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Welcome to Cusco, capital of the Inca empire and one of the most beautiful cities on Earth! We’ll meet you at 1pm for a traditional Peruvian meal at a local favourite restaurant. In the afternoon your guide will lead a relaxed walking tour around Cusco’s stunning historic centre – it’s important to take it easy if you’ve arrived from sea level today, as you need to acclimatise to Cusco’s 3,400m (11,200 feet) altitude.

Accommodation: Comfortable hotel, Cusco. Included meals: Lunch, Dinner.


Cusco to Ollantaytambo

The Sacred Valley

The sunny, incredibly scenic floodplain between Pisac and Ollantaytambo in the valley of the Urubamba River is known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Pisac is a tiny, cobbled Inca village which is home to the largest handicraft market in the region and a huge Inca fortress. You’ll explore both, then set off into the Sacred Valley. You’ll need frequent photo stops as you pass still-working Inca terracing, irrigation canals, and awesome mountain vistas. Your destination is Ollantaytambo, perhaps the most perfectly preserved of all Inca towns, a maze of cobbled alleyways and sun-drenched plazas presided over by a spectacular, llama-shaped ruin.

Accommodation: Cosy family-run hotel in Ollantaytambo. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Option day

Option 1.  Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu

Today starts with Chinchero, a quiet little town best known for its outdoor weaving studios, terraced Inca ruin, and intricately-frescoed colonial church. Next is Moray – three massive Inca amphitheaters of incredible engineering precision and stern, magnificent beauty. After an al fresco lunch, an easy stroll (or ride in the bus if you prefer) through rolling farmland and views of the high Andes brings us to Salineras – a surreal and beautiful patchwork of pools and paths that still produces salt using Inca technology.

You’ll spend the night in Ollantaytambo, an incredibly quaint and charming Inca village whose quiet cobbled streets and spectacular mountain-side fort are the perfect backdrop to watch the sun set over the Sacred Valley.

Accommodation: Cosy family-run hotel in Ollantaytambo. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Option 2.  Standard Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Walking: 12 kilometres or 7.5 miles.  Min. Altitude: 2,700 metres, 8,860 feet.  Max. Altitude: 3,100 metres, 10,171 feet.  Altitude of camp: 3,100 metres, 10,171 feet

You’ll get up very early this morning to take the bus to Kilometre 82, the start of the Standard Inca Trail. The hike begins in the Sacred Valley as you follow the Urubamba River, climbing ever higher and eventually heading off up the Cusicacha Valley, through semi-arid forest and farming villages, to Wayllabamba, where you’ll camp for the night.

Accommodation: Luxury camping on the Inca Trail. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.  


Option continued

Option 1:  Adventures on the Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu

Today you undertake a fascinating journey, from the dry, Pacific side of the Andes to its lush western slope. There’s a marked difference in vegetation between the two sides, and you’ll have ample opportunity to appreciate it as we descend from Abra Malaga, a high pass (4,350 metres/14,000 feet) in the shadow of the Veronica Glacier, to the steamy heat of the ceja de selva (“eyelash of the jungle” – tropical rainforest).

Our destination, sleepy Santa Teresa (1,550 metres/5,085 feet), is home to one of our favourite places in Peru, the Baños Termales de Cocalmayo, natural mountain hot springs beside a raging river. It’s the perfect place to soak away the road dust of today’s journey from one side of the Andes to the other.

If you’re into biking, you might want to ride some parts of today’s journey – it’s an incredibly fun, freewheeling downhill. We provide bikes so you can ride as much or as little as you like.

Accommodation: Rustic eco-lodge, Santa Teresa. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.  

Option 2: Over Dead Woman’s Pass Walking: 11 kilometres or 6.8 miles. Min. Altitude: 3,100 metres, 10,170 feet. Max. Altitude: 4,200 metres, 13,780 feet

Most of your walking time today is taken up by a stiff 1,200 metre (3,940 feet) climb up to Warmiwayñusca, or Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest point of the Inca Trail. From here if it’s clear you’ll enjoy incredible views back the way you came, and onwards towards the distant, snow-capped Vilcabamba Range. Then you descend steeply into Pacaymayo, your campsite for the night with one of the best views in the Andes.

Accommodation: Luxury camping on the Inca Trail. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.



Option continued

Option 1: Meet coffee growers and sample their wares

Coffee, grown at cottage-industry level and exported through grower’s co-operatives, is the backbone of this area’s economy. This morning a local coffee producer will show us around their plantation and the equipment they use to harvest, mill and toast coffee. In the afternoon we’ll take a short (7 kilometre/5 mile) train ride to Aguas Calientes. There’s time this afternoon to explore the market and admire the scenery all around and above us – the little town has one of the most beautiful settings you’ll see in Peru, in a jungle gorge by a rushing river.

Accommodation: Aguas Calientes hotel. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.   

Option 2:  Runkurakay, Sayacmarca and Wiñaywayna Walking: 12 kilometres or 7.5 miles.  Min. Altitude: 2,670 metres, 8,760 feet. Max. Altitude: 3,900 metres, 12,800 feet.

Today’s hike takes you through some of the most stunning scenery in Peru, with cloud forest, orchids, hummingbirds and mountains on all sides, and to three gorgeous little ruins – Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, and Wiñaywayna, next to the evening’s campsite. Along the way you cross the watershed of the Andes – this is one of the best days trekking in the world.

Accommodation: Luxury camping on the Inca Trail. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.   


Machu Picchu

A spectacular stone city surrounded by incredibly steep, incredibly green mountains, Machu Picchu needs no introduction and is deservedly one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.  

We’ll be up at sunrise so there’s time for your guide to show you around Machu Picchu’s main citadel, as well as our favourite hidden nooks and crannies, before the crowds arrive.

Then there’s time for your own exploration of the massive, still mysterious site, before we catch the train back to Cusco.

Accommodation: Back at home-base, Cusco hotel. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Free day in Cusco

There are things to do in Cusco to suit every mood and personality: churches, museums, and art galleries; adventure activities like rafting and horse riding, and organized tours. This is also the perfect day to just wander around and enjoy the spectacular mountain views, traditionally dressed locals, excellent cafes and charming architecture that characterise Cusco’s historic centre.

Accommodation: Cusco hotel. Includes breakfast.


Cusco - South Valley

Local lifestyle and fabulous food

The Valle Sur just outside Cusco is a popular weekend destination for Cusqueños who flock here to specialist restaurants offering local favourites like chicharrones (deep fried pork chunks with corn and mint) and cuy (guinea pig), as well as plenty of more conventional and equally delicious options!

We’ll fit a very local lunch in between visiting Tipón and Pikillacta, two of Peru’s most charming archaeological sites, and the church of Andahuaylillas, whose interior is so ornate that it’s known as the Sistine Chapel of the Americas. Late this afternoon we’ll arrive at the village of Raqchi, home to a group of gracious, funny people we’re proud to call our friends. For the next couple of days, they’ll open their homes and lives to you, giving you a unique insight into traditional Andean life.

Accommodation: Raqchi homestay. Includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   



Pottery making, a volcano and ruins

Today you’ll strike off into the countryside with a local guide, wandering to breathtaking lookouts, and the nearby (extinct!) volcano of Kimsach’ata. Later you’ll try your hand at pottery-making – the people of Raqchi are professional potters and will show us how to make a pot on a pedal-powered potter’s wheel.

Today you’ll also have the privilege of attending a ch’alla, or payment to the Earth – a ceremony of propitiation of Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) held regularly by an ostensibly Catholic community, and a very good example of the paradox at the heart of Andean religion.

Accommodation: Raqchi homestay. Includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

DAY 10

Welcome to the Altiplano

This morning you’ll explore the enormous adobe ruin that dwarfs the humble homes of Raqchi, before heading off into the altiplano – one of the highest inhabited places on Earth, and home to some of its most unlikely attractions. You’ll take the plunge at Marangani: a surreal and improbable complex of five natural hot pools linked by steaming streams and populated by locals enjoying the only hot water for miles around.

You’ll spend the night at a historic hacienda. Established as a convent in the 18th century, it’s now home to a dairy farm where you’ll have the opportunity to sample delicious high-altitude cheese and yoghurt.

Accommodation: Historic hacienda near Ayaviri. Includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

DAY 11

Forgotten riches in Lampa

Today we’ll explore Lampa. Once one of the richest towns in Peru, it’s now all but a ghost town, making the grandeur and scale of its cathedral all the more striking. Impressive from the outside, inside the cathedral is simply incredible. Among many other marvels, it houses a catacomb, a collection of skulls and skeletons, and a full-scale reproduction of Michelangelo’s Pietá.

We’ll arrive to the shores of Lake Titicaca in time for a memorable dinner at one of Puno’s excellent restaurants.

Accommodation: Puno hotel. Includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

DAY 12

Lake Titicaca's South Shore

The tourist map ends at Puno. Past it lies a land of ancient burial monuments dedicated to dwarves, half-buried ruins drowsing in farmers’ fields, and layer upon layer of human history and belief, built up over thousands of years. It’s one of the weirdest and most wonderful places in the world and today we’ll take our pick from many strange sights. Amaru Meru is said to be a stone-carved door into another dimension. Even if inter-dimensional portals aren’t your thing, you’ll enjoy the windswept majesty, imposing rock formations, and views of Lake Titicaca around it.

You’ll also visit Chucuito, where 86 huge stone phalluses are buried every which way in what is said to be an Inca fertility temple – though some locals passionately argue it’s a hoax. Either way, it’s quite a sight!

Accommodation: Puno hotel. Includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

DAY 13

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca

This morning we take to the waters of Lake Titicaca. You’ll stop briefly at the Uros – the famous floating reed islands of Lake Titicaca – but our main destination is Taquile, one of the most fascinating islands in the world. It was isolated until the 1950s and still follows a very different way of life. Decisions are communal, economic activity is co-operative, and society is based on the fundamental Inca principles: “Ama sua, ama llulla, ama quella” (don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t be lazy). There are no cars, few dogs, and little electricity, because the Taquileños want it that way.

Taquile is also the most famous textile centre in the Andes. Colourful, storytelling textiles, designed and woven by Taquile’s women from thread spun by its men, draw aficionados and investigators from all over the world to this amazing island. On top of all this, the scenery is stunning and the peace and tranquillity is like nowhere else on Earth. Taquile is just magic.

Accommodation: Puno hotel. Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

DAY 14

Departure day

You can book your flight out for any time you like today – do allow for the fact that Juliaca airport is just over an hour’s drive away. If you’re staying on in Peru, we’re delighted to help out with suggestions and assistance for the rest of your time here.

Includes breakfast.