- Hike to Huchuy Qosqo — accessible only by foot
- Visit ancient, off-the-beaten-track Incan sites
- Explore famous Machu Picchu
|Arrival in Lima
|Arrival in Cusco, Exploring the City
|Hike to Huchuy Qosqo
|Huchuy Qosqo to Aguas Calientes
Day 1: Arrival in Lima
¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru's largest city and central metropolitan hub, and home to one-third of the country's population. Located at the site of a pre-Columbian indigenous Ychsma settlement, which was conquered by the Inca empire in the 15th century and later by the Spanish conquistadores, Lima has a fascinating history and a diverse mix of cultures. Amerindian, European, Afro-Peruvian, and Asian—especially Chinese and Japanese—influences make Lima a dynamic and exciting city to explore.
Lima's breezy location on the Pacific Ocean and mild desert climate make it the perfect city for exploring on foot. Head downtown to mingle with locals, stretch your legs, and grab a bite to eat in one of the many award-winning restaurants.
Suggested activities include:
- Explore the historic center of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with fascinating Spanish architecture. Start with a scenic tour of the colonial downtown, which emanates from the main square. Stroll over to the 16th-century Cathedral, which took 80 years to construct and was built in the grandiose style of the Spanish Empire.
- Visit the Casa Aliaga, a colonial mansion granted by chief conquistador Francisco Pizarro to Jerónimo de Aliaga, one of his captains, in 1535. This is the only house from that era that still belongs to the same family.
- Stroll around the Pueblo Libre district to the 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, as well as pieces of erotic art.
- In the evening, head to the eclectic "Love Park" in the upscale coastal district of Miraflores, where you can admire a huge kissing statue and beautiful mosaic walls. The park is built on the cliffs of Chorrillos and is a perfect place to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Pacific.
- Enjoy a nightcap at an open-air cafe or restaurant in the diverse Miraflores neighborhood.
Day 2: Arrival in Cusco, Exploring the City
Head to the Lima airport for your transfer flight to Cusco. This ancient city is the former capital of the Inca empire, which reigned from the 13th to 16th centuries after conquering the Killke settlement on the same location.
Remember: you will be 11,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, so take it easy and remember to drink lots of water. Since Cusco was designed by the Incas as a city for walking, start your exploration of the narrow stone alleyways on foot. Take a walk through the plaza — if the weather is beautiful, it's a perfect place to sit on a balcony and have a cup of coca tea while adjusting to the elevation.
Suggested activities include:
- Visit the Coricancha, also known as "The Temple of the Sun." The temple was built by the Incan Emperor Pachacutec (1438 - 1572), and after the arrival of the Spaniards became the basis for the construction of the Santo Domingo Convent.
- See the Cathedral, the most imposing monument in the central Plaza de Armas and a repository for Cusco's colonial art. Its construction lasted for almost 100 years, beginning in 1560 and ending in 1654.
- Walk to Sacsayhuamán and next-door Quenqo, both archaeological complexes used mostly for religious and agricultural rituals, located 2.5 miles (4 km) from the city of 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 a 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.
- Explore San Blas, an old bohemian quarter famous for its picturesque white walls, blue doors, and creative artisan community.
- Experience the legendary Mercado Central de San Pedro, a large and diverse market famous for its mouth-watering fruit juices, home-style meals, medicinal herb stalls, and rows of various meats, bread, vegetables, and other necessities.
- Eat lunch at a local Peruvian restaurant and sample local flavors and cooking techniques—crackling pork, pickled vegetables, seasonal flavors, bread baked in earthen ovens, roasted vegetables, and sweet donuts make for a delicious and filling meal.
Day 3: Hike to Huchuy Qosqo
Start your mountain trekking adventure at Tambo Machay — a short drive from pretty alpine Cusco — and climb through a gently rising alpine pasture to your first Peruvian mountain pass, where sweeping views of the Cordillera Urubamba await. From here, continue hiking past serene Lake Quellacocha and cross three more mountain passes before descending, partly on ancient Inca roads, through the rapidly changing ecological layers of the Andean Sierra. End your hike in the isolated traditional community of Huchuy Qosqo and stay overnight in a traditional homestay.
Walking distance: 8.7 miles
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: From Huchuy Qosqo to Aguas Calientes
Before you make your way deeper into the Andes, spend some time exploring Huchuy Qosqo. The impressive stone and mud-brick ruins are believed to have been one of the palaces of Viracocha — the eighth Incan emperor. Because the site is remote and there's no road access, you'll likely have the mystical, ancient site to yourself. Once you've explored every nook and cranny, make the steep descent to the road and the village of Lamay for a traditional lunch. Then board a vehicle bound for Ollantaytambo and a train to Aguas Calientes, where you'll spend your second night in the mountains.
Walking distance: 1 mile
Day 5: Machu Picchu!
Wake before sunrise and make your way to the famous, spectacular ruins of Machu Picchu to watch the sun rise over the ancient city — a high point for any Andean explorer. Considered one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, the old stone city surrounded by impossibly steep, deep green mountains needs no introduction. After sunrise, join a knowledgeable guide on a tour around the massive site, then head off on your own to explore the ruin and some of the surrounding peaks before bidding this special place farewell and boarding your train back to Cusco.
Day 6: Departing Cusco
Today is your last day in Peru! You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to Cusco Airport, where you will transfer to your international departure. ¡Buen viaje!