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Day 1: Sacred Valley of the Incas - Treasures of the Sacred Valley
Begin your adventure with a journey from the urban setting of Cusco into the Sacred Valley of the Incas, full of lush green fields and surrounded by striking mountain peaks. Explore the beautiful archeological site of Chinchero, where colonial buildings rest atop Inca foundations. Enjoy an astonishing hike through authentic Inca trails from Chinchero to the town of Urquillos. Also, you can go back in time and study the natural Inca salt mines of Maras and the astonishing circular terraces of Moray, believed to be an Inca laboratory dedicated to the study of foreign plant species.
Day 2: Sacred Valley of the Incas - Exploring Pisaq
The town square is often the center of activity throughout this region, but so too is the town market, and none is more alive than the famous market at Pisaq. A morning visit to check out its unique array of products will inspire you with a small taste of the rich culture yet to be explored on your journey. Travelers seeking inspiration in nature can opt for an invigorating morning hike surrounded by amazing views of the Andes Mountains that guard this magnificent valley. Later, enjoy exclusive access to the isolated community of Viacha, where you will learn about its artisanal potato farming practices and enjoy a traditional “Pachamanca” meal, cooked under hot stones. After lunch you will visit the archaeological complex at Pisaq, an afternoon excursion that offers a unique opportunity to explore the complex free of crowds, with the sun setting behind the peaks.
Day 3: Lares Region, Inca Sites and Villages
Now that you have gotten a glimpse into this rich Andean tapestry, today you will have the opportunity to go even deeper with an exploration into the heart of the Lares Valley. A scenic drive into the mountains along the celebrated “Inca Weaver’s Trail” allows you to visit the unique and uncrowded archeological site of Ancasmarca to the hub-town of Lares. After lunch, you can choose between visiting the traditional and ancient weavers’ village of Choquecancha, or opt for hiking amidst turquoise blue lakes and towering peaks to the remote village of Huacahuasi, where you will spend the night. This lodge, which is run in joint venture with the local community and aims to protect the cultural heritage and the environment, provides an interesting insight into the evolving role of the original Andean people in both the culture and commerce of modern-day Cusco.
Day 4: Lares Valley, Exploring Huacahiuasi
If you are in the mood for a cultural experience today, you can walk through the village of Huacahuasi and learn more about its heritage and daily activities, with a possible visit to a farmer’s home. The expert weavers and farmers will share their stories, each depicted in artful textiles full of traditional Incan symbols and imagery. Then take a Peruvian cooking class and test your skills during lunch with the rest of the group. For those who want to go deeper into these remote mountains, challenge yourself with an all-day hike from the community of Quiswarani onto the “Trail of 1,000 Lakes”. Although a strenuous hike, you will be amazed and awakened by the simple but majestic beauty of this eden, as you enjoy the company of herds of alpacas and llamas grazing on hillsides, and make your way over challenging mountain passes.
Day 5: The Patacancha and Sacred Valley of the Incas
After a morning drive to Huilloc in the Patacancha Valley, spend time touring and tasting ceviche at a local trout farm. Continue on to Marcacocha, a community of sheepherders, and participate in a ceremony to honor de Apus for the good health of their flock. For a more active experience, choose a hike from Huilloc to Pumamarka, where everyone reunites to tour the archaeological site. After lunch, hike from Pumamarka to Ollantaytambo visiting the amazing agricultural terraces along the valley. In a softer activity, explore Ollantaytambo’s maze-like streets, and all the magic of this ancient living town. The afternoon ends with an optional visit to an artisan beer brewery followed by dinner and overnight stay in the Sacred Valley.
Day 6: Sacred Valley of the Incas, Discovering Ollantaytambo
From its beginnings as the royal estate of Inca-Emperor Pachacutec, to a stronghold against the Spanish conquistadors for Manco Inca Yupanqui, the temple at Ollantaytambo was regarded by the Incas as one of their most important ceremonial centers. On this day, an optional and short early morning hike to Inca storage structures high above Ollantaytambo will give you a magnificent view of the town as well as of the main archeological site across the valley. Afterwards, as your guide leads you through a morning tour of the temple and explains its strategic architectural planning, you will also get a sense of its mystical history…a perfect introduction to the wonder of Machu Picchu. Around noon you will embark on a scenic train ride (1.5 hours) along the famous Urubamba River to Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu, whose charm lies in a history that began as a small railway stop and evolved into a bustling town still bisected by the train tracks.
Day 7: Machu Picchu, The Sanctuary
At dawn, you begin your journey to Machu Picchu with a short and rollicking uphill bus ride. As you enter the “Sanctuary” (as locals refer to it), the morning sun rises over the iconic Sun Gate and washes the structures and terraces with resplendent light. Prepare to be awed by the imposing and skillful architecture of the Watchtower, the Temple of the Sun, and the royal Inca residences, among many others. Take a moment to quietly sit and listen to the wind…or to meditate and absorb the mystical energy that envelops you. Your imagination will soar as you contemplate the history of Machu Picchu and its mysterious origins. Some may even choose a hike to Huayna Picchu, the iconic towering mountain often seen in photographs, for dramatic views that stretch from the Urubamba River valley to the edge of the Amazon Jungle. Either way, you will be touched by a feeling of peace and rejuvenation which will linger even as you journey back to the city lights, and hustle and bustle of Cusco.
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