Day 1 - Lima
Arrive in Lima from your home city. We'll welcome you at the Jorge Chávez Airport airport and take you to your hotel for check in.
Day 2: Lima, City tour, Museums
The capital of Peru, Lima, overlooks the Pacific Ocean and ranges to over 5,000 ft. A beautiful city, Lima has a wonderful mixture of Colonial and elegant modern architecture with numerous flower gardens, fabulous museums, elegant homes, delicious cuisine, fine hotels and restaurants, and an active nightlife. We will take you on a guided city tour to show you the highlights of this beautiful city.
After breakfast at the hotel, we'll visit the National Museum of Archaeology Anthropology and History which has the largest collections of Pre-Hispanic art and relics plus well preserved mummies and a superb collection of archaeological and historical artifacts from the Moche "Lord of Sipán" site in northern Peru and a scale model of the Machu Picchu complex. Then we'll view the exceptional collection of Pre-Columbian ceramics, Andean gold and silver, erotic pottery and Paracas textiles at the Larco Herrera Museum. The museum, located in an 18th Century building, was built over a 7th-Century pyramid so even the site holds historic mystery. Following a late lunch, we'll visit the Barranco district, a bohemian center of the arts where many contemporary Peruvian artists live and work. This is a great area to explore and perhaps cross the Bridge of Sighs. We'll convene for dinner at the local restaurant.
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Day 3: Pachacamac, Paracas National Reserve
We leave Lima and head south on the Pan-American Highway. We visit Pachacamac, an important pre-Inca and Incan religious complex dedicated to worship of the Sun God. After lunch and check-in at our hotel, we spend the afternoon in the Paracas National Reserve. This large reserve is home to a large variety of marine birds and other wildlife. We will explore the beaches and desert landscapes in search of flamingos and other migratory and resident bird species. We'll visit the Visitor's Center to see replicas of the wildlife protected within the reserve: Humboldt penguin, cormorants, terns, turtles, dolphins and flamingos. Dinner will be at the hotel tonight.
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Day 4: Nazca Lines, Las Dunas, Ica, Wineries
Weather permitting, we have an early flight over the intriguing Nazca Lines. We'll learn the many theories of their origins and purpose. Back in Ica we lunch at Las Dunas, and then visit the regional museum to view artifacts from Paracas, Nazca and Ica cultures. We also learn about modern Peru's pecan, date and olive production, then move on to solve the Nazca Lines mystery at a local winery, where we discover the potent ingredient of pisco sours.
Day 5: Paracas Bay, Islas Ballestas, Pisco Tasting, Lima
We explore the Bay of Paracas and the coastal islands of Islas Ballestas by boat. We'll see large colonies of sea lions and seabirds, including boobies, pelicans, terns and penguins. Penguins!
We return to Lima with a stop at El Sarcay, one of the finest Pisco wineries in Peru. We will be treated to a tour, pisco tasting and lunch. Dinner is on your own, for you to choose from the many excellent restaurants in Lima.
Day 6: Lima-Cusco/Cusco City Tour
We will leave early for a one-hour flight to Cusco, the center of the Inca Empire and a "World Heritage City." Ancient Cuzco was known to the Incas as "the belly button of the world," the source of life. Our trip to Cusco begins the heart and soul of the trip.
Your guide will meet you at the Cusco airport and take you to your hotel. You will have time to rest to acclimatize to the altitude. Cusco is over 11,000 ft
A trip briefing will be given followed by a tour of the astonishing cobbled-stoned, red-roofed city rich in Incan and colonial history. We'll visit the Coricancha, the partially restored Sun Temple, whose interior walls, once covered in gold and studded with emeralds and turquoise were stripped by the Conquistadors. In the patio stood a life-sized garden made of solid silver and gold. We'll also visit Plaza de Armas and see the 17th century Baroque Cathedral, built on the site of the palace of Viracocha, largely from the materials pillaged from the Incan sites. We'll also visit the Archbishop's precious private collection of Cuzco School of Art, and the charming artisan's quarter where many artists have their shops, plus stop at the 12-angled stone on Hatunrumiyoc Street. Later, we return to our hotel and have a Cultural Expeditions Signature Cultural Immersion Evening with dinner
Day 7: Mercardo Central, Sacsayhuaman, Kenko and Shaman ceremony
After breakfast, we'll pick you up at the hotel and visit the Mercado Central (Central Market). This large open-air market has everything from Band-Aids to live poultry to a vast array of colorful vegetables, flowers and fruits. The colors, the sounds, and the smells immerse you in the culture of Peru. Nearby, we'll have a cooking demonstration with local market ingredients. We'll visit the Inca Museum which shows a history of the Inca Empire. This will provide useful insights to prepare for our Inca-immersion portion of the tour.
We'll enjoy lunch at the highly-regarded Pachapapa Restaurant where the adventurous can even try Alpaca kabobs. This charming restaurant has an outdoor patio also.
After lunch we'll drive into the surrounding hills to the great walled complex of Sacsayhuaman, which means "Decorated head of the Puma” a sacred Inca site. This fortress/temple complex was the ruling palace of the Inca where the living god directed his people. Its large grounds were used for celebrations, pageants, and sporting events. The Europeans called it a fortress because of the immense stones that were used in its construction. Cusco's oral tradition claims that around 70,000 people worked 50 years to build the palace. The double zigzag wall is said to symbolize a puma's teeth, and the stones used to erect this massive fortification weigh up to 125 tons each. How ancient peoples could construct the walls with such huge stones is still a mystery today. The size and intricacy of the formations are magical. Even today, starting on June 24th, Sacsayhuaman is the site of the Incan Festival of the Sun, a week-long Indian celebration with folk dancing and pageantry. We'll stop and see Kenko a small site whose name in Quechua means "zig-zag" consists of a huge carved boulder with tunnels and an altar below it. Before heading back to Cusco we'll be treated to a special ceremony conducted by a shaman. We will have dinner at the Limo.
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Day 8: Tambo Machay, Pisaq ruins and market
We'll drive along the Southern Valley of Cusco. At one time, the valley was a large lake and now the small lagoon of Huacarpay is what remains. Our first stop will be the beautiful Chapel of Andahuaylillas along the Southern Valley of Cusco. The original wall paintings are from the 16th and 17th centuries. These were followed by Indian oil-on-canvas paintings which were then enhanced by magnificent Baroque-style wooden gilded frames in the 18th century. The quality of these works has made this church one of the best examples of Cusco Colonial art. Then we drive to San Salvador, a quaint town in the Andes ,where a group of weavers of the Chawaytire community will demonstrate their art using traditional back -strap looms. After a delicious picnic lunch, we'll continue to Pisac to see spectacular views, ancient Incan ruins and enjoy the quaint town. Then we will drive to our Sol y Luna hotel in the beautiful Urubamba valley where you can enjoy their gardens and spa.
Day 9: Ollantaytambo to Chinchero Market
We'll begin our day with a visit to the spectacular temple-fortress and village of Ollantaytambo, a site that is little changed from the days of the Incas. We explore the main plaza and some of the side streets of this unique town, which still retains the original plan and architectural foundation built and designed by the Incas. Before we leave we tour the impressive terraced remains of a Temple and see the running waters of an Incan Bath.
We then drive to the Andean town of Chinchero (12,335 feet) in the northwest highlands that gives us a panoramic view of the snowcapped Urubamba range with the mountains of Veronica and Pitusiray. These mountain peaks climb to over 18,000 feet and create a breathtaking view. Chinchero is a charming community that combines Inca and Colonial architecture. We visit the ruins of Inca Yupanqui's palace with the massive Inca wall and its ten trapezoidal niches that overlooks the village's main square. We visit the town's Colonial church and enjoy a local weaving process which has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. We watch as wool is carded and spun, then dyed, and finally learn about the different techniques used to create ponchos, fajas (belts), and mantas (shawls). We then drive down into the lower end of the fertile valley, passing burial tombs and farming terraces that still are used to grow barley, wheat, corn and quinoa. We will then watch a weaving demonstration orchestrated by Nilda Challañaupa, the founder, and director of The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco. This organization is dedicated to preserving ancient textile designs and weaving techniques from all over the Andes. Some designs are more than 2,000 years old and were thought to have been lost. Textiles created at the Center may be available for purchase. Lunch is at Wayra We return to Sol y Luna and possibly a Peruvian Paso horse show. Late in the afternoon, you will have a cooking demonstration by the inn's chef, where you will learn about and sample the local cuisine.
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Day 10: Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
We'll depart from the hotel early for the Ollantaytambo train station to board the train to Machu Picchu. This rail journey is one of the most spectacular in the world. The rail line follows the Urubamba river through the spectacular Canyon of Vilcanota to the Lost City of the Incas. We will tour Machu Picchu in all its splendor and mystery, then we'll drive to the Sacred Center. Our expert guide, fully knowledgeable about the history and meanings of each aspect of Machu Picchu, will share the most current information and insights into this world-renown marvel. We check into the hotel and have a buffet lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge on the top of Machu Picchu before we take a special tour of the archaeological site. Machu Picchu is a remarkable work of art and a jewel of Inca architecture. It is a city in harmony with its environment perched atop a narrow crest high above the meandering Urubamba River and surrounded by the rugged, green slopes of the forested Andean mountains. Our visit to the Lost City of the Incas (discovered in 1911 by the American historian, Hiram Bingham and never reached by the Spanish Conquistadors) will include the Temples and Tombs, the ceremonial water fountains and baths, and the Sacred Plazas. We will take a 30-minute walk that leads to the Inca Drawbridge before returning to the hotel for dinner.
Overnight in Machu Picchu.
Day 11: Machu Picchu
You can rise at dawn with the sun's first light and experience the mystical magic of this sacred city and its sublime beauty. After breakfast there are several optional activities available. Huayna Picchu or Young Peak, (8,860 feet) which looms over the citadel in the background and a one-hour climb (one way) along a steep trail of stairs that ends at the terraces and ruins on top, providing an excellent "bird's eye" view of Machu Picchu citadel. It is a challenging hike, but the reward is one of the greatest views in the world! The descent is relatively quick and easy, but steep, and leads straight to lunch. Or, take an hour and a half hike downhill through the forest which ends at the partially excavated temple site. We have another optional hike to the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain—a 5-6 hour round trip scenic workout. We'll bring your picnic lunch. These hikes vary in length and difficulty and your guide can help you decide which option it right for you. Those who prefer may simply stay back and explore the hotel's orchid gardens or meditate on the archaeological wonders. B, L
Day 12: Machu Picchu, Cusco
During this second day at Machu Picchu the tour also allows time for individual exploration of this dramatic site and contemplation of its manmade wonders. You may hike up to the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu, explore the Inca Bridge, or take photos of Machu Picchu until you meet the rest of the group for lunch at the Indio Feliz restaurant. After lunch we bus down to the train for our train ride to Cuzco.
Day 13: Cuzco to Lima
We have time to do last minute shopping and lunch before your flight to Lima. In Lima, you may rest, shop, and explore on your own. Your guide will help you select from Lima's many fine restaurants for dinner.
Day 14: Lima to home or other expedition
We take you to the airport for your flight home unless you are staying for more tours.
I assumed that Peru could not live up to my dreams. Oh, how wrong I was!! The country was clean and people were compassionate as well as intelligent... [our guide was] so intelligent and patient -- telling us much more than we could ever hope to learn and taking us everywhere. We realize we got a first-class experience and we feel we gained a lifetime friend.
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