Machu Picchu, Cuzco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas

By wpdev March 8, 2012

There is no greater land of contrast than Peru (cultures, climates, economies, food, weather – everything is in this push/pull cycle that makes the country so raw and dramatic.). It won’t be like this for long, given the rapidly developing nature of the country. Wilderness Ventures students have the opportunity to experience Peru as a member of our Peru Service Adventure, which explores the essential environments of this beautiful country, including Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas and colonial Cusco.

Cusco is a rich cultural capital and the jumping off place to Peru’s most spectacular Inca ruins. The city itself is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Incan history says that when the sun god Inti created the first Inca he gave him a golden rod and told him to settle where he could plunge it into the ground until it disappeared – the spot that would be known forever as the “naval of the earth.” Funny enough, even today Cusco has a feeling of vibrancy and possibility that give you the immediate impression that you are somehow at the center of all things.

Arriving at Machu Picchu is sure to be one of the greatest moments of your life. The great Inca ruin is absolutely stunning – a perfectly preserved piece of architecture from a different, but highly developed, society. The local Quechua were the only people who knew of the ruin’s existence until they guided American Historian Hiram Bingham there in 1911.

The Sacred Valley stretches between Cuzco and the Andean Village of Ollantaytambo (the last stop on the road before travelers must board the train to Machu Picchu). This is a high, alpine environment, richly dotted with Inca Ruin sites and agrarian villages. This is also the location where Wilderness Ventures students complete an annual service project with one of the local villages in need.

The Inca Trail (and the more-scenic alternative Inca Trail routes) traverse the ridgeline of the Andes between the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. While routes vary, most trails visit Inca ruins along the way, making a multi-night trek and ending at either the Machu Picchu citadel itself or the nearby Machu Picchu staging village of Aquas Calientes.

Wilderness Ventures students have the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Sacred Valley on the 22-day Peru Service Adventure, which also explores the Amazon Jungle while rafting the famous Apurimac River and Lake Titicaca (the highest navigable body of water in the world). The Peru Service Adventure is offered to high school students two times throughout the summer season, and is the most immersive, safe, enjoyable and well-integrated way that teenagers can travel to Peru.