Day 1 Lima
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Peru.
Please ensure you arrive in time for the important welcome meeting at 2pm. Your leader will leave a note at reception telling you where this important meeting will take place. Please ask a member of reception for this information. This will be followed by an orientation walk and an optional group dinner, a great time to try the local specialties.
For those who arrive early, we recommend you talk a walk around Miraflores. Go from Central Park (Parque Kennedy) to LarcoMar via Larco Avenue. Alternatively go to Parque del Amor (Love’s Park) for a nice view of Lima’s beaches. Other things to see and do include a tour to Pachacamac (approx 30 km from downtown Lima), the Museo de la Nacion, Museum of the Inquisition, Gold Museum and Archaeological Museum.
While Peru’s capital officially began life in 1535, when Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded the city on the Day of the Three Kings, settlements had been scattered through the valley since before the Incas. The city was in fact built on top of existing palaces and temples belonging to the local chief who had little choice but to move on. Lima was in its prime during the Spanish colonial days and much of the city’s attraction now lies in its well preserved historic centre.
Flanked by streets of ornate colonial mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of Lima. Take a walk through the old streets to get a feel for colonial life. On one side of the plaza is the cathedral, which houses the remains of Lima’s founder, Francisco Pizarro. Nearby is the 16th century monastery of San Francisco which boasts a canvas of the last supper that has a distinctly Peruvian flavour: the disciples dine on guinea pig and drink from gold Incan cups. But the monastery’s catacombs are the real draw-card, and have been Lima’s underground general cemetery for hundreds of years. Another fascinating church is the Iglesia de La Merced, just two blocks from the Plaza. There are many fine museums in and around the city including the Museo del Tribunal de la Santa Inquisicion, which gives a fascinating insight into the Spanish Inquisition and the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia which offers a look at Peru’s succession of ancient cultures.
Away from the historic centre, mingle with the locals in Lima’s cosmopolitan coastal districts of Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro. Limenos (Lima’s residents) are friendly and there are plenty of great restaurants and cafes to sample ceviche, a local seafood specialty.
Located in Miraflores, our hotel is comfortable and has ensuite rooms and a restaurant and bar attached.
Day 2 Cuzco
An early morning flight takes us to Cuzco (approx. 70 minutes flight). We arrive at approximately 9am so hotel rooms may not be ready. We can store our luggage at the hotel and head out to town for breakfast.
In the afternoon we take an orientation walking tour and introduce you to some of the fascinating lesser known sights of this wonderful city. This includes a visit to a coca shop and a taste of a very special coca tea, and also the local San Pedro market.
The Cuzco region truly is the heart and soul of Peru. The city itself is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city and was the home of the Incas for two centuries before the Spanish built their first capital here. Today, Cuzco is a fascinating combination of both cultures. Inca-built walls line the central streets and many of the elegant colonial buildings are built on or around Incan foundations. This is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend and is a perfect base for outdoor activities and optional explorations into the Incan world.
Take the time to acclimatise to the city’s 3,400m (11,150ft) and explore the many baroque churches and ancient temples that dot the city. The cathedral, built on top of an Inca palace, dominates the Plaza de Armas, Cuzco’s picturesque heart. The cathedral is one of the city’s greatest repositories of art and houses an elegantly carved choir stall and a gold-covered Renaissance altar. Also worth visiting are the churches of La Compania, La Merced and San Blas.
There are several impressive Inca ruins within the city, the most easily accessed being Coricancha, once the Inca Empire’s richest temple. Once plated in thick gold, the Spaniards built a Dominican Church atop its sturdy walls. The stone fortress of Sacsayhuaman is also worth a visit. Looking over the city from its hilltop position, the fortress is built out of massive stone blocks and is the ultimate example of the Inca’s military strength.
We stay in a hotel in the heart of Cuzco, only a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas and other major attractions, with comfortable ensuite rooms.
Day 3 Sacred Valley/Ollantaytambo
Travel by private transport through the Sacred Valley (approx 2 hours total drive today), on the outskirts of Cuzco. Known as Wilcamayo to the Incas, the lush, fertile valley has long been the main source of food for the high Andes. Maize crops can be seen surrounding the river and covering the terraces carved high into the valley walls.
We will head to a community in the Valley to learn about local lifestyle and activities and if our visit coincides with market day we can spend time browsing the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm ponchos and maybe practising some of the local language, Quechua.
After the visit to the community we drive to Ollantaytambo, the biggest town in the Valley, situated at 2,792m above sea level. Depending on arrival time, you may be able to visit the local Inca terraces and fortress (optional).
We spend the night in Ollantaytambo at the far end of the valley. This geometrically perfect town is a magnificent example of Incan urban planning. It is especially admired for the huge terraces that guard the great temple-fortress that clings to cliffs. This is one of the few places the Incas defeated the Spanish.
Days 4-7 Inca Trail/Machu Picchu/Cuzco
The four day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a demanding but incredibly rewarding trek. We catch a bus (approx 1.5 hours) to the 82km marker and are joined by a crew of local porters, cook and guide. Take advantage during the 4 days of the trek to get to know your porters. You will realize they work the hardest on the team and are gentle people willing to share with you their culture, language and trek experiences.
Accommodation on the trek is camping (3 nights). Double tents (twin share) and foam camping mats will be provided. Tents are set up by the porters. Meals are prepared by the trek cook.
The trail is part of a series of Inca highways that linked the empire all the way from Quito in Ecuador, to Santiago in Chile. As we hike from high plateau to dense forest, you will see the ruins of ancient villages, temples and inns, the first of which is Llactapata, burnt to the ground by the last Inca Emperor to discourage Spanish pursuit down the trail.
The starting point of the trek is located at 2,850m. Our first day includes some uphill trekking to the campsite – over 3,000m.
The second day is the most challenging of the trek as we ascend a long steep path (approx 4 hours) to reach the highest point of our trek, Warmiwanusca, or Dead Woman’s Pass, at a height of 4,200m (13,779ft), before descending to the Pacaymayo Valley at 3650m.
Next is a climb up to the second pass known as Runkuracay at 3,980m – an approximately 90 minutes uphill from the Pacaymayo Valley. From here we can enjoy views of the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending to the arqueological of Sayacmarca (2-3 hours). Lastly for today, there is short walk to the Chaquicocha campsite at 3,620m.
On our third day we continue over the third pass and soon reach the beautiful ruins of Phuyupatamarca, the ‘Town above the Clouds’ at 3,850m (90 minutes walk approximately). From here we start our descend along Inca steps (2 hours) to reach our final night’s camp by the Winay Wayna, or ‘Forever Young’ archaeological site at 2,750m. Grab a beer and enjoy the panoramic views of the valley below.
On our fourth day we take a short final hike (approximately 2 hours) to the Sun Gate where we can watch the ruins emerge from the mist below. The feeling you get as you see the ruins for the first time is indescribable.
While it is thought Machu Picchu was built around 1440 AD as a country retreat for Incan nobility, there is evidence this had been a sacred Incan site for much longer. Another school of thought is that this was an astronomical observatory. There is plenty of time for you to decide for yourself as you wander around the many temples, palaces and living quarters. You will have a guided visit (1.5-2 hours) with plenty of free time afterwards. After taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, it is time to return to Cuzco for a well deserved shower and glass of Pisco Sour.
The trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people, but do come prepared: the trail is 45km (28 miles) long and often steep. Generally the journeys consist of 7 hours walking on average (both uphill and downhill), plus stops for snacks and lunch. Normally trekking starts at 7am (except for the fourth morning) and you reach the campsite around 4-5pm. There is always the possibility of rain, even in the dry season and temperatures may fall below freezing at night. The trail traverses three passes, the highest being 4,200m (13,779ft).
The trail is within the abilities of most reasonably fit people. It is 31km long in total (19 miles). It takes an average of 13 hours trekking to complete, with day two being the longest trekking day (7 hours). The trail’s highest pass is at almost 4,400 m (14435 ft) which is higher than the Inca Trail’s highest pass.
The first two nights of the trek are spent camping and the third one at a simple hotel.
Day 1: Start early in the morning and travel by bus for 1.5 hours to the starting point of the hike, the village of Lares. Today’s trek to our destination for the evening, Huacawasi, takes 2.5 hours approximately. As we walk past Andean villages, keep an eye out for local weavers working their colourful threads on hand looms.
Day 2: After breakfast our local guide will introduce us to the Huacawasi villagers. Afterwards we set off on the most challenging trekking day of the hike. The first section is an ascent up to the Huahuaqasa Pass. This section takes approximately 4 hours and at the top we’ll be standing at 4,398 metres above sea level (14, 434 ft). On a clear day we’ll enjoy views over the Vilcanota mountain range. The next section is downhill to the Aruraycocha and Millpo lakes where we stop for lunch. This afternoon’s trek takes approximately three hours.
Day 3: Enjoy breakfast in the crisp mountain air of the Andes before setting off trekking once again. We descend for approximately 3 hours to reach the end of our trek at Yanahuara. We’ll say farewell to the porters and cook as they return to their hometowns. A short bus ride takes us to Ollantaytambo from where we take a train to Aguas Calientes (1.5 hours approximately).
Day 4: After an early breakfast, we travel by bus (30 minutes) to Machu Picchu, for a 2 hour guided walk around this mystic city. Afterwards enjoy free time to continue exploring this impressive archaeological site. If you still have energy, you can also climb to Wayna Picchu (temple of the moon) or hike to the Intipunku (Sungate). We will meet back in Aguas Calientes town and return by train to Ollantaytambo and then by bus to Cuzco.
For those travellers not interested or unable to hike the trail it is possible to spend an extra 2 extra days in Cuzco then travel by train to Aguas Calientes. The following morning there will be a bus to Machu Picchu where you join the rest of the group for a guided tour. This option must be arranged at the time of booking or local fees will apply. Although you will not bee accompanied by a leader, Intrepid has an office in Cuzco, so if you need any help please feel free to drop in and ask for assistance.
We return to our hotel in Cuzco for the evening.
Day 8 Cuzco
Day 8 is departure day. There are no activities planned for today and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is 10:00am. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel reception. There may be a small service fee.
If you are spending extra time in Cuzco on your own, we recommend you to rest weary legs at a cafe on Plaza de Armas or head out to see more fascinating ruins at Tambomachay and Puca Pucara. For those who can’t get enough active adventure there are plenty of opportunities to go mountain biking, horse riding or white water rafting on the Urubamba River.
For lunch or mid-morning coffee and cake head to Yanapay restaurant on 415 Ruinas St. This restaurant uses all its profits to support children in Cuzco through Aldea Yanapay and its social projects.