On this action-packed 9-day trip, you will spend time in the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, using this as a base to see sights in the enchanting Sacred Valley the adventurous way: through white-water rafting, quad biking, horse-riding and mountain trekking.

Highlights

  • Wander in wonder along the cobblestone streets of Cusco
  • Take an oar-some white-water rafting adventure on the Urubamba River
  • Quad bike around the interesting archaeological sites of Moray and Maras
  • Explore the world's most famous Inca site, Machu Picchu
  • Discover the magic of multi-colored Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Lima - Bienvenidos! Lima
Day 2 Fly to Cusco & Free Day Cusco
Day 3 Rafting on the Urubamba River (Chuquicahuana area) Cusco
Day 4 Sacred Valley Tour of Pisac, Ollantaytambo & Chinchero: Hiking to Inca Sites Cusco
Day 5 Quad Bike Tour to Moray & Maras Cusco
Day 6 Visit Machu Picchu Cusco
Day 7 Horseback Riding Adventure to Apu Wanakaure Cusco
Day 8 Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain Trek Cusco
Day 9 Adiós: Fly to Lima, Depart Peru  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Lima - Bienvenidos!

Lima coastline in the evening
Lima coastline in the evening light

Upon your arrival at Lima Airport, you will be welcomed and taken to your hotel in the Miraflores/San Isidro area of the city. You will then have the remainder of the day free to relax and get acquainted with the city at your own pace.

Lima's breezy location on the Pacific Ocean and mild desert climate make it the perfect city for exploring on foot. The most traveler-friendly areas of Lima are Miraflores along with neighboring San Isidro and Barranco. The city center is also very interesting for its beautiful historical buildings. Explore any one of these districts on foot, but get transport between the city center and Miraflores/San Isidro/Barranco. 

Suggestions of things you can do to make the most of your day in Lima include:

  • Explore the city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with fascinating Spanish architecture. Start with a scenic tour of the colonial buildings, which emanate from the main square, Plaza Mayor. Stroll over to the grandiose 16th-century cathedral, which took 80 years to construct! And pay a visit to Casa de Aliaga, a colonial mansion full of period finery, granted by conquistador-in-chief Francisco Pizarro to Jerónimo de Aliaga, one of his captains, in 1535.
  • Discover Pueblo Libre's privately-owned Larco Museum of pre-Columbian art, housed in a beautifully restored viceregal mansion built over a 7th-century pre-Columbian pyramid. The museum boasts a vast pre-Colonial collection of gold and silver artifacts. 
  • Wander the malecón along the clifftops in Miraflores to the romantic Parque del Amor (Love Park), where you can admire a huge kissing statue and beautiful mosaic walls. The park is built on the edge of the cliffs of Chorrillos: the perfect place to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Pacific. 
  • Enjoy an evening meal or nightcap at an open-air cafe or restaurant in sophisticated Miraflores, and dream about the adventure you have ahead of you!

Day 2: Fly to Cusco & Free Day

San Blas is one of Cusco's most atmospheric districts

After breakfast in Lima this morning, you will transfer to the airport to catch your flight to Cusco. Upon your arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel.

You now have the rest of the day at leisure to relax and adapt to Cusco's lofty elevation. The city lies at 11,000 feet (3000 meters) above sea level, so take it easy and remember to drink lots of water.

Cusco was designed by the Incas as a city for walking, so start your exploration of the city's ancient, narrow stone alleyways on foot. Take a stroll through the Plaza de Armas, taking time to see its stunning cathedral; if the weather is beautiful, it is the ideal place to sit on a balcony or bench and enjoy a cup of coca tea while adjusting to the elevation.

If you feel like doing something more active, Cusco is one of Peru's most cosmopolitan destinations, and full of museums, galleries and historic sights. Suggestions include:

  • Visit the Qoricancha complex, also known as the Templo del sol (Temple of the Sun).  The temple was built by the Incan Emperor Pachacutec (1438-1572), and became one of the Inca Empire's major centres of worship. After the arrival of the Spaniards, it then became the basis for the construction of the Convento de Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Convent), a 17th-century Baroque Church that is a telling example of the clash between Andean and western cultures.
  • Walk up above the city to Sacsayhuamán and next-door Quenqo, both archaeological complexes used mostly for religious and agricultural rituals, located 2.5 miles (4 km) from central Cusco. Built by the Killke people, Sacsayhuamán is a marvel of ancient architecture, a monolithic fortress built from giant blocks of stone, the origins and assembly of which remain shrouded in mystery. 
  • Discover the elaborate Puca Pucara ruins—an architectural complex of alleged military use with multiple plazas, baths, aqueducts, walls, and towers. It is believed that the entourage of the Incan emperor used it while he stayed at Tambomachay, the elaborate estate and baths nearby. The ruins are further along the same road (to Pisac) that Sacsayhuamán and Quenqo are on.
  • Take a walk uphill from the Plaza de Armas to the district of San Blas, one of the city’s most attractive areas with beautifully restored buildings, artesanía (handicrafts) workshops and stores. You will find high-quality crafts, comely cobbled streets and quaint little restaurants serving traditional Andean cuisine.
  • Experience the legendary Mercado Central de San Pedro (central San Pedro Market), a large and diverse market famous for its mouth-watering fruit juices, home-style meals, medicinal herb stalls, and rows of various meats, breads, vegetables, and other necessities. 
  • Eat lunch and dinner too at a local Peruvian restaurant to sample the distinctive local flavors and cooking techniques of the Peruvian Andes. See here for more on the best places to eat in Cusco.

Day 3: Rafting on the Urubamba River (Chuquicahuana area)

Having fun on the waters of the Urubamba River

Get ready this morning for the first of many high-adrenaline activities on this trip! After your breakfast, you are picked up from your hotel and driven 1.5 hours to the put-in point for your rafting adventure on the Urubamba River. Your experienced rafting guides will provide you with all necessary rafting equipment, such as helmets, wet-suits, spray jackets, paddles, and a self-bailing raft. After a comprehensive safety talk, it is time for you to get into the water to start running a thrilling series of class III and III+ rapids.

The Urubamba is one of the most important rivers in Peru and is part of the Amazon basin, running from the high Andes down through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, past Machu Picchu and into the jungle, with some exciting white water sections along the way. You will be rafting through the Chuquicahuana (or “Chuqui”) area, where there are especially well-regarded class III rapids and clean water.

Float and splash down the river for about two hours, to finish at the riverside Cusipata River Lodge. Enjoy a delicious and well-earned lunch here, as well as a relaxing sauna if you wish. Near here, you can also try zip-lining (at no additional cost!) where two secure cables cross the Urubamba River over a distance of 328 feet (100 meters).

Then return to Cusco, where there is a fantastic array of places to eat and drink to entertain you during the evening.

Day 4: Sacred Valley Tour of Pisac, Ollantaytambo & Chinchero: Hiking to Inca Sites

Inca terracing in the winsome Sacred Valley

This morning you will depart from your hotel in Cusco on a day's exploration of the Sacred Valley. Your first stop will be Pisac, one of the most important archaeological sites in the region. Here you'll explore ancient Inca burial grounds, irrigation systems, and astronomy centers. Next, you will descend to the town of Pisac at the bottom of the valley, famous for its bustling textile market. Here, select from a wide assortment of colors, styles, and designs for gifts to take home with you to remember your Andean adventure.

You will next make a lunch stop, enjoy traditional Peruvian Andean cuisine at a restaurant in Urubamba, located in a beautiful setting overlooking the Urubamba River. 

From here, head to the ancient Incan city of Ollantaytambo, one of the few remaining places in the Sacred Valley that has retained its original Inca grid plan. Walk streets lined with Inca-era canals, view ancient Inca houses still in use today and climb the agricultural terraces, from where you can enjoy an Inca’s-eye-view of the valley. At the latter, you will be able to see some of the quarries from where the stone for Ollantaytambo was sourced. 

Afterwards, you will head to Chinchero, a small but comely rustic Andean town where you will get to explore the ruins before making your way back to Cusco.

Day 5: Quad Bike Tour to Moray & Maras

Quad biking with a view in the stunning Andes mountains

After breakfast this morning, get ready for another pulse-quickening day of activity as you are picked up and transferred to Cruzpata, the base from which your quad bike tour to Moray and Maras begins.

You will get instructions on how to use a quad bike before setting off across rolling green farmland for the first of the two major sights on this adventure, Moray. This is an incredible and utterly distinctive complex of stone amphitheaters developed by the Incas, with the exact reason for their construction unknown. However, historians believe the Incas built Moray to experiment with crop production in different micro-climates. Arriving at Moray in this way, you are less likely to encounter many other tourists, the majority of which hike or get their own transport to the ruins.

Your quad bike tour now continues to the salt mines of Maras, a few miles from Moray. This striking patchwork of stone pools and paths was developed by the Inca as a way of harvesting salt. Having seen Maras, return by quad bike to Cruzpata for your transfer back to Cusco.

Returning to Cusco, a fantastic selection of places to eat and drink await to entertain you during this evening.

Day 6: Visit to Machu Picchu & Return to Cusco

Mystical cloud cover hanging over the magical ruins of Machu Picchu

This morning, you will be transferred from your hotel in Cusco to the historic town of Ollantaytambo , one of the few remaining places where you can see original Inca street plans and still-in-use foundations. However, having explored the town already on your trip, today you will go directly to Ollantaytambo train station to catch your early morning train to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Town), the base for most Machu Picchu adventures. The train ride takes you through a valley and into the majestic Urubamba River canyon. You then take a 25-minute bus up from Aguas Calientes through cloud forest to reach the entrance to Machu Picchu Citadel.

This superlative 15th-century Inca complex is located at 7,970 ft (2,430 m) and is a masterpiece of engineering that served as a sanctuary and retreat for the Incan Emperor Pachacutec and his royal court. Machu Picchu, which means "Old Mountain," is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as being one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Yet the citadel was abandoned just 100 years after construction and remained largely hidden to the outside world until the early 20th century. 

Your guide will lead you around the site, explaining the different buildings and hidden corners of the complex. Approximately one-third of the site has been reconstructed into its original structure, giving visitors a sense of the grandeur and artistry of the original citadel. You will also have time after the guided tour to explore the sanctuary independently.

After the tour, you take the bus back to Machu Picchu Town and have a chance to grab your own lunch in the lively town center.  Next, connect to your train to Ollantaytambo and then your connecting transfer back to your hotel in Cusco.

Cusco is full of fantastic places to eat and drink: consider sampling some traditional Peruvian food at one of these this evening.

Day 7: Horseback Riding to Apu Wanakaure

Enjoy a peaceful day of riding
A peaceful day of riding

This morning, depart from your hotel in Cusco and head to the stables at Fundo Molleray, a 15-minute drive beyond Cusco Airport, ready to begin your seven-hour horseback riding adventure. Following a safety demonstration, each of your group will have the chance to familiarize yourselves with your horse and the equipment during a warm-up session, after which it is time to hit the trail. 

You begin the ride in the agricultural fields surrounding the stable—a serene, straightforward trot past rows of barley, corn, and potatoes. Continuing across several small rivers you will then head into a eucalyptus forest and toward the agricultural village of Wilcarpay. Just beyond the village, you will reach an ancient Inca pathway. Here, according to Inca mythology, the legendary Ayar Brothers traveled on their search for fertile land that led to the settlement of Cusco - but not before many tragedies had struck their family.

You will continue along the trail to see the Inca Raccay ruins, then head uphill to the Puna Cancha pass. From here you will ride along the crest of the hill until you reach the ruins of Apu Wanakaure. Spend the afternoon exploring the archaeological site and chullpa—the religious site at the summit—where people would historically make offerings to the Apu, or mountain spirit. 

After a picnic lunch, you will return riding downhill back to the stables, ready for the transfer back to your hotel.

Cusco is a fantastically cosmopolitan and extremely culinary city: tonight, sample one of the many amazing places to eat for Peruvian and all kinds of international food.

Day 8: Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain Trek

Multi-colored bands of rock on Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain

The Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain is an multi-coloured mountainous massif full of wild desert landscapes, snow-capped glaciated peaks and wandering herds of alpaca, once almost unknown to travelers but now one of the most sought-after excursions in the Cusco area. Today is your chance to see this fantastic geological wonder for yourself.

You will be picked you up early from your Cusco hotel around 3 am to set out on the three-hour drive to the trailhead for the Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain hike at Quesiuno (14,189 ft / 4326 m), stopping for breakfast along the road from Cusco.

You then embark on the two-hour hike to the summit. The route passes herds of alpacas and llamas and tiny villages where you and your group will have chance to interact with local residents. Views of one of Peru's highest peaks, Ausangate Mountain, will stun you as you climb. Upon reaching the summit and the spectacular panorama of Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain (16,466 ft / 5020 m), you will have time to explore the mountaintop area for approximately 30 minutes.

It is time to go back down the way you came, with the return leg taking approximately 1.5 hours. Your transfer will be waiting for you when you return, and you will then embark on the three-hour return drive to Cusco, stopping along the route back for a buffet lunch.   

You will be dropped off back at your Cusco hotel at about 5:30 pm. As Cusco is renowned for its fantastic Andean cuisine and tonight is your last night in the city before heading home, it could be time to toast your trip by heading to one of the many atmospheric restaurants here. These include the Museo del Pisco, a classy museum and bar dedicated to the national spirit that also serves well-regarded food such as beef sautéed in pisco! 

Day 9: Adiós: Fly to Lima, Depart Peru

Andean children in traditional dress

Today is your last day in Peru! You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to Cusco Airport, where you will catch your flight back to Lima. Then it will be time to transfer to your international departure.

¡Buen viaje! (Have a good trip!)

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