Note: The 4-day group departures listed above include the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu exploration portions of the itinerary below (days 3-6). Our specialists can help you plan the rest of the trip around your chosen departure date.
- Explore the incredible stone terraces constructed by the Inca in the Sacred Valley
- Enjoy an adventurous downhill bike ride from the Andean peaks to the Amazon
- Wash away the dust of the Andes in relaxing hot spring near Santa Teresa
- Hike around the ruins of Machu Picchu, ancient citadel of the Incas and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World
While Machu Picchu needs no introduction, many first-time visitors to Peru are unfamiliar with equally impressive highlights in the nearby Sacred Valley. On this trip, you will explore Moray and Salineras, two important terracing sites that exemplify Incan engineering. You will also visit a handful of quaint towns, including Ollantaytambo, where cobbled streets lead to sunny plazas and giant stone fortresses overlook the town. At Chinchero you can see weavers producing handmade products.
From the Sacred Valley, the journey continues over the high peaks of the Andes and down the eastern slope, into lush rainforest. Here you can relax in hot springs and visit a coffee cooperative. The trip finishes with a guided tour of Machu Picchu and a ride back to Cusco. Meals and accommodation are provided during the trip.
|Day 1||Arrival in Lima||Lima|
|Day 2||Arrival in Cusco, Exploring the City||Cusco|
|Day 3||Explore the Inca stone terracing ruins||Ollantaytambo|
|Day 4||hot springs, mountain biking, high altitude pass||Santa Teresa Eco-Lodge|
|Day 5||Visit to a coffee farm, train ride to Aguas Calientes||Aguas Calientes|
|Day 6||Explore Machu Picchu||Cusco|
|Day 7||Departing Cusco|
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 dinner 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: The Sacred Valley: ancient sites and stunning scenery
This morning, depart your hotel in Cusco for your Sacred Valley tour. Your tour begins in Chinchero, which the Inca believed was the birthplace of the rainbow. In this typical Andean village you can see extensive Inca terracing and some pretty colonial-era churches. The town is also known for its weaving studios – you'll have a chance to see the weavers producing handmade products.
From Chinchero you'll continue to Moray, an incredible complex of stone amphitheaters developed by the Inca. While the exact reason for the construction of this site remains unknown, historians believe the Inca constructed in order to experiment with crop production in different micro-climates.
From Moray, you will walk through farmlands (or take a bus if you prefer) to Salineras, an incredible patchwork of stone pools and paths developed by the Inca as a means to harvest salt. You will spend the night in Ollantaytambo, a historic town in the Sacred Valley, set on the Urubamba River, overlooked by massive stone fortresses. You'll have a chance to explore this charming village, its cobbled streets and pretty plazas.
Day 4: Adventures in the Amazon Basin
Today we cross a dramatic topographical divide: from the arid, Pacific side of the Andes to its lush western slope and the uppermost reaches of the Amazon Basin. From the icy pass of Abra Malaga 14,000 ft (4267 m) we will descend into the rainforest, known as the ceja de selva (eyebrow of the jungle).
Our destination for the day is Santa Teresa, located at an elevation of 5085 ft (1550 m). Santa Teresa is home to Baños Termales de Cocalmayo, a natural mountain hot spring located beside a raging river. It's a great place to wash away the dust you accumulated on the drive over the Andes.
You have the option of cycling some or all of the road from the mountains into the jungle. We will provide bikes for this fun downhill journey. We will overnight in an eco-lodge near Santa Teresa.
Day 5: Meet local coffee growers and sample their wares
This region contains a number of small coffee farms that export their beans around the world through a network of growers' cooperatives. We will take a tour of a local farm today and see how coffee is grown and produced. In the afternoon, we will board a train to Aguas Calientes. The five-mile journey rolls through scenic mountain vistas. At Aguas Calientes, we will have time to explore the local market and enjoy the mountain scenery, jungle gorge and rushing rivers around the town. Accommodation tonight is in a hotel in Aguas Calientes.
Day 6: Machu Picchu!
Aguas Calientes is the jumping off point for the highlight of this trip – Machu Picchu! No matter how many photographs you've seen this amazing ruin, seeing Machu Picchu for the first time still manages to take your breath away. The stone city is surrounded by steep, green mountains and you'll have a chance to climb one for better views. You will be given a guided tour of the site and have time to explore on your own before catching the train back to Cusco.
Day 7: Departing Cusco
This morning, transfer to the Cusco airport for check-in to your homeward-bound flight. ¡Buen viaje!
Note: The 4-day group departures listed below include the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu exploration portions of the itinerary above (days 3-6). Our specialists can help you plan the rest of the trip around your chosen departure date.