On arrival in Lima transfer to your hotel. The day is free to spend at your leisure. Note: If you have pre-booked the Peru Culinary Theme Pack, your Lima cooking class will be today and the Cuzco cooking class will be on Day 5. 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. 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.
Fly this morning from Lima to Puerto Maldonado, deep in the lowlands of the Amazon jungle. Travel by motorized canoe and start exploring during our hour-long walk to our lodge in the Tambopata Rainforest Area, which holds the world record for the most bird sightings in one area. Explore the jungle with local guides who take you on a variety of nature walks. About half of Peru is located within the Amazon Basin, however, due to its isolation, not a lot of it is available to the casual traveller. Puerto Maldonado is the region’s principal city and is serviced by air from the capital and from Cuzco. The town is situated at the confluence of the Madre de Dios and Tambopata Rivers, and is a bustling, booming tropical frontier town. Its principal activities are gold mining, Brazil nut collecting, timber extraction, agriculture and ecotourism. After a brief stop in the town we depart on an afternoon boat trip by motorized canoe to our jungle lodge. Depending on flight arrival times we have either a boxed lunch aboard the boat or lunch upon arrival at the lodge. During our voyage you will have the chance to see bird species typical of the river or forest edge such as Black Skimmers, Pied Lapwings, Capped Herons, Roadside Hawks and several species of kingfishers, swallows, and flycatchers. The Tambopata 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. The area is renowned for its diverse plant and animal populations and include over 1,300 bird species (including 32 parrot species - 10% of the world’s total), 200 mammal species including 4 species of primates, 90 frog species, 1,200 butterfly species and 10,000 species of higher plants—all protected within the reserve. Some of the more famous residents are the Harpy Eagle, the prehistoric looking Hoatzin, tapir, peccary, jaguar, ocelot and playful river otters who live in the area’s oxbow lakes. Our journey to the lodge is by motorized canoe followed by a scenic hour-long walk through the rainforest to the lake and a short canoe ride to the other side. (Your luggage will be transported for you during the walk.) The lodge itself combines native architectural style and materials with low-impact eco-friendly technology. Rooms are simple but comfortable, with mosquito netting for individual beds, flush toilets, showers (no hot water), and kerosene lamps for lighting (no electricity). Local community members make up the majority the lodge staff, including multilingual Naturalist Guides. Here you have the opportunity to learn from them not only about the area’s rich flora and fauna, but also about their extensive practical uses for medicinal plants and other forest plant resources, through traditional techniques for building, fishing, and hunting.
A morning flight takes us high into the Andes and the heart of Inca territory to Cuzco. Spend the afternoon acclimatizing and getting to know the city. The next day we have a half-day guided tour of Cuzco to learn the city’s fascinating past and present. Later there is free time to shop for souvenirs and experience the sights and sounds of Cuzco. 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. Relax and explore this fascinating city, and take time to acclimatize to the high altitude. 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 Inca 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!
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 Cuzco with much of its produce. Visit 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. 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 towards Machu Picchu the next morning.
A morning train, on Day 8, takes us through the spectacular Urubamba Valley to the village of Aguas Calientes where we spend the night. In the afternoon, spend time touring the town, or relax in the natural mountain hot baths that gave the town its name. From here, on Day 9, we continue to the historic spiritual centre of the Incas, the "Lost City" of Machu Picchu. We tour the ruins and have the opportunity to soak in the nearby thermal baths. 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.
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: Return flight to Lima can be arranged if requested at time of booking.