Day 1 - Lima
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Peru. With colonial charm, ancient Inca history and llamas around every corner, this is a destination with a difference. You'll be met at the airport and driven to your hotel. If you arrive early, be sure to take a stroll around Miraflores. Go from Central Park (Parque Kennedy) to LarcoMar via Larco Avenue. Alternatively, go to Parque del Amor (Love's Park) and check out its mosaics and El Beso statue. Pachacamac, home to the Temple of the Sun, is also well worth the trip (approximately 30 km from downtown Lima). Limenos (Lima's residents) are friendly, and there are plenty of great restaurants and cafes at which to sample delicious ceviche, a local seafood speciality.
Notes: Your airport transfer is only valid if arriving on Day 1 or if you have booked pre-trip accommodation through Intrepid. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking or a minimum 15 days prior to travel – otherwise your request might not be confirmed. Once you have provided your details, a representative will be booked to meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel.
Day 2 - Cuzco
Explore Lima with a guide today. Your tour will take you through the National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology and History – the largest and oldest public museum in Peru. Check out some of its 100,000 pre-Incan artifacts – there are ceramics, textiles, tools and ruins from as far back as 1,000 BC. You will also visit the infamous catacombs underneath the San Francisco church. Here you'll find the bones of an estimated 75,000 bodies arranged in ornate patterns in stone pits. While it can get a little claustrophobic down there, it's a fascinating display. The church itself is also quite a sight, built in the boroque style of the late 17th century. Later on, catch a flight to Cuzco (approximately 1.5 hours).
Day 3 - Cuzco
Approach your day at a nice easy pace, taking time to acclimatise to the city's altitude (3,450 m). You will enjoy a half-day city tour in which a guide will show you some of Cuzco's excellent sights and activities. This city is really 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, and it's a dream to walk around. Inca-built walls line the central streets, and many of the elegant colonial buildings are built on or around Inca foundations. While you're here, you'll visit the local Coricancha archeological site, the ruins of the most opulent temple in the Inca Empire as well as the 4 main archaeological sites near the city: Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Pucapucara and Tambomachay.
Day 4 - Cuzco
The day is yours to explore the city as you please. Armed with a full boleto turistico (tourist ticket), you'll have access to almost all of the best museums and sights in town. Perhaps start your day at the local market – a great chance to mingle with the locals, sample some street food or some pastries, and perhaps browse for some strange items such as 'Dragon's Blood' (medicinal tree sap). Some great museums to visit are The Pisco Museum, the Museum of Inca Culture and the Museum of Popular Art. There are also many adventure activities on offer in the gorgeous surrounding hills, from trekking and mountain biking to via-ferrata climbing and zip-lining.
Day 5 - Sacred Valley
Venture into the Sacred Valley. With its warm climate and fertile soil, this valley was considered the greenhouse of the Incas, who built many towns and agricultural terraces along it. Small farming hamlets dot a landscape of patchwork fields, and many are still ploughed by oxen and other beasts of burden. En route you will reach the village of Pisac (2,950 m), where you can stop and browse the stalls of the traditional market. There are also some fascinating Inca ruins to explore – your first taste of Inca architecture. The ruins stick out on a pinnacle overlooking the valley while steep terraces sweep around the hillside. Your hotel for tonight is located in the heart of the valley (2,800 m) in a quiet farming village.
Day 6 - Chinchero
Today you will start to prepare for the Inca trail, with a walk up to the village of Chinchero. Leaving the Sacred Valley behind, follow a newly reopened section of Inca road up the Urquillos Valley, climbing 900 metres (approximately 4 hours) to reach the high-altitude plains of Chinchero (3,760 m). This route is rarely walked by tourists, so enjoy the ambience. You will take in amazing views of the Vilcanota range and, with some luck, spot some parrots and hummingbirds along the way. At Chinchero, the villagers are famous for their skills in weaving, and you might see them in their traditional dress, tending their fields. In the afternoon you can explore the village where the people of Chinchero offer their textiles at a colourful local market. You'll also check out the painted church and investigate the Inca ruins. Enjoy the hospitality of a local family who will welcome you into their home for the night.
Day 7 - Ollantaytambo
After breakfast you'll be collected from the homestay and taken to your private transport bound for Moray and its archaeological site. This was an experimental centre of agriculture in Incan times. From here you'll begin your cycling adventure, firstly riding along a mild–intermediate section before taking a break for a drink and a snack. Then you will continue to the salt flats of Maras. Here is a great spot to drink in the views and take some pictures. Then it's an intermediate downhill stretch that brings you to Pichingoto on the route to Ollantaytambo. Your bike trip ends at this point. Transfer to a private vehicle and head to Ollantaytambo. The town of Ollantaytambo, built over an ancient Inca city, is a traditional village laid out on a grid plan (one of only four surviving examples), overlooked by the magnificent fortress of Ollantay.
Day 8-9 - Inca Trail/Machu Picchu
Today after breakfast we set off to Chilca, where the Urubamba gorge narrows, forcing us to abandon motor transport. Here you'll meet your trail crew and begin the Inca Trail trek. Heading away from the river, a gentle climb soon brings you to a pleasant campsite at Llactapata (2,850 m) which is overlooked by ruins. This is camping made easy; as you walk, you'll carry only a day pack while an experienced team of porters carries all the other gear. You will be provided with a duffle bag in which to put items needed for the trek. Anything you don't need is left behind in Cusco in your main bag. Tonight you'll camp in a spacious tent; porters, a cook and a helper will take care of all camp chores. A toilet tent is provided at camp and at each lunch stop (you'll find this is usually the cleanest option for nature calls).
Notes: You'll take your entire luggage with you to the Sacred Valley. At Ollantaytambo (Day 8), pack a duffle back (6 kg max) to take with you on the Inca Trail, while the main luggage is left at the hotel in Ollantaytambo. The group will stop off at the hotel to pick it up after completing the trail. Sleeping mats will be provided, and sleeping bags are available for rent (US$20 for regular ones; US$25 for feathered ones). These do not have to be pre-booked – your guide will check which passengers need to rent equipment after the briefing in Cuzco on Day 4.
Day 10 - Inca Trail
A second ascent leads past a fine set of ruins to Runkuracay Pass (3,998 m). From here, you'll be pleased to discover, the trail is mostly downhill! The vegetation gradually changes as you walk through part of the cloud forest. You'll be skirting the outer edges of the Amazon Jungle. Cross the Aobamba River, from where you can see the Sayacmarca ruins sitting on a rocky spur up above. A final, easy ascent over a lower pass takes you to the campsite, which is perched above the ruins of Phuyupatamarca. On this final stretch you'll take in many incredible vistas out across the vast mountains and jungle.
Day 11 - Machu Pichhu
The final day of the trek starts with an amazing view, and after breakfast you'll set off on one of the most scenic parts of the whole trail. Feel the excitement mounting as you conquer a steep flight of steps and arrive at Inti Punku, the Gateway of the Sun. At this point you can stop for a well-earned breather and enjoy a packed lunch. The toil of the day is forgotten at a stroke as you are treated to an out-of-this-world view of Machu Picchu down below. After lingering to admire this panorama, it's time for a guided tour of this incredible site. Afterwards, catch a bus down the narrow access road to the village of Aguas Calientes. Here you can check into your accommodation, stretch your legs and take a long-awaited hot shower.
Day 12 - Cuzco
Before your afternoon train ride back to Cuzco, the day is yours to spend as you please. A great option is to make a second visit to Machu Picchu and delve deeper into this awesome ruined city. While it is thought Machu Picchu was built around 1440 as a country retreat for Incan nobility, there is evidence that it had been a sacred site for much longer. Another school of thought is that it was an astronomical observatory. Decide for yourself as you wander around the many temples, palaces and living quarters. Of course, you might also like to simply stay in Aguas Calientes and relax instead. Perhaps visit Las Termas (thermal springs located a short walk from town) or visit the Manuel Chávez Ballón Museum for some excellent background information on the excavations of Machu Picchu.
Day 13 - Cuzco
Enjoy a free day in Cuzco to recover from the Inca Trail. If you have some energy left, take the time to walk around and immerse yourself in this delightful, vibrant town. Perhaps feast on some delicious Andean cuisine – you're sure to come across some cancha (roasted corn kernels), humitas (ground and cooked corn cakes), and papa a la huancaina (potatoes in a spicy cream sauce). You could practice your bargaining skills in the craft markets, or visit colonial Spanish churches. Perhaps treat the family to a cooking class or, better yet, a massage – the ultimate way to unwind from the rigours of the trail!
Day 14 - Cuzco
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
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