This is a trip designed to acclimatize you to high altitudes very gently so that you may enjoy every moment of your adventurous trip. We begin at 9,500 ft. in the Sacred Valley. You will explore the archeological sites with walking tours and from there you will go down to 8,000 ft. Then it's onto Machu Picchu and Cusco's highlights, at which you will be at a higher altitude.
You will be met by our local guide at the Cusco airport to be transferred to a lower altitude in the Sacred Valley by private coach. On the route to the hotel you will visit classic Inca ruins perched on a hill top in Pisac, where the western side is a gorge with vertical walls that house Incan burial sites on its sheer face, and on its eastern side lays a very fertile valley, along with well-preserved Incan farming terraces. Way up on the crest of the mountain there are hanging stairs and Incan "condos", surrounded by awesome views. Following our visit to the archeological site in Pisac we will drive down to Urubamba.Lunch included.
On this day we will drive up to Chinchero, known as the the land of the rainbow as it sits 12,000 ft. above sea level. Here we'll interact with the weavers, explore the colorful and striking aspects of weaving in Chinchero and learn about textiles in the Andes. Here you'll get to be hands on with any stage in the weaving process, including the back strap loom. Next, on to Moray, which is one of the best examples (along with Machu Picchu) of what might be called extreme Inca landscaping. Three enormous pits, each with beautifully curved sides that staircase down like the interiors of titanic flowerpots, have been carved out of the earth to depths of up to 100 feet and more. Air temperatures between the top and bottom layers can differ by more than 20 degrees. Next we venture to Ollantaytambo in Urubamba to witness an exquisite example of Incan stonework: the unique Sun Temple made out of pink granite boulders each weighing 50 tons. We will walk through the marvels of a superbly preserved Incan town named in honor of an Incan warrior called Ollantay, who was deeply in love with Kusi Qoyllur, the forbidden and "high maintenance" daughter of King Inka Pachacutec.Lunch included.
This day we'll take it easy on a train that follows the dramatic Urubamba River with its striking scenery of white granite cliffs cloaked by the cloud forest full of thousands of orchids, ferns and bromeliads. Machu Picchu is the only major Incan site to escape 400 years of looting and destruction by the Spanish conquistadors. To be sure, it is not an ordinary Incan settlement; it sits on a nearly inaccessible location high above the Urubamba gorge and contains exquisite engineering and architecture. Was it a spiritual destination and pilgrimage center located within a sacred geography? Or perhaps a royal retreat for the king, Inka Pachacutec? Or maybe the biggest or the first agricultural research center built by the Incans? Whatever its purpose may have been, you will have a chance to explore every corner of the majestic Machu Picchu.Lunch included.
In the morning you will return to one of the most amazing sites on the world, but this time to explore the surrounding areas like the Sun Gate, the Inca bridge (a very easy walk), or you may prefer to be a bit more challenged and climb Waynapicchu, a most iconic mountain. This is based on the number available of permits, and the climb will be around 1,000 ft. Here you'll see hanging terraces that were once suspended gardens full of orchids dedicated to the one of the most import deities, the sun. Or you can choose to soak up the sun once again at Machu Picchu. In the afternoon we return to Cusco.Lunch included.
The city of Cusco, known as the home and residence of gods and the spiritual and political capital of the Incan Empire is a city built in the shape of a puma that can only be seen from the air. You will walk through Incan streets that are illuminated by the sun every winter solstice, and experience some of the most important Incan and Spanish religious sites, such as Qorikancha, also known as the Golden Enclosure, which displays a sophisticated stone construction technology, and Cusco Cathedral, which is still in use today and contains an art gallery consisting of 17th-century canvasses in the Cusco School of painting, with a special highlight consisting of 'The Last Supper' featuring a guinea pig. You will have the rest of the day to support the local economy at the unique galleries or at the handicraft markets.Lunch included.
We start our day by going up to Tipon, a masterpiece of water management and a ceremonial place dedicated to the womb of mother earth. Because the waterworks were constructed as part of a country estate for Incan nobility, Tipon has beautiful stone structures built in the imperial Incan style of finely cut stone fountains and is akin to those at Machu Picchu. The intricate baths and irrigation channels still function five centuries after the Spanish conquest, which provides Tipon with an endless, soothing soundtrack of running water. After lunch we will explore Sacsayhuaman by foot, an Incan fortress 400 ft./120m above the city of Cusco. The site was built with massive boulders, some of which weigh more than 100 tons. Interestingly, the Spaniards did not believe that such monolithic stones could be moved by human beings and they attributed Sacsayhuaman's construction to the mythical Cyclops. Thus, this type of architecture is known as the "Cyclopean Inca style". We will also visit Quencco, a temple dedicated to the womb of mother earth and to medicine.Lunch included.
Depending on the time of your international flight departure, there will be a chance in the morning for shopping, or you'll take an afternoon flight to Lima for your international connection. You may also take advantage of one of our optional post-trip extensions at this point.
Hotels are in unique locations suited to exploring even more of the Sacred Valley and in Cusco you are located close to various restaurants, museums, shopping places and bars. They are not luxury, but they are not basic either. They have all the amenities that an adventure traveler like you might need, and they are charming.