Landing in Lima, once dubbed "City of Kings" by Spanish conquistadores, we begin our adventure touring majestic churches, exquisite palaces, fascinating underground catacombs and museums. We making our way through the scenic 'Sacred Valley of the Incas' to one of the most famous attractions in the Americas and most memorable sights in the world: 'The Lost City of the Incas,' Machu Picchu.
After wandering amid these incredible ruins, we pass through villages of mud brick houses wherein people adorned in traditional dress barter with one another in colourful local markets, en route to Cuzco, whose Spanish colonial buildings lie atop Incan foundations and ancient Incan stone walls line the central streets to this day.
Day 1 -
Today we arrive in Lima, Peru.
In recent years, this city has undergone some wonderful restorations of the plazas, ornate facades, and wooden balconies for which it is famous. Named the 'City of Kings' by the Spanish Conquistadors, Lima is the capital of Peru. Founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro, where the River Rimac meets the Pacific Ocean, this was the most important Spanish city during the colonial era with a population of about 100,000 inhabitants. Today the city is home to more than 7 million people.
Overnight in Lima (Miraflores).
Day 2 -
This morning we start our tour with a visit to San Francisco's Church to visit the extensive catacombs that lie underneath. We then continue to the Plaza de Armas, the most important plaza in Lima. The oldest surviving part of the plaza is the impressive bronze fountain, which was erected in 1650. Surrounding the plaza is the exquisite Archbishop's Palace, the cathedral, and the Government Palace where handsomely uniformed presidential guards are on duty all day. We visit the cathedral where the great conquistador Francisco Pizarro's tomb lies.
After taking some free time for lunch in one of the many outdoor cafes, we head to the trendy area of Miraflores, where people love to stroll along the cliff tops overlooking beaches, and watch the sun setting on the Pacific Ocean. The best location is the new "Love Park" with its magnificent monument to lovers at its centre.
We then proceed to the Larco Museum, which showcases remarkable chronological galleries and an excellent overview on 3,000 years of development of Peruvian pre-Columbian history. Located in a unique vice-royal mansion of the 18th century built over a 7th century pre-Columbian pyramid, is surrounded by beautiful gardens. Features the finest gold and silver collection from ancient Peru and the famous erotic archaeological collection, one of the most visited Peruvian tourist attractions. For an unforgettable experience, Larco is one of the few museums in the world where visitors can also choose to enter the storage area with its 45,000 classified archaeological objects.
Overnight in Lima (Miraflores).
Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 3 -
Early this morning we fly to Cuzco, located in a fertile valley at 3354 m (11,004 feet). This is the archaeological capital of the Americas and the ancient capital of the Inca Empire that, at its height, stretched from Colombia in the north, through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, and down to central Chile in the south. Although the empire already existed in the 12th century, it remained small until the mid-15th century. Over the next 100 years, it expanded massively but declined due to the civil war and the conquest by the Spanish conquistadors under Francisco Pizarro in 1533.
On arrival we will travel by road into the Urubamba Valley, or "Sacred Valley of the Incas," along one of the most scenic drives on our trip, to the Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo located on a spectacular ridge with deep valleys on either side. We can admire the carefully constructed and maintained farming terraces on the surrounding hillsides.
We continue to the town of Yucay on the bank of the Urubamba River (2300m / 7,590 ft). This is an attractive little town of particularly fertile lands whose name translated into Spanish means "deceit" or "bewitchment". According to legend, in the middle of the 15th century, the Inca Huayna Capac was captivated by the incomparable magnificence of Yucay's setting and decided to settle here.
Overnight in Yucay.
Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 4 -
Today we take the early morning train from Urubamba to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. The train journey to Machu Picchu is a highlight of any trip to the Andes; the scenery is simply spectacular, and the train allows you to enjoy it in comfort. The +/- 3 hour trip takes us through a changing landscape with wonderful vistas of the mountains and, deep in its dramatic canyon, the beautiful Urubamba River. Our early arrival from Urubamba ensures that we are at the site before the tourist throngs arrive on the train from Cuzco later in the morning.
Upon arrival at the Aguas Calientes train station, a bus will take us on the 6 km (4 mile) twisting journey up the mountainside to the site of Machu Picchu. Having already dropped our baggage at our hotel, we proceed immediately for a guided 3-hour walking tour of the ruins (please be prepared with all that you need for our tour). We will enter the site through the House of the Terrace Caretakers, which flank the agricultural sector. Once on the site, we will see, among other features: the Temple of the Sun, the Fountain Caretaker's House, the Royal Sector, and the puzzling Temple of the Three Windows. We will also see the Common District, the Sacred Rock, and the prison-like Temple of the Condor.
Machu Picchu, popularly known as the 'Lost City of the Incas,' is an ancient city of stone palaces, towers, temples and staircases. It is a very mysterious place, and to this day our knowledge of it remains sketchy. There are no records or artifacts on the site to indicate what any of the buildings were used for. Archaeologists have ascertained that the site was most likely a ceremonial centre and possibly used for administrative purposes for the populous region.
After our tour, you may choose to proceed to the hotel or remain on the site for some independent exploration (your ticket is good for the day), and return to the hotel on your own using the return portion of your bus ticket.
Overnight at Agua Calientes (near Machu Picchu).
Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 5 -
A large part of the beauty of Machu Picchu is created by its setting on a mountain top surrounded by deep valleys. By staying for a second day to visit Machu Picchu, rather than visiting as a day trip from Cuzco, we are able to savour the atmosphere of this very special place.
In the early morning of our second day at Machu Picchu, most group members choose to take the bus back up to the site with the weather-dependent hope of seeing the mist-clad mountains greet the morning sun. Weather notwithstanding, the best thing about going up the second day is being there early when there are fewer people, allowing time to "soak it in," as well as the opportunity to climb Huayna Picchu and/or to the Sun Gate (approximate optional costs to revisit the site today: bus 12 USD round trip, and 40 USD site entrance, payable locally).
During our time at Machu Picchu, we will also include a visit to the Manuel Chavez Ballon Site Museum, which focuses on the "discovery", excavation, and history of Macchu Picchu. On display are historical photos, including photos of Hiram Bingham at Machu Picchu shortly after he came across the ruins, informative write-ups on the construction of Machu Picchu and the life of the Incas, and artifacts found at the site. Outside the museum is a very lush botanical garden running along the river; some plants are labeled and there are a few short trails. This is a nice shady area to rest on a hot day and is an easy 25 minute walk from Aguas Calientes down the road leading to Machu Picchu.
Later in the afternoon we board the VISTADOME train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo Station (1.5 hours) from where we bus back to Cuzco.
Overnight in Cuzco
Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 6 -
This morning we visit some of the most important Inca sites in the Cuzco area.
Sacsayhuaman is an impressive complex which, like so many others of that time, had both a religious and military purpose. The fortress known as the 'storehouse of the sun' incorporates some of the largest stones ever used in a building. The zig-zag walls represent the teeth of the sacred puma and provide an excellent defensive structure. The stones fit so perfectly together without mortar that not even moss can grow in the cracks! We also visit ruins at Tambo Machay, Puca Pucara and Qenko. The latter is an Inca sacrificial site carved with inscriptions.
In the afternoon we return to Cuzco and enjoy a tour of the town. We visit Coricancha, the temple of the sun which was the most important location in the Inca empire. Entombed in the closed cloister of the Sto Domingo Church, these sacred walls were hidden from modern civilization until the colonial walls were brought down in 1950 by a powerful earthquake. We also visit the church of San Blas with its fabulously carved pulpit. Wandering the narrow streets of the San Blas artisan region we make our way to the cathedral which towers impressively over the Plaza Mayor. Inside we find precious paintings from the Cuzco School of Art, one of the most prolific of its era.
This Inca city was laid out around a great central square in the shape of a puma, the god of lightning. Today, stone walls built by the Incas line most of Cuzco's central streets and form the foundations of colonial and modern buildings. The Inca buildings were so well built that the Spaniards simply knocked down the upper parts of the Inca temples and palaces and built their churches and mansions on top of the Inca walls. Shortly after the Spanish conquest, the capital was moved to Lima on the coast. Thus Cuzco has retained a wonderful, untouched colonial atmosphere. The culture is also very much alive here, and is evident in the music, clothing and handicrafts of the people.
We have dinner at a local restaurant here.
Overnight in Cuzco. Hotel Royal Inka II or similar.
Day 7 -
This morning we visit the ruins at Tambo Machay, Puca Pucara and Qenko. The latter is an Inca sacrificial site carved with inscriptions.
We continue to Pisac with its lively market where you will encounter traditionally dressed locals with whom you can barter for colourful craft items. You will see many unique Andean musical instruments as well as dazzling textiles. Peruvian woolen items are justifiably famous for their imaginative designs, based on Inca art and the local flora and fauna. You can buy sweaters and caps made from the extremely warm wool of alpacas and llamas.
We return to Cuzco with balance of the day at leisure.
Overnight in Cuzco.
Meals: Breakfast and Dinner
Day 8 -
Today we fly from Cuzco to Lima; departure from Lima.
In order to provide adequate connection time, please ensure that your return flight home from Lima does NOT depart earlier than 9:00 p.m.
*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.
• Breakfast daily and most dinners daily (hotels and local restaurants)
• All transport, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary
• Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters
• Airport transfers for land & air customers arriving / departing on tour dates
• Tour Leader gratuity, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), departure taxes, domestic and international air taxes (if applicable)
• Airport transfers for Land Only customers
• Optional trip cancellation insurance
• Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs, shopping, and locally paid departure taxes
10-18 plus Tour Leader
Tour Leader, driver(s), and local step-on guides at various locations.
Well-located, heated / air-conditioned, mid-range (3/4 star) hotels with en suite toilet and bath throughout (probably shower only). Single rooms are limited in number and likely smaller than doubles. Porter service is usually available though you should be independent with your luggage, especially at airports.
Road transport by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Numerous walking tours on uneven surfaces. Most of this tour occurs at high altitude and, though our itinerary spends a night at Yucay before climbing higher to Cuzco, some people are affected-check with your doctor. Scenic VISTADOME train to/from Machu Picchu. Internal flight via scheduled local carrier.
This tour is offered throughout the year. The cool and dry season runs from May to October; outside this time you will encounter warmer but perhaps rainy / misty conditions in the mountains. Serious heat / humidity are only a consideration in Lima.
Despite traditional homophobia, homosexuality was officially decriminalized in 1999 and, in the years since, a gay subculture has developed in Lima, Cuzco and other cities with both a large population and a notable urban culture.
Despite this, many gays and lesbians chose not to come out to their families. The exchange of ideas and anonymity as provided by the Internet continues to facilitate the promotion of a gay culture and general tolerance. Indeed, Peru is an up-and-coming gay destination; our relaxed brand of touring ensures that you will feel safe, relaxed, and welcomed by the ever-friendly locals.
The following is a sampling of our preferred properties in some of the locations visited on this tour and is meant to be indicative only. Hotel properties are not confirmed until 30-60 days before trip date.
Casona de Yucay Hotel, Yucay, Sacred Valley, Peru
Built against a mountainside and located in an 18th-century building, this hotel features cosy modern accommodation set around a colourful courtyard. It is situated in the magical Sacred Valley.
Rooms at Hotel La Casona De Yucay feature natural wooden floors and large windows offering panoramic garden and mountain views. They are decorated with traditional Inca fabrics. Room service is available 24/7.
Guests are invited to an extensive buffet breakfast in the restaurant which also serves regional and international dishes during the evening. Social moments can be enjoyed in front of the communal fireplace which is located next to La Casona's bar.
The large courtyard offers tables and chairs for guests to relax and admire the scenery. Free Wi-Fi is available and the on-site tour desk arranges different tours to nearby Inca and tourist sites such as Chinchero and Pisac
El MaPi by Inkaterra Hotel, Aguas Calientes, Peru
Situated in the heart of Machu Picchu town, the stylish El MaPi Hotel offers organic gastronomy and contemporary rooms. Rates include breakfast buffet and la carte dinner.
El Bar serves tasty tapas, piscos and fine organic wines. The café offers a breakfast buffet with smoothies and Belgian waffles, and serves salads and soups made with fresh natural ingredients.
The well-lit rooms at El MaPi by Inkaterra have thick beige blankets and large windows with blackout curtains. All offer cotton bathrobes, herbal amenities and a 32-inch cable TV. Free Wi-Fi is available.
Guests are welcomed on arrival with a fresh lemongrass lemonade, and may request extra oxygen.
Royal Inka II Hotel, Cusco, Peru
Located in the heart of Cusco, charming Royal Inka II Hotel offers affordable rooms just a few minutes' walk from the Plaza de Armas, churches and museums. Free Wi-Fi is available.
Rooms at the Royal Inka II have classical-style furnishings and include TV and heating.
The Royal Inka's restaurant serves a large breakfast consisting of both cold and warm dishes, including omelettes, fresh rolls and juices.
Guests can relax at the hotel's sauna and hydromassage tub, or enjoy views from the rooftop deck. Cusco City Centre is a great choice for travellers interested in Food, Architecture and Culture