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Arrive Lima at any time. There are no planned activities so check into our hotel and enjoy the city.
Note: If you have pre-booked the Peru Culinary Theme Pack, your Lima cooking class will be Day 1 and the Cusco cooking class will be on Day 11. As this pack does not include extra on-trip time in Lima, it is necessary to bundle it with a pre-trip stay.
Peru is frequently referred to as the 'Land of the Incas'. It is true that the Incas formed the greatest empire on the continent and left mysterious cities such as Machu Picchu. However, it is important to remember that the Incas were the only the last in a long series of Peruvian civilizations spanning several thousand years and the ruins of many of these earlier civilizations can also be visited. Peru is made up of three main geographical areas: the Andes, the Amazon and the desert coastal area; on this tour we concentrate on the Andean region of south-central Peru, the Cloud Forest of the Manu Biosphere Reserve and the ancient Inca capital of Cusco
Known as the City of Kings, Peru’s capital city Lima was founded by Francisco Pizarro on the Day of the Three Kings (Epiphany) in 1535. The Plaza de Armas is the heart of old Lima, and it is here you find the Cathedral, Government Palace and Archbishop’s Palace. The Cathedral dates back to the 1700s and houses the remains of the conquistador Pizarro. To get a feel for colonial Lima, take a cab to the Plaza de Armas and watch the changing of the Palace Guard in the afternoon. Walk the streets surrounding the Jirón de la Unión for great examples of Spanish-colonial architecture and to get a taste for life in a large South American city. An optional city tour visits many of the city’s highlights.
There are many fine museums in and around the city, including the Museo Rafael Larco Herrera, which houses an equally impressive collection of pottery, mummies and textiles from the Paracas and Nazca cultures. The more affluent coastal districts of Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro offer good nightlife and cafés all within walking distance. Limeños (Lima’s residents) are friendly, and the city is filled with excellent restaurants; seafood lovers in particular should be sure to try a ceviche, for which Lima is well known.
Transfer early this morning to the airport for the flight to Cusco; the flight usually departs early – we may leave the hotel as early as 4:30 am. Spend the afternoon relaxing and exploring this fascinating city, and take time to acclimatize to the high altitude.
Cusco is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city, and the hub of the South American travel network. The city attracts travellers who come not just to visit a unique destination but also to experience an age-old culture very different from their 20th century way of life; one could easily spend a week just in and around the area. Inca-built stone walls line most of the central streets and you don't have to go far to see other major Inca ruins. It is a city steeped in history, tradition and legend.
Every year Cusco attracts thousands of travellers who come to delve into its noble but tragic past. It is the perfect base for optional explorations around the city and area as well as a range of outdoor activities.
Cusco’s numerous colonial churches are one of the city’s most common sights. The Cathedral was started in 1559 and took 100 years to build; it is also one of the city’s greatest repositories of colonial art. Immediately in front of the entrance is a vault containing the remains of the famous Inca historian, Garcilaso de la Vega. Also worth visiting are the churches of La Compañía, La Merced and San Francisco.
While most ruins are just outside of the city, the main ruin within is that of the Coricancha, once the Inca Empire's richest temple. Today the ruin forms the base of the colonial church of Santo Domingo. During Inca times this temple was literally covered with gold, but within months of the arrival of the first conquistadors this incredible wealth had all been melted down. It is left to the individual imagination to envision the magnificence of the original structure.
There are several good museums in Cusco, including the Archaeological Museum, which also houses a small art museum, the Regional History Museum and the Religious Art Museum. Our best advice for exploring Cusco is to wear a comfortable pair of shoes, arm yourself with a city map and set off to explore!
Approximate Distance: 572km
Estimated Travel Time: 2.30 hours
Raft through the Apurimac canyon, reputedly one of the best rafting spots in the world. Spend 2 challenging days on this turbulent river, descending class III, IV and V rapids. Camp along the shores of the river for 2 nights, returning to Cusco on Day 5.
High in the Andes of southern Peru, the Apurímac River flows north for 428 miles before uniting with the Urubamba River to form the Ucayali River. One of the sources of the powerful Amazon River, the Apurímac canyon is one of the deepest depressions on the continent. With such a rapid change of altitude there are a variety of climates in this rugged area, ranging from warm and humid tropical weather on the jungle floor, to the cool, temperate weather of the high Andean plateau. We drive about 4 hours outside of Cusco to our drop-in point, the Huallpachaca Bridge (2000m). Here we have a training session on the river before descending class II and III rapids to our campsite. The second day will be a full day on the river, battling through mostly class III and IV rapids. We will again sleep on the sandy shores of the river for one last night on the Apurimac. Our last day we face a couple of class V rapids, with names like “Tooth Ache,” and “Last Laugh.” Anyone not wishing to do these rapids can easily pass on them, as there are support rafts and trails to detour around the biggest ones. After three to four hours on the river, we return to Cusco in the evening.
Travel through the stunning Sacred Valley of the Incas. Opt to add a Sacred Valley tour, which includes a visit to a Planeterra-supported women's weaving co-op, the impressive Pisac ruins, the colourful artisan market (market days only) and the large ruin site of Ollantaytambo that lies adjacent to the town of the same name where we catch our breath and prepare for the hike ahead.
Planeterra has been working with the Ccaccaccollo community since 2005 to develop a viable economic alternative for women by creating a weaving cooperative to sell traditional textiles to travellers. Donations by travelers have helped build a community centre supplied with looms and sewing machines for the women to use to expand their production. This project allows the women of the Ccaccaccollo community to maintain their cultural heritage and benefit from the tourism industry.
Ollantaytambo is your first taste of what lies ahead on the Inca Trail. The town and fortress of Ollantaytambo are strategically situated overlooking the beautiful Urubamba River Valley. This major ruin site is known as the best surviving example of Inca urban planning and engineering. It is admired for its huge steep terraces guarding the Inca Fortress and for being one of the few places where the Spanish lost a major battle during the conquest. We spend the night in this small town before heading out for the start of the hike the next morning.
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours
The 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is physically challenging but worthwhile, and the excursion is within the ability of most reasonably fit people. It is a 44km (27 mile) hike, with three high passes to be crossed, one of which reaches an elevation of 4200m (13,776 ft). The trail is often steep, and it may rain even during the dry season. The temperatures at night may fall below freezing, so it is important to come prepared.
NOTE: We offer two alternatives to hiking the Inca Trail. If Inca Trail permits are sold out, travellers will be given the option to hike the Lares Trek (details below). Travellers not able to hike or not interested in hiking, can opt to spend two extra days in Cusco (details below) before travelling to Machu Picchu. If you do not want to hike, we need to know at the time of booking in order to obtain train tickets. Once Inca Trail permits are confirmed there will be fee for any changes made. The fee may vary depending on the changes that are made to your itinerary. Please advise your agent or G Adventures.
Also note the Inca Trail is closed for general maintenance every February for the entire month. Travellers will be hiking the Lares Trek during this time. Other closures to either trek may occur at anytime throughout the year due to inclement weather or other conditions beyond our control. In these instances, itineraries will be reworked to provide the best and safest possible experience.
INCA TRAIL DETAILS
Day 1 of the Inca Trail:
Depart Ollantaytambo by van to km 82 where the hike begins. This takes about 40 mins. Our crew of local porters, cooks and guides will take care of all the details for the duration of the hike. Porters carry the majority of the gear so you’ll only need to carry a small daypack with water, rain gear, snacks, a camera, etc. You’ll trek through beautiful scenery with a variety of flora, changing with the seasons, passing several smaller ruin sites like Llactapata.
Start point Km 82 to Wayllambama
Approximate distance: 11km/6.8mi
Estimated hiking time: 5-6 hrs
Day 2 of the Inca Trail:
Start early to climb the long steep path to Warmiwañusca, better known as Dead Woman’s Pass. This is the highest point of the trek at 4198m (13,769ft). Most hikers reach camp by early afternoon, with ample time to rest and relax.
Wayllabamba to Paqaymayo
Approximate distance: 12km/7.5mi
Estimated hiking time: 6-7 hrs
Day 3 of the Inca Trail:
Today we cross two more passes and more ruins along the way. The first pass is at 3998m (13,113ft) where, on a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba. You’ll hike through cloud forest on the gentle climb to the second pass of the day where you walk through original Incan constructions. The highest point of this pass is 3700m (12,136ft). On a clear day, enjoy the views of the Urubamba Valley. At 3650m (11,972ft) you’ll reach the ruins of Phuyupatamarca, the ‘Town Above the Clouds’. We either camp here or an hour and half further along, near the Wiñay Wayna ruins (Forever Young).
Paqaymayo to Wiñaywayna
Approximate distance: 16km/10mi
Estimated hiking time: 8 hrs
Day 4 of the Inca Trail:
The final day of the hike starts pre-dawn to reach the Sun Gate before the sun rises. When the morning is clear, you soak in your first views of the breathtaking ruins of Machu Picchu as the mist rises off the mountains and the sun begins to illuminate the site. Hike down to Machu Picchu about 45 minutes more where you’ll have a guided tour of the site and free time to explore. Travellers can opt to visit the Inca Bridge (15 min walk) for no additional charge, if time allows. After your visit, catch the bus from outside the Machu Picchu gate and take it 15 mins downhill to Aguas Calientes where you’ll meet your CEO and any non-hiking members of your group. Eat and relax before your train back to Cusco this evening.
Wiñaywayna to Intipunku (Sun Gate)
Approximate distance: 4km/2.5mi
Estimated hiking time: 1.5 hrs
Aguas Calientes to Cusco
Approximate Distance: 118km/73mi
Estimated Travel Time: 3.15 hrs
LARES TREK DETAILS:
The Lares Trek is one day shorter than the Inca Trail, but higher in elevation (33km/20.5 miles, with a high point of 4600m/14,928ft). Travellers hiking the Lares Trek will start the same day as those hiking the Inca Trail. The 3-day hike starts with a van ride from Ollantaytambo to the trekking start point and returns back to Ollantaytambo by van from the trekking end point. From there, hikers will take a scenic train to Aguas Calientes for one overnight stay. In most cases, your CEO will hike the Lares Trek with you. From Aguas Calientes you will take the bus (15 mins) to Machu Picchu early the next morning for a guided tour of Machu Picchu. After the tour and some free time, catch the bus down to Aguas Calientes and take the train back to Cusco with the rest of the group.
NOTE: The locations and distances may change on this hike as we will camp in different locations depending on pace, ability and weather. Starting in 2014 travellers will stay in a newly established community-owned and managed campsite in an indigenous village previously bypassed by the tourism industry. Details on this IDB/MIF and Planeterra project can be found in the Associated Planeterra Project section of our “Before You Go”.
Day 1 of the Lares Trek:
Start early and take a van (3 hrs) to Lares town where the hike will start with a leisurely pace through the valley of Cuncani. Hike 4km (2.5mi) to Chancachaca where we stop for lunch. Altitude here is around 3480m (11,417ft). Continue on to Wacawasi where we camp for the night at 3825m (12,549ft).
Lares town to Wacawasi
Approximate distance: 11km/6.85mi
Estimated hiking time: 4 hrs
Highest point: 4200m/13,780ft
Day 2 of the Lares Trek:
Start early and hike for about 4 hrs from Wacawasi to Wacawasi-Ccassa for a total of 7.5km (4.6mi). Head downhill another hour or so before stopping for lunch in Auroracocha. Continue down for another 2.5 hrs to Mantanay where we stay the night (3200m/10,499ft).
Wacawasi to Mantanay
Approximate distance: 11km/6.8mi
Estimated hiking time: 6.5hrs
Highest point: 4600m/15092ft
Day 3 of the Lares Trek:
Today we hike about 2.5 hrs (9km/5.6mi) to Punta Carretera where we stop for lunch. Take a bus about 30 mins back to Ollantaytambo were we catch the train for a relaxing, scenic ride to Aguas Calientes.
Mantanay to Punta Carretera
Approximate distance: 9km/5.6mi
Estimated hiking time: 3.5 hrs
Highest point: 4100m/13451ft
Punta Carretera to Ollantaytambo
Estimated travel time (bus): 30 mins
Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes
Estimated travel time (train): 2 hrs
Day 4 of the Lares Trek:
Rise early to catch the first bus up to Machu Picchu with your guide. Enjoy a guided visit to the ruins followed by free time to explore. When you’re ready, head back down by bus to Aguas where you’ll meet up with the rest of the group and take a train back to Cusco.
Aguas Calientes to Cusco:
Approximate distance: 118km/73mi
Estimated travel time: 3.15 hours
CUSCO STAY DETAILS:
Anyone electing to do the Cusco Stay will have two extra days to explore this ancient Inca capital city. You will travel with your group, CEO and local guide through the Sacred Valley, visiting the Planeterra-supported Ccaccacollo Women’s Weaving Co-op on the way. Stay the night in Ollantaytambo. When the hikers leave the next morning, travellers doing the Cusco Stay will return to Cusco with their CEO, visiting the sites of Maras and Moray Salt Mines on the way. The next day, enjoy an included tour of the archaeological sites around Cusco, including Saqsaywaman. The next day, travel by van to Ollantaytambo where you catch the scenic train to Aguas Calientes. The next morning, rise early to catch the first bus up to Machu Picchu with your guide. Enjoy a guided visit to the ruins followed by free time to explore. When you’re ready, head back down by bus to Aguas where you’ll meet up with the rest of your group and take atrain back to Cusco.
One more free day to take advantage of all that is Cusco, the navel of the Inca Empire. Visit the museums, check out the many churches and the Cathedral, or simply relax and get ready for the biking trip to the jungle!
Note: If you have pre-booked the Peru Culinary Theme Pack, your Cusco cooking class will be today.
The Manu area includes habitats ranging from the Andean highlands around the rivers' headwaters through some of the last remaining intact cloud forests, to the lowland rainforests of the Amazon basin. Over 1,300 bird species (including 32 parrot species - 10% of the world’s total), 200 mammal species, 90 frog species, 1,200 butterfly species and 10,000 species of higher plants are protected within this reserve.
On Day 12, we leave early from our hotel and head towards the village of Pisaq, home to both ruins and a small market. Now we will unload the bikes for our ride (approximately 50km, mostly downhill), to our lodge in San Pedro. During the ride photo opportunities will abound as the vegetation becomes greener and more lush every time and the opportunities to spot wildlife increase. The afternoon will be used to explore the San Pedro area where your guide will show you some of the characters of this unique cloud forest.
After breakfast on Day 13, an early morning visit to the Cock of the Rock Lek (a mating ground for the bird) is possible. Located within walking distance from our lodge where we are likely to have the chance to see these birds in their natural habitat and demonstrating their typical behavior. The rest of the day is free to enjoy the beauty of your cloud forest surroundings.
On Day 14, we will drive up the road to Ajanacu Pass where we will commence our descent by bike as far as Paucartambo, where we will stop for lunch. After a smooth descent by bike into the Sacred Valley of the Incas, we will meet our bus for the drive back to Cusco arriving late afternoon.
Approximate Distance: 118km
Estimated Travel Time: 3.15 hours
Take advantage of a final morning in Cusco, before returning to Lima around midday for a final night in the capital.
Approximate Distance: 572km
Estimated Travel Time: 2.20 hours