From the busy metropolis which is Peru’s capital, we fly to Cusco for a journey into the heart of the realm of the Incas. Today, this erstwhile capital of the Inca empire is well-prepared to cater to the travelers it receives from all over the world, offering them fine food and excellent accommodation. From the pre- Columbian and colonial splendor of the city of Cusco, to the archaeological remains and traditional living culture of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and on foot to the incomparable ruins of Machu Picchu in their biologically diverse, subtropical forest setting, this is the quintessential Peruvian travel experience.
We will come and pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel in Lima.
In the afternoon, you will enjoy some free-time in Peru’s capital. We highly recommend that you walk around the historical center, as well as checking out the suburb of Miraflores on foot, to make the most of its parks and fine views of the Pacific Ocean. Depending on your arrival time, we can also offer you a half-day City Tour of Lima in the afternoon.
Cusco, the archaeological capital of the Americas and the oldest continuously inhabited city on the continent lies in exceptionally beautiful Andean countryside. It is 3400 meters above sea level and its legacy as the hub of the Inca Empire is readily apparent: Most of the city streets are lined with Inca-built stone walls and crowded with Quechua-speaking descendants of the Incas.
The city of Cusco and Sacsaywaman (half day)
We begin our tour with a visit to the cathedral, which was built between 1560 and 1654 on the site of the palace of the Inca Wiracocha. It is a magnificent example of European art made by the indigenous population. Its main altar is completely covered in silver, and the church contains many fine paintings from the Cusco School of religious art. From the cathedral we move on to Qoricancha, the Inca Temple of the Sun, where we will be able to see some of the finest remaining examples of Inca stonemasonry. We will then leave the city and in the surrounding hills visit Sacsaywaman. We will explore this ancient Inca sanctuary with its immense monolithic walls built from stones that weigh up to 130 tons each, all joined perfectly together. Sacsaywaman witnessed great events and bloodshed during the siege of Cusco at the time of the conquest. We will then visit the amphitheatre at Qenqo, the fortress of Puka Pukara and the ritual Inca baths at Tambomachay.
The colorful markets of the valley are open during the mornings, when you will be able to buy Peruvian crafts, jewelry and textiles, and see the traditional produce market where local people trade. Pisaq market is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, and Chinchero market is open on Sundays.
The village of Ollantaytambo retains the original street plan of the Inca town, making it the only surviving example of Inca urban planning. Our tour will include a visit to the agricultural areas around the village, the irrigation system, granaries and the fortress-temple built by Inca Pachacuteq using stonemasons from the Colla culture around Lake Titicaca.
Cusco or Ollantaytambo to Km 104 by Autovagon or Expedition train: On reaching Km 104 we cross the Urubamba river and head for Choquesuysuy. Here the trail climbs to half-way up the mountain where we arrive at Wiñay Wayna, surrounded by lush vegetation. We pass a high waterfall where we can cool off. The Wiñay Wayna complex was once inhabited by farmers who used terraces to reclaim these steep slopes for agriculture. We will encounter about twenty constructions which have all been recently restored, as well as an irrigation system and a splendid Inca temple.
That afternoon we will continue along the trail to Machu Picchu, enjoying along the way the spectacular scenery, with the river far below, and the snowy peaks emerging from the surrounding cloud forest. Following a path which is very narrow in places, we eventually arrive at the Sun Gate above Machu Picchu from where we will get our first glimpse of the ruins below us. From here it is a forty minute walk to Machu Picchu. We stay at a hotel close to the ruins or in the village of Aguas Calientes (hotel not included).
We will get up early to visit this lost city which was rediscovered in 1911. This citadel, standing at the top of a steep, forested hill overlooking the Urubamba River was hidden by dense vegetation for centuries until Hiram Bingham began to clear the site. Today the city has been completely restored and even if it has lost some of its mystery it still remains an unforgettable sight. Our tour includes a visit to the temples, plazas, palaces, watercourses and residential areas and will also leave you time to explore the ruins on your own. Return to Cusco by train, transfer to hotel.
To be in good health and shape to be part of this adventure (Try to train by walking each day for at least two weeks before departure).