Arrive Lima at any time. There are no planned activities so check into our hotel and enjoy the city. Your Chief Experience Officer (CEO) will hold a general briefing in the evening, normally between 7pm and 8pm (a note will be posted in the arrival hotel with details). 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. In this trip we concentrate on the Andes region of south-central Peru 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 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.
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!
2 days of guided biking excursions through the Sacred Valley, in the Maras, Moray and Pisac areas, using Ollantaytambo as a base. In the morning of day 3 we will check our bikes and then travel by private transport to Abra de Corao, on the edge of the Sacred Valley and where we will begin the tour. From our starting point at 3700 metres above sea level, we descend on our bikes into the Sacred Valley, arriving eventually to Taray (2800 metres above sea level), enjoying magnificent views along the way. We will also pass through rural areas where we can see the traditional farming and agriculture activities. After lunch we continue by bicycle to the majestic Inca ruins of Pisaq, where we will enjoy a guided tour of the site before transferring to Ollantaytambo for the night. Throughout the bicycle excursion we will be able to rely on an expert local guide as well as a support vehicle. On day 4 we rise early to transfer 30 minutes to Chinchero by private vehicle. After the obligatory safety briefing by the local guide, we will continue our bicycle adventure. Today's journey takes us past Huaypo Lake and the picturesque town of Maras, where we will get great views of the Sacred Valley. We will visit the archaeological site of Moray and then descend to the Salt mines (Las Salineras), eventually finishing our excursion in Urubamba. We'll have lunch here before returning to Ollantaytambo for a free evening to relax the sore legs.
Enjoy a free day in Ollantaytambo for optional activities like visiting the ruins, horseback riding or relaxing before embarking on the Inca Trail. 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.
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. Explore the site with the expert local guide before returning to Cuzco by train in the evening for the night and for some well-deserved rest. 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 take an alternate route along the Urubamba River. 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 min
Today is free to relax, explore and shop in Cuzco, or discover its surroundings on any number of optional excursions. Cuzco is considered the mecca of Peru and rightly so. This beautiful colonial town offers much to the visitor with its nearby ruins, cobble-stoned streets, museums, churches and lively atmosphere. Among the more adventurous optional activities available in Cuzco are: horseback riding around archaeological sites such as Sacsayhuaman, Tambo Machay and Puca Pucara; white water rafting on the Urubamba River; and mountain biking down to the Sacred Valley, perhaps visiting an Inca ruin along the way. 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 15 (departure day). As this pack does not include extra on-trip time in Lima, it is necessary to bundle it with a pre- or post-trip stay.
Enjoy spectacular views of the countryside on this full day of travel from Cuzco to Puno, through the high Altiplano. The next morning we board our comfortable, 35 foot, fully equipped, speed boat to explore the Taquile and/or Amantaní Island. We stop at various islands to enjoy the lake's scenic splendor and to meet the friendly people of these communities. Located at 3830 m above sea level, Puno is the highest night stop on the tour. As a result the weather can be extreme with very cold nights and a strong sun during the day. Puno is also known for its wealth of traditional dances: there are up to 100 different varieties, usually performed in the street processions celebrating Catholic feast days. If you are fortunate enough to be visiting at the right time you may even catch one of these celebrations. A popular optional activity in Puno is a visit to the spectacular chullpas (funerary towers) of Sillustani, a pre-Inca archaeological site. Titicaca is also the largest lake in the world above 2000m, and the views from both Amantaní and Taquile Islands are stunning. Our first stop on Lake Titicaca is the floating islands of the Uros people. The Uros began their unusual floating existence centuries ago in an effort to isolate themselves from the Colla and Inca tribes. Sadly, the Uros language has died out, and today they speak Aymara due to intermarriage with Aymara-speakers. Today about 300 families live on the islands, however their numbers are slowly declining. The Totora reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake are used for making everything from the islands themselves to the model boats that the islanders sell. The islands are made up of layers upon layers of reeds; as the layers closest to the water start to rot, they are replaced with fresh reeds on top. The reeds are also used to build their boats, which if constructed well will last up to 6 months.
An unforgettable sea kayak adventure, paddling to Taquile & Amantani and exploring the beauty of Lake Titicaca. This trip will give you the chance to get in contact with the nature, culture & traditions of the islands from up close. The expert local guides will make you a direct participant in the local culture and not being just an observer. We will visi 3 different islands on this trip, giving you a wide perspective of life in Lake Titicaca. Day 12 - Kayak to Taquile / Amantani This unique journey Begins at 6:45 am with transfer from your hotel to the port. Then by motor boat (7:00 am we head to the base camp at the Peninsula of Capachica in a 2 1⁄2 hours trip, arrival at 09:30am. There our sea kayak guide will provide the security briefing and we get all the necessary adventure gear, then we paddle towards Taquile Island, (It takes 2 hours approximately). As we paddle an atmosphere of tranquility invades our journey and the views of the endless Lake Titicaca horizon welcome you in this part of the trip. Arrive to Taquile Island, then hike to the village and observe a traditional culture & people that had conserved authentic clothing and great textile skills. After lunch we will continue by motor boat to Amantani Island. There meet your designated host family and friendly inhabitants, by narrow path ways they will lead you to the home stay. in the afternoon have go for a cultural exploration where the locals will show you aspects of their real culture, Optional football matches with the locals or hike to the top of the island to observe the pre-Incan temple of the father earth and watch sunset over lake Titicaca. After dinner we go for a small celebration with native music and dances.Variation: In case of bad weather conditions or if the clients decide to have a shorter ride there is the option to paddle along the coasts of Taquile island on the first day, instead of paddling From Llachon to Taquile. Day 13 - Kayak to Llachon and visit the Uros islands After breakfast we say good bye to our host families and kayak onto Llachon paddling for about 2 1⁄2 hours, it is a great kayak experience with the fresh morning winds at arrival back to the base camp to enjoy a hot drink before continuing . In the afternoon stop at reed banks and visit the incredible reed floating islands inhabited by the Uros an etnic group that had made of the use of the Totora reeds and art and way of surviving. There reed boat rides can be arranged with the local fishermen, and then we continue back to Puno. Overnight in a hotel in Puno.
We make the short drive to Juliaca for our flight to Lima, the final stop on our journey. Enjoy one last night out on the town.
Depart at any time.