Machu Picchu Explorer
Day 1 Lima
Arrive in Lima at any time. As your fellow travellers are arriving at various times throughout the day, there are no planned activities other than a group dinner and info session. Check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Look in the hotel lobby for notices on when and where the group meeting will occur. Please note that if you booked the Culinary Theme Pack it does not include extra time in Lima and we highly recommend booking pre-trip accommodation. You will be picked up from your hotel at approx 10:00am and taken to a local market and restaurant to prepare and enjoy a traditional Peruvian meal. You will return back to your hotel around 13:00. 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. Peru is frequently referred to as the 'Land of the Incas'. It is true that the Incas formed the greatest empire on the continent and left mysterious cities such as Machu Picchu. However, it is important to remember that the Incas were the only the last in a long series of Peruvian civilizations spanning several thousand years and the ruins of many of these earlier civilizations can also be visited. Peru is made up of three main geographical areas: the Andes, the Amazon and the desert coastal area. On this trip we concentrate on the Andes region of south-central Peru, and the ancient Inca capital of Cusco. 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 districts of Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro, which are on the coast, 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 2-3 Sacred Valley (2B,2L)
Early flight to Cusco then onto the Sacred Valley where we spend 2 days exploring with a local guide. We visit the Ccaccaccollo community and the Planeterra sponsored Women's Weaving Co-op. Explore the Pisac and Moray ruins and visit the local handicraft market. Also visit the pre-Incan salt pans of Las Salineras and enjoy a traditional Pachamanca-style lunch of local specialities. 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. Planeterra has been working with the Ccaccaccollo community since 2005 to develop a viable economic alternative for women by creating a weaving cooperative to sell traditional textiles to travellers. Donations by travelers have helped build a community centre supplied with looms and sewing machines for the women to use to expand their production. This project allows the women of the Ccaccaccollo community to maintain their cultural heritage and benefit from the tourism industry. Starting in 2014 travellers will also have the chance to visit Huchuy Qosco, an indigenous village previously bypassed by the tourism industry, now running a community restaurant and tour in their own village. Visit the site of Moray, which many archeologists believe was an agricultural experiment, started prior to the Incas arrival. We then continue to the pre-Incan salt pans of Las Salineras, which are still used today. A small natural hot spring fills up shallow pools dug into the hillside, which in the dry season, leave a thick layer of salt. 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. A thousand year-old tradition: a Pachamanca, is an ancient ceremony akin to the Polynesian meal of burying a variety of delicious treats wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooking them with pre-heated rocks buried in the ground. Our meal is prepared in a charming local restaurant by an experienced chief. Items include chicken, lamb, a variety of local potatoes and vegetables and plantain.
Day 4 Aguas Calientes (1B)
Early transfer to Ollantaytambo where we explore the ruins before catching the scenic train journey to Aguas Calientes with option to visit the market. This is the closest town to Machu Picchu, making Aguas Calientes an ideal night stop logistically. Please bear in mind that the town has several amenities, but is also geographically remote meaning services are sometimes more basic than one would assume. As the only option for travellers visiting Machu Picchu, the development of infrastructure has happened quite quickly, much without proper planning, and the focus on providing quality service may not be up to the standards experienced in other parts of the country. To best enjoy this area, we recommend you take advantage of the opportunity to visit the butterfly house, botanical gardens or hot springs. Opt for a day hike to Mandor Gardens to see orchids and a waterfall, enjoying the lush, green scenery en route. For serious archaeology buffs, there is time for an optional independent visit to Machu Picchu before the guided tour the following morning. Those who have chosen the option in advance to hike the "1-day Inca Trail" will disembark the train at km 104 to begin the trek. The trail rises steeply up into the mountains and will take hikers past the archaeological sites of Wiñay Wayna and Inti Pata, where the local guide will provide insights into the fascinating culture of the Incas en route to the trek's culmination at the Sun Gate. Enjoy a packed lunch along the way and reach the Sun Gate in the late afternoon with a chance for a preliminary exploration of Machu Picchu before the guided tour on Day 5. Transfer by bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes to rejoin the group and spend the night in a hotel. If time permits, take an optional visit to the nearby hot springs to soak the sore muscles. Approximate Distance: 43km Estimated Travel Time: 1.45 hours Those taking the 1-day Inca Trail option: Approximate Distance: 7km Estimated hiking Time: 5-6 hours
Day 5 Machu Picchu/Cusco (1B)
Early wake-up to take the first bus up to the historic spiritual centre of the Incas, the "Lost City" of Machu Picchu. Tour the ruins with our expert guide for about 2 hrs and then explore on your own. In the evening return by train to Ollantaytambo or Poroy and will then be transferred by van to Cusco. 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. We return to Cusco for the final night. Approximate Distance: 118km Estimated Travel Time: 3.15 hours
Days 6 Cusco (1B)
Today is free to walk around the Plaza de Armas (main square) and explore this city steeped in one of the world's most alluring and ancient cultures. Today allows you to pick optional activities according to your interest. They include horseback riding, mountain or motor biking, hiking or visits to Incan ruins around town. Please note that if you booked the Culinary Theme Pack, on day 6 you will be picked up from your hotel at approx 12:30 and taken to a local market and restaurant to prepare and enjoy a traditional Peruvian meal. You will return back to your hotel around 16:00. 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. The city itself offers many museums, shops, churches, cathedrals and so much more to pass the day away. An evening of rustic restaurants, local cuisine, fine dining or anywhere in between are available here as well. Eat, drink and enjoy as little or as much as you like on this last night in Cusco. 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 7 Lima (1B)
The last full day of this memorable visit to Peru is spent back in the bustling capital. We transfer to the Cusco airport and board our plane for the short flight to Lima. Your G Adventures Tour Leader will gladly help you set up a requested activity. Approximate Distance: 572km Estimated Travel Time: 2.20 hours
Day 8 Lima (1B)
You are free to depart Lima at any time.