Bienvenidos! Your journey into the Sacred Land of the Inca begins today. With indigenous cultures dating back millennia, Peru is an indomitable land of Amazonian rainforests teeming with wildlife and soaring mountains harbouring secret cities. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm at your hotel in Lima, where you'll meet your tour leader and travel group. Please have your insurance and other details on hand to pass on. It's very important you attend this meeting, so please organise a flight that will get you to Lima on time.
After the formalities are out of the way, dive in to life in Lima. Jump on public transport and head downtown for a guided walking tour of the city's historical centre and take in the ornate spectacle of the colonial mansions, palaces and churches that line the streets. Following the tour, you have the rest of the afternoon and evening to do as you please. You might want to visit the Museum of the Inquisition, where you can learn more about the brutal reality of Spanish colonialism in Peru to get some context for your trip. Or take a lighter approach and maybe do some wandering until night falls, then embark on an optional Lima Bites and Sights Tour. This guided exploration of the bohemian Barranco district will see you sampling the best local street food and Pisco cocktails. Ask your leader about the full range of optional activities available in Lima.
2 Amazon Jungle
Rise and shine for your journey into the wilds of the Peruvian Amazon. Take an early morning transfer to Lima airport, then board a three-hour flight to the frontier town of Puerto Maldonado. Upon your arrival, lodge staff will take you to their office in town. Pack a small duffle bag with clothing and other items needed for two days in the jungle, stow the rest of your luggage and then travel by private vehicle to the water. Here, board a motorised canoe and cruise deep into the jungle. The journey to your eco-lodge in the Madre de Dios region will take around three hours, and you'll be given a packed lunch on the way. Arrive and settle in to your thatched-roof lodge before a short orientation walk of the immediate area and a briefing. Spend the evening getting aquainted with the sights and smells of the jungle and fall asleep to the sounds of nature. (B/L/D)
3 Amazon Jungle
Get ready for an unforgettable day exploring the depths of the jungle! Set out on a half-day trek guided by local experts on the area's flora and fauna. Learn from your guides about the medicinal and practical uses for some of the plants that grow here, which indigenous people have been studying and using for thousands of years. On your walk, keep an eye out for rainbow coloured macaws and butterflies, and listen for the barking call of the peccaries and chattering of monkeys that call the jungle home. This part of the Amazon is also known to house capybaras, giant otters and jabirus, so keep your eyes peeled for these exotic creatures. Return to the lodge for lunch and some free time to relax. Once the sun goes down, venture out on a night walk in search of some of the jungle's nocturnal inhabitants. (B/L/D)
Leave behind the natural wonders of the Amazon for the man-made wonders of Cusco today. Return to Puerto Maldonado to collect your luggage, then take a short 35-minute flight to the lofty city. If Lima is Peru's head, then Cusco is definitely the country's heart. Once you've spent some time acclimatising to the altitude of 3450 metres, head out on an orientation walk with your leader. See wonders of the ancient, colonial and contemporary variety on this stroll, including the Plaza de Armas (Main Square), the San Pedro Market, the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square.
This tour will also include the most significant temple in the ancient Inca empire – Qoricancha. Despite being covered with a Baroque facade in the 17th century by the Spanish, the original Inca masonry has been uncovered in some areas. Wrap up your tour at the ChocoMuseo where you can sample hot chocolate made from local beans. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy as you wish. Maybe head out for dinner with your fellow travellers – your leader can recommend some good places to grab a meal. If you're feeling adventurous, why not try one of the many establishments serving up cuy, which you might know by the English name of guinea pig. Or perhaps head to Cafe Daria, a central pizzeria which also provides vocational training for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. (B)
5 Sacred Valley / Ollantaytambo
Hop on a private bus in the morning and travel through the lush terraces of the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo, one of the few places where the Inca defeated the Spanish. On the way, stop at a village and enjoy lunch and conversation in a community that still practices many Inca traditions. Why not head to the archaeological park that lies to the left side of the main square? If you're feeling energetic you can climb to the top of the squared terraces and gaze down over the valley. Just remember, if you have chosen to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu you will begin your trek tomorrow, so don't push yourself. Tonight, perhaps enjoy a quinoa and alpaca stew at one of the many local restaurants. (B/L)
6 Inca Trail / Inca Quarry Trail / Train
Depending on the travel arrangements you made before the trip, during the next four days you'll be doing one of the following: hiking the Classic Inca Trail, hiking the Inca Quarry Trail or staying in Cusco for another two days before taking the train to Aguas Calientes. While away from Cusco, the bulk of your luggage will be stored at your hotel. If you're hiking the Inca Trail or the Inca Quarry Trail, the evening before you leave Cusco you'll receive a small duffle bag to carry your clothes in during the trek (5 kg maximum). Your team of porters will carry these bags for you, together with the food and equipment for the trail. Please note that you won't have access to these items until the end of each day, as the porters will always be ahead of the group. If you're travelling to Aguas Calientes by train, you'll be able to leave most of your luggage at the hotel in Cusco and only travel with the necessary items during the excursion by train.
Route 1 - Classic Inca Trail: Today travel by minivan to the 82 kilometre marker and meet your crew of local porters, cook and guide. The first day includes uphill trekking to the campsite, which is at 3100 metres above sea level. On the way you'll see the Inca sites of Ollantaytambo, Huillca Raccay and Llactapata, as well as incredible views of snow-capped Veronica Peak. In the evening, unwind at the campsite with a nourishing meal.
Route 2 - Inca Quarry Trail: Make an early start today and drive to Choquequilla, a small ceremonial place where Inca worshipped the moon. Drive to the starting point of the trek, Rafq'a, and meet the horsemen who join us on the hike. After an hour's walk, reach the small community of Socma. Carry on to the Perolniyoc cascade lookout, an opportunity to stop for photos and a food break. Continue to the campsite, which is 3700 metres above sea level. You should reach the campsite around lunchtime. After lunch, set off to explore the Q'orimarca archaeological site, which once served as a checkpoint to the Inca.
Route 3 - Train: After spending the night in the Ollantaytambo, leave around 9.30 am and take a short drive to the town of Pisac. Pisac is well known for its market. Here you'll have the opportunity to shop for souvenirs and perhaps try some local empanadas. Arrive back into Cusco in the afternoon, where your leader will take you to San Pedro Market in order to buy some things for a picnic tomorrow. (B/L/D)
7 Inca Trail / Inca Quarry Trail / Train
Route 1 - Classic Inca Trail: This is the most challenging day of the trek as you ascend a long steep path (approximately five hours) to reach the highest point of the trail. Colloquially known as 'Dead Woman's Pass', Warmiwanusca sits at a height of 4200 metres above sea level, providing amazing views of the valley below. The group will then descend to the campsite in the Pacaymayo Valley at 3650 metres.
Route 2 - Inca Quarry Trail: This is the most challenging and rewarding day of the hike. A three-hour walk takes us to the top of the first pass of Puccaqasa (approximately 4370 metres high). After enjoying picturesque views of the valley, it's a short walk before stopping for lunch. Afterwards, make the two-hour hike to Kuychicassa, the highest pass of the trek at 4450 metres. From here, descend to the sacred site the Inca called Intipunku (Sun Gate), with views of the Nevado Veronica mountain. Head to the campsite, only a stone's throw away at Choquetacarpo.
Route 3 - Train: Today, take a taxi to Tambomachay, an archaeological site just outside of Cusco. From here you'll take a short downhill walk (between one and three hours) back to Cusco. On the way, stop to admire some of the archaeological sites, including Puka Pukara, Qinqu Quenqo and Saksaywaman. Arrive back in Cusco in the afternoon and enjoy some free time to go shopping, or perhaps visit Merida, Mendivil and Olave art galleries and workshops. Your tour leader will be able to give you some suggestions or point you in the right direction. (B/L/D)
8 Inca Trail / Inca Quarry Trail / Train
Route 1 - Classic Inca Trail: Start the day with a climb through the Pacaymayo Valley to Runkuracay pass (3980 metres). Enjoy views of the snow-capped mountain of Cordillera Vilcabamba before descending for around two to three hours to the ruins of Sayacmarca. Continue over the trail's third pass to the ruins of Phuyupatamarca (3850 metres), also known as 'Town Above the Clouds'. Start the two-hour descent down the Inca steps to the final night's campsite by the Winay Wayna archaeological site.
Route 2 - Inca Quarry Trail: Today's hike will all be downhill. The first stop is the incomplete Kachiqata quarry, where the Inca were intercepted by the Spanish. Around midday, come to the end of the trek. Explore the cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo before taking the short train journey to Aguas Calientes. This is where you'll meet up with the travellers in your group who didn't hike. Visiting the natural hot springs in town is a soothing way to spend the late afternoon. Spend the night in a comfortable hotel before tomorrow's visit to Machu Picchu.
Route 3 - Train: After a drive to Ollantaytambo (about one-and-a-half hours), catch a train through the winding Urubamba Valley to Aguas Calientes (another one-and-a-half hours). The city is nestled in the cloud forest at the foot of Machu Picchu. For those who want a sneak peak, there is time to visit Machu Picchu independently before a guided tour tomorrow. Otherwise, you can while away the afternoon in the natural hot springs at Aguas Calientes. (B/L/D)
9 Inca Trail / Inca Quarry Trail / Train (Machu Picchu)
Route 1 Inca Trail: This is the final and most spectacular leg of the trek to Machu Picchu. The day starts before dawn with breakfast at 4 am. Say farewell to the porters as they descend to the train station and then begin hiking by 4.30 am. Once the final checkpoint opens at 5 am, begin the final leg of the trek. The walk to Intipunku (the Sun Gate) takes around two-and-a-half hours. Weather permitting, enjoy unforgettable views over the ‘Lost City of the Inca' as you enter Machu Picchu through the Sungate.
Route 2 - Inca Quarry Trail: Depending on weather conditions, take a bus at 5.30 am this morning along the winding road to Machu Picchu. The journey takes around 30 minutes. At Machu Picchu, join up with the travellers in your group who hiked the Classic Inca Trail. If skies are clear, enjoy a spectacular views over the ancient city from Intipunku (the Sun Gate), before going on a guided walk around the ruins.
Route 3 - Train: Take an early bus up to Machu Picchu at 5.30 am. The city was built around AD1440 as a country retreat for Inca nobility, but there's evidence that the land had been a sacred Inca site for much longer. Take a guided tour around the ruins of temples, palaces and living quarters, and enjoy free time afterwards to wander around on your own before the group returns to Cusco. For all trails: After taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, it's time to return to Cusco for a well-deserved shower and a Pisco sour. Your evening is then free for the last night of your adventure. (B)
Enjoy free time to relax, shop and explore more of Cusco's sights. Perhaps rest your weary legs at a cafe on Plaza de Armas or head to the San Pedro Market where you can find vegetables, meats, local cheeses, chocolates, herbal medicines and many local handicrafts. It's a great place to purchase some souvenirs or pick up ingredients for a picnic lunch. The market is also a place where many locals (and daring travellers) go to eat ‘mystery soups'. Some may be just chicken; however, the most popular among the locals usually contain frog or offal. For those who can't get enough active adventure, why not try mountain biking in the hills that surround Cusco? (B)
Bid farewell to Cusco and travel by public transport through the dramatic scenery of the high altiplano to Puno. Located on the shores of vast and serene Lake Titicaca. At an altitude of 3800 metres, Lake Titicaca is the world's highest navigable lake. Along the way there will be stops to drop off and pick up passengers, which may affect travel times slightly, but the journey should take around six hours. The long drive is worth it for the first glimpse of immense Lake Titicaca, whose seemingly endless waters stretch into the horizon. Puno is a melting pot of indigenous Aymara and Quechuan culture and traditional Andean customs, and it wears its traditions on its sleeve. If you're lucky, your trip will coincide with one of the many cultural festivals here. Perhaps ask your leader where you can get the best grilled trout tonight, a local specialty. (B)
12 Lake Titicaca Homestay
Embark on a tour of the lake by slow motor boat, stopping at the floating Uros Islands. Built by the Uros people to protect themselves from encroaching Inca forces hundreds of years ago, the islands are constructed from many layers of totora reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake. Feel the bizarre sponginess of the island underfoot and learn a little about the history of the communities that called them home. Then, get a closer look at contemporary life on the shores of the lake with a homestay in a local community. Help your host family with their daily activities, try out a few words in Quechua (most importantly 'solpayki' or thank you!) and perhaps join a local soccer game and make some friends on the makeshift pitch. (B/L/D)
This morning after breakfast you'll board the motor boat again and cruise to Taquile Island (approximately 1 hour), which is known for the intricate, hand-knitted textiles the locals produce. Here, knitting is strictly a male domain, and women do the spinning. It's a great place to pick up some high quality, locally knitted goods. An approximately one-hour uphill trek brings you to the main area of the island, where you can shop for handicrafts and observe the symbolic clothing items worn by the local folk. After the visit, descend about 500 steps to the boat. Return to Puno, a journey that will take around three hours. Once back in Puno, perhaps gather a crew and find a local watering hole to enjoy a drink or two. By now you've probably had your fair share of Pisco sours, so maybe try a chilcano. While it also features a Pisco base, the cocktail is completed with ginger beer instead of egg whites. (B)
14 La Paz
Trade the still waters and quiet villages of Lake Titicaca for the bustling highland city of La Paz. Travel by comfortable local bus to Desaguadero and cross the border into Bolivia. At the border you will say goodbye to your Peruvian leader and a Bolivian leader will take over for the last portion of your tour. After border formalities at the Peruvian migration office, cross the bridge to Bolivia, submit your passport at the Bolivian migration office, then board the bus again. Continue to La Paz, stopping en route for another document check. The journey to La Paz takes about 5 hours (don't forget that Bolivia's timezone is 1–2 hours ahead of Peru).
Discover the colonial architecture and browse the markets on a walking tour, taking in the vibrant expressions of indigenous culture. According to a 2012 census, just over 40 percent of Bolivia's adult population are of indigenous origin, but discrimination stymied overt expressions of indigenous heritage until very recently. Aymara women wearing the traditional, distinctive bowler hat and long, layered skirts, for example, were banned from many public buildings until 2006. Over the last decade, grassroots activism and a shifting political landscape has created space for various indigenous cultures to live openly. After the walking tour, why not head to the Witches' Market in search of folkloric remedies, potions and totems – it's a great place to pick up a last-minute souvenir. (B)
15 La Paz
Your trip comes to an end today after breakfast; there are no activities planned for the day. You are free to leave at any time after check-out. As there isn't a huge amount of time included in Bolivia on this itinerary, you may want to extend your stay by a few days. Speak to your travel agent or Intrepid representative at the time of booking and we can organise additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you do choose to stay on, consider visiting the Salt Flats in Uyuni – a true natural spectacle. Our Bolivian Salt Flats short break leaves from La Paz and lasts for three days, making it the perfect addition to your journey. Enter code GGAU on our website to view the full itinerary. (B)