Espiritu Pampa is not an Inca site that everyone has heard of, but it’s one of the most significant as it was the final stronghold for the civilisation after the Spanish invaded Peru. If you’re looking for an adventurous, active holiday, you should certainly consider visiting the Last City of the Inca.
Where is Espiritu Pampa?
Espiritu Pampa, which is also referred to as Vilcabamba, is situated approximately 150 km west of Cusco in an area of lowland jungle. It’s very rarely visited by travellers and, as large areas of the city are still hidden by the forest, it’s a fascinating place to explore.
The best way to reach Espiritu Pampa is to trek, as this will not only lead you to the amazing ruins, but also along old Inca trails that would have been used by some of the last survivors of this once-great empire when they were fleeing from the Spaniards.
Discover Inca history and culture
One of the main reasons to hike to Espiritu Pampa is for the opportunity to visit Inca sites that are not often seen by travellers, and to learn more about the final years of this civilisation. Espiritu Pampa itself is reasonably large and, although areas of it have been cleared in recent years, much of it is still shrouded in vegetation.
This makes exploring the city a lot of fun, as you’ll feel as though you are one of the first people to set eyes on the extensive ruins. As you delve deeper into the jungle around the cleared section of Espiritu Pampa, you’ll find walls that have been partially knocked down by tree roots and small buildings that are almost indistinguishable from the surrounding forest.
Among the structures waiting to be discovered in Espiritu Pampa are bridges, canals, houses, temples and fountains, all giving you a picture of how advanced this society was at its peak. What’s especially great about having a couple of days here is that you can go on various side hikes that will lead you to obscure Inca ruins in the area around the main city.
Another reason why it’s worth extending your Machu Picchu trip to visit Espiritu Pampa is the varied hiking trails you’ll tackle along the way. In the first couple of days of your hiking en route to the Last City of the Inca, you’ll have some uphill tracks to follow, one of which will take you to the ruins of Rosaspata, where one of the final Inca emperors – Manco Inca – settled after fleeing from the Spanish in Ollantaytambo.
The Q’ollpaq’asa Pass is a further highlight in the early stages of your trek, as this vantage point gives you views of the snow-capped peaks of the Andes in one direction and the vast Amazon rainforest in the other. Once you descend from here into the jungle, you’ll pass small hamlets and villages where people live traditionally, as well as spot the occasional Inca ruin next to the track.
As you near Espiritu Pampa, you’ll walk through cloud forest, which is home to an array of wildlife, including the stunning Andean Cock of the rock, which is Peru’s national bird. Keep your eyes peeled for the male’s brightly-coloured plumage as you wander among the trees. You’ll also pass through the Concebidayoc Valley, where coffee, oranges, lemons, papayas and coca leaves are all grown and harvested.
On the morning you reach the remains of the settlement, you’ll hike to Mirador, which once acted as a lookout point for the Incas and now provides spectacular views over Espiritu Pampa and the rainforest. From here, you’ll walk down a set of Inca stairs to reach the city below.