- Wander in wonder along the cobblestone streets of Cusco
- Take an oar-some white-water rafting adventure on the Urubamba River
- Explore fascinating archaeological sites Moray and Maras by quad bike
- Hike the Short Inca Trail to the world-famous Inca citadel, Machu Picchu
- Tackle spectacular treks to Humantay Lake and Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain
|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||Quad Bike Tour to Moray & Maras||Cusco|
|Day 5||Sacred Valley Tour of Pisac, Ollantaytambo & Chinchero: Hiking to Inca Sites||Cusco|
|Day 6||Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: Cusco-Ollantaytambo-Km 104-Aguas Calientes||Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu Town|
|Day 7||Explore Machu Picchu & Return to Cusco||Cusco|
|Day 8||Humantay Lake Trek||Cusco|
|Day 9||Horseback Riding to Apu Wanakaure||Cusco|
|Day 10||Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain Trek||Cusco|
|Day 11||Adiós: Fly to Lima, Depart Peru|
Day 1: Arrive in Lima - Bienvenidos!
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Peru! 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 - and miraculously still owned by the same Aliaga family today!
- 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 watch sunset dip spectacularly over the Pacific.
- Enjoy an evening meal or nightcap at an open-air cafe or restaurant in sophisticated Miraflores, and dream about the adventure awaiting you!
Day 2: Fly to Cusco & Free Day
After breakfast in Lima this morning, you will transfer to the airport to catch your flight to Cusco. Upon your arrival, you will be welcomed and then 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, the plaza 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. Other suggestions for activities today include:
- Visiting 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.
- Walking 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.
- Discovering 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.
- Taking a walk uphill from the Plaza de Armas to the district of San Blas, one of the city’s most attractive areas. Here are 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.
- Experiencing 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.
- Eating lunch (and perhaps 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)
Get ready this morning for the first of many high-adrenaline activities on this trip! After your breakfast, you will be 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).
You will next return to Cusco, where there is a fantastic array of places to eat and drink to entertain you. Sample one of these (or more than one!) independently this evening.
Day 4: Quad Bike Tour to Moray & Maras
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 of Sacred Valley highlights Moray and Maras begins.
You will get instructions on how to use a quad bike before setting off across rolling green farmland towards 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 arrive at the ruins by other means.
Your quad bike tour now continues to the salt mines of Maras, a few miles from Moray. This striking patchwork of pools cut into a steep mountainside was developed by the Inca as a way of harvesting salt, and is an incredibly dramatic sight.
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. Sample one of these (or more than one!) independently this evening.
Day 5: Sacred Valley Tour of Pisac, Ollantaytambo & Chinchero: Hiking to Inca Sites
Today, you will take a day trip from Cusco to explore the heart of the Sacred Valley. Your first stop will be Pisac, one of the most important archaeological sites in the region. Here, at Pisac Citadel, you will get to 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 by.
You will next make a lunch stop, enjoying traditional Peruvian Andean cuisine at a restaurant in Urubamba, located in a beautiful setting overlooking the Urubamba River.
From here, you then head to the ancient Incan settlement 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.
After this, 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.
In gastronomic hotspot Cusco, a fantastic selection of places to eat and drink await. Sample one of these (or more than one!) independently this evening.
Day 6: Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: Cusco-Ollantaytambo-Km 104-Aguas Calientes
Today, after breakfast, you will be picked up from your hotel and transferred to Ollantaytambo train station in readiness for hiking along the Short Inca Trail towards Machu Picchu. At Ollantaytambo, your train will take you to the trailhead at km104 where the Short Inca Trail begins.
You will now begin hiking the trail, enjoying the scenery of the valley as it gets more dramatic and becomes a canyon. The first archeological site you will visit on your hike is Chachabamba: a beautifully situated and especially well-preserved construction likely used for religious purposes and as a gatekeeping point for this entrance to Machu Picchu.
From here, you will ascend for three hours to the ruins of Wiñay Wayna at 8,964 ft (2732 m). This site was an ancient rest area for travelers on the Inca trail and you too will stop here to relax and enjoy your packed lunch surrounded by superb mountain views.
The trail then becomes gentler and continues through semi-tropical cloud forest to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) at which you will arrive at around 3 pm. Here, you will get to enjoy your first panoramic views of Machu Picchu. You will descend for 30 minutes towards Machu Picchu citadel where there will be time for a short break and, of course, opportunity for photos.
Afterwards you will take the bus down to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Town) and check into your hotel to rest in anticipation of your visit to Machu Picchu tomorrow!
Maximum Altitude: 8964 ft (2,732 m)
Walk Distance: 6.67 miles (10.79 km)
Walk Time: 7 hours
Day 7: Explore Machu Picchu & Return to Cusco
As you have stayed overnight in the town closest to the wonder of Machu Picchu, it is time to take advantage and get up early to beat the crowds that will later arrive at the site. You will take a 25-minute bus up from Machu Picchu Town through cloud forest to reach the entrance to Machu Picchu Citadel, hopefully before many other visitors are there.
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 of Machu Picchu independently.
See here for more on the best time to visit Machu Picchu.
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 independently sampling some traditional Peruvian food at one of these this evening, under your own steam and away from the itinerary schedule. Recharge your batteries this evening for another early start tomorrow!
Day 8: Humantay Lake Trek
Today you have an early start as you are picked up around 3:30-4 am to begin a memorable Andean adventure to Humantay Lake, a sparkling turquoise mountain lake located at 13,779 ft / 4200 m altitude, accessible from Cusco only via a 4-hour drive and then a 1-hour hike.
First up is the 4-hour-drive to Soraypampa (altitude 12,630 ft / 3,850 m) where you will make a stop for breakfast and get ready to start the trek to the lake. Soraypampa is the campsite for the first day of the beautiful Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu.
From Soraypampa, after a hike of approximately one hour (there is the option of a horseback ride up for those weighing 80 kg or less), you will arrive at the lake. You will be immediately convinced that your journey here was worth it as the lake's waters shimmer below the sheer rock faces of the surrounding nevados (snow-capped peaks). If weather is clear enough, you will be able to see the snow-capped Salkantay mountain beautifully reflected on the lake surface.
At this point, your guide will tell you more about the surrounding topography and how this relates to Inca mythology, after which you can make an offering to the Apus in the local Andean tradition. The Apus were mountain spirits that the Inca and many Andean people today believe will protect them from harm in return for offerings. You will also have time to explore and take pictures.
You will begin your descent to Soraypampa to have lunch and, after some rest, return to Cusco. Consider independently sampling some traditional Peruvian food at one of Cusco's wonderful places to eat this evening.
Day 9: Horseback Riding to Apu Wanakaure
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 7-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. Generally, the maximum possible weight a horse can support is 85 kg.
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—a place where people would traditionally 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 10: Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain Trek
The Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain is a 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 a 2-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 / 5,020 m), you will have time to explore the mountaintop area for approximately 30 minutes.
It is then 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 3-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 places to eat and drink 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 11: Adiós: Fly to Lima, Depart Peru
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 and then connect to your international departure.
iBuen viaje! Have a good trip!
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