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Day 1: Arrive in Lima
We are met on arrival at Lima airport and transferred to our hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure to explore before meeting with the rest of the group for our welcome dinner. Overnight in Lima.
Day 2: Lima city tour, to Barranca
This morning we will have a city tour of Lima, including the UNESCO Cultural area of the main square, the Plaza Mayor, surrounded by the Archbishop's palace with it's wooden balconies and the statue of Francisco Pizarro on horseback and the cathedral, originally built in 1555 where Pizarro is reputed to be buried. We will visit the San Francisco monastery and its underground catacombs. Heading north out of the city, we travel the Pan American Highway 121 miles along the coast to Barranca. Just inland from the city are the 4500-year-old ruins of Caral, one of the earliest city-states in the world and certainly in South America (now a UNESCO Cultural site). From the top of the pyramids you can see the plazas, amphitheatres and plazas of the excavated site. Dinner and overnight in Barranca.
Day 3: Barranca, to Huaraz
We depart Barranca and drive to Huaraz today. Nestled between the mountains of the Cordilleras Blanca and Negra, Huaraz is a trekking metropolis for hikers, international climbers and Peruvians seeking a glimpse of the glaciers. The mountains offer a wide range of attractions including glacial lakes, hot springs, Inca and pre-Inca sites, and fascinating flora and fauna. In the afternoon, if weather and time permits, we plan to visit the Wari ruins at Wilcahuain and perhaps take the scenic walk back to town. We stay in Huaraz three nights, which helps us acclimatize to the altitude of 3091m/10,141ft. Dinner and overnight in Huaraz.
Day 4: Chavin
Early morning departure for Chavin, 3250 m/10,662 ft to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chavin de Huantar. The pre-Incan Chavin culture is one of the oldest in Peru, existing between 1500BC and 400BC. Chavin art and style became dominant throughout northern Peru. The site is believed to have been built around 900BC as the religious center of the Chavin people and has several impressive stone temples and dozens of stone carvings. We will visit the Chavin museum after a walk through the ruins.
Day 5: Callejón De Huaylas, Hike
This morning we will explore the Callejón de Huaylas, the area nestled between the Cordillera Negra mountains with their brown rock crests and the stunningly beautiful snowcapped Cordillera Blanca range. In a fairly small area there are 27 summits of over 6000 meters. Our drive will include some of the most breathtaking scenery in all of Peru including Lagunas de Llanganuco where our guides will tell us the ancient legends surrounding these two beautiful glacier lakes. If the weather is good, we plan on having our picnic lunch near the Llanguanuco viewpoint (4000m/13,000ft) and stretch our legs on the walk down through the forest alongside a river where we can see the ancient Inca trails.
Day 6: To Trujillo
Today we travel to Trujillo, Peru's third largest city, located at the mouth of the Moche River. It was founded in 1535 by Pizarro and still retains much of it's colonial flavor. The drive will take us from jagged mountain ranges to the rolling sand dunes and grand Colonial cities of the Peruvian coast. Keep your camera handy to capture this amazing diversity. Dinner and overnight in Trujillo.
Day 7: chan Chan –Chimu Culture and Temple of Moon-Moche Culture
We will visit the city of Chan Chan, a UNESCO site and the largest adobe city in the world, and capital of the Chimu Empire (1000AD to1470 AD) which contained approximately 10,000 dwellings and covered over 7square miles. The urban core is dominated by huge enclosures, walk in wells, canals, workshops, temples and palaces. The Chimu were conquered by the Incas in 1471, but the city was not looted until the arrival of the Spanish. Years of intensive excavations have brought the city to light. Situated in the Moche Valley, the Temple of the Moon (Huaca de la Luna) is a monument comprised of overlapping temples built during different periods. A tomb was uncovered here, with over 40 sacrificed warriors. On top of the strong adobe surface are the remains of large multi-colored murals. Walk into the moon pyramid and discover the fascinating world of the Moche kingdom. Explore different levels of the pyramids and witness impressive scenes showing bloody rituals and the mighty Moche god.
Day 8: “Princess of Cao” Museum, El Brujo To Chiclayo
In the morning we leave the city behind and pass through sugar cane fields and villages towards the coastal desert. Here we visit the archeological complex of El Brujo with it's Moche Pyramid. Nearby is the recently inaugurated “Princess of Cao” museum with it's incredible exhibition of the 23 year old princess and her spectacular ornaments, buried here 1700 years ago and discovered in 2006. This afternoon, we drive along the desert coast to Chiclayo stopping for lunch at a local restaurant. Dinner and overnight in Chiclayo.
Day 9: “Lord of Sipan” Burial site and museum
30 km from Chiclayo lies one of the most important Peruvian archeological discoveries. In 1987 excavation began at the royal Moche burial ground now known as “Lord of Sipan”. Some of the tombs have been restored to show what they were like before being closed up over 1500 years ago. The actual artifacts from the tombs were displayed worldwide and now reside in the stunning, pyramid shaped Tumbas Reales Museum which we will visit in the afternoon. There is delicate jewelry, clothing made from precious metals, ceramics and armaments, all presented in a way to give us insight into the Sipan culture. This is reputed to be one of the best archeological museums in the world. Dinner and overnight in Chiclayo.
Day 10: Fly to Lima and Puno, Lake Titicaca
We fly to Lima and connect to a flight to Juliaca a short distance from Puno. Puno lies on the shores of the fabled Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake and the legendary birthplace of the first Inca, Manco Capac. The fertile shores and islands are home to rural Aymara and Quechua speaking communities. Due to the altitude and the protected location of the lake between the high Andes and the plains of the Altiplano, the air is exceptionally clear, the clouds seemingly float just above your head. Dinner and overnight Puno. 3820 meters/12532 feet.
Day 11: Uros Islands and Taquile Island Homestay
This morning we board a launch for a cruise to Taquile Island. We visit the floating reed island communities of the Uros Indians on the way. Taquile Island's rocky, terraced slopes rise steeply from the waters in the center of the lake. There is a path winding from the shore to our guesthouse high on the hill offering stunning views over the terraced fields and shimmering lake edged with the snow-topped mountains in Bolivia. Taquile Islanders speak Quechua while those on surrounding islands speak mainly Aymara. They rarely intermarry and therefore their social customs have remained intact for centuries. We will learn the traditions of their knitted hats and woven waistbands as well as their offerings to Pachamama. We will stay with a local family in a basic guesthouse and enjoy simple home cooked meals of local specialties. Overnight Taquile Island. 12,421 ft/3860 m.
Day 12: Taquile to Puno
Today we will visit the island co-operative before setting out to hike on some of the many dirt and stone trails that criss cross the island from one settlement to another. We may be accompanied by sheep grazing and women gathering sticks from the hillside bushes for firewood. Stone arches with goodluck figureheads abound as do the small family farm compounds with stone fenced gardens. Everywhere we will see the colorful traditional clothing on the friendly Islanders. Our picturesque walk takes us down along the southern part of the island again to the lake where we board our boat for the return trip to Puno. Dinner and overnight in Puno. 3820 meters/12532 feet.
Day 13: Puno to Cusco
A full day's drive takes us over the northern Peruvian Altiplano and down into the narrow valley of Cusco (11,100ft/3,384m), the former capital city of the Incas. Along the way we plan on several stops including Lampa, known as La Ciudad Rosada (the Pink City) for it's pink-coloured buildings. If the church is open we can see the copy of Michelangelo's La Pieta. In Raqchi we can see the remains of the Temple of Viracocha, once one of the holiest shrines in the Inca empire.
Day 14: Cusco to Salkantay Lodge in Soraypampa
After an early breakfast, we begin our trek through the Land of the Incas, through the Cordillera Vilcabamba, a spectacular Andean mountain range cradling two of the most sacred Inca sites, the Salkantay Peak and the sanctuary of Machu Picchu. We begin with a drive to the Inca ruins of Tarawasi near the town of Limatambo (approx. 1.5 hrs from Cusco). Continuing to the mountain village of Mollepata we stop for a short coffee break before ascending a winding mountain road to Marcoccasa (30 minutes from Mollepata by vehicle).
Day 15: Soraypampa
This day is spent acclimatizing with short hikes through the stunning Andean scenery and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of Salkantay Lodge. The most popular activity at Soraypampa is a half-day hike(3-4 hours. Hiking level: moderate to challenging) to a glacial lake where the more adventurous might take a very short swim! This activity is excellent for acclimatization and a first immersion into high-mountain trekking. In the afternoon, guests may choose to trade the glacial swim for a relaxing soak in the outdoor jacuzzi. In the evening, relax over a glass of wine as the expectations mount for your next four days of trekking through ancient Inca territory. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are taken at the lodge.
Day 16: Soraypampa to Wayra Lodge at Huayraccmachay
This is the big day: the start of your trek to Machu Picchu. After an early start we will hike up the Rio Blanco valley, circling Humantay Peak across from the Salkantay. The highest point on the trek is a pass at 4,600 m (15,000 ft). At the pass we stop to take in views of snow-capped peaks of the Vilcabamba Range in every direction, the south face of Salkantay towering above us. We will keep our eyes out for Andean condors, often visible in this area. From the pass we continue our descent toward the Wayra Lodge (“Wayra”: wind; ‘the place where the wind lives') our destination for the evening. A hot lunch is taken enroute. Dinner and overnight at the Lodge. (Hiking time: 4-6 hours. Total excursion time for day: 5-7 hours. Hiking level: challenging with a 15,000 ft mountain pass). (3,850 m/12,600 ft).
Day 17: Huayraccmachay to Colpa Lodge at Collpapampa
Following the long first day we enjoy a leisurely breakfast at Wayra Lodge. We then begin our trek by hiking downhill above the Salkantay River, through increasingly verdant scenery into the warm cloud forest. Our arrival at the next lodge may be celebrated with a “Pachamanca”-style lunch (traditional underground stone cooking). The Colpa Lodge is located in an open promontory at the confluence of three rivers. The outdoor hot tub in this lodge has prominent views of lush green mountains and a small, far-away local town. Or perhaps you will prefer to unwind in the sauna. Dinner and overnight at the lodge. (Hiking time: 3-4 hours. Hiking level: easy to moderate).
Day 18: Collpapampa to Lucma Lodge at Lucabamba
After an early breakfast we head down the Santa Teresa River Valley, through more populated rural areas with coffee plantations (said to be some of the best organic coffees in the world!), bananas, ‘granadillas', and orchards. We stop along the river for a hot picnic lunch. After another hour of trekking a private vehicle arrives to take us to the beginning of the “Llactapata Inca Trail” (30-minute drive). From the head of the trail it is a short climb(30 min.) to the Lucma Lodge, set in an avocado orchard. We arrive in time to allow for exploration of the small village of Lucmabamba and possible meeting with members of the local community. (Hiking time: 5-6 hours. Total excursion time for day: 6-8 hours. Hiking level: moderate to challenging, basically due to distance, not terrain). Dinner at the lodge.
Day 19: Lucabamba to Machu Picchu Pueblo (Formerly known as Aguas Calientes)
After an early start and a hearty breakfast, we tackle the last day of our trek. Depending on weather and train schedules we have two options.
Day 20: Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo
We wake up early to have breakfast at the hotel and walk the short distance to the shuttle station for the ride up to Machu Picchu (30 min). A complete guided tour of Machu Picchu will be provided (2 hours). You will have about 4 additional hours to explore the site on your own. You may wish to walk to the Sun Gate or climb the steep slopes of Wayna Picchu for the stunning views down over the site or simply stroll the terraces and ancient buildings of this UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site. Afterwards, we will return by shuttle to town for a late lunch and to the train station for the afternoon departure.
Day 21: Sacred Valley to Cusco
Today, we explore the Sacred Valley and its outlying villages. Exploring the major Inca site of Ollantaytambo, we experience first-hand the huge, steep terraces that guard the temple area. The village itself is considered the best surviving example of Inca city planning.
Day 22: Cusco city sights
Today we enjoy the beauty and history of Cusco and the surrounding area. We have the opportunity to explore many of the important Inca sites in the hills around the town, including Tambo Machay, Kenko and the massive fortress of Sacsayhuaman.
Day 23: Depart Cusco
Our adventure concludes today with a transfer to Cusco Airport for your departure flight.
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