is truly a lottery, it’s impossible to predict what demand there will be for permits in 2016; however the demand increases every year. Therefore, some or many dates may sell out during the lottery period at the beginning of January.

If you have some flexibility with dates, and you are not ready to commit, we recommend that you get in contact with us, or your travel agent, as soon as possible. However, be aware that while we will do everything we can to secure your permits, the options for your departure dates may be limited, the longer you wait; and if you wait too long, the likelihood is that Inca Trail permits will be sold out.

Inca Trail Snow Peak - Photo Courtesy of Megan Gaston

Inca Trail Snow Peak – Photo Courtesy of Megan Gaston

Please note, if you book with Apus Peru you are dealing directly with an official Inca Trail Trek Operator: we are licensed by Peru’s Ministry of Culture to operate this trek. If you are dealing with a third-party operator, please be careful. Most importantly, we don’t want you to miss out on trekking the Classic Inca Trail in 2016 – reserve your Inca Trail Permits now!

From now until January 16th, Apus is offering a 6% discount for Inca Trail treks: use the code BLOG16 when booking the Inca Trail!

This links to directly to the form for you to contact us with your information: http://www.apus-peru.com/contact-us/

This is a link to the Classic Four-Day Inca Trail with Apus-Peru: http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/classic_inca_trail.html

**Note: Several other treks that Apus Peru offers also include all or part of the regulated Inca Trail, and also require permits.  These routes include our two-day Short Inca Trail http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/short_inca_trail_2.html;

Our six-day Salkantay-Inca Trail http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/salkantay_inca_trail_machu_picchu_2.html;

and our twelve-day Choquequirao-Salkantay-Inca Trail route http://www.apus-peru.com/treks/choquequirao_salkantay_inca_trail_machu_picchu_2.html


Inca Trail- Photo Courtesy of Megan Gaston

Inca Trail- Photo Courtesy of Megan Gaston

The Espíritu Pampa Trek

The Essence of Espíritu Pampa: Manco Inca’s haven from the Spanish – The route is back on!

Photo 9 - Matt at Espritu Pampa

The main site of Espíritu Pampa begins here!!

Those who have done some research and know their Inca history might have come across information about Espíritu Pampa, also know as the “Lost City of the Incas” – the last Inca stronghold after their escape from the Spanish Conquistadores, located in the high jungle region of Vilcabamba, Peru.


Ruins of Espíritu Pampa

It was believed that ‘Espíritu Pampa’ was built in a hurry, without proper construction materials and resources. It was a short-term-refuge for the last Inca ruler, Manco Inca, and his family, to keep out of harm’s way from the Spanish. The royal Inca family took refuge there for around 30 years, until the Spanish sacked the site in 1572. They destroyed the majority of the temples, leaving it abandoned and forgotten for hundreds of years thereafter.

Hiram Bingham, who re-discovered Machu Picchu in 1911, believed that it was the lost city and the last refuge of the Inca, but this has since been proven otherwise by many other explorers and historians. In the 1960’s, archaeologists Antonio Santander Casselli and Gene Savoy finally made the connection between Espíritu Pampa and the lost city of the Incas. Since then, archaeological restoration work of the ruins has been attempted and abandoned throughout the years.

Vincent Lee brought the site to worldwide attention over the last 15 years with his book, Forgotten Vilcabamba. Lee’s influence and archaeological work there has led to an increased interest in the area. In fact Apus Peru encountered a team of local archaeologists working at the site on our recent visit there in November, 2015.


Espritu ruins

Route safety:

Until recently, there had been some security concerns about trekking in this area. However, there were no indications of any problems when we hiked the trail this November.

We spoke with some of the local porters and farmers in the region: they indicated that they had not heard of any other groups of tourists hiking the route for many years, since warnings had been put in place. We were the first group they had seen in a long while.

Trail standards:

Photo 8- typical Inka trail

The Espirítu Pampa trail, middle section

In general, the trail is very well kept and you can be certain that, in parts, you are walking on the ancient & original Inca Trail.

Regarding the sections that are comprised of dirt or gravel footpaths, the campesinos, or local farmers, have kept the route relatively free from vegetation and overgrowth, since they use the trail for transporting their harvested crops and for herding animals.

Photo 3

The Espíritu Pampa trail, upper section

For the main part of the trail, it takes trekking a good chunk of 50 kilometers over 4 or 5 days before you reach the first part of the archeological site (there are two). Upon arrival, you encounter a small area of restored ruins, rather like a control point. Then you head down some Inca steps, taking approximately 40 minutes to reach the second and superior site.

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Inca steps leading down from the first site to the second one.


Weather-wise, November was particularly wet this year. There were muddy swaths of trail, and our team had to cross some washed-away river crossings, as well as a small landslide.

For the best chance for drier conditions when you trek this route, it is highly recommended to undertake this trek between the months of May and September.

Photo 5 crew crossing one of the make-shift briges

Crossing one of the many make-shift bridges

We experienced very wet conditions on the trail, thus we advise you to do this route in the dry months only.

The Espíritu Pampa trek is truly a beautiful route. On the way to the ruins, you experience a mix of diverse terrains, including scenic mountain backdrops, rolling high Andes plains, and once you have reached the ‘lower’ section, lush high jungle forests, including banana and coca plantations. You will observe a wide variety of sub-tropical flora. You may well have the chance to sight some bird life such as parakeets, Andean hawks, eagles, and perhaps even the famous ‘Tunki’ – ‘Cock of the Rock’- Peru’s national bird!

Photo 6 - crew at Vista Alegre

The team at Vista Alegre- and below, a valley provides hikers with lush scenery for all to enjoy.


Those who expect the equivalent of Machu Picchu, with its massive and plentiful ruins, would be disappointed with this trek: however, if you are seeking a truly ‘off-the-beaten- track’ route with some less touristic ruins located at the end of a truly magnificent trail, then you will be justly rewarded!

Matt Waugh, November 2016

Photo 1

The team at the start of a wet day on the trail – Left to right. Michael a.k.a. Pescadito or ‘Little Fish’ (porter), Melton (Apus cook); Matt (Apus sales team/photos and blogs); Herbert (Apus Guide); William (Apus guide)

Photo 10 - crew at finish (Espiritu Pampa camp)

At the finish of the trek, we received a most welcome coffee and yucca – both of which are produced locally on the surrounding farms.

To see more details about our Espíritu Pampa trail routes, please check out the following links:

9 day Vilcabamba – Espíritu Pampa


15 day Vilcabamba Range Grand traverse











Trekking with Young Ones!

 We occasionally get inquiries from intrepid parents who want to go trekking with their little ones – by little ones, we mean children that can still be easily carried by their parents, so young people aged between 6 months and 3 years.

This blog provides some useful considerations about whether you really want to head out on the trail with a very small child.

Ariana and baby

On our way!

For children that can no longer be carried, but still have short legs and even shorter attention spans, e.g.; kids between the ages of 4 to 6 years, many of these questions also apply.

1. How often do you trek yourself? Do you like to do long distance trekking and are you comfortable with camping and sleeping in a tent?

2. What kind of trekking have you done with her recently – and how did she like the backpack?  For 4 years plus: have you gone trekking recently, what were the difficulties, and how many hours were you able to go without stopping?

As parents know (or soon discover) children have very unique personalities. My daughter was generally a tranquil child, and walked at 14 months. Within reason, she didn’t mind hiking for several hours while in the backpack, though we needed to stop frequently (every hour or so) and that added to the overall length of the day.

My little boy walked before he was 1 and is an active and determined child. We took him to Machu Picchu when he was 20 months old and had 2 different styles of backpacks and a harness. We left the ruins after several hours: his screaming was in no way enjoyable for us or for the other visitors!

by the lake

Trekking with a baby AND a toddler!

So – before you decide to tackle a long trek ask:

Is your child going to be OK with 6-8 hours a day in the backpack? Have you taken her on hikes of that length in recent times?

3. Sleeping – how will you and your child feel about sleeping in freezing cold temperatures in the high mountains?

4. Altitude- The best advice I have ever read regarding travel at high altitudes is, “how well do you know your baby/toddler and can you distinguish between bad temper/terrible twos/ teething, and altitude sickness?” The answer is that it’s pretty difficult, as symptoms of altitude sickness can be anything from sleeping poorly to headaches to vomiting.

5. Are you a relaxed parent, or do you get stressed? Imagine that you are 2 days’ walk from the nearest road. Your child has a temperature – are you going to be able to cope with this? Or your child is vomiting at high altitude… Having had this type of experience, it’s very stressful and even though I know the mountains, I was still very worried. How will you react under these conditions?

We strongly recommend 3 days minimum at Cusco for acclimatization of a small person (e.g. under 3 years); longer if you can- before tackling the high mountain treks like Ausangate, Salkantay or the Lares trek to Machu Picchu.


Happy Dad and Son, trekking along

I recently took both of my kids to 4300m for an overnight stay and even though I am experienced in hiking in the mountains, when they woke up more frequently than usual I had to ask myself – is it altitude sickness? (This is despite them having been in Cusco for the 2 months prior to the trek.)

6. Who will carry them? Depending on their age – they can weigh up to 20kg and still be carried in a trekking backpack. How comfortable is that backpack for you (and again, for long distances)?

I like my Ergobaby for short trips around town and find it much easier to maneuver than the proper trekking backpack: for short hikes of less than a couple of hours, that’s my choice. For longer treks, we use a Deuter 3 with sun protection.

Deuter 3 sun protection

Deuter 3 Backpack with Sun Protection

Most people find a smaller baby of up to about 12 months ok to carry – but by the time they are two, they are quite heavy!!!! So consider getting a porter to help!


If you are enthusiastic to do a hike in the Andes with your little ones, the very first thing to do is a day hike near your home and see how it goes with the kids. If it’s a ‘piece of cake’ then a trek in the Andes might be OK for you. Happy trails!

Cesar and the baby

Happy Trekking!

Coming soon: Trekking with older children and tweens.

Vicuñas: Golden Camelid of Peru

You may catch a rare glimpse of a herd of vicuñas on your next Peru trek. Who could help but love this nimble golden camelid that roams the altiplano and mountainous regions of Peru? Sighting their graceful, delicate forms on the run across the high plains while trekking in Peru is a thrilling experience. No wonder they were respected and protected by the Inca. In fact, it was illegal for anybody but members of the ruling family to wear garments made from vicuña wool.

The extremely soft, warm wool of the vicuña is the most coveted fiber in the world! A single overcoat manufactured from vicuña wool goes for upwards of $30,000 USD. Since harsh dyes can damage the fibers, vicuña wool is usually left in its natural state. Additionally, vicuña wool is scarce: each animal only produces around a pound of wool per year.

The vicuña are a highly protected species in Peru. While their population now exceeds 200,000 animals, this was not always the case. Fifty years ago, their numbers had declined to less than 6,000 animals, due to extensive hunting. The Pampas Galeras Reserve was established to protect the vicuña, and its successful breeding and preservation programs literally brought the vicuña back from the verge of extinction. Now, the only legal vicuña fiber is that which is sheared during the annual roundups. Hunting, interfering with, or exporting vicuña is highly illegal in Peru.

Unlike their descendant, the domestic alpaca, the legendary sylphlike vicuña cannot be easily imprisoned or tamed. When kept in captivity, vicuña have been known to develop health issues, such as parasites, osteomyelitis, and dandruff, which damages their wool. Since they are not domesticated or kept in enclosures, vicuñas are herded together yearly in a ceremonial event called a chaccu, during which they are rounded up, sheared, and released back into the wild to roam the plains once more.

Chaccus take place yearly in June on the Pampas Galeras National Reserve in the Lucana province of Peru’s Ayacucho region, on the high altiplano, or mountain plains, where the vicuña live. A grand festival including Peruvian typical music, dancing in colorful traditional garb, and feasting on Peruvian typical dishes accompanies the chaccu. This is the time of the Winter Solstice celebration, an important holiday for the indigenous communities of Peru.

Want to join in on the fun? A trip to the Pampas Galeras to attend the chaccu can be combined with a visit to the Nazca region; it’s an approximate three-hour drive from Nazca to Ayacucho. During your visit, you’ll have the chance to tour the reserve and learn about the community-based programs in place to protect this graceful, golden camelid.

Though rare, vicuñas may occasionally be spotted on one of Apus Peru’s remote Peru mountain treks, which explore the rarely visited backcountry of Southern Peru’s high mountains. See these links for further information:



It’s a privilege to get the rare view of this legendary, ethereal creature. May the vicuña thrive and continue to grace the Pachamama with their wildness and beauty!

Vicuñas by Carine06 licensed under CC BY 2.0

Vicuñas by Carine06 licensed under CC BY 2.0