Arrive Lima at any time. There are no planned activities so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. 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 tour we concentrate on the Andean region of south-central Peru, the Cloud Forest of the Manu Biosphere Reserve and the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco 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.
Transfer early this morning to the airport for the flight to Cuzco; the flight usually departs early – we may leave the hotel as early as 4:30 am. Spend the afternoon relaxing and exploring this fascinating city, and take time to acclimatize to the high altitude. Cuzco 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 Cuzco 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. Cuzco’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 Cuzco, 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 Cuzco is to wear a comfortable pair of shoes, arm yourself with a city map and set off to explore! Approximate Distance: 572km Estimated Travel Time: 2.30 hours
Raft through the Apurimac canyon, reputedly one of the best rafting spots in the world. Spend 2 challenging days on this turbulent river, descending class III, IV and V rapids. Camp along the shores of the river for 2 nights, returning to Cuzco on Day 5. High in the Andes of southern Peru, the Apurímac River flows north for 428 miles before uniting with the Urubamba River to form the Ucayali River. One of the sources of the powerful Amazon River, the Apurímac canyon is one of the deepest depressions on the continent. With such a rapid change of altitude there are a variety of climates in this rugged area, ranging from warm and humid tropical weather on the jungle floor, to the cool, temperate weather of the high Andean plateau. We drive about 4 hours outside of Cuzco to our drop-in point, the Huallpachaca Bridge (2000m). Here we have a training session on the river before descending class II and III rapids to our campsite. The second day will be a full day on the river, battling through mostly class III and IV rapids. We will again sleep on the sandy shores of the river for one last night on the Apurimac. Our last day we face a couple of class V rapids, with names like “Tooth Ache,” and “Last Laugh.” Anyone not wishing to do these rapids can easily pass on them, as there are support rafts and trails to detour around the biggest ones. After three to four hours on the river, we return to Cuzco in the evening.
Travel through the stunning 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 Cuzco with much of its produce. Optional visits include the impressive Pisac ruins and the colourful artisan market (market days only) and the large ruin site of Ollantaytambo that lies adjacent to the town of the same name where we catch our breath and prepare for the hike ahead. Ollantaytambo is your first taste of what lies ahead on the Inca Trail. 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. Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours
The 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is physically challenging but worthwhile, and the excursion is within the ability of most reasonably fit. It is a 44-km (27 mile) hike, with 3 high passes to be crossed, one of which reaches an elevation of 4200m (13776 ft). The trail is often steep, and it may rain even during the dry season. The temperatures at night may fall below zero, so it is important to come prepared. Depart Ollantaytambo for km 82 where we begin our walk in the footsteps of the Incas. Our local crew of porters, cook and guide look after us well for the duration of the hike. Porters carry the majority of the gear for the hike, so those passengers doing the hike only carry a small daypack with water, rain gear, snacks, a camera, etc. As you walk the trail that linked this ancient empire, admire breathtaking views at every step as we move from high plateau areas to dense cloud forest. Depending on the season, you may see a great variety of flora, including miniature and large orchids, and fiery rhododendron bushes. You pass several smaller ruin sites, the first of which is Llactapata. The second day climb the long steep path to Warmiwañusca, or Dead Woman’s Pass. At 4198 m (13769 ft) above sea level, this pass is the highest point of the trek. The second pass of the hike is at 3998 m (13113 ft) where on clear days, we enjoy superb views of the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba. The trail goes through some beautiful cloud forest on the gentle climb to the third pass, where you will walk through a causeway and a tunnel, both original Inca constructions. The highest point of the third pass is at 3700m (12136 ft). On clear days you are rewarded for all this work with beautiful views of the Urubamba Valley below. Soon you reach the serene ruins of Phuyupatamarca, or the 'Town above the Clouds', at about 3650 m (11972 ft) above sea level. We will camp either here or an hour and a half further along close to Wiñay Wayna (Forever Young) ruins, a grandiose terraced hillside site, with panoramic views of the valley below and just a short hike from Machu Picchu. On the final day of the hike we climb the steps to the Sun Gate overlooking the peaks that surround Machu Picchu. When the morning is clear, there is no way to describe the feeling of the first views of Machu Picchu, as the mist rises off the mountains early in the morning and the famous site appears in front of you. Following the visit to Machu Picchu, time allowing, travellers can opt to visit the Inca Bridge (15 min walk away) for no additional charge. 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. NOTE: Those passengers not able or interested in the hike spend 2 days in Cuzco, then travel by train to Aguas Calientes, where they overnight. Next morning they take the bus to the Machu Picchu entrance and rendezvous with the hikers at the ruins. If you decide not to do the hike we need to know prior to your departure in order to obtain train tickets. There is an additional fee for any changes made once Inca Trail permits are confirmed. This fee may vary depending on the changes that are made to your itinerary. Please advise your agent or G Adventures. Also note that portions of the Inca Trail will be closed for general maintenance during the month of February each year. Also, closures may occur at various times throughout the year due to inclement weather or other conditions beyond our control. During these periods, any tour affected will hike the Lares Trek. Cuzco to Ollanta Approximate Distance: 75km Estimated Travel Time: 1.30 hours Ollantayambo to Inca Trail Start Approximate Distance: 20km Estimated Travel Time: 40 minutes Distances of the Inca trail: Day 1 Km 82 to Wayllambama Approximate distance: 11 km Estimated hiking time: 5-6 hrs Day 2 Wayllabamba to Paqaymayo Approximate distance: 12 km Estimated hiking time: 6-7 hrs Day 3 Paqaymayo to Wiñaywayna Approximate distance: 16 km Estimated hiking time: 8 hrs Day 4 Wiñaywayna to Intipunku (Sun Gate) Approximate distance: 4 km Estimated hiking time: 1.5 hrs Intipunku to Machu Picchu Approximate distance: 1.5 km Estimated hiking time: 45 mins
One more free day to take advantage of all that is Cuzco, the navel of the Inca Empire. Visit the museums, check out the many churches and the Cathedral, or simply relax and get ready for the biking trip to the jungle! Note: If you have pre-booked the Peru Culinary Theme Pack, your Cuzco cooking class will be today and the Lima cooking class will be on Day 16 (departure day). As this pack does not include extra on-trip time in Lima, it is necessary to bundle it with a post-trip stay.
The Manu area includes habitats ranging from the Andean highlands around the rivers' headwaters through some of the last remaining intact cloud forests, to the lowland rainforests of the Amazon basin. Over 1,300 bird species (including 32 parrot species - 10% of the world’s total), 200 mammal species, 90 frog species, 1,200 butterfly species and 10,000 species of higher plants are protected within this reserve. On Day 12, we leave early from our hotel and head towards the village of Pisaq, home to both ruins and a small market. Now we will unload the bikes for our ride (approximately 50km, mostly downhill), to our lodge in San Pedro. During the ride photo opportunities will abound as the vegetation becomes greener and more lush every time and the opportunities to spot wildlife increase. The afternoon will be used to explore the San Pedro area where your guide will show you some of the characters of this unique cloud forest. After breakfast on Day 13, an early morning visit to the Cock of the Rock Lek (a mating ground for the bird) is possible. Located within walking distance from our lodge where we are likely to have the chance to see these birds in their natural habitat and demonstrating their typical behavior. The rest of the day is free to enjoy the beauty of your cloud forest surroundings. On Day 14, we will drive up the road to Ajanacu Pass where we will commence our descent by bike as far as Paucartambo, where we will stop for lunch. After a smooth descent by bike into the Sacred Valley of the Incas, we will meet our bus for the drive back to Cuzco arriving late afternoon. Approximate Distance: 118km Estimated Travel Time: 3.15 hours
Take advantage of a final morning in Cuzco, before returning to Lima around midday for a final night in the capital. Approximate Distance: 572km Estimated Travel Time: 2.20 hours