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Day 1: Welcome to Cusco! / Walking City Tour
Adios guide and driver will be waiting at the Cusco airport to transfer to hotel for checkin followed by lunch in local restaurant and guided walking city tour. Your guide introduces you to local Peruvian culture and ancient Inca civilization with legendary stories and a visit to the main Plaza de Armas, once considered the center of the Inca Empire, and where the statue of King Pachacutec, whose brilliant vision led to the design and building of Machu Picchu, greets everyone. Continue on foot through authentic narrow Inca streets where you explore the historical city including markets and Qoricancha Temple, also known as the "Golden Temple of the Sun." See the remarkable achievements of ancient Peruvians that include stone arches, Inca walls, cobbled streets, and many examples of exotic architecture. Observe the impact of colonial invasion and how the collision of two very different societies fused into one enchanting hub of modern Peruvian culture. Dine in local restaurants for lunch and dinner. (cost not included) About 3 hours. Hotel in Cusco. Altitude 11,000 ft / 3352 m (Need advice getting to Cusco? Just ask! We're here to help)
Day 2: Cusco Outskirts Easy Historical Walk
08:30 AM After breakfast in hotel, your local guide arrives for pickup to begin 20 minute drive to the tranquil terraced rocks of Tambomachay ruins (meaning guest house), with aqueducts, waterfalls and canals. It is said that the Inca emperor came here to bathe and perform religious rites in the water. Begin easy hike about 7 KM mostly downhill, through local farms, to the mysterious Qenco temple ruins where sacrifices and mummification took place. Not far are the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, first built by the Killke culture beginning 1100 A.D. and expanded by the Inca. It’s considered the largest structure built and one of the most significant archaeological legacies of the Incas. Due to the complexity of the layout of the massive blocks of stone, some bigger than a car, it is said that the construction of Sacsayhuaman lasted more than 50 years and employed over 20,000 men in the construction. About 5-6 hours. Walk to hotel in Cusco. Highest Altitude 12477 ft / 3800 m
Day 3: Sacred Valley Tour / Chinchero / Moray / Maras
08:30 AM Pickup from hotel and drive about 30-40 min to Chinchero, home to the famous colonial style church and archaeological ruins and the backdrop for Qechua women & girls who demonstrate traditional dyeing and weaving. Continue 20 KM by car to the greenhouse ruins of Moray, the Inca Greenhouse ruins built in concentric terraces. More than just terraces, this is one of the old agricultural experimental places of the Incas. We explore for 30 to 45 minutes on foot, then begin walking east on an old Incan trail that is still in use by the local people. Along the way we pass farming fields where the people grow potatoes, quinua, barley and a lot of times you will meet farmers on their way home or to the main town. The first part of the hike is an average of 6 km before you arrive at Maras (the terraced salt ponds) Each pond is owned by an individual family who still harvest salt like the old times. There is the option to get picked up here, or continue hiking down for another 1.5 hours to the Vilcabamba River. Driver will meet you for pickup and continue by car where you finally arrive in Ollantaytambo, the oldest still-occupied town in Peru. If time permits, you explore the prominent ruins overlooking the Sacred Valley. These ruins are the last Inca stronghold when Emperor Manco defeated the Spanish in a famous battle in 1536. Drive to your hotel for checkin. Walk to local restaurant for dinner. Full Day. Hotel in Ollantaytambo. Highest Altitude 12,375 ft / 3772 m - Lowest Altitude 9160 ft / 2792 m
Day 4: 1-Day Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu (optional)
After early breakfast, you walk to the station with your backpack and board an early train for 1 ½ hour ride to KM 104. The train stops so you can you jump off, then cross the bridge over the Urubamba River. You pass through the checkpoint then begin the 12 KM/7.5 m hike on one small section of one of the most famous network of trails in the world. For the next 5-6 hours you will tread in the footsteps of the ancient ones. Gradually hiking up the canyon on Inca paths and short stone steps to the ruins of Winay Wayna. Unlike Europeans, the Incas used a road system that included steep stone steps instead of lengthy zigzag switchbacks. This reduced the amount of road building needed and was an efficient way to travel on foot with llamas who were adapted to higher altitudes in the Andes mountains. This was critical to the expansion of the empire. This system was a hindrance to Europeans and armies mounted on horses as they could not negotiate the steep steps as well as switchbacks. Pass by waterfalls and lush landscape of the cloud forest as you make your way to Inti-Punku (Sun Gate) for your first glimpse of the famous citadel of Machu Picchu. Descend another 45 minute to one hour stopping for photos before exiting the national park. Board shuttle buses that run every 10-15 minutes for 25 minute ride to the village of Aguas Calientes. Walk to hotel for checkin, then enjoy dinner in local restaurant. Box Lunch included. Hotel in Aguas Calientes.
Day 5: Machu Picchu / Ollantaytambo (optional Hike to Huayna Picchu can be added if tickets are available)
After an early breakfast, you walk to the boarding area for your shuttle bus back up to Machu Picchu where you enter with your guide for a private tour of the ruins. (earliest bus departs around 5:20 am) Choose from 3 routes including the guard house overlooking the agricultural terraces and then enter the main gate of the city to get up close to the temples, structures and fountains. Exit ruins then take shuttle bus down to meet up in Aguas Calientes for a quick lunch. Walk to the station to board the afternoon train to Ollantaytambo. Walk to hotel in Ollantaytambo.
Day 6: Ollantaytambo / Pisac / Cusco
08:30 AM Driver and guide will pickup from hotel and begin 1 hour drive to the village of Pisac home of the famous market as well as one of the lesser known archaeological gems of the Sacred Valley. Continue past the village and up to the parking area past sweeping agricultural terraces. The car parks and you prepare for 2-3 hour hike beginning with a short walk to the Inca cemetery where you see hundreds of holes in the mountain. Continue on the trail for another 20-30 minutes until you reach the first residential structure. Further down is the stunning temple complex constructed from exquisitely carved pink granite, featuring a sun temple, ceremonial altars, water channels and wells. After a tour of the site, you can choose to hike down many stone steps (and we mean down) to the village, or take the trail and loop back to the van, where you are driven 10 minutes to the village. Here you can enjoy refreshments in the cafe and check out the famous market. Continue 1 hour by van to your hotel in Cusco.
Day 7: Farewell to Cusco / Travel to Lima (or other destinations)
Pickup from hotel at least 2.5 hours prior to scheduled departure, to Cusco airport. Checkin for departure flight to Lima, where you make international connections.
The 2-day extension to Lake Titicaca can be combined with this trip. You can fly directly from Lake Titicaca to Lima after the trip.
Frequently Asked Questions
It's common for most people coming from sea level to experience at least mild symptoms of altitude sickness when they arrive in Cusco, which is 11,000 ft/3430 m above sea level. Age is not a factor for the severity of symptoms one can experience. But fitness can be. Symptoms vary from person to person, but can include:
- loss of appetite
Treatments may include:
- OTC pain reliever - bring your own favorite remedy for pain relief
- Oxygen. Most hotels have oxygen tanks in their lobbies and guides will carry small tanks of oxygen on hikes. Some local pharmacies sell an individual size O2 tank for personal use.
- Coca Leaf. Locals believe that drinking coca leaf tea will help and you will find the tea leaves readily available in hotel tea bars as well as restaurants.
- Water. Drink extra to keep your blood flowing freely. Dehydration leads to sludgy blood and may contribute to your discomfort.
- Diamox. (AKA "Acetazolamide") can be purchased by prescription in some western countries or over the counter in Peruvian pharmacies.
- Treatments may alleviate the symptoms as you adjust in the first 24-48 hours. But you cannot expect breathlessness to completely disappear, no matter how you treat it. If symtoms do not show signs of improvement within 24 hours of your arrival, please notify your travel companions or guide so s/he can monitor your progress. In rare occasions, individuals may need to seek medical attention.
Is it safe to drink the water?
Tap water in Lima, Cusco and other larger cities is consumed by local people every day. But is it safe for you? There's only one way to find out and we suggest that you not drink the tap water or use it to brush your teeth. Bottled water is cheap and available everywhere including small towns and villages. We support Travelers Against Plastic to reduce the use of disposable water bottles and encourage you to bring a purification device to make your own safe drinking water. The device should be rated to purify water from microbes and viruses, not just for taste. Purified drinking water is provided on all the multi-day hikes and during your stay in the Amazon jungle lodges.
Should I travel to South America if I have a life-threatening allergy?
We've learned that there are different kinds of allergies; from hayfever to insect stings. IF YOU HAVE A LIFE-THREATENING ALLERGY TO ANY FOOD, INSECT, MEDICATION OR NATURAL ELEMENT, WE REQUIRE WRITTEN, ADVANCE NOTICE WITH FULL DESCRIPTION OF THE ALLERGEN AND THE TREATMENT. We reserve the right to require a doctors written approval for you to travel or ask you to provide your own treatment remedy and plan. And we ask you to notify your guide during your first meeting. In rare circumstances we may choose to reject your reservation if we feel that your condition is beyond the scope of the training of our guides or negatively impact other travelers. Epi-pens are only useful in areas where you are close to medical services like Lima or Cusco.
What is the best way to travel between Lima and Cusco?
We recommmend flying between the cities because other means requires more time or is not practical for short vacations. There is no train service between Lima and Cusco. And while there is bus service, the ride is almost 24 hours long over paved and winding mountain roads. There is no speedy highway. The cost of round-trip air tickets varies from around $250 pp on the domestic carriers, including STAR PERU AIRLINES and PERUVIAN AIRLINES, to $450 pp on LATAM AIRLINES and somewhere in-between on AVIANCA AIRLINES. The majority of the flights between the cities occurs in the morning to mid-day hours. Afternoon flights taper off by 7 pm and there are no late evening flights in either direction due to mountain weather conditions.
Where should I stay if my international flight arrives in Lima in the evening?
There are no late evening flights from Lima to Cusco. And there is only one hotel at the Lima airport. The Wyndham Hotel is connected to the arrivals terminal by a skybridge on the 2nd floor. It takes literally 2 minutes to walk from the terminal to the lobby of the hotel. The hotel is expensive by Peruvian standards (in excess of $250 per double room per night). We've seen good rates on Kayak, Expedia, Booking.com and Hotels.com The hotel will accommodate as many as 3 to a room, but not 4.
This hotel is best for groups who arrive in Lima late evening and plan to depart again by air the next day. For groups planning to stay in Lima, it's best to pre-arrange a transfer to a hotel outside the airport, unless you don't mind paying the "gringo rate" when you negotiate on your own. The travel time is about 45 minutes each way when the traffic is moderate. And the cost ranges from $35 each way and up. If your group is larger than 3 persons, you may need a transfer in a mini-van or two taxis.
Do I need vaccinations to visit Machu Picchu?
The altitude of Machu Picchu is 8000 ft/2440 m and higher. Disease-carrying vectors do not thrive at higher elevations. US passport holders are not required to get Yellow Fever vaccinations or prophylactic Malaria treatments. Although there have been no recent cases of Yellow Fever in Peru, some countries, including the US, recommend that visitors get Yellow Fever vaccinations prior to visiting the Amazon Rainforest including Tambopata Reserve or Manu National Reserve. We recommend that travelers check the regulations for re-entry for any countries they will pass through after leaving Peru, Bolivia or Ecuador. Bolivia requires all foreigners to have proof of yellow fever vaccination upon entry if you plan to travel to the Bolivian Amazon jungle. (Some countries including Australia, require their citizens to get yellow fever vaccination if they enter Peru, even if they are only visiting the higher elevations)
This Adventure Includes
- Cusco airport transfers
- All ground transportation with private driver
- 3 * Hotel in locally owned boutique accommodations with private bathroom, including Peruvian breakfast buffet
- Entry tickets to all the archaeological sites listed in the itinerary
- 1 day entry to Machu Picchu National Park
- Roundtrip train tickets
- Roundtrip shuttle bus tickets
- Inca Trail permits (cannot be changed or refunded once booked)
- Private, guided tour of the ruins
- English-speaking guide
- US - based English-speaking advisors for pre-departure information (we'll help you choose and book your flights upon request)
- Travel assistance
- International airfare to and from Lima, Peru (let us know if you need help finding a flight)
- Domestic airfare from Lima to Cusco and Cusco to Lima
- Hotel or transfer services in Lima. Wyndham hotel is the only hotel located at the Lima airport and can easily be booked online
- Lunches or dinners
- Bottled drinking water or other beverages
- Travel insurance
- Tickets to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain / Add $85 USD pp (if available)
- Perfect trip for families or groups who may have members who want to take the train instead of the Inca Trail hike
- Itinerary subject to change
- Duration of walks can be adjusted depending on your individual needs
- Machu Picchu visit is about 2-3Hours in the moring wave (6 am - 12 Noon)
- 1-day Inca Trail hike is optional. If you have any doubts, please ask us (7 hour limit to reach Machu Picchu)
- Single supplement available - add $210 for 7 Days
- Ask about extending your trip to Lake Titicaca, Amazon Jungle, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Ecuador or Galapagos Islands.
- Can be combined with Amazon trip before your visit to Machu Picchu
- Can be combined with Lake Titicaca trip after your visit to Machu Picchu