From the mysterious desert and high dunes of Peru to the rugged Andes and cloud forest, you'll find yourself fascinated and a little mystified by this country. We'll explore Cusco and Lima with walking tours and take on the diverse landscape. This trip covers the important and outstanding museums as well as uneven surface terrain during walking tours at the archeological sites. When eating meals on your own you will have a great selection of extraordinary restaurants. You'll have two days to spend in Machu Picchu with the first day spent on a guided tour under the sunset and the next day taking advantage of the optional hikes to the Sun Gate or Inca Bridge. You will have two full days in Cusco to explore the archeological capital of South America with its exquisite stone work and streets lit up by the sun every winter solstice.
Upon your arrival to the Lima airport you will be met by our representative to be transferred to your hotel.Lunch and dinner at your expense.
A guided tour of the Larco Herrera Museum is a great introduction to Peru before the Incas' landscape. Here you'll see an exquisite collection of portrait pottery, an outstanding display of the richness of gold, silver and precious stones of the Andean world, and the beauty and durability of metals that gave adornments and artifacts an almost divine value. After a great learning experience, we will drive to downtown Lima to explore by foot a city that is a UNESCO site. We'll see the beautiful San Francis of Assisi Convent, with unique catacombs, and afterwards we'll explore the colonial main square were our government palace is located. Here sit the most important buildings. Unique balconies are part of the charm of downtown.Lunch and dinner at your expense.
After your transfer to the bus terminal you'll be embarking on a shuttle bus for a journey of around 4 hours heading south of Lima along the Pan-American highway, towards one of the driest regions of the country. After a well-earned rest and light lunch in the afternoon you will be transferred to the airport in Pisco for your flight over the Nazca lines. In the afternoon, we will explore the mysterious geoglyphs of Nazca: drawings on the ground made by removing rocks and earth to create a negative image.
The rocks which cover the desert have oxidized and weathered to a deep rust color, and when the top 12-15 inches of rock is removed, a light-colored, high contrasting sand is exposed. Due to little rain or erosion, the exposed designs have stayed largely intact for the last 2,000 years. In total, there are over 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures, and 70 animal and plant designs, called biomorphs. Some of the straight lines run up to 30 miles, while the biomorphs range from 50 to 1,200 feet in length, some as large as the Empire State Building. All of these drawings can only be fully appreciated from the window of a small plane.
The trip to see the mysterious and prehistoric geoglyphs of the Paracas Candelabra includes a round trip of two hours on a boat. Paracas Candelabra is estimated to be approximately 595-800 feet tall and can be seen from as far out as 12 miles at sea. The geoglyph was created by cutting two feet deep into the hardened soil. With rocks placed around the figure, the shape of the geoglyph is mysterious and somewhat difficult to describe. At the Ballestas Islands you'll see large families of sea lions sleeping on the shores, basking in the sun on the rocks, or barking loudly in efforts to protect their territory. Here you'll also witness the Peruvian sea duck known as the Guanay cormorant, impressive varieties of sea bird species including Peruvian pelicans, as well as Humboldt penguins nesting together in small groups, and sometimes even dolphins. Apart from the abundant marine and bird life found here, the Ballestas Islands are also very well known for the guano (seabird droppings) deposited on the island over thousands of years. After lunch we will drive back to Lima.Lunch and dinner at your expense.
Upon your arrival to Cusco you will be met by our local guide at the Cusco airport to be transferred to a lower altitude in the Sacred Valley. You'll 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.
This day we will spend with native Quechuas who own alpaca and llama farms and who turn their fleece into artful pieces of textiles. We will drive along the Sacred Valley until we get to Calca. Once there we are going to climb up to the Accha Alta community at 12,930 ft./3,942 m. Nestled on a steep mountain slope close to the ruins of Ancasmarca, an ancient Incan citadel, this is the highest community that we will visit. The weavers have an extraordinary view from their condominiums and ceremonial places, and they look out over a stunning vista of the valley below from their weaving center. Here an expert weaver will introduce to us the villagers that knit and weave in natural alpaca wool. Accha Alta textiles are characterized by thin sections of plain weave and wide ley (supplementary warp technique) designs.
One of the most popular ley designs is wasqa qocha, or long lakes. Knitters in Accha Alta use a unique technique called bolitas to create diamond patterns in small bobbles. Before starting their chullo, a knitter ties thousands of small knots into their yarn, which as they knit turn into the decorative bobbles on the outside of the chullo. After a close-up visit with the alpacas and llamas we will return to the Sacred Valley for lunch; afterwards we will walk through the marvels of the superbly preserved Inca town of Ollantaytambo named in honor of an Inca warrior called Ollantay. Here we'll witness an exquisite example of Incan stonework: the unique Sun Temple made out of pink granite boulders each weighing 50 tons.
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.
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.