Day 1 - Lima, City tour
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. The capital of Peru, Lima overlooks the Pacific Ocean, and ranges to over 5,000 ft. Lima is a beautiful city with a wonderful mix of Colonial and modern architecture with numerous flower gardens, fabulous museums, elegant homes, delicious cuisine, fine hotels and restaurants, and an active nightlife. Once you're settled, we'll take you on a guided city tour to show you the highlights of this beautiful city.
Day 2: Lima, Museums, Folk Arts
After breakfast at the hotel, we'll visit the National Museum of Archaeology Anthropology and History which has large collections of Pre-Hispanic art and relics, in addition to well preserved mummies. 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 are also housed there. 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. We'll lunch at Cafe del Museo. Then we'll tour the restored colonial villa of Mari Solari and visit Mari’s private collection of folk art. A resident of Peru for over 40 years, Mari is amongst the country’s foremost folk art experts and collectors. Plus, our guides will share their insights into the deep-rooted folk art traditions of Peru.
Day 3: Lima-Cusco/Cusco City Tour
We will leave after an early breakfast at the hotel 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, into the heart of the Inca Empire.
Our Cusco 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. and the thin air requires a bit of time to get used to.)
We'll provide a trip briefing then we'll take a tour, walking 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, where you can have lunch on your own. Then we'll visit the 17th century Baroque Cathedral, built on the site of the palace of Viracocha, largely from the materials pillaged from Incan sites. We'll also visit the Archbishop's precious private collection of works from the Cuzco School of Art, and the charming artisan's quarter where many artists and crafts people have their shops. We'll pause at the 12-angled stone on Hatunrumiyoc Street.
Later, we return to our hotel for our Signature Cultural Expeditions "Cultural Immersion Evening" featuring a dinner at the Map Cafe with exquisite Peruvian cuisine, and a presentation and demonstration by a Peruvian textile expert who will explain the various weaving styles native to different regions. This is also an opportunity to ask questions, process all your experiences so far, and relax together.
Day 4: Mercardo Central Market, Sacsayhuaman, Kenko and shaman ceremony
After breakfast, we'll pick you up at the hotel and visit the Mercado Central (Central Market). This large has everything from Band-Aids to live poultry to a vast array of colorful vegetables, flowers and fruits. The colors, sounds, and smells immerse you in the culture of Peru. At a restaurant near the market, we'll be treated to a cooking demonstration.
Then we'll visit the Inca Museum which shows the history of the Inca Empire. This historical perspective will provide useful insights to prepare for the "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.
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, 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 will stop and see Kenko a small site whose name in Quechua means "zig-zag" and 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 Restaurant.
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Day 5: Ollantaytambo to Chinchero Market
After breakfast the the hotel, 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'll 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'll tour the impressive terraced remains of a Temple and see the running waters of an Incan Bath.
We'll drive to the Andean town of Chinchero (12,335 feet) in the northwest highlands, seeing a panoramic view of the snowcapped Urubamba range with the mountains of Veronica and Pitusiray. These mountain peaks range to over 18,00o feet and provide a breathtaking view. Chinchero is a charming community that combines Inca and Colonial architecture. We'll visit the ruins of the Yupanqui's palace with its massive Inca wall and its ten trapezoidal niches that overlook the village's main square. We'll visit the town's colonial church and join a local weaving process which has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. We'll watch wool being carded and spun, then dyed, and learn about the different techniques used to create ponchos, fajas (belts), and mantas (shawls). Then we'll 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. In Chinchero we'll watch a weaving demonstration orchestrated by Nilda Challañaupa, the founder, and director of The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco. The Center is dedicated to preserving ancient textile designs and weaving techniques from all over the Andes. Some designs are more than 2,000 years old. Textiles created at the Center may be available for purchase. Lunch is at Wayra.
We'll return to Sol y Luna and possibly see a Peruvian Paso horse show. Late in the afternoon, we'll have a cooking demonstration by the inn's chef, where you will learn about and sample the local cuisine. After seeing the foods prepared, we'll enjoy them for dinner.
B, L, D is cooking demonstration
Day 6: Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
We'll depart from the hotel after an early breakfast 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'll 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'll 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 jewel of Inca architecture. It's 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 and an orchid tour. We'll take a 30-minute walk to the Inca Drawbridge before returning to the hotel for dinner. Overnight and dinner in the luxurious 5 star Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel.
Day 7: 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. You may hike to Huayna Picchu or Young Peak, (8,860 feet) which looms over the citadel in the background and is 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's 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 at the El Indio Felix. Or, take an hour and a half hike downhill through the forest which ends at the partially excavated temple site. There's another optional hike to the peak of Machu Picchu Mountain—a 5-6 hour round-trip scenic workout. We'll bring a picnic lunch for you to enjoy on these hikes. The hikes vary in length and difficulty and your guide can help you decide which option is right for you. Those who prefer may simply stay back and explore the hotel's orchid gardens or meditate on the archaeological wonders. You will stay at the luxurious Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel for another night.
Day 8: 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 or explore the Inca Bridge, take photos of Machu Picchu until you meet the rest of the group for lunch at the luxurious Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel restaurant. After lunch we bus down to the train for our train ride to Cuzco. We will stop to visit the Seminario Pottery Workshop. Dinner is one your own and as always, our guides can advise you on restaurants and evening activities.
Day 9: Cuzco to Puno
We'll start the day after breakfast the our hotel with a wonderful drive to Lake Titicaca and to the town of Puno. In route we'll visit the town of Andahuaylillas and the Chapel of Andahuaylillas where centuries of Peruvian arts are visible, from the original 16th and 17th century wall paintings, to works in oil on canvas by Indian painters now enhanced by magnificent Baroque-style wooden gilded frames of the 18th century. The historical continuum and quality of the works here have made this church one of the best examples of Cusco Colonial art. We'll also explore Pikillacta which was built by the Wari culture in 1100 C.E. and Raqchi which is an Inca archaeological site also known as the Temple of Wiracocha. The town of Raqchi is a major producer of pottery and textiles. We'll visit a textile studio to see textiles made in the Raqchi tradition, having had a box lunch on the way. We'll check into our hotel in Puno and meet for dinner at the lakeside Casa Andina Private Collection.
Day 10: Puno on Lake Titicaca to Taquile's family home
Lake Titicaca is the world's highest navigable lake. It is said to have given birth to the Inca civilization. Today thousands of farmers make a living fishing, growing potatoes at its edge, and herding llama and alpaca at altitudes. The well-known islands dotting the surface of Titicaca are the Islas de los Uros, the floating islands of reed. From tightly bundled and woven reeds, the Uros build canoe-shaped boats for transport and fishing. We'll visit these floating islands, as well as the village of Chucuito, which was a major Lupaca center with a pre-colonial sundial seen today in the main plaza. We'll continue by boat to the Taquile Islands and will be met by your local hosts, a warm family who invite us for lunch in their home. After a home-hosted meal, we'll hike to the pre-Inca ruins at the top of the island with astounding views of the changing light on the lake. There we'll participate in a centuries old earth offering ceremony (pago a la tierra), a ritual that remains an integral part of daily life in the Andes. Lodging and dinner for one night is with a local family (very basic lodging) on Taquile.
Meals: B, L, D
Day 11: Puno to Colca Canyon
We'll depart by boat from Taquile in late morning to Puno. There we'll visit the Museo Etnológico del Altiplano and the Carlos Dreyer museum. After learning about the rich historical past of Peru’s folklore capital, we'll see indigenous peoples with their woven regional clothing, then visit one of the region’s still thriving traditions, a mask-making workshop. The artisan family whose studio we'll visit makes some of the brilliant masks and colorful costumes worn by the city’s thousands of dancers during the annual ‘Virgen de la Candelaria’ and other regional festivals. We'll then have a box lunch and travel on to the Colca Canyon.
We'll cross over the Andes bound for Chivay in the Colca Canyon. The road climbs over the Andean divide, passing through a region of snowcapped, active volcanoes. The steady descent on the western side passes through strikingly dry, windswept landscapes.
The Colca Canyon is one of the world's deepest gorges with a maximum depth of 10,607 ft. Our destination is Casitas del Colca, a charming comfortable hotel in the heart of the Valley. Here you may stroll the grounds and can hike along the canyon. We'll have dinner at the hotel.
Day 12: Colca Canyon Tour
After breakfast we'll leave for one of the most popular sections in the Colca Canyon, the Cruz del Condor, or Condor Crossing, where we're very likely to see these majestic birds soaring in the strong air currents. Then we'll visit the native village of Cabanaconde, high among the the canyon's terraces. We'll see indigenous peoples with their woven regional clothing. We'll have a hike in the Canyon in the afternoon before returning to the lodge for dinner.
Day 13: Colca to Arequipa
We'll leave after an early breakfast for Arequipa and as we climb out of the Colca Canyon we'll see spectacular vistas of snowcapped volcanoes and rolling plains with vicuñas and alpacas when we pass the vicuñas reserve of Aguada Blanca. In Arequipa we'll have lunch at Chicha Restaurant. Arequipa, home to some of the most beautiful Colonial architecture in the country, is known as the White City, because it's built from white sillar rock formed from the eruptions of the snowcapped Misti volcano. We'll visit the Mundo Alpaca textile museum with displays of natural yarn dying techniques and a vast selection of wool and witness a weaving demonstration on backstrap looms. We'll have a chance to see, first hand, the ancient traditions of sorting Alpaca wool and weaving. In addition there is a fascinating textile machinery museum which is the only one of its kind in Peru. We'll also stop at an alpaca factory outlet which sells Peru’s famous Kuna brand of alpaca woolen goods. We'll spend the night at Casa Andina Arequipa. Dinner will be on your own, with guidance, as you wish from our guide.
Day 14: Arequipa to Lima
In Arequipa we'll visit the Santa Catalina Convent, opened to outsiders in 1970 after four centuries of seclusion. The Colonial Convent houses some of the finest examples of Spanish American religious art and the Juanita mummy. She wore a cap of red Macaw feathers and an alpaca shaw and was wrapped in a brightly colored tapestry. These were almost perfectly preserved giving valuable insight into sacred Inca textiles. We'll have a farewell lunch at a nice restaurant and then we'll fly to Lima, transfer to the airport with check-in to your flight home unless you are remaining for more expeditions.
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