Tour begins: Lima, Peru. A transfer is included from Jorge Chávez International Airport to Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel in Lima, a city-center hotel on Lima's oceanfront surrounded by verdant parks and gardens with views of both Lima and the Pacific.
Lima, an Oceanside City of Contrasts
Meet for a welcome breakfast, then head to Plaza de Armas (or Plaza Mayor), Lima's main square, to tour the Archbishop's Residence, a onetime symbol of immense power in Peru and Government Palace, home to Peru's president and its central government (built on the site of the first Spanish "palace" raised by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, the year Lima was founded). Visit the Cathedral of Lima, whose first stone was laid by Pizarro himself in 1535. At the Monasterio de San Francisco, find a 17th-century complex with glazed tiles, carved ceilings, exceptional paintings and an amazing crypt. Have lunch at a local restaurant. This afternoon, visit the Museo Larco, displaying an archaeological collection acquired over a lifetime by Rafael Larco Herrera and chronicling 4,000 years of Peruvian pre-Columbian history. This evening's dinner at Casa Luna means fine food and warm hospitality, along with a viewing of your hosts' extensive art collections from around the world.
Enter the Sacred Valley
Fly to Cusco this morning, then descend to the 9,000-ft.-high Urubamba ("Sacred") Valley, a region of Incan ruins and indigenous villages. Enjoy a lunch fresh off the grill at Wayra Ranch and a horsemanship demonstration where the real stars are the elegant Paso horses. Dinner is at leisure in your hotel this evening, allowing for time at ease to better adjust to the day's significant climb in altitude.
Sacred Ruins, Beliefs & Traditions
Above the town of Ollantaytambo, explore the massive Inca fortress and stone remains of the Temple of the Sun - built from huge blocks of stone in the 1400s - and then walk through this ancient town. Blocks of cobblestone streets that have been lived in since the 1300s, and are entered via a doorway leading to a central courtyard, reveal a keen Incan eye for urban planning. Return to your lodgings, surrounded by extensive gardens with panoramic views of the Andes, in the picturesque Valle Sagrado for a Peruvian cooking demonstration. Later, gain a better understanding from a local shaman of the ways in which a journey to the Apus (Peru's Sacred Mountains) has long been deemed a transformational endeavor. A performance by a theatre group which uses dance and music to revive Andean traditions and lore kicks off a barbecue dinner.
To Mystical Machu Picchu by Rail
Travel aboard the Vistadome train through mist-shrouded peaks to Aguas Calientes at the foot of the Sacred Valley and then drive higher into the Andes to the site of Machu Picchu. With a guide, spend the afternoon exploring the mist-shrouded ruins that have captured the world's imagination as the "Lost City of the Incas" since their "discovery" in 1911. Standing nearly 8,000 ft. above sea level, in the middle of a tropical forest, Machu Picchu is considered by UNESCO to be an outstanding example of man's interaction with his natural environment. Its walls, terraces and ramps work in harmony with their mountainous surroundings - a tribute to the creativity and skill of the Incas. Return to Aguas Calientes for an overnight at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel; enjoy a complimentary Pisco Sour at the bar between 5:00 and 6:00 PM, prior to dinner à la carte at your leisure.
To Cusco, Capital of the Incan Empire
Don't miss this morning's return to Machu Picchu for a sunrise tour of this extraordinary setting in the clouds. Later this morning, enjoy a walk through Aguas Calientes' rainforest gardens and time to spend as you wish - visiting the local market or indulging in a spa treatment (at an additional cost). Reboard the Vistadome train after lunch for a scenic return rail journey, then drive to the historic center of Cusco for a two-night stay at the stylish Belmond Hotel Monasterio, originally a monastery built in 1592.
Cusco - of Incans & Conquistadores
Just about everywhere you look in Cusco - once capital of the Inca Empire, and the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Americas - you'll see traces of its Incan past and its importance to the Inca people as the "navel of the world," as well as of the early Spanish colonial city built above it; walk through its bustling San Pedro marketplace, alive with contemporary mestizo culture, before heading outside town to see more testaments to Incan ingenuity. Learn a little more about Peru when you meet alpacas, llamas, vicuñas and guanacos at the Awanacancha farm, and see how these local relatives of the camel are raised. At Sacsayhuamán, explore Inca ruins - a fortress built of massive stones without the use of mortar. The remainder of your day is free in Cusco.
Cusco sights & fly to Lake Titicaca
Discover more about Cusco on a city sightseeing tour that includes the main square and a visit to 16th-century Convent of Santo Domingo; its arcades and artwork sit atop the walls of Koricancha, once a temple dedicated to the sun. Also visit the city's 16th-century Baroque cathedral - considered one of the most splendid Spanish colonial churches in America for the quality of its paintings and carvings, incorporating imagery from the Incan culture, such as the pumas carved on its enormous doors. Following lunch, fly from Cusco to Juliaca on to your hotel in Puno, along the shores of Esteves Island on Lake Titicaca.
Life on One of Earth's Highest Lakes
Explore life on the lake by powerboating to one of its floating islands; they are home to the Uros, who have long made their lives on islands made of reeds. Next, on the naturally formed island of Taquile, learn about the Aymará inhabitants known for their unique hand-woven textiles and ways of life changed little from that of their ancestors, including living without electricity or vehicles. Enjoy a traditional Aymarán dance performance during lunch. Return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure; if you wish, join us for an optional visit to the pre-Inca archaeological site of Sillustani, with its cylindrical stone burial towers (chulpas) left by the Colla people, conquered by the Incas in the 1400s.
To the Heights of Bolivia
Begin the day by concluding your Peru tour with a drive along the coast of Lake Titicaca, then cross the border and enter Bolivia. En route to Bolivia's capital, La Paz, you'll visit the archaeological site of Tiwanaku - once the capital of a pre-Inca civilization that thrived here between 500 and 900 AD. Enjoy a typical Bolivian lunch, then continue on our journey through the South American Altiplano toward the Royal Mountain Range and our final destination, La Paz, Bolivia - the highest capital city on Earth - for a two-night stay; enjoy dinner à la carte at your leisure in the hotel this evening.
Discover Lofty La Paz
Not far from downtown, discover the Valley of the Moon - a lunar-like landscape of astonishing rock formations - then return to Plaza Murillo, the city's main square named after a freedom fighter hung here in 1810. See the Presidential Palace, Congress Hall and the Mercado de Brujas (Witches' Market); spend the afternoon as you wish. End your journey with a Tauck Exclusive farewell reception and dinner in the heart of lofty La Paz.
Tour ends: La Paz, Bolivia. Fly home anytime; a transfer is included from the Camino Real Suites Hotel to La Paz El Alto International Airport. Please allow a minimum of three hours for flight check-in at the airport.