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:

This is a link to the Classic Four-Day Inca Trail with Apus-Peru:

**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;

Our six-day Salkantay-Inca Trail;

and our twelve-day Choquequirao-Salkantay-Inca Trail route


Inca Trail- Photo Courtesy of Megan Gaston

Inca Trail- Photo Courtesy of Megan Gaston

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.

Short Inca Trail with a Baby

By Apus Peru Co-Founder, Ariana Svenson

To celebrate our daughter’s first birthday, we decided we would undertake the Classic Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu- as a family!

Permits sell out months in advance, so we made the decision with a good deal of bravado: even though we spent a lot of time outdoors, we’d never taken our daughter on a multi-day camping trip. Still, it was the peak of the high (dry) season, she was acclimatized to the altitude, and we’d paid for an extra porter to carry the superfluous paraphernalia that a baby inexplicably accumulates.


An extra porter can help carry the baby and her paraphernalia when you get tired.

Whether it was to spare us the ignominy of having to return from the Inca Trail without completing it, or just fate, a couple of days before the trek Miss M. developed a serious cold, and it began to bucket down – right in the middle of the dry season! At this point, I accepted that our Inca trail trek was not going to happen – with both a sick baby and pouring rain, the signs were against us.

At this point the supportive folks at Apus Peru suggested we do the Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu instead: they made new hotel arrangements, changed our trains, and spent hours finalizing the paperwork for us to do the Short Inca Trail starting at KM 104.

The Short Inca Trail is just that, a one-day hike that joins the last day of the Inca Trail and is ideal for folks who are short of time, who don’t like to camp, or who lack the desire to do a longer trek.

As we arrived at our starting point, my first reaction was that there were very few other groups doing the route that day even though it was the middle of the high season. I expected it to be packed out – it’s the “easy route”, after all. In fact, there was none of the hustle and bustle of the entry to the Classic Inca Trail at KM 88; here, there were just us, our guide and the porters who were carrying our baby and her paraphernalia.

On cue, the rain stopped and revealed the triangular walls of the ruins at Chachabamba. Chachabamba was discovered in 1940 – almost thirty years after Hiram Bingham found Machu Picchu. Its architectural style and intricate stonework suggest that this was an important religious site, in addition to its secondary function as a gatehouse guarding the entrance to Machu Picchu.

Chachabamba: Gatehouse to Machu Picchu

Chachabamba: Gatehouse to Machu Picchu

From here, we began to climb. Having always thought that this was the ‘easy route’ to Machu Picchu, I suddenly realized that there was a lot of gentle but consistent climbing. Despite having trekked extensively in the Andes, after a short while, my aching muscles painfully reminded me that I hadn’t hit the trail in the 12 months since my daughter’s birth – nor even in the final trimester of pregnancy!! I began to struggle, puffing, and taking lots of rests – this was what it was like to be out of shape and then do a trek?! Not a lot of fun!

At Apus Peru we constantly advise people to do their research, and get in shape for their hike to Machu Picchu – advice that I didn’t follow and was now sorry!!! Even if you are going to do a one- day hike, you need to have a decent level of fitness!

Luckily for me, my daughter needed frequent breaks from the baby backpack and we stopped often to admire the views of the valley below us, which was alternately bathed in sunshine and misted over with colorful clouds shifting over the mountains.

Despite Miss M’s lingering cold and my aching legs, there was certainly something magical about breastfeeding her on the trail with spectacular panoramas all about.

We are often asked by parents of babies and toddlers about trekking with their babies, and we always recommend that you allow a lot of extra time: at just 12 months Miss M wasn’t yet walking and so a few crawls and scoots around on the dirt at regular intervals kept her happy.

The Incas were masters at building stairways: something that distinguishes the Inca trail from the alternative trails around Cusco are the endless steps! As a break from climbing the steps, and in between panoramic views, we passed a beautiful cascading waterfall: a lovely surprise from Mother Nature in the midst of the mountains.

A lovely surprise from Mother Nature: Cascades in the Mountains

Surprise from Mother Nature: Cascades in the Mountains

Maybe it’s because we were so slow, but we only encountered two groups all day while on the trail, and despite being so near to Machu Picchu and the heavily trafficked Inca trail, we felt that we were alone in the mountains. We were thrilled by the experience!

After some 6 hours of climbing uphill, we arrived at Wiñay Wayna, perhaps the most gorgeous set of ruins along the whole Inca Trail. The name Wiñay Wayna which in Quechua means “Eternal Youth,” or “Forever Young,” was given to the ruins by the eminent Peruvian archaeologist, Dr. Julio C. Tello. Considered by many to be the most beautiful of the sites on the Inca Trail, it was a wonderful highlight of our trek.

With the frequent stops for the baby we were some 2 hours slower than the average trekker and we still had a couple of hours’ walk through the moist cloud forest. At this point, the terrain was blessedly flat and cool, and we felt as if we were walking in the high jungle. We arrived at the final massive stairs of Inti Punku, which were once a control gate for those who entered and exited the Sanctuary. As the entrance to Machu Picchu, it is one of the most important features of the site; and as the name suggests, it’s devoted to Inti, the sun god.

Final Approach: Up the last staircase!

FInal Approach: Up the last staircase!

At other times when we’ve done the Inca Trail, Inti Punku had been filled with hundreds of tourists moving eagerly to catch their first glimpse of Machu Picchu. Instead, as we were arriving very late in the day, we were the only people at Inti Punku. It was a special moment to arrive at a place normally so inundated with tourists and yet enjoy it in solitude. As we descended the final stretch to Machu Picchu, we saw that there were few people at the site and we had unobstructed views: it was a unique feeling.

After exploring the ruins for a few hours, we made the last bus down. Our 12-month-old looked exhausted by the day’s trek and it was amazing to get a hot shower and then to sink into a soft bed.

As we hit the sack, we were filled with gratitude, that despite having been on the Inca Trail for just a day, we experienced solitude, isolated Inca ruins, and an indescribable sense of awe and accomplishment. We had trekked into Machu Picchu on foot, as a family.

We did it!

Orchids of the Machu Picchu Region of Peru

If you are going on the Inka Trail to Machu Picchu trek, you may be surprised to stumble upon so many varieties of orchids along the trail!

Orchids are a well-distributed and extremely varied plant family, often with fragrant, colorful and bizarrely shaped blooms. The Orchid family is one of the largest families of flowering plants, containing around 600 genera, and comprising approximately 10% of all seed plants. All orchids are myco-heterotrophic, meaning they form a relationship with fungi in the soil in order to get their nutrients. Because of their vibrantly colorful, often strange and perfumed blooms, orchids seem to possess a certain mystique that has captured the imaginations of humans from time immemorial. In fact, dedicated orchid horticulturists and enthusiasts have been known to compete, fight over and even commit crimes in the service of their obsession.

There are literally thousands of orchid species in Peru, many of which are located in the low cloud forest eco-regions around Machu Picchu and along the famed Inka Trail. It is estimated that as many as 50% of Peru’s more than 3,000 orchid species remain unidentified by science.

Here are a few orchid species that can be found along the Inka Trail to Machu Picchu. When possible I am including both the scientific name of the orchid and the common name, along with folklore and traditional uses, when available.

Wiñay Wayna Orchid: (Epidendrum Secundum) found at Machu Picchu and along the Inca Trail, this is an orchid with multiple white to fuchsia blooms. Each flower is around an inch in width. Wiñay Wayna means “Forever Young”; Wiñay Wayna Pass on the Inca Trail takes its name from this flower. The orchid is pollinated by both butterflies and birds. Flower essences made from this orchid are said to preserve youth and vitality.

1Wiñay wayna orchid                        Wiñay Wayna Orchid by Filipe Fortes licensed under CC BY 2.0

Paradise Orchid: (Sobralia Dichotoma) is one of the most common orchids in the region of Machu Picchu. This orchid has 5-8 flowers per stem, and is deep pink and white in color. It’s an ephemeral orchid, lasting for only a few days and blooming between February and April. Its essence is said to have a calming and grounding effect.

2Sobralia Dichotoma                              Wild Orchids by Matito licensed under CC BY 2.0

Waqanki Orchid (Masdevallia Veitchiana) This orchid’s common name in Quechua, Waqanki, means “ You will Cry.” This is a single-flower orchid that grows in crevices on rocks. It has orange sepals with purple spots on the sides. A Quechua legend recounts that an Inca princess’ forbidden love for a common soldier led to the creation of this orchid.

It seems that the Inca ruler, in his anger at this love, spared the soldier’s life, but ordered him to perform severe tests in the jungle as punishment for daring to approach the young princess. The princess, knowing he would not survive the trials, grieved over his departure.

A lovely flower sprang up where her tears fell into his footprints as he fled. The Waqanki orchid is considered a national treasure of Peru.

3masdevallia veitchiana                        Masdevallia Veitichiana by Trixty licensed under CC BY 2.0

These three orchid species, among many others, can be spotted on your Inca Trail trek with Apus Peru. See the following links for several fantastic options for your Machu Picchu trek:

The Spirit of Apu Ausangate

Ausangate is the fourth highest peak in Peru and, at 6,372 meters, is the highest mountain in the Vilcanota Mountain Range. It is a snow-capped mountain with special significance to the Quechua-speaking population of Peru, who revere it as one of their most significant deities.

1Apu Photo: Michael Mossop

To the average tourist, Ausangate is a beautiful mountain and a challenging one to climb. But to the Quechua population of the Southern Andes, Ausangate is an Apu, a powerful mountain spirit that is considered the source of all good things, and is, in fact, the owner of the entire Cusco region of Peru. Quechua communities that dwell on the mountain make offerings, or k’intus, to Ausangate, and he, in return, provides them with all the necessities of life. During the festival of Q’ollor Riti, which takes place annually, thousands of people climb Ausangate to make offerings and receive blessings from Apu Ausangate.

The communities that dwell on Ausangate live a pastoral lifestyle, herding llama and alpacas, and trade with farming villages at lower altitudes for their other needs. The people’s lives are integrally connected to their animals and to one another. They maintain their traditions, such as the weaving of yarn made from alpaca wool, into textiles. These textiles are hand-dyed with plants, and feature ancient and symbolically significant designs referring to the spiritual beliefs of the community.

One of the most basic concepts of life in the high Andes communities is that of Ayni, or reciprocity, which connotes an ever-shifting, dynamic balance in relationship. This give and take informs not only connections that exist among people, but also the bonds between humans and the natural world, and most especially those between the people and Apu Ausangate.

The k’intu offering that reinforces this relationship has the Coca leaf as its main ingredient. Spiritual elders of the villages, or Misayoqs, say that the coca leaf is the favorite food of the Apus. Three perfect coca leaves are infused with the breath of the Misayoq. This places his intention for the wellbeing of the people into the offering. The k’intu is offered as a sacrament to Apu Ausangate, to ensure his benevolent protection towards the people who dwell in his mighty presence.

The k’intu offering that reinforces this relationship has the Coca leaf as its main ingredient. Spiritual elders of the villages, or Misayoqs, say that the coca leaf is the favorite food of the Apus. Three perfect coca leaves are infused with the breath of the Misayoq. This places his intention for the wellbeing of the people into the offering. The k’intu is offered as a sacrament to Apu Ausangate, to ensure his benevolent protection towards the people who dwell in his mighty presence.

2Turqlakes 1  PHOTO: Michael Mossop

Apus Peru offers several treks to Ausangate and the beautiful countryside surrounding it:

Ausangate Trek: Hike the circuit around Ausangate on this five-day trek. This trek is quite challenging, as it traverses three high mountain passes upwards of 5,000 meters. It offers astonishing scenery and the chance to view wildlife, birds, panoramic vistas with snow-capped peaks and mountain lakes. Soak away your aches in a natural hot springs and visit communities where villagers dress in colorful native garb. See more here:

Ausangate Sibinacocha Trek: This is an alternative trek that covers the terrain alongside of Apu Ausangate. You will begin the trek by taking the same route as the classic circuit trek around Ausangate, (see Ausangate trek above), where you will pass through traditional Andean communities, visit hot springs, view pristine turquoise lakes, and gain stunning panoramic views of the mountain. Then, the trek diverges onto the road less travelled, toward Sibanacocha Lagoon, where you will immerse in some authentic, isolated backcountry. Here, you’ll spot herds of grazing alpacas and llamas; and if luck shines upon you, you may even spot a rarely seen herd of golden vicuñas!

On either of these treks you will have the chance to meet the communities, participate in a k’intu offering, and experience the wonder and majesty of Apu Ausangate first hand.

Photo: Michael Mossop

!nternational Youth Day

It was International Youth Day yesterday, 12th August, so we thought we would post to acknowledge the day and let you know a little of what we get up to ‘behind the scenes’…

Amongst our other contributions to the local community and sustainability (see this link for details of our projects ), Apus Perú have worked to support a Mosqoy student here in Cusco and we have in our current employment an ex student of Mosqoy, Adrian.

We thought it would be a nice idea to offer Adrian the opportunity to give his side of the story. But first, here’s a little about the Mosqoy organisation… Mosqoy means ‘Dream’ in Quechua and was founded in the Peruvian Andes in 2006, by Canadian and Peruvian youth. Their mission in Peru is to “help break the cycle of poverty that impacts the indigenous Quechua people of the Andean mountains by providing post-secondary educational opportunities for the region’s promising youth”. Their mission links in very nicely with our approach of seeking out projects which recognize that insiders (Andean Peruvians) and outsiders (foreigners) all have strengths and weaknesses – and that by working collaboratively we can reach best practice. As Mosqoy appropriately quote ‘hand-up instead of a hand-out.’

For many of the higher Andean communities the cycle of poverty is escalating while their traditional way of life is increasingly threatened. Mosqoy´s aim is for this to be alleviated by providing students in Peru with opportunities for advanced education, enabling Andean youth to possess the tools necessary to be local leaders and role models! A philosophy that is core to our commitment to making a positive and sustainable contribution to the quality of life for rural Andean communities.

And now over to Adrian:

The Apus Team! Adrian first left.

The Apus Team! Adrian first left.

Hello my name is Adrian Jimenez Suma. I’m from Ollantaytambo and live in the community Mandolista. I have 3 brothers, I studied tourism in 2006 with the help of the NGO Mosqoy.

It was a beautiful experience to be a part of Mosqoy, they helped me a lot in my life and that is why I always stay in touch with them. I was with Mosqoy for four years; three years as a student and one year as manager of the students. My job was to organize trips with students, to support social aid work in the communities of Rio Mapacho, and one of the trips was to Rumira Sondormayo it was there where I met Apus Peru!

When I finished my contract with Mosqoy I spent a long time without work and then I found an adevrtisement for Apus Peru, I contacted them the same day and the next day began working!

I have now been working with Apus Peru for 1 year. My work is in the area of ​​stock preparation equipment for treks and I have occasionally worked with Threads of Peru ( as a Quechua to Spanish translator. What I like about Apus is that my co-workers are friendly and they all work well as a team, we all help each other and I like traveling with Threads, because I can show my culture by speaking Quechua. I am also studying English and would like to join Apus, not as caretaker but as a guide, I hope to have that opportunity.



Thanks for making me part of Apus Peru. Thank you Adrian for sharing your story!

Señor Qoyllorit’i Pilgrimage

Qoyllorit’i 2014 -Pilgrimage and cultural festival of dance and religion – where the mountains meet the people of Peru!

All our treks  aim to immerse the active hiker into the Andean culture and way of life, offering something a little bit more special than just stroll up a mountain. One of the Peruvian Andes traditional and authentic  cultural events that most definitely achieves this is the annual Pilgrimage to Qollor’iti near to the mighty Apu Ausangate. This trek combines hiking with something in the realm of a spiritual experience.

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I knew as much about this trip as it said on our web page, which enticed me to want to know more. I decided to go and see what all the fuss was about.

Background: The Qoyllor Rit’i (Quechua for ‘Lord of the Star Snow’) Festival is a Peruvian indigenous spiritual / religious gathering held annually just before the Catholic festival of Corpus Christi. It takes place at an altitude of about 4,700m in the Sinakara Valley, 3 hours drive south of Cusco.

The beginnings of Qoyllorit’i have been suggested as pre-Incan or at least pre-date the arrival of the conquistadores. It is said to celebrate the stars and specifically the mid-winter disappearance of the Pleiades Constellation and then its reappearance in the southern skies. This marks the transition from old to new and is largely associated with the forthcoming harvest. The arrival of Christianity brought with it its own adaptation for the worship of the Lord Qoullorit’i, with an appearance of the image of Christ.

Many people making the Pilgrimage bring offerings in the form of toy houses, cars, or money with the hope that on their fourth visit El Señor Qoyllorit’i will make their wishes will come true.

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It’s hard to believe so many Peruvians from all across Peru come to this event and yet so few tourists find their way. This is a huge and extremely important event for those that attend.


The route: Starting from the town of Mahuayani we make our way over 8km of trail to the Qoyllorit’i Sanctuary ana a large campsite that grows to house between 70 – 80,000 other Pilgrims.

Qoyllorit’i (spelt a dozen different ways) is definitely not a display for the benefit of tourists. As part of a group of ‘gringos’ we somehow spectated and settled into being part of the whole event without anyone taking a real interest in us. For anyone considering attending, they must be prepared for a degree of physical hardship, bitter cold during the night as well as a profound experience of cultural disorientation.

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The choice of food on offer ranged from Chicharrónes (fried pork) and Lomo Saltado (sautéed beef) to a donkey head stew, with the latter on display as its big selling point and I was told, although I never saw it, that at various locations you could find the frog smoothie!!!

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There are nine crosses on the pilgrimage route between Mahuayani and the sanctuary, each marking a kilometer of the route. Many Pilgrims stop to light candles, pray and the band ensembles arrive to perform dances and musical tributes too!

For the last of the crosses each group must await their inauguration ceremony and pass through onto a circuit of various sacred sites, including the sanctuary itself and perform their dances lasting many hours.

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The Ukukus

The Ukukus bears (dressed so) are the guardians or law keepers of Qoyllorit’i. If anyone is caught not respecting the rules, by drinking alcohol or by not removing hats in the presence of prayers, they shall have stern words or in the worst case they are allowed to whip the offender’!


The show goes on and on be it 3am or 8pm. Simply put this was one of the most surreal, profound and emotional experiences I have encountered in my lifetime!

By Matt Waugh, June 2014