Travel to Peru and venture off-the-beaten path with our expert Andean guide Ana Maria and our congenial group of never more than 16 travelers. You’ll discover more of Peru’s important Inca and Colonial sites, experience more of the country’s many wonders and enjoy special opportunities for real cultural engagement.
Day 1 - Welcome to Lima
On arrival, you’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to the AC Hotel, ideally situated in the upscale seaside district of Miraflores. Settle in to your oceanview room here at our sleek, contemporary hotel and take the rest of this day to relax and explore as you wish.
Day 2 - Discover Lima
Today you’ll join our engaging expert guide to explore the colorful neighborhoods, vibrant city life, and splendid Colonial-era landmarks of the capital. Just outside your hotel’s front door, the inviting district of Miraflores is popular with city residents who come here to enjoy the shops, restaurants and fine views over the Pacific. It’s the perfect place to begin your sightseeing with a guided walking tour. Then discover the handsome Colonial architecture of downtown Lima . Stand in Plaza Mayor and admire the Cathedral; built in the 18th century, this handsome landmark is the oldest on the Square. Right next door, the Archbishop’s Palace is easily recognized by its grand wooden balcony. Just a few blocks away, the historic Church and Convent of San Francisco is perhaps the most impressive of Lima’s Colonial monuments. Behind its striking yellow and white façade, you’ll find a beautifully decorated interior with glazed ceramic tiles from Spain and carved ceilings that show a strong Moorish influence.
Next up is the highly regarded Larco Museum; renowned for its superb collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, this expertly guided visit is the perfect introduction to the many Inca sites you’ll explore in the coming days. Cap off your sightseeing with a guided stroll through Barranco, a charming city neighborhood that has attracted writers and artists since the early 20th century. Today, it remains a vibrant cultural enclave with thriving studios, galleries and cafes. This evening, enjoy a congenial welcome dinner with wine. Meals B+D
Day 3 - Into the Sacred Valley of the Inca
After an early breakfast, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your included flight to Cuzco, the ancient capital of the once vast and mighty Inca Empire. On arrival in this high-mountain city, you’ll meet Ana Maria, our resident Andean expert on the ancient Inca and contemporary Peruvian traditions. Journey with her down into the Sacred Valley to visit the Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary, dedicated to the rescue and preservation of indigenous Andean wildlife including condors, macaws, parrots and even wild cats like the puma.
Then visit Awanacancha, a pioneering initiative encompassing more than 400 resident families in 14 Andean communities. With a mission to preserve the traditional textile arts of the region, you’ll see native weavers from these different communities as they create beautiful textiles using techniques that have been passed down for generations. You’ll also see the indigenous cameloids that are the source for the wool that is used for weaving: Alpacas have thick wool that is ideal for sweaters and blankets while vicunas are small and delicate creatures with very fine wool; Llamas and guanacos also roam around Awanacancha.
Continue to the captivating town of Pisac. Set in the shadow of a spectacular mountaintop Inca fortress, you’ll discover a colorful market town that draws far-away villagers and international visitors alike. Continue to the enchanting Aranwa Sacred Valley Resort, beautifully situated on the riverside grounds of a 17th-century Colonial hacienda. Meals B+L
Day 4 - Explore the Sacred Valley with Ana Maria
This morning, by special arrangement, you’ll join Ana Maria to witness a Pago a la Tierra – a Tribute to the Earth – performed by a local Andean shaman. Then ascend to the monumental fortress of Ollantaytambo, Inca-built with enormous stones and so strategically positioned that it was successfully defended against the Spanish in 1537. This is one of the most significant Inca sites in Peru, and its location in a narrow mountain valley framed by rugged peaks is truly breathtaking.
In the shadow of the ancient fortress, the ancient community of Ollantaytambo provides vivid illustration of Inca urban planning. Laid out in a simple grid with cobblestone streets, perfectly constructed stone walls and canals, many of the buildings and residences date back 600 years or more. Your guided walk also takes you into a neighborhood chicheria (a Peruvian pub) to learn about chicha, an Andean beverage distilled from corn. End your day at the ceramic studio of Pablo and Marilu Seminario – creative artisans who have devoted more than 20 years to the study of Pre-Columbian pottery techniques and designs, incorporating these ancient traditions into their own contemporary works. Meals B+L
Day 5 - By Rail to Machu Picchu
A two-day visit to Machu Picchu begins with an unforgettable rail journey through the Urubamba River Valley, a timeless region of snow-capped Andean peaks, quiet villages and terraced fields that have been cultivated for centuries.
On arrival in the beguiling town of Aguas Calientes, you’ll board a coach for the 20-minute ride up the switchback mountain road that brings you to the entrance to Machu Picchu . The fabled Lost City is certainly the single greatest landmark in Peru – and perhaps all of South America. Indeed, little can be written here that would do justice to the breathtaking grandeur of its mountain setting, the enigmatic power and aura that so permeate this ancient citadel, and the unforgettable experience of standing among these ancient stones. And accompanied by Ana Maria’s illuminating expertise, your visit will bring to life the ancient Inca civilization that built Machu Picchu.
After sightseeing, you’ll return to Aguas Calientes for an overnight at the enchanting Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel, nestled in a riverside cloud forest below the Lost City. Meals B+L+D
Day 6 - Morning at Machu Picchu + Back to Cuzco by train
This morning, you can stroll on your own through the inviting galleries and cafes of Aguas Calientes. Or if you prefer, we’ve included your transportation and entry ticket so you can ascend again to explore Machu Picchu at your own pace. At this early hour, the day-visitors from Cuzco and the Sacred Valley have yet to arrive… With fewer people and the softer light of morning just breaking over the mountain peaks, an early-morning visit to Machu Picchu is one of the most memorable travel experiences you will ever have.
Or if you prefer a more active adventure, you can walk on your own up the trail that leads to Inti Punku. Even if you don’t venture all the way to the summit to the fabled Gate of the Sun, the views of Machu Picchu as you make this moderately challenging, uphill trek are captivating.
In the afternoon, you’ll make the return rail journey through the Sacred Valley. On arrival in Cuzco, you’ll be escorted to the deluxe Aranwa Boutique Hotel where specially oxygenated rooms will help you acclimate to the city’s elevation. Meals B+D
Day 7 - Out and About in Cuzco #WHS#
Join Ana Maria today and ascend into the mountain peaks outside of town. Perched here above the terra cotta roofs of Cuzco are the magnificent ruins of Sacsayhuaman. Built in the 1400’s by the Inca Emperor Pachacútec, the massive limestone blocks of this venerated complex were cut with such precision that they fit together without mortar like the interlocking pieces of a jigsaw puzzle! With some individual stones towering more than 10 feet tall and weighing several hundreds of tons, Sacsayhuaman is a monumental achievement of architecture and masonry.
Back in town, you’ll visit the San Pedro Market and Almudena Cemetery; here at these seemingly quotidian sites, Ana Maria will offer fascinating cultural perspectives and personal insights into how ancient traditions – many dating back to Inca times – still endure in the life of local citizens. At the Temple of the Sun and Convent of Santo Domingo, you’ll discover one of Peru’s most architecturally fascinating sites. It also demonstrates the rich layering of history here in Cuzco, where a sacred structure of one culture, the Convent, literally sits atop and practically encloses another, the Inca-built Temple of the Sun! End your touring with the Cathedral and the other handsome Colonial-era landmarks that line the Plaza de Armas. Meals B
Day 8 - Venture Off-the-Beaten Path to Oropesa + Cuyuni
This morning, you’ll venture with Ana Maria across the Andean highlands to Oropesa, a handsome Colonial-era town rarely visited by other travelers. With its fine architecture and beautiful mountain setting, Oropesa is celebrated all across the country for its generations-old bread-making traditions. Locally known as pan chuta, these round loaves are made from traditionally-grown local wheat with a hint of sweetness and other spice flavors including cinnamon and anise. Baked in traditional ovens, special woods and eucalyptus leaves are burned to impart more flavors and a delicate texture to the crust. Your arrival and tour of Oropesa will be accompanied by the aroma of these freshly baked breads. Before leaving, of course, we’ll introduce you to local bakers who will be thrilled to offer you a sample of their celebrated bread!
Your cultural foray into the Andes continues in the remote mountain village of Cuyuni where you’ll be able to mingle and stroll with the residents. With Ana Maria there to offer cultural and historical context, and translating as needed, you’ll join villagers in their fields and homes – learning about their traditions and a way of life that has changed little over the centuries!
Back in Cuzco, you’ll dine this evening at one of our favorite restaurants in town. Meals B+L+D
Day 9 - Fly from Cuzco to Lima
After breakfast, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your included flight to Lima. Our services end at the airport where you’ll continue your onward journey. Meals B