Day 1: Arrive Cuzco, hike Sacsayhuamán fortress. Our trip starts in Cuzco, the heart of the Inca empire. Your trip leader will greet you with a cup of hot coca tea – the local specialty to help you adjust to the altitude. After lunch, we’ll set off for a walk around this amazing ancient city and up to Sacsayhuamán fortress overlooking the main Plaza and Cuzco Valley. The fortress is a magnificent archaeological site representing a set of jaguar’s teeth with massive, perfectly fitted stones weighing up to 130 tonnes each and was the place where the Incas made their final stand against the Spanish conquistadores. No one really knows what the Incas used Sacsayhuamán for – some say it was a sanctuary and temple of the Sun, others say it was a granary, and yet another theory is that it was the place where the old Inca king would play football using the heads of his enemies! No matter who is right, you’ll have a lot of fun hearing all the stories this amazing area inspires. Later, we’ll take a walk through the colourful Cuzco street markets. If you prefer, you can take some time to soak in the vibrant atmosphere of Cuzco’s lively town square and meet up again later for an evening meal. Accommodation: Hotel Prisma, Cuzco (L,D)
Day 2: Cycle Sacred Valley, visit Pisac market, hike Pisac ruins. We’ll head into the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas this morning, stopping just above Cuzco where we’ll jump on our bikes and ride down through breathtaking scenery, dotted with local villages and surrounded by the massive green slopes of the Andes. We’ll finish our ride in the small town of Pisac, where we’ll have a chance to check out the colourful mercado artesanal. From here we’ll begin a spectacular hike up to the Pisac ruins. These Inca terraces rise 2,000 feet up from the river below. It’s a heart-pumping walk up through ancient agricultural terraces – you’ll never forget the views of Pisac and the Urubamba valley! After exploring the ancient complex, we’ll descend the original Inca stairways and head back down the valley. This is the largest existing fortress-city of the Incas, and it’s the perfect warm-up for your Inca Trail trek tomorrow! Accommodation: Ollyantaytambo lodgings, Ollyantaytambo (B,L,D)
Day 3: (morning) Start your Inca Trail options. It’s an early start this morning as we start our trek to Machu Picchu!
Option 1: Classic Inca Trail (afternoon) - Hike through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We’ll leave Ollyantaytambo and make our way through the Sacred Valley of the Incas before starting our hike at Piscacucho, or Kilometre 82 as it is known by the locals. From here we’ll spend the day hiking alongside the Rio Cusichaca, surrounded by massive Andean peaks, Inca ruins and semi-arid forest. We’ll visit a couple of small villages along the way, then have lunch and rest awhile on the way to our first camp, Pisonay (altitude 9,500 ft). When you arrive at camp, you’ll be greeted with tea by our porters and find your tent already set up for you. Accommodation: Luxury camping in the Peruvian Andes! (B,L,D)
Day 4: Hike Inca Trail to Pacaymayo. Today is an unforgettable day. You’ll be woken with a cup of coca tea brought to your tent door. After a hearty breakfast, we’ll begin our hike on what will be our most challenging day. Today we climb 3,000 feet up to Warmiwañusqa, or ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’ (altitude 13,800 feet). The trail winds its way up through a beautiful mountain pass with stunning panoramic views of the alpine wonderland. It’s a challenging hike to the pass, but the 360º views make every step worthwhile. After celebrating our ascent, we’ll walk down cobbled steps paved by the Incas over 500 years ago to Pacaymayo Valley, our camp for the evening. Again, we’ll already have tents set up so all you need to do is relax and enjoy the evening. Accommodation: Luxury camping (B,L,D)
Day 5: Hike Inca Trail to Wiñay Wayna. The scenery gets even better today! We’ll explore several fascinating Inca fortresses as we descend, with the cloud forest becoming more and more lush as the air becomes warmer and denser. The ancient ruins and increasingly verdant surroundings lend an eerie mood to the day as we make our way down to our next camp – Wiñay Wayna. This is our final night on the trail, with breathtaking views and another hearty dinner! Accommodation: Luxury camping (B,L,D)
Day 6: (morning) - Hike to Machu Picchu. After a very early breakfast, we hike about an hour in the dawn light to Inti Punku, the Sun Gate. We’ll wait here for the cloud to lift and the sun to rise over the ancient city of Machu Picchu, after capturing the moment with our cameras, we’ll make our way down to explore the city.
Option 2 - Lared Inca Trail. The Lares Trail is not one specific, signposted path. Rather it is an exploration of the wilderness, farmland, lakes and passes around the Lares Valley with experienced local guides. Weather, track conditions and time of year can affect our route, and the hike you do may vary slightly in order to maximise your enjoyment and safety.
(afternoon) - Hike Lares Inca Trail to Cuncani. From Ollyantaytambo we’ll drive to the town of Quiswarani to begin our hike. walking for a couple of hours along raging Andean rivers and among towering snow-capped peaks with curious grazing llamas. We’ll continue to Hualcajasa Pass and have a relaxed hike down the other side to our first camp in the tiny Andean community of Cuncani. This remote outpost is the first of many small communities we’ll visit that are populated by direct descendants of the Incas. On this trek there’s a genuine opportunity to experience the local customs and way of life of a unique culture that’s barely changed for 500 years. When you arrive at camp, you’ll be greeted with tea by your porters and find your tent already set up. Accommodation: Luxury camping in the Peruvian Andes! (B,L,D)
Day 7: Hike Lares Inca Trail to Ipsaycocha Lake. Today is an unforgettable day. You’ll be woken with a cup of coca tea, brought to your tent door. After a hearty breakfast we’ll begin our second day of hiking down into the Chancachaca Valley with incredible views of the Lares Valley and the old stone houses that are scattered along the valley floor. Then we’ll continue on to the small village of Huacawasi for lunch, before following the trail as it winds its way up Ipsay Qasa Pass, giving us stunning panoramic views of the surrounding alpine terrain. At the top of the pass we’ll get our first glimpse of Mount Mantanay standing at 5600 metres (18,400 feet). From here it’s a short hike to Ipsaycocha Lake and our second campsite. If you catch a trout here, it’s on the menu for dinner! Accommodation: Luxury camping (B,L,D)
Day 8: Hike Lares Inca Trail to Ollantaytambo. Today we’ll descend into a beautiful valley to Patacancha, where we’ll see children dressed in their traditional red ponchos, white short pants and colourful hats herding llamas and alpacas. Then we’ll carry on towards the village of Ollantaytambo, passing local farmers tending their famous terraced crops, perched on the steep mountain walls above us. We’ll have lunch at Pallata or Ollantaytambo and have time to explore the ancient Inca town with its cobbled streets and thatched houses – you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time! Later we’ll take an unforgettable afternoon train ride down to the sub-tropical village of Aguas Calientes, where we’ll have a chance to explore this colourful little town or soak in a hot spring before dinner. The perfect way to relax after a full day’s hiking! Accommodation: Local hotel, Aguas Calientes (B,L,D)
Day 9: (morning) - Visit Machu Picchu. After a very early breakfast, we head up to enjoy the sunrise over the ancient city of Machu Picchu, where we’ll rejoin the rest of our group and explore the ruins.
(afternoon) - Explore Machu Picchu, climb Huayna Picchu Mountain. Today you can walk for about two hours, or much longer if you like. We have all day to explore the many passageways and stone structures of this mysterious place. If you’re keen and there’s time, we’ll climb Huayna Picchu, the mountain overlooking Machu Picchu for spectacular views of the site and the valley below. It’s a steep 90-minute climb, but the views are worth the effort. After plenty of time to explore Machu Picchu, we’ll head down to Aguas Calientes for a soak in the hot springs before taking a scenic train ride back to Cuzco. Accommodation: Prisma Hotel, Cuzco (B,L,D)
Day 10: Free day in Cuzco. Cuzco is the archaeological capital of the Americas and it’s a fabulous place to spend a day exploring – it’s no wonder it’s the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city! Walk along Cuzco’s central streets, lined with massive Inca-built stone walls that form the foundation of the city and blend into the colonial and modern architecture that has been added over the years. You can take the day to explore Cuzco’s most popular temples, museums, churches and fortresses. Alternatively, we’ll help you arrange one of the many optional guided activities available including mountain biking, hiking, or horse riding. There’s also no shortage of great food and entertainment in Cuzco, with restaurants to suit any taste, cafés for coffee in the Plaza de Armas and great bars with local music. Accommodation: Prisma Hotel, Cuzco (B)
If you’re short on time, the 7-day Jaguar trip finishes this morning and we’ll fly you back to Lima.
Day 11: Journey to Amazon rainforest, wildlife hike. Today we’ll take a short flight from Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado, a frontier town in the Amazon basin. We’ll take to dugout canoes and glide down the headwaters of the Amazon, deep into the jungle. Listen for howler monkeys in the tropical forest canopy above and spot macaws perched high on the riverbanks. This area is teeming with wildlife – we’ll look for giant otters, capuchin monkeys, caiman and many other jungle animals on our boat trip to the lodge. After lunch we’ll head out in search of the plethora of monkey species this area is famous for. Keep an eye out for the rainforest dwellers that come out in search of food in the late afternoon! Accommodation: Lodge in the Amazon jungle (B,L,D).
Day 12: Wildlife hike, virgin jungle exploration. This morning we’ll explore some of the many miles of jungle trails that criss-cross the dense rainforest. We’ll travel by dugout canoe and hike through virgin forest to experience the wealth of native flora and fauna under the Amazon rainforest canopy, and learn how the indigenous people thrive in this challenging environment. The Amazon is the most biodiverse place on Earth and you’ll have the chance to find out more about the amazing flora and fauna here, as well as learning about the incredible medicinal plants that are found in this region. After lunch, you have the rest of the afternoon free to hang out at the lodge with a book or continue exploring the surrounding area on your own. If you’d prefer to hike a little more this afternoon, you can head out with our naturalist guide on little-known trails that pass by the homes of some of the rarest animals in the rainforest. This evening we’ll brave the jungle again in search of the nocturnal South American crocodile – the caiman. Accommodation: Lodge in the Amazon jungle (B,L,D)
Day 13: Cycle through Andean villages and farms. This morning we leave the rainforest and take a boat back to Puerto Maldonado where we’ll catch a short flight to Cuzco. After lunch, we’ll be fitted with bikes and safety gear and head off for a spectacular ride through the green hills of the Cuzco valley. We’ll spend the afternoon riding through Andean farms and villages, where we’ll have the chance to meet the locals tending their crops and herds of llamas. The biking today is mostly gentle downhill riding through picturesque villages and valleys. If cycling is not your thing, you can skip it altogether and relax in Cuzco, or hike up to the many Inca fortresses overlooking the ancient city. Accommodation: Prisma Hotel, Cuzco (B,L,D). If you’re short on time, the 10-day Jaguar trip finishes this morning and we’ll fly you back to Lima.
Day 14: Cycle La Raya Pass. Today we’ll cycle down from the spectacular La Raya Pass towards Puno, the capital of the Altiplano area and the gateway to Lake Titicaca – one of the most amazing rides you’re ever likely to do! This is one of Peru’s great highland areas where herds of alpaca and llama graze and snow-capped mountains rise steeply from the valley. If you’d prefer not to cycle you can sit back and enjoy the ride on this incredible scenic journey to Puno, known as the folklore capital of Peru. Its narrow streets are filled with the sounds of the typical Andean music called saylla, the hustle and bustle of the local market, and the bell-ring of the triciclos, the local bicycle taxis! Accommodation: Puno hotel, Puno (B,L,D)
Day 15: Hike Taquile Island, stay with local Quechua people. At 13,500 feet, Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest commercially navigable body of water. The Incas believed it was the cradle of civilisation – the place where all life began. It’s a very special place dotted with islands that have unique living cultures and traditions, two of which we’ll visit today. The first is Taquile Island, where we’ll hike to the highest point of the island for breathtaking 360º views of Lake Titicaca, the Capachica Peninsula, Amantani Island and the Bolivian Andes. On the way we’ll visit an isolated village and have the chance to meet the local people and learn about their famous textiles and culture. Then it’s a short boat ride to Amantani Island, where we’ll spend the night. Our hosts, members of the indigenous Quechua community, will meet us at the lake’s edge and are always up for a game of high-altitude soccer, if you’re keen! Aside from being a great workout it’s good fun and a unique way to get to know your hosts. When the game is over, we’ll hike to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) temple at the summit of Amantani Island for unforgettable views of the sun setting over Lake Titicaca. Later we’ll return to the homes of our hosts for a home-cooked meal. The Quechua people have maintained their traditional way of life for centuries, weaving wool, keeping cuy (guinea pigs), and farming their smallholdings. After dinner, we head down to the community hall to learn a few traditional dances with the locals. It’s very quiet here – no streetlights, no cars, no dogs even! – and we’re sure you’ll love the tranquillity. Accommodation: Family home, Amantani Island (B,L,D)
Day 16: Sea kayak Lake Titicaca, Uros Reed Islands. Our hosts will wave us off from Amantani’s port this morning as we leave under our own steam in sea kayaks! This is one of the most unforgettable activities of the whole trip. The lake is so big it feels like – and even smells like – the sea, and it has its own unique dark blue colour. We’ll spend the morning making our way across it to Capachica Peninsula, then hugging its shores, grazed by sheep and shadowed by ancient remnant agricultural terraces. We’ll get in our motorboat for the final section of the trip back to Puno, stopping along the way to visit the manmade Uros Reed Islands – you’ll be amazed at the unique lifestyle of the people who make these islands their home. After lunch we’ll return to Puno by boat for our final dinner together. Accommodation: Puno hotel, Puno (B,L,D)
Day 17: Return to Lima, depart for home. This the last day of your two-week trip in Peru. We have a short drive to the nearby town of Juliaca before jumping on a plane to Lima. If you have time to spare after the trip, we’re happy to make suggestions on how to make the most of it. On the other hand, if you’re on your way home today, we’ll send you back refreshed and invigorated from the great food, exercise, rest and adventures you’ll have had with us in Peru! (B)
Itinerary Updates: We update our printed itineraries each year. Please check our website for the most up-to-date itineraries and pricing.
We’ll see you soon!
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South America Peru History Whiz Archeology/History Multi-activity