Day 1 Lima
Arrive in Lima at any time. There are no planned activities so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Please note that hot water shortages and power outages can be fairly common in Peru (even in upgraded hotels and private homes). We appreciate your patience and understanding that these occurrences are outside of our control. Known as the City of Kings, Peru’s capital city Lima was founded by Francisco Pizarro on the Day of the Three Kings (Epiphany) in 1535. The Plaza de Armas is the heart of old Lima, and it is here you find the Cathedral, Government Palace and Archbishop’s Palace. The Cathedral dates back to the 1700s and houses the remains of the conquistador Pizarro. To get a feel for colonial Lima, take a cab to the Plaza de Armas and watch the changing of the Palace Guard in the afternoon. Walk the streets surrounding the Jirón de la Unión for great examples of Spanish-colonial architecture and to get a taste for life in a large South American city. An optional city tour visits many of the city’s highlights. There are many fine museums in and around the city, including the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera, which houses an equally impressive collection of pottery, mummies and textiles from the Paracas and Nazca cultures. The more affluent coastal districts of Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro offer good nightlife and cafés all within walking distance. Limeños (Lima’s residents) are friendly, and the city is filled with excellent restaurants; seafood lovers in particular should be sure to try a ceviche, for which Lima is well known.
Day 2 Cusco
Transfer to the airport for the flight to Cusco (the flight usually departs early, and we may leave the hotel as early 4:30 am). In Cusco meet your guide and transfer to your hotel. Spend the day relaxing and exploring fascinating Cusco. Cusco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city and the hub of the South American travel network. The city attracts travellers who come not just to visit a unique destination but also to experience an age-old culture very different from their 20th century way of life; one could easily spend a week just in and around the area. Inca-built stone walls line most of the central streets and you don't have to go far to see other major Inca ruins. It is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend. Every year Cusco attracts thousands of travellers who come to delve into its noble but tragic past. It is the perfect base for optional explorations around the city and area as well as a range of outdoor activities. Relax and explore this fascinating city, and take time to acclimatize to the high altitude. Cusco’s numerous colonial churches are one of the city’s most common sights. The Cathedral was started in 1559 and took 100 years to build; it is also one of the city’s greatest repositories of colonial art. Immediately in front of the entrance is a vault containing the remains of the famous Inca historian, Garcilaso de la Vega. Also worth visiting are the churches of La Compañía, La Merced and San Francisco. While most ruins are just outside of the city, the main ruin within is that of the Coricancha, once the Inca Empire's richest temple. Today the ruin forms the base of the colonial church of Santo Domingo. During Inca times this temple was literally covered with gold, but within months of the arrival of the first conquistadors this incredible wealth had all been melted down. It is left to the individual imagination to envision the magnificence of the original structure. There are several good museums in Cusco, including the Archaeological Museum, which also houses a small art museum, the Regional History Museum and the Religious Art Museum. Our best advice for exploring Cusco is to wear a comfortable pair of shoes, arm yourself with a city map and set off to explore!
Day 3 Sacred Valley/Ollantaytambo (1L)
Travel with our local guide through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. An important source of food for the Inca, the Sacred Valley is a lush agricultural region that continues to supply the city of Cusco with much of its produce. Visit a Planeterra-supported women's weaving project in a local community, the impressive Pisac ruins and the colourful artisan market (market days only). The day trip finishes in the picturesque village of Ollantaytambo, site of another large Inca ruin. Here we catch our breath and prepare for the hike ahead. Starting in 2014 travellers will have the chance to visit Huchuy Qosco, an indigenous village previously bypassed by the tourism industry, now running the Planeterra-supported Sacred Valley Community Restaurant and tour in their own village. The town and fortress of Ollantaytambo are strategically situated overlooking the beautiful Urubamba River Valley. This major ruin site is known as the best surviving example of Inca urban planning and engineering. It is admired for its huge steep terraces guarding the Inca Fortress and for being one of the few places where the Spanish lost a major battle during the conquest. We spend the night in this small town before heading out for the start of the hike the next morning.
Day 4-6 Lares Trek (3B,3L,2D)
The Lares Trek is one day shorter than the Inca Trail, but higher in elevation (33km/20.5 miles, with a high point of 4600m/14,928ft). Travellers hiking the Lares Trek will start the same day as those hiking the Inca Trail. The 3-day hike starts with a van ride from Ollantaytambo to the trekking start point and returns back to Ollantaytambo by van from the trekking end point. From there, hikers will take a scenic train to Aguas Calientes for one overnight stay. In most cases, your CEO will hike the Lares Trek with you. From Aguas Calientes you will take the bus (15 mins) to Machu Picchu early the next morning for a guided tour of Machu Picchu. After the tour and some free time, catch the bus down to Aguas Calientes and take the train back to Cusco with the rest of the group. NOTE: The locations and distances may change on this hike as we will camp in different locations depending on pace, ability and weather. Starting in 2014 travellers will stay in a newly established community-owned and managed campsite in an indigenous village previously bypassed by the tourism industry. Day 1 of the Lares Trek: Start early and take a van (3 hrs) to Lares town where the hike will start with a leisurely pace through the valley of Cuncani. Hike 4km (2.5mi) to Chancachaca where we stop for lunch. Altitude here is around 3480m (11,417ft). Continue on to Cuncani where we camp for the night at 3872m. The camp is IDB/MIF and Planeterra supported project (12,703ft). Lares town to Cuncani Approximate distance: 9km/5.59mi Estimated hiking time: 5.5 hrs Highest point: 4200m/13,780ft Day 2 of the Lares Trek: Start early and hike for about 6 hrs from Cuncani to Cuncani-Sicllaccasa for a total of 14.5km (9mi). Continue hiking another two or so hours before stopping for lunch in QeunaPata. After lunch continue for another 1 hrs to Kuyoc where we stay the night (4114m/13,497ft). Cuncani to Kuyoc Approximate distance: 17km/10.5mi Estimated hiking time: 9hrs Highest point: 4750m/15,583ft Day 3 of the Lares Trek: Today we hike about 5.5 hrs (10.5km/6.5mi) to Punta Carretera where we stop for lunch. Take a bus about 30 mins back to Ollantaytambo were we catch the train for a relaxing, scenic ride to Aguas Calientes. Kuyoc to Punta Carretera Approximate distance: 10.5km/6.5mi Estimated hiking time: 3.5 hrs Highest point: 4114m/13,497 ft Punta Carretera to Ollantaytambo Estimated travel time (bus): 30 mins Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes Estimated travel time (train): 2 hrs Day 4 of the Lares Trek: Rise early to catch the first bus up to Machu Picchu with your guide. Enjoy a guided visit to the ruins followed by free time to explore. When you’re ready, head back down by bus to Aguas where you’ll meet up with the rest of the group and take a train back to Cusco. Aguas Calientes to Cusco: Approximate distance: 118km/73mi Estimated travel time: 3.15 hours
Day 7 Machu Picchu/Cusco
Rise early to take advantage of viewing Machu Picchu in the early morning light, the best time to view the 'Lost City of the Incas'. Join our local guide for a detailed interpretation of the site and Inca history without the pressure of other tour groups that arrive at midday. There is free time to explore on your own after our tour, and the opportunity to climb Wayna Picchu, providing the chance to see Machu Picchu and its surroundings from a more exclusive vantage point. Machu Picchu is both the best and the least known of the Inca ruins. It is not mentioned in any of the chronicles of the Spanish conquistadors and archaeologists today can do no more than speculate on its function. The local Quechua farmers in the area knew of Machu Picchu for centuries, but it was not until an 11-year-old boy led the American historian Hiram Bingham (who was in search of Vilcabamba) to the site on July 24, 1911, that the rest of the world became aware of its existence. At that time the site was covered in thick vegetation, and Bingham and his team returned in 1912 and 1915 to clear the growth. Over the years, much work has been done on excavating and studying the site. Despite these efforts, many unanswered questions remain. In the afternoon we return by train to Ollantaytambo or Poroy and will then be transferred by van to Cusco, arriving in the evening.
Day 8 Cusco
Note: Return flight to Lima can be arranged if requested.