- Walk the streets of the ancient Incan capital of Cusco
- Explore the beauty and culture of the Sacred Valley
- Hike the legendary Inca Trail
- Spend a day immersed in the history of Machu Picchu
- Spot Amazonian wildlife like macaws, cayman, anaconda, and tapir
|Day 1||Arrival in Lima||Lima|
|Day 2||Lima City & Food Tour||Lima|
|Day 3||Fly to Cusco - Free day in the City||Cusco|
|Day 4||Sacred Valley Tour: Cusco - Chinchero - Ollantaytambo||Ollantaytambo|
|Day 5||Inca Trail Day 1/4: Cusco to Yuncachimpa||Yuncachimpa|
|Day 6||Inca Trail Day 2/4: Yuncachimpa - Warmihuañusca Pass - Chaquicocha||Chaquicocha|
|Day 7||Inca Trail Day 3/4: Chaquicocha - Phuyupatamarca - Wiñayhuayna||Wiñayhuayna|
|Day 8||Inca Trail Day 4/4: Wiñayhuayna - Machu Picchu - Cusco||Cusco|
|Day 9||Into the Amazon: Cusco - Puerto Maldonado - Refugio Amazonas Lodge||Puerto Maldonado|
|Day 10||Jungle Excursions - Tres Chimbadas, Parrot Clay Lick, Botany Tour||Puerto Maldonado|
|Day 11||Jungle Excursions - Farm, Dugout Canoe Tour, Fitzcarrald||Puerto Maldonado|
|Day 12||Puerto Maldonado - Lima||Lima|
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.
- 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: Lima City & Food Tour
Spend the day discovering Lima through its food. With a vibrant combination of Indigenous American, African, Asian, and European culinary influences, Lima is one of the world's most impressive gastronomic and cultural centers.
Start the day early in Lima's Historical center to visit a local mercacado—a fresh food market—to taste the local produce and sample spices, fruits, and various baked bread. Taste different types of Piscos—a high proof brandy produced locally in the wine-making regions of Peru and Chile. Attend a cooking class and learn how to make ceviche, a fresh seafood dish marinated with salt and lime juice, and the traditional pisco sour—a Peruvian classic.
Stop for lunch at one of Lima's top restaurants and enjoy a delicious meal on a patio overlooking the Pacific ocean. Stroll to the bohemian district of Barranco—a popular oceanside neighborhood for artists, tourists, and locals alike—for a relaxed afternoon drinking coffee and sampling Peruvian desserts.
Day 3: Fly to Cusco - Free day in 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 4: Sacred Valley Tour: Cusco - Chinchero - Ollantaytambo
Today you will depart from your hotel in Cusco for a visit to the village of Chinchero, believed by the Inca to be the birthplace of the rainbow. You will see extensive Inca terraces and several small colonial-era churches, before exploring Chinchero's famous textile production and weaving crafts. Tour a weaver's studio and learn about the process of cleaning and producing the wool, then browse the selection of vibrant textiles for the perfect handmade gift.
Continue to Moray, a series of incredible stone amphitheaters built by the Inca. Considered one of the world's most innovative and architecturally advanced cultures, the Inca likely used these stone complexes for experimental agriculture in micro-climates.
From Moray walk (or take a bus) to the Salineras—the Maras Salt Flats—an intricate network of stone pools developed by the Inca to harvest salt through evaporation. These salt flats are still in use today and are carefully maintained by a close community with regulations and rules that date back to the time of the Inca.
Spend the night in the small historic town of Ollantaytambo, high in the Sacred Valley. Explore the surrounding stone fortresses, archeological ruins, and cobblestone streets of the town, which remain remarkably intact similar to their original appearances after construction by the Inca.
Day 5: Inca Trail Day 1/4: Cusco to Yuncachimpa
Start your morning early with a 5:30 AM departure from Cusco to the Sacred Valley. Stop briefly in Ollantaytambo for breakfast, then continue to the start of the Inca trail, located at kilometer marker 82. You will meet the rest of the group here before beginning the trek.
Cross the Urubamba river and head uphill for an easy trek, and a good warm-up for the following days. Reach Miskay by lunchtime and stop for a picnic by a small river. After lunch, explore the nearby archaeological site of Llactapata, then continue the hike to Wayllabamba, located at 10,170 ft (3,100 m). From here, ascend 700 ft (200 m) to Yuncachimpa, your campsite for the night. Enjoy sweeping views of Willka Weqe Mountain (Mt. Verónica) and the surrounding landscape over dinner.
Level of difficulty: Moderate.
Hiking time: 6-7 hours.
Total distance: 6.8 miles (11 km)
Day 6: Inca Trail Day 2/4: Yuncachimpa - Warmihuañusca Pass - Chaquicocha
During the second day of the hiking on the Inca trail, you are free to walk at your own pace. Meet back up with the group for short rest breaks and on long ascents, but walk the rest of the day at your own leisure.
Start the day by trekking through the Valley of Llulluchapampa 12631 ft (3850 m), a steep 1.8 miles (3 km) through humid woodlands. From here, follow the path for another 2-3 hours to Warmihuañusca Pass at 11,3780 ft (4,200 m). Translated as 'Dead Woman Pass', this section of the hike is the most difficult part of the trail.
After a break at the summit, continue the hike down a long and steep descent toward the Pacaymayo (Sunrise) River. Cross Runkurakay pass at 10,007 ft (3,050 m) before reaching Chaquicocha, your campsite for the night. Enjoy the stunning view of the Andes Mountains from 11,975 ft (3650 m) and relax after a hard day on the trail.
Level of difficulty: Challenging
Hiking time: 8-9 hours.
Total distance: 9.3 miles (15 km)
Day 7: Inca Trail Day 3/4: Chaquicocha - Phuyupatamarca - Wiñayhuayna
The third day on the trail brings you through a variety of landscapes and Inca architecture. You will see a change in the ecosystem as you walk into the tropical forest of Wiñaywayna. Pass by several small lakes, through small Inca tunnels, and over a couple of 12,000-13,000 ft (3,700-3,950 m) passes before reaching the Wiñayhuayna ruins. Translated as 'Forever Young', this elaborately engineered site is built into a steep hillside above the Urubamba river. Two separate building complexes are connected by a series of terraces, which were used for agriculture.
From here the Inca stairs turn into a zigzagging trail that ascends until you reach a white, red-roofed building—your last campsite. Relax into a hot bath and let your tired muscles rest.
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Hiking time: 5-6 hours
Total distance: 6.2 miles (10 km)
Day 8: Inca Trail Day 4/4: Wiñayhuayna - Machu Picchu - Cusco
Today you will get a very early start onto the trail to catch the sunrise over Machu Picchu. After breakfast at 4:30 AM, head back onto the trail toward Inti Punku (Sun Gate) to watch the sun come up over Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu. From here descend one hour to the archaeological ruins to arrive around 8:00 AM.
This 15th-century Inca citadel 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 considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
Built as a seasonal residence for the Inca family, Machu Picchu was rarely home to more than 800 people, and during the royals' absence, a mere 100 servants would remain at the site to maintain the grounds. Machu Picchu was abandoned 100 years after construction due to the Spanish conquest and remained largely hidden to the outside world until the early 20th century.
Your guide will lead you around the site and explain the different buildings and curious corners of the building complex. Approximately one-third of the site has been reconstructed into its original structure, giving visitors a sense for the grandeur and artistry of the original citadel.
After the tour, explore the site on your own—walk up to the Inca Bridge, discover various buildings within the site, or climb Wayna Picchu for panoramic views. Later, catch a bus down to Aguas Calientes and soak your aches and pains away in the town's hot springs. Depart from Aguas Calientes in the afternoon, and make your way back to Cusco. Upon arrival in Cusco, check in to your hotel for some well-deserved rest.
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Hiking time: 2-3 hours
Total distance: 4.3 miles (7 km)
Day 9: Into the Amazon: Cusco - Puerto Maldonado - Refugio Amazonas Lodge
This morning you will transfer from your hotel to the Cusco airport for your flight to Puerto Maldonado.
Upon arrival at the Puerto Maldonado Airport, an agent will meet you and drive you to the local office for luggage storage. Here, all of your extra luggage will be locked away in a secure safe for more convenient boat travel. After a quick walk through the garden for a preview of rainforest plants, it’s time to pack your necessities and travel into the Amazon.
Depart from the Tambopata port on a two and a half-hour boat ride, and pass through the community of Infierno Reserve. Eat a packed lunch en route, and watch as the sunlight disappears behind the dense rainforest trees. The boat will take you to your home base for the next few days, the Refugio Amazonas Lodge.
The manager will welcome you before giving you an important briefing regarding navigation and security. Then, kick back and relax for the rest of your night after a day of traveling. If you'd prefer to get in a little adventure, you can go on a night boat trip to search for caymans. From the safety of the boat, shine your headlights and flashlights onto the riverbanks to spot their red eyes reflecting in the light.
Day 10: Jungle Excursions - Tres Chimbadas, Parrot Clay Lick, Botany Tour
Today you will explore the lush rainforest around you in a series of short guided adventure treks. Start by heading to Tres Chimbadas, located 30 minutes by boat from the lodge. Explore the lake to search for the resident family of nine giant river otters and other local wildlife, such as cayman, hoatzin, and colorful tropical birds. This tour is best done in the early morning, as otters are most active from dawn to 8 or 9 AM.
After, walk the short 20 minutes from the lodge to the Parrot Clay Lick. Take a comfortable seat behind a secluded blind and watch hundreds of vibrant parrots and parakeets descend onto the river bank to eat the mineral-rich clay. Brightly-colored species like the Yellow-headed Amazon, Blue-headed Parrot, and Dusky Headed Parakeet love to visit this location, and late morning is an ideal time to spot them.
Take a break for lunch, then head 20 minutes downriver to a curated ethnobotany trail tour. Designed by the staff of Centro Ñape, a communal organization which derives natural medicines from plants found in the rainforest, this educational trail is designed to explain the uses of local Amazonian plants.
After dinner, you have the option to go for a relaxing night hike during a time when most mammals are active. Listen to the chorus of from and amphibian calls, and bring a flashlight to try and spot the small animals as they camouflage in the vegetation.
Day 11: Jungle Excursions - Farm, Dugout Canoe Tour, Fitzcarrald
After a beautiful sunrise and an early breakfast, visit a local farm to learn local cultivation techniques and sample some of the produce. Stop at the nearby botanical garden and discover the immense variety of medicinal plants used by the indigenous people of the Amazon.
In the afternoon, head back to the lodge to enjoy lunch. Afterward, you will be treated to a trip in a dugout canoe to see some more local wildlife. Photographers and naturalists will love spotting Amazonian species around the water, so don't forget your camera. Relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery while observing tropical birds, as well as an array of flycatchers and Gray-necked Wood-Rails.
On the way back, disembark at the remains of the Fitzcarrald steamboat, where you'll learn about its history and how it became part of the award-winning film "Fitzcarraldo."
Day 12: Puerto Maldonado - Lima
After breakfast, transfer to the airport and fly back to Lima. Spend the afternoon settling in and relaxing in the hotel, or go for a sunset walk in the romantic neighborhoods of Miraflores and Barranco along the Pacific Ocean before finding the perfect cafe or restaurant for dinner.