This is a trip designed to acclimatize you to high altitude very gently so that you may enjoy every moment of your adventure. The trip begins at 9,500 ft. in the Sacred Valley, where you will explore the archeological sites with walking tours, and from there you will take a day trip from the Sacred Valley and go down to 8,000 ft. to Machu Picchu. Once you are fully acclimatized you will have the chance to discover the wonders of Cusco's highlights.
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.
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 evening we will return to the Sacred Valley.
This day 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. Afterwards, we will drive 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. Finally, we will reach 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. You'll get to be hands on with any stage in the weaving process, including the back strap loom. In the afternoon we will drive down to Cusco.
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. In the afternoon 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". After this visit you will have the rest of the day to support the local economy at the unique galleries or at the handicraft markets.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 the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu as a day trip without being in a rush. 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.