The Amazon and the Andes are yours to explore with expert guides on this two week nature and culture adventure. Focus first on the natural environment and wildlife of the Amazon ecosystem and then on the culture, history, and archaeology of the Inca Empire. Deep in the Amazon rainforest you'll be based at extraordinary lodges along the Tambopata River, a tributary of the great Amazon.
Climb up high observation towers and swing in rope harnesses. Look for alligators, piranha, monkeys, parrots and jaguars. Next, travel to Cusco and into the Sacred Valley of the Incas. You'll be walking, boating and exploring the routes of vanished cultures. You'll spend a half-day rafting on the Urubamba River, and you may choose to trek part of the Inca Trail. You will also visit the mysterious ruins of Machu Picchu and meet the modern descendents of the Incas.
Day 1: Lima. Upon arrival, you will be met at the airport and taken to your accommodations in Lima.
Day 2: Lima. Your guide will meet you at your hotel for a look at the city of Lima. You’ll see beautiful churches, parks and plazas, an interesting monastery with spooky catacombs below, and have lunch at a typical Peruvian restaurant. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure. Meals: breakfast, lunch.
Day 3: Lima - Refugio Amazonas. Talk about contrast! When your big jet from Lima lands in Puerto Maldonado, you'll be greeted by your naturalist guide - Renzo, Daniel or Guillermo or someone equally smart and in love with the jungle. It's 3 hours in the world's longest motorized canoe to Refugio Amazonas (in English, Amazon Lodge).
It's an ecotourism project and you'll learn why. Meet the local Eseiaja Indians who own and run things. This afternoon, you’ll climb the Canopy Tower, and from the top you will get spectacular views of the river and the surrounding forest and have excellent opportunities to see birds. Start your six-day species count: hawk, eagle, parrot, macaw. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 4: Tambopata Research Center. This morning, enjoy a canoe or pontoon ride around the Tres Chimbadas oxbow lake to look for a family of giant river otters, turtles, hoatzin (aka. stinkbird!), and wading birds. then, continue up the Tambopata River this afternoon for a few more hours into the pristine heart of the Tambopata National Reserve. After the first hour you will leave the final traces of human habitation behind as you enter the huge, completely uninhabited center of the reserve.
You will notice right away the difference in the amount of wildlife here! You’ll see herons, kingfishers, cormorants, capybaras, and caimans, just to name a few. After arriving at the Research Center, you’ll hike the one-and-a-half-mile Bamboo Trail, which is famous for the loads of rare birds that live exclusively in this habitat. End your exciting day with a “frog walk” through the forest - you’ll spot American bullfrogs, horned frogs, tree frogs, and an amazing variety of colorful bugs! Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Days 5-6: Tambopata Research Center. Each morning at dawn, you will cross the river to visit one of earth's one-of-a-kind places where the bank of the river is an enormous (about 12 stories high) wall of clay. You will not believe how many pairs of parrots and macaws swoop in for a lick. If you get in position really early, and stay really still, you get to see and hear it all. They are RAUCOUS!
During your days at the Research Center, you meet scientists, go in the wildlife blinds, hike through many different kinds of forests, and climb up an observation tower. Wild macaws, who as chicks were saved by scientists and then released, come to visit and you can feed them bananas. Continue your species count: huge Ceiba trees, strangler figs, saddleback tamarins, squirrel and brown capuchin monkeys, collared peccary, and you may see ocelot, puma and jaguar tracks, although these cats are very difficult to spot. Meals: 2 x breakfast, 2 x lunch, 2 x dinner.
Day 7: Refugio Amazonas. After a last visit to the clay lick, it’s back to Refugio Amazonas for a final night in this amazing rainforest. Keep looking: This time you may spot a jaguar! Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 8: Amazon - Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Return to town by motorized canoe, and fly from the rainforest up to Cusco, at 11,000' in the Andes. Your guide will meet you at the airport and head to the Sacred Valley. Visit a pottery workshop in Rumichaca, where you can participate in a pottery lesson. Then, visit the fantastic ruins of Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is remembered as one of the few places the Spanish lost a major battle during their conquest. This is also a good site to see Inca city planning - each cancha (block) had one entrance to the central courtyard, and individual homes were entered from the courtyard. Overnight in a great local hotel in Ollanta for the next two nights. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 9: Urubamba Rafting. In the morning professional rafting guides take you on the Urubamba River, where the pretty stretches of calm water are punctuated by awesome rapids. Listen up and paddle hard! then, you're spoiled by an amazing riverside picnic banquet, and then you're welcomed enthusiastically by kids in a local children’s home: Casa de Milagros (Home of Miracles).
They provide shelter, food, clothing, basic medical care, education, and arts programs that promote self-confidence and self-worth for children in need. Here you will have a unique experience - the only condition is that each passenger should have a donation of: clothes, shoes, medicines, or educational materials. Children can choose to become a pen pal with a child at the Casa de Milagros. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 10: Ollanta - Machu Picchu. Imagine - you can travel to legendary Machu Picchu, by train, the lost city of the Incas, stumbled upon by accident in 1911. It remains a mysterious site, as there are no Spanish records, Incan legends, or oral histories. Elegant ornamental stonework hints at the possibility of Machu Picchu's importance as a ceremonial center. It takes about 1 1-2 hours from Ollanta Station to Aguas Calientes, on tracks that wind along the Urubamba River.
Once you arrive, it is a short winding bus ride up to Machu Picchu, and your guide will lead you through the vast ruins. The rest of the day you can relax at your beautiful hotel or walk around the village of Aguas Calientes. There are many shops and street vendors where you can find such things as weavings, carvings, wind chimes, pottery, jewelry, and clothing to bring home. Stay overnight at the Machu Picchu El Pueblo Hotel for the next two nights.
One-Day Inca Trail Trek Option: For those with some interest in light trekking, we can offer the one day Inca Trail Trek. Take the train towards Machu Picchu, and disembark at Km. 104 to cross the hanging bridge to the Chachabamba site. After a brief visit, begin a three to four hour ascent to the ruins of Wiñay Wayna, an important ritual site. The Inca Trail cuts across the ridge above Machu Picchu to finally reach the Gate of the Sun (Intipunku) for your first awe-inspiring glimpse of Machu Picchu. Total hiking time is about six hours. Bookings must be made at least 90 days in advance. Please call for more details. Meals: breakfast, lunch.
Day 11: Mysterious Machu Picchu. This morning you’ll have another winding ride up to Machu Picchu with your guide, who will again lead you through more of the huge ruins for a full, informative day. You’ll also have the option to climb the steep trail up Huayna Picchu for a great work-out and a true birds-eye view! Return to your hotel this afternoon on the bus. Meals: breakfast, lunch.
Day 12: Pisac Market - Cusco. This morning you’ll take the first train to Ollanta, arriving at about 10 a.m. Continue to Pisac, where people come from all around to see the traditional market busy with bartering for food, clothing, and other supplies. On the way to Cusco, visit Awana Cancha Exhibition Center, where you can admire the llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos. Here you can also learn about the weaving and dyeing systems of Andean textiles from some people from local communities, who will be happy to introduce you to their ancestral techniques. Stay overnight in Cusco for the next two nights. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 13: Cusco and Nearby Ruins. In the morning, enjoy a walking city tour, then visit a music workshop, where children will have the opportunity to learn how to play some local instruments like the quena or zampoña. In the afternoon visit the nearby ruins of Qenko, Tambo Machay, Puca Pucara, and Sacsayhuaman. More than 500 years and many earthquakes ago the Incas built grand walls of stone, using no mortar at all - and these still stand today. How did they do that??? You’ll have time this afternoon to wander a little bit on your own. Meals: breakfast, lunch.
Day 14: Cusco - Lima - Onward. Today you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Lima. You will have the use of a day room at a hotel in Miraflores until your transfer to the airport for your flight home (or onward connection). Meals: breakfast.
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